Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice when He could do something about it. But I'm afraid He might ask the same of me.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

• One Last Day •

Our last day to enjoy Haiti was Wednesday. It was sad to think we'd come to the end of our journey and would have to leave the new friends and family we had made. Kelsey was definitely anxious to head home ;o) We decided after breakfast would be a good time to round everything up that we had made ourselves at home with so we wouldn't be packing at the last minute. We leave tomorrow morning around 5:30 a.m. and none of us are morning people. lol We gathered our laundry from around our room and the balcony. Diane and I had tried our hand at washing some of our clothes in a tub with bar soap and hung them out to dry. Did I mention Downy is a luxury you should never take for granted? lol Hey, they may not have been fluffy soft or completely stain free, but did I mention Zest smelled better than what they had become? Eeeewww. Haiti is a sweaty, dirty place.....full of love but sweaty, dirty. One of the housekeepers doing laundry offered to do ours too and I'm wondering how much nicer they would have turned out if we'd had someone with experience doing our wash? But we wanted to do it ourselves. Everyone does so much for us as it is, I didn't feel right asking someone else to wash my personals! lol The ladies were cleaning and scrubbing, just like some of us have a weekly routine in the states (I said some....). We thought about their hard work and remembered there is another mission group flying in tomorrow morning. They land as we board, and the caretaking starts all over again for Roberto and Alex and Marjorie and the rest of the staff. And I wonder if they will remember us as fondly as we remember them, or if we'll be just another group that has come and gone. Somehow I think they will remember....

As we're gathering and packing things there were items we shipped over for the children and Kelsey and I had packed the bags to take to the girls. Diane was busy emptying those suitcases that were stacked in the living room to bring them up to our rooms to load to go home, when she discovered him.... the rat. We've spent a week with a rat trap in our bathroom and managed to last an entire week without seeing a single rodent. Diane said he was sitting quietly behind the suitcases and she chased him out of the house. Alex spent some time later that night setting traps again....with fresh meat. Oiy. We use cheese and peanut butter for mice at home, they use meat for rats. I know Haiti is not for everyone, I'm just glad I didn't see Mr. Rat, because Haiti is definitely a place for me.

We decided today would be another day of finding children and making visits for those that need sponsors. It's become a personal goal for myself (as well as some of the others I think) to want to find sponsors for sooooo many of the kids. They just simply amaze me.

Its customary to ask before you take a photo of someone in Haiti. Some don't want their picture taken, others don't mind, others thrive on it! :o) Kelsey even had one man ask her to take his photo because he thought it was good luck for his soul. This teenage girl was excited to meet Taylor and it was fun to see her talk to the kids, learn their names and ages by speaking Creole and they had fun looking at themselves after she took their pictures. This girl loved Taylor's hair too and wanted to braid it and play with it. (typical teenage girls huh?!) We still met so many new kids that need sponsors for school, that have high hopes of being educated and sharing their knowledge with siblings and even their parents. You can't imagine what just the luxury of an education can do for a person in Haiti. Sometimes it might actually mean the difference between life and death. Life coming from working or knowing a special trade so you can feed yourself and your family. Or, lacking knowledge to apply yourself or have a skill needed to put food on the table. It's amazing.

So, speaking of special trades...this young woman is going to school and to earn extra money she braids hair. Imagine what she could do if she knew what cosmetology school was!? She comes to the house when missionary teams visit to see if she can do anyone's hair. We paid her $20 to do the girls' hair. It was fun to watch her work. Taylor's hair was so neat when she was done, Roberto even called her blan bel (white beauty), even though she said she felt like a chemo patient. lol We don't see our scalps often as Americans do we?

We had previously taken our gifts of backpacks and extra goodies back to our girls' that we had sponsored and Kelsey received a surprise today. Claudia, her sister Linda and their mother walked all the way to our house to show Kelsey the new dress from her bag as a thank you. A sign of appreciation. I know Kelsey was amazed and appreciative of their journey, I think we were all feeling emotions of gratitude for their walk to the house. The fact that they cared enough to walk all that way, just to show her the dress. Wow, at home we send thank you cards, or send gifts. Claudia was still wearing her bracelet Kelsey gave her from the days before. The even better part...Roberto told them that not only was Kelsey and her family going to sponsor Claudia to go to school, but they were also going to sponsor her sister Linda. Now both girls can go to school with no worries. How exciting for their family! Can you imagine how they talked about it with their other brothers and sisters when they got home? You could just see and feel the joy they were overwhelmed with as they walked away to go home before the storm came again. Claudia skipping down the driveway and Linda hugging her mother.

