Friday, January 12, 2018

Easter Lutheran Church Day 4 - STRENGTH

I write blogs every week for work; however sitting down to write this blog is a little more difficult…

We are on Day 4 of our Haiti trip and I’ve experienced so many more emotions than I ever could have expected. Each day has been a completely different journey filled with scenes, smiles and stories that are impossible to describe. I’m thankful for each night when we have time to reflect as a group. During this time Pastor Kris asks us each to come up with a “word of the day” that can describe the day. Tonight my word is “strength.”

Today’s agenda included: City Soleil for two water truck stops, St. Joseph’s Home for Boys (memorial visit), and Home for Sick and Dying Babies.

Water Truck: City Soleil
At the first water truck stop I decided to get a different perspective from our stops on Tuesday. I helped hold the water hose. This lent the opportunity to be at the front of where the buckets were lined up and constantly budged forward to fill before the water supply ran dry. A teammate, Tracy, kept an eye on me and must have noticed I was a bit overwhelmed (and feeling like I should have done those extra push-ups before this trip!) and offered to take the hose. Before the hose lifted off my shoulders on to Tracy’s, a woman pushed a baby into my arms. I looked into the baby’s eyes and she started waving and laughing! I learned her name was Mary. A moment later, I felt a hand tightly grip my arm and nudge me to a full water pail. I grabbed the pail (with Mary still in arm) and start following a boy as he led me down a path to his home. As I knew from water truck day 1, the full buckets were not light! I began to set down the bucket before reaching the destination, but a woman walked past and caught my eye – she looked about my age. She was carrying TWO babies AND carrying a full bucket on her head.  Earlier this week Pastor Kris told us to look out for God – and there He was. His strength was clearly in this woman who persisted home and I instantly felt new energy. I picked up the bucket and walked beside her (well, a few paces behind her) until I was near the boy’s doorstep.

The second water truck stop was bittersweet, as it was the last of our trip. I spent time talking with a boy who spoke a “small amount of America.” He was holding a deflated soccer ball, so we talked about our favorite soccer positions and players. All week I’ve enjoyed finding simple commonalities with these beautiful people. I looked around, soaked up the scene of our group laughing, singing, and spreading love to so many people.

St. Joseph’s Home for the Boys.
This was a beautiful place in Port-Au-Prince with plenty of luscious trees and a newly built guesthouse (rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake.) Here we were welcomed in and shown Ben Larson’s dedicated memorial. Ben’s story touched me. Ben Larson went to Luther College and went to Wartburg Seminary. Ben, his cousin and his wife were doing service in Haiti when the earthquake hit. Ben was graciously heard singing a hymn as he was buried in the rubble. Tragically, he didn’t make it, but St. Joseph’s dedicated a guesthouse room in his memory. We visited the room, sang Amazing Grace and remembered Ben and the many others lost in the disaster.

We climbed up at least six floors and were awe-struck when we saw the breathtaking view of Haiti – filled with stacked homes and rolling mountains.

Home for Sick and Dying Babies
The last stop of the day was quick, but memorable to say the least. This home was for babies, infants and young children to go when their health is deteriorated. We fed the children and held them close for as long as we could. Our group agreed – the hardest part of this stop was to leave!

4:53 p.m.
Back at the Healing Haiti guesthouse, our group observed silence in memory for those lost in the earthquake, which hit at 4:53, January 12 2010. For this minute it seemed as though car horns, voices, and music typically heard in the distance was completely muted. It was incredible and heartbreaking at the same time.

I’m thankful for the strength God gave me to say “yes” to this trip and I can’t wait  to “come and see” God’s love in Haiti during our remaining days here.

- Jenna Mushro





Thursday, January 11, 2018

Easter Lutheran Church Day 3 - COLOR

Haiti, not unlike other countries, is a study in contrast.  Today we experienced the country, city, community and culture in all its spender and distress.  A mission trip is not a vacation; our goals and purposes are more deliberate, more focused in support of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our words, deeds and actions.  These actions require travel; in Haiti as our first two days of blogs attest our transportation to and from our destinations are in a “flat bed truck with a cage” or more commonly called a tap tap.  The open air tap tap allows us to use our senses to touch, hear, smell and see the country we are working in.

Day 3 of our mission trip, more than any experience so far, reflected how “color” is a manifestation of the Haitian culture.  We visited three distinctly and different places:  Sweet Home:  a seven year old orphanage built after the earthquake (seven years ago); Papillion and the Apparent Project:  a highly successful jobs centric nonprofit business with its own restaurant and retail store; and finally an orphanage named La Phare: small and seemingly isolated located near some of the poorest neighborhoods in Port –au – Prince.    

Traveling in our tap tap we drive on and through busy streets, and highly active markets, intersecting with pedestrians, cars, trucks, motorcycles in all their sense of purpose; mostly what appears to be to get to another destination as fast as possible.  Horns are a constant.  One needs to be a highly confident driver to successfully navigate the streets and alleys; they are narrow, often times with litter or construction debris in the way; busier than a Minnesota interstate with no traffic control (emphasis).  Yet, in three days of riding, we have yet to witness one incident, even so remotely minor as a “fender bender”.  In route, the colors you see are a complex mix of gray, brown, black, white and faded shades of green, red and blue.  Signs need a fresh coat of paint, and dust, dirt and rock are commonplace. 

