Monday, February 23, 2015

Last Day

Today was an amazing day spent together as a team worshiping and winding our week down. We started out the morning driving out to Grace Church in Titanyen. We took in the turquoise blue ocean and mountain landscapes of this beautiful country. We pulled up to Grace Church and immediately heard the glorious worship music resounding within. Gathering together within the church, we felt the Holy Spirit flowing through us! Despite the diversity of language and mode of worship, there's a unity that can only come with the power of the Holy Spirit.

After our church service our team spent time together enjoying the miraculous beauty of Haiti. We took in the exquisitely deep color of the ocean, the majestic rolling mountains, and of course, the "belle" people of Haiti. We used this time of appreciation to reflect on our past week of serving and glorified God for such beauty.

After our last dinner spent as a team, everyone gave their "Word of the Day" during evening devotionals. Many of us mentioned the words united, unity, one and similar. We all experienced a sense of oneness as we praised God together. We spoke different languages and worshiped in different styles but we were all praising our God.

Later that evening Jeff Gacek, the founder of Healing Haiti,  came and shared his journey with God prompting him to come to Haiti, having him be obedient to His calling and have a broken heart for the people of Haiti. He shared about current ministries within Healing Haiti, and future projects and partnerships underway to further this ministry and job creation in Haiti.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 6: Discovering the Nuts and Bolts of Healing Haiti

We started our day visiting Grace Village: bread ovens, classrooms, library, aquaponics, vegetable gardens, family homes, transitional housing for boys and for the girls, the medical and dental clinics--Healing Haiti has done SO much to impact individuals and families. Painting fingernails and toes, teaching Zumba, blowing bubbles, and just good, clean fun topped off our time with the Grace Village residents. The children from 2-3-years old up to 18-years old were so well behaved and quickly joined in on welcoming us. They looked so happy, refreshed, nourished; they displayed a bright future for the next generation.

Our next stops were delivering individual lunches and water to elderly and incapacitated individuals that  are supported through Grace Village in the city of Titanyen . We had the opportunity to wash their feet and massage their feet or aching muscles with lotion. The reactions on their faces were priceless: smiles from ear to ear and deep breathes of relief said it all. We never left without giving thanks for each individual and thanking God for providing for their needs. While some attended to these individuals, the rest of our team found on-looking children--and moms--and brought color to their to nails via polish. 

To top off our trip, we visited Haiti's mass grave where innumerable individuals were buried after the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Just like many of us remember what we were doing when our New York Twin Towers were struck, so many Haitians remember the grief and loss that hit their nation so quickly (30 seconds).

Our day can be summed up by the simple, yet profound, statement of a team member: "I was honored to wash the feet of someone who had walked on dirt for so many years." (This lady was 93 years young!). 

Valerie and John

Day 5: Water Truck & Haitian Initiative Soccer program

After a refreshing downpour of rain from the night before, God blessed us with a beautiful overcast day with perfect temperatures. Today we had only 2 stops for our water truck.  I think we were all very excited to get back in the intense action that these days bring! All the smiling faces shouting "Hey you!!" as we drove up were so heartwarming. We also visited the Haitian Initiative Soccer Program, where kids that live in Cite Soleil have the opportunity to play soccer and get water and a hot meal. We also got to see Feed My Starving Children food in action, prepared in 4 big pots in the H.I. dining room.

Lisa's perspective on our 5th day:

We started our day off by going to the local church which is mostly done in Creole. It was beautiful to see the people walking up and down the aisles praising God. We had the opportunity to pray for the person next to us and lift up requests to God. We also sang several songs that would go back and forth between Creole and English that we knew well. What an amazing experience at church to connect with God and see the love that the Haitian people have for the Lord.

Our first water truck day was Tuesday and that was our first close interaction with the Haitians.  At the end of that day I had shared with the group that I felt like I "wasn't enough".  A lot had to do with the language barrier and not being able to communicate.  My mind would totally blank on the few creole phrases I had learned as soon as one of these beautiful kids started reaching up saying "Potem Potem" which means pick me up!  In that moment, I didn't even truly understand what I was suppose to be doing! I was holding and playing with the kids, but then I would want to help the women (ranging from pre-teen to elderly) carry these heavy buckets of water.  Which, by the way, they carry on their heads! I can barely lift the bucket to help them put it on their heads and without spilling the precious water.  It is so amazing how they carry everything on their heads!  I would often try to do both at the same time...Help carry a bucket while holding onto a child, while another child is holding onto my shirt.  Overall feeling like I didn't spend enough time with all the children, share enough love, carry and deliver enough water or even have enough strength.  

Going into today's water truck delivery, I feel we were all more prepared and ready to face the challenges we struggled with on Tuesday.  I myself could at least ask them their name, age and tell them they are beautiful And sing "Glory to God" all in creole.  We also sing in english with them "God is so good is so good is so good" along with a few others. 

