Sunday, September 17, 2017

Serenity Village Community Church 09/17/2017

As we joined together at the breakfast table for our last full day together the mood was Joy filled and relaxed.  We enjoyed a home made breakfast which consisted of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal and fresh fruit. From there we got into the tap tap and traveled to Grace church. This was such an amazing and powerful experience. You could fill the spirit's presence all around. Although most of the words weren't in English, it did not change how i felt God within me. The singers had so much passion and joy that the spirit just spread and was super contagious. It was one of the more powerful experiences for me.

After church we took a breezy drive to Wahoo beach. This was the perfect way to end the trip. The water was a gorgeous turquoise blue, their was a nice overcast to help with the sun, and the temperature of the water was amazing. The beach was nice to help with reflecting on the whole trip and all the experiences while I floated in the ocean. I was able to focus on processing the past few days, but also had to come to God to seek help with staying present during this last day. After a few hours of relaxation we ate lunch at the restaurant on the beach, I would recommend the crunchy shrimp. After sharing many laughs and jokes at lunch we were able to go back down to the beach for more refreshment.

During the  tap tap ride back to the house just about everyone fell asleep from being so relaxed. After some time downloading back at the house, some of us got our suits on and headed up to the pool. This was just a great time to enjoy more laughs. I have never laughed so much as I did on this trip in my life. This is a perfect way to connect with many people in ways you could never imagine. When we arrived back home we were met with Pumpkin soup on the table and pizza. During the meal you could just feel everyone's energy and love present. After enjoying the meal, we did "word-of-the-day" which is an awesome day to look at the day from everyone's different perspective and see what effects them the most, this helps me understand them more as a person. From here we sat around and relaxed for awhile just enjoying the presence of one another. Later in the evening we read a devotional for day which was randomly chosen. Which is so powerful because it did a full circle with our day and fit like a puzzle piece. This is my favorite part of the day because it helps me grow in my faith walk and I love listening to every single member's point of view. It helps us bond as group and become more connected. We finished the night off we a round of Taboo. This was the most perfect way to end the trip.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Serenity Village Community Church 09/16/2017

Thanks for checking in on us on our 5th full day here in Haiti. We have had an emotion-filled trip thus far and have been so overwhelmed by God's grace and goodness.  Our journey has brought many of us laughter and tears, break-throughs and revelations.  We have had an incredibly powerful opportunity to bond as a team and grow as individuals.  God is truly at work in so many ways.

Each day always brings a new adventure.  Tonight as we shared our evening meal and expressed our "Word of the Day", the one that came to mind for me was "Provision".  Often times, as human beings we forget that God is our ultimate provider and that He is already at the end of each day.

Our first activity this morning was another Water Truck day, which is a favorite among most teams.  We stopped at District 26, only to find the streets extremely quiet in comparison to the usual chaos, hustle and bustle we always experience immediately upon arrival.  No lines.  No 5 gallon pails stacked up.  No kids or moms with tubs, pots and buckets.  A handful of parents did come to gather small amounts of water, but something was different.  Distinct.  There was a welcome calm in the atmosphere, and in the midst of it all, there was an unusual level of joy!  Peace!  Serenity!  Kids played in the water, their faces filled with such a bright light that they were practically glowing.  Those big, beautiful eyes and radiant smiles.  We did our job and held the hose so they could fill their buckets and splash each other and dump water over their own heads. Their laughter still rings in our ears. It was moment we will cherish forever.


What an amazing God we serve.  We learned that the reason the streets were so empty and the water traffic was so light was because it had rained yesterday in Cite Soleil.  It had rained enough that each family in District 26 was able to gather enough water to provide for their families' immediate needs.  Provision.  Faith.  Trust.  Reliance.  All words that easily roll off our tongues but ones we can easily take for granted.  We learned today that the beautiful people of Haiti live their lives each day based on these words...they stand on these promises.  For them, they are more than mere words; having faith in an ultimate provider is a way of life.

