Sunday, September 1, 2019

August 31: Transformation

As we started our last full day here, we ate some delicious cinnamon rolls that we had purchased from Fleuri Bakery. The table—like always—was filled with excitement, laughter, and squinty eyes from the young fellas unprepared for the morning sunlight. After praying for the day, we hopped on the tap-tap and were ready for whatever was going to come at us on our last day. The traffic to our first place to serve was brutal. While we couldn’t see what was going on peering through the slats of the tap-tap cage, we did see the police squeeze through the traffic with riot cops in the back. After that bit of excitement, we turned directly off the main road to our destination.

 Our first stop was at an orphanage whose kids had disabilities. Lots of smiles and laughter instantly hit the orphanage from the very moment we stepped foot in the building. Soccer has been a main theme this week, so of course we had to bring one, but this time we made sure to bring it back to the guest house. While kicking it around for a while, we all noticed that Isaac H has improved to being able to juggle the ball more than two times. Anyways, everyone there had one goal and that goal was to make each and every kid there feel loved and supported no matter what circumstance they were going through. After playing with the kids we were given a tour of the orphanage. The kids were so proud to show off all of their rooms. In the last room we found one of the kids we were blowing bubbles with. They took him away and put him in his room early because he had an accident. The kid was crying because he wasn’t able to play with all of us and get the snack at the end. Steve came to the rescue and brought him some goldfish and we all gave him a hug, and by the time we left he was smiling. After a fun filled adventure at the orphanage for disabled children, we took a stop at the local grocery store which was a new thing for everyone in our group including the returners. There was a lot of eyes on the only 10 white people in the store as you can imagine. It was a good break in the day to get some AC before moving on to the next orphanage.

 The group then went to the next orphanage which was in a very cool part of Haiti. At the orphanage, we were welcomed with many smiling kids who wanted love spread to them by us. We made use of the building itself where a circular window became a target to throw a ball though. This place was not too much to look at, but it made us realize that people who have little are even helping the people who are worse off than them. We played soccer and jump rope with the kids for around an hour before turning to the bracelet making which was a big hit for the kids of all ages. Finally, Tamara had her mind set that we were going to play Bingo so she rallied the troops and we had an exciting game of bingo. Overall, the second orphanage of the day was obviously different than the first but everybody was treated the same way because we are all walking in God’s footsteps and everyone is equal.

The full day of serving started off like all the others, but the emotional debrief had us realizing the growth and change that we all have been undergoing this week. Even harder was wondering how we will be strangers to the environment back home that we think we will know, but we will see in a completely different light.
Our time in Haiti is coming to an end but our days serving will transform us forever.

Friday, August 30, 2019

August 30, 2019: SETTING AN EXAMPLE

As Minnesotans enjoyed stunning weather, the start of high school football, and the State Fair, six senior boys chose 96 degree temps and a uniquely Haitian experience instead. Okay, so my son cannot recall what he did the “last Friday” of summer a year ago, or the year before, for that matter.  Curious, I went around the room and asked Isaac H, Danny and Noah the same question: “what were you doing a year ago?” Crickets.  Thus, although the contrast between Spectacular Minnesota and Sultry Haiti couldn’t be more dramatic today, the boys bucked up and went for it.

Thanks to Healing Haiti and its fabulous staff, today was unforgettable.
Curious?  Here are a few Haitian experiences that you can’t get in Minnesota:
Cracking open Genips and sucking out peach-like juice
Donkeys hauling rice on the side of the road
Washing the feet of elderly citizens
Riding an open-air vehicle with no seatbelts, passing three-wide
A herd of cows walking down a residential street
Three adults riding the same motorcycle (sans helmets)
A (mostly) outdoor tour in 97 degree weather
A library of French books
Joe bricking a shot in a pickup game of basketball
Not having your iPhone from 9am-7pm (Tamara’s rule)
A front door that once served as a port-a-potty door
Fences made of cactus
A mouse scampering under the feet of Beth & Isaac
People riding on top of school buses
Stark reminders of the importance of REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
Honking the horn as the main mode of communication between vehicles
Throwing rocks to knock off ripe almonds from a tree
Watching a 3-time All-American HS swimmer play basketball
Stepping over sleeping babies in the middle of the day
Praying for new shoes for a senior citizen
Seeing Michael G hold three children at once (not happening in Minnesota)
Rinsing every dish with bleach water before air-drying
Real Coke made with cane sugar (amazing)
Praying outdoors in sweltering heat
Knowing God heard every prayer

I’ll bet these boys will always remember what they did the “last” Friday of summer 2019. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