Today we delivered to 4 coffins and 19.  My teammates on the hose said it was a little more controlled compared to Tuesday.  Although I felt I was more prepared for today, it was challenging in a different way.  The communication went a little better and I was able to even speak and count in English with a few of the kids.  I also was able to communicate with a mom that had me hold her 6 month old baby (who was dressed in a pink unsnapped onesie, pink scarf, no diaper and it was a boy). The difficult and heartbreaking part we all felt is the kids were literally "fighting" for our love and affection! I particularly had picked up one boy who was 8 and he would not let me put him down.  The "pouty face" is universal.  I would be holding onto 2 kids on my hips who would not necessarily be light, while others would try to jump on my back.  At one point I ended up falling backwards, they pulled on me so hard and some would hit each other to get to me.  But there were more sweet moments of their beautiful smiles and them trying to braid my hair and observe all our differences of our skin, etc. One even tried to rub off this tiny mole on my arm.  She even tried to lick it off.  It also breaks my heart when the older kids and some moms tell me they are hungry and there is nothing I can do for them!

Even though I am only at these water stops until the water runs out... and as soon as that happens, we have to get on our "tap tap" as quickly as we can, otherwise our driver can not get our door closed, because the kids are crowding it.  I have to be ok knowing that I will never "be enough" in this situation, but I did "something" by giving them all my love and attention that I could and will continue to pray for them all.  "God is so good is so good is so good!!"                    

Sam's perspective: HAITIAN Initiative
Everyone was so upbeat this morning and ready to conquer the long but exciting day ahead of us. Going to the Haitian Initiative Soccer Program was the highlight of my day today! We all got the opportunity to go see their dining room and watch the F.M.S.C food being cooked. Then we were brought out to a huge dirt/rock field where we saw about 20 kids practicing their soccer skills! Shortly after arriving they invited us to join in! We started warming up with some butt kicks, high knees, and a little game where we circled up and ran/shuffled to someone on the other side and shouted "Mario Balotelli" (famous soccer player) then switched spots with that person and watched them run across the circle and repeat. After doing the warm up for about 15-25 min we divided up into 2 teams and played a short field game! When we got our official teams and positions I noticed one of the kids on my team touching his cleats a lot, so I asked him if he needed help, assuming he couldn't tie his shoe or something, and at that point I noticed that he had a hole in his right cleat so big that he could stick all his toes out of it. After seeing that I looked around at all the other kids shoes and noticed most of them had holes in their shoes as well, but that didn't stop them at all from playing the game that they loved. We didn't get a "clear" winner for the day, but we definitely had a blast! Playing soccer with all the kids today really showed me just how driven and optimistic these kids really are, and also how fortunate I am. Their shoes were falling off their feet playing in a dirt/rock field with cones as their soccer goal, and yet they were all bright and full of joy to be playing a game that they clearly loved so much. It was sad to have to leave, but today really taught me to be grateful for what I have, and the life that I've been so fortunate to live.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Haiti Day 4

Ron's perspective:

Although I was warned that I'd be challenged with extending my comfort zone on our mission trip, I didn't expect this!  Before venturing out for the day, John and Keith and I joined the ladies and some of the Healing Haiti staff for a morning Zumba workout and yoga session.  Yup... WAY beyond "the boys'" comfort zone!  We all agreed that it was a great team building activity and a wonderful way to get our blood flowing before greeting day three in this beautiful country.

Our talented fitness instructors!

In the afternoon we visited La Pherre orphanage.  Unlike the orphanage that we visited yesterday, none of the children here are eligible for adoption.  Which is a loss for all of us, because God has placed the most beautiful and happy children in this sanctuary.  After a fun go round with some of the small bottles of bubbles that many of our partners donated, we followed the smiling faces into a newly constructed church/school that was built for these precious souls.  Our team is blessed with some wonderful, spirit filled women that instinctively know what little kids love... singing and dancing!  We all joined in with the fun hand gestures, silly foot movements, and easy lyrics that the kids picked up faster than I did.  Many of the children already know traditional bible songs that many of us learned when we were kids.  In that moment, I know that the songs that were being sung, the dust from our dancing feet, the sweat from our brows, and the presence of the Holy Spirit that radiated out of that building was a pleasure to our Lord.  John was particularly touched by a resident that touched his heart.  As we were leaving, two young boys, four or five years old, softly took my hand and in a hushed tone spoke to me in their native Creole language.  I asked our interpreter what they were saying over and over to me.  My heart has been beautifully broken.  The boys were humbly asking me, pleading with me really, "Please don't leave, please don't leave".

So... I ask of you.  Would you be interested in going?  To Haiti.  To this orphanage.  To these little boys that want YOU.  Your hugs.  Your songs.  Your arms.  Your love.  Those few hours with them may change a life forever. You will be wonderfully surprised whose life that will be.  In particular, I'm talking to the men reading this.  Are we going to respond to this calling with the same numbers that the women in our lives are happily giving?  There's a need for you here too.  I challenge all of you men to answer the call.  The boys are waiting for YOU!