But how that changes when we reach our destination. 

Sweet Home is an orphanage serving abandoned children and orphans ages newborn to 18.  The buildings and facility are bright, and colorful.  Pulling into the gates we are overwhelmed with reds, greens and yellows. Fresh paint with children smiling, laughing, and yes crying, rings the school yard.  The joy in the children’s eyes and smiles when they see us is worth the small sacrifice we make to participate in this mission trip.  Language barriers often deflect honest conversation (mostly), but a smile is a smile, a laugh is a
laugh and a hug is a hug and we give and receive generously.    

 Papillion is a special place; without pretention, built in a neighborhood that looks like others, but inside is nothing remotely close.  A bustling retail store selling all colors of pottery, jewelry, clothing and ornaments, each made on site with real people and real jobs.  According to our tour guide, proceeds support up to 300 Haitians.  It’s amazing, and our lunch of smoothies and pizza were a delight and unexpected.  And, to what will be no surprise to my wife, I bought a coffee mug, yes, another one to add to my collection.   

Our final stop for today was a small orphanage named La Phare.  La Phare is located adjacent to a small city street with a hard gate that opens and closes our entry.  Kids with clothing of all colors come running out of school (permission granted by the teacher, no doubt), and we play soccer, catch, jump rope, and color.  Our markers represent the spectrum of colors and the kids drawings are amazing. 


Tomorrow we have water truck day in the morning followed by a visit to Home for Sick and Dying Babies in the afternoon. Thank you for your prayers.

Written by Dave Unmacht

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Easter Lutheran Day 2 - JOY!

Our team from Easter Lutheran Church started out our day at “In His Glory” Orphanage to visit with children and bring some JOY to them and their caregivers. This is a new orphanage partnership with Healing Haiti, with only one other group having visited before us, so it was exciting that it was new to even our team leaders. When we arrived, it was a pretty quiet environment…two classrooms were filled with pre-k and kindergarten aged students having instruction time, another room with toddlers bubbling about, and finally an infant room bustling with nannies feeding and changing them. The toddlers were most distracted by their new visitors when we peeked our head into their doorway and they instantly started shrieking with JOY and bouncing with excitement. We were led to the outdoor courtyard where we saw the second building of the school with older kids in class. A few of them popped their heads over the balcony of their classroom to sneak a look at us before getting back to learning.  A few minutes later, the toddlers came bounding out to see us. We opened up the tote we brought along with puzzles, white boards, bubbles, jump ropes & coloring books.  The toddlers quickly picked their favorite activities and we got down to important business…PLAYTIME! Bubbles floated in the air, balls were flying, and the jump rope was skipping. We played, enjoyed songs, and snuggled the kids that were feeling a bit shy. Soon, the school kids joined us and they enjoyed drawing on the white boards & showing off their smarts by counting and singing the ABC’s in English. After a while of playing & bonding with the kids, it was time to say a difficult goodbye to our new friends and head to our next stop.

Next, we visited the Metal Market where Haitian artisans make metals signs and décor. It was a typical market place with all of the vendors eager to show off their wares and bargaining over prices. As a group, we found a favorite shop that specialized in spreading JOY.  Many of us found unique items that we are taking back to Minnesota, in addition, they gave each one of us a “baby” JOY sign. It will be a great reminder of this day when we return to our families and friends.

Our last stop of the day was to the Manefort School and Orphanage for the Deaf. We first took a tour from one of the sisters that runs the school and saw all of the new dormitories that are being erected. Brand new buildings!!! This was rare for us to see in Haiti. We caught the kids just as school was finishing up and buses were arriving, but we were able to take a look in a classroom and meet with a teacher. There was a lot of learning – all in French – going on at this school.

School was out for the day, so again, it was time to…PLAY! Honestly, we were a bit worried about how we would communicate since none of us are fluent in sign language. However, we went in with open hearts; ready to share JOY. We were able to spend time playing with the students that live at the school campus. A few highlights included Annika getting to use her French skills to communicate with a girl in writing & Dave rounded up a group of boys for a raucous game of basketball. Our worries about communicating quickly eased away.

There was a lot of hope today as we saw kids that were just able to be, well, kids. God is working in their lives through their attentive caregivers, bright teachers and loving nannies, and it gave us hope too.

Written by Tracy Corcoran

Easter Lutheran Day 2 - JOY!

