Sunday, October 9, 2011

It’s not about me. Or is it…

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Traveling over roads that are nothing but piles of rubble, bouncing, lurching, assaulted by honking, chaos of people and cars and vendors, and no apparent rules of the road, yet arriving at a new destination with each trip.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Visiting sick, dying and abandoned infants and children, spending an all too short period of time sharing in their care. Feeling my heart about to burst as I held, caressed, fed, sang to, danced with, prayed over, while feeling and aching with an inexplicable peace and of being home.

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Gazing upon a landscape of rolling mountains, so lush and green, and an ocean of brilliant blue and calm serenity, while my feet are solidly planted on millions of pebbles under which lie the remains of thousands of men, women, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Sharing in the intimicies of lives lived in complete squalor, amidst garbage, human waste, wandering animals, aghast at the sight of children running through the streets of rubble who bear witness to the lack of food, of water, of basic medical assistance, and feeling so overwhelmingly blessed to be able to hug, to hold, to caress, and to deliver items which may ease some of the burden of unimaginable circumstances.

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Awed by the resilience, the dignity, the strength, of a community that has suffered so very very much, yet displays humbleness, grace, and indeed hope and joy, while surrounded by utter devestation.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Overwhelmed by the knowledge that so many people have opened up to God’s grace and shared their hearts in a variety of ways in and through Healing Haiti, and so humbled by and grateful for the gift of being a part of something that is so amazing and through which God is working.

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Bursting with hope and pride with the visual observations of a place which brings the promise of a new beginning for children who have known so much struggle, heartache, loneliness, and yet have been taken in and cared for by selfless individuals who also have known struggle and heartache.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Tossing about on truck rides home from excursions, reflecting on our multi-faceted visits, overwhelmed with our experience, physically present in Haiti, but already feeling seeds being planted that will bloom when we return to our homes. Brainstorming on how to respond. Feeling my mind begin to leave where I physically am, and travel to where I physically am not. I can’t help but to feel my hands begin to clench again and stomach begin to cramp as I wonder if I’m not already starting to run ahead of God, rather than follow.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Being a part of a group comprised of unique individuals with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, gifts, and walls, each with their own story, yet all having stepped out in faith, despite any fears or insecurities or questions, to serve. To be a part of something bigger than themselves and their “normal” lives, knowing not what was to come or evolve, but willing to take a leap. A group who has shared, served, laughed, cried, eaten, slept and prayed together, while being broken open and apart and humbled in very individual, unique, personal ways.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

It is with a heavy heart, yet a soaring heart, that I must acknowledge that this visit to Haiti is drawing to a close, and I am preparing to go forth, to travel onward, to leave, while bringing a part of Haiti with me that will remain with me forever. Inside a heart that has been torn apart, in ways I could never have imagined, as my eyes witnessed sights beyond comprehension, my hands reached out to touch and to work and to pray and to praise in an place beyond comprehension, my feet trod upon a ground that was unsteady at best yet delivered safely at every destination that was beyond my comprehension. It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. As God teaches me, what am I willing to learn? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How will I apply the lessons? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How can I be used as a vessel for His grace to pour out in abundance over all the world? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How will my capacity to love be transformed by this amazing journey? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How can I humbly continue on the transformational journey that God has designed for me? I don’t have the answers to any of these, and so many other questions, and I’m not sure I ever will. But with a heart that is cracked wide open, it is my fervent prayer that I humbly obey, follow, and serve with a love that knows no end, no boundaries. May that love and humble gratitude be reflected in all of my choices and actions.

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” Mother Teresa

Jennifer Shultz

Healing Haiti Team Member

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Serving the least of these

At our group gathering this evening, the words we used to describe our day were much more positive and uplifting than a few we've had in days past. We had different feelings today - ones of joy, healing, adventure and special moments.

We were blessed to be able to take the children from Gertrude's Orphanage to the beach! What an experience!

They were SO excited when we arrived at the orphanage in our brightly colored bus for the trip. We all crammed into a vehicle
that would never pass any inspection in the states. No seat belts, no door, no glass on the windows and definitely overcrowded, but we sure had a great ride, most of us singing and chatting the whole way there.The rest of the kids were so engrossed in the scenery, silently looking out the windows as we passed through markets, by mountains and the picturesque oceanside.

It was almost a two hour drive to the public beach north of Port au Prince. We were able to take 22 orphans, - five of them with special needs.

The beach was beautiful, a white pebble covered floor with only a few traces of the garbage that covers the ground in the city. Around us a green lush background of mountains, palm trees and expansive ocean views gave us all the feeling we were not in Haiti, at least the Haiti we had seen.

The children and adults enjoyed splashing in the waves, playing on the beach and swimming with the help of us and water toys. It was pure enjoyment for everybody. We filled their stomachs with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, popcorn and juice. A meal that most of our children would think is normal. To them this was a treat.

