Monday, March 14, 2016

Reflecting on our week as we head home...

First, some thoughts from Michelle...

As I depart from Haiti for the 10th time, i find myself in such deep gratitude for the honor of leading these trips to Haiti. It is such a huge blessing to me to be able to help shape the experiences for my team members and to witness God at work in and through them, to serve and learn from the people of Haiti, and to allow God to continue to work in me. 

This team was a parent/child team with 7 parents and 8 children ranging in age from 10 to 14, 9 from Arizona and 6 from MN. I am in awe of how God worked through everyone, especially the kids this week!  Always positive attitudes, a willingness to serve (no matter how uncomfortable it may have been for them), endurance of the heat and length of days, personality and talents galore, willingness to share in a vulnerable and deep way, and most of all...HUGE hearts!  I am so proud of each of them!  The future, with these kids in it...looks BRIGHT!☀️  ❤️ 
With Much Appreciation and  Love, 


Now, for the final reflections on the week. I asked the kids to sum up their thoughts with 5 questions to guide them. Here are their responses:

Lauren, age 10:

Highlights from the Trip:
Going to the ocean and playing with the kids because, the trampolines were really fun and the kids were so sweet and nice.

What did you do this week that stretches you, or took you out of your comfort zone?
Holding the kids that didn't have all their clothes on and putting lotion on the elderly.

What could you learn from the Haitian people?  I could learn that we have more than we need when they have almost nothing.

What is God trying to teach you?  He is trying to teach me to give more and want less. 

What will you do differently after having this experience?  I will ask for things less and give more to people and praise God more.๐Ÿ˜Š

Aubrey, age 10:
1. Highlight: Probably everyone surrounding you and how it felt like I was just popular kid. I felt loved by them. 

What took you out of your comfort zone?  It would be going to the disabled or how it was really different than I thought it would be but it taught me new things which is good. Now I kind of am glad I went out of my comfort zone. I thought it taught me a lot of new things like to love everyone no matter who they are or what they look like. In the Bible I think it's a... I don't know the exact verse but it is that you should not love someone just on how they are on the outside but how they really are and act from on the inside. 

What did you learn from the Haitian people? I learned that everyone will be grabbing  you and sometimes when you go back to the guesthouse you just like need to get rest.  Also they will be so nice and they'll laugh and their smiles are  so beautiful, friendly, and contagious. 

What is God trying to teach you?  I think that God's trying to teach me to do everything possible to help Haiti because they're really just the same people like us just just live in a different country and they have different colored skin. 

What will you try to do differently after this experience? I thought that I will limit my water source so I will try to use less water.  I will also do  less technology because in the guesthouse we have no TV or like really the Wi-Fi and it's not torture, really. 

Avery Villani, age 14:

1. The highlight was playing soccer with the Haitian kids at Haitian initiative. I liked sharing something that I love with the kids here. 

2. The elder visits took me out of my comfort zone. Washing their feet was hard for me, but I knew I was being like Jesus, and knowing that it made it easier for me. 

3. The Haitian people made me realize how little you need to truly be happy in life. 

4.  God is trying to teach me to always be grateful and appreciative for what I have. 

Zack, age 11:

1. I liked going out on water truck days. I liked being able to play with all the kids

2. Going out on water truck days took me out of my comfort zone the most. My mom talked to me about how interesting it was that my favorite thing was what took me out of comfort the most. I should remember that feeling next time I feel uncomfortable about a situation.
#4. I have learned that we always want more in the US. And "more is just more". People can be happy without always wanting more. 

Kendra, age 14:
Highlights: Being able to hang out with and being loved by kids. 

What was something that stretched you or took you out of your comfort zone? One of the most unique things I did was experience the language barrier. I have never been in a place where I could not communicate with the people around me. 

What can you learn from the Haitian people?  I can learn about their sense of community, how they protect and look out for each other. 

What is God trying to teach you?  To be able to see through God's eyes and his lens and how he sees people. To break my heart for what breaks His. 

What will you do differently after this experience?  I want to share and let others know what it was like in Haiti. To tell them how desperate people were to get their basic needs met. 

Lauren Fuller, age 12:
Highlight: Helping lots of different people. 

What stretched you or took you out of your comfort zone? Going to the orphanage for disabled children. It was a little scary because I didn't know how they were going to act.
What could the Haitian people teach you?  How to be grateful for what I have. 

 What is God trying to teach you? To be happier and not want too much stuff. 

