Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mesi anpil Jezi

I'm sitting here reflecting on the day, and what has been an amazing week. As always, we pray before we leave the guest house, for God's wisdom, guidance, and most of all, His protection as we are out and about. Jeff was driving today, and this is NOTHING like driving in the states, so we needed His protection today! We started with church at Grace Village with the kids and pastor Fan Fan. In addition to the 41 kids of GV, 31 street children from Titanyen came for the two hour service to worship and praise. Mesi Jezi. Kids on their knees praying for Jeff and all who help make Grace Village a reality is part of their daily prayers...Especially on Sunday. Following that, we had some time to play with all the kids before we had to leave. They all line up, smallest to the tallest, and come up to give us hugs. It is very hard to say goodbye to these wonderful kids. One little boy, John Jr., MayMay as he is called, (see photo) is the smallest of all the kids, so he's at the front. I start out on my knees for the little ones, and eventually stand for the bigger kids, when all of a sudden, there's MayMay again. So I am blessed to go down for another of his hugs. Standing again for the oldest kids, I hug Rose, Alex, Rinaldo, Dinixon, Dudley and the others until, there's MayMay again at the end of the line, this time coming up into my arms until it was time to climb in the back of the Tap Tap (bus) to leave...until next time. Mesi Jezi.

From there, we headed down the road to visit an artist's market. Unbeknownst to us, an eight foot steel post was tied to the top of our bus while at Grace Village, to bring back to the guest house. Haiti's roads are very bumpy to put it politely, and as we were traveling down the road, the post jarred loose at a 90 degree angle from the tap tap on the drivers side. Moving along at about 50mph the post hit an oncoming dump truck. In what could have been an extremely tragic event, all that was suffered was a broken side mirror on the dump truck, slight damage to our vehicle and a pole, now bent at 45 degrees. Mesi anpil Jezi!

After talking with the truck driver, and apologizing etc., we were on our way. The market is in the plateau region part way between Titanyen and Port au Prince. It's really not so much a market as it is going to where the artists create their work. It was fun talking (and haggling) with them. I inquired about a hammered metal bowl, made from scrap steel. He told me $50 at first, by the time I left (having already purchased other things) he told me $8. I didn't really need the bowl, so I passed.

It really has been an eye opening week. It's not hard to know that poverty exists, but understanding poverty is a whole other deal. My understanding of poverty is changing. It has names, and faces now. It's impossible to ignore. But the knowing, and the understanding isn't the burden I expected it to be. It's a blessing. Who doesn't find joy in sharing blessings and helping friends? Mesi anpil Jezi, Mesi.

Jim Rickard
Healing Haiti Team Member
Over the last couple of days I have been working away from the team installing a water filtration systems at both Grace Village and the Healing Haiti Guesthouse. The systems were ship in by container late last year and I had little idea of what I had committed too. The moment my uncle Jeff posted about needing help installing the system, I thought it might be a sign for me to go, and when I asked my wife, she already had the answer before I asked the question. I knew it was a sign from God.

Prior to coming down, Jeff and I met with ECOsmarte to discuss what parts I needed to bring with, how I would plumb the system and to get special instruction to better understand the system. It seemed like a simple task, everything was to be plumbed in PVC, the parts were purchased based off a list from the manufacture but Jeff warned about the Haiti factor...The second day of our trip Jeff, Jean, and I drove up to Grace Village in the morning and dug the system out of the containers and separated what went to each location. Unfortunately we could not find one of the boxes for the guesthouse. 

By mid day we had returned to Port-Au-Prince and I was dropped off at the guest house to start on the system. I started to tie in the lines for a bypass for the system. When the the rest of the team arrived I joined them at Mother Teresa's for the afternoon. Arriving back at the guesthouse after dinner I continued to plumb the system. Over the next day or two I took my spare time in the evenings to work on the system at the guesthouse... that system installed fairly easily minus the missing box. Jean eventually found the missing box and on Friday night we backwashed the system and put it on line. 