Only three days ago we visited this same group of children in their home environment and yet most of us felt that we were with a completely different group today. The sounds of their squeals, the looks in their eyes and the simple touch of their precious hands told us that this day brought them a happiness they have not felt in a very long time.

The bus ride home was much quieter with quite a few sleeping children on our laps.It left us to reflect on the amazing day we all had and the blessed feeling we have to be a part of this mission.

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,
the best of these you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

post written by Kim Venuta
Healing Haiti Team Member

Friday, October 7, 2011

By the Grace of God

It's only Friday, yet having seen what we've seen these past four days, Monday seems so long ago. Today began at 5:30 am for some of us who attended the local Haitian church service at 6am on the grounds of the American School. It was like no other service I have ever been to. They worship in a most kinetic way, on their feet for most of the time, walking, praising, and lifting hands heavenward. Fanfan interpreted the words whenever he could and we were most fortunate to hear several songs in English, among them, "How great is our God." There is a point in the service where the people bless or pray over one another and it was a powerful, strident supplication to God to bless the individual in a very personal way. Following breakfast, we left for Tityanen, where a visit to Grace village, and Yvonne's Orphanage was the plan for the day. Friday is market day there and we were able to walk through the market place and see all the goods they had
to sell including bananas, yams,okra, breadfruit/lam,peppers, corn, beans, rice,grains,lemons,limes,all manner of clothing, accessories, chickens, and goats bound at the hoof. There were many cooked, prepared foods, but none of us ready to risk the possible outcome.......

Grace Village is located above Tityanen on a lovely vista overlooking a panorama of the ocean to the front and mountaintops to the back of it. There is a wonderful, steady wind that blows through the property continuously. The entire complex is walled in by 12 foot walls and has 2 secure gates to the front and back sides. This amazing village is soon to house the children from Yvonne and Guillame's orphanages, about 70 children in all.The area inside is about 5 acres of land and they own a total of 15 acres in the area. We toured the eating and kitchen areas where the cabinets are being built onsite, employing only Haitians for these jobs. They have 2 large cisterns to store water and pumps to provide water for the entire complex. There are houses both for the girls and boys with 2 rooms for the childrens' guardians in each house. Outside there is an area in which they will be able to enjoy a wonderful playground which was recently donated.

There are carefully prepared plans for a guesthouse, school, elderly care,Restavek home,and medical clinic.They are also planning to work with the community in establishing Tilapia farms and hydroponic farming both to feed the children and staff and to set up food sources and income for Tityanen. It was said that it will take about $1500 to set up a hydroponic pond for one family.

"Grace Village", what an appropriate name for this place- by the grace of God it has been built and it will make such an incredible difference in the lives of not only these children, but for the community and people of Haiti.

We finished the rest of the day first with a visit to Jude John Paul who is doing so much better having a wheelchair to be up in during the day and then on to Yvonne's orphanage where about 40 children are cared for with the help of Healing Haiti. It was absolutely heart warming to hear them sing Christian songs to us for about the first 45 minutes of our visit including "How Great Thou Art"followed by prayers of blessings, as well as solos or small groups singing.The children were interested and excited to read the bilingual books provided to them by so many generous book donations to this organization. Thank you!! Merci anpil!!!! You are making a difference!!!!!!

Posted by, Marge Iaizzo
Healing Haiti Team Member

Thursday, October 6, 2011

From the Depths of Despair . . . Hope

Today we travelled outside of Port-au-Prince up the side of a mountain. Our first stop came as a surprise to many of us. There was a large cross on a hillside draped in fabric. Below was a large area of small black and white rocks which had obviously been brought in from somewhere else. On these rocks were many wooden crosses, some of them standing, but most of them lying down.

It turns out this was a mass grave, filled with thousands of victims from the earthquake on January 12, 2010. The official number is 10,000, but it is probably many more. The magnitude of this loss is almost too much to bear. How do these people get beyond this? These are the depths of despair.

We then went on to Titanyen, a village where Healing Haiti "sponsors" several elderly people.
These people have little or no family to take care of them. We brought them basic items such as vitamins, ibuprofen and sardines. Some of them cannot walk, one of them is blind and his eyes hurt. Yet they were very positive and quick to praise God. When we arrived at one woman's house, she wasn't home. She went up the mountain to pray. She is 72 years old but looked 90. When she got home, she insisted that we stay outside while she cleaned her house. Such dignity. While a team member handed the blind man our offerings, our intepreter repeated her instructions, as well as his responses. As she held the item in his hand, she said, "These are vitamins. You should take one a day." He says, "God bless you." "This is pain reliever." "The Lord is great." "These are shorts for you to wear." "God is good." Every item and explanation was met with an exclamation of how wonderful God is. I began to see a "lifting" from the depths.

