Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday - Shalom Orphanage & Visa Lodge

Today our team loaded up the tap tap and made our way to Shalom orphanage near Titanyen.  It was located closer to the ocean and near the big grain bins.  We brought 20 eggs to color with the children and share with them the story of Easter.  It was so fun!  It took a little while for these very well behaved children to engage and join in, but they quickly saw what we were doing and had a lot of fun coloring the eggs and designing them with beautiful designs with crayons and dying the eggs in several colors.  After the eggs were finished, Laura narrated the story of Jesus' death and resurrection with "resurrection eggs".  The kids were so well behaved and where captivated by the story and where able to interact with Laura's questions.  After the story, each child went up to show their egg and we all celebrated the beautiful eggs they colored.  They all showed so much pride in their eggs.  We gave them apple sauce and let them eat their eggs.  We had time to play games with them, so we played a pass the rock game and the person in the middle would have to guess who had the rock.  It took a little time for them to catch on, but with a little practice they were into the game.  We then sang some songs and did the "hokey pokey song" and the "Chicken dance"... I think they had a lot of fun.  They probably thought we were "ou foo" (you're crazy in creole)... Ha!  We were there til about noon and we decided leave to go pick up the transition kids at Grace Village and bring them back to Port Au Prince to the Visa Lodge to eat pizza and go swimming.  It was so much fun seeing these kids and bringing them to the Visa Lodge was a special outing for them.  These teenagers had so much fun and our teenagers on the trip were right in there doing there best to engage with them.  It seems like the common language is "futbol"...  so some played along side of the pool, while others joined in and swam.  I think some did not know how to swim, so they stayed close to the edge of the pool.  We ate our pizza and french fries and soda.  The Grace teenagers were so much fun when we made our way back to the guest house.  We sang a few songs and it seemed to open them up more and we could really see the smiles.  These kids have seen a lot of bad things in their lives and to see them smile and be joyful brought joy to my heart.  God is truly at work in each of these kids lives and it is our hope that they will continue to seek Jesus in this "awkward" stage of their lives.  They're still trying to figure life out and sometimes it's difficult.  I pray that the choices they make will be good ones and that they will learn from their mistakes.  It was a fun day...  We all ended up at the guest house pretty exhausted from the week.  It's tough to leave b/c there is so much love.  Our team has grown together and I'm so impressed by our teenagers.  They have a willingness to be open and honest and ask really good, hard questions.  My hope is that they will continue to ask these questions and seek God for how to respond.  James   Please see photos on tomorrows blog...

Today was that kind of day

When you go on a mission trip, you expect to do, do, do.  You expect to build a house, dig a well, see some sort of tangible evidence that you have made a difference. Mother Teresa said that feeling unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty in the world. What Mother Teresa understood is that relationships, though intangible, are the real foundation -- the most significant and lasting contribution one can make. 

Today was that kind of day.

Two days ago, our team met up with some of the Haitian Initiative boys that many of us had built friendships with when the boys visited Minnesota.  That day was a highlight -- many team members were excited to reunite with these sweet boys who had stolen a piece of their hearts.  Who would've thought we could top that?

Building relationships is what makes life meaningful.  Loving others is what God expects.  If the greatest poverty is feeling unloved, then we are called to simply love each other.We need to work to overcome obstacles like culture, language and life experience.  Our day today was about love, just love. About being, not doing.  Today we journeyed to the beach with six of the boys from Haitian Initiative who had particularly close relationships with our team.  We were excited to pick up Wandsy, Jhon Moise, Bernado, Anis, Bathelmy and Reginald in Cite Soleil, and whisk them away to a beautiful beach for a special time together.  We wanted to show them -- and let them show us -- how thankful we are for one another. 

It was a picture perfect day!  Brilliant sunshine, aqua blue waters, and picturesque mountains were the backdrop to a day of playing in the water, catching up with one another through translators, and building friendships initiated in Minnesota.  It was important to make sure the boys know that they are loved and not forgotten.  What happiness!  One of the team members' word-of-the-day was 'child-like joy.'  She was remembering the enormous smiles on all of our faces, and the way the boys lit up during our time together.

We gained different perspective today. The rebuilding of Cite Soleil is a story of hope;  the people we met there are beautiful.  But today, the natural beauty of the coast of Haiti captured our hearts.

