Sunday, April 21, 2013

Healing Haiti Newbie, Last Day, Wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, there am I with them.

This is my last day. My body says it is about time, my emotions are struggling with leaving. Today we had a lot of fun in the afternoon going to a market where the highlight for me was the top top getting stuck trying to park, and a bunch of Haitians coming to the rescue, pushing us out. It reminded me very much of being young in Minnesota (yes I was once young) and pushing people out of snow banks. It always felt good and I am sure it is the same the for the guys that helped us, a lot of back slapping and high fives, we guys are so easily entertained. We followed that up with a drive to top of the mountain overlooking Port au Prince, the view was nothing short of spectacular as was the view during much of the drive if you enjoy sheer cliffs very close to the road, which I definitely do. But as awe inspiring or down right fun all of this was for me it all paled compared to the worship service we attended at Grace Village.

It is difficult for me to sort out the best way to try and convey what happened and how I felt but I will begin simply with a description of the chapel. it is a simple room about 30 x 40 feet with typical Haitian windows which are not great for ventilation and of course no AC, still we were not uncomfortable, or at least not much. The walls and floors are square tiles with fish on them. We were told that adding up the fish on each tile there are 5,000 of them. Very appropriate since we are on a mount. There is no pulpit just a stand. Music is supplied by musicians with guitars a keyboard and drums. All of the musicians are excellent singers.

As for the service, the music was lively and deeply moving. I could not help but sway and try to sing along even though I did not know the words, even when they were in English. When Pastor Wesley was speaking it was equally moving even when he was speaking Creole. All this made for a moving spiritual experience. We had attended a service on the first day at a tent church, close to where we were staying, that was structured much the same way, and should have been equally moving but it wasn't. Though at the time I was deeply moved it did not compare with the service today. All day today I pondered as to why that should be.

I have been in several houses of worship where I felt the presence of God very deeply, as I am sure many, if not most of you, have been as well. This was beyond that. I felt the presence of of God so fully that at times I thought it would lift the roof right off. Unfortunately we have all also felt the presence of Satan while we worship when for just fleeting moments he distracts us with inattention or flights of ego and pride while we sing or speak (always in very small ways for he dare not raise his head to high in God's presence but still he likes his petty torments). I did here as well, with one huge difference. Each time Satan pricked me I felt as if God blew him away with powerful blasts of his breath right through me and Satan had no answer. The blast was palpable and very real to me. For brief moments I was allowed to feel the unbelievable peace of a world completely devoid of the dark one. There was nothing but light, possibly a brief glimpse of heaven, I don't know, but beyond any ability I have to describe none the less. To begin with all of this was beyond my understanding but what puzzled me the most was why, why here, why now.

As I said above this ran through my mind all day, what was different. As I said the both services I attended in Haiti were very similar, though one was in a building the other in a tent. In both cases most of the congregation was made up of the Haitian people, whom I have come to love deeply. The music was deeply moving but one did not have anything over the other and Frankly I have experienced music equally moving in several American churches. What was different?

In the top top, driving home from the mountain late that afternoon it struck me like a thunderbolt. God had been preparing me all week. Every moving experience I had while performing the tasks God asked us to do. Every bit of laughter with one of the beautiful children we were privileged to be with helped set the stage but most of all, it was every moment spent with each and every member of our team, sharing tears, frustration, laughter and joy, all under God's wing. He worked his magic through each and everyone one of us, constantly magnifying his work. Building the team into something where the whole was far, far greater than the sum of its parts. By the time I walked into that chapel this morning it had built up to the point where it literally blew the top off.

I have never experienced anything like this before and my initial thought was I will never experience any like this again. In the end that may or may not be true, that is for God to decide but after giving this still more thought I decided that question is really irrelevant. The real question is why God decided to build everything up to this incredible experience. I think it unlikely in the extreme that he did it simply to give me this euphoric feeling.

The task before me now is is to pray and ponder on why he chose to do this. What does God want from me, from us?  With his wisdom and grace I know I can find the answer. I will be still and listen.

Wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, there I am with them.

Believe it!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Healing Haiti Newbie, Day 5, Fun in the Sun

Hello, Gary again.

