Friday, October 28, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip Day 5

October 12, 2011

After breakfast (ham, onion and pepper omelet, watermelon, laughing cow cheese and toast), we began work with moving the last of the rock pile!  Within a short amount of time we finished.  Then we moved some cement, but it was for the workers to build up the wall with the rocks, so they didn't need much.  We waited and waited for more rocks, then we heard that the truck had gotten a flat tire along the way.

So, most of us decided to take a walk to town with Patrick and Solomon.  I didn't realize we were going all the way to downtown Hinche.  After being in the small village of Odee for a while, Hinche seemed so busy and chaotic.  Solomon and Patrick seemed to be on edge the whole time.  They both kept looking around at our group to make sure everyone was okay, and made sure we were out of the way of traffic, etc.  We stopped at a little road side stand and Jen bought us some Cokes and 7Ups!  Patrick said that one of the people behind the stand said that we must have won the lottery for buying all the sodas.

The old Catholic Church in town (they are building a new one)

A park in the center of town

Washing clothes in the river

Remainders of the old bridge that collapsed
When we got back there were still no rocks!  They were supposed to be there in "10 minutes" which became the running joke all week since "10 minutes" always ended up being much much longer.  We ended up going to lunch because they still had not arrived.  After lunch we moved a little more cement.  Today has been the hottest day here so far.

We moved VBS to 3:30 so we could get more work in once the rocks arrived...but they never did.  Colleen, Jen and I all took showers before VBS since it would be a later day and all the guys would need to shower before dinner as well.  We had a smaller crowd since we held it later--about 20 kids.  Mike read the story of Nicodemus visiting Jesus (John 3:12-20 I believe).  Then they had snack--granola bar with peanut butter and raisins on top.  Then we made cross necklaces.  About the time we started the necklaces it started thundering and lightning pretty badly.  We finished quickly (the kids LOVED the necklaces) and ran to the church just as it started pouring.  It poured for a good half and hour or so.  The dirt street turned into a river!  Getting to dinner was interesting.  It was so muddy that Mike actually fell and landed hard on his hip and shoulder.  He's pretty sore, but okay otherwise.  Lulu got us ice cold bottles of Coke and Sprite for dinner!  It was yummy along with pork loin, macaroni salad, rice, beans and bread.  We came right back to the church after dinner so we didn't have to try to navigate back in the slippery mud in the dark.  The walk to the bathroom was interesting as well since all the hills of dirt from digging out the footer had turned into slippery mud hills.  After devotion (Josh led), Don, Josh and I played rummy while Colleen, Jen, Chris and Dave played Spades.  The others slept or read.  Thankfully, the rain cooled everything off a lot after a hot day.  Tomorrow is our last day here before we head back to the guest house Friday morning. Oh, we also got some of our clothes washed today by a member of the church!  Colleen got some pictures of our clothes drying on top of the cactus plants that line the properties here.  Thankfully they got our clothes down before it started raining.  It's so nice to have some clean clothes and to help a member of the church financially.  Tomorrow we will host the health clinic instead of VBS.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip: Day 4

October 11, 2011

It has been hotter today.  We did some tough and fast moving work this morning moving rocks and slinging buckets of cement.  When we got to lunch there were several people setting up blankets of items for sale on the lay Pastor's land.  We were surprised at first, but then Colleen told us that Solomon had asked her if we'd like to see some carvings and things.  She said yes so he had gotten in touch with a few people from town who sell different things to come and show us their items.  Many of us bought things.  Josh and I got some cloth embroidered bookmarks and a really pretty deep purple embroidered table cloth.

The kids were already gathering around 1:45pm so Patrick told us to go ahead and get ready for VBS.  It turned out that the work for the day was about finished so everyone from our team came to help with Bible school.  I asked Rich if he would like to read the story and he accepted excitedly!  Colleen and Chris working on making snack (PB&J on tortillas cut into pinwheels).  Rich read and Patrick interpreted the story of the Good Samaritan.  While he was reading, I thought "Oh, darn I should have gotten the team to act it out, but I didn't know the whole team would be here."  Just as I was thinking that Mike threw himself on the ground being the hurt man.  Then Gary, Josh and Don came up being those who passed by and the Good Samaritan!  It was perfect and the kids loved it. You can watch it here! 

