Monday, December 19, 2011

Through the lens, a glimpse of Haiti

It has been exactly one week since our team has been in beautiful Haiti. I am filled with so many emotions today, Happiness is a big one, as I look through all the pictures we took while there. Tom, one of our leaders said to us that this may just be the best week of our lives...he was so right. How do you top this?
Our week was filled with lots of love, reaching out to many in need. Bringing clean drinking water to the people of Citi Solei, loving up the babies & praying with the young adults at the Home for the Sick & Dying, playing with the special needs children, and teaching some orphans how to paint for the very first time. It goes on & on...
Another big emotion is sadness. I'm thinking about the woman who was notified pretty much right in front of us that her baby died the day before.... and the young 20 yr old man who has lymphedema, which may end his life sooner then it should ( if he was here in America, he would be treated in 2 days), and the children who were so excited to show us where they sleep, in a very tiny cardboard box, decorated with stickers and a yoga mat for a mattress ( not all had one), or the many children we encountered with old mismatched donated clothing hanging on their tiny bodies. I cannot help but wonder how the the Mom I prayed with is doing today, her baby was so sick and fighting for her little life in the Home of The Sick & Dying Children. We couldn't speak to each other with words..but I gave her my cross necklace and she hugged me tightly. I knew what she was trying to say just by her eyes...
A beautiful moment, as our hearts were all broken from the many things we witnessed, we got to see the tent church, and see how the Haitians worship... It was so beautiful. They are not afraid to lift their hands to the sky and sing beautifully to the Lord. We couldn't understand all the words spoken in Creole but we could all feel Gods presence... it was truly amazing.
During our free time, we did a lot of reflecting on our day, and lots of silly dancing. Fan Fan, one of our interpreters, brought out the box of instruments and song books and up we all went, singing and dancing in a circle. Nobody cared how silly we were..it was just us being joyful.
We were only there for seven days...but hopefully the love and help we brought to all we encountered made a difference to them, even if it was small moment in their lives.
One verse comes to mind,
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see YOU hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give YOU something to drink? ‘And when did we see YOU a stranger, and invite YOU in, or naked, and clothe YOU? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them,........ ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, YOU did it to Me.’





Blessings...
Lynn
Healing Haiti team member

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A letter to Alyn...

Do the heavens open for you to see all that's happening at Grace Village, Alyn? Surely they must, for when I stand on that hill, I am certain it is the place that heaven touches the earth.

Your creative, God-given imaginative fingerprints are everywhere there. How it must bless the Savior's heart to see those gifts living on through the many who continue to come to carry on the work He started here through you and Jeff.

I imagine you... when the heavens part... beaming from ear-to-ear as you catch a glimpse of Grace village... for I could feel you smiling down on us all day long!

I can't tell you how much I miss you dear friend, but, you are with me today! :o)


Written by Julie Miller

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day Four

I had another beautiful day in Haiti today. We visited six elderly orphans this morning. Healing Haiti keeps up with these people closely and provides them with things they need like medicine, flashlights, etc...we delivered a hot meal, water, juice, sandwiches, and yogurt.

We got to visit the market on our way out and that was quite the experience... Let's just say I don't think I will be eating anymore meat while I'm here. Haha

We had a great day at the orphanage. We were able to do crafts, sing, and dance. They loved the chicken dance and the bunny hop. They were so stinkin' cute! Tom took me to see their "beds" and it was pretty shocking. These kids are living on stacked wood with cardboard walls and blue tarps for ceilings ... But they were so proud to show off which one was theirs. It was enough to break my heart for sure!

The director lined them up to let them sing and pray for us. Those kids worship so sincerely. Eyes closed and hands lifted.... It's the most precious thing I have ever seen in my life. It is the best feeling in the world to be able to spend time with and love on these kids. They are all so independent just running around freely...some chased us out to our "tap-tap" (our bus) and even ran beside us for quite a while. The neighborhood kids chase us too yelling in Creole asking for things like shoes and water. Definitely not something you see in America. I would be calling the police if I saw a kid chasing a car down the road...much less fifteen or twenty of them!

Today was incredibly hot...we all felt dehydrated and light headed. We drink constantly but don't go to the bathroom once all day. That's how much we are sweating!! Everything we drink is turning to sweat.

I just had my usual cold shower and sat down to relax. Fan Fan (one of Healing Haiti's workers/translators) is sitting in our living room and we are helping him with some English words he isn't sure about. I can say I'm getting used to life here though. I manage the heat, I don't scream every time it looks like we are about to have a head on collision in this crazy traffic....I'm used to everyone calling me "miss Texas" and "baby bear" (I'm the baby of the group)...I'm used to cold showers, early mornings, and long draining days...I think I'm going to surprisingly miss these things when I'm gone. I will definitely miss Tom's goofy jokes and him saying "watch where I'm going!" and "eat our dust!!" while we are in the tap tap. He's hilarious. So michevious, but he has a HUGE heart... And that's why the kids love him so much. He's not afraid to look silly to get them to smile! I'm so blessed with this amazing team. I really do love them already!


Love you all!
Alexa

Thursday, December 8, 2011

HOPE...learning to paint for the very First Time...