August 29, 2019; day 4 in Haiti and day 3 in the field

August 29, 2019; day 4 in Haiti and day 3 in the field
Many thoughts are floating around in my head as I write this update; mostly of the people we just served and comforted and the young people that found such joy in seeing us and being held.  But before I get to far ahead of myself, I will start from the beginning of our day.
We started the day as we always do with breakfast and devotion.  Our devotion today focused on friendship and we read an excerpt from the gospel of Mark, chapter 2 verses 1-12.  Four friends who have a paralyzed friend cut a hole in the roof of a building in order to lower him down to the feet of Jesus in order to ask for forgiveness and the ability to walk again.  Four friends that tried to get him through the crowd on his stretcher never gave up showing true friendship in putting their friend at the feet of our Lord. 
Breakfast was or course delicious, as it always is, and shortly after we packed our lunch (a variety of snacks and bars to eat in the field) as we always do. Tamara worked through her mental checklist to make sure we all had what we needed for the day, in between shout-outs for us to “HYDRATE”.  The tap-tap was packed and we gathered in a circle to pray.  Shortly after, we were off to provide water to two different neighborhoods in Cite Soleil as well as tour the new state-of-the-art tech center at Hope church and school and wash the feet and provide back-rubs to the elderly.  There was a new “event” in the tap-tap today, surfing.  Two people stand in the aisle of the tap-tap, face each other in a surfing stance, and attempt to stay upright without touching the sides of the bus or anyone sitting.  The quality of the roads in Haiti make it a very active game.  Some were better than others but no champion surfers in our group.
We met the water truck in the first neighborhood and as expected the kids came running with the familiar chant of “hey you, hey you, hey you” looking for one of the ten of us to pick them up.  The only problem, there is generally 50-75 kids running towards us and we need to fill and carry 5-gallon buckets for the residents.  Many of the boys do the work with one or two kids hanging off of them and two or three others attempting to get their attention.  The first water-stop went pretty well and fairly smoothly, I guess as smoothly as it can go and once again our boys stepped up and did their thing.  Filling buckets and hustling water while comforting children through interaction and touch.  It brings great joy when you deliver a necessity like water, knowing you are helping people obtain such a precious resource that they need for survival.  There is joy in the faces of young kids as they fill empty plastic bottles to throw on themselves and their friends.  There is relief in the faces of the adults as they receive the water, although at times there is pushing and shoving for a place in line.  More than once we turn the water flow off to regain a bit of organization among the chaos of buckets and pails and garbage cans and plastic drums.  The most creative apparatus we saw for water collection was half of an old suitcase. 

To see these six boys in an environment that is completely foreign and very much outside of their routines, take it all in stride and perform, is an amazing experience.  The toughest part of everything I just described is having to walk to the end of the neighborhood and see the look in the eyes of the children as we walk away from them, powerless to change their “situation”.
The tour of the tech center was informative and gave a sense of hope for the young people of Haiti.  Educating them with state-of-the-art technology, as much as possible, means that progress for the children is happening.  Unfortunately, the number of children they can accommodate is not currently meeting demand, but it is still progress.  Interesting thing happened while we were hearing about the tech center, God entered our afternoon in a very real way, Tamara and Michael were re-united with Estherlancia and Ketelene, two Haitian girls that stayed with them for three weeks during the summer of 2015.  There were screams and tears and many stories about when they were in the US visiting.  They were able to stay with us the rest of the day and come back to the house and have dinner, it made for a very joyous afternoon and evening.  Many more stories, more tears, and much laughter, they were truly a breath of fresh air from God.

To finish the day after our second water delivery, which was more contentious than the first but very much the same, we were blessed to be able to truly be the hands of Jesus.  We were introduced to approximately 20 elderly Haitians and we were allowed to wash their feet and massage their shoulders.  We brought comfort, compassion, and love just as Jesus would have wanted.  Again, the boys stepped up and at times even refused to take a break from washing when offered by one of the chaperones.  The love they showed to the elderly Haitians men and women was really something to see.  Proud does not begin to describe how I felt watching them care for and comfort these elderly Haitians.  When we were done, we prayed over them and said our goodbyes.  The faces of the Haitian men and women were a mixture of joy, appreciation, gratitude, and delight.  Our boys created that in them, just an awesome experience to witness, our young men being the hands and feet of Jesus, “truly I say to you, what you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.”  Matthew 25:40. 
To end our day, as we do every day, we spent time talking about friendship.  We picked our “word for the day” which we all presented in Creole and discussed some of the things that transpired today and how we might be changed by them.  One thing that is very noticeable with our group as we have these reflections is that the boys are opening up quite a bit as they talk of the events of the day and what they are doing to directly have a positive effect on the people of Haiti.  It is great to see the six boys speaking from their hearts and being willing to share and be a bit vulnerable in their responses.
To conclude I will tell you that this trip so far has been a great experience for myself and the others, especially the boys.  So many opportunities to see the boys shine and they have.  You would all be very proud.  Additionally, we are blessed to have a great trip leader, Tamara has every detail covered and does a great job keep everyone engaged.  We truly move as a group of ten and it is because of all the effort and planning that Tam did prior to getting here and while we are here as changes pop up in our itinerary.  We owe her many thanks.
Until tomorrow……………………………………cheers from Haiti. 

