Thursday, July 18, 2013

Where Has The Time Gone???

I’m sitting in the Port Au Prince Airport smiling through the tears as I ask myself where has the time gone? I can’t believe it’s already July 18th, time for me to head back to D-Town. It was a bittersweet goodbye this morning, because I have a lot to look forward to with two trips coming up and an incredible job starting in August, but I feel like I could stay in Haiti forever. I have never felt so alive and so close to the Lord as I do now. My prayer going forward is that I can come back to Dallas and hold on to the lessons that I learned while I was in Haiti.

As I said goodbye to the 11 girls at House of Hope, Jessi, Nadege, Arnold, Madame Sterling, Mathane, Max, Jean Goody and Matt…. I can’t help but feel like I have my own little family in Haiti and honestly can’t wait to go back and see them again! Up until today, my trip has been lots of laughing; the kind of laughing that brings tears to your eyes, pains in your stomach and other side effects that I will not go into. The belly laughs of the girls from House of Hope are something I don’t think I will ever forget…. just a God is good, life is good kind of laugh.

So many lessons and different experiences, here are some that I hope to keep with me forever:
·      Pray often… everyday, every moment turn to the Lord for guidance. The Haitians praise the Lord for each day, give thanks for what they have and trust their everything to the Lord. In America it’s easy to get caught up in the “stuff” and keeping busy that we forget to put things into perspective!
·      Laugh often… every day! Find joy in the little things of life!
·      Relax…. It’s ok if we say we’ll leave at 8:00, but we don’t leave until 10:00, it’s ok to make a wrong turn, getting lost is part of the adventure, and it’s ok if things don’t go quite as plan, it’ll happen eventually!

As I sit in the air conditioning, here are some other thoughts going through my head:
·      I will not miss spaghetti for breakfast, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and rice and beans for dinner… but I will miss the people that I shared my meals with!
·      I will not miss crawling up to the top bunk and getting under my mosquito net, but I will miss my amazing roommate who slept in the bunk underneath me.
·      I will not miss waking up at the crack of dawn, but I will miss my Haitian alarm clock of roosters crowing, children singing and the hustle and bustle of the compound.
·      I will not miss not being able to speak with many of the children, but I will miss communicating with them through laughing, dancing and playing.
·      I will not miss the rocky, unpaved roads but I will miss all of the places these roads lead me to... House of Hope, Repatriote, Cite Soleil, and any of the adventures I went on.
·      I will not miss the random power outages, but I will miss the sunsets, lightening, and star filled skies that are enjoyed best by the loss of lights and power.
·      I will not miss the heat and the no AC, but I will miss the shock of the cold showers that nearly takes my breath away and the only thing I can do is laugh.

So with that, my time in Haiti comes to an end, but the adventure is just getting started. Looking back at the moments I doubted if I should even go to Haiti, I can’t help but laugh and smile at the crazy things the Lord has in store for me… when I doubted this plan most, I rested in knowing that He put this on my heart and has planted in me a desire to continue helping, serving and working with the Haitians however He can use me! There are about a million people I need to thank right now… the Lord obviously for giving me this amazing opportunity to spend my time in Haiti, my amazing family for supporting me on this adventure, my friends who gave me the courage to go through with this, HPPC-my young adults group and all the leaders who went out of their way to get me here and for everyone who supported me prayerfully and financially. I am happy to report that with the money I raised, I will be able to give $500 of it to House of Hope and $500 of it to the 4 HOM schools.

 I have included a few pictures of my last days in Haiti… hope you enjoy! America, see you in a few short hours!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

There's Always Room for One More

In Haiti, most people ride around in tap taps…. These are brightly decorated pickup trucks and in the back are benches for people to ride in. When you want to get out you “tap tap” and they pull over, you pay them and you go on your way. When we ride in them with teams, they are “private ones” and everyone is relatively spread out with their own personal space, which is very un-Haitian. When I drive around and see regular tap taps, there are Haitians crammed in, sitting and standing in any open space. While we usually feel that squeezing 10 people in is excessive, there could be anywhere from 15 to 20 people stuffed in the back of the trucks. Their thought is “there is always room for one more.”  I had always wanted to see if I could survive the crowded tap taps and until today, I had never had the opportunity.