Sorry, you'll have to turn your head for this one... that's Claudia, Linda and their momma heading home down our driveway. So excited. :o)

Our last joy of the day was having Brian and Kristi's family come to the house for a visit. Sherry came and brought with her John Lee, the kids' older brother, Ellie their big sister and a neighbor boy who spends a lot of time at their house. It was great to meet them and see where Kristi and Brian came from. To meet the woman who loved them enough to allow Diane to become their mother. To ensure they would be given a future and a life through a woman who would love them as her own. The kids also took to Kevin just like Brian and Kristi adore their older brother. They have met him before and Kevin is definitely someone who is hard to forget! ;o) He's so great with the kids, playing games, entertaining. I'm tellin' ya.... any teenage boy who allows his little sister to braid his hair is tops in my book. I hate to admit it, but Kevin is special. :o)

You'll have to twist your head for this one too. ;o) And I'll spare him the embarrassment of the hair braiding shots on a public blog. Maybe those will make it into the slideshow for posterity. lol

If you look closely in the background of the picture with Diane and Sherry and the kids you can see some people sitting at the table where we eat. We had a prayer group that came to the house to pray with us before our trip home. We stood around the table as we bowed our heads to pray, it was like taking a time of silent prayer and then simultaneously they all began praying aloud in Creol, and their voices became louder and faster as they prayed. It was an incredible feeling that almost overwhelmed you as you knew they were praising God and thanking Him for their blessings and I have no idea what they said but could feel it within me. It was one of those moments that you wish everyone could have experienced yet no matter how much I might try to tell you what it was like, it would be impossible. After they prayed we sat and Roberto translated for us as they thanked us for coming as missionaries and for the things that we do to make a change in their country. That God would bless us for our work and our love for their people and their country. They prayed for our safe return to our homes and safe travels if and when we return to Haiti. Roberto ask if we wanted to say anything and Diane and I told them how much we appreciate them welcoming us to their country and how much we love and admire them and are grateful for the opportunity we're given to try to make a difference here. We love Haiti with a passion that can't be explained, you can only know it when you experience it for yourself.

Tomorrow we have to say good-bye. Finding our own ways to say good-bye is different for us all. Diane had her private time sneaking down to the ocean this morning before we all woke up. Kevin hasn't been feeling well and likes the quiet of his room (I think he'll secretly miss so many things here, even if he wouldn't admit it). Taylor had her private time as she took a walk to the end of the pier and sat for a long while alone. At the end of the pier it's almost as if you're sitting in the middle of the ocean, and she watched the storm come in. I wish I knew where her mind was and the things she was pondering. Kelsey took a nap under a palm tree today, I'm sure she'll be glad to return home to her family and share her experiences here. My moments come by watching and observing everyone else around me. Whether it's our team, the kids, Roberto and Alex, the other workers around the house, or the dog chasing the rooster in the yard, Marjorie chasing the chickens out of her kitchen, the men working in the yard discussing how they'll make the retaining wall, the gardner hoeing and working in the new plants that are blooming, the lizards sneaking through the bushes or crawling up the trees, the sound of the ocean, the smell of the charcoal.... I'll miss it all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

• Wednesday •

The start of a new day in Haiti. A day we get to go meet families and children and see who needs sponsors. We get to go back to see Smeralda and Claudia again because we have bags of goodies for them. But, lucky me...Diane decided to share on the last day we're in Haiti that she has a video camera! Hellow! I could have smacked her. lol I took the opportunity before breakfast to roam around the grounds and in a sense "stopped to smell the flowers". I took pictures of the flowers and the beauty I see in Haiti. The things that have made this home for us for a week. I want to cherish every sound, smell and site possible before I go home. Maybe if I stop long enough it will stay in my brain, in my heart longer. I know there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven. There is a time for us to go home, but I'm just not ready for it yet. ;o)

So, after breakfast we're off! Before we see the girls there are a few stops we're going to make. We get to meet Michael (Myko). He's a little boy that Diane sponsors so he can attend school. She met him once at the school but never at his home with his family. I'm videotaping the trip so forgive me if you get motion sickness from watching. I never claimed to be a good videographer. lol Pictures are my forte. ;o)

Meeting Myko was a bit different than meeting the girls. He lead us from the street where he was playing with his friends to him home. Through dirty paths, past other homes. He was happy to meet Diane again and was excited it seemed to show us him home and his family. Which he does seem to have it a bit nicer than some of the other families we've seen. Was it a shock to me to see that Claudia slept on the floor in dirty laundry with all her siblings in one little dark room with no windows and a dirt/rock floor....yes. But not as much of a shock as discovering that Myko sleeps on the floor under his moms bed. There was no blanket, no pillows, just dirt and rock. Which in a sense, after considering the lifestyle is probably a good safe place for Myko. He's away from the bugs, the sheet dangling from his mother's bed probably acts as a mosquito net of sorts. He's dry if the roof leaks, and, Myko looks healthier than most of the kids we've seen. He has his belly full at night when he lays down to sleep. It was nice to meet his family, play with his baby sister (who was left home alone with him to supervise). We woke her up when we found her in bed alone. She's 4 months old. And so adorable!!! Taylor is falling in love with the children here. Someone who never wanted kids and she never ceases to amaze me. ;o) (Maybe that's my mommy goggles talking but she and Kevin are super with all the kids. I think Kelsey is still in shock mode at times and just wants to take everyone home and away from all the hardship.)

Diane and Michael (Myko)

Taylor and Michael's baby sister

After we left Michael's house we walked through the village meeting seeing children. We soon had our own little parade! There were kids giggling and following us and talking (of course we had no idea what they were saying, except for a time or two when a child would join our little group and ask for a dollar....Roberto would send them away telling them not to beg from us and they needed to go to church).