We visited Grace Village Thursday, and Friday afternoons/evenings. It was during these times that I worked on the system at Grace Village. Here, I had a few helpers who insisted on doing the work while I managed the project. Brunet, Junior, Maximum, and Wilson all took their turns using my sawsall to cut pipe. Jonas and Tomas went to town gluing and assembling the pipe, while I directed were the shutoff valves, elbows, and fittings went. On Friday morning, Tomas installed the electrical outlets while I went to visit the elderly. In the afternoon we filled the tanks with media and water, then attempted to chase down and replace the few joints that were leaking. 

Unfortunately we were unable to finish the system before my scheduled departure on Saturday. After little thought, knowing the system was not finished, and wanting to see it through I changed my flight Friday night to allow for more time to finish the system at Grace Village. Saturday I spent the morning doing more runs on the water truck and Tomas and I finished replacing parts Saturday night.

It was quite a day yesterday on the water truck. Jim or I were the ones who were always on the hose, people kept always trying to budge. Junior took charge ordering what buckets were not in line. It was intense, and I got to even throw a bucket while fighting for justice. I was so impressed and felt special that one little boy and girl from our stops on Tuesday still remembered my face and my name.

Back to the water filter system, Sunday we went up to Grace Village early in the morning for Church, after Church I went to inspect the system, and put it online. I also gave instructions to the staff on how to work the systems and how they will need to care for them. While the water is technically now filtered at both the guest house and Grace Village, Jean would like to test the water and clean the header tanks before people start drinking the water. 

Peter Demuth
Healing Haiti Team Member

"God is so good"

Sadly, part of our team had to depart for home today, and they were missed. But a second day on the water truck brought a little more "community" as we now know our Haitian hosts and interpreters much better, so the discussions on the rides were a bit more lively as we attempt to speak more Creole to them. We were also joined (both water days) by two Citi Soleil boys, Rinaldo, who has a special place in Jeff's heart because when they first met, he was being teased by all the other children. Rinaldo, when he was young fell into a street vendor's pot of hot boiling oil, leaving him quite disfigured. Patrick is a very bright boy, with fairly good English, and also is sponsored by a former mission team member who is paying for him to go to school with Rinaldo, his best friend. In between water stops we parked our truck at the water filling station. There we passed around the snack backpack where Rinaldo and Patrick grabbed snack after snack after snack. It was such a joyous feeling, watching these boys eating their fill and not worrying about being hungry that day. We also bought corn ice cream (strange sounding I know, but very good) for those that wanted it. And to no ones surprise, Rinaldo and Patrick gladly accepted one. For the afternoon, we headed up to play with the kids at Grace Village. They are some of the most amazing kids I have ever met. So well behaved, and the way they care for one another is a sight to behold. Before lunch the kids line up to wash their hands. One little boy, Michael has an injured hand that is all wrapped in gauze, so he found it difficult to wash. An older boy turned around and washed his hands for him...When lunch is served, their biggest meal of the day, each child is served the same, large portion of rice, beans, vegetables and some meat. Of course some kids don't eat that much, so I watched as one boy took his leftover food, scraped it onto his friend's plate, and then gave him a tender kiss on the unbelievably sweet to witness that.

But my absolute favorite memory from today was when Jeff pulled out his laptop on the terrace of the girl's dorm so the kids could see the video for the first time, of them moving to Grace Village. They laughed and giggled at the site of their "brothers and sisters" on the computer screen. At the end of the video, it shows before and after shots of their old home, and then their new home. Following a brief silence, the kids broke out in song, singing "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me..." I can't argue with that and certainly can't say it any better.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


On my fourth day in Haiti, we rose early to attend a Haitian church not far from our guesthouse. Five AM, pitch black, everyone in the house scrambling to get out the door. As can happen frequently here, the electricity goes out. Out come the flashlights and cell phone lights to complete the process to make the walk of several blocks to the tent church. The smells of small fires, goats crying, roosters crowing, the sights and sounds of a Haitian dawn. As we walked the day was transformed from dark to light and the city started to come alive.

I was surprised by the size of the tent church, it could seat more than a thousand.  When we arrived there were a few Haitians milling around, but before long the church filled with neatly dressed school children, working adults and grandparents pacing up and down their row and filling the aisles. Preachers inspired the crowds, music lifting spirits, hands and arms raised to the heavens praising God.  We too became transformed from respectful observers to very willing participants!