I finally had the chance… Jessi, Nadege and I went up to her parents’ house in an hour called Delma, on to a coffee shop called Rebo and then to a restaurant called Pizza Garden. This required a motorcycle ride to the main rode (20 goudes), 2 tap taps to Delma (5 goudes each), 2 taps up to Rebo (10 goudes each)… and then we repeated the same thing going down! Honestly, it has been one of the highlights of my trip because I have never been able to travel like this, and I loved it! We were able to walk around Delma and Petionville and thankfully we got a little lost and were able to explore even more! I felt a little bit like a kid on Christmas morning because I was just wondering around smiling looking like a “blanc fu” (crazy white person). But I didn’t care, I just kept on going.

I think the saying “there is always room for one more” applies to more aspects of the Haitian culture than just tap taps. In the time that I’ve been here, I have felt so welcomed, whether it was squishing next to someone on a church pew, being invited to join a group of people at an already overcrowded table, pulling up a chair to join a game in progress, or squeezing just one more person on to the swings at the playground… it really has been incredible. They are so inviting and it has made me feel so welcome in this foreign country! I will truly miss these amazing people and will treasure the relationships and the memories for the rest of my life. I also think that as Americans, we could learn a few lessons on welcoming visitors!

Where has the time gone?? See you all in just 4 short days!!! 

Tap Taps around Haiti: 

 Fruit markets on the side of the street in Petionville:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Finer Things of Haiti

One of my favorite things so far about staying long-term in Haiti have been the various trips we’ve made outside of the HOM compound. In the past, I had seen some of the different areas, but nothing quite like I’ve seen this time. There have been several instances where it seems we’ve left Haiti and traveled to a four star resort. This past week, we had 4 days with no teams here and were able to do some exploring. One night we went to a Lebanese restaurant called Magdoos… we had hummus and pita bread along with frozen mojitos and a Greek salad! The next day we went to a hotel called The Oasis and had a wonderful brunch with champagne. We went there to celebrate Mathanie’s graduation, but never quite made it into the actual ceremony.


 The Oasis  Hotel:

Yesterday we went up the mountain to the Baptist Mission where we had lunch (grilled cheese, curly fries and soft serve ice cream) and then up to The Overlook where there is an incredible view of the Port Au Prince area. The temperatures drop as you go up the mountain and there is an incredible breeze! Also as you go up the mountain, the houses get a lot bigger and nicer and you can tell this is where a lot of the wealthier Haitians live. The contrast between where I stay and what it is like up the mountain is somewhat upsetting. But the more I think about it, that is very similar to how it is in the Dallas area. Just a reminder, there are people in need everywhere we go.

View from the Baptist Mission: 

 On our way up the mountain:

Seeing all of these amazing sights and the progress that has been made over the last 2 years has given me great hope. The Haitians are a strong and resilient people, and they are always working hard to better themselves and their country. At times during these little getaways, I am reminded of the poverty all around me and can’t help but feel a little guilty as I enjoy my meal in a nice (sometimes even air conditioned) restaurant.

On a side note, celebrating the 4th of July in Haiti made me think about how much I take for granted in the United States and how very fortunate we all are. I am so incredibly blessed and the longer I stay in Haiti, the more I realize I don’t deserve everything I have been given. But the Lord is a generous and loving God and to whom much is given, much is expected. I will try to serve and use my gifts to the best of my ability, knowing they are all given from God. I have been here over a month and have just 2 short weeks left. I don’t even want to think about leaving this amazing country and these gracious people who have been so welcoming. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kindergarten Graduation

These last few days have been quite the celebration for the Kindergarten graduates at the HOM schools. Because they have 3 years of kindergarten (Pre-K, K1 and K2), there is a big graduation ceremony held at the church to honor the students and their families. Let me tell you… this was no ordinary graduation ceremony!!! On Thursday morning, we went to the Repatriote graduation. Because this is only the first year of the school being opened, it was fewer people and therefor a tiny bit shorter. This one lasted only 3 hours…. for 18 students. The ceremony began at 7:00 am so we arrived around 6:30 to help the little ones get into their cap and gowns! Even though it had rained the night before, everyone showed up on time and dressed to the nines. This morning we started with Terre Noire graduation at 7:00 am… this was for 73 students. It lasted until around 11:00. Again, even though it rained the night before and essentially flooded the roads, everyone showed up on time and again dressed very nicely. This afternoon, we went to the graduation at Cite Soleil. This began at 1:00 and went until about 5:30.

