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!!


Saturday, July 16, 2011


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..........


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


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


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!


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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More Pictures from our July 11-18, 2011 Healing Haiti Mission Trip click:


This is my blog from yesterday. For more of my 21 days in Haiti experiences click: 

It is such a blessing that I am able to be in Haiti for 3 weeks. I am so grateful for this opportunity to be able to spend this significant time in a place that I love so much. I have been so fortunate to be able to co-lead one week, to be down with family the following week, and now to have my mom (and several other family members) down here in Haiti.

 It was such a wonderful day being able to watch my mom experience Haiti for the first time. She had so much energy and courage today. She was one of the first team members to volunteer riding on the water truck. As soon as we arrived at Soleil 17, I looked around and saw my mom already mobbed with kids. She was awesome with them too! All day she was playing jump rope, holding children, playing games, and helping with the water truck. I think she sees why I love this place so much...and I am hoping she loves it just as much!

It was also such a blessing today to be able to give my Zanmi (friend) in City Soleil his French to English translation book my mom was able to pick up in Minnesota. My little buddy is named Jameson. He is 13 years old and in 6th grade... Inside the book I wrote a little message and stuck a few pictures in the front cover. The pictures were of him and me & him from earlier this month. It was so wonderful that my mom was able to bring these things down for me. When we reached Cite Soleil 17, I gave the book to our Haitian water truck driver, Enel. He found my friend right away and gave him the book. I didnt want to directly give the book to my friend because it could cause a riot and scene amongst the people. I was able to walk by during the presentation of the book, and it was such a blessing to be able to witness the  pure joy and excitement that came across his face. It was such a gift for me to be able to give him something so simple-- a book that only costed $5 at Half Price-- and to see that it meant the world to him. He came over and hugged me with a huge grin on his face. Pure Joy.

During the first water stop, I had the pleasure of pouring water into everyone's buckets standing in line. Jameson came with me to help me with the task I was assigned by the water truck drivers. I was honored to have such a job because I have seen so many filth and smelly buckets over the past few water truck stops. It is so important that those buckets are as clean as they can be in order to assure the clean water we provide stays safe to drink after reaching the buckets. Our stop was busy with activities as always, and when it was time to leave, Jameson told me he wanted to come with me. I hate goodbyes. I told him to be good and Ke Bondye Beni' ou (God Bless you). I hopped in the Taptap, and waved goodbye to him as we began to pull away. That was such an awful feeling.

Surprisingly, towards the end of our second stop (Soleil 19)... Jameson met up with us! I was so excited to see him again! When we packed up to leave, I hopped in the water truck to head back to the fill station. Inside the truck was my little buddy! He came with us! When we got to the water truck station, I gave Jameson a peanut butter sandwich and a water. He hung out with us for a bit along with some of the other young guys at the water truck station. It is such a precious thing here and something you wouldn't expect, but everyone shares their food. My buddy ripped his sandwich in half and gave it to his friend. He also shared his bottle of water. They all look out for each other. Something to be learned from this...

At our next stop, I met a friend of Jameson and teased them that they were "Boyfriend" and "girlfriend." I hung out with his "girlfriend" for the majority of the stop; she was cute! When it was time to leave again, Jameson hopped in the Taptap with the rest of the Haitian Staff we were dropping off on our way back to Puerto Prince. He got out with another young man right before we left cite Soleil. It was bitter-sweet to see him run off. My heart ached a little knowing he had to go back to such conditions, but my soul and spirit knew he would be okay-- God will protect him! I will keep him in my prayers and pray that I will be able to see him again soon!

Ke Bondye Beni' ou,


We are just finishing up our Wednesday here in Haiti. It was a really special day at the home for the sick and dying children. Their buildings were severely damaged in the earth quake and had just moved out of tents into one of there smaller buildings with the sickest of the babies.

In the morning, I decided to love up just one little boy. The saying is to love one deeply rather than spreading it too thin. His name was Volandra and he was 8 months old, but looked more like about 3 months. He was too weak to hold himself up, but boy was he inquisitive. He wanted to see everything around him and used his little hands to examine my face, my hair and my beaded cross. We sat out in the court yard hoping for a small breeze as the rooms were extraordinarily hot. The demand was so great for care that the babies were doubled up in their cribs which are about half the size of an American sized crib. I also helped feed him lunch. I had thought that with his size he would be famished for the stew that they served, but the little guy was just like feeding a little bird. It took three or more attempts to get one spoonful down. He only ate a quarter of what was served, but he knew when he had had enough. It was hard to put him down when it was time to leave. With his arms out stretched, it was the first time that I heard him cry.