Today our team went to visit Guilliam's Orphanage, to play with the children, sing with them...and something the kids have NEVER done before in their whole lives, paint a canvas. We asked them for a show of hands on how many have ever painted before? Only TWO hands went up...only two. Not once have they held a paint brush, or made their own art.
Being an artist, I work with paint everyday. It brings me to my "safe place", brings me serenity, and allows me to express myself through the many bright colors & most importantly, It is a gift from God, and God gives me the words to paint..... I can't imagine not being able to paint.
So, our team, along with the great interpeters began to teach them... I asked them to relay to them to not be afraid to use color, and they are all going to be artists today. It went exactly as it was susposed to. It was a bit chaotic and they had no idea what to do. We told them to paint whatever they wanted. Each & every canvas was so different.... one of my favorites was one that simply said"Jesus" in beautiful colors. At one point, we happened to look over at the water well, and saw about 8 of the kids trying to wash off their paint, they thought they made a mistake, and wanted to start over... that made me sad. Art is never a mistake, just like us. We are all perfectly made with Gods hands, all His beautiful children. He makes NO mistakes.
The art the children created today will be a part of something big & beautiful to come with Healing Haiti this Christmas. It's going to be Amazing... Lynn

Heart Pains in Haiti

There are certain situations and circumstances in life that defy descriptions or words, and this day in Haiti was one of them for me. We woke just before sunrise to feel the warmth of a Haitian morning, and made our way to the sunrise service under a big tent. From the time we entered the tent I could tell this was going to be a very moving day emotionally. I was amazed to see the passion with which these Haitian people expressed every emotion they were experiencing as they poured out their hearts to God. They smiled and danced and you knew that this was the place they needed to be each day to gain their strength and peace. It was truly an amazing scene!
Next I was further humbled as we rumbled down the pothole strewn streets to the home for sick and dying children. I was so cut to the heart as I saw parents sitting in a waiting room to drop off their children not knowing if they would ever see them again, wondering what it would feel like if that was me and my two boys, and I couldn't afford to care for them, how can it not crush a parents heart! We watched a desperate mother bring her infant son and they began to give him an transfusion and she began to get hysterical. A few of us went to console her and prayed over her with our translator FanFan and she then seemed to calm down. It was such a blessing received to just be able to hold and play and cuddle with each of the orphans, and to see the way they longed to be held and loved! I have to say that time and again in the last two days I have seen God prove his strength and power to hold us tightly when we need him most.
Our final stop of the day pushed me farther out of my comfort zone than I have ever wandered before. We went to a orphanage for sick and dying adults and I felt as we walked in God saying "are you willing to love the least of these"? Are you willing to reach out and touch with my love those who are lonely, those who have no one to call family, no one to care for their needs? As we walked into the tiny cot filled rooms full of people lying there hardly moving we thought one of the things that might soothe them would be a massage and they responded immediately. Within minutes I had men motioning me to come over to them, and we massaged there legs, feet and backs and it was awesome to see how appreciative they were. As we ended with them each we would pray over them as we held their hands, which for me was a truly moving experience. I am so grateful to God that he never gives up on us, he constantly pursues trying to show us the things in life that really matter, the things that will last forever. I realize in all this I have not done justice to this day in any way, but I hope you will realize in some small way the depth of the impact on my life this day has made.

Healing Haiti ST Day 2: December 7, 2011

I ask too many questions...

To start the day with worship is always a blessing. To start the day with worship in Haiti was life-breathing. After our first day--delivering water in City Soleil--our team gathered bright and early to give praise to the One we came to serve. And God, being God, blessed us immeasurably through the unbridled passion for Christ of our Haitian brothers and sisters!

I did not know at the beginning to this day was how I would feel when it ended. (One never does, right?) Yet, knowing the schedule for today, I knew this day held events I couldn't begin to imagine. So I gave it to God as best I could. Then I had to do that time and time again:

In the morning, we visited a home for sick and dying children. We entered the first room where 12 -15 babies lay in lined - up cribs with just enough room to walk down an aisle in between. Most were visibly sick, a few were crying, all wanted to be held. I didn't realize there was another room--and another--and another--and another.

Maternal instinct is a beautiful thing. I couldn't tie my apron strings fast enough to pick up Gina. Her painfully thin arms reached to me and immediately she buried herself into my shoulder. She cannot say "hold me," but her body said all. She is well cared-for by loving nurses, but they simply do not have enough of them nor enough time to give much exclusive attention to each one. Gina has "failure to thrive," a term I am quite familiar with from my education. She is likely to recover (she loved her lunch!!), but will she be taken home by her parents? If she is, will she once again face the same circumstances that brought her there in the first place? I have so many unanswerable questions.

I spent a long while holding Gina while Pam held a little girl who, while connected to oxygen (she has a tumor on her chest), knew how to get attention! She had the most beautiful smile and would shake her hand in time to the Haitian Christian music playng in the room! But there were so many others who did not feel like smiling much less dancing. A whole room full. And another, and another, and another.

The morning was heartbreaking, yet precious as I watched the ministry of love given by both our team and the Sisters who have given their entire lives to serve the sick and poor. When I was told we had to leave, I was startled to hear myself say, "I can't."

Later in the day, we visited an orphange run by a woman who takes the abandoned children from hospitals. Children in the most dire of need abandoned?! Others perfectly healthy left at the gate. Memose, beautiful Memose, who could ever leave her? Parents who cannot give her any hope of a better life than what they endure. I imagined the pain and sacrifice of the countless mothers in Haiti who must make that choice.

Our last stop was the home for sick and dying adults. So many sick, so few resources. I had assumed that the patients here would have incurable ailments. But some were in their 20's with very curable ailments. Why can't' they get the help they need? In our medical system, the anwers are easy. Here, the answers are difficult and few. But not impossible. Nothing is impossible with God. We were able to offer a hand or foot rub, a prayer, a song. Prayerfully, more than that where we can.

I think I'm becoming known among my teammates as the pesky lady who asks too many questions. Sorry about that. But we all, those who believe, know that our God has the answer. His name is Jesus. And one day, every tear will be wiped away. And we will live with all our Haitian brother and sisers eternally as we began Day 2: Praising the One we came to serve.

In His Love,
Mary Jo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day One



Today was our first day out in Haiti. We woke up for another amazing meal and then got ready to head out to the water trucks. I wasn't feeling well when I woke up this morning, but after a few prayers from my amazing family and friends I felt great.