Carissa's perspective on the Apparent Project:

In between our sweat-filled morning of zumba/yoga (renamed as zumboga) and our time at the orphanage in the afternoon, we had the privilege of visiting the Apparent Project.  And as a result of our visit to the Apparent Project, my "word of the day" was HOPE!  After being a part of situations in Haiti that seem so hard and hopeless, I felt like this was such an amazing organization offering HOPE to Haitians who may have previously been in situations that seemed hopeless.  They have taken materials and products that would normally be considered garbage (dirt, cereal boxes, magazines and other materials that are easy and cheap to come upon) and have been made them into absolute BEAUTY!  The even more beautiful part of this is that the people that work at the Apparent Project are Haitians who would have otherwise been in hopeless situations...many of these women would have had to have given up their children to an orphanage or adoption due to not being able to care for them.  Instead, they have artists who come and teach the Haitians skills, such as bead making, jewelry making, pottery, sewing, etc....and it takes them out of an otherwise hopeless situation.  The even better part (and probably all of our favorite part of the trip) was that they provide daycare for the children of their workers...and the children are so well taken care of.  Beautiful, beautiful children.  I have owned jewelry from Apparent Project in the past, and I have always thought it was amazing...but after experiencing what we did today, it took on a whole new meaning. For starters, I had no idea how much work goes into each piece of jewelry that is created.  The process is very tedious and takes many steps and many people.  But the bigger part that I was impacted by was the fact that this company has made so many Haitian lives full of HOPE in a situation that could have been considered hopeless without this opportunity for them.  It made me look at Haiti in a different way...there are some obedient individuals who are responding to God's prompting for them to do SOMETHING...and as a result of that, Haiti is being changed and is filled with HOPE.  This is evident in the Apparent Project, Healing Haiti, Grace Village, and what is to come in Cite Soleil.  God is good!

And as a side note, while we were visiting the Apparent Project, we were asked to move aside as a film crew came through the building following Rod Stewart's 3 children as they toured the facility.  Apparently, it was celebrity day at the Apparent Project...who knew?!?!          

Gertrude's/Home for Sick and Dying/General Hospital

What a beautiful, precious day we all had!  After the overwhelming feelings experienced during water truck day we had the opportunity to feel God's love in a whole new way today.  In the morning we split into two teams: half going to the home for sick and dying babies and the other half going to Gertrude's orphanage for special needs.  In the afternoon we rejoined as one team to visit General Hospital.

Debora's perspective on the Home for Sick and Dying Babies:

I was part of the team that went to the home for sick and dying babies. Mothers bring their sick babies there to get cared for and nourished by the nurses there.  As a mother myself all I wanted to do was make every child feel loved and cared for. The first little girl I came across was so limp and lethargic...most likely from being malnourished. I held her in my arms for so long...her tiny body just clung to mine, tired and hungry, she did not lift her head once. As more babies cried I felt the need to move on and share my love. The mothers of some of the babies were also visiting their kids while we were there today. When they left you could feel the sadness as the mothers lay their sick babies back in their small metal cribs. All at once the need felt so overwhelming. We all moved onto each crying baby, trying to comfort them. Some got so attached to us and didn't want us to put them down. While others we played with and were able to make smile and laugh as we sang them songs and played silly games like peek-a-boo. Before we left one little boy stole my heart. He was so sad at first after his mother left...I picked him up and he instantly calmed down.  By the time we were done the two of us were giggling and having tons of fun!  It was so hard to leave those precious, beautiful faces.  "Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever" - Mother Theresa 

Keith perspective on Gertrude's Orphanage:

This entire journey has been very special to me in every possible way. God lead me to come to a special Country a few months back under the guidance of some special leaders, coming to a special place, with the most special team I could imagine, for a special organization and today it came full circle when we were able to visit children and families with special needs. No matter where you, what you do and how you do it, Love is the most universal language that doesn't have any borders or language barriers. Once we arrived at Gertrude's we didn't really know what to expect or basically what to do. We looked at them and they looked at us like, "who are these people"! After about a few minutes the instincts of this incredible team kicked into high gear and we each grabbed some of the kids and brought them back to the play area where we began to push them on swings, play football, dance to music and basically love on them. The highlight was having wheelchair races with 10 kids buzzing in circles, doing doughnuts, going fast and making sharp turns. The sounds of laughter filled each of us with the most joy you could imagine. Before coming on this trip I was thinking about how I can make a difference and what I can do to love on them when in fact it is what they are doing to me, us, that is making the biggest impact.

Hallie's perspective of General Hospital:

You can never prepare yourself for the conditions that you will come across on a daily basis here in Haiti. I thought that I had somewhat given myself plenty of time to adjust, the point being is that you will never be ready. These past few days have been an emotional roller coaster to say the least but today was just a little different. I felt for the first time that what I did today was ENOUGH. Today we made the trip to go to the Acute C

are of the General Hospital in Downtown Port Au Prince. It was maybe the size of a gymnasium with patients scattered everywhere. Some were critical, some were moderate but what you really have to understand that most of the patients were infant to toddlers with severe malnutrition. Some parents were there, some weren't. Staff weren't very attentive due to the number of patients being seen and I'm not sure exactly how many times I did see a doctor but I can say it was less than five. What we did as a team was nothing short of amazing. We came in with limited supplies and basically took over! We spoiled them with goodie bags, sang songs, painted their nails, gave massages and loved on them and their children. At times you had to tuck your heart away but then at times allow it to be broken. I fell in love with each child that I came across and they will always have a place in my heart.