Sunday, March 15, 2009

Terre Promise School

March 11
Today we took the water truck back in to Cite Soliel to visit Terre Promise, a school we support. We delivered money for the teachers salaries to Elder and his wife who run the school. Elder has had some health issues and looked skinny, but assured us he is feeling well. We also brought him aspirin and printer cartridges. In Haiti, most schools cannot afford school books so they use their printer/copier to copy pages out of the one or two books they own. This is the only way for these children to have the tools for learning.

We interrupted every class room to show off our Kreyol...we did get some blank stares....I had lots of fun doing watercolor with the little kids.

We continue to be inspired by the experiences we have in Haiti. Here is a picture of one of Terre Promise's 11 classrooms. As you can see, they are jam packed with children who want to learn and who want a better life.

Jean then took us to Croix des Bouquet to the metal artist community which was interesting to see and then back to Titanyen to do a quick tour of Hope Mission, another mission that is close to the Healing Haiti's Grace Village property. Brad Johnson, the director was back in the states so we will have to meet with him next trip.

Thank you for following our blog and for the wonderful emails that help us when we are in the mission field. Your prayers, love and support are a blessing to us and the people we serve.

Thank you for your kind heart.

House of Prayer

March 10
Today we went back to Titanyen to the Grace Village land to check on the well drilling and to spend some time just visiting with the community. As always we attracted a crowd of kids wherever we went.

We met one of our new neighbors. She is a woman who just moved to Titanyen after losing her husband and daughter in the hurricane last September. She said they were swept away in the water and only herself and her son survived. She invited us into her home made of sticks, tin and tarps and told us it was a "house of prayer". In the video you will see the benches, fabric hanging with bible verses, a simple pulpit and mats that her and her son sleep on. It continues to amaze us how much despair and suffering we are exposed to while at the same time, through these same people, we're exposed to such great faith. While we hurt inside hearing about the tragic consequences of being born in Haiti, we are also very inspired by their faith and the openness that we are received. What a real blessing to us.

While we were at her house, a little neighborhood girl who had been following us asked me to braid her hair. Our new neighbor offered me a chair to sit and communicated to me that she used to braid her daughters hair. I felt so sad for her. But it is her faith that gives her hope, and peace and I was so glad for that. How could she even go on without it?

I think I did a great job on the little girls hair do...look at the before and after shots....

We then took these 4 kids that were just hanging on us to get them shoes. Adrenoi knew them and told us that 2 of the kids needed shoes for school. So we got 2 of them sandals and two of them sneakers. Part of the Haitian culture is that you must wear nice clothes to church and a uniform and good shoes to school (no sandals).

We then visited a new small school that has 35 students in a small church. It is so fun to see how anxious these kids are to learn and how they get by with just the bare essentials. The text on the chalk board reads "God the Creator".

Next we went to the Maranatha orphanage and met with the 2 directors about budget. A small boy from the neighborhood just came up to me and sat in my lap. It looks like he just needed a rest. Life in Haiti is hard.

We ended the day at Global Outreach,who is a mission close by and who is drilling the well at Grace Village. We met David's wife Judy. They have been living in Haiti for 26 years. It was such a treat... not only to have homemade chocolate chip cookies and 7 Up, but to tour the buildings and hear about their mission. I asked Judy to be my mentor and inspiration. I just felt so comfortable with her and thought she would be a great teacher for me. As David said...we need the prayers and you need the practice:).

So after looking through the photos for today, I told Jeff I couldn't believe he let me leave the room this morning with that top on...I'm sticking to the smock top from now on....

Too much to do...

March 9
Our trips to Haiti are always filled with too much to do. Combine that with the speed at which things move in Haiti (normally slow) and we have a recipe for disappointment.

This trip we decided we would schedule one day for ourselves... this was the day. We are very tired from being on the go... and the heat takes it's own toll. We did go to Mother Theresa's to see the babies in the morning, and met with Kevin and Legitine over lunch about the water truck, but other than that, we spent time updating the blog and napping.