Everytime we stopped at another house to look for someone in particular that Roberto wanted us to meet, we would acquire more kids to our parade. :o) They were so cute and so loving. Walking along you can't help but smile and as they look up at you with those adorable little faces I couldn't resist reaching down to take hold of the hands of the little boys at my side. Talk about a chain reaction! It was like giving them all permission to release their inhibitions and take hold of the Americans! They all started scrambling to be the first to grab the hands of those left, and if they couldn't find a hand to hold they were holding our shirt tails or our pants legs. They were so happy to be accepted and loved by total strangers. We began singing songs and swinging our arms. Taylor and Roberto started their usual tune. ;o) Kelsey was taking photos and sharing her review screen with them (which is amazing to them!), Diane was sharing her sunglasses as they got to take turns seeing through her dark eyes. It was just incredible to see how far we had walked and how many children we accumulated! When we finally got back to the truck we had to say good-bye. I didn't think we'd ever get Taylor back in the truck. We were all in and waiting for her to load up and she said we could just leave her there and come back for her later. lol

Taylor's parade buddies. ;o)
The two little boys on the back of the truck were my groupies. :o) At one time when someone else had let go of my hand the little boy closest to me had to keep pulling his pants up and the little boy in the pink shirt snuck in and took over. They started fighting over who was going to hold my hand until I showed them, "Hey, I've got two!" Just like home. Separating my boys, don't fight, I have enough hands and enough love for both of you. :o)

We were headed to our next stop which was Oshiani's house, another girl that Diane and Kevin's family have sponsored for many years. She is where we would consider in the country. Like the outskirts of the village. It was quite a little hike and jumping a few creeks but no one fell down today so all is good! Oshiani's house is two rooms, they have a nice yard area where they do their laundry and work. Her house is well equipped with a table, a couple of chairs and a small cot in the living room area and one bed in the bedroom. This small two-room house is home for 9 people. Can you imagine sharing a one bedroom house with 8 other people? It's clean by Haitian standards and has a cement floor that is well swept and free from debris or rocks. I even felt the need to remove my dirty flip flops before taking the tour she offered of their home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

• Tuesday Afternoon •

Last night Roberto told us the good news that we could go meet the girls we were wanting to sponsor. Kelsey's mom had e-mailed that she could pick out a child to sponsor and I had spent time looking at the Mission website even before we left America with hopes of helping a child.

I had thought long and hard about what kind of a child I wanted. Some of you know that Eric and I had lost a child before Tanner. She would have been 7 years old now. Just a year ahead of Tanner in school. So I thought it would be a nice memorial to her to sponsor a child. A 7-yr-old girl going into the first grade. Surely there were plenty to choose from..... or so I thought. :o) There were only two girls this age and going into the first grade. Roberto had told me we could visit both families and see their needs and then I could choose if I wanted. Well, after laying awake talking to Eric in my sleep I discovered my answer. I told Roberto it just wouldn't be right to visit both girls and only pick one. How would that make the other girl feel? I couldn't do that to her. So, I picked Smeralda and that was that. Roberto had told us about Claudia's family too and how poor they were and how much they needed. That was all Kelsey needed to hear. She didn't need to search the many photos, she wanted Claudia. So, off we go.............

On our drive to Smeralda's house we had a little 'car trouble'. The truck just quit right in the middle of the street. Now I know where all the abandoned vehicles come from on the sides of the road and in people's yards. lol All we could do was pull it off the road in an old abandoned Texaco station and start walking. After watching 5 or 6 men stand around and discuss what they thought was wrong with the truck we started our hike. After all, they're certainly not going to take any advice 4 American women could offer up about car trouble. ;o) I told Diane when we left the house something was wrong with the truck.... I could hear it. She laughed when we broke down that I would be able to tell. Too bad I haven't figured out how to fix them yet. I think Taylor's short-lived time on the Ag-Mechanics team should have been on big engines.

So, who cares, we're walking again. Getting to know the village and the people. It's easier to learn and see when you're walking among the people instead of driving through at the speed of light. (maybe not quite that fast but sometimes it feels like it) lol

Our first stop was Smeralda's house. We were only about 10 blocks away when we broke down. Off the beaten path, through a small alley, that became even smaller the farther you walked. We passed lots of kids playing, lots of trash, people urinating on the walls (not an unusual site in Haiti). When we finally reached her house we were greeted by her great aunt who was home. She sent some of the neighborhood kids to find Smeralda and tell her to come home. We were offered the best chairs from the house as they brought them out and set them around the porch for us. When Smeralda came through the gate Roberto interpreted for us telling her why we were there and how much we were looking forward to being her sponsor and how proud and honored we were to be able to help her. We received lots of hugs and took lots of photos. Taylor had made friendship bracelets for Smeralda, herself and me to share. We told her how wearing them would remind us of her everyday and how we couldn't wait to come back to Haiti and see her someday and we looked forward to her letters and hearing her progress in school. I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to have this little 7 yr old climb on my lap and give me a hug and a big smile. How wonderful it must have been in her home that night sharing the good news with her momma when she came home. My children get excited over new video games and movies, Smeralda was excited to be able to go to school and not have to worry about how to pay for it.

