Sunday, August 18, 2013

Q and A with Halie and Kenna

Tonight's blog format is brought to you as a Q & A with the 15 year olds of the group:

Question: What surprised you about your experience in Haiti? 
Kenna- "I didn't expect to have such a deep connection with the kids. Each one that I held really touched my heart."
Halie- "I came without expectations and with an open mind but I did have some things that stood out to me.  The Haitians have a different outlook on life.  They are always satified with the little things that they do have. Even though we have way more than them, we are always wanting more. They are all so joyful, open and happy."

Question: What was your favorite thing that we did to help and how did it impact you?
Kenna- "Water truck days in City Soleil.  Finding out that we are the only organizaion that brings water into City Soleil made it even more impactful because we are their only source of fresh water and they all seem so desperate. It made me appreciate having fresh water every day because those people have to wait days before they will recieve fresh water again and maybe not at all."
Halie- "I also really enjoyed water truck days because as we were bringing them one of their basic needs. It made me realize how little they really do have.  The joy on their faces when we would pull up was priceless.  The people that were there would break into fights because of wanting water and not wanting to go made me realize how much we take for granted. I think that meeting an immediate need was very impactful for me."

Question: Do you think that this trip has changed your outlook on life? Would you go on a mission trip again and recommend it for others?
Halie- "Yes, because so many of the people in Haiti are lacking the basic needs such as clothing, shelter, food and water. So many of us Americans take that for granted and don't realize how blessed we really are. I would definitely go on a mission trip agian to Haiti or elsewhere and I would also recomment it for others. It will give you a new outlook on life. It not only helps others but it helps you in your faith as well!"
Kenna- "Yes, because the Haitians are so kind, happy and content. They are also very gracious and will give whatever they have. They are not greedy and that is so different from how America is. Even though they have nothing they are more rich and that is how I want to be. I would go on a mission trip again and some day hope to be a long term missionary in Haiti. I would definitely recommend it to others because it is a really eye opening experience and changes your entire perspective on life."

Question: What did you struggle with most this week?
Kenna- "Being open and vulnerable about how seeing everything has made me feel when sharing at the end of the day. Also, sometimes everything was very stressful and chaotic but you had to push through realizing that we are not here for our own comforts, we are here to serve others."
Halie- "I struggled with seeing kids without food, clothing and not being able to fill those needs. I know that I have all of that stuff but we are not allowed to give it all to them. They need to become self sufficient in filling those needs on their own and not be dependent on us. Also, I'm a people person and open to most things, however, there were kids with no clothes and they wanted to be held too. I had a hard time picking them up at first but in the end, I accepted them with open arms."

Question: What will you do differently when you get home because of your experiences this week? 
Halie- "When I go home I will be more grateful for what I do have. I'm going to be more focused on what I need verses what I want.  I would also like to be less judgemental towards others because I appreciated how the the Haitians accepted people instead of being quick to judge."
Kenna- " I really want to try to thank God more for what I have every day. I also want to be less ignorant and more aware in general of those around me in need."

Question: Today was our last full day in Haiti. What were a couple of your highlights from the day?
Kenna- "Looking over all of Haiti from the top of the mountian. It looked so beautiful and peaceful up there. It was odd knowing how chaotic it really is on ground level. It was nice to see a different perspective.  I also LOVED the Grace Village church service. It seems so much more spirit filled than any church service I've ever been to at home."
Halie- "During the church service I was holding a baby. The mother was next to me and she seemed so concerned with my comfort while holding her baby. She took my bandana off of my wrist and wiped my sweat and she made room for me to sit on the bench. I felt very touched that she was so concerned about my comfort even though we were there to serve them.  For some reason I also enjoyed giving in to buying from the Haitians that were selling on the side streets. I bought some very random things that I didn't necessarily want but I was happy that ALL of my money went to people who really need it."