Saying today was an amazing day would be an understatement. It was absolutely life changing. My heart is completely broken, but at the same time I'm glowing. These people have nothing...but they have a love for God like no other. The children are all absolutely beautiful. Dirty dark brown faces with bright white gorgeous smiles. They LOVED all of us. Most of the day we had a toddler on each hip and others holding on each of our belt loops. They just wanted to be close and to be loved on. It's such an overwhelming feeling to feel so important and admired by someone you just met.

They want to hug you. They want to know your name. They want you to "photo me" ( take their picture). They dont know english but they say "HEY YOU!!" and then tackle you with hugs and kisses. I gave a little girl a bobby pin from my hair and she thought it was the greatest gift in the world. We jump roped, taught the hokey pokey and just spent time and played with them. I personally wasn't able to help out much with the labor of the water truck because of my hurt hand, but it was an incredible feeling to watch my team mates. Just like Lynn said at the dinner table, we all just work perfectly together!

The driving here is crazy! A few of us got to hang off the side of the big water truck and it was quite the experience. No one acknowledges stop signs or oncoming traffic here. They just honk and fight for their place....so needless to say hanging off the side was pretty exciting.

I can't really even put into words how these people live. They are surrounded by trash and sewer. Little boys that are probably around 7 or 8 wear too small of t-shirts and are naked from there down. Little girls have tattered dresses and none of them have shoes. Their clothes are either way too big or way too small.

I followed Steve while he carried buckets of water and we got to see inside one of the homes. Families are basically living in dirt closets. They have trash and sewer surrounding them. Pigs and chickens just grazing around freely.

I personally had two life changing experiences....one which broke my heart and the other that put it back together. The first, I was spending time with the children and a grandmother approached me with an infant. She handed her too me and started telling me something in Creole. Then she started to try to leave... She wanted me to keep her. If my team members wouldn't have taken her from me and took hold of the situation I would have no doubt came home with that baby. That's when the tears really hit...I had to walk away. Not long after a little girl in a ripped up Cinderella costume came up to me. She loved on me and held my hand and wanted me to meet her friends. Then she wanted to get on my back... So I let her. We started walking around in circles and that precious girl did the most amazing thing.... She started singing in my ear.. Still on my back..."glory to God, glory to God, glory to God, Forever!" the sweetest voice I've ever heard. So we sang all the way back to the water truck.

I think everyone in the world needs to step back and think about what I just said... This little girl in a ripped up halloween costume, with no shoes and no running water loves God that much. She was so happy and loving every minute of my attention.

.... I mean we sit in the drive thru of fast food restaurants and gripe if our food isn't served immediately, while these people may not have food for days and they are still SO happy and in love with God. Wow....that's my word of the day....wow. Wow to how they live. Wow to how beautiful they are. Wow to God answering my prayers and making me feel better so quickly. Wow I'm so lucky...I don't deserve what I have.... And wow God is great.

Love you all!
Alexa

Day 1- Gratitude


Word of the day... Gratitude! So so many things to be grateful for in this beautiful day. Today, we delivered clean water throughout the day, our first place was stop #17. Before this trip, I tried to prepare my heart for all God is showing me on this journey, and I was fine....... until we stopped and opened the door. There were the most beautiful children...all full of smiles, laughter, and so much joy. One little girl locked eyes with mine, and gave me the biggest smile...and I smiled back, as my eyes started to swell with tears. We were surrounded by so much devastation, poverty, trash & dirt,rundown shacks & tents for homes, and yet, she was so happy to see us. She was excited and she knew we would be bringing clean water. It hit me when I wasn't expecting it. I couldn't help thinking about how something so small...yet something we don't even think twice about could make her day, help her to live, to quench her thirst for a little awhile.
We went to three different stops to deliver water and each stop was filled with laughter and smiles. We all worked together to fill their buckets, play with the children, and laugh with them, but most of all, share our love with them. So grateful for this day.... I will never be the same, Thank You Lord. Lynn

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

stop for a second....

In our busy lives, we often get caught up in it all and forget to stop and see ALL that the Lord blesses us with each day. If we really pay attention to it all, our hearts would be filled with so much gratitude. As my faith continues to grow, I try to start each day thanking Him for all He has blessed me with. I continually try to put my full trust in Him, and allow Him to guide my paths.... When we do that, He blesses us abundantly. I keep thinking of this verse, "Now All glory to God, who is able through His mighty power at work within us to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20 AMEN!

I will be on a plane in 5 days to meet the beautiful people of Haiti for the first time. This is only made possible because the Lord has guided me there... I cannot find the right words to thank Him. I am ready to be the hands and feet of Christ, and ready to open my heart to all who need it. I am here to serve, to share my love and to make a difference.
Here in America, we have so much...and yet some are striving for more stuff... trying to fill that hole in their hearts... and always coming up empty. Only our Lord can fill that spot in our hearts, He IS the Light... the Hope, and the Love we need in our lives. I will see Beautiful things in Haiti, and see that in a land where they have nothing...they really have EVERYTHING... they have Christ Jesus... the Only Light in our world. I am so excited to be filled up with that love that only comes from our Savior...use me Lord...break my heart for what breaks yours... guide my path....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Trip Remembered

A drop of water in a bucket that brings hope for another day

A boy remembered, never forgotten results in a new hope, and new way to walk

Basic physical needs unmet creates a desperate need for survival

A small child hungry and naked, full of joyful laughter; grateful for a touch and a hand to hold

A woman who desires to be recognized, held in loving arms like a child

An abandoned, emaciated infant; skeletal bodies without energy to hold up their head light up your soul with their eyes

A touch, a kiss…holding them tight for a moment; letting go rips your heart in half, wishing and praying for healing, to hold them in your arms forever

Unable to speak one another’s language; a connection made with a woman through massage and prayer

A sunrise church service held in a tent starts the day with worship and prayer; a Haitian angel intercedes on our behalf

