Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 5 - Isaiah's Orphanage

Grace: Age 11

Today we went to Isaiah's Orphanage. At Isaiah's we did a play for the children about how Jesus was born. Everyone bought Christmas presents for all the kids at Isaiah's. All the children loved there presents. The presents had a church outfit for the child and had a pair of nice shoes. We bought little rubber band bracelet making kits and taught the kids how to make bracelets. For the play we had props. We had angel wings, halos, and a baby Jesus. We let the children keep the props to share and play with. We had a lot of fun at Isaiah's Orphanage today.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 4 - Elderly Christmas Party and much more

Most days when I am in Haiti, it feels like there have been 2 or 3 days of stuff all packed into one day.  Today was no exception.

We started the day off by heading out to Titanyen to pick up a few elders and bring them to Grace Village for the elderly Christmas party.  We stopped at Izna's house first.  Last time I was in Haiti, we moved her to this house.  It was so nice to see that her house was so tidy, her new mattress was still there (we've had problems with her alcoholic son stealing her things) and that she was excited to go to the party.  However, she need to change to get ready for the party.  So I helped her change and we were off.

Next stop, Edmond's house.  We were happy to see him outside getting a shave.  No shaving cream or nice razor here....just a straight blade.  We decided he needed some time to finish getting ready for the party and that we would send someone else down to get him.

At Grace Village, we all got to be reunited with friends we've missed....the Imslands, the long term missionaries, Ross and our Haitian friends we've grown to love.  The school kids were on a break, so our kids jumped right in getting to know them on the playground.

The party started with a Christmas Pageant that our kids did a great job at.  During the play, we sang Christmas Carols and the elders recognized the tunes and sang along with us in Creole.  They loved the play.  Next came the food....a delicious spread of traditional Haitian foods.....rice, fried chicken, pasta salad, veggies, a spicy coleslaw, fried plantains, a creamy pink salad.  Then came the Christmas gifts....each received a water pitcher, jug or insulated food carrier.  They were so excited and we had so much fun passing them out.  And no party would be complete without cake!  We ended by singing some songs together and praying.  It made my heart so happy to bring and share such joy with these beautiful elderly that have seen so much in their long lives.

One of the most touching moments of the day was when Cadet, one of our newer translators, pulled me aside.  He told me how doing things like this bring him so much joy.  He said that he so often sees people, like our elders, that have so much need.  He always wants to help but does not have the resources to help them.  He was so grateful that he could a part of helping the people of Haiti that he loves so much.  One of the favorite things he said to me was "If you could see inside my heart right now, you would know how much joy I have".  How great that we are not only blessing these elders, but every person that gets to be a part of the day.....and that in turn blesses me beyond belief.

After the party, when the children had finished school and lunch, we were able to deliver letters to them from their sponsors and help them write a letter back.  How great it is to see these kids each get something special to know someone far away is thinking and praying about them!

After saying goodbye to old and new friends (my daughter now has a Haitian best friend :) ), we headed back to Port au Prince.  Arriving at the guesthouse, we had only 5 minutes to freshen up before heading out for pizza at a restaurant in nearby Tabarre.  Although, what should be nearby, seemed quite far during a crazy rush hour.  The restaurant was run by some long term missionaries who open the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights only.  It was quaint and beautiful and the pizza was delicious!  The kids had their own table with Wilson, Maxim and Elisa and fought over who got to sit next to Wilson, whom they have each grown to love in just a few short days.

The day was still not over!  Once we arrived back at the guesthouse, it was time for some promised salsa dancing lessons from Jean.  The kids loved it!  They cha cha cha'ed and even learned some pretty fancy twirls and dips!

After showers, we all finally collapsed into bed after 10pm!  Oh my, what a long but amazing day in Haiti!!!

Thanks again for all your prayers for our trip.  Our kids have been amazing.....such positive perspectives on Haiti, there has been no sickness, and we've felt so protected all week!

Sharon Mitchell (with my daughter, Siena)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My very first water truck stop...