Today's blog is important because I wouldn't want anyone to think we don't have fun while we are here doing God's work. Just because the work is serious, and often taxes our spirits, doesn't mean we can't have fun at the same time. In truth we have had a great deal of fun everyday, singing and teasing each other constantly. Sometimes we would laugh until our sides hurt. (I am sure everyone was laughing with me not at me.) Still today was special. Today we took about 40 kids from the Grace village orphanage to the beach. We had a ball.

The outing began with about a 45 minute drive from Port au Prince to Grace Village in 2 top tops (I have also heard them called tap taps) which amounts to a small delivery truck with screened sides and back, benches, and overhead hand rails and straps, (these are needed to stay on your bench or to remain upright on some of the roads, true luxury travel in Haiti). Haitian roads have to be experienced to be believed. Some of the roads are reasonably decent, others are a mechanics dream. I am sure for those who live here, and drive on the roads everyday, it is a miserable experience, but for someone like me, here for a week, they are fascinating and even exciting, quite an adventure. It is fascinating to see the hustle and bustle whether on the road itself,with the multitude of different kinds of vehicles, many of them painted in vibrant colors, and all driving in a manner we would consider insane, or on the side of the road, with the myriad of market stands, the endless variety of people, the gritty city or the land, which varies from the mundane to the beautiful. The variety is endless.

Once at Grace village, we found the kids dutifully listening to the rules and instructions for the trip. Once done, most of them piled into a colorful bus, with the remainder riding in the top tops with us. In true Haiti fashion, the bus had a tire problem that took some time to fix. Unlike American kids, the Haitian kids sat patiently until we finally departed. They did the same when we arrived at a beach 45 minutes to an hour later, and sat while we went through unsuccessful negotiations on the price of swimming. In truth, we American adults lost patience with the process and demanded we move on. They showed the same patience again when it was lunch time at the beach, and each sat patiently until each had received their meal and a prayer was said. They are really amazing and we could learn a lot from them, but I am getting ahead of myself. As I said, the trip from Grace Village to the beach was 45 minutes to an hour. All along the way we played with the kids, teasing and having fun, though I think they were teasing us more than we were them. A few times I thought my face would crack from smiling. The scenery was beautiful most of the way. We also passed through a village and again were treated to the markets and wonderful variety of people and vehicles. We finally arrived at the beach we wanted and disembarked.

The beach and surrounding mountains were stunning, a true Caribbean paradise. After a bit of time getting everyone ready, we moved into the water and the fun began. For the most part, Haitians are not swimmers, but that did not stop them from endless frolicking and general mayhem, balls and Frisbees flying though the air and all to a background of Bob Marley blaring from some one's speakers. In the water there was constant laughter, on the beaches people swaying to the music. One highlight was one of the staff members who had never learned to swim, finally got it. He jumped up at the end of his short swim with a loud exclamation of triumph. The joy on his face was priceless. All during this time we each had kids hanging on to us, splashing us and throwing things at us as kids anywhere will do. This outing is something Grace Village tries to make happen about once every month or two and the kids were absolutely maximizing every moment. At times I am sure they were running on pure adrenalin, but even so, when time for lunch the came in dutifully and patiently, as mentioned above for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese puffs, cookies and juice. It is amazing to watch. At this point I cheated a little.

As I was passing out lunches, I noticed one of the staff members eating what looked like an interesting local meal. I asked him where he got it and he said up the beach. I asked him to take me there after he finished his meal which he did. When we arrived we found several others from the staff there as well. They became very animated and excited that I wanted to try the local food. They helped me select what turned out to be an excellent meal of fish (whole) in creole sauce (mostly butter of course) topped with a mix of julienned onions and carrots with a spicy clear sauce, rice and beans and fried plantains. It was awesome but the best part was when they pronounced me a Haitian. They are such a wonderful people.

The time at the beach finally came to an end and we headed home. The trip back was very different in that it was very quiet, not from any sadness at departure but from having used up all available energy having more fun than we could ask for.