Daddy hold us in your loving arms

Greeted by a “HEY YOU” chorus sang by school children; education provides hope for a better future but only 10% get the chance

Three men, one blind living in a home the size of a closet, another in a house made of tarps inhabitable in the hot Haitian sun and a third with tattered tennis shoes, no laces and feet too sore to touch. All the men had very little to call their own but were grateful for a bite to eat, a drink of water and a serenade of music and prayer

A young man suffering from debilitating seizures cared for tirelessly by his mother

A woman confined to the floor as the result of a stroke, unable to care for herself independently

Children waiting patiently for a family, a home to call their own

Grace Village, a city on a hill, a light that shines through the darkness of poverty

Hundreds of sick and wounded lined up waiting for medicine, for a bandage; a child crying out in agony as the wounds are cleaned without relief from pain bedsides a hand to hold

Tent cities, packed liked sardines next to one another in hot tin and tarp shacks without ventilation

Not enough shoes

Strangers now family connected by shared memories, laughter and service

Haitian brothers (AMEN brother!) and sisters who serve tirelessly providing security, safe travels, food, clean clothes, music, interpretation and salsa lessons

That’s a bummer!

Broken hearts, lives forever changed

Ke Bondye Beni ou

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Touched by a "Haitian" Angel

We have our own little welcoming committee here in Haiti in the form of an elderly Haitian woman who I affectionately refer to as our "little angel." I first met her in July at a charasmatic, outdoor church service that I went to with our interpreter Fanfan. She immediately captured our hearts as she joyfully shuffled over to our location with a twinkle in her eye and a spring in her step to individually greet each one of us. In fact, the woman deeply touched one of our team members in particular ... our team leader Tom Gacek.

This week, when we arrived at church, I knew that Tom would be looking for his little angel. We took our seats and waited patiently for our welcome to begin. The music had started and suddenly, I noticed that Tom was gone. I glanced around and spotted him in the row that we had sat in during our July trip ... I knew that he was hoping she would see him. Finally, disappointed, Tom returned to his seat with the rest of our team members.

I quietly said a quick prayer asking that our little angel reveal herself. When I opened my eyes, there she was ... doing a quick little jig down the aisle of the church heading straight for Tom. My heart immediately fluttered and was filled with excitement and warmth since I knew Tom would be just thrilled to see her once again. Then, after greeting Tom, to my amazement she individually greeted each one of us just like she had done in July. She wanted to make sure that the visitors to her church felt at home.

Tom gave her a piece of gum as she continued dancing down the aisles, waving her hands in the air in worship. Shortly thereafter, she reappeared with a gift for each one of us ... pieces of candy. She sweetly placed a piece in our hands as she looked us in the eyes. Then, she found a seat in front of Tom where she sat quietly alone. Well ... Tom would have none of that ... he did not want her sitting alone so he politely escorted her over to an empty seat right next to me.

As the music continued, she placed her hand on my shoulder and began to pray silently over me. I couldn't believe the tender, loving care she showed by doing this act for a total stranger! When she was finished with me, she repeated this practice with several of my other team members. We were all so touched by her grace and eloquence. She was so precious and made us all smile. We were the outsiders at this church, but felt completely at ease.

So ... if you ever come to Haiti, don't be surprised by the warm welcome you will receive, especially from a little elderly woman at a sunrise church service in Port-au-Prince. Just like us, you will be touched by this angel.

(Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of our angel, but instead have posted a picture of the outdoor church that we attended. Services are held at the church daily at 6 AM.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Elder Care

Today we went back to Titanyen where we visited with six village elders who need daily care from others. Healing Haiti has hired a young man who told us to call him Andy. Andy was great to have along with us and he knows so much about the elders we visited. We brought them all food, water and other personal hygiene products. They were all very grateful to see us.

First we stopped at Edmund’s house. It was made of old tarps with a tin roof. Edmund is blind but he still welcomed us into his little house with open arms. He took to us right away and sat in bed while we gathered around him and watched him eat a sandwich and drink the nice cool water we brought him. He touched all of the other things we brought him and sat there with a big smile on his face. He asked us for music so we sang him songs, held his hand and prayed with him. Edmund has his sister who lives next door to help him and she took the things we brought for Edmund because other people will come in and steal it after we leave. It has stormed two out of the four nights that we have been in Haiti. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a frail, blind old person living in a house like this while there is thunder and lightning and pouring rain all around you?

We then went to visit Antoine who was outside of his house when we arrived. He told us that it gets too hot in his house during the day for him to stay in there. He welcomed us inside so we could give him his food, water and supplies. We sang songs and prayed with him as well and again he was so appreciative of us for bringing him the supplies.

We then went to Angeline's house. Angeline had a stroke and no longer has use of her right arm or right leg. She was on a blanket on the floor when we arrived. She told us that she can no longer get into her bed that was right next to her and only a foot off the floor so she now sleeps on the floor. As we gave her the food, water and supplies she took each one and pushed it under her bed to hide it. She was afraid someone would take it from her unless she hid it. Angeline's daughter was there and she told us that Angeline needs a new wheelchair as the one she has no longer works. We sang songs for her (Fanfan sang them in Creole) and prayed for her.

We then went to see Lindor. Lindor was outside his house sitting on a chair when we pulled up. He started waving at us right away. From inside the Taptap we could see that his tennis shoes were so old, torn and worn out that we wanted to give him some new shoes. Team member Betsy took off her sandals to give them to him. They were a tight fit and Lindor's feet hurt him but we were able to make the straps longer so his feet would go into them easily. He was very proud of his new shoes. We then gave him the food, cold water and other supplies. He put them all in his lap and told us "Meci" (thank you) after each gift. He was so grateful.

We then walked to see Felicie whose house was very close to Lindor’s. She was outside and greeted us all with a big hug. She was a very pleasant woman and she quickly invited us into her house. She has a small grandson who lives with her who appeared to be less than a year old. She talked with us and graciously accepted the food, water and gifts we brought for her.

