Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Haiti...

December 23
We arrived in Haiti for Christmas on Dec 22. We are so blessed to be here and to be able to celebrate the Christmas season with the poor of Haiti. We were invited to a celebration at Notre Maison, a mission for handicap children. Notre Maison’s director Gertrude Bien Aime Azor, used to be a Sister at Mother Theresa’s and cared for the babies and children and now has her own orphanage with 38 children, most who have special needs. We have supported Gertrude and her Providence Guest House mostly through Jeff's gifts. He has created her website, installed a wireless router at the guest house, got her internet connection figured out, and most recently brought her a computer donated by Eaglebrook.

We were picked up by Gertrude and her daughter Rosie along with their driver who drove us in a beat up old truck in a cold pouring rain... very unusual for Christmas time in Haiti. We had to stop on the way to get gas and fuel for cooking. As we waited in line for gas, I noticed a freshly cooked pot of chicken, rice and beans, a boom box and a birthday cake in the back of the truck... preparations for a celebration for Jesus.

Gertrude's daughter Rosie

We drove down the muddy, bumpy roads of Haiti and pulled through the gates of Notre Maison. We unloaded the truck and were led to the dining room. Just when I thought my heart couldn't break anymore for Haiti, we found Gods most precious children ready for the party to begin. Several were in wheel chairs trapped in a body and mind that didn't work like ours. Others had bodies that served them, but minds that didn't. Yet it was very clear how excited they were to see us and when the music started, they began to sway to the beat, dance and suddenly we were surrounded by pure joy.

They knew it was a very special day when they got to have a few cheese puffs. We danced, clapped and wheeled around a bunch of innocent, happy kids who don't know the depth of struggle and hardship that is their daily reality.

Waiting for the party to start

A child getting his "groove" on

Carly appeared to be around 5 years old. She had the brightest smile and seemed very intelligent. I came to learn that she had polio and her legs didn’t work. Many children with phyisical or mental disabilities are simply abandoned at the General Hospital and left with little hope for someone ever loving or caring for them. Gertrude and Notre Maison have made a difference in these childrens lives. When I wheeled Carly to her room after the party, she on her own, flopped out of her chair and scooted across the floor to grab a toy she saw under a bed. I was stunned and amazed at her independence and how she’s adapted to the difficulties of her situation. The inspiration from this little child was our blessing for the day.

We finished the day with cake, bubbles and peppermint bark made by our new friend Amanda. Just imagine frosting and chocolate all over these heavenly faces. It was an amazing day.

They were fascinated with the bubbles

Studying a photo of Amanda and friends that helped make and sell the peppermint bark.

One taste and she was all smiles!

December 24, Christmas Eve
We had a very busy day. First we were off to the orphanage in Titanyen to celebrate with Yvon and our 23 orphaned or abandoned children. Yvon’s family and workers had prepared a very big meal along with a fancy birthday cake for our Christmas celebration. Yvon also had some of Jeff's favorites prepared... fresh cut potato fries and poppyta (fried plantain). The kids were so excited yet they were so well behaved. The girls and boys were all in their room just waiting for us to arrive. When we peeked in, all we saw were smiles.

We brought wooden toys, all handmade and donated by TLC toys... trains for the boys and dolls and cradles for the girls. Before we left home, Sarah, Jason, Mary, Lydia and Owen had helped me put candy treat bags together for all the kids.

Chrisnada had her new braces on and she was in good spirits. We are so thankful to Healing Hands for the care they are providing for her. She has been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Hopefully her treatment will keep her legs working. Please say a special prayer for her healing.

Some of the older children wanted to talk with us. One by one, they got up in front of the whole group and told us how thankful they were for our support and thanked God for Healing Haiti... asking for his continued blessings for the supporters of our mission. It was very humbling and showed us the Godly ways and respect Yvon is teaching the children. The kids sang for us and prayed before we ate.

Kids enjoy a wonderful bounty of food

We couldn’t stay too long because we had 2 more parties to go to. We told the kids we would be back in a few days and asked them if they would like to go swimming in the sea... they all say yes. Most of these children have never been swimming or ever to the ocean. We then asked how many knew how to swim and no one raised their hand. We will rent a tap tap bus and take them to the sea next week.

Enjoying some of Amanda's peppermint bark

Next we stop by Jean Garry’s school who we support by paying teachers salaries....200 children were there with their parents. It was a huge crowd. They were all sitting patiently on benches listening to Michael W Smith God songs. I noticed they had signs up that said thank you to Healing Haiti, Jeff Gacek, family and friends. It was so awesome to think all of our supporters, my friends and family that I love were all making their education and this party possible.