All of the ceremonies were pretty similar. The graduates came in with their cap and gowns on, sat up at the front of the church and then Mrs. Jacky, the superintendent spoke. Throughout the ceremony, there were several songs, dances, prayers, and skits; which all required several costume changes. When the diplomas were finally handed out, each parent came up and got the certificate with the child. It was very special because the parents are so proud of their students! After the ceremony, all of the students took off their robes and their uniforms and all put on the fanciest little dresses I have ever seen, it slightly resembled an episode from Toddlers and Tiaras but these kids are far cuter and way classier. There were gifts handed out, pictures taken and much to celebrate! Although they were long and I didn’t understand much of what was being spoken, I loved being a part of it because the kids knew they had accomplished something big and the parents and family members couldn’t be prouder!

I wanted to share a special moment that I had this morning at Terre Noire. If you have read my blog, you know about the House of Hope. It is a children’s home for 11 girls whose families were unable to provide for them. This year, 3 of the girls (Dafka, Roberts and Lumiantha) all graduated from Kindergarten. We had already planned to have a party with cake and other yummy treats at their house after, but they had some unexpected visitors at the graduation. Roberta’s family surprised her and came to the graduation. It was such a treat for her and you could tell how excited she was to see them. There were probably 20 to 25 people there to cheer her on. The dad, who spoke English, was so grateful and thankful for taking in 2 of his daughters and hugged us all and told us how proud he was of the progress they had made. Clarafina, who is 4 and will be graduating next year, is also his daughter. He brought 2 large cakes for all of the girls to share, nice dresses and shoes for the girls and some presents. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to give up your child because you can’t provide for them, but I have so much respect for this man, for realizing his daughters deserved better, but also for staying involved and supporting them the best he can.

Overall, it’s been a really fun two days helping with the graduation and enjoying the time without any teams here! We’re hoping for somewhat of a day/night off tomorrow and some of us are going to go out to dinner at a place up the mountain! Thankful for all of the prayers and support!!! 


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Time in the Clinic

This week we have just one team staying with us at Terre Noire. This is a medical team from Blacksboro, Virginia. I wanted to share a little bit about my time spent with their team in the clinic. Initially I was terrified to go into the clinic… having absolutely no clinic experience and also having heard some of the stories of patients seen at this clinic in Cite Soleil. HOM shares the clinic with Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that focuses on disaster relief. Patients do not have to pay anything to see the doctor or to get the prescriptions. They often come with a random assortment of illnesses and symptoms, and they see patients of all ages. My assignment was to work in triage with 2 other nurses to check patients in, take their temperature, weight, etc and then get them to the appropriate doctor. When we first pulled up Monday morning at 7:30, I was overwhelmed at the sight of nearly 300 people in line. While they were waiting, they were worshipping, singing and praying as a group. It was neat to see them (hundreds of sick patients) worship so joyfully while waiting in line. I know when I go to the doctor, I’m not near as patient and the absolute last think I want to do is sing and pray with the strangers around me.

I will not go into detail about the patients we saw, mostly because I don’t know half of the medical terms that were used. Each day we saw an average of 140 patients and gave each one vitamins, deworming medicine and any other prescription needed to treat their illness. I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to help, but I realized about 30 minutes in all I needed to do was love on these sick little babies and talk to the moms and other patients (obviously with the help of our amazing translators). I was saddened to see so many malnourished and underweight babies be brought in by such young moms, but was encouraged to watch as they listened so closely to the doctor and expressed desires to become better parents and give their children everything they possibly can given the circumstances. It was also extremely eye opening to listen to the questions being asked and the overall lack of understanding when it comes to engaging in any sexual relationships. Unfortunately, we had to give many young patients pregnancy tests, multiple HIV tests and several were treated for an STD. I think we so often take for granted the knowledge, information and prevention methods so readily available for us.