August 28,2019: Least of these...

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”

We began our day with a short walk to the Artisan shops where Haitians were selling their art for us to purchase. We were serving them by buying their goods to make a living for their families. So many beautiful things to buy, and me not realizing each artisan was in competition with each other until the end, my heart was torn, and I bought too much to support as many as I was able. We all returned with some goods along with soaking wet shirts from the humidity and beautiful sunshine.
Before boarding the tap tap, we prayed outside with Smith, our coordinator, and what a gift to hear his heart! I continue to be amazed at those who have given their lives for Christ, and trust Him completely to serve them with their whole lives.
Then, we loaded the tap tap for the orphanage Lalue’s. The drive was one of the longest through the city with many turns and bumps, and a couple of times kids climbed up on the back of our tap tap while driving. Coach Steve, our very humorous parent, challenged Tamara, our leader, with one of the many rules, not to feed a boy requesting food hanging on the back of our tap tap, as Steve pointed with an accusing smile, to the Mathew 25:40 to serve the least of these painted on the front of the bus. All in good fun, I am grateful for all of the different perspectives, humor, and gifts we each bring in God’s family especially to Tamara for her faithfulness to lead us all so well. Her heart for the Haitian people is such a gift to witness.
We arrived at Lalue Orphanage. We walked in to about 30 kids standing in front of us, and one boy lead them all in a song to welcome us. My heart was overflowing with love for them,  but also great sadness knowing they have no families to love them. We then played with them, loved on them, attempted to communicate with them. Each of us pushing out of comfort zone while settling into the way God gifted each of us. My goal was to hug and tell them they are loved and Jesus loves them. Their smiles were a constant reminder the Holy Spirit was present, and Jesus is flowing through them. One little girl made a heart with her hands to me understanding I told her Jesus loved her. Witnessing the boys interact with these kids was amazing! The way they jumped right in immediately holding a hand, putting them on their backs or shoulders, playing soccer, jumping rope was truly a gift to these children. Joe had a boy on his shoulder almost the entire time while the boy wore Joe’s EP baseball cap. Michael had a little girl on his back while jumping rope as they both were laughing. Noah never left the side of a little girl while she made jewelry and played Bingo. Isaac H. was the Bingo caller. Michael played so joyfully with the children. Isaac A. gave one on one attention to the kids playing bingo as well as Noah and Danny. We  made bracelets and played Faith Bingo with them, and they loved it. The goodbyes were difficult for me, but trusting God fruit was planted and He loves these children more than I can imagine.
Next up we traveled to Papillon Enterprise where parents are able to be employed while their kids are in daycare. The organization started to help employ parents and help the economy, by allowing parents to keep their children with a steady income provide by Papillon. They create things from bracelets, to metal signs, to pottery, and more. Some of the jewelry is made from cereal boxes, then hardened and polished. In addition, there is a quality restaurant, overlooking the mountains. We shopped in the store to support their initiative, and we also ate at the restaurant enjoying the breeze and beautiful view along with French fries and delicious smoothies.
Our last stop today was Home for Sick and Dying Babies. A nun greeted us at the gate to let us know we could feed the babies and then bring them to a special church service to honor Mother Theresa.
These nuns exuded such love and kindness on their faces. What an immense blessing they are to be in Haiti for these children. We walked into room filled with rows of cribs and babies, and we were each given a baby to hold and feed. The boys each jumped in again while being pushed out of their comfort zone for the majority of them, feeding, and caring for them. After feeding we held the babies in the church service. What an incredible gift to love on these babies. My child kept putting her arm around my neck as I prayed silently over her for healing and God’s protection.
Another excruciating tough good bye for many of us to put our children back into their cribs as some of them cried. Again, I am so grateful for the privilege and opportunity God has allowed us all to be the hands and feet of Jesus to them for a short while. Again, I trust God will protect these children, and reminded He created them and loves them more than I can imagine. However, my heart is forever changed, and I will continue to wrestle with what more I can do to make a difference to help these babies and continue to pray for them and this ministry.
We ended the evening with a swim at the pool. I’m so grateful for Steve for his incredible connection with the boys as he rallied them all into the pool when they were losing steam. Isaac H. had a quite a shock literally as he touched the ice cream freezer, and he felt an electric shock through his arm. Praising God for His protection of Isaac, and also praying, um well for a better choice of words when something physically painful happens to him in the future. 😊 However, also thankful for God’s grace toward him as he grows in his relationship with Christ.
At our evening devotional time we shared how we saw Jesus in each other today, a recap:
Steve: Just before we had to leave the Sick and Dying, he remained as long as possible to touch and talk to as many babies as he could. I, personally, see Jesus in Him in the way he relates with each boy encouraging them and his gift of great humor.
Brenda: Her patient demeanor with all of the children, and teaching the kids math problems at the orphanage. Truly, bringing out the way God has gifted her.
Isaac A.: The patient way he played Bingo with the children at the Orphanage and his calm, caring demeanor with the children and the babies. He patiently fed a child who took longer to eat.
Tamara: Her caring heart exudes with each Haitian child she comes in contact with – hugs, smiles, and being present and the tears after leaving the Home for Sick and Dying Babies. She has a leadership gift that she has allowed God to use her in this incredible ministry.
Isaac H.: When he found a boy alone when we were getting ready to leave the orphanage to have his picture taken with him. The boys face lit up to be acknowledged. Also, the way he tried to jump rope with a girl on his back to make her laugh albeit she was very heavy for him to hold.
Michael: The joy on his face and the smiles he brings to the children with his playful demeanor. He truly has a gift with kids.
Noah: His calm, patient demeanor and the way he remained with one of the littlest girls at the orphanage playing bingo with his arm around her.
Danny: The way he patiently played with the children at the orphanage and his heartfelt prayer over them today.
Joe: He held 2 babies in church forgoing his own comfort as sweat poured down all of our faces, but his patient, caring way of tending to them.

