Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Haiti.

Today is our last full day in Haiti. We spent the morning at Grace Village with the kids.  We had such a wonderful time singing and dancing to Angela playing the guitar and singing for the kids. Listening to kids sing and worship with us was a true blessing. I can still hear their voices singing in praise "Glwa Pou Bondye!"   We then split up and did some arts and crafts with the kids, which was a huge hit! Nikki also had the kids striking yoga poses on the basketball court. We even performed the incredibly difficult "Flowerette Spin" to perfection.

After visiting and playing at Grace Village we went to do a little touring and shopping of Haiti.  The markets were so full of activity and excitement. We stopped at a few markets and bought some of the local Haitian artwork. We ended with a stop on the mountaintop. What an AMAZING view! Words can not even begin to describe the view. As I stood there in amazement of the beautiful view, I was reminded of how beautiful Haiti is. But I was also reminded of the heartache and desperation that we saw while we were serving in Port Au Prince. Seeing Cite Soleil from 6000 feet and from ground zero provide for very different views. Both of which have their own different and unique beauty.

Our team spent the last evening talking and working through so many different thoughts and emotions. Please pray for our team as we travel home and struggle to work through this roller coaster of emotions that we are experiencing. We will wake up tomorrow and board a plane for Minnesota and Arizona and New York with hearts that are broken and aching. Just the way God intended them to be when he chose us all to serve together on this mission of His. God has worked his Will on each one of us in different and unique ways. I feel truly blessed and honored to have served here in Haiti with a team of amazing people with amazing spirits. I came here 6 days ago with people I barely knew, and I am leaving having gained 12 new sisters and a new brother. People who will be a part of my life forever and always in my heart.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Water truck, home for sick kids and tent city.

Friday April 26th

We are definitely feeling the exhaustion of our trip but NONE of us want to do ANY complaining. How could we after what we've seen? Our swollen faces and feet, our sweaty clothing and gritty hair have become an amusing conversation. As Cindy Rubin (one of our teammates) would say, "let's power through!"

We were all excited to begin our day with two water truck stops. That has definitely been a highlight for me! I love that we go into the community and interact with the Haitian people on their turf! We are providing them with such a simple necessity and yet they are so grateful! The children are delighted to spend time with us and the feeling is very mutual.

Our two stops provided me with very contrasting experiences and both memorable! When I stepped out of the truck at the first stop I was instantly greeted by a mother who handed me her sweet little baby girl. Her tiny body felt so limp. There was a white towel wrapped around her head and her eyes looked red and glossy. AGAIN, my heart was completely broken. The desperation on that moms face is forever imprinted in my memory as she gestured to me to feed her baby. Being a momma myself, I can't even imagine how helpless she must have felt. This was quite evident by the way she was pushing me away with her child in my arms. I couldn't fix this woman's baby and that is the most helpless and devastating feeling that I could ever be faced with. That was not the first time that this has happened in the past 5 days but it never gets easy! I grabbed Michelle and and we prayed for them. That is all that we could do. I'm a fixer and I want to fix it all, but I can't. After all, who am I? This is way beyond me! What I have been deeply reminded of is our immense need for a Savior. This reality seems easier to remember when you have nothing else. Most of the Haitians that I've met feel no embarrassment of their relationship with Jesus (Jay-zee is how they pronounce it). We hear that name all the time! Merci Jesus!

Our stop at the water fill up station ended up being an impromptu medical mission. As usual, when the Healing Haiti truck shows up, so do the kids. It's crazy to me that in the most remote places with a language barrier that you can find your little kindred spirit. A little girl walked right up to me and started making crazy faces. At first I thought something was wrong with her. Again a kindred spirit because I'm sure that I make the same first impression quite often. :) Then she started doing these little dramatic crying acts and laughing hysterically at herself. Of course I immediately joined her. I love that music, laughter and crazy faces are a universal language. We had so much fun and some fun pictures to prove it. Then a little girl..maybe 2 years old, and her older sister approached us. The sweet little girl was whimpering and her older sister pointed to her head. I looked at her head and it was full of pussy scabs. I called for Erin, who is a nurse, and asked her to bring some wipes out. We started to wipe it off and realized that it was very infected and we needed a lot more than a few wipes. They brought out the first aid kit and started going to work. She was crying but didn't try to push Erin's hand away. It was so sweet the way that her older sister held her hand and wiped her tears. They put antibiotic ointment on her scabs but all of our nurses on our team agreed that she needs more medical care. We were concerned about the heat baking down on her infection but we didn't want to cover it with a bandage. Our ingenious leader, Derek, came up with an amazing idea to put a medical face mask on the top of her head. It looked like a little amish cap and worked perfectly. She wore it with pride1 Infections like these take the lives of these children all the time. 1 out of 8 children in Haiti don't make it to age 5 and most of them die from very curable ailments. We did what we could for this little sweetie and again it never feels like enough.