Next we went to an orphanage. If we weren't literally climbing the mountain, we were figuratively lifting ourselves from the depths. As we climbed out of the trucks, the orphans ran to grab our hands. They were so excited to see us, I felt like royalty. I could get used to this. Some of the kids brought team members out to the playground to play soccer and jump rope. My awesome team members brought many activities for the kids to do. Some colored, some made bracelets. There were puzzles, origami, you name it. I read books with some of the children. Or I should say, they read books to me. Their inquisitiveness and thirst for knowledge was awe inspiring. These are children living in an orphanage where up until a few years ago were sleeping on the concrete floor. Yet they were so filled with joy. I wanted to bottle it up and take it home with me.

As we drove back to the guesthouse, the realization dawned: there is always hope. At the mass grave, there was a young man who, though he lost loved ones, chooses to give his life to God, and be his feet and hands to help the living. In Titanyen, there is a blind man that asked, "I know I will die soon, but could you pray for my health?" At the orphanage, there were hugs all around as we left. Several books left behind, with the promise of more to come. This is not despair. We have been lifted up. Now there is only hope.

Jennifer Dietz
Healing Haiti Team Member

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Haiti slows my heart

We wake early here and today was at 6am where part of the group attended the Haitian church service and a few of us went on a run through crumbled creviced streets and up and down the same hill outside of our home. The streets smell of urine, they have pots holes the size of cars yet in the middle of this were school children dressed in ironed uniforms walking to school. I thought the tent city was the only place where they lived in tents yet right outside our door and everywhere you can look are tents. Tonight is pouring rain so loud and so heavy and one can not possibly imagine how they endure. One night in the mud and the tent collapsing with children hungry feels impossible. Yet day after day they get up, have dignity, dress with whatever they can find, go to early morning mass and then wait for water and hopefully food.

We had another huge breakfast prepared again by our Haitian helpers and off we went in the open air truck to our first orphanage at the Home for Sick and Dying Babies. This was a special place and I saw my friend Jennifer bond and sing hymns to the tiniest babies and felt the energy she spilled out into the room we all shared. I held and fed a one year old boy who weighed 5 pounds. The nuns were singing to the kids, playing with them, keeping them dry and we all wept when we had to go. I then met a 28 year old girl who graduated from Michigan and came to Haiti for the first time at 16 and felt a calling to return. She just opened her own orphanage with 8 kids, lived in a tent for a year(with Tory Burch flip flops :)), married a Haitian and one could not but sit back and listen in awe to what people can accomplish and then again we all asked ourselves "what is our purpose, why are we here?" We all try and answer and no one thinks they have the answer but we certainly come up with more questions.

We then left for the special needs orphanage. Words to describe this : struggle, stench of urine, uncomfortable, lost and why? Then another Jennifer brought books
that made us feel at peace, comfortable and worthy. The older children, mostly boys could read both in English and Creole and we again sat in awe at them. How do they survive? They are always smiling, looking for high fives and praise. They made us feel special instead of the other way around.

While only 3pm, my heart felt so wide open and I feel like it has never beat so slow. A peace deep inside that made no sense yet felt so good. How is this possible? It has to be one of the reasons I felt something pushing me to go. 5 of us then left and I can only describe the ride to the wound clinic as the worst scene in Slumdog Millionaire. A population of poverty and people crammed into the roads with animals, sewage, and flies and to then walk into a clinic with people waiting in line with us for wound dressing changes. Our first patient was an elderly man with a foot and leg of elephantitis. A non-closed wound split open and we were given saline, iodine and a new gauze. And again more questions - where are the antibiotics, pain meds, surgery center, sutures... why are we here and what good are we doing. Julie asked her patient : "How long have you had this wound that was taking over his leg" and he said "7 years". No MD's, no nurses, no sterile equipment, no comfy pillows to rest on, or visitors to help heal. One can not be overcome with the
blessings we have and the top notch care we receive where we live. And again they thank us, hug us and are so grateful for simply spraying water on them.

My favorite part of everyday is after dinner when we sit in a circle and share our word of the day and what it means. Julie's was struggle, Jennifer was touch, Gretchen was selfish, Courtney was frustrated, Liate (another incredible 25 year old who has been here for 7 weeks alone from Isreal to simply just help Haiti and is going back to get a masters in Disaster Relief) was attachment, Shannon was enrichment, Jan was Freedom and Kim was teacher. So it is a see-saw of grief and joy, hopeless and hopeful, and our leader Jeff to help us ask more questions and then to listen and process.

Wendy Gulden
Healing Haiti Team Member

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Exclamation Day

God has it all planned out. We just can't get ahead of Him. It's tough to do...and many of us had some anxieties about the, physical limitations compared to demands, and overwhelming emotions. These are all legitimate concerns if we were to have to do the day alone. Thank God we didn't do it alone, nor do we EVER have to do it alone. The days we run at the same speed with God are exclamation days...we had one!