Today we brought water to people in Cite Soleil.  When we first got there, I was super excited. There were other kids everywhere. They were very cute. Right away, I started playing hand games with a little boy who was probably around 8 years old. Afterwards he brought me to his older sister and we started playing the same hand slap game. My mom was next to me the entire time, and within a couple minutes, we were surround by the brother and sister, and a bunch of their friends. Almost all of the people surrounding us were teenagers. The big sister, she seemed to be the leader of the group, and she very happy, always laughing, asking questions, and touching my hair. She taught me more hand games, and we played them faster and faster. Then my mom surprised her (I think everyone else too) by teaching her a new hand game. We played hand games and with each others hair until it was time to leave. When we left, she told me in French Creole that she liked playing with me, and gave me two huge hugs. I really hope to see her again some day.

When my mom and I were surrounded by all the teenagers, I was a little scared at times, because it was intimidating. Jonas stayed close to us most of the time and my mom asked him how to say shy in French Creole, and then she told them that I am shy. At the same time, I was more happy than scared, because they were so happy and welcoming, and glad to have us all there. They loved touching my hair and braiding it and curling it with their hands, and I really felt special to have all that attention. I felt famous. It was hard not understanding anything they said, and I wonder if they felt the same.

They made me very happy because of the happiness they showed, even though they don't have all the "stuff" that I have. God was shining through their smiles, so brightly. I can't wait to see them again some day.

- Rachael Anderson, age 10

Do something

Yesterday our agenda was changed.  Sometimes it irritates me, but I know He has a plan... Today He showed us a bit of that plan.

We went to General Hospital and in one of the pediatric rooms there was a boy that looked to be 2-4 years old.  Severely malnourished.  We talked with the mom who said that he has severe diaherra and vomiting.  Just thought to ask a few more questions about the color of his poo, wondering if it might be cholera.  Yes.  And He was not being treated.  No meds, no fluids.  He will die.

There is a song by Matthew West that talks about the injustice in this world and in it he asks why God doesn't "do something" about it.  He said "I created you"!

If not us than who...
If not me and you...
Right now.  It's time for us to do something.
If not now then when....
It's time for us to do something.

So, I messaged a friend of mine that works with malnourished kids and asked her to help.  At 10 pm last night she called a sitter and jumped on a moto taxi to "do something".  She did.  She went to the hospital, found the child, and said that they had put it on antibiotics and fluids. Praise The Lord!

While she was there, another baby was put in her path that she is going back to help today.

Do something.  What does that mean to

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 1 - Gertrudes and General Hospital

Today's blog is a compilation of different experiences of a few of our kids......

From Grace, age 11:
Today, we went to Gertrude's. I met two little kids, a boy and a girl. I do not know the names of the two children. The first kid I held was the girl. She was one of the most adorable girls I have ever met. The table she sat at had tiny periwinkle crocs under it. the little girl absolutely loved to take the crocs and put them on the table. One of the ladies that worked at Gertrude's did not want the crocs on the table. The lady would always come over and put the crocs on the ground but then, the little girl would put the crocs back on the table. I just wanted to take the little girl and cuddle up with her she was so cute. Next I held the little boy. I held the boy at the very end. When I saw this little boy I thought I was going to cry. The little boy was just standing there. I picked him up and loved him as much as I could. The little boy was tired. After a while the little boy laid his head down on my shoulder. I was so happy that he felt comfortable doing that. When it was time to leave I cried. I did not want to leave I wanted to stay and love all the kids. I was so touched by all of those kids who all they wanted was love. I had a great time at Gertrude's and I can't wait to go back.

From Siena, age 11:
Today, we met a lot of children at General Hospital.  I met a blind girl that had been abandoned at the hospital.  The workers there said that she didn't have a name.  I gave her a name....Abbie.  She was cute.  When we first met her, she was crying hard but didn't want us to pick her up.  She would push our hands away.  My mom finally just picked her up and she stopped crying right away.  When I talked, she heard me and put her hands out for me.  I was a little nervous to hold her, but when I did, she laid her head on my chest and put her arms around my neck.  It was cute.  She was a normal little girl, but because she was blind, she had been abandoned.