When we came back in the afternoon, I had saw that one of the staff members was feeding Volandra, so I decided to help another young volunteer with another group feed a little girl. She was more interested in getting affection than she was in the food. So I help the young man hold the little girl and take her outside. I then noticed that her crib mate was laying limp and burning with fever. She was so weak that she could not even get out a cry, she just gave out a sad little squeak. I was asked to feed her some bean broth which she willingly took until she noticed a man giving another little girl a drink of liquid, she reached for the cup asking for some. At this point drink had become more important than substance. As it turns out the little girl whom looked to be no more that 5 months was 14 months old. I picked her up and carried her out to the court yard to again wait for a cooling breeze. Her limp little body could do nothing more than cuddle. Her fever continued to worry me as I hugged her close on a very hot and muggy day. Her name was Roselanda. Finally I asked the staff if I could give her more liquids to help cool her fever. Instead they said it was time for an IV. I held her close and helped the staff as the inserted the IV and put a cold compress on her belly. Afterwards they asked me to hold her and for the first time in over an hour, she fell comfortably asleep in my arms and her fever started to subside. When it was time to go, I had a hard time putting her back in her shared crib. She instantly knew what was happening and reached her tiny little arms up and began her sad little squeak. I loved her up as much as I could and said my good-byes - hoping she will be better when we go back on Saturday.

Her crib mate had quite the personality - they had the closest crib to the screen door and the little one stood at the end of the crib and held the door open reaching her free had out to anyone willing to give her a little hug. At that point, we were asked to come pray over a little boy that had just been put on oxygen. He has been suffering from phnemonia for several months and had taken a turn for the worse. I said a few prayers as I laid my hands on his face and kissed him leaving him in God's devine grace.

I know saying good-bye has always been hard for me whether I am off on a business trip a vacation or other, but today's good-byes felt so much more final knowing that many of these babies may not even be there when we come back on Saturday.

I do know the babies have been blessed with such a caring staff. They carefully made sure that all of the children had what they needed and were constantly in motion, fixing food, changing diapers, cleaning the floor and making sure the babies and their cribs were always clean. They took pride in their work, serving these poor children and providing them with the utmost dignity!

My two little babies for the day were the most beautiful children with large sole full eyes, long dark lashes and little sweet heart lips. Their faces were like little cherubs. I just wish I had more room in my bag to put them in and take them home!! They were precious!

Small Sacrifices

"Mommy ... why do you have to go to Haiti?," my 7-year-old tearfully asked the evening before I left. My 11-year-old daughter tenderly placed her rosary into the palm of my hand. "Here mom ... please take my rosary with you on your trip to Haiti," she said. Their comments and gestures really tugged at my heart-strings as I continued to pack my bags for my return trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Afterall, my husband and children mean so much to me and it is hard to leave them. However, as I arrived in Haiti, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be, and I am prepared to do what God wants me to do this week to serve those in extreme poverty. I can't wait to see what this week will bring. Small sacrifices with a huge reward.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


My word of the day today was replenished. After a long travel day on Monday, I woke up replenished and full of energy for my first real Haitian experience. It was water truck day and boy was I in for a treat. We did water truck runs to three different villages in Cite Sole. What I found out is that we are the only water truck that will go into this area because it is so dangerous and we are the only trucks that don't charge for the water. The Healing Haiti water trucks operate 6 out of 7 days each week.

The first stop, I mainly played with the kids. They were all so very sweet and just wanted to touch you. I would be holding 2 per hand and if another one wanted in, they just held the hand of one of the ones holding mine. It was all about connection. I was surprised how quickly my french has been coming back to me. (Mr. Cepress would be proud!) We jumped rope with the kids and then took the kids out for a walk among the garbage to the shoreline and sang songs and danced. It was fun when I started singing Friar Jacques and they all started singing along. One girl was crocheting a hat and let me do a few stitches as well, she was excited that I knew how and that we shared this same talent!

The second stop I ran the water hose and filled the buckets. This was my favorite job. However I got extremely frustrated and disappointed when the hose would miss a bucket and water would slosh on the street wasted or the buckets wouldn't be moved to the front of the line fast enough. At this stop we did have to stop the water for a short period as chaos ensued, but the people quickly got it together and we were able to finish distributing until the truck was empty. After filling, I was able to play some clapping games with a few girls and twirled a few of the boys around like super man.

At the third stop I was part of the bucket brigade, making sure buckets were ready to be filled and pushed out of the way for the next in line. Again I was frustrated and disappointed when out the water went...knowing that at each stop there is not enough for everyone. I tried to make it more organized to move the water more efficiently, but in people's desperation, they did not want me to take their bucket from their hands to get it filled. It was heart breaking to see those in line that had to go without as we drove away. It was nice to know that for the majority of folks in the villages we were able to replenish them with cool clean water!

After the long hot day, the cold shower (only one available) actually felt really good. A bunch of the team went into the pool next door, I just sat on the side and conversed. Food has been fantastic which was a surprise. Large meals for breakfast and dinner and thanks to my daughter Kristina a lot of fruits and vegetables! Once again I felt replenished and grateful for the opportunity to be sharing the experience with my family and new friends!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our July Team Travels to Haiti 7/11!

Our July team members are Gary and Sue Sykes, Kristin Pechman, Laurene DeMuth, Kristina DeMuth, Melissa Carroll, Karen Failinger, Laura Failinger, and Tom and Shelley Gacek. We are so excited to see what God has in store for us as we travel to Haiti to be the hands and feet of Christ. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for choosing us to serve You in Haiti this coming week!