What will you do differently after this experience? Be more thoughtful about what I am doing. 

Avery Thompson, 14 (almost):
The highlights of my trip were the water truck days because you get to play with kids and see how they live in Cite Soleil, when we went to Lalou, an orphanage and I played soccer with some boys, and the Home for Sick and Dying was really fun holding the kids and making them happy but also sad to see how they have to live.

Nothing was really super out of my comfort zone because I have been here once before, but the Home for Sick and Dying was super sad to see all the sick and sad kids. 

Something I learned from the Hatian people was how to be thankful for what I have because they have way less than I do. They have little or no food, most sleep in huts or small shelters, and most don't have any source for water, but they are all still so happy.

I think that God is trying to teach me just to be happy and do what I love. And to be thankful for what I do have.

I think after this trip I will do /try be more kind, move to Haiti, and give lots of hugs.

Danielle, age (almost) 14:
The highlight of my trip was when we went on water truck runs. I loved it because I would get to play with the kids and make them smile.

One thing that was out of my comfort zone would be when I picked up some really sick kids at the home for sick and dying children. 

A thing that I could learn from the Haitian people is being more kind and loving God more than anything else.

I think God is trying to teach me about all the similarities between the kids and Haiti and kids in America. We are all the same in so many ways,but they were just born into different conditions than us.

After this experience I think I will be slower to judge people, waste less money on things that aren't necessary, and pray more.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day 6: Orphanage Visits

It felt like a Saturday and we needed a chill day after a high energy (but rewarding) water truck day yesterday.  We went to Lalou and LaPherre orphanages and had a chance to spend time with Haitian kids and bond with the team. 

The day started casually over breakfast while the kids played soccer with staff.  While we were relaxing in the guest house, Jeff had left at 6 am to attend a funeral ceremony at the request of a Haitian friend, he felt honored to perform 2 songs and described it as a wonderful and emotional experience.

Once Jeff returned, Mee-Shell (Local pronunciation of Michelle) got us prepared with a thoughtful devotional she authored about Charlotte’s Web.  Our new driver, Luke-naire drove us in the Tap-Tap to Lalou’s orphanage.  It was a short commute through Port au Prince, but once behind the gates we found Lalou to be a clean and cheery orphanage.  It was a unique experience for the kids to bond with Haitians in a school like setting, but being a Saturday we were not interrupting class-time so we did crafts, played soccer, sang songs, danced, put stickers on their faces and just had fun.  It was a bit sad to think these kids spent every weekend at the orphanage, but they did love playing and we loved being with them and just enjoyed the moment.  I don’t know who had more fun, the Haitians or Americans.

After Lalou we went to visit 2 fledgling non-profit organizations, but they were both closed on Saturday.   We were disappointed, but glad to see them closed for the weekend.  It was neat to drive through different parts of Port au Prince.  We returned to the guest house for our snack-lunch and planned our afternoon at LaPherre’s orphanage.  

This time we were a little more prepared with the crafts and activities.  When we arrived at LaPherre’s it was in a nicer neighborhood and less institutional than Lalou’s.  Mr. LaPherre welcomed us into the home and there were about 16 kids of various ages.  We first played inside and made some bracelets, balloon games and Jeff played some music.  Then we were blessed with angelic singing from the orphans of Haitian songs.  Mr. LaPherre had a huge fatherly smile and recorded our visit with his cell phone.  It was nice to see the children in a small family-like setting right in the city, it was clear they were more part of a community than some others we've seen.  We played with some foam air planes in their side yard and were just settling in … when we had to leave.  After LaPherre’s we went to Pizza Amour for dinner, we got there early and enjoyed some good food and team-time.  There was a friendly game of PIG at the basketball court and along with some impressive chalk art.  

We met a missionary family from Oregon that lived in Haiti and had adopted 12 kids and one of them was our waitress.  Early in the week we had befriended a St Louis family that had spent 5 years trying to adopt a Haitian son and their paperwork had just gone through. 

Once back at the guest house, we had some down time before we all regrouped for the last time to share our word of the day.  Our time was powerful and we were all impressed by how thoughtful the kids had been all week.  We really had great comradery with the team, today’s words were fun, sad, bittersweet, weekend, moment, family, natural, thankful, flexible and perspiration.

We were all deeply touched by the Haitian people and know that our lives will never be the same.  As we prepare to depart, we now pray, consider, and find a purposeful way to fill the void of our Haitian adventure.  