Once back at the Healing Haiti guest house we did our word of the day. As always everyone had a different experience and as always the range of emotions was broad. For myself, and this is really the point of my blog tonight, it is as I said earlier, we don't need to always be so serious. The gospels don't record Jesus telling any jokes, or pulling any pranks on his disciples, but given his message that we have nothing to worry about, I find it hard to believe that he wanted us walking through life with dour faces as though the work we are doing in his name is some kind of burden. I believe he wants us to be joyful while completing our tasks so that we, and those we are serving in his name, will enjoy the awesome gift of life he has given us.  We will carry that joy into the next life.

Don't worry, be happy!

Thank you Lord Jesus for taking away the only real worry we have in life and freeing to be joyful.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Confessions of a Healing Haiti Newbie

Hello, Gary again.

Tonight I am afraid it is time for me to fess up. I will have to admit that I had serious misgivings about making this trip. I will explain.

I was first contacted about this trip by my cousin Claudia. I accepted because Claudia is one those people that simply loves everyone in the world and wants nothing more than to help everyone that needs it. It is a modest goal, but she is sincerely trying to accomplish it. I felt if she was involved in this it had to be great work.

A few weeks before our departure we had a team meeting. Being approximately a thousand miles away I decided to call in instead of driving to Tom and Shelly's house in the Twin Cities. During the call they went over the agenda for the week. It consisted of one day working a water truck bringing water into Cite Soliel, one of the most dangerous places on the planet I am told. This appealed to me and in fact was a great experience. The rest consisted of visits to hospitals, orphanages and schools. They didn't really say what they were going to do there, or I couldn't hear it over the laughter, they were so excited about going they couldn't control themselves, so I wondered what they wanted to accomplish. When they were done I asked what I felt was a very important strategic question ( that way they would know I was some kind of great planner, anyone who knows me would get a real charge out of that). I asked; "Are we going to look for opportunities for projects to help rebuild Haiti, my thought was we needed to get some value out of the visits. I was told that was really not their intent but if they did see something they would pass it on to others that handled that kind of thing. I was immediately deflated. I had thought we would go there, work hard, and make real changes in Haiti. Instead it sounded like we were going to do what many would call touchy feely, feel good things that meant more to those doing them than to those receiving them. I even shared this with a co-worker who has been on a couple of mission trips to Haiti where they did things like build playgrounds. I told him how disappointed I was and that I regretted agreeing to go. He just looked at me and said; "Why don't you wait to see how you feel after you have made the trip. These turned out to be words of wisdom.

If you have read my blogs from the last two days you will already see clearly how wrong I was, shamefully so. I will not go over everything from those days but I will try to explain the depth of my error. First off, it is exhausting work. The schedule is as full as can be tolerated. I have two full days left, and though I don't want them to end, I am already so tired I know it will be a hard push to finish. The exhaustion comes from, the work itself, the heat and humidity of Haiti and as I learned the constant rush of emotions constantly flowing over you. But none of this is really to the point of my shame. The point of my shame is my belief that touchy feely things are mostly fluff intended to make the doers feel better about themselves. One of my beliefs that was the basis for the former is that the people we were going to see would not get anything substantial from us, and if they did it would be so fleeting it could even do more harm than good because as soon as we left they would be right back to the misery they lived in. I felt it could make them even more miserable than they were before. Now lets take a look at reality.