Time to go to Claudia's house! Which was quite a walk in the opposite direction. Roberto shared stories with us as we walked along. Listening to the chatter of the people in the street and Roberto told us different times what people were saying. And, other times, told us he couldn't repeat what some of them were saying. It wasn't proper. Yes, they were talking about us and calling us names I'm sure. One woman I greeted even spouted back with an emphatic "SUCKAH!" I told Roberto if I would have been on top of things I would have yelled back, "God Bless You!" But we were laughing too hard. ;o) Lots of kids yelling "blan blan!" White white! Taylor has learned her creole good enough she talks back now.... "My name's not blan! My name is Taylor!" lol She never ceases to amaze me. lol :o)

After a small hike we came to the bottom of a little mountain standing in a dry creek bed. Looking up the hill Roberto explains this is where we're going.... uh, okay. Kelsey headed up with a hand from Roberto, Taylor had her boots on (smartellic kids), I decided to go barefoot. I have better grip with my bare feet than I do with slippery flip flops! Diane brought up the rear making sure none of us came rolling back down! lol

At the top of the mountain Roberto keeps watching the sky just to ask Claudia's mother if we may take shelter under the awning to her house. There was a storm coming and here we are stuck on top of a mountain. The rains came, the children came running up the hill and through the straw dividers of the wall bringing in laundry, tossing in little baby brother, water pails. They move fast and work hard. I was in awe to see little kids not much older than Tanner carrying containers of water up the mountain, older kids about 8-10 carrying 5 gallon buckets of water on their heads. I grumble carrying two buckets by hand to the barn, and here these kids are packing it on their heads! Oiy... I feel so spoiled yet again.

When Claudia arrived home Roberto shared with her why we were there also and she was very shy but grateful as she gave Kelsey a hug and took her picture while Kelsey tied on her friendship bracelet. Roberto laughs at us sometimes for crying. Although he definitely means well and thinks we have big hearts, he just likes to try to make you smile through it all. :o) We could tell Claudia's family was much more poor compared to Smeralda and had lots more brother's and sisters. Smeralda has one younger brother. Claudia has 6 or 7 siblings. What a difference those mouths make when you are trying to feed your family. Some of Claudia's siblings were malnourished and wormy. So we decided to take some medicine back to her family the next day.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. We had to walk through the construction site at the river because the bridge is out. We are so proud of Diane with her fear of bridges that she managed to walk across this little wooden plank bridge to get to the other side. It's been a great day!!! How could it get any better? Maybe an internet connection so I can share with my friends and family?! Like that's going to happen..... lol :o)

• Tuesday •

Our time is going by so quickly! It seems we can't get enough of Haiti and today we are off to the orphanage at Canaan again to see how Bobi works the Medika Mamba program for the children in the medical clinic. Always something to learn and help with.

A Healthy Boy Soon to Graduate! :o)

Roberto took us to the orphanage in the truck and we all stepped inside the clinic to see how the day would start. There were lots of people sitting around and standing, waiting to get into the medical clinic, and the Mamba clinic. Medika Mamba means peanut butter medicine in creole. The parents bring their children much like we can take our babies to the health department or doctor's office for well baby check ups. We stood in a corner and watched as patients started coming in. The children are all clean and have clean clothes on, and shoes. It's a change from what we've seen for the last few days. But then again, when we take our kids to the doctor we clean them up too. ;o) It's really no different than home in so many ways.


When the babies are brought in they are weighed and measured to see if they are on target for their age. The people working in the clinic have been trained in how to check their charts, properly distribute the Mamba and when to know if they need further treatment for other things such as Malaria or worms. Many of the children are wormy, which is no different than us giving worm medicine to our pets. The parents can tell you if their child has worms in their stools. It's sad to see children with their health not as good our our family pet.

The Mamba comes in plastic pouches and much like anything else, it separates in the pouch so we all spent our 'observation' time in the corner mixing bags of Mamba like kneading playdough in our hands. If your child is eligible for the Medika Mamba you are given enough of the mixture to last until the following week. The Mamba looks and tastes like peanut butter so it's very important that the parents are instructed that the Mamba is a medicine. Not a food or a treat. That it is to only be given to the child they bring to the clinic. As voo doo is still going on in Haiti it is also explained to the parents that the Mamba is not magic or voo doo. That the people working at Canaan are Christian and God has blessed them to come to Haiti and help the people and the children. That the Mamba is a good thing, it is of God and will make their children and babies better. They will gain weight very quickly so the parents are encouraged to keep feeding the medicine and not stop because it seems like a magical cure.

The Mamba is significantly fortified with lots of protein, and nutritional supplements to nourish the children. Within 6 to 8 weeks you can transform a starving child to a healthy, thriving and happy child. It really is amazing to see.

