Saturday, March 16, 2013

On our final day in Haiti we traveled to Grace Village. As we pulled through the purple gates at the top of the mountain, we were greeted by 46 smiling faces. We spent the next several hours with soccer, basketball, frisbee, hard core jungle gyming, and then we began our heart dissection. Shannon did a wonderful job with Wesley to translate the process of blood flow through the heart. The girls were a little disgusted but many of the boys, especially those who want to be doctors, were amazed. They put on their rubber gloves and began pulling apart layers of the bloody black heart.

After the dissection, Amanda and Wesley taught the faith lesson and the team helped the younger kids to make candy-filled hearts. 

-Rhett and Amanda was a little late

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's a Matter of Life and Death by Drew Allen

Ironic isn't it, that while we were trying to breath "life" into the sick and dying today by visiting with, offering healing massages, and the much needed human touch, death was looming there among us, waiting for it's next victim.

Minutes before moving to the next row of beds filled with men waiting for our gift of "life", death beat us there, and took the life of one of the men.  A man nearby, with eyes filling with tears told my son that they had become close friends over the past couple of weeks, indicating that it's easy, when there's nothing else to do but lie there.  As they turned to leave, with heavy hearts, my son looked over his shoulder to see another cloth being placed over the face of another "victim" passing from life into death.
I couldn't help but feel like yelling to the assumed victor, the familiar words...

"Death has been swallowed up in Victory.  Where, oh death, is your victory?  Where oh death, is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

The thought felt all too real that up the stairs and down the hall some of the women we had loved and comforted with much anticipated and desperately needed massages, may also be at deaths door........And then the beautiful words came to me again from 1 Corinthians that says:

"No eye  has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him."  1 Corinthians 2:9

A quick stop by Apparent Project,  provided a timely distraction and reminded us that having meaningful work to do makes life purposeful, hopeful and worthwhile.  Apparent Project employees hundreds of Haitians in hand made jewelry crafting.  Then Moses spoke of a man who is a master craftsman, and expert in working with gold silver and bronze (or in this case cereal boxes!).  We all left with Haitian handmade jewelry to remind us of our visit.

Well they say that all is well that ends well.  So we ended the day with thirteen beautiful Haitian guests who shared dinner, danced in the rain, showed up the Americans in a Happy Birthday song, (theirs far more fun!) and sang "au revoir" on our front steps:

"You hear me when I'm calling, You catch me when I'm falling, You show me who I am.......I am yours!"
                                                        Who Am I? by Casting Crowns


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Day of Contrasts - by Rich Allen

It's Thursday, just the third day of our team's service experience.  We've all been touched by the many sights, sounds, smells, faces and experiences of our first two days.  And the schedule for day three while uniquely different, proved to be an incredible day of contrasts.  Let me explain.

The morning started early with a 6:00am trip to the Morningstar Church - an open-air tent service for any and all comers who want to start their day by praising their Lord.  We arrived to the sounds of a praise band and many locals singing with arms raised and focused solely on their personal relationship with The Lord.  As we took a seat near the center back of the church, the regulars did not sit but moved in unison to the music singing at the top of their lungs.  Contrast #1 - How uninhibited the Haitian people are in their worship while we often worry more about how we look, how we act and what others think.  Clearly, that was of no concern to them.  It was just pure praise and worship between each individual and their Savior - very inspiring!

Our first stop for the day was a tour of Grace Village.  As we arrived in the town of Titanyen having read the stories of the town's past and learning that Titanyen means "Less than Nothing", it was easy to spot the large walled-in facility located high on the hillside.  From a distance it was not obvious that this was a very different and special place in the town.  But as we approached and entered Grace Village it became clearly evident.  The property was so clean, we'll-maintained, uplifting and alive that is was as if we had just entered a different world.  And I am sure the people of the town who experience Grace Village feel the same every time they walk through the beautiful gate.  Contrast #2 - From the very ground that was known for years as being "Less than Nothing" rises Grace Village which is clearly to the people of Haiti "Greater than Anything" they know on this earth!

We departed Grace Village to visit several of the Elders in the village.  What a special time this was.  Each was so appreciative of the visit, enjoyed the attention they received and even sang with us. While it was so special to visit with each of them, it is hard to imagine anything better than spending time with Ms. Marie - 103 years old and still full of spunk and smiles.  Her stories were captivating and her excitement was contagious.  But the contrast of this part of the day happened as we visited with Ms. Marie-Terez who was quietly sitting on her bed with an infant baby girl lying on a mattress at her bedside.  Contrast #3 - Even in her later years, Marie-Terez was caring for a new life - certain to carry on her legacy with renewed hope and dreams of a Haiti healed from years of abuse and neglect.

Our next stop was Olson's Orphanage.  A small, ill-equipped home with 10 children in their care.  While small and just getting their footing, they has a dream of making a difference in their village - and they were making progress.  Their connection with Healing Haiti was benefitting them and the small kids they were caring for.  We brought them but a few things - including some hand-made dolls from a women's group in Paris Arkansas.  The kids loved their new dolls and it was great to see them cling to them like their most precious gift.  Contrast #4 - Right in the heart of Titanyen, the seeds of a new Haiti are rising like a newly planted tree.  While the soil is not as fertile as one would like, the nourishment, care and feeding by teams from Healing Haiti are making a huge difference.