On our way home, we hit the busyness of Saturday traffic, and as is often found in Haiti, we also hit large potholes and inevitable detours.  As we were literally backing down a narrow street for about an entire block, approximately 20-30 kids, and I mean LITTLE kids, surrounded the Tap Tap and began to sing to us!  "Hey you...cho-co-lat!  Hey you...cho-co-lat!"  (Chocolate pronounced sho-ko-laht).  They sang to us with glee.  Sheer joy.  Over and over and over they chanted! They were so happy to see the Tap Tap filled with a bunch of funny looking Americans who were overjoyed to see THEM, smiling and waving at them through the grates of the Tap Tap. They were filled with so much joy, they just couldn't contain themselves! PROVISION.  God provides these kids with His love.  They are overflowing with His peace and grace and mercy and love that flows from within. "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water."


Since we made it back early due to God's provision of rain, we had a choice whether to go to an orphanage or a metal market. No one was interested in shopping for souvenirs. We are here to be the hands and feet of Jesus!  So off to the orphanage we went.  It was a organization we had never been to before, so we weren't really sure what to expect.  Nor did we know it was almost an hour away!  During the drive, we were blessed to experience a view of Haiti we hadn't had the opportunity to see before.  SVCC teams have been coming to serve through Healing Haiti since 2014.  Many of us have had the privilege of seeing with our own eyes how Haiti continues to progress.  Provision.  God never fails us or forgets about us.  Provision.  Progress may not happen in our timing, but we must remember God's timing is perfect.  There is HOPE and HEALING happening in HAITI.


We arrived at the orphanage eager to serve.  As I mentioned, we did not know what to expect.  As we pulled into the complex, we were transported into a little world within Carre Four, another town outside of Port-Au-Prince.  Provision.  We all stepped off the Tap Tap and began our descent into the courtyard of the orphanage.  The structure itself is impressive, with multiple levels and buildings.  It has to be in order to house over 80 children. Yes, 80 children!  Provision.  God provided the vision to the person who saw the need.  He put it on their heart to love the orphans, to provide an environment where they would be safe and loved and cared for.  80 kids now have a roof over their head, and a "Mommie" to look after them.

We were not expecting 80 kids!  With our trip cut short due to Hurricane Irma, a Saturday visit to an orphanage was a little off schedule, but here we were! There were only 13 of us, so it was quite the task to give each child the attention they needed but we were up for the challenge!  Since it was a weekend day, a few of the Mommies were not all there at the same time, and it also looked like some of the 80 might not have all been gathered at the same time.  Again, provision. God gave us the ability to touch each child that WAS present - what a blessing!  Everyone was gathered in the same area, a large and beautiful, shaded courtyard with trees that the kids and Mommies could sit under and rest in the shade.  Provision.  We played with some, and held others.  Some of the older girls braided the ladies' hair, and some of the kids just wanted us to sit next to them.  Others played hide and seek, some played hand games, while a few wanted to be spun around in circles.  Love comes in so many different forms.  But God is always at the center of it all.

It is such a blessing to be able to actually see God's provision everywhere.  We choose to see what we want to see, but when we are intentional, it is impossible to miss His hand in everything around us.

Blessings and love from Haiti.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Serenity Village Community Church 09/15/2017

Today's experience on the ground for me exemplified what it means to live and work in god's will and timing. I have come to see and understand that no matter how well our leaders plan for our day out in the field the fact is that strange and unpredictable things happen when we are out in the field.

Our day started out as usual with a fantastic fresh breakfast! this is always one of my favorite times of day because i love the food they prepare for us down here. in addition to that it is a great way to start the day sitting around the table spending time talking and laughing with the other members of our team. it is also when we get a run down on what we can expect for the most part of what our day will look like and what we have on our plates for the day. a good time focus in and prepare for the day ahead.

we were able to take one of my favorite drives when we are in country here. to get to our first stoptakes us through part of the haitian countryside. we are able to see the sites and sounds of one more part of what makes this country tick. driving along the ocean coast is very beautiful, add that along with the breeze that comes in off the ocean and makes the ride one of the coolest rides of our time down here as well. there is so much to take in in something as simple as a ride in a truck when taking the time to see what our father put together. it is about a 45min ride to our firststop out that way so there is a nice amount of time to takein all that we can. also being in the tap-tap for that long creates a wonderful opportunity for team bonding, laughing, talking and joking with each other as we make our way to our destination.  