After the story we practiced the alphabet.  Jen showed the kids the big letters we wrote out and had them repeat each letter in English.  Then she went back through them and they remembered almost all of them!  Then they worked on their letter writing worksheets that we made last night.  One of the moms came over and pointed to her three kids.  Then she looked at what her son had done and told Patrick "Oh my goodness he's never been able to do that before."  It was really neat.  As they finished we had snack and then we taught them how to play duck duck goose.  They had a great time with the game.  Afterward we gave out a soccer ball and the jump ropes again and they played until dinner time.

Dinner was a delicious potato and cheese casserole, chicken, rice and fried plantains.  I led the devotion for the evening.  Now we are back in the church playing cards and reading.  Tomorrow will be more work on the footer and foundation and our last session of Bible school.  On Thursday we are planning on having a clinic of sorts for parents and kids--teaching healthy habits like washing hands and brushing teeth.  And Colleen will do some teaching with the parents about vitamins, etc. and that will be how we distribute the vitamins we collected to the community.  It should be a neat way to serve the community.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip: Day 3

October 10, 2011

We woke up with the sun--around 5:30am.  The dogs and roosters kept me up most of the night.  Then, get this, it got cold in the middle of the night!  Breakfast was yummy-- spaghetti (apparently common), watermelon, toast and hard boiled eggs.  After breakfast we got to work!  A few of the guys began sifting sand which will be used to mix in for the cement.  The rest of us worked on moving rocks from a pile at the front of the church to the back where they are working on installing a footer for what will be a sacristy on the back of the church.

Then we worked as the bucket brigade.  We passed buckets of cement down a line to dump into the holes of the footer of the building.  Lunch was yummy: meatballs, fried plantains, fried okra, coleslaw and a homemade cake.  After lunch we worked some more.

Then around 2pm, Colleen, Jen and I got ready for VBS.  It took a while for the kids to make it over because many had just finished school.  After a while though, we probably had about 35 kids.  I read the creation story out of the Spark Story Bible and had the kids act out the different parts (blow like the wind, sparkle like the stars, be a tree, etc.)  They had a great time and Patrick is not just a great translator but a great teacher.  He got the kids attention when they started chatting off topic, and he reviewed what they had already learned as we went along with the lesson.  After the story, they each drew pictures of something they were really glad God made. Some drew goats (because they eat a lot of goat there), they drew chickens, snakes, trees, sunshine, flowers, and people.  Then we taught them Jesus Loves Me in English and they sang Jesus Loves the Little Children in Creole!  (You can watch it here:  We had snack (Peanut Butter Crackers) then we gathered in a circle and played with the frisbees.  The kids had to call someone's name and throw them the frisbee.  After playing for a little bit, we went back to the church and blew up a soccer ball for the younger boys (because the older boys wouldn't let them play) and got out the jump ropes for the girls.

While the kids played, Colleen, Jen and I went ahead and got our showers so we were out of the way when the guys finished work.  While Colleen was showering, two teenage girls came over with a little boy (we weren't sure whether he was one of their sons or a little brother) about two or three years old probably. We are pretty sure they were trying to get us to take the little boy.  It was an awkward and difficult situation especially since we spoke almost no Creole and they spoke almost no English.  We were told that many families just want the best for their children and will try to get a better life for them in this way.  How difficult that must be to be willing to give your child away to a stranger in order to offer them a better life.  I pray that God will be with that family and they find a way to provide for their children long after we have left Haiti.

After my shower (a bucket of water and a cup inside a four walled no roof structure) I played jump rope with several of the young girls in the community until dinner time.  They had a blast and had so many fun songs they sing as they jump.  Dinner was pot roast with carrots and potatoes, white rice, beans and roles.  We had devotions then came back to the church and made writing worksheets for VBS tomorrow.  Patrick mentioned that they kids really need help with their writing skills and many don't know the alphabet (which is the same as ours which is helpful).  So we made sheets that give them space to trace each letter and practice it on their own.  Hopefully that will be a good start for them.  I wish we would have known things like this before we came and we could have copied lots of different school type worksheets (and even left some with the church for school).  Something to keep in mind for next year!  More rock and cement moving tomorrow!

The shower!  That blue barrel is full of water.

Lay Pastor, Solomon's house where our meals were prepared.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip: Day 2

October 9, 2011

After a decent night of rest (despite the city car noises and the roosters that started crowing at 1am), we had breakfast and packed up two vans (one for the team and one for all our bags and supplies) and began our 3 hour drive to Hinche.  Yorkie (Tom the director's dog) decided she wanted to go with us and hopped in the van and made herself comfortable.  The views were amazing along the way as we drove through the mountains.

