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