On our way to Titanyen we stopped where vacant land was hastily used as a mass grave for an estimated 100,000 Haitians after the devastating 2010 earthquake.  It has since been transformed with a stone and cement marker and dozens of hillside crosses into a solemn memorial where locals and visitors can come to reflect and remember.

Back on the rode......destination Grace Village, which is located about an hour from Port au Prince high on a hill above Titanyen. What was once a huge mound of sand, stone and boulders has been transformed in a place for orphaned children, with colorful buildings, a playground and feeding center. It has been transformed into a home full of care, joy and love....  where children play, learn, watch out for each other, and sing at the top of their lungs praising God for all his blessings.

                           Arrived with good intentions, leaving with a changed heart.
                          Change is good!  Being transformed by God is truly a blessing!

Friday, February 3, 2012

“Seeing Hope”

At first glance its hard to see hope for the people of Haiti to overcome the tremendous odds they face.  A country already suffering from some of the most extreme poverty and underdevelopment in the world gets hit with a natural disaster that takes the lives of 300,000 of its population and nearly wipes out the little infrastructure it had to begin with.  It would be one thing if these people were trying to rebuild a nation from scratch, but its actually much more difficult then that.  The Haitians are trying to rebuild a nation hidden and buried underneath piles of rubble, trash, and at one point, the bodies of their loved ones.

After seeing with my own eyes the trash infested rivers, streets and coasts, the destroyed buildings and mounds of rubble that still remain today, the mass grave of people that have left so many sad family and friends behind and the lack of any government support, one could make the argument that it would be easier to simply displace the Haitian people to a more modern country with the resources to support them.

The fact is, amongst all the pain, destruction and sad memories, there is hope for the people here in Haiti.  There is hope that they will not only survive here, but that they will grow out of this current dire state and make better lives for themselves. I know because I’ve seen it.

I see hope in the missionaries, families and friends that come to Haiti and provide essential services like installing filtration systems for clean water, sewing blankets and clothes, or simply visiting the sick and dying to give them the love they deserve.

I see hope in certain initiatives, like the one that allow people to turn in plastic bottles for money.  Sure there is still trash in the streets and waterways, but you will not find a single plastic amongst that trash.

I see hope for the people of Haiti in the organizations that are not concerned with turning a profit but are focused on using their resources to build sustainable future for the Haitians in the form of farms, schools and medical care so that eventually the population will be healthy and educated enough to control their own lives.

I also see hope in the Haitians themselves because they have never given up, even when it would have been so easy to do so.  I am honored and humbled to have made friends with those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and its aftermath. I see hope because many of them have chosen to volunteer their time rebuilding their homeland and helping their people when it would be much easier to simply shut down and feel bad for themselves. I see hope in the Haitian children who are still eager to go to school and learn even though many have no parents to make sure they get their homework done.  These kids are the future of Haiti, and that gives me hope.

The fact is, if you take the time to look a little closer, there is a lot of hope that Haiti will one day be lifted out of its unfortunate state.

Nate Baller 
Healing Haiti Team Member

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Today was a "powerful" day for me.....not powerful in the sense of strength or muscle. But powerful.....well journey with me and feel the power.....I arrived at a home for sick and dying elders with family and friends. When we arrived, I felt like we arrived at a morgue. Maybe 40 beds lined up in a small room, each bed occupied by an adult, laying motionless, no one making a sound. Respectfully, The 5 of us lathered up our hands with lotion and set about rubbing and massaging arms, legs, backs and bellys, whatever the elder wished. We quietly and slowly moved from one elder to the next. Junior and Brunet, our Haitian interpreters and friends, started strumming and playing guitar and humming quietly at first. Then they were singing, softly at first and then a familiar song...within minutes the room came alive! Elders smiling, talking, moaning with pleasure....enjoying the rub, the touch, the music...everyone joined in.I heard harmonizing, clapping, the singing grew louder and louder, it sounded like a 40 person choir!!! elders pointing to heaven, hands raised..." Alleluia"! How powerful the human touch! How powerful a hug and a smile! How powerful music is!!! How powerful our loving and gracious God"

Who's your favorite Beatle?