Friday, March 11, 2016

Day 5: Water Truck and Haitian Initiative

   We started the day early, out of the door at 6AM.  We are off to attend a local church service.  It was a truly unique experience to witness the free spirit which the Haitians worship the Lord.  Jeff knew the pastor at the church, who gave blessings to all the children.  Ours were the only I saw.
     Energized from the message Michelle delivered from our group meeting we were off to visit Elders School in Cite Soleil.  Once again, the children were excited to see us and we them.  Kids from 8 to 18 were all in school uniforms.  Many hand shakes, high fives, hugs and smiles were shared. 
   We are now off to our next stop, Cite Soleil water delivery.  Feeling more seasoned, our group worked and played hard during our two delivery stops.  We interacted with the young and old, dropping in a new phrase we learned from Jeff.  "Jezi Renmen Ou"..."Jesus Loves You."  We stopped for a quick snack and thought we were off to our next new adventure.  Surprise, we are stopping for another water delivery.  Everyone was very tired but we all rallied once again to serve the Cite Soleil residents their most basic need.  
    Now we are headed to the Haitian Initiative Soccer facility.  Boys and girls in Cite Soleil with good grades try out each year to participate in the program.  Each day they practice soccer then receive a meal.  Several of us in the group had the honor to play soccer with the kids.  The ten year olds we played against were awesome.  Avery V. and Al each managed to sneak in a goal.
     Our group seemed to click from the beginning.  We once again made it through another busy day serving the beautiful Haitian people the whole time with smiles and laughter.  

~Bill Villani


Day 4: Grace Village, Elderly Visits, and Mass Grave site/Memorial

Written by Aubrey age 10:

Today we drove out to Grace Village and saw what Healing Haiti had helped start. We had a tour around the orphanage and the lady taught us how Healing Haiti has helped and what is built there and what will be built there. Currently they have a library, orphanage, garden, school church, health clinic and eating center. They are working on adding a computer lab and a bakery to help employ villagers so they do not have to give up their children to an orphanage. 

Then we visited three elderly in the neighboring town where we went into their homes where we sang, gave foot massages, painted their toenails and gave them water and food. It brought a smile to your face, when they smiled back their smiles were contagious and they really made our day. 

On the way back home our team stopped at the mass graves which is a memorial for the people who died in the earthquake. The memorial is still under construction but it looks very nice. 300,000 people were buried here.  At my school we were just learning about the earthquake in Haiti so it was neat to see the site where so many were buried. Many people who have not been to Haiti thought that the devastation was still very bad, but when you get there you realize that it's in better condition.

When we got back to our guesthouse we had a Haitian meal prepared for us. We all really loved it it was delicious. We ended our evening by learning how to salsa dance. The salsa dancing was very fun and interesting because you got to learn about the music from another culture. 

At our sharing time tonight my word of the day was "love" because I shared love with the orphans and the elderly in many ways but I also felt a lot of love from them too. 

Pictured above is one of our elders, Pierre, dancing and worshipping with us!

             Aubrey, painting nails. 

             Library at Grace Village

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Day 3: Home for Sick and Dying/Dari's Orphanage for kids with specialneeds/Apparent Project

Today our team split up for the morning.  10 of us went to the Home for Sick and Dying Children, the other 6 went to Dari's orphanage for special needs children. 

This is Zack Villani (age 11) talking about our visit to the special needs orphanage (typed by my mom):

At first I was a little nervous because I have never been around kids with special needs before. But when I realized they are just kids who want to play and sing like any other kid, I felt a lot better. 
My favorite part of this experience was seeing smiles on their faces even though they had disabilities. I liked to make them smile. 

There was one girl who would scream very loud a lot in excitement, I think that was just how she communicated. 
Our leader, Jeff, brought his guitar and played and sang, some songs in English and some in Creole. We also had a tambourine and a box drum that the kids were able to play a little bit. We blew bubbles for them as well. 