our first stop today was at the mass grave site in Titanyen. one of our guides that was with us today gave his testimony on his personal experience that day and the few days that followed the devastating earthquake back in 2010. it is hard to imagine what the people of haiti had gone through with the tragedy. the number of people we were told that lost their life was pretty staggering. listening to our guide tell what hes saw and felt rite after the earthquake was real enough to this day that it clearly effected him and in turn made it a emotionally powerful testimony to hear. with no where for that number of casualties to be put the government made a large grave in one of the mountain sides near port-au-prince. the government of haiti has been working on a memorial at that very site to commemorate all the loss of life and to have a place for all those who could not find their loved ones to go in memory of them to morn. for me being there at the site in years past when i have come it was awesome to see the vast improvement on the construction of the memorial. i was really stricken with how beautiful they have been able to make what could have been a devastating reminder of a horrible tragedy. it was clear the government has put a lot of time and resources into making this a beautiful  place for people to come. from all the sites i have seen in my experience being here this is the most striking well put together thing i have seen put together by government.

the next thing on our agenda was elder visits. this is where having the flexibility to work with unpredictable circumstances comes into play, and having leaders that do not get thrown off by bumps in the road. we came to find that the first elder that we were going to visit had recently move and our guides were unsure where she had moved to. it was a pretty easy transition to move on and pick rite up and move on to the next elder that was planned for us. the elders that we visit are a true blessing to me and us as a team to serve and care for. there is nothing complicated with what we do for them. we bring them a hot meal, a couple nice cool drinks, and give wash there hands arms and feet, give them a nice light massage with lotion, and pray and sing with them. this is still a unnatural thing for me to do it is difficult for me to put my own feelings aside and really humble myself knowing that this is the exact kind of think that Jesus tells us we should do for each other. i do get involved no matter how uncomfortable and do what we are there to do ( show the love of Christ to these elders ) and in doing so i experience a closeness to god that to me feels very tangible, such a feeling of peace and comfort while serving these people in the way we do. i thank god for the willingness to get out of my comfort zone to follow what he has set in place for us down here to get a blessing out of the experience that i never could have imagined.

our next stop was to grace village. this to my understanding is where healing haiti does the base of their operations out of. they have a health clinic, dental clinic, school, orphanage, church, bakery, restaurant, childrens food center, library, computer lab, and garden at this site. i was very impressed with how the vision of healing haiti has continued to grow over the years that they have been in operation down here. it is a pretty neat way to see what God can out together when you have a willing heart to follow his call, even when the circumstances say that there is no way that we can make happen what we feel we should be doing. like our pastor says if god calls us to it he will see us through it. this is such a true statement for the entire healing haiti start to what it is now. because of two peoples obedience there is a huge light of hope in a community that can really use the love god has to give. there are hundreds of kids which have their lives changed due to this organization, which in turn will touch the lives of countless generations to come. even just the story of how the land the founders bought was not what they though it was but several more times a greater amount, a staggering amount of land. that land is playing a huge role now as to what all healing haiti is able to do. it is an awesome time to come back year after year and to see what god is doing in this country and in this organization healing haiti.

we had the privilege of being able to taste the food that the healing haiti restaurant, fleri for dinner tonight. the main part of the restaurant is a pizzeria. the food was really good and the fellowship was even better. it was fun to see the team relax and have fun together. which in its own way is god doing another amazing thing in our lives as a team. as a team being able to sow back into the community that we are here to serve. for me it is precious to be able to sit back and take the time to stop "working" and just take a look at what God is doing at this very moment in time. it is good to know that we do not always having to be putting our hands to the grinding stone to see that God is doing something in and through us. that leads to what is really the most important thing to realize and keep in mind is that left to our own thinking and power that none of this would come together the way it has, that all the glory and honor needs to go to our lord Jesus Christ who has called us all here and it is his power that is working through us. we need his spirit in us in a big way in order to make it through and be successful in what the call is for us to do while we are in haiti, and when we get back to our lives as usual as well. love you all, God bless!!!!!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Serenity Village Community Church 9/14/2017

Everyday at dinner each of our team picks a "word of the day" that describes how we felt about the day.    As I write this, my word is "water".