The down side to the clinic....not all parents follow directions. After all, the Mamba does taste like peanut butter and it's hard to keep it from the other children in the house and it sometimes gets shared or other family members start sneaking it because it's so good. We had to watch as it was explained to one mother that if she didn't follow the program properly she wouldn't be allowed to have the Mamba anymore. How do you explain to a mother that you aren't going to help her make her child better anymore because she has failed to follow directions? This same child is the one we saw earlier this week in the village. Yes, he was better since Diane had seen him last as he could stand and walk when he was so close to dying. But he's still not gaining as he should. The Mamba is something that can be so closely regulated they know how much weight your child should gain based upon the dosage they tell you to administor. It's amazing. Bobi is so caring with all the families and the children though. It's great to see her head up this program and watch the children grow. She's good at what she does and it makes her very happy.

After our work at the orphanage we went back to the house for water and a break and to drop Kevin off. ;o) He has fishing to tend to while us girls go check out our new kids we're going to sponsor! Yeah!

• Monday •

Waking up knowing it was a day to work brings a smile to our faces. Different than home (I'm the first to admit physical labor is not my forte.) ;o) but definitely a nice change of pace. We had plans to paint at the school today and Roberto had to go into port to take a test so Alex is escorting us to the school. We're off to paint! Our long walk is a welcome trip, as we get to see the village kids and families along the way.

We thought it hadn't rained much the night before, the puddles we were dodging weren't too bad. But they seemed to be getting slimier all the time. And, oops.... Kelsey didn't quite make it over one before she slipped and plopped right down in it. We can laugh now because it's past, but at the time we felt bad. Being the farm kids that we are, Kelsey just brushed herself off.... well, okay so she couldn't brush it off. She flung a bit of the mud off of her hands and walked on. I know it had to be uncomfortable but what can you do? There's no 7-11 on the corner to stop and wash off at, and no water hydrant at the nearest park to wash off at. When we got to the school one of the men was kind enough to bring Kelsey a bucket of water to wash off with. Her entire leg was covered with mud, you couldn't see any bare skin. :o( It was turning out to be a very hot day too so I know she was uncomfortable, but she never complained. :o)

We painted a classroom and some of the outer walls with blue paint. Well, blue water... paint. I think it was paint. There was about three inches of water settled to the top of the buckets and we had to shake them a bit and dug through a scrap pile to find a piece of wood to stir the paint with. I don't know how they keep anything painted with that stuff. I'd think it would wash right off with a power washer, but then again, they don't have those in Haiti either. lol It washed right off of our skin and came out of our clothes with ease. But, it served it's purpose and the kids have fresh paint on their walls. With all the construction we couldn't paint as many classrooms as we hoped to. There were boards and lumber piled up in front of the doors and workers making rebar frames and supports for the construction. After a couple of hours we were finished and decided to walk home.

Alex had errands he was tending to when he left us at the school and said he would return around 1 or 1:30. We were finished with our work by 10:30 and it was pointless to sit and do nothing for a few hours. So, we walked to Mike and Marion's house (within spitting distance! lol), and borrowed the 4-wheeler to go home on. We couldn't all fit on the 4-wheeler so Kevin took us in shifts. Riding behind Kevin on a 4-wheeler.... more of a risk than walking through a Haitian village without an escort? Debateable. lol Kevin took Kelsey and I back to the house and then went back for Taylor and Diane as they walked along the road waiting for him to come back. And, believe it or not, I was never worried. About us, about Diane and Taylor, about Kevin riding alone to go back for them. The people are loving and accepting of us knowing why we're here and very few look away or point fingers. It's an odd feeling. Everywhere we go we're the only white people, and I've never felt more comfortable or safe. There's places in Kansas City I wouldn't go alone. But in Montrouis, Haiti I feel welcomed.

Kevin didn't dump us going back to the house and he and Taylor rode back to Marion's house to pick her up and bring her to our compound for a visit (and a 4-wheeler lesson). lol She stayed for a while and we had a nice visit before Alex and Roberto came home. We feel lost at times without them since we're not supposed to go anywhere without them. There was some painting to be done at the house where repairs had been made to the bathroom so Taylor and Diane took care of that.

Kevin of course is off to swim again, and Roberto is taking us girls for a walk through the village. We were getting a feel of what the children and families go through ona daily basis. How the kids work to carry water, everyone doing laundry by hand and how far they all have to walk to get to anything (anything meaning the river for water, or a well, or the school). We got to meet Brian and Kristi's cousin and John Lee (their brother) surprised us at the school before we left too. :o) Diane is happy to see familiar faces and the kids all remember her. I'm so busy savoring all the smiling faces I wasn't paying attention when I stepped off of the walking path and stepped on an ant hill. Red ants. Fire ants. :o) Aaaah..... Did I mention they sting/bite? LOTS of them. I had red welts all over my feet very quickly and my feet went a bit numb and tingly. But, no point in complaining and nothing you can do about it.... walk on. Lucky for me I'm not allergic to anything and by nightfall and my shower the red welts were gone and you never could have known I'd been bit by anything. Diane's jealous. ;o) lol
After lunch (4pm) we decided to relax and play a game of volleyball tonight. Of course the darker it gets the harder it is to see that big rubber ball coming straight at your head. lol We had a blast! I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Laughed at the kids, at myself, at Roberto and Alex. We had a great time. See, it is possible to have fun without electricity! Without video games and internet! lol The only part that wasn't fun was getting bit by a centipede! Darn Haitian bugs! Mosquitos are the least of my worries! lol You never know what's slithering through the grass. ;o)
All the walking and interacting with the kids from the village and listening to Roberto and Alex has inspired me to be a sponsor for a child. Now.... to pray about it and find just the right child. Too bad Eric's not around to keep me company. ;o) I found two little girls on the sponsorship page of the mission website... Roberto says we can meet them both tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