From Griffen, age 12:
At General Hospital, my mom and I found a little boy.  He was laying in a little crib in an unusual way.  His legs were up in the air and to the side.  His arms were up by his head and he was very stiff.  At first we touched him, loved him, talked to him.  We found out that he was abandoned and he didn't have a name.  He had thrown up and had a mess on his ear.  But my mom picked him up anyway.  We cleaned him up and fed him some water in a little bottle and he was very thirsty.  I got to hold him and sit with him.  It made feel very emotional because he didn't get held or loved much.  His body was very still and he was hard to hold, but after a little while he started to relax in my arms.  It made me happy that he relaxed, but sad that he doesn't always get to relax in peoples arms.  Because he didn't have a name, I named him Star.  Star is the perfect name for him because he looked like a star when we first saw him in his crib because of how is arms and legs were positioned.  He was also my little star.  There's also the story of the starfish and how helping just one makes a difference for that one.  Today, Star was the one that I made a difference for.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A New House for Izna & Camisane

I have been meaning to write one last blog about my recent trip to Haiti, but it's been a difficult story for me to process....especially after returning home to abundance.

A few months ago, I was made aware of some changes happening around Izna & Camisane's homes.  A big metal fence was being built around the area, people were being told that they need to move and houses were being demolished.  Izna and Camisane are two of our poorest elders.  Izna's son is an alcoholic so any money or things that could be used to support her family are spent on alcohol instead.  Camisane works so hard selling charcoal, but makes such a meager amount of money that she lived in a home made of sticks and tarps.
Camisane's old home
Izna's old "kitchen"

We found a new home for both of them to live side by side in downtown Titanyen, only a block from where Camisane sells charcoal.  On Saturday afternoon, the team brought both taptaps to Izna's home to move her.  It took only a couple minutes for the team to load her things into the empty taptap.  I remember looking into the loaded taptap at a broken bedframe, pieces of cardboard and foam that were her bed, one suitcase of clothes, a couple stacks of dirty, dented buckets and a broom.  In the US, this looked like we were cleaning out the garage and this was the garbage that we needed to get rid of.  But these were the only possessions she had.  As I look around my home, thinking of all that I would have to pack, it disgusts me.  I would need at least 5 boxes for the food in my fridge and cupboards.  For Izna, we did not pack any food.....not even staples or salt and pepper, she had none. The pairs of shoes that my family owns would fill at least 3 boxes, Izna and her grandchildren had none.....they walked barefoot to their new home.  I have a closet in my hallway full of sheets and blankets.....she had none.  I can go through my entire home doing this and it brings me to tears. This world is so unfair.  And yet I seem stuck.  If I give these things to Izna, her son will just sell them off to buy alcohol.  But how can I keep living the way I do after seeing this?  Hasn't God shown me these things to change something in change something in this world?

Izna packing her clothes and her grandchildren's clothes into a suitcase we gave her.

Walking Izna, her son and grandchildren to their new home behind a restaurant in downtown Titanyen.

Her new home is behind a metal door and concrete walls which will provide some security for her and her grandchildren.
Her new home wasn't quite ready as the landlord was doing a little concrete repair.
The team, moving her things to her new home.
We moved her things to a temporary space until her home was ready in an hour or so.  We came back the next day to check in and get her bed set up.
When we went to move Camisane, we found that her home had already been demolished.  Neighbors told us that she moved to Cabaret with her daughter but still sold charcoal in downtown Titanyen.  That means that she had to pay for a taptap ride from Cabaret to Titanyen every day, further reducing the amount of money she was making. We found her selling charcoal and walked with her the one block to show her the new home she would be living in.  She was overjoyed at having a home that would keep her safe, was close to her charcoal stand and because she was friends with the landlord.  She also knows Izna and I continue to pray that she will be able to help Izna with day to day tasks.

Camisane's new home was getting a little work done, too, so she moved in the following day with the help of her daughters.