I left the guest house with FanFan, our interpreter who has a heart for the Lord, at 5:50 am for a 6 am church service under a big revival tent! We walked through a few tent cities, around a few pigs, and over a few sweet smelling piles of "caca" to arrive at our destination. There were several Haitians heading the same way, even small school children! We spent 90 minutes kneeling before God, lifting our hands up praising God, clapping in unison to exalt Him and receiving instruction from God found in Luke 2:10-11. The pastor reminded us that Jesus is the only Savior. Outside of Jesus there is no God. Only Jesus can save. So when Jesus puts His feet in our lives we have to change...we CAN change!

We returned to an amazing full on breakfast to get us charged up for our major physical day...the water truck. Two at a time get to ride on the outside cab of the water truck and get a full on view of City Soleil. We were all pointed out things that we could never have imagined...or ready to take in as it brought tears to our eyes and pain to our hearts, but more importantly awareness to our minds.

We stopped at three different shanti neighborhoods in City Soleil. Upon arrival, people begin lining up behind the water truck to receive free water. There is some "policing" going on to keep some from jumping ahead in the line. Just a few buckets had to be tossed to send a message and for justice to be served! What really hits you is all the joy that is flowing out of the children. Their smiles are so contagious and they are reaching for your hand or begging for you to pick them up. We all did so gladly! That was the easy part.

We all had jobs that we alternated during the stop. One or two holding onto the hose delivering the water, two maneuvering the buckets aligning them under the hose and pulling them out once they are full, and assisting in carrying the buckets back to the shanties. That's when it became more difficult...not only physically, but to see what they call a home is extremely shocking. Nothing can prepare you for what you are going to see on the way, as well as getting a look into their shanty. Most were made of tin, wood, but some were even made out of the sides of outhouses. Now that's recycling at its best!

I was more aware of the UN presence this trip. At two of the water stops, there were men with guns policing the tent cities. It should make us feel more at ease, but it also was a sign of where the country is at...a country that has been torn apart by the political corruptness.

We drove home in a bit of a daze from all we had taken in in one day. We all felt more alive after our cold shower back at the guest house. (It's not quite like back home!) Many commented that they never thought they had ever been that dirty:)

We ate like Kings and Queens when we returned. (Again, it's not quite like back home!) We then settled in the living room to talk about our day. What did we see? What did we smell? What did we feel? WHAT IS GOD TRYING TO TEACH ME? One more question...Did anything surprise us? A big surprise was our 72 year old team member, Jan Johnson, who had the same energy or more then us younger members. That we never were worried for our could that be in such a poverty stricken place? That we saw such kindness and warmth from the Haitian people like offering you the plastic part of the handle when you carried it could that be in such a poverty stricken place? Or how about that the children had so much hope in their eyes and could that be in such a poverty stricken place?

I can only come up with one answer...they are running WITH God. They don't have anything else to turn to like a shopping spree or a pint of Ben and Jerrys. They turn to Jesus who IS hope. Even in their extreme poverty they are able to find hope. " Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For out light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. SO WE fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 16-18. Who do you think you should turn to? We are being transformed. Now that's a EXCLAMATION DAY!!!!!

written by Shannon Maixner
Healing Haiti Team Member

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Beginning

Our day started with a 2:00 am wake-up and here I am blogging at 9:30 pm. It should feel like a very long day, instead all I feel is excited and inspired. In less than one day I've already been transformed in a way I could never have imagined. Everyone I encountered before arriving in Haiti told me this trip would change me, that I would never be the same. Those words are not powerful enough to express what this journey has already brought to me.

When Tom and Julie pulled in my driveway at 3 am I was greeted with an amazing amount of energy. Tom had volunteered to drive us to the airport, just drive us, he wasn't going on the trip with us. This man doesn't even know me but was willing to get up at 2 am to take ME to the airport. He was truly excited for me and my team. Our team assembled by 4am at the gate and checked our bags full of supplies for the people of Haiti. By 5 am we were through security and waiting to board the plane. After a layover in Miami and our first meal together as a team we boarded the plane for Haiti.

As I settled in for the very short flight the gentleman next to me asked what we would be doing in Haiti. We talked briefly about this being my first trip to Haiti. He had the same enthusiasm and excitement for me to experience the people of Haiti as Tom did in the car ride to the airport. I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the passion the people that have come to this beautiful place before me possess.

As we approached Haiti I was in awe of the beautiful ocean and mountains. I didn't expect to see such beauty given the extreme poverty I had been preparing for. Quickly upon landing I saw the first tent city. Everything I had read, or picture I'd seen didn't come close to capturing the scene. To think that just two hours prior I had been in an airport with every imaginable thing I could need or want was eyeopening. I still can't find the words to describe the feeling when you first see the streets that really don't resemble anything that we would imagine driving on at home, or the haphazardly constructed tents that are homes. What got me the most was the outdoor shower that was being used by a woman amongst the tents. Such an intimate part of life that I was witnessing as we drove by.