Again, thank God for TLC toys. We gave out 200 handmade wooden toys. Trucks and dogs that held color crayons, kaliedescopes, pull toys, trains, and dolls with cradles. So many smiling faces!!! We then watched them play some simple games, sing and collect their report cards. Again I was overwhelmed watching these young teachers, so serious and professional, sort through folders that were so lovingly put together with a Christmas Tree and glitter glued on the front along with each child's work in math and english and their report card for the family.

All the school children were dressed in their Sunday best for the celebration

Then we were off for a quick look at Grace Village construction. Wow it is really happening. There were about 20 workers at the site. more on that later...we had another party to get to and the sun was beginning to set...

Back to Cite Soleil to visit Guillium’s orphanage. 30 kids have been waiting. When we pull in it was dark and when we got out of the truck we were immediately embraced by the kids. It was so heart warming I can’t even express it. It was so dark, we couldn't see a thing. The kids led us in. Guillium was trying to get a lamp with a single light bulb to work with a small portable generator. As the light flashed off and on, I could see many happy faces all around us.

Once the light was on and steady the kids sang for us and we sang back to them. Turns out they knew the “We wish you a Merry Christmas” song...and joined in with us. We handed out treat bags and the rest of the TLC handmade wood toys. Trains for the boys and dolls with cradles for the girls. They were so excited. They had been waiting for us since mid afternoon. They had enjoyed their Christmas meal earlier without us. Before leaving we asked if they wanted to go swimming (this is the group we took before) and it was an overwhelming YES!

The kids held tightly to their new toys and sure enjoyed Amanda's peppermint bark!

Since it was dark and late we needed to leave quickly. Guillium was concerned for us on the roads so late. It is so hard to say goodbye so quickly, but we would return in a few days.

So looking back at the parties, Jeff and I agreed that what the kids liked most was the candy and that they didn't want to take their toys of the plastic bags. We think that because they rarely get anything that's new, clean and not broken, they just wanted to enjoy that for a bit longer.

We just want to thank everyone who has helped make this day possible and to let them know how much fun, joy and love you brought to these kids this Christmas.

December 25, Christmas Day
The sun was out and it was hot and muggy. At 9 am and we were off to Mother Teresa’s to help with the babies. It was a sweaty walk that reminds me very quickly how out of shape I am. When we got there we saw how full the rooms were and how every child was dressed in a new Christmas outfit made by the tailor that works there. Wonderful dresses for the girls and trousers and shirts with pocket and pleats for the boys. Each shirt had 8 buttons on it...I became overwhelmed at the thought of making them all....

The Sisters were at a 3 hour Christmas Mass with the older children along with the regular helpers, so there was plenty to do to keep us busy. I walked through all the rooms blowing bubbles which had an immediate calming effect on many of the babies, while Jeff and Fan Fan tended to the babies that just would not stop crying... of course they saw us white folks and just wanted to be held.

We were invited for Christmas Dinner at Joyce and Dale's who run Mother Theresa’s guest house and had a wonderful ham dinner with mashed potatoes, corn, beans and rice and home baked cookies. It was really nice.

The Sisters asked us if we would take in a 12 year old girl at one of our orphanages. Mother Theresa’s really does not have a program suited for a child that age. Her parents were dead and her auntie had been abusing her. She had become a child slave and was beaten daily. When the Sisters visited the auntie’s home, the neighbors pleaded with them not to bring the child back because they said she would be killed if she returned. The Sisters will visit our orphanage in Titanyen next week. Please pray that God provides a safe option and home for this child.

In the afternoon, we went back to Mother Theresa’s to help feed the babies an afternoon meal. But the biggest treat of the day was when we went upstairs to visit the two boys that the Plamann family are adopting. They had sent with us a couple of presents, handmade cards and family videos for Evonson and Givinsky (aka Evon and Vinny). It was so sweet to share this with the boys who have no way to comprehend what the future holds for them. They only know life from an orphanage perspective... and hot sunny days. We took photos and a video of them to bring back to their waiting family....Parents Carol and David, siblings, Michael, John, Ellen, Claire, Agnus & Luke (previously adopted from Haiti) and Danny....with all these kids they should feel right at home!!!

We Pray.
Lord, we pray that you bless the children of Haiti and provide all that they need. We know that only through your power can there be real change in Haiti and ask that you bless our mission and use us for your glory. Amen.