We then drove to the other side of Titanyen where we went to see Jude Jean Paul who is a 19 year old who suffers from severe seizures that have left him unable to move. He was sitting in a wheelchair when we arrived and he is unable to respond or acknowledge us. We held his hands and gave him some water. His mother fed him some of the applesauce we brought to him. Again we sang for him and prayed for him.

All of these elders need special care because of their age and condition. Healing Haiti’s elder care program is a wonderful way for these people to get the things they need on a daily basis. Andy was so caring for each of them and you can see it in him that he loves what he does. May God bless them all and God bless Healing Haiti.

Enchanting Rainbow Colors











Yesterday, October 20th, we went to tour Grace Village, which will open in the near future. I've been there many times, beginning when we first just looked at the land prior to Jeff and Alyn purchasing it, and I thought it was beautiful then. This year alone, I've been there four times. Each time I was there, I saw major progress. But this time, it really gripped me. My word of the day for Thursday, October 20th was "Enchanting". I was so awestruck when we were driving through the gate, and within a few minutes, that word popped into my head. The colors were so brilliant and fresh. It just looked like a perfect painting, kind of like unreal. I just stared at it for a long moment. It reminded me of a Disney movie where all the colors are so beautiful, bright, cheerful, and fun for young and old alike.

For this trip I brought along a book to read titled "Heaven is for Real". I finished that book last night. In the book, the little boy, Colton, says there are lots of colors in Heaven. He says that's where all the rainbow colors are, many more colors than we even know about here on Earth. I also learned that Jesus is the only one wearing purple in Heaven. Purple! WOW! I saw lots of beautiful purple at Grace Village. I don't think it is a coincidence that purple just happens to be Alyn's (my beautiful sister-in-law) favorite color.

I can't wait to see Grace Village in full swing, with the feeding center open and the orphans living in their new home. I'm sure it's a glimpse of what Heaven looks like.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Great Day with a Great Delivery

Ever since my wife Sue and I were here in July we have wanted to help a 5 year old boy and his mother. They live at water stop 17 in Cite Soleil. The 5 year old is named Raybean and he has a badly deformed foot from being dropped into a fire when he was 3 months old. When we were here in July his mother and some of the other kids asked us to get him some crutches because he has a lot of difficulty walking. We were able to find a set of crutches which we sent down with one of the next teams coming down. Unfortunately they were too big for him. He is a very small 5 year old.

In preparation for this trip I stopped at a thift store to look for luggage to bring down. While there, to my amazement I found a smaller set of crutches, which I didn't even know they made them that small. For the sum of $3.99 I purchased them to bring with me on this trip. 

On Tuesday morning we were not sure which water stops we were going to and we were told that we first had to go to Elders School because they were out of water. Elders School is in Cite Soleil as well. After that we took the remaining water in the truck to stop 17. I had asked Fanfan if he had seen Raybean at the stop lately and he said that he had not. Sue and I had been worried about being able to find him again.

When we parked at Stop 17 I waited in the Taptap so I could grab the crutches on my way out. As I was climbing down from the Taptap, Tom our leader said to me "Look at that little boy." I looked up and immediately recognized Raybean. He was already in the arms of Claudia another team member. I called his name and he looked at me. He saw what I had and wanted down. I brought him the crutches and he took them right away and started off down the street. They were the perfect size just the way they were, which was good because they were as small as they would go. He had a big smile on his face. What a great moment it was to be able to do God's work in such an amazing way.

God sent me to that store to find the crutches and God put Claudia there to find Raybean for us and I'm so greatful for team members who gathered around and documented Raybean getting his crutches. I am also greatful to Sue for keeping Raybean in our thoughts and prayers. What a great delivery.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gratitude from Sans Fil

Today our team was moved as we spent our time showing compassion to those at Home for the Sick & Dying Children, Gertrude's Orphanage for Special Needs Children, and finally Sans Fil Home for the Sick & Dying Adults. After my "wake-up call" that I blogged about yesterday, I was very excited to visit the adults at Sans Fil. Also, I had recently read a couple of books about Haiti that talked about the facility so I was anxious to see it for myself.

Sans Fil has two floors ... one designated for men and one for women. Beginning with the women, our team went room to room visiting with the people, giving them massages, and rubbing them with lotion. Each room was filled with several iron-framed beds where sick people lay gazing at us as we entered. I loved seeing their faces beam as one by one we showed them love and attention.

During our time at Sans Fil, one man named Edison really impressed me with his delightful personality despite his circumstances. Edison was laying within the last men's room I visited. Upon entering the room, I noticed that it was almost empty. However, I spotted Edison laying in the back of the room next to a sleeping man so I decided to introduce myself and asked if he would like a hand massage with lotion. He smiled as he answered, "Wie (Yes)." We continued to talk (with the help of a translator) and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. He told me that he is 40 years old and suffers from tuberculosis. He shared about the concern he has for his two children whom he cannot afford to send to school anymore since becoming ill. He also stated that his relatives live in Cape Haitian (several miles north) and they cannot afford to visit him. Finally, he expressed his gratitude to the Americans who do come to visit him. He told me that he loves them, and that he prays for them daily. This statement really affected me since I realized without Americans and others serving in Haiti, this man may never receive a visitor!!

As our time together was nearing an end, Edison told me that he would like to begin praying for me too, and then I struck a deal with him. I told him that he could pray for me as long as I could do the same for him. Once again, a smile lit up his face and we actually shook hands on the deal. He ended our visit by asking a heart-felt question, "Can you tell your sisters to come visit me?" I replied, "Sisters?" and thought ...how does he know I have two sisters? The translator said by sisters, he means others in America. I reassured him that others will come and told him to just keep a look-out for Americans wearing those "Healing Haiti" shirts. I could tell that my response comforted him. I love the Haitian people, their self-less concern for others, and their unending gratitude for help they receive.