• Sunday •

Sunday morning started like any other we would have had at home. We all got up and ready for church, Roberto and Alex were even dressed sharp to escort us to services. It was a morning like our families I'm was full, everyone was gracious and welcoming to us, there was much singing and praying and preaching. Alex interpreted for us, we recognized some of the songs as they are universal to us all, such as "I'm in the Lord's Army". Same tune, different language. :o) We clapped along. It was a different atmosphere though as Dockery sings, we've even had new praise groups with our music, however......I regret to inform you all, we worship like preschoolers on a collegiate level!!!! People were singing, dancing, waving their hands in the air, clapping, smiling, the noise level was so loud while everyone was singing and the music was playing that you couldn't speak to the person sitting next to you and expect them to hear! It was definitely uplifting and everyone was worshiping the Lord.

We recognized people, such as "Tammy" when the pastor's wife presented announcements and activities to follow for the next week. Song leaders, and of course pastor. The sermon involved Jeremiah chapter 2 and John.

And, of course, Kelsey was playing with Macline the whole time Annette!!! Just like home, we sat next to Macline and her brother and Kelsey kept her entertained and kept her cool by fanning her. It was rather warm in church and everyone was close together and did I mention the body heat generated by dancing and singing?! ;o) lol It was a wonderful experience that will not be forgotten.

When services were over, it was amazing to me to see how many people sought us out to greet us and shake our hands and share hugs. Everyone was so hospitable and happy to see us. Thank goodness we all learned how to say hello, good morning, and God Bless You and God is Good in Haitian! ;o) We used it a lot Sunday!

After church we came back to relax a while and went to Mike and Marion's for a bit. They welcome other American missionaries to come and visit, have refreshments and share what each group is doing with their mission and how their time here has been.

It was a good, typical, Sunday. We missed you all at church!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

• Backwards •

The next post has details from our last couple of days and we'll try to post more later. Pictures in one post, words in another! lol Sorry.... It's Haitian internet! lol

Ace Ventura his first time spear fishing. Got a stingray that actually tried to sting him!

This was a family that we went to meet and check on the boy in the wheelchair. He had been fine earlier in years, and then would just start falling down when walking to school. Then one day he just stopped walking and couldn't get up. They don't know why....

Diane, Kevin and Alexandra his sponsored sister :o) What a sweetheart! She came back to the house today after seeing us yesterday because she had made gifts for Kevin and Diane. Plaster/Ceramic Hearts with flowers she made herself.

This is a little boy that has been through the Medical Mamba (super powered peanut butter!) program with his papa. The last time Diane was here just a few short months ago he wasn't expected to live, and he was walking when we went to visit. :o)

The nut again... I mean Kevin, learning to climb coconut trees! Yes, he fell several times, but persistence paid off! :o)

Diane had someone donate this stroller for this little girl. It came from Chillicothe. She has a bone disease where she has VERY minimal movement and her bones are extremely brittle. Just touching her too hard can break them. She was SOOO happy to get the stroller and have Kevin take her for a ride. We went back the next day to take some more stuff to her and she sang to us, "Here I am to worship". It was beautiful to here her little voice. And, she's 7. Yes, SEVEN.

Oh, and Annette.... Kelsey sat next to her in church this morning. It was just like being at home. They played all through service! ;o) She laughed and laughed with Kelsey. It was so funny! She was all dressed up in her pretty white sundress with a little bonnet and pearl earrings.

Taylor skipping rocks in the ocean. This is the little boy who didn't speak any english but Taylor has learned enough to play with him and found out his name and how old he was, etc. He laughed at her.

Our trip to the orphanage.

This little girl is Olivia, she is one of the missionary's adopted daughter and they came for dinner last night. We all played with Olivia! She's a sweetheart!

Our internet is really bad here so we have been keeping journals. We'll share with everyone when we get home, but at least this way you get photos in one post and the story in the next.... if we're lucky! ;o) lol

Love and miss you all! :)

• Friday & Saturday •

Wow... what a couple of days. We should explain that we only have electricity for a couple of hours at night and the internet would not work for us yesterday. So.... no post. Today will be a mass 'overview'! ;o) lol Saving time and hoping the internet doesn't fail us again.

