Saturday, April 26, 2014

10,000 Reasons

I had 10,000 reasons to travel to Haiti and almost all my reasons were selfish. I was exhausted and tired from running from event to event, a million-zillion thoughts and to-do lists constantly racing through my mind...and I was hoping to escape the chaos. I was looking forward to a week to focus on my faith and to help people in need. I have never used the word "called" before but I know now I was meant to come here, that God was calling me here-and I am SO glad I listened.

I feel ashamed. Ashamed that though this week our amazing team has done so much with and for the Haitian people and yet we didn't give them half of what we received. The poverty and devastation are indescribable. We will show you pictures of the small huts they called homes, some made of little more than scraps & garbage with children sleeping on the dirt floors. They have no access to clean water, they have a 70-80% un-employment rate and only 10% of the children in the village we visited are able to attend school. Many children are orphaned or abandoned. We will show you pictures of these children and you will feel sadness and sorrow. But it is so much more for us. Because we saw the pain in their faces first hand, we know their names and we held them in our arms and they burrowed their heads in our necks and they clung to us ....and us to them. And they were hungry and sick and we held them tighter. And we tickled them and laughed with them and spun them around and danced and sang with them and we made them smile and gave them love. And we saw the joy on their faces and the love they have for God and their faith and they will forever be imprinted on our hearts.

This experience has forever changed all of us. We visited Grace Village today and for most it was the first sign of hope. We met children that were fed well and being educated and well....acting like children should. Many leaders commented on how much progress they had seen since their last trip and it gave us all hope. We ended our day playing with the children of Isaiah's Orphanage. This was an orphanage started by two brothers after the earthquake who came upon orphaned children wandering around and took them into their home. They rescued 17 children although they had little resources of their own and continue providing for them by faith alone. Our team brought a block of ice and Brad & Ward labored endlessly making snow cones for everyone. The rest of us tie-dyed T-shirts and played with the kids.

And now I challenge you all. Not to specifically come to Haiti and deliver water or donate money to Healing Haiti or give away all your possessions and become a missionary. I challenge you to just be still and to really open your hearts and to really start listening to what The Lord is saying to you. He is calling for you to do big things and small things but I promise you He is calling you. And I also promise you with all my heart that if you choose to listen and follow your faith great things will happen. To you in your life and to others whom you bless.

"10,000 Reasons"
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning, it's time to sing your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Second Water Truck Day and Juno's Orphanage

This morning we had the opportunity to attend a 6 a.m. worship service at the tent church with the other mission team that is here and staying in the other guest house.

We returned to Citi Soleil for a second day of delivering fresh water from the water truck. We made two stops today. Both times kids started shouting “Hey you.” with smiling faces as we pulled into the area. It was difficult to get out of the tap tap because a few eager kids started tugging on us as they helped us off. They immediately wanted to be held. This is not the same as in the U.S. where we teach our children to stay away and not to touch or hug a stranger.

My heart went out to the girls who appeared to be about 6 or 7 years old who were too old to be picked up in your arms, but still wanted that human touch.

Mostly woman and children brought large 5 gallon buckets, stood in line and then when filled either carry the bucket on their head or carry it. I helped a woman carry a bucket. She and I shared the handle, she held the other hand with a young child and after several steps I noticed that she was pregnant. I felt badly that I could only walk with her to a certain spot and then had to stop.

There seemed to be more naked little boys at our first stop today than on other stops on Tuesday. One bucket had about 4 little boys around it with a mother supervising and scrubbing. Ward noticed a boy who was about 6 years old using water to take a bath. He then washed his little brother who was maybe two, followed by about a four year old sister. All were naked which isn’t unusual. How many six year old Waseca kids would do that without a parent around. Everyone on the team can tearfully think of precious little faces that we left. I think of leaving and several kids running behind our tap-tap for several yards as we left the area.

On our first stop this morning we were able to walk down to a pier and watch men fishing and some women sitting on the pier cleaning fish and eel. We also tried to help two men pulling in their fishing nets. After about 30 yards the rope came untied from the net. One of the men said that this happens a lot.

This afternoon we went to Juno’s orphanage about an hour’s drive from the guest house. Juno’s houses about seventeen children from ages of about four to teens. Each student proudly stood and said his/her name. Our goal was to simply provide a fun time for an hour or two. Being from Minnesota we read a book about snow, tried to explain what a snowflake was and brought ice and made snow cones. We don’t think that the kids had ever had snow cones before and that seemed to be the hit of the day. We found out that there is no Creole word for snowflake. Oh well. Popcorn was handed out. Kids were able to make tye-dyed shirts, make bracelets, have their fingernails painted and played football (soccer) and played with punching balloons.

Cassie spent most of the time with sweet little boy named Edmondson who was about four. He was wearing pants that were sized 18 months and they seemed to fit.

Continue to pray and see where God leads us tomorrow.