Here is a photo of the Healing Haiti moto scooter that Kevin uses and Legitine who said he would never ride with Kevin on the back...In Haiti, you can never say never...and now to our room to take a nap. Jeff is snoring loudly while I have been, wait a minute...he says he doesn't snore...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another beautiful day in Haiti.

March 8
This morning, we took the 15 minute walk to attend the childrens mass at Mother Theresa's. The mass was 2 hours long and focused completely on the children, interacting with the priest and singing. It is very touching to see what faith these children have coming from such a desperate situation.

Carol and her boys met one last time with the children (2... maybe 3) they are thinking about adopting and talked openly about who they could find to take a little girl that they had become attached to. I think they've been very touched by the people of Haiti. Please keep them in your prayers as they ponder this very important decision.

After taking Carol and her boys to the airport, we went back out to Titanyen to meet with community leaders to better understand their needs and get their support for our Grace Village project. Thirty eight people came to the little school where we were meeting including a deacon, a couple of pastors, teachers, an impoverished children representative, orphanage leaders, a technology person, a steel worker, masons, farmers and even two vodoo priests. The meeting started with a prayer from Jeff (we all know how he enjoys praying out loud). The meeting was lively and helpful to understand the different perspectives in the community. It was also a chance for us to introduce ourselves and our mission to the broader community. We didn't leave until 7 pm and we were exhausted. We ended the meeting with one of the community leaders praying in Kreyol for God to guide us and provide a way for this project to move forward. We all prayed for for direction for our project and unity for all involved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is the day...

March 7
What a day! When Jeff was delivering water in Cite Soleil last year, a woman approached him and pleaded with him as he lifted buckets onto the head of women and children coming for water. This is not unusual as people ask for help at every stop. Jeff had no idea what this women wanted as she only spoke kreole and Jeff new little, he just new her plea was different. She kept pointing at her scarred legs and those of her children hanging onto her skirt. As she tugged over and over at his shirt, Jeff finally decided to get one of our workers to interpret for him. He was told that she and her children cut their legs when going up and down a steel staircase to their home that was rusted out. Jeff followed her to her house, the second story of a concrete housing project that had built years ago. He could not believe what he saw. The staircase was in complete disrepair. Most steps were rusted out and only partially there and quite a few were actually missing. She then showed him how she had to climb the stair, carrying her 45# bucket of water. He knew he had to do something.

Last December, I met this woman while we were preparing to distribute food in Cite Soleil. She was older, so nice, and helped me with the food packing for the next three hours. Towards the end, she inquired when we were going to fix to her steps. Jeff and I discussed it and told her we would fix them when we came back in March.

Well, this was the day. Over the last three months, we've raised funds to purchase a Miller welder generator, steel, rebar and concrete. Our friend Kevin McClellan did all the frame building, cement work and installation and Healing Haiti provided all the supplies. He loaded up the steel and generator onto the front of our Bobcat and drove it into Cite Soleil.

I hope the photos show you there were no steps left... 2 stories of rusted metal... kids and elderly have been climbing this to get into their house. It was incredible to see. USAID had built this housing project years ago and no one has done the maintenance that is desperately needed.

Quite a crowd of onlookers hung out, mostly children. I felt bad for this little kid who must have had a tooth ache. He had a hankerchief wrapped around his head. Mud rubbed on his scalp..but what was most impressive was his shoes!

The kids really enjoyed doing the itsy bitsy spider with Jeff. The video will show you these cute adorable kids and why I had this crazy idea....

So if you watched the video you've seen how cute and sweet these kids are...and why I had this idea. I knew better... and Jeff told me no way... but I just wanted to try this. We went to the market and bought 120 packages of cheese puffs to hand out to these kids. Since they did the itsy bitsy spider so well, it seemed like it was a manageable number of kids. I thought they would be willing to stand in line for a bag of cheese puffs and because I had bought 120 bags, we would have enough for everyone.