I cannot begin to tell the many stories of patients we’ve seen this week. But I thank the Lord for each one of the patients we have seen and will see throughout the week and pray for their healing and their protection. By the end of the week, it is likely that we will have seen nearly 1,000 patients. It’s pretty crazy to think that a team of 1 pharmacist, 3 doctors, 2 nurses, 2 extra helpers, 8 interpreters and 2 long-term volunteers can make such a difference. It all comes down to an extraordinary God using simple, average people like me to allow extraordinary things to happen in a community with such great need.  I am so thankful for this opportunity and for these life-changing experiences. The Lord is working in mighty ways here in Haiti and I’m blessed to be a part of it. 

Twins that were less than one month old: Macus and Myson 
 Sweet Myson:

 Tish and Amy with Macus and Myson:
 Max with his chunky little nugget:

 John Gaudy getting ready for his baby to come in 2 months:

Friday, June 21, 2013

House of Hope

Right down the street from where I am staying, there is a children’s home called House of Hope. It is not officially associated with HOM, but the girls do go to the HOM school at Terre Noire and Nadege (the principal at the Terre Noire school and the daughter to Pastor Leon) oversees the home. There are 11 girls, 8 of them are under the age of 5. They are adding on to the house so they can bring in more girls and are also hoping to build another building on the property to help even more children. It is not technically an orphanage because most (if not all) of them do have parents, but the parents were not able to care for them. Many of them came extremely malnourished with no clothes on. Part of the agreement is that the girls will all do well academically and behaviorally in school, and if any issues arise either at school or at home, the parents are called and the girls are asked to leave. Obviously this hasn’t been an issue because these are the absolute sweetest girls I have met! They all have had such different and challenging pasts, but they truly are a family and love one another well!

I consider myself very blessed to go and spend time with the girls. I have spent mornings helping them shower and get ready (Ashley Crowder-if you read this, I have a new found respect for you and all the stylish hairdos you give Yeni…that is not easy work), afternoons reading, playing games, dancing and singing and nights again showering, worshipping and singing. Although I am starting to learn a little creole, these little tykes can fortunately speak some English so we can communicate. And of course, dancing and singing and praying are somewhat universal and bring us together.  For the last several nights, I have gone over to help with their bedtime routines. They shower, put on pajamas, take what seems like a million different vitamins and medications and then we all gather in a circle on the porch, hold hands, recite Scripture and sing. I am inspired, yet a little convicted, because these little girls have entire Psalms and Bible passages (keep in mind, most of them are under the age of 5). Memorizing scripture is something I have wanted and known I’ve needed to focus on for a while now, but have always found some excuse to put it on the backburner. My favorite Psalm they recite together is Psalm 100, and so I have committed to memorizing this Psalm (and hopefully more) while I am in Haiti.

I have included pictures from the House of Hope, and ask that you pray for these sweet girls and the family they have created in the last 2 years….prayers for strength, for health, for the Lord’s guiding hand in their lives. And prayers for the staff members at the house; they have a housemother, a cook, a cleaner and a gatekeeper. They live there 7 days a week and have very little time off. I don’t know how they keep up with these little ones, but I am so thankful for loving on these girls so well.  I hope to have many more stories about them to share with you all! 
 Dafka (5 years old) and Rebecca (6 years old):
 Clarafina (4 years old) and Dafka: both of these sweet girls were in the hospital for 3 days last week, thank you for your prayers! They are all better and full of energy!
 Roberta (5 years old):
 Lumiantha (4 years old):
 Rebecca (6 years old), Megina (4 years old) and Jessi:
 Winderlande (11 years old):
 Breakfast time:
 Attempting to take Clarafina's braids out:
 Beyonce (2 1/2 years old):
 Duilanda (4 years old, Duilanda came to the House of Hope 2 years ago weighing only 10 pounds, she's a little miracle baby):
 Chrislande (4 years old):
 Widlande (8 years old):
 Megina 4 years old):