(Out of respect for human life and dignity, no pictures were taken at Sans Fil.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wake-up Call in Cite Soleil

Today, in Cite Soleil, I received a message and it was delivered loud and clear. The day started out like many other water truck days that I had experienced during previous trips to Haiti. Our team was busy doing different tasks ... filling buckets with clean drinking water, helping people lift filled buckets onto their heads, assisting children with transportation of their buckets to their homes, and playing with children we encountered. However, at the end of our second water stop, a young adult approached one of our interpreters with a message for me. The interpreter translated the message from the woman as follows, "You do such a good job playing with the children and loving them too." Wow I thought ... how nice of her to notice. However, then the interpreter continued with her message saying, "but ... what about me? You have not showed me any love nor attention. I'm lonely, sad, and very poor. Both of my parents have died." She dropped the bomb and burst my inflated bubble.

Immediately, I was filled with sorrow. Those of you who know me personally know that I would never intentionally try to hurt anyone. Her news literally shook me to the core and I became overcome with emotion. As I glanced her way, she looked very upset, almost angry, and understandably hurt. I knew what I must do ... I walked over to her, apologized, and gave her a hug. My solution did not seem like enough to me, but unsure of what else to do, I gave it a try. As I had expected ... it wasn't enough. She still was not happy with me, but she could see that I was emotional and I think she sensed that I was legitimately sorrowful. In an attempt to get to know her and to show her compassion and love, I told her my name and asked her for hers while I held her hand. I then told her I was sorry again and gave her another hug. Suddenly, she began to melt ... her tough exterior faded away and was replaced with an unsure smile on her face.

My team members called to me and I knew that it was time to leave. I wish I could have spent more time with the young woman, but I was thankful to God for sending me this "wake-up call" via Cite Soleil. The rest of the day, I made sure to acknowledge, love, and validate the older children and adults placed into my path. What a valuable lesson to be learned!


(Since I didn't have a picture of the young adult who gave me the "wake-up call," I decided to post a picture of Joseph Domonique, a homeless man that I met in Cite Soleil the same day. What a hard life!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sacrifices for Haiti

Lately, my pastor at church has been talking about sacrificial giving of our time, talents, and treasures to help people in our communities and abroad. Although rewarding, I have found that sometimes gifts of service can also be painful. I have had people tell me, "I could never leave my family behind to serve in Haiti ... I would miss them too much." Believe me ... it's not always easy. In fact, last night before I was about to leave for my third trip to Haiti, my 7-year-old son cried for an hour begging me not to go and this really pulled at my heart strings. "Please mommy ... don't go to Haiti," he tearfully pleaded, "I can't sleep with you gone."

My 11-year-old daughter was more understanding and told me that she was happy that I was willing to help the poor. She gave me her rosary to take with me again as she has done for previous trips. This act of kindness and concern from her always chokes me up.

As my son continued to shed tears, I felt like my heart was literally being ripped out and I was actually thinking ... "How can I leave him in this condition?" However, then my thoughts drifted to the orphans in Haiti that crave attention from a mother figure like myself. I had one orphan girl approach me in July with a big smile on her face as she said, "You family!" She then proceeded to hug me. Other orphans passed notes to my team members referring to them as "mama." So tender and sweet. Is sharing a few weeks of my life with these beautiful children too much to ask? I don't think so.

I gently praised both of my children for their sacrifices in letting me go to give hope, encouragement, and love to the people of Haiti. And ... I'm so thankful to my husband for the sacrifices he makes to support my trips. He wears many hats when I am gone, from cook to activity planner, and I truly appreciate his efforts in comforting our children so I can continue on with my mission.

Giving can be painful, but at the same time, so rewarding. I get back way more than I give to Haiti and I guess that's the beauty of it. I trust that God is taking care of my little ones by filling them with peace until I arrive home to embrace them once again. Looking forward to tomorrow and what the day will bring in serving the least of these in Port-au-Prince.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ke Bondye Beni'ou


It is my last day here in Haiti and it is time to head home to see my family. I filled with mixed emotions as I end this journey. I am happy and excited to see my wonderful husband and kids, my other family members and friends to share with them the experiences I have had this past week, but yet I am sad to leave such a place where there is so much work left to do.....I am comforted to know that we have met many such people through out the week who continue this journey, whether it is the Haitian volunteers, the Haitian nuns, the French Seminarian, the 3 college girls from Conneticut, the team of young leaders from Calgary Lutheran in Woodbury and Roseville, the surgeons from the Mayo clinic working to teach Haitian doctors or the gentlemen from an Oregon church working to reconstruct a church here in Haiti....the world has been blessed with many angels on earth!


We spent our last day prepping bags with food from Feed My Starving Children for delivery into the nearby tent city. I was extremely moved and proud, when at the bottom of each food bucket was a new shirt from my alma mater (as well as my daughter and niece's) , Totino Grace. I was proud to be the link for the student volunteers back at home to hand deliver the food they prepared along with soaps and other basic necessities to these desperate people. What a blessing.



While at the tent city, it was hard to decide who to give the bags to as there is never enough to go around. I gained some comfort as I have seen the random acts of kindness where each neighbor is willing to share with those in need, or the little girl who rather than beg for more as we ran out, took my hand and gave me a look that said "trust me" and gently led me back through the maze of tents to the entrance. It was her concern for my safety that really moved me deeply.



Later in the day - it was time to take our mission hats off and become tourists in Haiti. We toured the earthquake ravaged downtown area that still lays in shambles, including the palace 1.5 years later. We spent time in awe at the beautiful craftsmanship of the Haitian people and became overwhelmed with what to buy. So I pretty much bought everything!! Beautiful hand painted canvases, intricate works of hand carved wood and stunning hand forged metal artwork. We slowly and bumpily made our way to the top of the mountain. It was such a contradiction to the life in the city. The scenery was like that of a beautiful painting looking out over the rolling foliage of the mountain, the colorful city below and the aqua blue waters of the ocean. Not to mention the significant drop in temperature and humidity!!