Onto our second water stop. It started a bit slow but when it picked up it really picked up! The kids were mischievous and ready to play. It started with few water fights with a small group of kids. Before I knew it, Jessica and I were in an all out dance party with them and I was rapping. Hahaha! The crowd grew and so did the expectation to perform! Even the teens and adults got involved. It was fun to bring these hurting people a little joy with a dance party, another universal language. They ate up every second of it and admittedly, so did I.

After lunch we decided to split the team in 1/2. Conquer and divide! I joined the team that went back to the home for sick and dying children. Erin, Shelley and Derek had missed that experience the other day because they were busy dressing wounds. They wanted the the chance to love on those sweet babies as did a few of the rest of us. The rest of the crew went to the tent city and delivered manna packs and other donations. They only had enough food to feed less than a 1/4 of the people there. They said that our animals live in far better conditions than these people. All of the people were so hungry and so desperate for food! Another heartbreaking and eye opening visit for them.

I was fully aware that poverty existed. I knew that people starve. I knew that people suffer tremendously, but it was never more real to me than it is now!

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
-Mother Theresa


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grace Village Tour and Elderly Visits

Today our team headed to Grace Village which was started by Healing Haiti. I thought it would just be an orphanage, but it was so much more: an orphanage, a school for children in town, building a health clinic, elder care, chapel, playground, aquaponics (where they were growing their own food and tilapia to eat). They also were building a pizza oven area to employ townspeople so they could sell and earn their own money. I was amazed at how this organization tries so hard to empower and employ the people in town to make a living for themselves.

So, despite the extreme poverty we have seen over the last few days there is HOPE.

We then headed out to visit the elderly in town, those who have been identified as needing extra care. They get a meal a day and are visited by teams such as ours about once a month. What a privilege to walk in their "homes" with the welcome of an old friend. I interacted most with Viergelie. We sat beside her on her bed made of plywood on cinder blocks. She had been given a mattress by Healing Haiti but it had been stolen. As we rubbed her hands and feet I was overwhelmed with the thoughts of all the years of work, care and love shared by these hands. As our group sang Amazing Grace we were all filled with tears and we all felt the presence of God. We were united through music and prayer, despite our language barriers, culture, skin color, and living conditions. It will be an image that is ingrained in my heart forever. Thank you God for opening the "eyes of my heart".


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Changing dressings at the wound clinic in Port-au-Prince, nothing like the US

