This was a day that the Lord made.
Our first outreach of the day was to a home for 25 elderly women in Port Au Prince. This is a wonderful, unique, special place where women who have no family to care for them are tended to by a group of Catholic Sisters.
In Haiti, when people reach a certain point in their lives where they are no longer able to provide for their family, they often excuse themselves and disappear so as not to burden their family. What happens to them I can not say, but it is rarely the outcome we experienced today.
We traveled through the extremely crowded center of the city and up the mountain to where our transport had to stop because the road was blocked by a dump truck. We carried our equipment the rest of the way up the dirt road, knocked on the iron gate and were greeted by the nicest nun you've ever met.
The ladies were seated and anxiously ready for us and seated in rows of chairs on a covered veranda that sometimes serves as the garage for the sister's suv or motorcycles.
Our wonderful team immediately dove in with bottles of lotion and massaged the hands and feet of all the ladies. Then we broke out the fingernail polish and did up their nails and pampered them as best we could in the short time we had.
To say that this was not awkward would be a lie. It was probably as 'different' for them as it was for us, but it didn't take time for everyone to settle into their roles, myself and the other boys included, as nail artists.
As we wrapped up the manis and pedis, I got out a guitar and started playing Amazing Grace very quietly. One of the non-verbal women, who had refused the manicure, immediately lit up and started dancing in her seat and humming along. We broke into song and the entire room erupted with music.
It was a magical time. For the next hour, we sang song after song with, for, and to, a group of people who were genuinely, abundantly appreciative of our special day with them.
Following the songs, we treated them to a feast of meat and cheese sandwiches, chips, applesauce and Tampica (juice.) What they didn't eat, they hoarded for later.
All of us will remember this day.
We spent the next couple hours at the Haitian National History Museum so that we could all gain a little knowledge about how this country came to be. In a nutshell, for those who don't know, the island was originally colonized by people from Brazil and Venezuela hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Christopher Columbus and his crew landed here and began the process of enslaving the original inhabitants. Eventually the aboriginal settlers were eradicated and slaves from Africa were brought in to work on plantations. The French challenged the Spaniards, the island was divided in two and Spain kept the Dominican Republic and France kept Haiti.
In 1804 the slaves overthrew the French (led by 40,000 of Napoleon's soldiers) and won their independence. They have been working hard to survive as best they can on this island ever since.
We rounded out the rest of the day at an orphanage where we again sang songs, played games, and did crafts with a fantastic group of children. I am always amazed by how universal our songs are and how many of the people of Haiti sing along with us.
It was a great day.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Wow, water truck day #1 was crazy! We woke up in the morning, and some of the team helped the ladies cook our breakfast. We had pancakes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and fresh fruit from the Healing Haiti farm. We all wore our water shoes and green shirts as we prepared to be very wet. We prayed for safe travels and for God to bless the Haitians as we set off for the day.
After a harrowing ride on the Tap-Tap, we made it to our first water stop in Cité Soleil (sit-ee so-lay). It is considered by many to be the worst and poorest community in the western hemisphere, if not the world. As we got off the Tap-Tap, there were children waiting to meet us on the steps. They were saying “po tem, po tem” which means “pick me,” or “pick me up.” Most of them only had a shirt on, or just shorts. Many were naked, but you picked them up anyway. That’s what we’re here for. Kids even nine to ten years old were asking to be held. They would grasp your hair and jump on you, but mostly they just wanted love and attention. They would hug you and look into your eyes, searching for some care. Kids and adults alike were lined up in the middle of the street with anything from a little pitcher to a huge tub. 5-gallon pails were the most common. We worked the big hose from the truck, helped keep the water containers in line and moving fast, helped carry them home or just lifted them onto heads. All the while the kids were jumping and laughing. Some of the older boys and girls (read: teenagers) asked us to help them practice their English! Forty to forty-five way too short minutes later, the truck would be empty and we would have to leave quickly, as the water is our protection from the horrors of the city. As the Tap-Tap pulled away, the kids would run after the truck, with smiles on their faces.
While waiting for the truck to fill up again, we visited Hope Church and School. Because it was summer there were fewer kids, and they weren’t in uniform. The kids are from Cité Soleil, and they were sponsored by someone in the US. We helped pass out lunch and took a tour of the facility. They are currently even building a medical clinic. We said our goodbyes and we loaded up for stop #2.