 So what is the lesson in all of this?  What is God trying to teach me?  I'm not sure of those answers yet, but God has given me a holy discontent about this.  I am driven to continue finding ways that our elders can make an income and provide a better life for themselves.  I look forward to the day that each of our elders can live in a home that will protect them from the weather and theft.  I pray daily for them and ask you to join me.  Piti, piti n'ap rive....little by little we are arriving.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

All Dough Flies in Haiti

Although the team left yesterday, I've stayed on to concentrate on bread and the wonderful bread oven that we began to use this week at Grace Village.  It is hard to find words adequate to describe this experience. Serving here has been like nothing I have ever done. At the end of the day it seems to me that all our work and perhaps our whole life comes down to relationship.

First our relationship to God. The cross has two directions and the first I think is vertical. Perhaps we can think of it as up toward heaven or perhaps we think of it as that which is so fully grounded. God can. Time and time this week, things worked out that could not have if only facts were considered. Things worked out that should not have. We arrived at the oven to bake for the first time and it had not been lit. A team member used a hair dryer as a bellows and in 90 minutes the oven was 400F. Another day we made 80 pizzas with the children at Grace Village, enough communion bread for 300, and bread  to share with the other team and the long term missionaries; then left to go move elders into better, more stable housing. Yes, one day. We worked delivering water at two sites one day and at the second site the line was so long it seemed no one of us thought there could be enough water for everyone. There was enough. Time and time again it seemed surely we would run out or just get too tired. Time and time again God showed up in the form of a song or a smile or a hug.

It is all about relationship and our meeting the desperate poverty of "things" in Haiti with enough openness to see the vast "richness" of spirit and joy. It's all about relationship and digging in with people you didn't know who become friends and who become a family in an extraordinarily
short time. It's about relationship to the land of Haiti by seeing it's beauty through the veil of poverty. The land is beautiful and I wonder if Haiti is more broken than my own country or just broken differently?

I am a baker. My hands have developed a relationship with the process of coaxing food from grain, water, salt and yeast. My familiarity with bread was changed through the Haitian climate and the ingredients and I am still learning.  There is a process in baking called a pre-ferment; a way to start a dough early and get it's flavor to be deep and rich. One such ferment is called a poolish and you can speed it up and create a "flying poolish"  (no kidding i'm not making this up)...but I found that with Haiti's heat and humidity, all of dough I've made have been "flying" :).  And so we start again developing a  relationship with what we thought we knew so well. We do not come to Haiti with answers.  We come to serve and to learn.

Strangely we come to Haiti for our own healing too or perhaps that just happens when we allow ourselves to be open and transparent. We find that when we strip away the ball games and malls and all our petty insecurities there is a Love that really does transcend all we can imagine.

God bless,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Day I've Been Dreaming Of

 Often when I’m in Haiti, I pray for the time in the day to be multiplied.  Especially on a day that required hundreds of volunteer hours, multiple training sessions and thousands of dollars in donations to pull off.  God delivered!

To back up a bit…..since my first trip to Haiti, my holy discontent has been that there are not enough opportunities for people to support themselves….to have the dignity of paying rent on time, having enough food each day or even paying for school for their children or grandchildren.  Then when I became ElderCare Advocate, I fell in love with each of the elders in our program.  So many of them are perfectly capable of working and every time I visited they asked for the only things they knew of….goats, chickens, candy to sell, etc.  Some of those things have been tried in the past, and I knew it wasn’t the answer.  Slowly, God provided the answer through people He put in my path, donations that came in and an amazing team that came together for our trip this week.

The day started with a talk about poverty….not just their poverty of material possession but that every person in the world has poverty of some kind.  My first trip revealed that I had poverty in my hunger and thirst for God….it was nothing compared to that of every Haitian I encountered.  So we talked about this verse:
"Know the hope to which God has called you....and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead."  Ephesians 1:18-20

We talked about how Gods power was in each of us to change poverty throughout the world.  That I could help them with their poverty as they have helped me with mine.  That God can move mountains and that we can overcome!  We talked about the crafts and bread that we were going to teach them how to make.  While they started out unsure that they would be able to make these items, Brunet convinced them that while it would be difficult at first, they needed to persevere and learn from all the “blans” that had come to teach them. 