Today was filled with joy -- bonding as a team and connecting with the boys. Still, we know that these dear boys live in impossibly challenging conditions.  Our hearts were heavy as we dropped them off in Cite Soleil, and watched them walk away.  Many tears were shed at that time, and later, as we talked about the day, our relationships, our hopes for them, and the unfairness of it all.  There is no way to explain the frustration and sadness.  The poverty of Haiti has become personal for all of us.  These are our friends.  Some feel as if they are family.  These boys -- and the people of Haiti -- will always be in our hearts.  We know that we need to honor these experiences forever-- to look for ways to love the vulnerable and help however we can, in Haiti and at home.

Ak renmen ki soti Ayiti,
 Julie and Kendall 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grace Village and the Elderly

This morning we took a 45 minute trip in the "Tap Tap" up to the mountains to a city called Titanyen. Titanyen's has a 70% unemployment rate.  In Titanyen, we went on a tour of Grace Village (an orphanage) which included a hospital, medical/dental clinic, school, and family style homes. On the tour we leaned about how Healing Haiti provided money to build this one of a kind orphanage. At Grace Village, their main purpose is to try to reunite the kids with their families if possible. There are two types of children who live there, the children from the town who attend school and the orphans that live in the housing at Grace Village. All the orphans who live on the Grace grounds are provided with three meals a day.  In the family style homes there is a "Mom" and "Dad" who look after a group of orphaned children. The children are placed in homes after several hours in prayer by the leadership team. Grace Village emphasizes a family lifestyle. Their philosophy can be summed up in one simple statement, "God did not create orphanages but he created families"- (Elisa).

After the tour, we drove to the heart of Titanyen where we visited four elderly supported by Healing Haiti. We conversed as we washed and moisturized their hands and feet. In Haiti, the life expectancy is 52 years old. The elders ages ranged from 65-104. The first elder we visited was Edmond, who is completely blind, partially deaf, but still had strong faith in the Lord. When we asked what we could pray for, he said his vision to be restored. Please join us in prayer for our dear friend, Edmond. Shortly after visiting Edmond, we walked to Maricia's home who welcomed us with open arms. We met some of her grandchildren who live with her and were eager to play. One of the questions our team asked was what her nugget of wisdom for youth would be. She responded, "Always believe in Jesus. You will always be strong with Him." The third lady we visited is a lady named Merolen, she was quiet but very sweet and had a very loving smile. Our final visit was the most inspirational, she is a 104 years old but she had the spunk of a 20 year old. Her love and faith in God was overwhelming. Our day concluded with full hearts and lots of smiles.

"Not flesh of my flesh nor none of my bone, yet still miraculously my own... Never forget for a single minute, you didn't grow under my heart, but in it!"

Glwa Pou Bondye
(God Bless You)

By Sierra and Josh

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Water and Soccer and Kids... Oh My!

Today was water truck day. We visited 3 different stops in the slums of Cite Soleil, filling up the water tank between each. There were many kids running beside our Tap Tap everywhere we went. The minute we opened up the door, the kids would swarm us with arms wide open saying, "Hey you!" We then helped the people get water from the tank and carried it to their dwelling. We also had the amazing opportunity to play with the kids and hold them as if they were our own. The kids were all overjoyed and thrilled to be with us as we were with them. The feeling we received from holding them in our arms was something we've never experienced. Although somewhat frightening, it was blissful to feel many kids jumping onto your back.

It was interesting today being able to go to a school that Healing Haiti helped restore after the earthquake.  The kids were so friendly and excited to introduce us to their language and singing skills.  As we were walking by one of the school rooms, it was comparable to a room the size of small bedroom back home.  In the classroom that had all concrete walls, it had wooden benches and tables that would fit about 20, back home, but here they would squeeze up to 70.  So many times during the day we kept asking "How do they live like that?"  But Haitians are very resourceful and positive.

Our final water stop was by a the H & I soccer complex and we got to visit the field and the kids.  It was one of the highlights of our trip because some of the Haitian soccer boys  that were in Minnesota the past few summers playing soccer at the USA Cup were there.  So, the boys were able to bring their Haititan mom's to meet their American "Mom's".  It was a very special reunion.  Playing soccer was fun because the boys loved showing their soccer skills.

After a long hot day in the Tap Tap, holding many babies and giving endless hugs we were able to relax in a swimming pool.  To clean off and refresh ourselves.

