Sunday, December 9, 2007

Our Final Week in Haiti...

Bon jour,
Just like Jeff to give me a job to do. So as much as you all have loved Jeff's writing, this update is coming from me. And of course he gave me some input... as always... he‘s the boss!

Its great to be with Jeff again. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder. We tend to take so many things for granted and after 7 weeks without him, I have been reminded of the gifts Jeff has to get things done, to teach, to learn, to negotiate. I can see how much impact Jeff has had since he has been here. The man is truly amazing... learning Creole, setting up simple systems for the Haitian workers on the water truck, mentoring a young man who is questioning his purpose, financing a motor scooter for a workers transportation, bringing joy to kids, and hope to adults...all for the glory of God.

Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity
We headed to Mother Theresa's Home for sick and dying babies first. Fed, changed and loved up several babies many that are severely malnourished. We were happy to hear that 25 children are up for adoption. The child I'm hugging in the photo is 18 months and only weighs 11 lbs.. Due to the recent hurricane, Mother Theresa's has received more babies than they have cribs and many needed to be put 2 to a crib. We are going to go again before we leave, its just such a wonderful blessing to hold and love these babies.

Animal Market
Our next stop was the animal market. We needed to shop to fill some orders. Our shopping list consisted of 14 hens and roosters, 3 donkeys, 4 goats, 1 pig and 1 cow. We then headed to a community that we visited this summer where we

were greeted with open arms, hugs and kisses and shown with great pride the new baby donkey born from one of the females we gave them on our last visit.

Jean and Jacmel
Our Haitian friend and engineer Jean wanted to spoil Jeff a bit and took us to Jacmel to show us some beauty in his hometown. The ocean views were spectacular.

He then took us down the coast to the sea town of Marigo where we met his 97 year old grandfather who is dying. Although I was comforted in hearing that he was a Christian, it made me realize how hard it is in Haiti—not only in life but also in the process of death. In a one room house with only a bed and small cabinet, he is waiting for his body to shut down lying on a sheet of plastic. No medicine, no music, no radio, no TV to pass the time, no air conditioning to offer some relief from the heat, no fluffy bedding to provide some comfort for his bony body... but he does have family with him, he is not alone.

Jean also took us for a night out dancing. It was the first time we have ever been out in Port au Prince after 6 pm.
He loves to salsa dance and for the past few trips has asked us to go. Jeff emailed me at the last minute before I left for Haiti and told me to bring his dancing clothes. We went to Stanley's Dance Studio, a small run down yet beautiful French Quarter style building and paid 10 gourdes each (29 cents US) for a cover charge. We found a round table at the end of the narrow dance floor that gave us a perfect view. Once the music started we were treated to seeing a small joy in these peoples lives. We noticed that the women and men were changing dance partners depending on the dance style. They did the merange, the tango, the rumba, the cha cha, and other latin dances. I felt like I was watching the Haitian version of dancing with the stars. Jeff and I did dance, but had to wait until they had a free dance... and turned the lights down....It was really fun and Jean sure knows how to dance.

Maranatha Orphanage
Sunday we had a great day at the Maranatha Orphanage. My bible study group provided funds to have church clothes made for the 31 children and gave some extra funds for emergency food needs. The girls had white blouses with cute flower buttons and plaid skirts while the boys had white shirts with grey trousers. All were handmade by Jackson's sister in time for my visit.

I had brought some ornaments for the kids to decorate, so they all got to color one of those and then we had each child come up to get their bag and a cross necklace I made for them. I hugged and kissed everyone of them. They are all so precious.
I wondered how often they get personal attention and affection.

Sarah and Penny Norman from Melange in White Bear Lake collected and donated many items for a special tote bag for each child at the orphanage. Julia and Alaina Gacek decorated and put the childs name on the bags and filled them the following:

Tote bags donated by Melange
Toothbrushes from Lakeshore Dental
Toothpaste donated by Sarah Norman
Soap donated by White Bear Country Inn
Candy treats from Melange and Deb Holt
Toys from Mattel rep Qwen Kanewischer
T-shirts donated by Life is good™
Cross ornaments decorated by Girls from St. Jude of the Lake
4-5 pairs of underwear for each child donated by Lisa Gacek

They were told not to go into the bags until everybody had one... and they minded! When they were told to look in the bags that is when all the fun began.
Our friend Jean said he didn't think any of these kids had ever gotten any- thing like this before and enjoyed seeing the kids so happy.