Our team from Easter Lutheran Church started out our day at “In His Glory” Orphanage to visit with children and bring some JOY to them and their caregivers. This is a new orphanage partnership with Healing Haiti, with only one other group having visited before us, so it was exciting that it was new to even our team leaders. When we arrived, it was a pretty quiet environment…two classrooms were filled with pre-k and kindergarten aged students having instruction time, another room with toddlers bubbling about, and finally an infant room bustling with nannies feeding and changing them. The toddlers were most distracted by their new visitors when we peeked our head into their doorway and they instantly started shrieking with JOY and bouncing with excitement. We were led to the outdoor courtyard where we saw the second building of the school with older kids in class. A few of them popped their heads over the balcony of their classroom to sneak a look at us before getting back to learning.  A few minutes later, the toddlers came bounding out to see us. We opened up the tote we brought along with puzzles, white boards, bubbles, jump ropes & coloring books.  The toddlers quickly picked their favorite activities and we got down to important business…PLAYTIME! Bubbles floated in the air, balls were flying, and the jump rope was skipping. We played, enjoyed songs, and snuggled the kids that were feeling a bit shy. Soon, the school kids joined us and they enjoyed drawing on the white boards & showing off their smarts by counting and singing the ABC’s in English. After a while of playing & bonding with the kids, it was time to say a difficult goodbye to our new friends and head to our next stop.

Next, we visited the Metal Market where Haitian artisans make metals signs and décor. It was a typical market place with all of the vendors eager to show off their wares and bargaining over prices. As a group, we found a favorite shop that specialized in spreading JOY.  Many of us found unique items that we are taking back to Minnesota, in addition, they gave each one of us a “baby” JOY sign. It will be a great reminder of this day when we return to our families and friends.

Our last stop of the day was to the Manefort School and Orphanage for the Deaf. We first took a tour from one of the sisters that runs the school and saw all of the new dormitories that are being erected. Brand new buildings!!! This was rare for us to see in Haiti. We caught the kids just as school was finishing up and buses were arriving, but we were able to take a look in a classroom and meet with a teacher. There was a lot of learning – all in French – going on at this school.

School was out for the day, so again, it was time to…PLAY! Honestly, we were a bit worried about how we would communicate since none of us are fluent in sign language. However, we went in with open hearts; ready to share JOY. We were able to spend time playing with the students that live at the school campus. A few highlights included Annika getting to use her French skills to communicate with a girl in writing & Dave rounded up a group of boys for a raucous game of basketball. Our worries about communicating quickly eased away.

There was a lot of hope today as we saw kids that were just able to be, well, kids. God is working in their lives through their attentive caregivers, bright teachers and loving nannies, and it gave us hope too.

Written by Tracy Corcoran

Easter Lutheran Day 2 - JOY!

Our team from Easter Lutheran Church started out our day at “In His Glory” Orphanage to visit with children and bring some JOY to them and their caregivers. This is a new orphanage partnership with Healing Haiti, with only one other group having visited before us, so it was exciting that it was new to even our team leaders. When we arrived, it was a pretty quiet environment…two classrooms were filled with pre-k and kindergarten aged students having instruction time, another room with toddlers bubbling about, and finally an infant room bustling with nannies feeding and changing them. The toddlers were most distracted by their new visitors when we peeked our head into their doorway and they instantly started shrieking with JOY and bouncing with excitement. We were led to the outdoor courtyard where we saw the second building of the school with older kids in class. A few of them popped their heads over the balcony of their classroom to sneak a look at us before getting back to learning.  A few minutes later, the toddlers came bounding out to see us. We opened up the tote we brought along with puzzles, white boards, bubbles, jump ropes & coloring books.  The toddlers quickly picked their favorite activities and we got down to important business…PLAYTIME! Bubbles floated in the air, balls were flying, and the jump rope was skipping. We played, enjoyed songs, and snuggled the kids that were feeling a bit shy. Soon, the school kids joined us and they enjoyed drawing on the white boards & showing off their smarts by counting and singing the ABC’s in English. After a while of playing & bonding with the kids, it was time to say a difficult goodbye to our new friends and head to our next stop.

Next, we visited the Metal Market where Haitian artisans make metals signs and décor. It was a typical market place with all of the vendors eager to show off their wares and bargaining over prices. As a group, we found a favorite shop that specialized in spreading JOY.  Many of us found unique items that we are taking back to Minnesota, in addition, they gave each one of us a “baby” JOY sign. It will be a great reminder of this day when we return to our families and friends.

Our last stop of the day was to the Manefort School and Orphanage for the Deaf. We first took a tour from one of the sisters that runs the school and saw all of the new dormitories that are being erected. Brand new buildings!!! This was rare for us to see in Haiti. We caught the kids just as school was finishing up and buses were arriving, but we were able to take a look in a classroom and meet with a teacher. There was a lot of learning – all in French – going on at this school.

School was out for the day, so again, it was time to…PLAY! Honestly, we were a bit worried about how we would communicate since none of us are fluent in sign language. However, we went in with open hearts; ready to share JOY. We were able to spend time playing with the students that live at the school campus. A few highlights included Annika getting to use her French skills to communicate with a girl in writing & Dave rounded up a group of boys for a raucous game of basketball. Our worries about communicating quickly eased away.

There was a lot of hope today as we saw kids that were just able to be, well, kids. God is working in their lives through their attentive caregivers, bright teachers and loving nannies, and it gave us hope too.

Written by Tracy Corcoran