Question: We saw the mass graves today where many bodies were buried after the earthquake. How did it feel to be standing on such sacred ground?
Kenna- "I have a hard time explaining how I felt. It was a dark and heavy feeling. I felt bad for our Haitian guys who brought us there knowing that it is a very hard place for them to visit.  They lost many loved ones who are buried there."
Halie- " I felt very grateful for living where I do and being safe. I also had a hard time understanding why them? Why Haiti? It wasn't their choice to live here. They were born into all of that. Why did God choose them, there must be a reason? I also am glad that I do live in a safe place because that could have been me or my family and friends." 

Thank you for your prayers and support! 
Nikki, Kenna and Halie and the team! 

Bonding time last night enjoying FanFan yoga!

Starting the morning off with church at Grace Village with the kids and community.

Had a great time worshiping in a new environment!

Taking in the view on the hill of the mass graves site.

Shopping along the streets on the way up the mountain!

Craving american food and ice cream at the market.
Loving the view on top of the mountain overlooking all of Haiti!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Intensity and bliss!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We were dropping like flies this morning!  Halie has had a very sad tummy for 2 days now. Erin was sick all night and had to stay in bed today. I was so busy caring for Kenna yesterday when she passed out from dehydration that I forget to take care of myself. I felt very sick this morning too! I was on the fence about going today, but I loaded up on electrolytes and decided to brave it!  When we leave our guest house there is no guarantee that we'll have a bathroom for the day, so it's a bit of a risk! The verse above was comforting to me and being in Haiti can certainly test your strength at times. Not just the strength of your body but also the strength of your heart. 
We headed out on the tap-tap after breakfast and after making sure that Erin had everything that she needed to be comfortable for the day. We had a very nice rainfall last night which helped to bring the temperature down a bit today. We welcomed the tolerable temp and nice breeze!  We thought that our water truck stops might not be as frantic today because of the heavy rain last night. That was NOT the case!  We all agreed that today was far more frantic and chaotic then our last visit. I held the hose for most of the day which is a great place to be able to observe all that is going on. At the first stop, a pretty nasty fight broke out. Our interpreter/guards were having to actively participate in keeping order in the line and break up fights. People try very hard to skip to the front of the line. We have to yell, "respect the line" in Creole, over and over.  We ran out of water and the line was still quite long. :(  I don't think I could ever get used to how bad that feels! The looks on the peoples faces that realize the water has ended and they didn't get any. It makes me feel helpless and sad. Again, I reflect on the scripture above for comfort in this situation. It also reminds me to not take my free flowing water at home for granted EVER AGAIN! 

The second water truck stop was insane! I'm so glad that Jessica found an elderly women that was standing off to the side. Jess asked her if she had help to get water. The women responded that she had no family and nobody to help take care of her. Jessica and one of our guards named Maxim, walked to her house and grabbed her empty buckets. They hopped to the front of the line, filled them for her and carried them back to her house. She was so thankful! :) In the meantime, Erika got in the line of fire during a brawl and was smacked pretty hard in the face, elbowed in the eye and her shorts got caught on a wheelbarrow. Alicia was having a hard time staying on her feet. Maxim jumped in and had to physically restrain a few people.  It was nuts!  During this insanity, I felt a little tug on my shorts and looked down to the right. The sweetest little boy, about 4 years old, was standing there. He was naked and looking up at me with the sweetest brown eyes. I said, "bonjour" and he put his hand on his tummy and rubbed it in circles without saying a word. He was trying to tell me that he was hungry. In those situations it would be more dangerous for me to give him food then to not. I can't stand it! I took a snapshot in my mind and can still see his sweet little eyes in the midst of that chaos. Another one of the many children that I'll be praying for tonight. Again, the water ran out and the line was still very long. Our guards called us away with urgency because of the desperation in the people. It's not safe to stay.

We were then able to walk out onto the pier where we could see the locals fishing and swimming.  It's interesting to see them catching and cleaning fish. I was happy to know that they had some food to eat. At the end of the pier, Michelle decided to start doing cartwheels....of course. ;) This drew a crowd of children and suddenly they were expecting us to perform. I hear the kids screaming and clapping and I look over my shoulder to see our 61 year old team member walking on her hands. Hahaha!  She has more energy than any kid that I've ever met. We did some stunts and songs and the kids were delighted.  We had fun too!  I'm glad that I took the risk and joined the team for the water truck stops. I felt better after the first stop and completely replenished by the second. I thank God for my health. Being sick in Haiti is a little scary! 