Along the way we stopped at a beautiful lake.  We had a short devotion together since a worship service was not possible because of time.

We continued our drive through the mountains with spectacular views of Haiti.  We were also able to stop at Partners in Health--a large clinic facility started by Dr. Paul Farmer in Cange, Haiti.  You can read more about Dr. Farmer and Partners in Health in the book "Mountains Beyond Mountains".  We were able to walk around the complex (after someone sprayed down the bottoms of our shoes to make sure we weren't spreading diseases).  The complex was beautiful.  In the center was a chapel and worship was going on.  Spriti-filled singing voices filled the air.  It was beautiful, and I could feel the presence of God in that place.

We continued on to Hinche.  Actually, the church is just outside of the main downtown area of the city.  We first unloaded all the food supplies and the stove into the Lay Pastor's house where all our meals will be prepared.  Then Patrick, our interpreter, walked us over to the church.  Solomon, the lay pastor, greeted us in Creole and led us into the church where the congregation was singing.  Church service began at 9am and ended at 11am, but they all waited another hour to meet us!  Solomon greeted us again in front of the congregation and thanked us for being there.  We each introduced ourselves in front of the church as the congregation applauded.  Rich said a brief thanks on behalf of the team to the congregation, and Gary gave the benediction.  We felt so warmly welcomed, and the congregation was so hospitable.

After saying hello to most of the congregation, we had some time to play with some of the children.  We pumped up two soccer balls and the boys had two games of soccer going on at the same time (one with the older boys and one with the younger).  Jen and I played lots of hand games with the girls.  They all love getting their pictures taken and then being able to see the picture on the camera.

The dogs around here break my heart.  Most of them are starving to death and have some sort of injury.  Dogs aren't pets around here.  We were told not to feed and pet them because they will continue to come back and many Haitians will then beat them to get them to go away.  Being such an animal lover, it's really difficult for me to see so many animals in that condition and not be able to help.  There are a lot more animals here than in Port-au-Prince or Petion-Ville.  We've seen a lot of goats, horses, donkeys, oxen, pigs, and chickens.

We took a walk around the town with Patrick and then sat and fellowshipped together until dinner.  We learned how to play Casino, a Haitian card game.  Dinner was delicious!  Our cook, Lulu prepared BBQ chicken, rice, beans, macaroni and cheese, a potato/carrot/corn salad, fried plantains and chicken sauce!  We ended with a devotion from Colleen and singing lots of songs with Lulu and Solomon.  Lulu taught us the song Siyahamba (We are Marching in the Light of God) in Creole!

After singing we walked back to the church for the evening.  The generator is running the lights in the church for a little while, and the community is currently using the generator to watch a movie outside!  Tomorrow will be our first day of work.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip: Day 1

Hi Everyone!  Lyndsie, here.  Since we had limited internet access (first and last night's only at the Methodist Guest House), I journaled throughout our trip and decided I could write blog entries after we returned to let everyone know about our week.  Thank you to everyone for your prayers and your gifts of financial support and supplies that made this trip possible and a blessing to both our team and the people of Haiti.  God is truly present in Haiti, and we were so blessed to have encountered Christ there.

October 8, 2011

After very little sleep at Josh's parents house in northern, Virginia, Josh's parents transported us at 4am to Dulles Airport for our 6am flight to Miami.  Above is a picture of the whole team in the airport waiting to board our first flight.  The flight was late by about a half an hour, and proved to be a bumpy ride as we passed through some rain when we got close to Miami.  Thankfully we were able to catch our connecting flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti which was set to leave at 9:45am.

The real adventure began when we landed in Haiti.  As the plane descended, we looked on as we flew low over acres and acres of tent cities.  Here are some of our first glimpses of Haiti from the plane.