Here is what really happened. Each place we went I found the people overwhelmed with gratitude and full of love for us. It was clear the result was not at all fleeting. The difference made would stay with them and give them hope and more than a little light in their lives. When we walked into a hospital room with lotion to rub on bed ridden patients they all eagerly placed themselves in a position that made it clear the anticipation of what we were going to do was high. If they weren't so sick, I would have said they were excited. I began with the intention of simply rubbing in the lotion as quickly as I could and moving on to the next. I was not at all enthused about rubbing on a strange man and many were in diapers. But as I worked God worked a small miracle in me. It quickly became obvious that the lotion was bringing great relief but more importantly their longing for loving human touch was bringing relief to their lonely soul. The next thing I knew, I was in full massage mode working as hard as I could to bring as much relief as possible to both their bodies and their souls. I even made a point of getting as far under the diapers as I could to bring relief to any rashes they might have. But that wasn't the miracle. The miracle is what it did for my soul. I found myself full of love for these men and boys to the point where I didn't want to leave until I was sure we had done all we could. Thank you Lord. This was just the beginning. When we visited the schools and orphanages I found the children would rush to greet us and jump into our arms. (I want to make it clear this is not from any willful neglect on the caregivers. The staffs at these places are truly dedicated loving people. Many giving all they have from their hearts and souls as well as financially to bring a better life to these children. It is simply an overwhelming task.) It was obvious the children looked forward to our coming with great anticipation. They were absolutely full of joy, even squealing with delight. The amazing part is they are the ones that brought the joy to us and filled us with their joy. I made the comment to members of our team that only someone made of stone would not be profoundly moved. The idea that the effect would be somehow fleeting, or even more absurdly as I now know, make them feel worse when we left, was completely smashed, and as before God worked his small miracle in me and enlarged my soul. I could go on like this for another twenty pages and still not get even remotely close to the depth of the feeling running through me, so all I will say now is the value of this work is so great it defies measurement. Why, because God is infinite, his love is infinite and so must be the result of any work he puts us to.

May God forgive my doubt.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Haiti Newbie Day 3

Hello, Gary again, trying to put in words the unexplainable experience of doing mission work in Haiti. In this addition Donnie, another newbie is going to help me make the attempt.

Today we were visiting elderly people being supported by Healing Haiti. Before getting to an incredible story, I will spend just a few minutes reminiscing about our visits to these very special people. These people are those, who without the assistance of Healing Haiti, would not be able to survive. In truth not all are elderly, some are young, but afflicted in ways that make them unable to fend for themselves. They are supplied basic needs, including food, water, and most importantly, love and affection, from the many groups that come to visit them. The reaction of these people is certain to pull on your heartstrings in such a powerful way that some have to step back from it. It is simply too overwhelming. A deeply moving example was one of the wonderful ladies we visited asked us to pray for her son who had gone to the hospital. What she did not know, is her son had died, and no one close to her dared to tell her. They were afraid of what would happen. This tore us all apart. All we could do was pray for her. We dare not interfere with something so complicated and deeply personal. It was during this visit that the incredible event occurred. At this, I will turn it over to Donnie, who was much closer to the happening than I.

From Donnie
As we were gathered around Merolen a young girl came running from a small shack behind us holding a tiny baby wrapped in a pink blanket.  She was had a anxious to show me the baby and put her in my arms.  The young girl told me that the baby was born the evening before in the streets of Titanyen and that her mother was not well or able feed the baby. A few of us went to her home to pray for her and find out if there was anything we could do to help.

Back to Gary
As it turns out there was a great deal we could do to help. Our base of operations that morning was Grace Village, a healing Haiti school and orphanage with medical staff. Before going to visit another orphanage and school in the area, we returned to Grace Village and informed the staff of the issue. We were told a nurse and another staff member would be sent with formula and other medical supplies to see what needed to be done. We then went on to visit the next orphanage. As we left we saw them returning to Grace Village. We do not know what the final outcome will be. Whether the baby or the mother will survive (she was sick from giving birth with no assistance). But we do know they would have had little or no chance if we had not been there.

Many people will want to call this simply a fortunate coincidence. I just cannot see it that way. I believe to the bottom of my heart and soul, that God sent us there for for reasons we will never know or understand. It seems clear to me that we where already on God's work and were drafted, as only God can do, to carry out his work. While it is certain this can never be proved, I know everyone of us felt the Father's hand in this, and were awed, and humbled to have been used by him.

I am now three days in, and the experience just seems to get more profound as I go. I lament my poor ability to share this in anyway that really touches how I feel. I know that if really could do that, it could move mountains, never the less, I will try in the hopes that maybe just one person will decide that they are called to help in some way the great work that is being done Healing Haiti.