At home I use water in a variety of ways each day - to shower, to cook, to wash the dishes, to brush my teeth and to drink among others.  

Today we visited Cite Soleil, which is one of the poorest places in the world and where people don't have access to clean water on a regular basis.  They are reliant on water trucks who distribute water throughout the city and who visit the area where they live approximately once per week.   We were blessed today to be part of bringing life essential water into 3 different areas and it was an amazing and sobering experience.  

The water truck holds 3000 gallons of water with a big hose that gushes water when turned on.  When the water truck drives to its stop children run and ride on the back of the truck in excitement.  People line up with water containers of all shapes and sizes - as many as they have, with the hopes of getting water for their family for the week.  The water they are so joyous and thankful to receive isn't safe for us to drink without becoming sick.

Pastor Jed commented today that the different water jugs were a great depiction of the many things we observed while helping to distribute water.

Children come with joy - they rush to be held, they touch hair and skin that is so different from what they know, they play games.   A tattoo is a thing of wonder.  Water is used to play, to bathe and to refresh.   Beautiful smiles grace their faces and it is obvious that water day is a day they truly look forward to.

Adults, mainly women, line up their water containers pushing them forward quickly to receive water. They come with the great responsibility of taking care of their family. Requests are made to help them bring their containers home.   A container I can barely lift and carry is put on top of their head and carried with ease.   Children help their parents by carrying containers or tugging on your arm and asking for help in getting water to their houses - everyone but the very youngest understand the importance of getting the water home as quickly as possible.

At the third stop I had the chance to help fill and move buckets as they were filled by the hose.   It was completely chaotic - there were people who lined up to wait their turn for the water and then others who came to the front of the line to push their way in without waiting.   Our task was to try and keep the line moving filling buckets and moving them as quickly as possible so not one precious drop was unnecessarily wasted.   A task made more difficult as people pushed and worked to get their bucket under the hose next.   Desperation was the word here as people worked as hard as they could to fill their containers before the water truck ran out of water.

I would like to be able to say that everyone went home with all of their containers filled, but sadly that was not the case.  My hope is that just as we were there to love and help where we could today, that they too will help neighbors and friends who went home with empty containers by sharing.

Water also describes the tears that we each cried today as we reflected on our experience.   Back at the guest house as I stood rinsing off  my shoes and feet it was impossible not to picture the water containers that would have been filled by the water I used.

My real word of the day was "grateful".   Grateful for the chance to be here in Haiti with an awesome team bringing love and hope to the many people we touched today and grateful for the water I have access to at home that is safe to drink and that I use in almost every aspect of my life.

Serenity Village Community Church 09/13/2017

Day Two:

In the morning we went with the another missions team in Haiti, who are also from Minnesota to the orphanage called No Place Like Home. When we first arrived the children backed to the far edge of the structure they were in side of. They were standoffish to us at first.  Once we brought out the markers and paper fans they were filled with love and enjoy. They were giggling and having the time of their lives. We brought out a parachute and began waving it up and down. The purpose was for them to hide under, as some did, but they began to help us and were so quick to pick everything up. After spending a few hours with the little ones who weren't any older than 4, the other kids who were older came running out and we made airplanes with them out of Popsicle sticks.

After a few hours of hanging out with the kids, Reggie, a guy who worked there gave us a tour of the whole compound. This orphanage had many awesome qualities. It was also a school and once the kids got into 4th grade they were sent to a near by school to keep moving forward in their education. Their goal was to send their kids to college in the United States. They never kicked out the kids once they turned 18, they're always welcome. Currently they had 40 kids and are working on getting the funds to build another building that will allow them to take care of 50 more kiddos.

