Thursday, March 29, 2018

Holy Family Catholic High School- Joy and Pain

Today started out with our typical breakfast and eager hands to help!  There is a weird sore throat, sinus type thing going on in the group.  I do not have enough cough drops to keep everyone supplied.  So I took the mints I brought along and put them in the cough drop bag, I know a few students fell for it.  We have one down that is not feeling well, no worries, she has started her meds and hopefully will be ready to go by this evening.  I don't want to point out the sick one (but she called home, so no worries if you haven't heard anything from your kid).  Speaking of contacting home, I have not heard any complaints or whining about not having a cell phone.  In amazing ways, I think it is truly freeing for them to just be present to each other and to their experience.  I keep checking my phone to see if anyone has tried to contact us, to get a few messages home (and see my babies), and to contact our H aitian friends and in so many ways, I wish that we didn't have this luxury.

Our first visit today was at Home Sweet Home Orphanage.  They were opened after the earthquake in 2010 by a pastor to take care of some kids that lost their parents.  The goal was not to open an orphanage, just to take care of the kids needing to be taken care of.  Soon, he was compelled to open an official orphanage.  It is beautiful.  There are about 30-35 kids in the orphanage (and they are building a structure to hold 50 more).  Honestly, it was the cleanest orphanage I have seen in Port-Au-Prince plus each of the sleeping areas has air conditioning!  -to check out the orphanage where we visited, go to We all were brought to a gazebo to wait for the kids to be brought out.  When they did, we just played with them!  Emily L. picked up a little cutie that simply fell asleep in her arms.  She held her the entire time.

This is Emily Lentz. The second we got to the No Place Like Home Orphanage, we were immediately asked to remove our shoes and walk up to the gazebo. At first all of us were just hanging out playing O-Bo-Shin-Otten-Totten together, but then we were greeted by four adorable little kids. There was this one little girl in a denim dress with a small minnie mouse embroidered on the front. She was very quiet and I couldn't really get her to smile or anything which I was a little disheartened by, but then I quickly figured out that she was exhausted. I was holding her for a while and we watched the rest of the group play with balls and jump rope and she seemed completely mesmerized by all of the games and people. After about 10 minutes of sitting down facing away from me, she turned around and completely melted into my chest. Only a few minutes passed by and she was completely asleep. Her entire body went limp in my arms and the feeling of her breathing on my chest was so special. She had the longest eyelash that covered the biggest brown eyes, and even though I was never able to see her smile, she still made my heart completely melt. We were all asked to get up to get a tour of the orphanage, and I did not know what to do because at first they said we couldn't bring the kids with us. However, we asked and the kids were all able to hold our hands and follow along with us on the tour. The little girl was so hot and we were both completely drenched in sweat, but there was no way I was about to let her go. No matter what position I moved her around to when I was holding her, she remained so peaceful and asleep. I know that the kids at the orphanage probably don't get the opportunity to fall asleep in people's arms that often, so it was so special to me to be able to be comfortable enough to her that she was able to fall asleep in my arms. Letting go of her was extremely difficult, and she woke up when I had to pass her back to one of the women working at the orphanage. Luckily she did not cry, and the best part was as I was leaving I finally got the smile from her that I had been waiting for all morning. This orphanage was the nicest one we have visited so far, and all of the kids were so cute and eager to play with all of us. They had a playground, and a place outside where the elementary kids went to school. They had a pink building as well that the kids prayed in before bed, and where the preschool kids were taught. All of the women who work there seemed to have the trust of all of the kids, and it was cool to see the different interaction between the kids at the orphanage. The fact that they are building something new to house 50 more kids is such a blessing. Everyone was right in their element with these kids at the orphanage, and we all wish we would've had more time with all the beautiful kids. All of the kids were so loved by the women working there, and it made me feel better that I knew I was leaving the little girl I spent over an hour holding in good hands.