This is only day 1, we haven't even done any work yet! We sat down to a dinner prepared by the very gracious Healing Haiti house staff, then followed up with some singing together as FanFan played his guitar. FanFan possess an amazing spirit, so incredibly God filled in his singing, I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it.

Tomorrow we will start the "work" part of our journey, delivering water to the people of Haiti. So far I have so many questions racing through my mind. Why? Why do these people have to live in such poverty? How? How can we truly help these people?
I already know that one week of my life is not enough.

Courtney McCormick
Healing Haiti Team Member

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Four days to go and He is in control!!

Today is Thursday September 29th and in four days I get to be back in the country that I love! Most trips that I take to Haiti are planned with my best friend Lisa or are scheduled with the hopes that my husband will be along side me, but not this time. God has yet again amazed me with His plans and the path that He has paved for me. It was only in June that I got to travel to Haiti, and through Gods gracious love and power, I get to go back to where I feel so called to be.

I have to admit, I was very nervous at first going with a new organization and with people that I have never met before. But once I met these amazing women and men of God I was jumping for joy at the opportunity to go with them and learn from them. I am the youngest person on the trip and I am excited to learn from these women who seem to have such huge hearts and love for others and God. I have met with Julie a few times now, and emailed her a lot and already am amazed at how God has worked through her. She is so incredibly on top of things and I feel honored that she so graciously opened up her group to let me in. I have never been with Healing Haiti and I cannot wait to see what God is doing through this organization and how He is going to use each person on this team!

Since Monday I have felt so overwhelmed with trying to get things organized around my house and with packing. I have felt this weight on my shoulders and this panic to have everything in place. I am worried about leaving my husband, and how we should be saving money instead of spending it on this trip. I have been having anxiety about the winter coming and my yard and house not being prepared for it. I was starting to have overwhelming thoughts about work and putting all my hours in.

Then the last couple of days I took some time to pray, talked to my husband, called Kim my "partner" for the trip, worked out, and spent time with my family. I also put on my CD in the car and just listened to the calming words God spoke to me. As I drove home tonight from my uncles house I realized how foolish my thoughts were and how easily I can get caught in the devils tricks!!!
I am an extremely fortunate person who has been given one of the best opportunities to serve the most amazing and wonderful God. I am so extremely blessed financially...I never miss a meal, I have a house and both my husband and I own car. Why the thoughts of not giving money to this trip came through my head is beyond me I get to spend time with Godly women and I get to be pushed by God to grow in my faith on this trip!
I have already grown in my faith during this process and cannot wait for this trip!
One of the songs that I listened to in my car was From the Inside Out, by Hillsong. As I go into this trip and through out it I will remember these words....
"My heart and soul, I give you control, consume me from the inside out"
These last couple of days I have tried to take control, and that produced fear and anxiety, now that I have placed my trust in God again I find I am elated to go and can hear God again pushing my own degrading thoughts out of my head.

Thanks for your prayers and support! Please continue to follow what is taking place through this team in Haiti. This trip would not be possible without so many of you! Whatever we do in Haiti, is because of what you all have given us through your gifts, love, and prayers!

Healing Haiti Team Member

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I pray that God looks over this child of His...

March 16, 2011

I woke up this morning around 6:30 to get some exercise to start the day. Shannon Maixner and I headed out and ran up the only paved road close by 10 times. As usual, Shannon pushed me beyond my expectations in the morning.

After wonderful breakfast of eggs and pancakes, we all piled into the back of the pick-up truck and headed to Mother Theresa’s House. Our backpacks were filled with water and we all carried some power bars along with some sweetener for the water. After about a 10 minute – very bumpy – ride, we arrived outside the gate. Once inside, we saw long lines of mostly women with young children waiting for food. We walked along the long line of people into the place for the young children either orphaned or sick still in cribs.

We walked into the upstairs where the orphaned kids were located. Jeff Gacek, our leader told Jeff Murphy and me to come downstairs where the sick children were located. As I walked into the room, there looked like a young girl in a dress crying terribly. I immediately went over to pick her up and discovered why she was crying – she was wet. It had been some time since I changed a diaper, but I jumped right in.. doing my best to tie a cloth diaper with strings. After this experience, I discovered that I was looking after a young boy. They must put dresses on all of the children. I believe that he was at least two years old

I spent the next two hours with him. I carried him for awhile as I explored the facilities and watched the moms and the workers in the building. We peeked inside the classrooms and watched the children in their neatly dressed yellow uniforms go to school inside the complex. We ended up playing with a bucket in the cool shade. He laughed so hard when he threw the bucket at me; I loved seeing him smile and laugh uncontrollably. We ended up going upstairs with the rest of the children right before lunch. He had some good street sense as he tucked away his cracker when other kids came to take it. We had a lot of fun together and I pray that God looks over this child of his and helps him.