And so away we went….each elder (and some of the daughters that live with them) picked which craft they wanted to learn and we got to work:

Laura teaching Lauramise how to make rings.

Here, Michaela and Amy (and Emmanuel) taught beading…..this was the most popular craft…..and they made some beautiful pieces!

Marcy and Pouchan teaching Camisane how to make baskets.

Amy teaching Elie's daughter how to make a crocheted tshirt bag.

An unexpected surprise that God provided was that some of the older children at Grace Village were amazingly good at creating these pieces.  They jumped in as translators and helpers to our elders.  We hope to continue this in the future as a way for the older kids at Grace to have a job and serve the members of Titanyen. Here, MarieTerez is learning how to make bottle caps (recycled from the guesthouse) into earrings and keychains.

MarieDeloude, who can only use one arm because of a stroke, was able to make stamped notecards.

Meanwhile, out at the pizza oven, Ross, Calvin & Tim were teaching Pierre & Ofhane how to make bread to sell at the market.  They were amazing students and each had at lease 2 dozen pieces to sell!  (although Ofhane was trying to give away some of his, we quickly taught him that he must charge money!)

Pierre with some of his finished loaves.

At the end of the day, the elders who made crafts were paid for the pieces they made.  (And the pieces are now for sale in the new gift shop at the guesthouse!)  Some were speechless and almost in tears.  Others, like MarieDeloude, who has not been able to send her girls to school…..can now do so!  We even provided them lockboxes that will be kept safe at Grace Village, so that they can safely save their money for school or rent.  Some chose to save it all, some saved a little and some needed it right away.  The only thing we didn’t pay for was the bread, which the elders took to sell at market today.  I haven’t heard the outcome yet, but am excited to see if they sold everything!

We had time at the end of the day to deliver one more income producing item to Lindor, a man who had shined shoes in his younger days.  We brought him a brand new shoe shine kit with polishes, brushes and rags.  He was speechless and had tears in his eyes.  It melted my heart.  He invited us into his home where we got to see his old shoeshine box that he could no longer use.  What a heart melting moment.

We had heard that Marie was worried about the cracks in her home and that snakes would come in.  We brought spray foam insulation and sealed up the cracks.  Calvin even saw a baby snake in one of the cracks!

Theft has been a big problem for our elders.  Tim on our team is an industrial designer and designed a lock for their talking bibles.  He used a cable to attach Marie’s bible to the metal frame of her bed.  All the custom brackets and cables (over $1000 value) were donated by a company he works with!  Praise God for brilliant designs and generous donors!!!

And lastly, we were able to bring a wheelchair (big thank you to Ross for getting it through the airports!) to Haiti for Meme, a man who is blind and who is having more and more difficulties getting around.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Checking in (With Video Links!)

Bonjou Friends and Family!

Just sending out a quick note to say we are having a wonderful, powerful time here in Haiti. Here are the links to the videos we have been posting to Facebook of our adventures each day. Please continue to pray for the team and the beautiful people of Haiti.

Ke Bondje Beni'ou,
The Team

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Photos From Wednesday - Water Truck Day

Water Truck & General Hospital

Today was water truck day. After breakfast, Ross and Calvin went to Grace Village to bake bread and teach Bread Baking 101. The rest of our team loaded up into the tap tap and traveled to Cite Soleli to deliver water to those in need of it.  As we pulled into the area where we were delivering the water, the children immediately ran up to our tap tap excitedly screaming words of welcome, chanting "Hey you! Hey you! Hey you!". The gleeful look on their faces will be something our team always remember. Desperate to receive water, the people of City Soleli brought us numerous buckets, pans, trash bins and anything that we could fill. While some of the team filled buckets, the rest of the team were interacting with the joyful kids. These kids were so happy just to be held and loved. When the truck was empty and we had to say goodbye, the kids were extremely reluctant to leave our arms. After that first stop, we went to the water filling station to fill up the truck and then went on to our next water delivery stop, where we were met with the same desperation as the first stop. After an amazing experience we ended our water filling portion of the day and loaded back up into the tap tap. Our second half of the day consisted of the team delivering gift bags to the General Hospital which included things like snacks, soap, baby formula, tooth paste and a tooth brush; all the basic necessities that we take advantage of in our everyday life. Seeing the poor conditions at the hospital really shocked and impacted the team, as it was difficult to see the difference between how the patients are taken care of here versus back at home. Today was an incredible day full of smiles, tears, laughs, hugs, baa's (haha, inside joke) and most importantly, sharing God's love and tender care to the inspiring people of Haiti.