Lentz Family-- I just wanted to say hi to my family back home. Tommy hopefully made (is making) it home safely from Creighton for Easter. Have a great Easter with Granny and Aunt Sara, I am sad that I have to miss it this year. Give Daisy lots of love for me, and I have a gift that summarizes how obsessed we are with her when we get home. Love you lots!!

After our stop at Home Sweet Home we went back into City Soleil, this time to go to stop 17 (where Hope Church/school is).  Our goal was just to go and play.  There was a little different vibe there today and there were definitely more naked babies.  Every time I come into City Soleil and I see the children, especially the little babies, I think about what a contrast that is to our experiences in the U.S.  I can't imagine letting Cassie out of the house to go play without joining her, watching her, and trying to protect her as much as possible.  In the past few years, probably because I am a parent, I have harsher judgements of this reality and I find myself getting so angry.  I am not even sure who I am angry with, maybe it is a host of people/situations/realities.  Then I take a few breaths and remind myself I am not here to judge or to get angry or even to fix- I am simply here to love, as difficult as that is for me. Maybe one of the hardest parts of the day was when we were leaving.  Ronnie had a baby, not quite old enough to walk or maybe just old enough to walk.  And when she put the baby down an older person, maybe a parent, hit the baby in the face.  Punishing kids with beatings is not uncommon in City Soleil, as sad as that may be.

This is Elle McShane.  Thursday was an especially exciting day. We were all excited to return to Cite Soleil, where we had stopped with a water truck on Monday. Surrounded by dozens of beautiful, loving, excited and energetic children all day, who wouldn't want to go back? Immediately when the tap-tap pulled in to the same area, kids collected and followed the truck with huge smiles. We ran out and picked up all the kids we could and said hi to a few of the Haitians we remembered. The kids would hold on tight, with little arms around our necks, and would talk and sing in Creole. The language barrier didn't matter. Everyone got by with knowing only "what is your name?" in Creole, or the children would just say "hey you" in English to get our attention. Once everyone was tired and sweaty, we all sat against the church wall. Girls would do hair, the toddlers would sit in laps, and older kids would sit next to us along the wall. I spent some time with one of the girls next to me trying to learn some of the Creole names which she thought was funny. After what seemed like a short hour, we were told to pack up and set down the children. I told the little boy I had been playing with "goodbye" he gripped me harder, looked at me and said "no, no". After a short while he went back to the kids who also had to say goodbye and we waved to each other. The visit concluded with the young kids waving at us as we left and chanting "heyyou, heyyou, heyyou..." the term they had associated with the playmates in the neon green shirts. Tears welled in many of our eyes.

hi family,  happy late birthday carol :)

We ended the evening with a reflection based on the Thursday evening readings.  We will do something tomorrow as well.  I am not sure about the students, but this is a Holy Thursday that I will not soon forget.  I feel like we are seeing Scripture lived out in a way that we do not frequently live it out.  I am blessed to be a part of this group.

Holy Family Catholic High School- A Great/Tough Day

Our morning blessings started out with a great breakfast made by our house moms and Kathryn, Ava, and Cassie.  I have never enjoyed oatmeal like I do here.  We also had french toast, scrambled eggs, fruit and a juice that is incredible!

We left right after breakfast because we had a long trek to Mother Teresa's Home for the Sick and Dying.  The distance is not quite the problem, it is actually the traffic!  The students kept themselves active with songs and games and were very entertaining to our host, Valerie.  He and Smith thought we were pretty funny!  Once we got there we split boys and girls.  The boys went to the men floor and the women went to the female floor.  Some people go to Mother Teresa's because they are poor and can't get care anywhere else, some people go and will never leave because they are in the last stages of their life.  Our jobs are to go in, give massages with lotion and the girls even painted nails! Carly is going to share her experience from this morning:

Today was an incredible experience in it of itself.  After the rather long ride on the tap tap due to traffic, our driver made one final turn which revealed a gorgeous compound. Just beyond the gates laid a strikingly beautiful sight. The buildings were painted a bright blue and crisp white with vibrant purple flowers growing from the trees. There were pews and statues of Mother Teresa, and every face that I met had a compassionate persona. At first we thought it was a requirement to wear gloves while applying lotion to the patients.  Our guides informed us that was optional and it was really cool to see my fellow peers also put them down, knowing that the skin to skin contact with the people there was something special. The moment I walked in, I sat next to a woman and non verbally communicated with her what she was wanting or perhaps needing at that time. At first, she wanted her nails to be filed and painted and I immediately got to it. I wanted nothing more than to please her and make this manicure the best she'd ever had.  There was no rushing. Life can become pretty go go go at times, but during my time with her, nothing else mattered. The act of caring for her in such a simple way was something so much bigger than what it can appear. Once I finished filing each nail to the form she wanted, I painted her nails a shade of purple she picked out that reminded me of the trees there. I made sure to read her facial expressions as I filed her nails to be certain she was in no pain.

My favorite part of my time spent at Mother Teresa's Home for the Sick and Dying though, was the actual application of lotion and massaging. This was so much easier than I ever imagined. It was such a moving experience because the skin to skin connection was a language in it itself. No words were needed to show that I wanted to serve and care for her. It was such an intimate experience because she, and all of the women there that we were tending to, were in such a vulnerable position. Starting with her legs and moving on to her stomach, and eventually undressing her to moisturize her breasts and bottom as she requested, made me realize that there were no barriers that needed to be broken down. I was eager to assist her in any way that seemed fit. As Emily and I continued to be with her, she revealed a tumor on her pelvis that she also wanted moisturized, and Emily did not hesitate. We helped her onto her knees as as she made it clear she wanted for us to massage her lower back. She let out a moan of relief and I was so happy to hear her physical condition improving in some way. Sharing that connection with Emily and the woman was a very humbling experience.

Another woman that I served in the next room showed her gratitude to me through her eyes. I shared the same intimate experience with her as I applied lotion to her whole body. She was too weak to sit up for me to massage her back and motioned this to me. Without thinking, I put both my hands behind her back and gently sat her up. I unbuttoned her dress and applied lotion to her breasts as requested. When I was finished with a full body coverage, I went back to her legs and focused on her feet. The thing about this experience is that it truly proved that all bodies are beautiful. Each and every woman in those rooms had their own story and hardships they have had to endure. Callused and hardened feet may relate to a life lived without proper shoes or perhaps rough conditions to walk through. These women had lived through so much and I had so much respect for them. The group and I had nothing but the best intentions in mind. As I glanced around the room, not having taken much time off of the woman I was serving, my eyes started watering. It was just so moving to me that I had the opportunity to serve these women and speak to them in ways that did not require words. One of the sisters came by Cassie and I and thanked us for the work that we were doing which was so humbling to me because, how could this sister, who spends her time each and every day tending to these sick and dying people, be thanking me? She said that the world needed more people like us. The world needs more people like her just as much.

When we were informed that we had to leave, we stopped in a nearby room to see several little girls perform a dance to the song Hallelujah. This was such a mix of emotions for me because I was still crying from the time spent with the women, but also smiling at these little girls and their dance routine.

Overall, our time spent at Mother Theresa's home for the sick and dying was amazing. It was so nice to see the people there happy to see us. Everyone handled this experience in such a respectful manner and I am proud of these Holy Family students and the time we shared at the missionary.

Carly message home- Hi Hilgers! Haiti is going so great and I'm loving every second! Can't wait to tell it to you all when I get back! Love you all

The ride home was a little better than the ride there, but a little more subdued for obvious reasons. We had some time to rest and then we went back to Mother Teresa's Home for Sick and Dying Babies and to For His Glory orphanage.  The students switched places from the previous day.  Anna V and Shea are going to share their experiences.