This whole program started from a man and his wife pitching a tent on the floor and adopting kids. Eventually they reached a point where they can't adopt any more precious children, so they got the amazing idea to start an orphanage. The progress is amazing and is one of the nicer ones in Haiti. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to experience it and play with all the kids. It was an awesome blessing from God that I'll never forget. I cant't wait to see what the rest of the week has in store. I know it is all apart God's plan.  

Team 2 finally arrived, a day later then the first team but we are all together now. Just arriving in Haiti for me was a blessing, it was long awaited, just the opposition i faced trying to get ready and leading up to this point was strong and it almost seemed as if i wasn't going to get here like the devil was doing everything he could to deter me from this. When i think about it long enough i see why that could be, i think that god has something big planned there for me, weather its just to be of service to someone else through love or compassion, a conversation, or maybe even something so little as a look or a hand waving hello, i know that he is going to work through me and for me. I try not to think in those terms of what or where  but rather just to let his spirit move me in the way he sees fit to be his hands and feet.

 After arriving at the Guest house to drop off our gear and quickly regroup and refresh  we were all exhausted but happy to finally be here and even happier to be greeted by the first part of our team that had to fly out the day before us. It was an exciting feeling because we were now a whole team and we were ready to do the work we came here to do. Our first mission was to go to the Apparent project to see what it is they do. It was started by a woman named Shelly that originally came to Haiti to adopt a child, the story is that the woman she wanted to adopt the child from really didn't want to give her baby up but really just couldn't afford to raise them. So instead of adopting the child she founded the apparent project that creates jobs by using resources that are readily available and in huge supply to create jewelry and other goods to sell in a shop where part of the proceeds go back to the family's who worked to create them. It was fascinating to be taken on a tour to see the production side of things and to actually meet the people and see what it is there doing and how our ministry we represent had blessed them with a kiln to create pottery  which created jobs that created income for these men and women to take care of whole familys and children and without this may not be able to.

There also started a daycare for the woman to be able to drop of there children and they are taken care of free of charge, during the work day the woman are able to come down and spend time with the children throughout the day. it was an amazing experience to see  and here how all of this came to be of how it started as something completely different then it turned out to be. after the tour we were able to purchase some of these goods knowing that everything we put into it was going to help out familys or multiple familys. For me overall this was very encouraging to know and see.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Serenity Village Community Church 09-12-2017

Day One from the SVCC Healing Haiti Team!

September 11th, 2017

The first team consisting of myself (Garrett), Angela, Diana, Raven and Kiley showed up to church at 12:30pm to gather up donation luggage and pack the passenger van for our trip to the airport.  Pastor Jed came by to help us out and to pray over us for the upcoming journey.  Steve was willing to be of service and drove us to the airport.  We arrived at the airport safely and Steve provided much laughter on the way there.  Thank you Steve!

When we arrived in the American Airline terminal, we sort of expected some challenges and as we were doing the self check-in, our reservations were not working so we were instructed to go to the ticket counter.  God is always faithful and the young woman who happened to book our group flights happened to be at the counter.  At first there seemed like there were going to be some problems getting us all on the flight and Kiley said a prayer and immediately after the attendants told us we were good to go. Praise God!  Getting through security and onto our flight went really smooth and we were on our way to LaGuardia Airport.

Our flight arrived at LaGuardia around 8pm.  After we arrived in New York we needed to get the five of us with ten suitcases to JFK airport.  We found a van service that was able to bring us to JFK.  Upon arriving at JFK, we found that we weren't able to check our bags and needed to find an alternative way to store our bags since our flight didn't leave until 7:10am the next morning.  We found a service that would store our bags until our check-in time (3am) and from there the five of us were headed to downtown NYC!  We found a pretty cool taxi driver that would take the five of us (taxis in NYC can only transport four people at a time).  We took about a forty minute journey to Central Park.  We were all pretty excited to get out of the taxi since we were all squeezed in pretty tight.  Central Park was a pretty cool experience that late at night.  I remember thinking how incredibly quiet it is in the park with the busyness of NYC right next door.  It was pretty cool to walk through and just enjoy the beautiful landscapes.