Since the kids need their naps, we departed for Gertrude’s Orphanage. Gertrude’s has a mix of kids in school and kids that have special needs. One of the young girls took my hand and brought me all of the way around the house to the front to the swing set. I strapped her in and swung with her for at least 45 minutes. Other kids came and went and she just kept on swinging. Sammie took over for me and swung her for at least another 20 minutes until lunchtime. During lunch I fed a special needs girl a large bowl of rice and meat. She at very slowly, but we eventually made it through the entire bowl. I could not believe that she finished the whole thing!

We went back to Mother Theresa’s to play with the kids after their nap. I found an orphan girl crying for somebody to hold her. We hung out for the next couple of hours. We got along very well because her disposition was similar to mine – quiet and content. I prayed for this little girl that the time we had together would somehow make her day a little better.

It was difficult to see all of these young children alone in the cribs. Many of them in need of medical help and most importantly love. With so many children and so few workers, I think that it is difficult to give each child the love that they deserve and need. The simple fact that places like Mother Theresas’ and Gertrudes’ makes me feel good that there is hope and people with the compassion to care for the least.

Written by Alex Sexson

Try to imagine bringing happiness...

As I sit here hardly able to hear a thing anyone is saying because it is raining so hard and it is so loud, I can't think about anything but how all the people living in the tents survive.

Today we went to three different tent cities to deliver water, and all of them unique in their own way. We shared words tonight, just one word, on how we would describe today, any why that word.

Wow - because that is what I keep saying every time I turn around and see something, all I can say is WOW.

Overwhelming - its so hard to take it all in and process the way of life here.

Shocking -its what I pictured it would be, but thought what I thought it would be, could not really be that way, but it is.

Hold - the kids are filled with love to just be in your arms, or hold your hand.

Smile - just a smile seems to make them feel so special.

Desperation - the children and the women fighting for themselves to get the water they need for their family, not knowing when they will get any again.

Family – every time I come here I get closer and closer to the ones I share my days with when I’m here. They are so loyal and protective of me that I feel they are my brothers.

This day was a blessed filled day for our group. I experienced things I never thought imaginable. My heart has been so broken by the way I never imagine one could live. The children that run around with almost nothing, or nothing to wear, only wanting you to recognize them with a smile or a touch…then they feel loved.

Try to imagine bringing happiness to someone’s heart with only a smile, touch, hold or a hug, when what we consider being or living blessed, would take much more to bring happiness.

Amy Hunn
Healing Haiti Team Member

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The simple pleasures are the most significant...

Day 1: As we approached Haiti, a voice from the flight deck of the sold out 767 announced that we were going to hold for a few minutes. He continued to explain that the Port au Prince airport has only a single runway, thus prone to backup and delay. This would become the first tangible evidence I would experience of a country so badly in ruins and so completely impoverished and underdeveloped that it defies my ability to adequately describe it.

As we were cleared for landing and began to descend, the country immediately struck me with surprise. It’s beauty from 30,000, 20,000 and 10,000 feet unmatched. An island in the middle of a beautiful blue ocean, the color of which doesn’t exist in a deck of crayons. If it were, the Crayon would be labeled “Caribbean Blue” – the same one we’ve all seen in photos of exquisite beaches and resorts that so define this part of the world. The beauty of the visual from altitude belied what I knew we were about to experience.

As we entered final approach, the reality of Haiti began to emerge from the natural beauty of its macro environment. The last mile brought the surrounding areas and neighborhoods into clear vision and perspective. This was a vision of buildings that appeared more like ruins than inhabitable structures. An innocent question from my daughter “Daddy, what is all that junk?” followed immediately by her recognition “unless those are neighborhoods….” As the wheels touched down, I looked past Shannon’s position by the window to see a jet sitting in a field. Apparently it’s final resting place. The grass and weeds grew around it, accepting the jet as a permanent fixture of the land.

As we deplaned we began a long wait in the Haitian equivalent of a concourse – a hallway with sealed windows on either side, and underperforming air conditioning units operating along the wall. Like the plane awaiting clearance to land, we were again in a holding pattern due to an underdeveloped infrastructure. The 767 spit its 300 passenger content into this concourse, a concourse with one exit option - a single down escalator that descended to a flock of people awaiting transportation to the next stop in entering the country. As the flock cleared, more passengers were allowed to descend the escalator. And again, and again….

As we finally descended the escalator to ground level the stale humid concourse air gave way to a comfortable afternoon. Slight breeze and mid 80‘s. A brief wait and the 9 of us were boarding an open air bus on the tarmac, not 50 yards from a wingover turboprop that was running up its engine for taxi out. The bus took us to the customs and baggage claim area; a metal building sitting a few hundred yards down the tarmac.

The undefined waiting lines lead to multiple Haitian customs agent. As Shannon and I reached our agent he took the passports. Without ever raising his eyes from his desk or the documents, he stamped them and returned them to the two of us. The human equivalent of an automated machine; signing, folding, tearing, stamping, collating and returning. We were in the country.