When we got back to the house, Erin was feeling well enough to join us for shopping at the Apparent Project. This is a work initiative designed to enable parents to care for their children and also make the needs of Haitian families "apparent" to the rest of the world. They make beautiful jewelry, clothes, clay pots and mugs, tin art, ornaments, etc. It's fun to shop when you know that it is going to such a good cause. They also had really yummy smoothies! Yeah! 

After shopping, we were able to use the pool at a hotel nearby. This has been such a huge blessing on these hot days. We had a wonderful time cooling down and enjoying the community that we have built. It is fun to see our translators enjoying themselves in the pool, too. They work very hard and it was evident by their smiles and laughter that they really enjoy these breaks. 

On my first trip to Haiti, I fell in love with missions. On this trip to Haiti, I have fallen in love with Haiti. To share this trip with my daughter has been a bonding experience like no other. She has impressed me this week with her perseverance, compassion, strength and vulnerability. Being just barely 15, it is a lot to take in! I came with no expectations and she has given me so much to be proud of. I know that her eyes have been opened to a world that she couldn't have imagined and her heart is forever changed! She can't wait to come back!  It is true that His grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our weakness. Thank you God! 

Thanks for sharing in our experience. God Bless you all! 


Friday, August 16, 2013

Grandfriends Day!

Morning ride to church at 6:00 A.M.

We spent our day visiting 5 elders that Healing Haiti supports.  This is Marie.  She is 103 and has a LOT of spunk. Her favorite part of our visit was that her "kids" (9 of the kids from Grace Village) came to see her.
This is Edmond. He was our first stop of the day. He is blind and hard of hearing. We were able to provide him with sandwiches and applesauce. We rubbed lotion on his back and arms, sang songs and prayed with him.
Lovena painting Marie's fingernails bright pink with glitter! The bright pink and sparkles definitely matched Marie's personality.

This is Meme.  He is in his 70's.  He thoroughly enjoyed his applesauce.  Not long after we'd been visiting him, he told us that he was satisfied.  We were able to give him a meal and provide him comfort by rubbing lotion on his back, legs and arms.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beach Day

The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. —Genesis 2:7

This morning, I did a devotional with our group based on this verse, and how God took something as small and seemingly unnoticeable and meaningless as dust and used it to form a living, breathing human being!  Amazing.  He also takes things in life that we experience which, through our eyes, are "dust," such as difficult relationships, mistakes, hurt...poverty, hard things, things we just don't understand, things that are uncomfortable, and painful.  But that's just it... through OUR eyes, these things are "dust."  Through GOD's eyes, these things are beautiful, or are being made to be beautiful.  

Some lyrics from Gungor's song Beautiful Things describe this:

You make me new, You are making me new

You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Thank you, God, for making us new, and for making things beautiful, even when we don't understand. As we experience these things in Haiti, in those moments we feel sad, when we just don't understand why, help us to have faith that you are making us new.  You make beautiful things!

Today, after we did the aforementioned devotional and listened to the song, we had the opportunity to experience something beautiful.  We had the privilege of taking kids from Grace Village to the beach to swim and have a picnic lunch together.  These kids, all with their individual stories, coming from situations we could never understand...having fun, relaxing, feeling refreshed!  It was wonderful!

When we first got there, many of the kids were very nervous in the water.  I took one little boy into the water who was wearing a life jacket, but was very apprehensive about going in.  He was hanging onto me for dear life!  If I moved just a little bit, he squeezed harder.  Then, not even 5 minutes later, he simply let go of me without any prompting.  He looked at me and just leaned back and...relaxed.  I just loved seeing the transformation from complete fear, to complete trust.