After Central Park, we headed over the Times Square.  Kiley felt pretty excited when he found a cool NYC app that helped us around the city with ease.  Kiley had us posing for pictures every fifteen minutes or so and we didn't really mind because we were all having a blast.  We made it to Times Square and just did some sight seeing before walking around the rest of the city and just enjoying the atmosphere.  Around 2am we called an Uber to get back to the airport and started checking in for our flight around 3am.  We finally boarded our plane around 7am and got some of the first sleep any of us had in 24 hours.

We arrived in Haiti at 11am and got through customs pretty quickly and was greeted by our tap tap driver.  The country is absolutely gorgeous and we were all happy that we finally made it here.  We got settled into the compound and ended up going to the resort nearby and swimming at the pool.  We came home and had dinner (homemade tacos!) before going to bed at about 8pm.  The theme on everyone's heart the first day here was endurance.  Everyone operated like a champion through the first 36 hours with very little or no sleep and God showed us how to operate within his strength instead of our own. Everyone is in good spirits and excited to jump in and start loving on the people here!

Blessings from day one! =)

Friday, August 25, 2017

WI/MN Team - Croatian Relief Services

Greg Wagner here. 

I wanted to express some of my thoughts about our time at the Croatian orphanage, which we visited on Wednesday.  First of all the kids were great.  They lived in a well kept compound and seemed to be well cared for. 

The kids sang some songs for us and we did a skit about Jonah and the Whale.  Coincidentally our translater for the day was Jonas…  the skit was great (thank you Dawn for writing the script) and was well received.  Then the ladies did nail painting and other things while some of us played basketball and volleyball (with a soccer ball, the net was a row of chairs). 

I could not help noticing that the basketball backboard was broken and only about 20% of the board was intact.  Being from Kentucky, this of course was bothering me.  Everyone deserves to have a functioning backboard!!!  It actually took me back to when I was in the 5th grade (about the age of some of the kids).  I didn’t have a Hoop and I desperately wanted to make the 6th grade team.  My dad, seeing my delimma, looked around at what he had available (he worked for the electric company).  He took the wheel from a round wire reel and attached it to an electric pole and planted it in the middle of our back yard.  That was in 1970.  It became my hoop.  I played and played and wore out the grass down to the dirt.  I also made the 6th grade team!  OK, moving on, what does this have to do with Haiti.

So, because I have some expereience in Latin American cultures, I knew that nobody would mind if I helped out a bit.  Guided by, I believe some inspiration, I looked around the sheds on the grounds and low and behold, there were a few boards.  One of them, a piece of plywood, was cut to exactly the shape and size that would work as a backboard. Awesome!

Feeling some hope, I looked around and found some more boards that would work as supports.  Then the little handy man for the compound noticed that I was doing something.  Once I sort of explained it to him (bit of a language barrier, but hoops is hoops) and laid out the boards, the light bulb came on and he right away went and found some very rusty nails and a hammer.

Now that I had buy in from one of the locals, we were off to the races.  Then Dale and Brian from our team pitched in and joined the effort.  Our translators Max and Jonas dived in and pretty much took over.  Best of all were all the kids, mostly boys, who gathered around, watching and learning, wanting to participate in the project.  It was especially fulfilling that they could see men, especially Hatian men working, accomplishing something, completing a project, and especially doing something that would benefit them as hoops players!! 

It was a great blessing to all of us to see the Hatian guys take over and finish the project.  For me it was a blessing to be used by the Lord.  In an unexpected way, to make a difference…  For the boys, they learned to take what you have at your disposal (just like my Dad taught me), make something of it that makes life a little better for someone else…

Afterwards, everyone played and enjoyed the new Hoop/Backboard.  Thank you Dad!  For showing me.  Thank you God for providing the materials and working through us to make things a little better.  But thank you God especially for providing a teaching moment.  So beautiful to see the Haitians take over and finish what you started!