Ke Bondje Beni'ou,
Katie and Amy M.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday - Bread Ovens

Holy moly. What a whirlwind of a day. To start, I spent most of my day in Titanyen at Grace Village working with Ross on the team with the bread ovens. What a blessing to work with someone who is truly devoted to his craft, and has sacrificed his time to serve the least of these. His story on how he got connected with this trip is just as amazing. It was so much fun to step back and be patient and watch all the details of firing the oven for the first time happen. And, I got to eat some GREAT bread! The rest of the team spent the day at Isaiah's Orphanage & Juno's Orphanage. What great stories they brought home tonight!

However, after our group time, I received some bad news. I received an email with my CFP exam results, and unfortunately I did not pass. Ouch. To be transparent, I felt so poor and my heart sank. Shot below the belt for sure. But, after stepping away from the first-world for some time to spend some time with God, He directed me to the verse I opened to last night:

"For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, 'Read this, please,' he will answer, ' I can't; it is sealed.'" - Isaiah 29:11

Wow. Just wow. What if I stepped away more in times of struggle to spend time with God to give our troubles to Him? I personally struggle with this, but God hit me hard with this thought tonight as I sought Him before trying to fix things myself. Trying to rely on my imperfect self never works for the long-term, and leaves room for satan to enter with lies of worthlessness, fear, and wasted time (this has always been a struggle for me). This hurts myself, and those around me. I know the results will still enter my head for days to come, but I know I have a God that is bigger than all this, and firmly believe "If God is for us, who can be against us?" - 

Jesus is my Savior, I have a beautiful bride who walks right along side of me to the same eternal destination, and this week I am blessed to be in Haiti with so many amazing disciples. We will always face struggles in life. We are imperfect. Let's make it a goal to seek God for approval and value in this life, and rely on others around us for help and prayer.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Bring it on!!

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." Ephesians 6:11

Our team leaves in 3 days for our mission trip to Haiti and the devil is angry. Really angry.  He does not want us in Haiti next week.  We have an amazing team that is ready to serve and we are feeling very attacked from all directions...

*A mother in the hospital
*A huge car accident
*A grandfather in the hospital
*Severe migraines
*Two cars that won't start
*Allergic reaction to the malaria pills
*Family problems
*A possible tropical storm
*Fear of storms

These are just a few of the ways the devil has tried to keep us from the work God has for us in Haiti.

BRING IT ON!!!  Nothing is going to stop us from doing the good work that God planned for us on this trip.....and I know that this team is already amazing and that we can go through anything together!!!!

 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. " Joshua 1:9

God's got this...

Monday, July 29, 2013

An Amazing Team

Slowly, an amazing team of 16 people have come together to form a team that will travel to Haiti on August 19th.  During our 8 day trip, we will experience, learn, teach, worship, serve, love, and be loved.  Here is our tentative plan for the week:

Monday – Travel Day
Tuesday  - Visit the open market, Isaiah's orphanage and Juno's orphanage
Wednesday - Church, Deliver Clean Water, Visit General Hospital
Thursday - Teach elders how to make crafts and bread
Friday - Church, Visit Gertrude's Orphanage, Visit General Hospital
Saturday - Deliver Clean Water, Visit Elders in their homes
Sunday - Church, Shopping
Monday– Travel Day

Please begin praying for us now as we make plans and gather supplies for our trip.  Pray for wisdom and peace for each of our team members!