So we're encouraged to choose a word of the day every day to share with the group in the evening. Today started out at San Fil, a hospital for sick and dying adults. We spent about 2 1/2 hours simply rubbing lotion on the bodies of people who are laying around waiting to die. One would think that it would be draining, and depressing. To be sure, it was hard, but the human touch goes a long way in not only bridging the language barrier, but it has the power to move both the giver and receiver above the current circumstances. For me a gentleman who was skin and bones with lung and stomach problems longed so much to be touched, he literally moaned as I gently rubbed his back. For the women, many of them young girls sang praises to God, in harmony, hands raised like a choir, while Junior played his guitar. That was very moving, but my word didn't come from there. Next we went to serve lunch at Madame Gertrude's orphanage for special needs children. She has taken most of these kids after they were abandoned. That too was amazing. But we finished the day at the home for sick and dying children. Immediately upon arrival we entered a room where it was feeding time for toddlers and young children. In my Very limited Creole I always try to greet the children and when I see the girls I let them know they are "belle", beautiful. I spent a small amount of time after dinner in the basement where the sickest babies are, and it broke my heart to see two rooms full of beds. Full with babies reaching out to be held. I had to limit myself was gut-wrenchingly painful. Back upstairs I was immediately chased by a little boy named Donnely. He was full of mischief. And soon followed my first "belle" girl. She appeared to be about 6 or 7 and was absolutely full of life. She sat with me, on me and I held her for nearly an hour and a half. All the kids everywhere are mesmerized by my longer hair, and those that know Jeff all ask if we are brothers. This girl was no different, she would pull at it, and knew the word "soft". I asked her "kisa ou rele?" what is your name? And she said "Michelle". Well since the humidity down here has given me a mop top on my head, I, of course started singing the Beatles song, "Michelle, ma belle", and this Michelle knew it! She tried in her best English to sing with me but when I got to "I love you, I love you, I love you," she knew every word, and I knew I had found my word of the day, Beatles. And today, they are all my favorites.

From the beginning...

From the beginning when my Uncle Tom picked me up on the famous early morning run to the airport, I have been trying to spit out Creole sayings to help fit in with the culture, Jezi renmen ou.

Yesterday was my first day in Haiti, and even though I have had many family members and friends go (including my mother and sister) I was not quite sure what I was going to expect. The countryside was beautiful and it was a mild 86 with a little bit of humidity with the atmosphere of the Caribbean. Last night was rather peaceful, unpacking our things and settling in for the night.

HEY YOU! Today was water truck day! We loaded up the tap-tap and met up with the water truck to serve the people in the slums of Cité Soleil. Cité Soleil is one of the poorest places in the western hemisphere. As we drove to our first stop, one couldn't help but notice the garbage piling up in the street, the sewage running along what curbs existed, and the structures made out of corrugated metal, sticks and a few nails, and the people in desperate need for some assistance.

Off the truck we got, buckets came lining up, and children keep popping out of every corner. HEY YOU! HEY YOU! They keep yelling at
us, reaching their arms out for a hug, a hand, or even a smile. As the little ones would climb upon me, FORTE, FORTE was being yelled. Up they went, I think at one time I had 4-5 or more kids on my arms, back, and neck. As they pulled at me to try to get my attention and
help with their buckets, focus shifted to help deliver water to their homes. 5- 10- 15 gallon buckets were carried throughout the slums, wash tubs and other buckets were filled. Mainly women and children were in line to get water, as it is a part of the culture. As seen fit I would help smaller children and elderly carry the buckets to their homes

As we walked we went down the main streets, then veered off into an alleyway. Pass a few doors, open fire pits, and chickens we would take a turn and then though the door I would go into their homes. 10x10 homes with a sleeping area, a cooking area, and a cloths area. Often
times, it was kept and organized, but not safe suitable living conditions, just enough to call home. Once the water was set down, the little one would grab my hand and we would head back to the truck. The second we hit the street another swarm of children would run, grab on and pull in different directions to lead me back to their buckets for help.