As we exited the plane, we walked down an enclosed walkway that was parallel to a building in which every window was cracked and taped up.  A calypso type band greeted passengers as we waited for the shuttle bus to come and take us to customs.  The band was clothed in Western Union garb, and we later found out that they are usually clothed in Digicell garb (the leading cell phone company in Haiti).  As we departed the bus, we entered a building of chaos as we each searched for a blank immigration form (they had not been delivered to the airline to hand out on the flight), fill them out while waiting in line to go through customs, and try to keep all ten team members together.  We made it through with no problems, but then came the really fun part--collecting our checked bags.  I had been warned of the stress of this process and therefore was already having high anxiety over it.  We grabbed some of the metal luggage carts, and other team members pushed their way to the conveyor belt to start pulling off our bags.  We were pushed and shoved as everyone on the full flight tried to gather their luggage and get through the two or three counters for immigration in order to get out of the airport.  We finally gathered all of our bags and made it out, where the sidewalk was lined with people trying to give you literature, ask for money and grab and carry your bags for you.  We had been instructed to find Jackson who works with the UMVIM Haiti Response Team to carry/handle teams' luggage.  We finally found him and Jackson enlisted the help of a few others for our bags.  They loaded our bags onto a van and Eric (employed by UMVIM as a driver) drove us to the Methodist Guest House in Petion-ville where we stayed our first and last nights of the trip.

The ride was eye opening.  While only about ten miles from the airport, it took us around an hour to get to the guest house.  There are for the most part no traffic laws, lights, lanes or signs.  You use your horn to signal passing someone and drive into oncoming traffic to do so.  Pedestrians are crossing the streets constantly and weaving in and out of traffic.  It's crazy!  The United Nations presence is everywhere with armed guards in the back of vehicles driving around the city.  The poverty is evident--street vendors everywhere, people running up to the car asking for money.  Public transportation consists mostly of tap-taps--a kind of taxi that's a covered truck bed with benches down the sides.  And yet there is a strange dichotomy as the destruction and poverty is clearly prominent and then there are new billboards, fancy car dealerships and every so often a gorgeous mansion.  

We made it to the guest house where we unloaded and then Eric took us to lunch.  Lunch was at an upscale fast food type restaurant that clearly only the wealthier Haitians went to (though to put it in perspective--a cheeseburger, fries and a drink was only $3).  We spent the afternoon getting to know one another (since several of us had not met Gary, Chris and Dave until the night before) and enjoying the cooler weather (80s and breezy) at the guest house.

Dinner was fried fish, fresh salad and avocados, fried plantains, rice with chicken sauce, and green beans.  After dinner we had an orientation from Tom, the director of the UMVIM Haiti Response and Sarah, another staff member.  We learned a little more about Hinche and what we will be doing there.  Tomorrow we will have breakfast at 7am and head to Hinche where we will serve for the rest of the week.  We are looking forward to the drive (about 3 hours) which Sarah says is one of the prettiest she's taken in Haiti on the best road in the whole country.  We are all excited to meet the people in Hinche and explore the community.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A week of serving God in Haiti comes to a close!

A letter from Colleen!  Stay tuned for story blogs next week!
Dear All,
We have arrived safely at the Guest House in Petionville after a full and exciting week in Hinche. The only problems were running out of rocks for the building of the wall and challenges of delivering them after a heavy rain. We are free from injury other than sore muscles and mosquito bites. We are excited about sharing our experiences with you. We have many stories to tell. We thank you for your support and prayers.
In Christ, Colleen

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 2011 Haiti Mission Team has arrived in Haiti!

Good Afternoon and Bon Jour!
We thank you for your prayers! Things have gone very smoothly so far. I feel like a mom taking her kids to an amusement park for the first time as I watch Jen, Lyndsie, Don and Josh's responses.
We have arrived safely in Haiti and are enjoying a tepid 80 degrees with a nice gentle wind....the coolest temperatures I have seen in Haiti. We are relaxing prior to dinner at the Methodist Guest House in Petitionville and preparing for our first Haitian cooked meal. We have met briefly with Tom the UMVIM Haiti on site director and have heard more about the community we will be serving with (Hinche) which is in the plateau region north east of Port Au Prince. We were very excited to hear that Patrick will be our interpreter again this year. He has a real ministry here with the teams and in the communities.
Lyndsie has already made friends with the director's dog and Jen has accepted an invitation to play soccer with some local kids. I am listening to the sounds of the Haitian women singing as they prepare our dinner, people in the market as they barter, fans running in the guest house (the last electricity we will likely enjoy for several days). Eric our driver has gone to the store to purchase our water and food for the week. It is a bit like coming home as we remember friendships from our last visit and for those who it is their first visit have begun developing them.
We have seen Jesus in these people and in this place today. Please pray that they will see him in us as we serve with the people of Haiti and Hinche this week.
In Christ, Colleen