The baggage claim was a primitive alpha male competition. The lighting in the metal building so poor that the bag tags were essentially indiscernible. After frenzied baggage retrieval by all of us, the likes of which make LaGuardia or JFK appear civil by contrast, we assembled our team. The claim area so small that the area in which we assembled was essentially the area in which we stacked the bags –approximately 3 feet off the turnstile. The 9 of us then attempted to proceed as a single unit to the customs desk. A task at which we were only partially succesfull due to the non-stop pushing and jockeying for position. As we gave our declarations tag to the final customs official, he brushed us past his checkpoint. A handful of declarations documents in his hand, not a one of which I can only assume he ever so much as glanced at, as he certainly didn’t with ours.

By now we were beginning to receive much assistance from the red hats. A group of airport “volunteers” that grab your baggage cart and insist on pushing it to your awaiting vehicle. This is where the madness hit epic proportion. The red hats all screaming at each other in loud voices and speaking in Creole. Their conversation unintelligible to any of us, but clearly the only means of getting things accomplished in this uncontrolled environment. It reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of the old days in the pits of the New York Stock Exchange. Long before the days of automated trading, back in the day when the guy with the biggest courage and loudest voice made the deals – this was the exit scene at the airport. A cacophony of sound and rapid movement. As a red hat pushed me out of the way and placed himself into the operator’s position on my cart, my job became simple - keep my eye on Shannon at all times.

As we worked our way to the awaiting vehicles, the clear lack of transportation law began to become evident. We piled our luggage – all 40 pieces into a compact pickup truck with a topper. A Tap-Tap. The Tap Tap, once full, provided only two open seats at the back. These two seats, sideways facing, sat directly above the bumper. The job for these two guys … hold the rest of the stuff in the Tap Tap as we proceeded to the house. As fate would have it, I was one of these two guys. The rest of the group piled into the bed of an open air pickup truck to lead the way to the house.

Within a ¼ mile of the airport, we began to see the abject poverty of this country. Tent cities lining either side of the road. The road resembling a detonated mine field. The bumps and jars incredible. As with the Red Hats, the law on the road was the same - he with the biggest courage goes first and makes his way. An insane mixture of people on dirt bikes and trucks of all varieties. All with windows down, air conditioning an apparent unnecessary and unaffordable luxury, even for those driving vehicles.

The other guy on the bumper seat was Jeff, the Executive Director of our mission organization “Healing Haiti”. As we left the airport I asked him why the country hadn’t been able to capitalize on its perfectly beautiful Caribbean location. Why hadn’t it carved out a position as a leading tourist destination, as a means of capturing economic vitality? He explained to me a short history of the country – the success of the country in the 70’s at creating a vibrant tourism industry, the US blockade of the island nation in the 80’s - an attempt to drive out the country’s dictator that ultimately killed the country’s budding tourism commerce, the progress made again in the late 90’s and early 00’s, and Mother Nature’s sucker punch that dropped the country to its knees in 2010.

The path to the house was littered with debris. By US standards, the roads were impassable. The further we traveled from the airport, the closer the poverty encroached on the roads. Buildings that were foundationally corrupted, sitting at odd, Escher-like angles, clearly unsafe for human habitation and long since vacated. Tent cities everywhere. Our convoy of two small pickup trucks providing cause for the people within these communities to look up, observe and greet us. Some watching expressionless but most smiling, waving and shouting Creole greetings that I hope to be able to understand by the time I leave here.

The guesthouse will undoubtedly serve as an oasis from the madness all around it. As we arrived here, I used the opportunity to unplug. To try to digest the sheer squalor that I had witnessed in the last 30 minutes. To try to absorb the absolute lack of infrastructure and control that I had witnessed for the last 2 hours. This, without question, is a country fighting to survive. Trying to hold on, trying to keep from sliding off the map. And unfortunately the fighter appears to have both hands tied behind his back – able only to absorb the blows that Mother Nature and its own government have thrown against it. The guesthouse provided a perfect first stop – I was at my saturation point and I’d only been in country for 2 hours.

After an enjoyable guest house dinner prepared by Haitian staff, the group decided to take an unplanned trip into a tent city. Not a trip BY a tent city, a trip INTO a tent city - the tent city a mere 3 or 4 block walk from the house. With a local Haitian guide we journeyed in. Entirely ill at ease, I felt like an equal part spectacle and carnival observer. I felt guilty for descending on these people to witness their world. And as we progressed through the city, the horror of their existence became all the greater. 12 to 18 inches separated most of these tents on either side of a narrow, jagged trail. Hundreds of tents crowd this small city block, that looks at one time to have been a city park. It was early evening and the tents were dark inside – it was nearly impossible to see into the tents, and I didn’t want to try to focus. The squalor was beyond explanation. I walked around a man sitting with a sewing needle of some type, trying to repair his daughter’s broken sandal. Most sat seemingly without purpose, observing the activity around them, most notably our arrival.