My favorite boy was named Bradley, he was missing an eye. He sang a lot with me and was really funny. He kept coming over to me copying everything I was doing.
I was able to play the guitar for the kids, even though I played horribly compared to Jeff! #jeffisawesomeonguitar 
I played "Oceans" and "Holy Spirit" for them. <insert other leader Michelle's comment here, because she gets to edit this๐Ÿ˜‰: Not true...Zack does a great job at guitar!>

What I learned today is that God makes everyone different and special in their own way. He loves every person, everywhere, in every situation!
Now for Avery Thompson and Danielle Gjerde's perspective on the Home for Sick and Dying and Apparent Project:

Today half of our team went to the Home for Sick and Dying. This is a hospital where parents bring their kids when they are sick and can't afford food or other needs to keep them healthy. The parents can visit their children during designated times while they are in the hospital. If they get better, their parents can take them back home. What we were doing here was holding the sick kids and making them smile. A few of them had little accidents but the ladies who worked there directed us to a closet of clothes to change the children. When we walked in we were immediately overwhelmed with the amount of kids that were wanting to be held and loved. There were rows of cribs in each room with numbers and babies in them.There were kids there with malnourishment who were extremely skinny, kids with skin problems, and ones with other illnesses. Some of the kids were crying, some were just not happy, but once you picked them up they had the brightest smiles. We held them and just showed them that we loved them. The hard part was putting the kids back in their cribs to comfort another baby because they would start crying. It was very hard leaving the kids because you got so attached to their sweet smiles.
Next, the whole team went to the Apparent project where Haitians are employed to make mugs, jewelry, metal art, and other typed of wall hangings or art. There are 400+ people who are employed to work there. Most, if not all, are parents who would have had to give up their children if they did not have their jobs there. Most are working at the Apparent project, while the others make their work at home and bring it in to sell. This gives the Haitians an opportunity to provide for their families. They get the clay from 4 hours away and make it. They use this clay for the mugs and some of the beads. They paint then glaze them. The other beads are made with cardboard or paper then rolled and glued. Then strung together to make necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Overall, the day was a mixture of emotions. It was full of smiles and tears,and we will not forget this experience. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Day 2: Water Truck

Today was our first day in the heart of Haiti. We started our day with prayer and then a ride in the tap-tap to our first destination. We arrived in City Soleil to deliver clean water to families in their shacks. The moment we stepped out of the tap-tap we were bombarded with kids that just wanted to be loved by us. We helped fill up the water buckets and play with the kids in the streets. It was remarkable to see such happy kids living in such impoverished conditions. They were some of the most loving and joyful people we have ever met. 

When we finished our stop, we had the privilege of touring the newly built Hope Church and soon-to-be school. It is astonishing how it stood out among the shacks of houses with garbage covering the streets. 

Once we finished our bathroom break and tour at the church, we got back on the tap-tap to ride to our next water truck stop. Upon arriving we were amazed by the kids' playfulness and their want for our love. The kids are extremely smart, even though we had a language barrier between us, they still understood the games that we taught them. We were even able to sing songs with them. It was wonderful to be able to glorify God with these thankful people. They also loved to talk to us and ask us questions, even though most of the time we had no clue what they were trying to say. That was our shortest stop, because our water ran out quickly. So we got back on the tap-tap and headed back to Hope Church for some lunch. 

When we had finished our food, we adventured deeper into the community to begin our last water delivery. Again, kids came running up to us, begging to be held. There were less kids this time, so we were able to talk to and help the people that were receiving water. Directing the water pump was chaos. It was hard to not waste any water in the massive crowd of people waiting with their buckets. When that stop was finished, we took a walk down the pier to see the trash-filled ocean and interact with more Haitians. Several of the people we talked to here knew enough English, so we could have a conversation with them.

On the tap-tap ride home, it was hard to move our arms, from holding the Haitian children and helping with the water pumps all day. Once we arrived home, we took a quick stop at the pool, and then we hung out with the neighborhood boys. We played soccer and games with them, until it was time to eat dinner. It was different, being able to interact with older kids and experiencing how their lives were like on a day-to-day basis. 

Overall, it was a day of embracing new culture and new country. We grew closer to God and His people. We went out of our comfort zone, to experience a day we will never forget. 

Avery Villani (age 14) and Kendra Fuller (age 14) 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 1: Travel Day

Greetings from Haiti! 

Minnesota met up with Arizona in Atlanta and arrived safely this evening in Port-Au-Prince. We are all settling in at Guest House 1 and look forward to our adventures this week!

Tomorrow we will head to Cite Soleil to deliver water. This is my 2nd trip and my daughter Lauren's 1st. Lauren says the dogs are really nice and so is Jean! She enjoyed sitting shotgun in the tap tap from the airport to the house. The group is 7 adults and 8 kids 4th grade through 9th grade. We welcome your prayers and are so grateful for all of the support! Bon nwit (good night in Creole)!

Stacy Roe