What an incredible gift to serve the Least of these today with our only agenda to be the hands and feet of Jesus! To witness all of us out of our comfort zone with our willingness to serve was a joy and an image I will hold in my heart.
Thank you, all back home, for your continued prayers; we are all doing great! Love you all!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

August 27, 2019 : OBEDIENCE 
If these boys were expecting a routine, check-the-box, dutiful, “I’m going to be a senior” missions trip, wow -- were they mistaken.  Instead, it was a FULL SEND experience.
Day 1 calls for a bit of background for this news update:
The perspective of tonight’s writer: a suburban mom who just met most of these young men.  The group consists of 5 Eden Prairie students who’ve played baseball for years, plus a Minnetonka swimmer (my son), making it six 17 year old boys plus 4 chaperones who also double as parents.
LET’S ROLL from the get-go.  The boys not only executed three Water Stops today delivering fresh water to the worst slum in the Western Hemisphere, but they did so under 95 degree temps and challenging, chaotic, crisis-like conditions. To give you an idea of the environment surrounding Water Truck Stop day, one neighborhood was called Four Coffins. A tragedy involving 4 children too sad to be repeated. 
If you haven’t had fresh water for a week, you might fight to get your bucket first in line, too.  Getting clean water into long-forgotten “streets” isn’t easy. My observations of these six boys:
Isaac H: clearly has a soft heart under that strong exterior and could easily lift the heaviest of water buckets shoved at him by dozens of children. The most reflective of the group after one day.
Michael G: offered the most smiles all day long and didn’t fade, even at Water Truck Stop #3.  Appeared to truly enjoy the work – picked up crying babies and finding joy in the circumstances.
Noah P: Perseverance. Definitely.  More stoic than some of the others, but keenly aware of his duty to serve and his purpose for being here. I’d take him on my team any day.
Isaac A: Willing to engage deeply with the outcast children – the ones with nothing to wear, the ones with no bucket, the ones with no parents; an advocate for those on the lowest rung of the slum pecking order.  Carried water into neighborhoods much farther than expected.   
Danny P: Embracing the experience with enthusiasm -- undaunted by what the street looked or smelled like.  Calm and purposeful all throughout the day. Willing to pull his weight and then some. 
Joe C: Wow, what a workhorse.  “Git’er done Joe.  Full Send Joe.  Held the water hose more than anyone else today and didn’t quit until the tank was empty. Pick Joe in an emergency. Period.
As prior Healing Haiti groups have so aptly done, describing the difference between our living conditions in The United States and Haiti (specifically Cite Soleil) is impossible.  You’ve seen the pictures.  You know what’s going on here.  You don’t see the smells or hear the cries (or the laughter) but it’s no secret that living conditions aren’t exactly Bear Path or Lake Minnetonka. However, the positive changes Healing Haiti is making in the community is truly palpable. More on that tomorrow.

Put bluntly: there are no “safe spaces” in Cite Soleil, yet Healing Haiti is doing a yeoman’s like effort to create hope among the pockets of poverty. I do feel the presence of the Holy Spirit while working in and amongst the children of Haiti. Prayers, hard work, even giving up your last week of summer vacation –that’s answering God’s call.