Well, I'm just calling it "The Cheese Puff Riot." Once it was known that we had these bags to give out, chaos broke was not a pretty trampling other kids, adults taking bags away from little kids...grabbing, pushing, pulling. It was bad judgment on my part... I just didn't want to believe it.

We have no photos of the riot because we were all trying to get control of the situation. Cite Soleil is a desperate place and these kids are not only starving for food, but also for something that is their own, something new in a package, something that brings excitement to their day and because of their extreme poverty, sharing, and understanding 1 per person isn't part of their survival mode.

We ended the day in Titanyen, Haiti at the our property for Grace Village to measure and mark the area for the future projects we will be building. It is amazing how wrung out we feel at the end of each day... both physically but also mentally. Life is very hard in Haiti.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March 6

A Visit to Titanyen, Haiti and Grace Village.
We visited Titanyen yesterday but have come back today because Friday is "Market Day" and we have some orders to fill. The market in Titanyen is something that is hard to describe... you just have to experience it. People come from miles and miles around usually with a donkey loaded with goods and produce to sell... fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, fried fish and many kinds of foods we've never seen. There are also chickens tied in pairs and herds of goats that have been walked for miles. Having grown up in the city, it somehow doesn't feel real. Imagine seeing the "donkey parking lot" where all the vendors park their donkeys... it just doesn't seem real... but it is.

We're met at the market by Yvon, the caretaker of our orphanage and Andrenoi, the director of our eldercare program. They have offered their services to translate for us and help us negotiate our purchases. Its very rewarding to personally fill orders when we come to Haiti and really look forward to it because we not only get to pick the animals but we get to present them in person. We wish the donors could experience this first hand.

Carol and her boys had received donations from their friends and family to buy four goats and we needed an additional three. For us it's so out of the norm to be goat shopping but to the people that receive these goats it is such a wonderful gift that can brings fresh milk for their families and an opportunity for income by breeding their animals.

We cause quite a commotion being the only "blancs" at the market. As we peruse the goats, we're sure the locals are thinking we're "goofy" because we have no idea what we're looking for other than the "cutest" goat. This is where Yvon and Andrenoi come in. They guide us to goats that have sturdy hind quarters... ones that would make good breeders and produce the most milk. They also help us with the negotiations which is a whole different story. Of course all of the sellers want us to buy their goat, so there is heavy selling going on....(most of which we can not understand...) Believe it or not, each animal has a title just like the title of a car and once the purchase has been made, the title must be transferred before you have ownership. We made sure we had good title when we presented them to their new owners.

We bought some bananas at the market and handed them out to all the kids that told us they were hungry. Most of the time they ask for a dollar, but the bananas seemed to work out well. And as usual, their was more hungry kids than bananas. While it "feels good" to give a banana to a hungry child it also "feels bad" when we run out and have none left to give.

After the goats and bananas, we bought some children shoes with money that Danielle and Luann from Alyn's pottery class gave to her. These kids were so excited to get a pair of shoes, and their moms were so happy! There are so many children that walk around with bare feet, already hardened by the rocky roads they've walked in their short lives. We caused quite a commotion, everybody wanted shoes. Word spreads fast on the street and it started to get out of control. We found ourselves surrounded by 50-75 children and parents trying get in on the shoe thing.... people pushed and shoved to get their children nearer to us so they might also have a pair of shoes.

It's hard to understand how desperate people can be when we live so abundantly at home. We finally had to leave and have Andrenoi buy the rest of the shoes later for the most needy children.