We ended our day with a stop at the Mass Grave site from the 2010 earthquake.  You only need to view the photos of the site from earlier years to get a glimpse of how awful and painful the memories of this place are for all Haitians.  But the healing and new growth is clear to a new visitor.  Past wounds do heal, and they heal even faster when people from around the world come together with a common goal.  It was uplifting to be a small part of the effort.  Contrast #5 - Like watching a small child grow up, if you are with them everyday it is hard to see the changes that happen along the way. But when you look back over a longer time or visit after an extended absence, the contrasts are clear and obvious.  Haiti is like that child growing and healing every day - and we had a chance to be a small but important part of that growth and change.
I am sure that tomorrow will bring even more reasons for giving thanks to God, but today was a one-of-a-kind day of contrast, and I was glad to be in it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pleasantly Surprised by Sammie Maixner

Today was quite special. It truly was one of those days where one is reminded how out of our control life really is. We really do need to depend on God, and today was a perfect example of how detailed His plan for us really is. Oddly, few things went as we had planned, but looking back I could not be happier with how it ended up. After sleeping through the alarm and barely making it to breakfast I was scrambling to get dressed and get in the truck before heading out for the day. Half the team went to the Home for the Sick and Dying while the others went to Gertrude’s Orphanage. Walking into the Home for the Sick and Dying brought back vivid memories of tiny, helpless babies hooked up to IVs. However, to my surprise the number of children whose lives depended on a bag of fluids had greatly dwindled. We quickly found ourselves in the middle of a room of crying children. There were so many that needed to be held and changed and fed it was overwhelming. We dove right in. It was amazing to watch my team members do so much in such a short time, all the while smiling and laughing. Along the way there were minor hiccups throughout the morning, such as an extra messy diaper, but many ended up shaping a great story to tell the rest of the group. That afternoon some of us were supposed to take our first trip to the wound clinic. Unfortunately we arrived back at Home for the Sick and Dying a little too late and missed the van. At first we were quite discouraged, but soon we found our attention completely captured by the sweet little faces and high-pitched giggles of the orphan children. The afternoon passed quickly and we realized we had hardly thought about the missed opportunity. We incorrectly believed our day was over as we walked back to the guest house. As we arrived we were greeted by kids from the nearby houses anxiously anticipating a pick up game of soccer. We spent the greater part of two hours messing around with the kids and enjoying each other’s company. After countless pictures, nutmegs, and unique celebrations our day was truly over. It proved to be such a exceptional time and most of all we were reminded that God is the one who is truly in control and He has extraordinary plans for each and every one of us. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Water Truck Day - Comprehending by Bob Maixner

If you ever doubted how blessed you are one only need spend a day delivering water to the souls living in Cite Soleil.   Today we delivered three truckloads of water into the slums of Port-au-Prince called Cite Soleil.   Our group of 18 is a mix of Minnesotans and Texans and a combination of those on their first mission trip to Haiti and veterans having made multiple trips with Healing Haiti.  This being my first trip to Haiti I was ‘informed’ of what to expect on water truck day however, there is truly no way I could ‘comprehend’ the experience until I was physically in Cite Soleil. 

Some of the words that were used by our team to describe the day were:

Life – some of the Haitians held onto their water bucket as if it was their very own life.  They held on to their bucket so tightly as if letting go could be an end to their own life.

Held – the children had an overwhelming desire to be held.  Miguel found me and changed my whole day and perspective.   Miguel looked up at me with open harms and a big smile.    Miguel had on a shirt and was naked from the waist down.  Today God called me to love Miguel so I spent the next 15 minutes holding Miguel and showing him a small portion of how Christ teaches us to love each other.  The beautiful thing was that I felt just as much love flowing back from him.

Wow – the smells, the garbage, the sewage, the filth, the four walls (and most of the time a roof) they call home, the elderly woman with a 5 gallon bucket of water on her head, … wow!

Braces – three of the girls on the trip have braces.   The Haitian children were fascinated with them and some thought the girls could take them off and so that the Haitian kids try them on their teeth.  Having our third child in braces it made me think that I have put more money into my children’s mouth than these Haitian children may see in their lifetime.
Celebration – Sammie, our eldest loves Haiti and loves serving the people of Haiti.   Today was a celebration of being able to serve those whom God placed in our path to help.  There were lots of smiles and lots of joy amongst the abject poverty. 

Maslow – (this was my word) – our last stop (stop #21 for those that have been to Haiti) with the water truck was the most difficult of the three.  I held the water hose for this stop and was overwhelmed by the chaos and despair over something I take for granted every day – water.   We are told about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and that the lowest level of need is for food, water and shelter.  Understanding on an intellectual level that when these basic needs aren’t met survival instinct drives behavior however, experiencing it first hand is to truly comprehend it.  Thank God for Healing Haiti and the water mission – may it get the people of City Soleil past their basic needs and on their way to flourishing at higher levels.

My day and my life will forever be changed by the teenage boy that stood at the back of our vehicle as we boarded to leave.   He stood motionless just staring into the back of the truck.   I will never know what his thoughts were but I surmise that he clearly wanted to jump on board and be taken away.   He however could only dream of the life that exists for all of us on board as we drive away from his own life.  God will most likely not cause our paths to cross again in this life; however the teenage boy from stop #21 is somebody I will however pray for through my life. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

We Made It - by Audrey Sexson

Today we went to Haiti. We woke up at 3 am so that we could make our flight. The first flight took a long time, but the second was much shorter. As our team gathered for lunch the excitement grew. For some of us this would be our first time and other members of the team were returning. Once we got to Haiti we were greeted by the Haitian staff. They were all smiling and gave us big hugs. We took a bumpy ride in the top-top to the guest house. When we got to the guest house we had a great dinner as a group, all 18 of us. Next we went outside to play soccer with some of the local kids. The soccer was a crazy game of keep away…Americans vs. Haitians. We were surprisingly good, but still were slightly outmatched. Unfortunately it got dark fast and we had to go inside, but the kids seemed really happy and we are excited to play with them more this week. After, we had our first round of devotionals as a group. We are looking forward to a great week of sharing God’s love.