The children were so excited about their new shirts. The girls loved the yellow, pink and blue and the boys kept coming up to show us the designs on their back.

I wish you could have been there to see the pure joy on these kids faces.

Other collected items included musical instruments from Deb Holt, Barbies, Polly Pockets, balls and misc toys from Carol Kubes, bath towels from Penny Norman, a first aid kit from Sarah Norman and a “Where There Is No Doctor” medical hand book from DArcy Teasley. A big thank you to all those who gave.

Something you cant see in the photos is how little space they have. I saw photos of the girls room and how 15 girls sleep and eat on the floor there but what I didnt realize is how small the room is... only 8 x 10 and the boys is the same. The area in front of the house is also small and I knew they didnt have a table, but didnt realize how much room you need to feed 31 kids. And yet Jackson talks about it being a miracle that they have what they have. God provides. How impressive and inspiring their faith is.

Jeff and Jean then took me to see the land that we want to build the new orphanage on. Everything about it is perfect. The location, the view, the elevation, the need for it. What a difference this will make for all of these precious lives.

The Water Truck
Less exciting has been the trips to the water truck that was broken down for a few days, although Jeff once again impressed his Haitian co-workers. We showed up just when they were finishing the repair at the point where the guys were putting the tires back on and trying to insert the axle into the differential... they couldn't get it to fit. Each of the 3 tried... but to no avail. Then Jeff picked up a wrench, went to the axle, lifted it a bit and slid it into place. They were in awe... the blanc (white guy) really does know what he is doing...

We are having a little celebration for the water truck guys on Thursday night. They have been asking to come to the Visa Lodge where we are staying, so we are going to have them come for dinner and some Prestiges (the local beer). After seeing Jeff interact with these guys, I really think they are all going to miss each other. There is Kenol, who I call the silent giant, who is so eager to learn and to help. Jean Claude, the driver, who Jeff has a small loan with on his motor scooter, who has 2 children and whose wife died 7 months ago. He showed me her id card that he carries in his ziplock baggie... she was so beautiful. Anel, has 1 child but has taken in his brother's 2 children after he died of aids last year. His brother had also worked on the truck. And Pouchen who Jeff recently hired to take his place after we leave. At 28 he has never had a job. He wants an Ipod, speaks good english and is educated. Jeff and I are going to work on the water truck for the last time on Mercredi (Wednesday). Jeff says it's his favorite route. I am excited to meet his new friends along the way.

Cite Soleil School
Today we went to visit a school in Cite Soleil that we support. This school has 425 children and only 10 small classrooms. You can see by the photo how packed some of the classes are. We gave money to Elder, the director of the school, to buy two 300 gallon plastic water tanks that the water truck will fill up once a week for free. Today the kids were not getting lunch at school because they are out of food and more food doesn't come until Wednesday... can you imagine? And remember the meal they typically have at school is for most of these kids, the only meal they get in a day.

The last trip we will take before we come home on Friday will be to Reiser Heights, the school where your gifts built a 30,000 cistern, sanitary block, a kitchen and 4 new classrooms. Jeff has been up there but it will be good for me to see it again now that school is in session. Going up the mountain is always such a contrast to being in Cite Soleil. Its cooler, cleaner, greener, and less crowded but still very poor.

In Closing...
In closing I just wanted to share this photo of a toy we saw while out and about. We never see toys, and only on occasion, handmade gadgets. To me it says so much...

John Ortberg writes "We can have very little and yet be rich. A rich soul experiences life differently. It experiences a sense of gratitude for what it has received, rather than resentment for what it hasn't gotten. It faces the future with hope rather than with anxiety."

So slow down... be content with what you have... invest in your soul, don't focus on stuff, enjoy this magical season, and thank God for all He has given you.


Alyn Shannon & Jeffrey Gacek
Connecting people who have much and need little...
to those who have little and need so much.

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