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.