I so enjoyed just looking around and seeing our team members, each doing something different, from helping a child into a life jacket, to just sitting with a child and looking out at the water.  I looked one way and saw an older teenage boy with water wings on, having a blast (how cute is that?), and looked another way and saw a girl on the porch, learning to play the ukulele with an amazingly patient and helpful guardian from Grace Village.  Beautiful things.  Thank you, God.


Below are some pictures from our day:

First water truck day!

"If not us then who, if not me and you, right now it's time for us to do something. If not now then when will we see an end to all of this pain. It's time for us to do something." -Matthew West  This is a song that our leader started our day off with today during our morning devotional time. It was the perfect inspiration to head out to City Soleil for our first water truck day. On my trip in April, I struggled with never feeling like what we were doing was enough. The needs are endless and we are only a few people. This song gave me the comfort that indeed we are here and doing something to help.

Our first stop was definitely chaotic. It is Haiti's hot and dry season and water is scarce!  We were filling water buckets as fast and efficiently as we could. The desperation in the people was evident by the way that they were fighting to get their water buckets filled. People were trying to cut in line and do anything that they could to insure that they didn't miss out on the water. It's been so hot in Haiti that the children were taking the opportunity to cool off and play in some of the water.  Even though we were in the midst of such poverty, it was refreshing to watch the children enjoy simple pleasures such as slipping around on a slab of concrete naked and giggling like crazy. It reminded us that although we have more material riches in America, the Haitians are not lacking in spirit!  There is a sense of community that I have never witnessed in America and I believe that we could learn something from the way that they care for each other. Especially the way that the older children look out for the younger children. 

Our second water truck stop was even more chaotic then the first!  There was so much desperation for water that at times I felt like I might get trampled by the crowd. I was holding the hose and working to guide the water into the buckets with as little waste as possible. Because everything is happening so fast and people are pushing, shoving and hollering to get their bucket filled, it is inevitable that some water gets wasted. Six of my team members are part of the fast pitch team at the University of Northwestern. They obviously have the teamwork thing down because you would not believe how efficient they were at managing that chaotic line. Not only efficient but bossy and assertive!  It was awesome!  I decided that they were better off without my help and I went to interact with the kids. The truth is, I couldn't handle not being able to see if my 15 year old daughter was safe and I wanted to move my way into the crowd to keep my eye on her. The ironic thing is that I found her with the Brazilian UN. She was hanging out with them, taking pictures and playing with the kids. I guess they would be better at keeping her safe then me. :)  My daughter had her first emotional experience at that stop. She was holding a cute little girl for quite a long time. She felt a sudden tap on her shoulder and as she turned to look, the little girls mom was grabbing her out of Kenna's arms. She chased her daughter down the street and was beating her along the way. Kenna felt so heart broken and has thought about her into the evening. Like I said, this is a growing experience but she is embracing it with an open mind and heart. I've been so impressed by all of the girls. Even though I'm one of the oldest people on this trip, I feel like I have been learning so much from the younger girls. You parents out there should know that your girls are safe and AMAZING! You all did something very right! 

At our final stop I met some older boys that spoke good English. They first asked me if they could marry my daughter. After I denied them their request, they asked if I would pay their way through college or get them a job. I wanted to say "yes" so bad!  I was brainstorming in my mind how I could help them through college. How could I get them out of City Soleil. They seemed so smart and kind. Why are they living in a slum and how could I give them a better a future?  I will be thinking about them and praying for them as I fall asleep tonight. 

We were sweaty, smelly, and exhausted after our water truck day but we weren't done. Four of our team members went off to the wound clinic. I was certain that they had no idea what they were in for, and I was right. I was thankful that they volunteered! They had quite the experience and I will let them share it with you when they are ready.  I, on the other hand was encouraged to go and play soccer with the neighborhood boys. So, we hopped on the top-top (our truck),picked up about 20 boys and drove to the soccer field about 20 minutes away. It was the hottest and windiest part of the day. The field was like a dust bowl, blowing debris in our eyes. Not to mention, Haitian boys have a lot of time on their hands to master the sport of soccer.  I gave it my all for about 30 minutes and then I realized that I am 40 and I am no longer very good at soccer! hahaha! But, it was fun to watch the boys play and enjoy themselves so much!  They tried to include us moms but it worked out better for them they didn't. ;) On our way back to the neighborhood, we stopped to buy the boys some much-deserved water.  We got it on a street corner and it comes in little plastic bags that they just bite open and drink from.  Ah, so refreshing!