As we reached a clearing I saw a boy with two badly under-developed legs. He was sitting in a wheel chair with a tarp roof overhead, presumably with his family. I am confident that he is only able to move to new locations with the help of others, the ground far too rocky and uneven to navigate alone in a wheel chair. But, as I pushed past my own discomfort, I noticed something unexplainable. This boy was smiling. The biggest most beautiful smile I had seen all day. His eyes were lit with joy – this child, with everything to be sad and miserable about, seemed genuinely happy.

We proceeded further into the city, my senses and consciousness on complete overload. I looked in bewilderment at the environment in which I was walking. It seemed surreal – surely this cant be reality in the 21st century. I stood there, watching, observing, processing – trying to come to terms with what I was experiencing. My heart breaking as I saw the abject poverty around us. Our white faces in far less contrast to the environment around us than our clean clothes and cell phone cameras. It was as if too much information was being fed to a computer – I simply couldn’t respond.

A small group of our team jumped into a soccer game and the kids, once they understood our intentions, were delighted. The soccer ball was a completely deflated ball of some nature. It didn’t bounce. The game was played out on a 10 by 20 slab of concrete. But it didn’t matter. This was the pinnacle of entertainment, the center of youth activity in this tent city.

The boys and girls flocked to us, wanting their photos taken and wanting to be lifted and held. One little boy asked me to take his photo. I did, and showed to him – to which he pointed to himself with a question, as if to say “is that me”? I assured him it was him and he beamed with delight. I took another photo of the boy, but others had gathered just as I snapped the photo. Boys and girls alike, thinking they had been included in the photo of the single boy peered to look at my cell phone camera. All with the same inquiry – “is this me”? It was a photo of one single boy, but a crowd of 8 boys and girls all wanted to know if it was them. I stood there in absolute disbelief – my head spinning - these children don’t know what they look like. They don’t know what they look like. How can that be? How is that possible? I knew I would find poverty, but I had no anticipation of this. I need to put even the most seemingly basic assumptions aside.

Next, a woman of probably 20 years asked me to take her photo. When I did she giggled with delight at the site of her picture. It was beginning to hit me – these most simple pleasures that we take so much for granted, are luxuries of the highest order to these people with not a single worldly asset.

Of all the days that I’ve been proud of my daughter, today was the greatest. She and I stood at the edge of the makeshift soccer game. I suddenly noticed my little girl holding a beautiful, quiet 5 or 6 year old girl. I asked her – how did that happen? She said “another girl from our team set her down because she could no longer hold two kids, and this little girl wanted to be picked up, so I did”. There she stood, loving this total stranger. This total stranger content and happy, and appreciating the loving touch of my very own daughter. A daughter that has enjoyed the loving touch of her family since she was a baby, now holding and carrying this little girl until it became too dark to stay any longer. I simply stared in admiration as she went about her work of loving this girl. I have an amazing and beautiful daughter; one who’s exterior is surpassed by an even more lovely heart.

She seemed so much older than 14 standing in the tent city. And I am growing increasingly certain that she is leading me on this journey – not vice versa. As my daughter was standing there holding this little girl, a little boy walked up to me, arms up in the air like my son at the same age. I lifted him and rejoiced at his smile. My discomfort was starting to crash down – thanks to my daughter’s strength and conviction.

Like the soccer game, the photos, the touch of a human being, the caring of another soul – in this environment devoid of all worldly comforts, the simple pleasures are the most significant. If I leave with only one thing I learn from these beautiful people, please God, let it be that.

Jeff Murphy
Healing Haiti Team Member

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our first day

Today was amazing. I can't even start to explain how I am feeling. After we arrived in Haiti we went to the guesthouse and got settled. Then we headed out to the tent city. The tent city was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It smelt, there was garbage everywhere and the floor was mud. We walked around and I noticed that all the people living in the tent cities were happy and smiling. It broke my heart to see that they have nothing and yet they can be so joyful. I wondered why I am so fortunate, living in the top two percent of the world's wealth, but 90 minutes away is the bottom three percent of the world's wealth. As we were in the tent city we walked towards the back and there was a playground. A ton of boys were playing soccer with a worn out, squished dodge ball. They shouted and screamed in delight when they made a goal. They were so innocent and precious. A girl came over to me and wanted me to pick her up. She stayed in my arms up until the second we had to leave the tent city. Tomorrow is water truck day, I am looking foward to the rest of my journey in Haiti.

Shannon Murphy
Healing Haiti Team Member

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Healing Haiti and Hearts 4 Charity Missions Blog

Welcome to the Healing Haiti and Hearts 4 Charity missions blog! Here you will find updates as we journey to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; Haiti. It is our goal to share God's amazing love and serve the least of his people. God is about to use this team in amazing and supernatural ways, watch as the stories from our mission team reveals God's love! Thank you for taking an interest in our trip!

Amanda Sexson
Healing Haiti Team Leader