It was a memorable and special day for all of us.  It seems like every day we learn more than we give, we get loved more than we love....we get to experience love from people so different than what we are used to.


Mary Van Sickle and Erin Saemrow

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hello from Haiti!

Today we began our day riding in the Tap-Tap to the Home for Sick and Dying Children.  Our group arrived and the staff pointed out two rooms for us to assist in.   When I entered my room, there were many bowls of food lying on the counter ready to be fed to the three rows of babies.  The babies were ages 4 months to about 36 months.  I grabbed the first little boy and held him as I fed him.  My teammates each began feeding other children.  I was surprised how patiently many of the children were waiting for their turn,  while looking up with those big brown eyes.  After feeding the first child we moved on to another, sadly placing the first one down crying to to be held more.  After all the feeding came all the poops and pees.  We helped with lots of diaper changing.  Then we continued to hold and cuddle the kids.  They loved the comforting hugs.  As I held one of the little girls, I really enjoyed the laughter as I 'boop-ed' the tummies of a few others.

I later entered the room where the other half of our team was serving.  This was a room of children with higher medical needs.  It was overwhelming so see how much help was needed to care for all the needs.  A few team members were laughing hysterically with a three year old little girl that was a definite entertainer.  She pretended that a cord was a phone and giggled away.

The experience was amazing!  The children were amazing!   I only wish that we could help more.


Also today we had an opportunity to go to Gertrude's home for special needs children. We arrived after a short and pretty scary trip in the Tap-Tap. When we entered we were greeted by a beautiful boy who's name is Junior (You will hear more about him later). We walk through the house and into a roofed patio type building where all the kids are. These kids are filled with joy even though it appears that they have nothing. A young girl about 3 or 4 came up to me and just lifted her hands so that she could be held. All these kids wanted was to get held and played with. There is a wall of things to touch so I would bring the child in my arms to go figure things out, I even got the opportunity to teach Kristella (about 5-7) what the different princesses names were. I looked up and saw Erin and Josh playing with five kids in a cart, Sophie pushing a wheel chair chasing James who was also pushing a wheel chair, with everybody else watching with their kids either holding hands or carrying them. One of my favorite parts of this day was watching Junior (I told you that you would hear about him) and Max (A healing Haiti worker) chasing each other and rough housing in the most loving way. We all gathered around watching, laughing, and trying not to get caught in the cross fire. Today was truly a gift from God and a reminder to cherish our family, and friends no matter what.

Hannah Van Sickle

Monday, March 16, 2015

Healing Haiti: Day 1

The day that we had been looking forward to for months and months: the day we would leave for Haiti was finally here. Before we arrived, we didn't really know what to expect because this was our first mission trip outside of the U.S. We had read books and talked to many experienced missionaries trying to get an understanding of what to expect, but we were still very shocked when we saw Haiti in person. Even before arriving in Haiti, one of the first things that stood out to us was when we got harassed in Miami to have our bags checked because we were warned that security may rummage through our bags and try to steal our valuables. We didn't see the face of poverty until we went to the patio at the guesthouse and were able to overlook the entire city. We stood there staring at the rows of shacks with childrens' innocent eyes peering up at us. After unpacking, our team was eager to meet the street children and play some soccer. The kids ran around and embraced us when we arrived, and we could truly see how excited they were to play. Even though we were extremely bad soccer players, they still encouraged us to keep playing with them. While most of the team was playing soccer, we sat on the side and got the opportunity to talk to the other children. In particular, we got to know a girl named Locah. What caught our eyes was her bright yellow English 2 book. She barely knew any English, but we communicated with her through a little French and a lot of hand gestures. As we started to flip through her English book, we noticed how simple of English she was learning. We would point to different pictures in the book, say them, and then have her repeat them back to us. We shared many laughs with her over the different pronunciations and that's when we really connected. Locah was a quick learner, and her face lit up once she started to pronounce the words with more ease. She showed us how smart and quick these kids are to learn. It opened our eyes and showed us that the children are not illiterate because of their lack of intelligence, but rather their lack of education. After just the first day, we have already met amazing people that we will forever remember.

-Taylor and Gabby

 Reading the English book
 Locah, her sister, and her cousin
 Splitting up teams for soccer
Sierra reading the English book

Ms. Monson talking to the neighbor kids