Today while ten of our team members went to the Home for Sick and Dying Babies, four of us went to the wound clinic. We've known for a couple months that only 4 of us could have the opportunity to go to the wound clinic and since I work in the medical field it was kind of expected that I would want to go. It was like a scary roller coaster or scary movie or bad car accident; I wanted to go but then again I didn't. I also didn't want to stop someone else from having a chance. I spent some time praying about it. Then something really cool happened, Michelle, my leader and friend, handed out the amazing, brand new journals from Healing Haiti. We are one of the first teams to receive them and wouldn't you know it, the preface is all about the wound clinic. It sealed the deal and made me remember a poem I had seen in nursing school. The poem was a question and answer session to a nurse, asking her how she could do things like start IV's, or change a dressing etc. and the nurses answer was always about how the things she's doing is about the person she's helping, not about the thing she is doing.
On the van ride to the clinic we drove past thousands of people, living amongst garbage trying to earn a living selling hundreds of miscellaneous items. Sadly no one seemed to be buying. It seemed impossible that we would even reach the clinic with everything and everybody filling the broken down, pothole filled roads. We made it. I was impressed with all the supplies and medications that the clinic had. Small buckets that had hydrogen peroxide, betadine, neosporine, and cotton for cleaning the wounds, gauze and bandages that were bed sheets ripped into strips. The four of us grabbed a bucket and jumped right into the line of people waiting to have their dressings changed. These wounds were huge, deep, infected, dirty, old. Some of them looked so bad they just needed to have the particular limb amputated. I took a deep breath and asked God to give me the strength to care for these people the way they needed. I just couldn't stop looking at this giant area of open flesh on this elderly mans leg. And then I remembered, this is someone's father, brother, grandpa. He is a human, just like me. My soul settled as I focused on the man and his need rather than the ugly wound. He gently guided my every move with patience, telling me each step (in Creole). As I was finishing up with the dressing, I grabbed a roll of sheet strips and as I began unrolling it to wrap this old mans leg, I saw that it was exactly like some sheets my grandparents had when I was little. I was hoping he wouldn't be offended by the tiny flower design. Instantly I subconsciously gave myself a slap on the face as I came back to reality. We're in Haiti and this man has nothing and he's thankful for the tiny flower sheet strips that I'm wrapping around his wound. He got up to leave he said, "Merci, Merci". I answered back with my best "Pardekwa" (you're welcome) and his face lit up. I love the way their faces light up with a simple word and a smile and some TLC.
The way we dressed these wounds is nothing like how we do it America, I shuttered at the lack of sterile or even clean procedure, if you can even call it a procedure. But what I loved about the way we changed the dressings today in Haiti was with complete compassion, not at all distracted by all the tedious charting we would have to complete in the US.
God, thank you for today. Please help me to remember today. To remember how blessed we are. To be thankful.
~Shelley M~

Gertrude's Home for Special Needs Children

This morning we had the opportunity to meet the children and staff at Gertrude's Home for Special Needs. As soon as we arrived, a few students tried to "escape" their classroom. One child had a mind of his own and kept pulling me towards the playground. He did not succeed with his mission....a staff member came and made him return to class. We were then given a tour of the building where there was a small kitchen, a room filled filled with cribs for the babies and toddlers, a room where crafts are made by some women from the neighborhood, one classroom with several pieces of cloth hanging from the ceiling for a "wall" divider, a bathroom, another room with bunk beds for the older children and a small playground. There were about 16 special needs kids in the classroom with two Haitian staff. Most of the teaching seemed to involve singing and clapping. The kids were allowed to go to the playground after class time, but several stayed in the classroom where Angela sang and played her guitar. It brought tears to my eyes to see how much the students LOVED the music and made me realize how fortunate we are to have access to all the resources we take for granted.

It was an amazing experience seeing some team members step out of their comfort zone and love these kids up. There is a reason special needs students were given that name, they truly are special!


Home for sick and dying children

Home for sick and dying children

Looking into the eyes of a child is looking into the eyes of Christ! There are saints in this world. I saw them working today! I am not an angel. I met angels and they are at the home for sick and dying children, taking care of babies day in and day out. That is what they do. They don't get paid for their work. They don't get recognition. They don't get to go on facebook and show the world all the great things that they are doing. They didn't seem phased by the typical female concerns such as fashion and perfect make up and hair. Yet, they were some of the most beautiful women that I've ever seen!

It was about 92 degrees and high humidity which made it feel like 105 degrees. When we arrived at the home, we were broken up into 2 groups and brought into infant rooms filled with about 20-25 crying babies. There's no time to think, you just kick it into gear and start taking care of babies. They all needed to be fed and changed. They all were putting their arms up wanting your love and attention, except for the ones that were hooked up to IV drips or were too sick and frail to stand up in their cribs. With those babies, we had to stand next to their crib and try to bring some comfort. We were sweating as we went from child to child giving as much love and attention as our bodies could offer. I looked around at my teammates and saw them working as hard as they could. Changing diapers, giving water, wiping noses, singing songs and running around outside with the older kids. It was one of the most heart warming sites to date. I'm with some seriously amazing people.

Michelle, my leader and one of my best friends, checked in on all of us repeatedly. Everytime she asked me how I was feeling, I held back the huge lump in my throat. No time for crying. My internal voice was saying, "suck it up Nikki, these children need your care, not your tears." I needed more arms, more hands! We all did.