We finished off the night going to one of the Salsa dancing clubs. What an amazing way to end the trip. I felt like I was part of the audience of Dancing With the Stars as I watched the beautiful and graceful dancers. What a sight! Of course the DJ made us "blancs" feel at home by playing "Who Let the Dogs Out" and "Celebration". It was pretty classic as we made our way back to our tables that we were handed flyers for Extreme dancing lessons!! We all got a big laugh out of this one and were not insulted at all having seen the Haitian style of dance. I only wish I could look so graceful.



So as I close out this journey, I am feel very blessed and grateful for this wonderful experience. I know that I will take a big piece of Haiti with me as I head back home. I can only hope that the small difference I have made here has helped and that the significant difference the people of Haiti have made for me will continue to influence my future....I know if already has.



Ke Bondye Beni'ou!

God Bless You!!



Laurene

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Observation

My word for the day was observation.

For the past week I have been observing the culture of Haiti and am intriqued by their resourcefulness in what seems to be such a bleak situation. At our first water stop in Cite Soleil I observed a little baby pulling along a little vehicle made from a broken plastic water bottle with wheels made from bottle tops and the handle...discarded plastic. When I complimented the mom on her skill, she beamed with pride and joy. I observed the compassion and kindness in many of the small children who eagerly would share a small piece of bread with another small child when asked. I observed adults who were afraid for us to move their bucket in the line for the fear that they would not get the water they desparately waited for. I observed those at the end of the line that may go home with out the most basic of resources to sustain life.....

Along the roadside, I observed the craftsmanship of old where headboards are shaped and carved by hand labor, sweat and pride. I observed a community where people don't understand the concept of television and internet, but who know what a true community is - helping each other survive. I observed mothers washing their clothes by hand, giving their children dignity by giving them clean clothes to wear. I observed older boys wearing girls clothing without any sense of western convention. All that mattered is they were clean and modest and the clothes were their own.....

I observed the sick and dying babies as we fed them their evening meals. I observed their innocence of their own predictament. I observed their trust that someone would be there to nourish them and to soothe and comfort them. I observed the angelic face of the the malnourished child in my arms holding me as close as I was holding her. I observed the caring and compassion of the staff and their endless energy and selfless love. I observed the gift that God has brought to the children in these women.....

I observed a woman teaching a group of girls her skill of sewing and embroidery. A skill that will help them survive by bringing in an income to purchase the basic necessities of food and water.....

I observed the Healing Haiti staff as they work to make us comfortable in our new surroundings. I observe them helping to translate the words of a small child or the cry of a mother in need. I observe them as they know they have been blessed with a job that will provide for their family and many of their friends. I observe that they take pride in their work, their country, their culture and most importantly I observe their never ending faith in God....

I observed a Healing Haiti mission team that are all observant. Always observing what needs to be done and stepping up to help without being asked. To pick up the dirty child with no hesitation to give them a hug, to rub the back of a baby crying for their "mama", to share their food with the water truck workers, or giving their own water source, knowing it means more to someone else. To make a fool of oneself just to bring a smile to someone else....

On the flip side, I observed how the people of Haiti have been observing us through holes in the side of their tents, through the piles of refuse, from the top of an over croweded tap-tap, from their crib at the hospital or the small children that follow us down the road yelling "Hey You!" And I wonder what is going through their minds.......
And I wonder what I will observe upon my return home..........

Raybeen

My most memorable moment from today will be with a little boy who reached up to me as soon as I got out of the tap-tap at the very first stop. It was in district 17. The worst of the worst. He wanted me to pick him up so badly and I did. It wasn't until I had been holding him for several minutes when I realized he had a crippled foot. To me it looked like it had been badly burned. Not only was it terribly deformed but the scarring ran up his shin. Just as a noticed this, several other children started pointing at his foot and talking a mile a minute. Of course I could not understand a word they were saying but they were very persistent. I asked Fan Fan one of our interpreters to come over and help me. He told me his name was Raybeen (spelling it exactly as it sounded). I would have guessed he was about 3 or 4 years old but it turned out he was 8. He stepped into a fire. The other children were asking me to get him crutches so he could walk better. They insisted I take a picture of it so I could get him help. I can't begin to imagine the pain this child ... and his mother,who I later met, must have gone through with out being able to get any medical attention for him. He never spoke to me until the very end. Our team took a walk away from the truck to take in a heartbreaking view near the ocean (not pretty as it rightly should be) Many of the children came with so I carried Raybeen up the hill so he too could come. When we reached the top we began singing songs with the children. Not Raybeen. He just observed. So when everyone began clapping with a song I began clapping my one free hand with his hand and kind of dancing with him. Suddenly I looked at his face and there was this one single tear running down his cheek. I would like to think I brought him some moments of joy in his very painful life. As we were walking back down the hill he said his first and only one word over and over and was pointing at me. I asked someone what he was saying ... "pretty". Sue



Friday, July 15, 2011

Diversity





Today was quite the adventure with many diverse activities all packed into one day. We started the day with a sunrise service up on the mountain. It was a very charismatic event. The people here are very sole-full in their worship. There must have been over 500 people at this outside service. It is held every Mon - Friday and is always very crowded. The people pretty much sing, pray and sway to the music for at least an hour. There was one very old woman who greeted us with a big toothless grin and gave us all a hug. She danced her way around the tent greeting all that she met. After breakfast we did a quick walk down the street to a wood carving craftsman and I bought a small bowl. We then headed out to Grace Village for a tour. The campus has a breath taking 360 view with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other three. They were almost done with the feeding center and were putting the bathrooms in the kids buildings. It is amazing how nice this place will be compared to the tiny little buildings they have today. To think they don't even have a couch to sit on let alone a family room to lounge in. All they have are 2 rooms for sleeping and a tent for their kitchen and dining area. Once the kids move to Grace Village, new team members will never have the experience of how bad it had been.