I will pray for that.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Word of the Day

Hello, my name is Gary. Tom has asked me to take a few minutes to share the experience of a first timer to Haiti with the Healing Haiti mission group. After giving this a little thought I decided to use a technique we do every evening. It is called "Word of the Day". We each pick a word that best explains how we feel after a day spent with the wonderful people of Haiti. This time it will cover my first two days. The word I choose is "deep".

Deep are the feelings that have swirled around me from the time I get out of bed until I am back in bed. I don't think I can cover them all, but I will do my best.

Exhaustion; this can be from spending way too much time in the airport which resulted in getting us in late. It can also be be from working your backside off delivering water to crowds of people who are desperate, and have to line up to get what we all take for granted. But, maybe, the most exhausting is handling the barrage of feelings. They can rocket up and down with unbelievable speed.

Elation at seeing joy in the faces of people, either struggling to survive, or losing the battle, that  God has allowed me to serve in what seems to be such small ways, but received in a way I would not have anticipated.

Frustration; knowing that no matter how hard we work on a given day we have left so many people untouched.

Anger at knowing how little the world really cares. The worst is that many countries contributed directly to the terrible situation here.This blog is far to short to go into the tragic history of Haiti, so I will limit myself to the very basic. Haiti was a French slave colony. It is the only country to have a successful slave rebellion only to find themselves shunned by Europe and the US where slave holding was still very strong. This shunning was only the beginning of their long tragedy and I encourage all to take the time to study and understand the rest.

Gratitude; there but for the grace of God go I. I could have been any of the people I have seen but he chose to put me where I am. I believe this obligates me to share with others less fortunate but no less deserving.

Amazed; the spiritual resilience of the Haitian people is truly astounding. In the face of hardships most of us cannot really understand, even after spending time here, they do not give up. The depth of feeling I experienced at a morning mass, even without understanding what they were saying, has to be experienced to have any chance of understanding.

Impressed; the talent and devotion of the Haitians that work with us is really something. They are talented, gifted, committed and above all, full of life and the Lord.

Compassion and sadness; seeing the depth of poverty, the lack of even the most basic needs, the desperate need for love and attention and the loneliness of many is hard to deal with.

Joy; Sharing the successes we do have with those in our group is as uplifting as could be asked for.

Lastly, humbleness; seeing the dedication of all those who have come before, seeing the resilience mentioned above in the face of hardships that would likely cause me to wilt is a humbling experience.  However, the most humbling experience is seeing how God has taken so many ordinary people and molded them to perform  a work far greater than any of them (us) could have accomplished. Without his grace, mercies and strength the task ahead would be truly impossible.

In the end, none of the above comes remotely close to covering the experience and I am only two days into it.

Imagine what the next 4 days will bring.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God Is Love

Bonswa from this beautiful night in Haiti! This is Sam here :)

What a powerful first day! We were in Cite Soliel on the water truck today, and WOW, it was an amazing day. Being back on the streets of Haiti, immersed in people, culture, and every part of Haitian beauty was just awesome. You can feel God moving so strongly in this country, it's incredible, and I am so, so happy to be back.

It was so great to see the members of our team in action today. God has pieced together an AMAZING team for this week and everyone played their perfect part today in helping hold the water hose, move and carry buckets of water, and love up the Haitians - especially the adorable kiddos. I believe every one of us was moved by today's experiences in Cite Soliel. We had a great share session after dinner and words of the day included thankful, humbled, granted, fun, Spirit, nurture, desperate, respect, and exhausting. My word for today was Love. I saw and felt many different things today, but above all, the word love reigned in my mind to best describe it. It started this morning with being reunited with the awesome people who take care of us here in Haiti, and continued with the overwhelming teamwork and bonding (LOTS of singing and dancing on the Taptap and elsewhere! :) ) that went on throughout the day, the love that was shared by God through our team to the Haitian community in Cite Soliel, and the love that was shown from the people of Haiti to our team throughout the day was just so strong and amazing! Something I feel only an experience in Haiti can gift us with :)

Bondye se bon!! (God is good!)

Goodnight from Ma and Pa Kettle and all of us Kettle Kids <3

Monday, April 15, 2013

On our way!!!

After a nice long wait for an airplane repair, we're about to take off from Miami! Can't wait to be back in God's country!!!