As before, the truck sounded the horn and we all scrambled out of the truck, making our way through the mass of children and picking a few up on the way. I played hand games with a few of the kids and even formed a dancing circles. There were a few less people at this stop so everyone who came got water. Because we had extra, people got to come through again and the kids were splashing each other and us! Later, following a weird mix of water fun and exhausting work, we piled back in the truck to head to our next waiting spot.
After loading up on Propel and snacks, we headed out to the Fleri Farm, owned by Healing Haiti. Here they employ Haitians to grow coconuts, bananas, mangos, avocados, limes, and much more. They supply the guest house, and Grace and Hope churches. Nothing is wasted. As we were walking our guide cut us some fresh sugar cane for us to enjoy. We took lots of pictures and hung out with the dogs before heading out to the last stop of the day.
We started stop #3 already exhausted, but that quickly gave way to frantic energy once again. Because of the riots, the water truck hadn’t run for two weeks. It went again last week, but there was still desperation in the people. The Haitians had been pushy before, but now they were almost violent. More than a few times we, and especially the truck drivers had to shove people and buckets out of the way when they were cutting in line. A few people almost came to blows when fights over buckets and line places broke out. The kids in their tattered shirts were positively hungry for any scrap of water or attention they could get. Laura, one of our leaders said that that was one of the worst stops she had been to, as far as how poor the people were. We didn’t get to fill all of the buckets that were in line, but those that got water were so grateful. One seven-ish year old girl even looked at me and said, in English, “Thank you Jesus.”
There were so many stories from the day I couldn’t hope to record them all. We were so tired after we got back. We ate a supper of “ramen chicken surprise,” went to the pool for a little bit and headed for bed after meeting with the group. Everyone was thankful that we could help these people, and share Jesus with them. “Jezi remen ou- Jesus loves you!”
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
The morning started out with a breakfast filled with scrambled eggs, oatmeal, toast, and Haitian peanut butter - which apparently has chili peppers in it to some people’s surprise. After breakfast, the team loaded up in the tap-tap to head for Dios, which is a home for special needs children. We had originally thought it was an orphanage but it is more of a home and school. Some of the kids were home with their families for the summer as school is not in session right now. We all had fun playing with bubbles, coloring, drawing with chalk, and just being with the kids. Maurice stole many of our hearts when he held our camera hostage and looked through the lens, often times not taking a picture. A simple thing like looking through the camera screen made his day. Some of the children also played the guitars with Dave and Marty with grins from ear to ear. I think it’s safe to say we all enjoyed spending time and playing with the children!
After we said goodbye to the children at Dios, we headed to Papillon. Papillon was established by a women who came from the US to adopt a Haitian child. When she got down here, she realized the orphanage wanted a way to support the child, rather than have her adopt the child. So she established Papillon, which is an enterprise that makes jewelry, ornaments, pottery, and many more things out of recycled materials. We shopped around in the store for a while and then headed upstairs to the patio for some refreshments before our tour. Our tour consisted of walking across the street to the production side of Papillon. We watched clay and paper beads be made, as well as necklaces be put together with the clay beads. Our tour guide said Papillon started with four employees and now has over two hundred. They also have a daycare and preschool center so that the mothers have some place to send their children while they work. They are able to go over and spend time with them and nurse during their work day as well. This enterprise keeps families together and also helps support the Haitian economy which is beyond awesome!
After a little bit of R&R at the guesthouse, we headed to Mother Teresa’s Home for Sick and Dying Children. Most of the babies are there because of malnutrition. Some of them looked 2 years old and were probably 3 or 4. Words cannot describe the experience. Rooms filled with crying babies, who either wanted to be held or fed, or both. We were there during feeding time so we all picked up a bowl and helped start feeding babies! I was stuck with the slowest eaters both time, the first one being too excited and crazy to eat with all the attention, and the second one just not wanting to eat. After all the babies were fed, it was time for cuddling time! It was hard to put the babies down to go pick up another baby, because the first baby would start crying immediately which broke my heart. It’s safe to say that while our hearts were breaking, they were also so filled. Filled by the passionate workers who do this selfless work day in and out, always with a smile for the babies. Filled by the babies who would snuggle in immediately after you picked them up, just looking for a little love. And filled by our teammates, who jumped in and helped wherever they could.