Ward and Sue

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mass Grave Site, Grace Village and Elder Visits

This blog is from Marni and Ward -

Today was an awesome day, very uplifting.....a welcome change from the past 2 days which were more difficult emotionally.  We started our day at the Mass Grave Site.  Our interpreter Emmanuel shared the history of the earthquake which occurred on January 12, was afternoon and they began to feel the earth shake.  Because it had been many years (he believes since the 1940's) since they last had an earthquake (and certainly nothing as massive), overall the Haitian population was uneducated about earthquakes.  They didn't know what was happening or what to do.  Emmanuel said that many people thought that Jesus was coming.  It lasted about 37 seconds, then it sounded as if there were many aftershocks.  Many people ran inside to take shelter and unfortunately the buildings crumbled and many people were killed.  The epicenter was in downtown Port-Au-Prince (population estimated to be about 1,000,000).  Emmanuel believes that the estimate of lives lost was 300,000, however he says it is probably higher as some people were able to be buried in the mausoleum or took their loved ones to the countryside to bury.  But because the devastation was so enormous, they had no room to properly bury all of those who perished.  The government decided to create an area - a "mass grave" and took everyone there.  It was quiet and peaceful today.  Something that is different from my August trip is that there is now a fence and brink wall surrounding the memorial.  We were unable to enter today.  Today's experience for me (personally) was very different from the walk up the mountainside I as able to take just 8 short months ago.....still so happy to be there again.
This is just outside the Mass Grace site - neighborhood kids joined us for our prayer.

From there we traveled to Grace Village - sure a wonderful place to be.  I am writing from Ward's journal entry from the day....

Grace Village is the best, nicest stop yet.  They have about 50 orphans.  And school about 300 children from the orphanage and area.  Some medical services and an area much more like what we would think of as medical.  They are building a bakery on site to train Haitians and plan to build another in the town at the bottom of the hill.  This is the first spot I've seen that I've felt a sincere hope for the future that could really happen for most there.  From the hills of Grace Village we could see the beautiful Caribbean Sea.  With an electric generator and a well I think I could live here.  The day was very hot, drank a lot of water.  Grace Village, north of Port-Au-Prince, as my mom would say, "What a beautiful country we live in".  Grace Village has an aquaponics system (which is basically a fish farm).  There are 4 tanks that each grow 300 Talapia.  The waste from the Talapia is used to fertilize their gardens.  The gardens, in turn, help to provide nutrients to the fish.  I takes 8 months for the fish to grow to harvest.  When Ward's wife passed away, he donated memorial gifts to God's Global Barnyard.  He requested some of the funds be designated toward a fish pond (aquaponics), so today it was pretty awesome for him to see how this happens, and that experience was very personal for him.  Our team appreciated his willingness to share this with us....
Bread Oven at Grace Village
A worker in the Aquaponics Program
The group at Grace Village

We visited 5 Elders in their homes.  Washing, using lotion, singing and praying for each.  One lady was 104 years old, which doubles the life expectancy in Haiti.  When we stopped at one of the Elder's homes, Brad had a guitar, a Haitian boy of about 12 was plucking the strings.  A young adult lady took Brad's guitar and started playing and sang Amazing Grace and a song in Creole to our group - what a treat.
Me and a neighborhood girl or relative of one of the Elders.
Cassie working with one of the Elders.
Katie playing with one of the neighbors or relatives of the Elders.
The Haitian gal who took Brad's guitar from him and played and sang for us.
Rachel and me working with one of the Elders.
We saw Edmund who is 81.  He is blind and partially deaf.  We saw Marie who is 104 (can you believe that???).  She is the oldest elder in the program.  Out of 14 children, she only has 1 daughter remaining.  Meme is 74 and blind.  Maricia is 74 and cares for some of her grandchildren.  Finally, Antchola is 64.  This is my favorite area to serve.  Like my August trip, it takes me back to my love for the elderly and my work in hospice.  It is an emotional day, but good and happy tears.  They are joyful and love Christ.  They allowed us to share in that love.  One of my favorite parts is the singing we do - Emmanuel plays the keyboard and our teammate Brad played the guitar.  Aside from the human touch, it is the most beautiful part of the experience.  Another thing that is very touching is seeing the respect that our Haitian interpreters have for the Elders....I also love listening to them pray in Creole as they interpret what we are saying in English.

On the way back we stopped at a couple metal markets, most bought a variety of items.  This is one of our shopping days and it is always so much fun.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Broken Hearts