Passing back and forth between runs from the truck to their homes, we would often see women in the alleyways cooking the next meal, doing laundry out of the tub, men woodworking, building doors and boats, and stringing fishing nets. At one stop we came across a group of men playing a game of dominoes, the looser had cloths pins attached to his chest. One run in particular, I helped a little girl and her expecting mother carry water back to their house, I couldn't help but think of my wife back home.

In between stops to deliver water, we were welcomed at two schools, and took a look at the conditions of the fortunate children to be able to attend. In addition we visited the latrine, and it was by far worse than what could have ever been expected. As we walked through the
sites, children would continue to grab on, hang on and want to play games, as we walked on top of trash, shells, and feces. I was amassed to see how much joy and happiness our being there brought to these children. A simple ride on the shoulders was more than enough to bring about a smile that broke all language barriers.

Being an Engineer, I have a background with building infrastructure in the states. In the US, we are so blessed and fortunate to have running
water, sewer and services and power to our houses, and for me, it is such a common way of life that I understand. In Haiti it is quite different, the water truck is how people rely on getting this essential part of every day life, in addition, the latrine is where they go, and power is unreliable if available. Even the guest house we are staying at has a cistern that is full of water from the water truck and a generator for when the city shuts the power off. As I look back on today I cannot help but think about the essentials of life, and what resources we take advantage and what ones we take for granted.

Peter Demuth
Healing Haiti Team Member

A "Beautiful" Day

Today we made three water runs into Cite Soleil. Very dry, very dusty, very, very dirty. A 3.5 square mile area with over 300,000 people living in tents, shanties or under tarps. My prayer today was to see with God's eyes, not mine. And He delivered. If I were seeing with my eyes, I would have seen rust, rot and waste. But instead, I saw beauty. People live here, work here, and raise families here. Beautiful parents that want the same things for their children that we do but due to longitude and latitude have a much steeper hill to climb than you or I. But that doesn't stop them from trying. Beautiful children, with eyes that will melt your heart, and a smile that will pull you in. They would either run boldly up to me with a "Hey You!" or cautiously wait at arms length to see if I would be approachable. A simple extended hand, or a stoop down, and they begged to be lifted and hugged. The children do most of the water-fetching. Young boys and girls (mostly), struggling to put a 50 lb bucket of water on their head, when many of them didn't weigh much more than that. They were thrilled to have any of us carry the water back to their shack, and happily invited us in to put the bucket down. Many of us were amazed at the pride of these families. In what to us is some of the most inexcusable and inhospitable living conditions, were full bedroom sets, dining room tables with lace tablecloths and other things one would expect to see in a brick and mortar home, but not here. Once again, beautiful. Despite starting the day with a nervous apprehension and a combination of not knowing what to expect I never felt unsafe. With every water bucket delivered, and every "bonjou" extended to those we passed by, peace and confidence grew. Only God can pull off something like that. My world became smaller today, as my eyes were opened wider to the needs of my neighbor to the south...and that's a beautiful thing.

Jim Rickard
Healing Haiti Team Member


A basic human need.....water. You and I take it for granted, we turn on a faucet, we let it run, we waste it. We had the blessing today of helping Healing Haiti deliver water in Cite Soley, Haiti, one of the poorest and most dangerous slums in the western hemisphere. What might you expect would describe the day? For me,it was "heart-warming". From the minute we arrived at our first water stop, it was heart-warming to see the basic and fundamental need of clean water being delivered to the beautiful Haitian people. Young and old lined up for blocks with buckets of all sizes, naked or half clothed children, pregnant women and elders, all waiting patiently and quietly to fill their buckets and basins. Heartwarming to see that basic need being met. The smiles and excitement of the children, yelling "Hey You!" hoping for a hug, to simply hold your hand, a gentle touch, maybe even a piggy back ride or a little moment taken to play a game. That was heartwarming. To have the Haitian children who have next to nothing want to share or give you something, or they just want to tell you "I love you!", "You are my friend" and receive only a smile or hug in return. Heartwarming! To see and feel God at work, with the Haitian people, with my new friends, my sons and in my own heart! Heart-warming!

Healing Haiti Team Member