A School Visit with Teachers
We then visited a school in Titanyen. Pergam Foundation Church Centre is a Christian school for poor children. They have been pleading with us for support during the last year. It is so hard for us to decide who to help. There is more need than we have the ability to support. We pray for wisdom and discernment and ask God to guide our decisions so the funds we are entrusted with have the greatest impact. This school has 180 students and 10 teachers. The teachers have been working all school year with no pay. They continue to work because there are no other jobs available and hope they will be receive some pay in the future. How desperate is it, that one would continue to work even without pay... they were all so thankful to receive the $60 (one months salary) payment... we wish we could have done more.

We pray for additional support for teachers salaries as we believe the future of Haiti is in the children. By receiving a Christian education these children learn to know Jesus and receive the foundation for a better life than the one they were born into. Without Jesus and the ability to read and write, there is little hope for the children of Haiti. If God moves your heart, please consider helping the poor children of Haiti by helping to pay teacher salaries.

An ElderCare Visit
We then went with Andrenoi who is our eldercare director. He brought us to visit two of the women we help care for.

One is 92 with severe lymphodema in her leg and is unable to retrieve water and food for herself.

The other is 106 and is unable to walk. It is hard to comprehend how difficult life must be for them. From the basics of food and water to the difficulties of going to the bathroom... it's just incomprehensible. Please keep the elderly and invalid of Haiti in your prayers.

And lastly, as we left the village we did our famous tootsie roll distribution.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5

Today we went to Titanyen and met with David Heady from Global Outreach who has been drilling our well on the Grace Village property. It was decided that we would drill a second well for the feeding program and orphanage, but saw how the community is already using the hand pump we installed on the first well and watched as they pumped water from it.

A group of young boys gathered at the pump after collecting water and started to sing a song for me. I just thought it was such a God thing. They were singing in English and the words were " are at home." Here is a small video with poor audio but enjoy anyhow...

We then went to Maranatha House Orphanage and visited with the kids. St. Michael's church in Bloomington, has just started a 15 week program with us to learn about Haiti and how the kids at St. Michael's can be the hands and feet of Jesus for the poor children in Haiti by raising money for water, food and education. They had sent cards with photos and greetings to let the children in Haiti know that they were praying for them. The children at the orphanage were fascinated with the cards. They all studied the photos very carefully. They have probably never seen so many white people, or such nice clothes! We then had the Maranatha House kids make their own cards to bring home with us for the kids at St. Micheal's. It was so fun to watch the kids draw and write messages in english about love, God and Jesus with images of flowers, palm trees, soccer balls, and houses... and with such care and attention to detail, it was very touching.

Healing Haiti just provided the orphanage with 2 water tanks that hold 450 gallons of water each and will be delivering clean water with our truck to them every other week. Until now they have been rolling 55 gallon drums down to the well, filling them up one five gallon pail at a time and then rolling them back to the orphanage. The new tanks with water delivery will make life a bit easier for them.

Wednesday, March 4

In the morning, we walked back to Mother Theresa's to help feed and care for the children. Carol, Mike and John were anxious to get back to see the children they had met the day before. Carol wanted to meet with Sister Martin to discuss the adoption process. At the same time, she wondered aloud how to break it to Dave (Carol's husband) that she wanted to do it again and that not one, but three of them were tugging on her heart. We don't know "the rest of the story" but will let you know once she has talked to Dave.

Here are a few more photos of the children at Mother Theresa's...

We then headed out on a tap tap to do a couple of runs on the water truck in Cite Soliel. Carol, John and Mike were just amazed at the depth of poverty they saw. They say you can't even explain it... and pictures just don't tell the whole story. People have to come and see it for themselves. They are still processing the sights they saw and are still a bit unsettled by them. Times are so tough in Haiti right now. People in the water lines repeatedly asked us for food and money to care for their families... more desparately than ever before. At the last stop a man came up to me with his little girl and told me they needed food. I said we only have water to offer. When we pulled away in the truck he was still standing there and motioning that his little girl was hungry. We tossed him 2 tootsie rolls that we had in our back pack. He was so thankful and a big smile came on his face. He didnt stop saying Mesi, Mesi (thank you, thank you) the whole time he was still in our sight. It was like 2 tootsie rolls were like winning the lottery. How can this be when those of us in the USA live so abundantly?