This is Shea. I will be sharing my experience at Mother Teresa's Home for Sick and Dying Babies. Going in to this experience I was nervous because I didn't know how I would handle seeing these sick babies. My nerves were calmed as soon as I walked in and saw multiple babies smiling at me. We each got to feed a baby, so I went up to one who was staring at me with big eyes. After feeding her, I realized that she did not want to be picked up, so I went on to another baby who was crying. As soon as I picked her up, her tears turned into the most beautiful smile. I held her close and tried to make her smile as much as possible. When I set her down, she burst into tears again. Emily Lentz and I decided it would be best if we did a baby switch-a-roo, so I took the one she was holding. This little girl was absolutely tiny. Her arms and legs were so frail that I was scared I would hurt her if I held her too tight. Her head was heavy, so I pressed it against my chest. She stayed glued to my chest as I walked around the room with her. After awhile, Dols told me that we had to go over to the other room. I set this baby girl down, and the tears that came after that broke my heart. I will never forget the sad eyes look at me as I walked away. The next room we went into was for a little older kids. As soon as I walked in, I locked eyes with the smallest one in the room. She was crying and I was compelled to go pick her up. Just like earlier, as soon as I picked her up, the tears subsided. For some reason I felt a connection with this little nugget. I looked on her ankle bracelet and saw that her name was "Babylove." This name was so fitting because although she was so tiny, her eyes had an immense amount of love. Hearing our guide say that we had to leave brought me to tears. As I walked back over to her crib, my heart began to drop because of what would come next. As I began to set her down, the tears erupted. Walking away with tears in my eyes, I saw her hurt eyes follow me out of the door. I could hear her distinct scream even as I was outside of the room.

This experience showed me that a little love goes a long way. These babies may not get all the love they deserve, so it made me feel like I made a difference in the lives of these babies. I would go back to this place 100 times if I could.

Shea's message to home: Hi mom I know you're worried about me but I'm doing just fine. I am so thankful that you let me go on this trip. I know you're probably the only one reading this so tell the rest of the family I say hi. I miss you all so much and I can't wait to see you all on Monday! I love you guys so much!!

This is Anna. After an amazing experience at Mother Teresa's Home for the sick and dying yesterday, ten of us went to For His Glory orphanage.  When we arrived and the gates opened, we immediately saw kids.  A couple people and I went into the room with the toddlers.  As we went into the room, about fourteen 1-3 year olds came running up to us.  I looked down to see many brown eyes staring back at me.  Immediately, I picked up two little girls and just squeezed them.  It was obvious how they craved attention and touch.  They were such energetic and beautiful girls who just wanted to play.  They always wanted to be held, and if you ever needed a break and put them down, tears came to their eyes.  This broke your heart and made it impossible to ever put them down.  After playing with the toddlers for awhile, we noticed a baby sitting in a crib.  Claire picked the baby up and rocked her.  The baby never cried; however, it was very hard to maker her smile.  After ten minutes of trying to make her smile, we finally did it! Dancing with her did the trick.  A beautiful smile came upon her face and we got to see her one tooth that stuck out of her gum.

Being at the orphanage and playing with the kids was such a cool experience.  In just one hour, you felt such a connection to all the kids.  It was very hard leaving, and personally I know that I could have stayed there all day.  I wanted to give these kids all my love and energy because I knew that everyone of them deserved it all.

Anna's message home- Hey everyone! Haiti is amazing! My favorite part is meeting all the kids and giving them attention.  It is so beautiful here.  I miss you guys! Say hi to Boopey and Millie for me! Love you!

I am humbled and blessed to be on this trip with these students and with Cassie, especially during Holy Week.  I can't help but see the Gospel come alive every day in the different things that we do.  When we were at the Home for Sick and Dying Babies our first job was to feed them.  I could't help but think of the words of Jesus to Peter (in John)- "Peter, do you love me?  Feed my lambs."  We are given a unique and wonderful opportunity to say to Jesus, "yes, we love you?" by literally feeding his lambs.