This evening I read a quote that said, "the soul is healed by being with children". I read another great quote that said, "the wound is the place where the light enters you". I feel like both of these sum up how we felt at the end of our day. 

Thank you for your prayers and support! 

Nikki and Kenna


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 1: Home for Sick and Dying and Gertrude's Orphanage

Today our trip to Haiti got into full swing. After a long and exhausting day of travel yesterday, we were all anxious and excited to start serving. Our day included two stops, but before we hit the road, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast! We loaded up in the tap-tap, and passed the time by attempting to learn some Kreyol songs, but ended up singing mostly in English. After a few more games, we hit the road to the Home for Sick and Dying Children. We had the oppurtunity to play with, feed, change diapers, and pray for the children. It being my first trip to Haiti, I was shocked to see the joy and spirit these children had. After spending some time with a few children, I picked up a crying baby, Loudia. She was the most loving and smart child. We walked around the playground as she corrected my pronunciation of the Kreyol words written on the walls. I fed her, before moving on to spend some time with a few more children. Overall, the children were so generally gracious and generous. They even were trying to braid our hair when we were there to serve them.

Between stops we had a break to eat some snacks and make a trip to the pool. We enjoyed each other's company and the refreshing water before loading up to head back to the house and getting ready to head to Gertrude's. Gertrude's is an orphange primarily for children with special needs. The kids were overjoyed to be placed in wheelchairs or supervised during some playtime outside. Swinging, running, playing soccer, jumping rope, or just merely being pushed around were a huge treat for the kids. It is incredible to be able to provide some simple joys for the kids. I personally had a blast watching the boy I was with giggling at the other children being goofy. Again, we were all amazed by these children. They were looking out for each other even when they needed to be looked out for. The older children loved to come pick up the babies or push others around in the wheelchair.

I felt so blessed by this day and was incredibly humbled by these children and there positive outlook on life.

See some of the pictures from our day below :)

Tomorrow morning we head into Cite Soleil to for a water truck day. Please continue to pray for our team and look for our future posts.

Bondye Beni'ou

Kelsey Stoltman

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Packing Party!

We are headed to Haiti in 6 days!

Tonight we had our packing party to pack donations for our trip!  First, we enjoyed a wonderful potluck meal together.   It was so nice to have time to get to know our team members more while we ate and conversed.

Then, we played a get-to-know-you game where we had to fill in each other's names in on a bingo board filled with different criteria.  This brought about some interesting discoveries, as one of the squares had "can do a 'stupid-human trick" as its criteria!  Amongst the talents we discovered, we found that one of our team members can touch her tongue to her elbow.  See below:

Try it.  It's harder than you'd think!  We have such a talented group!  ;) It was fun to get a little silly together, because, in case you didn't know...a team that plays together stays together...or something like that!  

After that, we got started with packing!  We had an amazing response to our requests for donations.  From bags and bags of shoes to toothpaste, to 80+ handmade dresses!  If you are one of the people who helped make a donation, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!  Below are some pics: 

As you can see, people were more than generous, and we are so grateful for the help!

So... our team filled with 11 females (4 University of Northwestern softball team members, 2 coaches, 2 high-school aged life-long friends, 2 friends of 33 years, and our team "mom")  leaves bright and early Monday morning, meeting at the airport at 3:45 a.m..  We ask that you pray for us as we venture to Haiti together from August 12-19th.  We cannot wait to see what God has planned for us!  (Oh, and stop back, as we plan to post updates here on this blog throughout our week's adventure!)

Ke Bondye Beni'ou!
(God Bless You)