It was time to go but I wasn't ready. I wanted to hug them more! The nuns are angels but they only have so many hands and I can attest to the fact they don't don't have enough hands for the work that they have before them. As we were leaving there was a mom trying to admit her baby to the clinic. Her baby was so thin and ill. We jumped into the truck to go and the lump in my throat turned into full blown tears! I couldn't hold it in any longer. I have never felt more touched by anything in my entire life. I experienced just a snapshot of service that those beautiful nuns devote themselves to every single day. I feel broken hearted but I am thankful to God for his faithful servants and I'm inspired once again to do more.

Matthew 25:45 "He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I came into this situation, this mission trip, knowing it would change my life in the most profound way.  Emotions running my mind ragged.  Sleep escaping my nights.  Eager anticipation upon me.
Now, here we are, the first day,  in the midst of it all.
 Water truck day. The heat, the filth, the smells, the garbage. Yet the happiest children surround me, wanting to be held, hugged, touched.  They couldn’t keep their hands off my smooth, straight hair- braiding and braiding and braiding it. The sweetest touch, the warmest smiles.   I loved it, couldn’t get enough of them.
 Kisa ou rele?   Which means “ What is your name?”  Pierre, Carlina, Malinda – just to name a few.  This is the only thing I could communicate with them, yet that was more than enough to know that God was working here with us all.  Those smiles said it all. 
My thoughts and emotions  are running all over the place.  I cannot wait for what the rest of the week brings, the lives to be touched and hearts to be blessed.  Thank you Healing Haiti for bringing me here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We Are Here!

Grateful. It is with a grateful heart that I can say our team has safely reached it's destination...Port Au Prince, Haiti! From the moment we stepped off the plane, you could begin to see the devastation that the earthquake of 2010 left behind to a country that was already severely impoverished.

Surprised. While I expected to see devastation, I was not prepared for the severity of it. From the moment we walked off the plane, the impact of a 60% unemployment rate was clear. The number of men begging to help us with our bags, looking for a sense of purpose and something to do was astounding...and heart breaking.

Shocked. As we left the airport and headed to the guest house, my heart was heavy. The number of people on the streets was overwhelming. We had to travel slowly, because the roads were filled with so many potholes, rocks, water and garbage. Finally, we reached the Healing Haiti the 'nice' part of town. Once there, we took a walking tour around our neighborhood. The level of devastation and poverty was so shocking, it is hard to put into words. Carefully, we walked...having to be mindful of every step.

Joyful. As we walked, we encountered more people than I could count. What stood out the most to me, though, were the children and the looks of pure joy on their faces! Despite all of the brokenness that seemed to surround me, I realized that not everything that appears to be broken is.

Blessed. Speaking on behalf of all of my team members...we all feel so blessed to be here and serve God by loving and serving His people. Blessed by all of the prayers you prayed for us as we prepared for this trip and for the prayers you will continue to pray throughout the week. Blessed by all of the donations you made in His name. have up you on this trip with us!


The NY/MN gang's all here! Off to Miami to pick up the 2 AZ ladies, then on to Haiti!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Packing Party

It was a successful night of packing donations, fellowship, laughing, eating, praying, planning, and supporting!  Next step...3:45 a.m. meeting at the airport Monday morning! Many sincere thanks to those of you who contributed donations for the people of Haiti! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Preparations ...

Well, it has been awhile since our last post!  We are counting down the days until we leave...6 days more, to be exact!  We are completing our final preparations...gathering our donations, packing our bags, buying deet, taking malaria pills, arranging rides, finding know, all that fun (and sometimes stressful) stuff that goes along with traveling to another country!  And then there are the thoughts of a first-time goer, such as, "What will we eat?", "Do I have the right clothes?" "I don't really know my team members..." or "Where will I sleep?"  Not to mention the worries about getting sick or many things we could put our focus on and worry about!  All legitimate things, by the way!  All of those details are definitely important, don't get me wrong, but what I have found, is that it is SO easy to get so caught up in those details, that we forget about our spiritual preparation! 

I have to say that I am so amazed at how, already, this team has stepped up in that area.  The encouragement, support, and prayer has been so powerful in this process.  I pray that as the week continues, we continue to seek out God in all of it, and that we are able to relieve our minds of any worry, and especially any details that ultimately don't matter. And for the details that do, I pray that we all are able to trust God.  Matthew 6:25-27 says:  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"   Thank God for His word and this great reminder!

Thank you for joining us on this journey! 

Bondye Beni'ou (God Bless You)!