Last night, we headed up to the hotel pool to cool off and relax for a little bit. It was very refreshing to relax for a little bit. We tried fried plantains for the first time which were delicious! We then came back to the guest house and had a team meeting, talking through the day and the different emotions we had. We also each shared our word for the day, describing different emotions we had felt. We then started singing songs (as we are the music team), and were joined by a few members from other teams. They were tired from their own days, so they didn’t stay very long. We then hunkered down for the night, resting up for our big day today - water truck day! I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m very excited for it!
We thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers as we continue to serve in Haiti. We really do appreciate them!
Sunday, July 29, 2018
Saturday, July 28, 2018
So I actually have to start out by raving about the bakery treats that we had last night from the Fleri bakery – they were delicious! Today, our day began with a small change in plans and we headed up to Grace Village to spend some time with the kiddos. In total, there are 60(ish) kids living there, and they got a bit excited when the soccer ball came out 😊 Rob was a hit with the balloon animals, the kids also painted and created fun shapes with pipe cleaners and paper. Ronaldo showed off his juggling skills which no one could compete with.
Then we piled in the tap-tap with the Bjorkland family and headed to Wahoo Bay. And now I know why it’s called Wahoo – they have an awesome water-trampoline and splashpad out in the bay and you can’t help but let out a “wahoo” when you jump into the crystal-clear water! Some of us took a rowboat out to snorkel, some of us hung out at the pool and beach and we all enjoyed some downtime in the sun. We made a friend named Jean, he sells seashells by the seashore (true story!) and supports his wife and two small children while he is studying to be an electrician. He is already able to work as an electrician, but he wants to earn the certificate so that he can get a more regular job. After hearing his story, I couldn’t not buy a shell from him.
The sun started to fade away and some thunder rolled in right when we were ready to leave, so we hopped back on the tap-tap and stopped for pizza at Fleri – yum! We had a surprise, Ronaldo the soccer star was our server! He is part of a transition program at Grace, which means he is learning life skills by working part time. We said our goodbyes to the Bjorklund’s and headed for the Guesthouse, with more bakery goodies for later!
We realized that today was our last day of serving, which means that our trip is nearing the end. My time here has brought my heart closer to the people of Haiti and reminds me to make the most of every moment, no matter what the situation. There are times that I see such an overwhelming need and it’s unbearable. I want to snap my fingers and “fix it”. But I have to stop and remember each smile and laugh that I witnessed, every drop of water that got to someone’s home and I know that each of these little moments mattered and I cherish them.
Friday, July 27, 2018
Tent Church AKA Church on the Rock
Today we started our day at Tent Church. It was a beautiful time watching many people with hands raised in the air singing and praising the name of Jesus. Even though many of us can’t understand the language, seeing people reach out to heaven and singing His praises is a universal sign for every language.
Next, we visited the Mass Graves. After the devastating earthquake January 12, 2010 (7.5 on the Richter Scale), there were so many people that died, there was not enough cemetery space or time to bury all the dead. So the government identified a location that was uninhabited and had the bodies brought to the mass grave site. Almost everyone in Haiti was impacted by the earthquake losing a family member or someone they knew. Besides those that died, many people were severely injured. Many didn’t know what to do when the earthquake hit since they had never experienced one before. It was a somber visit and we prayed for the souls of the lost and the families still grieving from their loss.
Next, we visited Grace Village Orphanage, which emphasizes the importance of an environment in which children can live in a family environment (in family style housing), thrive, go to school, as well as sustain themselves with a bakery and hydroponic garden. They teach students from Kindergarten (3 grades of kindergarten) to grade 13. It was so wonderful to see the kids smiling and laughing in an environment that will help them grow into successful adults.
Elder Visits, Titanyen, Haiti
We finished the day with elder visits. We went around the village visiting elders, delivering food and supplies to them as well as washing their feet and finishing with prayer requests. We met Saintane, a 55-year-old woman with 8 children and 29 grandchildren, as well as Charite, a 66 year old woman who has 4 children and 1 granddaughter. Flerisaine was gone to the market during our visit, but we had the opportunity to meet Marie as well, a 70 year old woman who cares for 2 of her grandchildren. It’s so beautiful to be able to show God’s love to these elder women by washing their feet, painting their nails, and singing to them.
We continue to be open to God, allowing Him to use us as His hands and feet to show love and compassion to the people of Haiti.
- Rachel and Doug