This morning started off bright and early about 5:30 so we could make it to the tent worship.  But it is not in a tent anymore, it is now in a giant shed (they re-built...YAY!).  It was wonderful to see how others worship.  The service was in Creole and we could only pick out a few of the words they were saying and singing, but what a beautiful service.
After we stayed for about an hour we went back to the guesthouse for another wonderful breakfast made by the lovely women of the house.  Just for a picture of our breakfast...fresh mango, fresh bananas, fresh pineapple, squeezed mango juice, amazing eggs, oatmeal, and pancakes.  YUM!
Then it was onto our visits for the day.  Half of the group went to The Home for Sick and Dying Babies and half went to Gertrude's Orphanage.  I was part of the group that went to the sick and dying babies.  I thought this would be the hardest part of the trip for myself, but walking into one of the rooms with rows of little metal cribs with little ones in them it wasn't what I pictured it.  One little boy picked me to hold him and give him love (I think these little ones pick us, we don't pick them).  He looked like he was 4 months old, but was 1 1/2.  Crazy!  We all told these little ones how much God loves them and just snuggled them.  The parents were there, but once visiting hours were over, we tried to help calm the little ones down.  I can't imagine having to leave my baby when they are sick.  BUT they are all in very good hands.  What a blessing for these families to have a place like this to take their babies to. 
Gertrude's is an orphanage for children that have disabilities of different things.  The group did PT with about 6 kids since the rest of them were in school. 
Once we were done at our first visits we stopped back at the guesthouse for some snacks to re-fuel then we were off in the tap tap again to the General Hospital.  The hospital is nothing of what we think a hospital is.  To me it looks like a barn from the county fairs...cement floors, just plywood walls with a cutout for a window, flys all over, IVs splinted with cardboard probably ripped off of garbage somewhere.  We brought some bags of soap, diapers, snacks, etc to the parents.  When their children are in the hospital there always needs to be a parent with them at all times.  Also, they have to pay for everything prior to getting it...medicine, lab work, etc.  There were 3 abandoned children there and one of them just broke me to my core.  She was a newborn....a perfect tiny little angel.  Jenni had her for a bit then gave her to me to share more  love.  When it was almost time to go I gave her kisses and broke down.  I was/am scared of what will  happen to her.  Then her caretaker looked at us and said "Don't cry, Pray"  My heart is broken, but I know God will heal it and I look forward to see how he will heal it because I am sure it won't be in a way I could imagine.

Brad found the perfect verse to sum up the day Isaiah 40:28-29  "Don't you know?  Haven't you heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God; he created all the world.  He never grows tired or weary.  No one understands his thoughts.  He strengthens those who are weak and tired."


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Relying on God....

There wasn't anything that could have prepared me for this day. I thought I was strong. I thought was a hard worker. I've thought, at times, that I had suffered. I am none of these things. I am the least of these. I am ashamed of having thought these things about myself.

Today we experienced working with the water trucks to deliver clean water to Cite Soleil and to one of the tent cities. I am humbled by the strength and effort it takes to have something that I take for granted every day. Every drop of water must be delivered, carried (usually a five gallon bucket on the head), stored, and rationed.......without ever knowing when the next truck will arrive.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the sights, sounds, and smells, of that which is Cite Soleil. I am exhausted and overwhelmed. I am asking for help from God. My head is full of chaos that is not quite as orderly as I am comfortable with. I am feeling raw and vulnerable.

This is me outside my comfort zone. This is me relying on God to lead the way. This is me knowing that I belong here right now.

Glwa pou Bonye, pou tou jou.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Stay With Us....

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

Luke 24:28-29

Stay with us. We're not sure what this week holds for our group, where we're going, or who we'll get to walk with for a while. This Easter story of Jesus meeting the disciples seems pretty appropriate since it feels like we've been traveling for a long time (leaving our homes around 2am) and we've landed in a place that is unfamiliar to many. So more than anything in this first blog entry we'll ask that you stay with us. We ask that Christ will stay with us. As new relationships are formed with our sisters and brothers in Haiti, we can't wait to see what God is calling us all to. We will get to be on this road together for a while and see what makes all of our hearts burn within us and how Christ will be revealed.

As we were driving to the guest house from the airport, one of our team members said he was reminded of the beginning of the Lord's Prayer. 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' and then the next line 'Give us this day our daily bread'. Daily bread is something we often take for granted, but being on the road this week, staying here for a while in this place with the people of Haiti, we pray for daily bread for all people.

All of our team and all of our bags arrived safely, for which we give many thanks. Laughs were had along the way, and we are bonding as a team. We are thankful for our leaders Carol and Rachel and for the staff at the guest house. More adventures to come, but the day is nearly over and we are just plain tired. Thank you for your prayers and support.


Travel Day to Haiti

Well, we have arrived. Most of our group of 14 had very little sleep last night at home because we had to get up at about 1 a.m. We had to meet at church by 2. Our flight to Miami left at about 5:45 am and with a layover, we arrived in Pot Au Prince at about 4 EST. It is 90 degrees here but survivable.

All of our luggage was tossed into the back of a truck called a tap tap. The back is kind of like a cage. We all hopped in and away we went. Quite an adventure riding through the crowded city streets with lots of dust and huge potholes! Made me wonder what my day would be like if I had been born here.

The cottage that we are staying in is very nice and perfect for large groups. Hatian tacos were served for supper.

I am excited to be here but have to say that I feel a bit nervous and anxious about why I am here. Something that felt so right when I signed up for this 8 day mission trip now leads to a lot of feelings of trepidation.  I will be working on not worrying about it and let God do his work. He is the vine. We are the branches.

Tomorrow we will go with a water truck to Citi Soleil. We will help fill buckets and play with children while parents fill their buckets. Citi Soleil is the poorest slum in the western hemisphere. I can't even begin to imagine getting clean water that way as a way of life.

Continue to pray for this trip--the people of Haiti, that their physical needs of  food and clean water. As well as proper health care will be met.  Pray for all of us and that we will trust in our Lord that he has a definite purpose for us being here and that we will seek his call. Pray for our  safety.

God's peace.