I can't get photos to load. :( It's getting ready to storm.... We visited the Orphanage and learned alot about their place and the education. We visited the local school to help fix desks and benches and will go back later to paint. The kids have all done a great job. We have lots of photos and details to share when we get home. But here's food for thought.... We learned how much money it takes to send a child to school here. When you see commercials or hear pleas for sponsorships of a child..... it really takes so little to make such a HUGE difference. For the price of a pizza..... (yes how many of you had pizza tonight? It's Saturday after all.) ONE pizza can send a child to school for TWO years plus provide him or her with one meal a day while at school. Hard to fathom. That’s how much it costs a Haitian family to send their child to school. Sponsoring a child costs us so much per month so you’re not helping just for their schooling, but the supplies, and teachers, and desks and books, uniforms. The school building itself. Seeing the construction and work they do is amazing with what they have. The children are also being taught they need to earn this privilege. Not to take it for granted when they have a sponsor. It’s wonderful to learn about.

We visited families and saw how they live, Diane and Kevin have gotten to see Alexandra. Kevin has sponsored her for the last eight years with his family. She knew exactly who they were. It was fun to visit with them and the other places we'd been today. So many families, so much sickness and poverty, yet they manage a smile and a welcome hello.

We combined play with work as the kids wanted to play in the ocean again and we all swam, but they clean rocks out of the sand on the bottom to use to build walls and barriers to prevent the erosion here. So we all dove for rocks and filled five gallon buckets and dumped them in the rock piles. I have to admit, it was the most fun I've ever had working. ;o) We all got sunburned but oh well. ;o)

We've done a lot of walking today and never once did any of the kids complain. Kevin certainly commented about the temperature ;o) but we kept trudging along. Remember we only have electricity a few hours a night. So while you're all thinking of us at home (even if we don't have any comments on the blog *hint*hint*) I challenge you to do something. Take one hour of your day.... just ONE and turn off the tv, the a/c, the internet, the video games, the telephone, don't use the microwave or your dishwasher, but go about your normal routine. Oh wait, I almost forgot, the washer and dryer. ;o) Then when you've done your work for this ONE short hour, and you're hot and want to cool off, try a cold shower. And I don't mean that metaphorically. We don't have hot water. Every night is a cold shower. Today was the first day it was comfortable for me! :o)

More great food and fellowship with friends and loved ones. And to entertain ourselves at night, we played volleyball in the yard tonight. Last night was cards (skip-bo and phase 10).

Kevin has learned to climb coconut trees, he went spear fishing today and actually got a stingray (which of course tried to sting him as he was showing it off), but that's Kevin. ;o) He convinced Marjorie to cook it for him and just like a grandmother would she rolled her eyes and shook her head, but did it just for him. And SURPRISE it was good! (so they said....I wasn't brave enough to try it.) Diane said it tasted like fish and of course Marjorie threw some special touch to it.

Taylor has been learning Creole and has even surpassed the expectations of the Haitians who are teaching her. It's rather impressive (and sickening at times!). ;o) lol She has been able to communicate enough that even kids that don't speak English understand she knows a little (petee petee) Creole and she had fun skipping rocks in the ocean with one of the local boys yesterday. She did so good once he smiled and jumped for her and gave her a 'knuckle bump'. ;o) It was so funny. I actually have pictures of my daughter smiling!

Kelsey is in love with every child we pass and amazingly, they are drawn to her. God has blessed her with something that those of us over the age of 10 cannot see. They laugh and smile at her and play games. Even if it's only from a distance. One of the kids at the orphanage leaned over on her when we took their picture and one of the staff told us that child doesn't interact with any of the Americans that come to the orphanage. It was amazing to see her leaning on Kelsey. And, Kelsey said when I took their picture she leaned to Kelsey and told her "friend" "you're my friend". :o) Brings a tear to your eye doesn't it??? (Sorry Annette.... but she's doing great being away from home and I think you have a future missionary on your hands.)

Well, the storm is in full swing and I'm signing off. Hoping this uploads. :o) We'll be home soon, but not tooo soon! ;o) We're thinking of you all....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

• God's Birthday •

WOW.... just WOW. :o) We arrived in Haiti this morning after sitting in the airport from midnight till 6 a.m. in Miami. We played cards, visited with our new friend 'Barb' about her big surprise and snacked. It's odd being in an airport for 6 hours with absolutely no one in site but the janitor buffing the floor. What's worse, is no sleep.... and no bed. lol I don't think I've ever been so sleep deprived. Ever. But it's worth it. (so forgive me if this post seems a bit confusing....we've been going on about 3 hours of sleep for two days). Oh yeah... our luggage didn't make it. :o( Diane is going back tomorrow to pick it all up.

We met Roberto at the airport to bring us to the compound and instantly fell in love with his sense of humor and spirit. He drove us to the compound in style (that's air conditioning in layman's terms) aaahhhhh.... ;o) While driving 'home' I was so overwhelmed with everything I wanted to take photos of that of course I missed most of it. Like a child I was too excited and by the time I remembered to try to take a photo it was too late. But, we did see a 'parade' of people coming down the street singing and praising. Roberto explained today in Haiti, it's God's Birthday. They had a truck covered with streamers and ribbons, walking carrying crosses and singing their hearts out. Christ's birthday is December 25th, I learned God's is June 12th! :o)

Happy Birthday God Parade

There are goats, cattle, and horses and donkeys all over the countryside. When we asked how they know who they belonged to Roberto explained stamping the cows (branding) to us. ;o)

Kevin of course has been his charming self, asking every hour (at least) "Are we there yet?" Even after we got here. lol While riding our 1 1/2 hour drive to the house he managed to locate two nightclubs and 20 different 'super banks'. Which are just places to play the lottery.