After Grace village we quickly stopped at a little hut where we prayed over a young crippled man that Healing Haiti has been supporting. He was dropped on his head as a baby and suffered an epileptic seizure that has left him crippled. Following this we went over to the mass grave. This is the site that they buried many of the 300,000 victims of the 1/12/10 earthquake. It was very powerful to see all of the hundreds of black crosses where the bodies were thrown into a pit and buried under layers of rock with out their families every knowing where they were laid to rest. There we met three young men who were in unbelievably tattered clothes. Evidently the poorest of the poor in Haiti actually live in the mountains where they have no access to basic resources. We shared our food with them and then went into town to walk through the market. It is the largest famers market/garage sale I have ever seen with hundreds of people milling about. Some of the vegetables and fruit looked amazing where others were rotting under the hot sun.

Following the market we stopped at a small school to deliver school supplies. The teacher proudly gave us a tour of his 3 room, 1 office (in a closet) complex that holds 340 students. Healing Haiti pays the salaries for the teachers. Even though school was out for the season, we all got a lesson in cutting and eating a coconut. He quickly climbed a wall and dropped down 6 coconuts, shaved down the sides and made a small hole for us to drink the milk. It was surprisingly sweet compared to the ones shipped in to Minnesota. From the school we went over to Guilliame's orphanage. It was slightly larger than the first orphanage. Here we did three different crafts with the kids. Young or old, did not matter they were all very engaged with the projects. (One of them was the CD fish G-pa had made at the cabin. I think this was their favorite!! Some little boys opted to keep the CD's rather than make the fish. They thought they were very valuable.) It was also fun to see some of the neighbor kids along with a mom or two sneak into the chaos and participate as well. The love letters the little boys slipped into your had was heartbreaking, the letter said "I love you mom!"

Tomorrow is another repeat day. We will spend the morning doing two water truck runs and then spend the afternoon at the home for the sick and the dying children. I am hoping my two babies are still there and getting better so that I can hold them again. We will see if Kristina and Fan Fan are up to another top of their lung concerts for the toddlers. Should be a fun day as these were two of my three favorite activities. (The third being the beach day!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Trust



Today we took 39 orphans to the beach. It was fabulous weather and the beach was rocky but beautiful and the water was wonderfully warm!

I started the day with the younger kids, but quickly gravitated to the teenagers. They almost craved for your love and attention more than the young ones. I spent the afternoon helping them learn out to float and eventually helped a couple of them learn how to swim. Not only was it great fun and they could not get enough but it was a wonderful lesson in trust. They would line up for their turn and when it finally was their's, they would hang on for dear life as I put them gently on their back. Eventually they relaxed as they learned to trust me that I would not let go. Ever so slowly, when I knew they were ready, I would remove one hand and eventually, maybe even two for a few seconds, waiting only a few inches below to catch them if they really weren't ready. What a sight is was to see their face radiate with pride as they began to actually trust themselves in this new adventure.

This is one of the two orphanages that will be moving to grace village in the fall. We did a quick tour of the orphanage after a sleepy ride bus ride back from the beach. There are at least 20 girls and they share 10 bunks (2 to a bed - even the teenagers) in a room no bigger than Kristina's. The boys bunks were made from cardboard and tent and as one team member commented "to think in America it is every little boys dream to sleep in a fort, but these Haitian boys, there dream is to have a bed of their own".

I trust that God will grant them this wish soon!

Overwhelmed

Our visit to Cite Soleil, Haiti this week consumed me with emotion. This being my second trip to Haiti, I thought seeing the poverty would be easier ~ I was wrong. Located within the capital city Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil is where the poorest of the poor live. The absence of running water and sewer systems is the norm. People live in homes aka shanties made of metal, wood, or whatever material they can find ... all with dirt floors. Since no refuse collection service is provided, broken glass, plastic bottles, and other garbage litters the streets. Half-naked, children with medical conditions needing attention can regularly be seen. Many people who visit Haiti stay away from Cite Soleil due to gang violence and the absence of police presence. However, our team delivered free, clean drinking water to them this week. No human being should have to live like those in Cite Soleil. Unfortunately, the only way of escape is via education, but education in Haiti requires tuition so if you are poor, you remain uneducated.

My camera served as a form of entertainment for the children of Cite Soleil, providing a diversion from their everyday life. I took a couple hundred pictures of beautiful faces, several of which were smiling. After I would snap the shot, the children would grab my camera, look at the image, and uncontrollably laugh out loud. Bringing this small amount of joy to them warmed my heart. At one point, a boy came to me repeating the same thing over and over in his native language creole. I asked our interpreter Fanfan what he was saying. Fanfan replied, "He is asking if you could take him to the United States with you." I was unprepared for that heart-felt question from such a beautiful young man. His eyes pleaded with me. I told him that I was sorry, but I could not bring him home. He lowered his head and gracefully accepted my answer. This broke me. I quickly snapped a photo of the two of us together and then had to walk away to recapture my composure.

I didn't sleep at all that night. The images I had taken earlier in the day just kept flashing through my mind. What would the future hold for these children? They are all so beautiful, created in God's image. Despite the difficulty in seeing the living conditions, my visits to Cite Soleil prove to be my most favorite activity. Just before leaving one of the stops, I ran into a man named Jeanny that I had met during my first visit to Haiti. He remembered me and was so happy to see me again. In his broken English, he said, "I appreciate you." I swallowed the lump in my throat, once again tried to regain my composure, and then snapped his picture. His words were written on my heart that day. God ... please care for and bless the people of Cite Soleil. I know you hold them in the palm of your hand.