Tuesday, March 3

After some bumpy and scary weather with a missed landing in Port-au-Prince and a return to Miami, we finally arrived back in Haiti on Tuesday. We dropped our bags off and immediately headed right for Mother Theresa's home for sick and dying babies.

Traveling with us are Carol Plamann and her 2 oldest sons John and Mike. Carol had previously adopted 2 children, a girl and a boy from Mother Theresa's 3 years ago. Her husband Dave and his parents made the trip to Haiti to pickup the children, because Carol did not want the images and visuals of the poverty in Haiti to define who these children were or to impact how she would raise them. After 3 years, she is now ready to see the orphanage and country where they came from and may even decide to adopt again.

As always, there are plenty of sick babies and lots of love to be given by holding, changing and feeding these precious children of God. It is a blessing to see that Mother Theresa's has the support to care for all of these children. We saw more medicine and IVs being administered than ever before. I saw one child go home healthy with his mom with a big stuffed teddy bear, and new shoes that had been generously donated. We continue to see some of the same children who still have a long battle ahead to put on weight or clear their bodies of TB and/or parasites. The children that are HIV positive are given desperately needed medication and hope for life.

These children always tear at our hearts... and help us realize what is really important in life...

Monday, March 2

I departed Minneapolis at 6am for Haiti with my wife Alyn and 3 guests from St. Patrick's Church from Oak Grove, Minnesota. This was Carol's and her sons Michael and John's first trip to Haiti. This trip has become routine for Alyn and I and has always been uneventful. After landing in Miami and a 4 hour layover, we finally bordered our DC10 for Port-au-Prince. These flights are always full with both missionaries and Haitian's returning home or visiting from the US. Our boarding had been delayed because of a mechanical problem but we were now seated and buckled in. After another half hour we were told the problem had not been fixed and we were returning to the gate and were deplaning. This can always be part of travel, and Alyn, Carol, Mike and John just took it in stride. We had warned them that when it comes to Haiti, the schedule is always in flux and could change at anytime. This was one of those times.

After another two hours we finally switched gates and boarded a different plane with an uneventful departure. Because of the time delay, we realize that this would be our first landing at night. Port-au-Prince airport is fairly short, with no taxiways. To taxi to the terminal, the pilot must turn the plane around at the end of the runway and back taxi down the runway. Port-au-Prince airport is in a valley with mountains to the north, mountains to the south, mountains to the east and the ocean to the west.

Our 90 minute flight was short but we we're all tired when the captain called for the flight crew to prepare for landing. It had been a long day starting with getting up at 3am. This is when the fun began. As we descended towards the airport, everyone became abruptly aware that this was not a normal approach. The plane bounced, banked, banged and bumped violently as we heard the landing gear deploy. I've been on many flights and I have to say, this was the roughest. As the wings bank wildly from left to right, I was hoping for a straight in approach. It was then that I heard the reduction of the engines and felt the beginning of the landing flair. I knew it would be just a couple minutes more and we'd be on the ground... I was looking out the window when we dropped below the cloud deck and it was still pitch black with no airport in site. That's when I heard the roar of the engines and felt the plane change attitude as it began to climb back through the turbulence we had just experienced. The pilot was aborting the landing and "going around".

We heard many gasps and groans as we tumbled through the turbulence and bounced in our seats as we climbed out. After a few minutes the captain came on the overhead and said that had to abort the landing because of a major thunderstorm that was directly over the airport. He informed us that we would be circling for a while and if it didn't clear up that we might head to Dominican Republic and wait it out. A few minutes later we were informed that we were going back to Miami... we were all disappointed, but it was the right thing to do.

So our first night it Haiti was spent in Miami and Tuesday morning we got up to do it again.