We learned tap taps are taxis (okay.... toyota trucks, old buses, whatever you can hold LOTS of people in) that are everywhere. Diane had told us what to expect when we got to Haiti, the culture, the weather, the atmosphere, and lots of trash. Alot of trash is an understatement. I know it would be impossible to ever clean it all up. There are miles and piles of trash, bigger than my car. Some as big as my house. Sad for such a beautiful country. Fighting the urge to clean for all you OCD people would likely kill you. lol :o)

My aversion to long car rides due to car sickness was reinforced by Roberto's mad skills behind the wheel. He seemed to be in his element as we dodged goats, tap taps, bicycles, and.... PEOPLE. I swear Kevin and Taylor secretly learned to drive here. I ask if people were ever worried about getting run over (we were certainly driving at a faster rate of speed than any of us American's would have taken the road). ;o) Roberto explained there is no 'sueing' in Haiti. If you run over someone or they get in your way and they are dead, you are responsible for paying their funeral expense. That's it.

I've never seen so many people crowded into such a small area and living in such poverty. Knowing already I was spoiled is a gross understatement. Roberto covered the rules with us later, ignore the vendors, give nothing to people begging. This is going to be hard on Kelsey. We had stopped in traffic and a little boy had his nose stuck to the glass of her window looking in begging and all you could hear was "awwwwwww". But she recovered nicely mom! ;o)

Arriving at the compound was like stepping out of the house from the tornado and landing in Oz. We're definitely not even close to KS anymore Toto. The compound is a beautiful home and the grounds are breathtaking. Our backyard is the ocean. It's like something from a magazine on extreme makeover (without the new plasma tv's or phones). lol When the gate opened and we went from trash in the street and potholes big enough to drop my car in, to the beauty of it, all I could say was "This is where the spoiled American people stay." :o) And once again I realize how fortunate my family (and friends) really are. God has blessed us beyond belief.

Our Backyard

We had a 'rules' meeting, got snack that Marjorie fixed for us that was fresh bananas (don't worry Annette.... Kelsey steared clear), pineapple, watermelon, papaya, avacado and bread with homemade peanut butter. Also some mango juice that was to die for!!!

Today, I'm looking forward to dinner (spoken like a true fat girl), we're waiting on our lugage, Kevin is snorkeling in the ocean, Kelsey is taking everything in stride and looking forward to visiting the orphanage, Taylor is already collecting seashells and has ask Alex (another Haitian guide) to teach her the Creole language (which she's already picked up exceptionally well) ;o) And, I've watched Diane instantly come to life like she's come home again. So happy to be here, seeing familiar faces and ready to serve.

*UPDATE* Dinner was a bunch of stuff I can't spell or pronounce.... Djon Djon (rice with black mushrooms and turkey sauce), banana pese with picklies (holy cow those are delicious...something like a smashed cooked banana with some sweet spicey onions and sauce topping (WOW), more fresh juice, watermelon.... I thought I was going to lose weight this week. NOT! Everything is "Boomba-guy" !!! Lord knows that's not how to spell it, but it's how to pronounce! Which means VERY GOOD! SWEET! AWESOME!!

Bobbie, Taylor, Kevin, Diane, Renea and Kelsey (yes, we eat oceanside baby!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

• Packing •

As a friend had once shown me how incredible to follow a journey through the Holy Land, I'm hoping to share our trip through Haiti with everyone through this blog. :o) It's Tuesday night and I'm making lists (and checking them twice!). Diane and I are wearing out the phone lines making sure we have everything and she's managed to have her 'pre-travel panic attack'. Yeah! We're good to go! Still packing, but good to go.

It was hard tucking my kids in, explaining to Tanner where mommy is going and how long I'll be gone. Even harder to have him cover his eyes to keep me from seeing tears welling up as we said his prayers at bedtime. Someone needs to keep Annette company and check on her while we're gone. I somehow think she'll have more trouble than Tanner.

In case I haven't told everyone lately, thank you. Thank you to our church family for allowing my daughter such an opportunity. Thank you to Diane for introducing us to what will be an experience of a lifetime. Thank you David and Tammy for giving me the chance to accompany my daughter on such a journey. Not only a wonderful mission, but also my daughter's first view of the ocean. Her first trip in an airplane. Bittersweet to see her grow, but such an inspiration as I see the wonder and excitement in her as we get ready. That wouldn't be possible without you both. And Eric.... thank you for worrying, for taking care of the boys while I'm gone, and for missing me before I ever leave. I love all of you. Last, but certainly not least....thank you Lord for bringing all these amazing people into my life. I'm so truly blessed beyond words.

It's only 7 days right? 7 days..... to Haiti and back again. I hope you enjoy the trip! I know I will. :o) Back to packing!

Just a glimpse.... Diane forwarded these links to me.

This is part of the trip from the airport to our house:

This is the mission she works with: