Monday, October 24, 2011

Touched by a "Haitian" Angel

We have our own little welcoming committee here in Hait
i in the form of an elderly Haitian woman who I affectionately
refer to as "Auntie." I first met her in July at a charasmatic,
outdoor church service that I went to with our interpreter Fanfan.
She immediately captured our hearts as she joyfully shuffled
over to our location with a twinkle in her eye and a spring in
her step to individually greet each one of us. In fact, the woman

deeply touched one of our team members in particular ...
our team leader Tom Gacek.
This week, when we arrived at church, I knew that Tom would
be looking for his little angel. We took our seats and waited
patiently for our welcome to begin. The music had started
and suddenly, I noticed that Tom was gone. I glanced around
and spotted him in the row that we had sat in during our July trip ...
I knew that he was hoping she would see him.
Finally, disappointed, Tom returned to his seat with the rest
of our team members.

I quietly said a quick prayer asking that little Auntie
reveal herself.
When I opened my eyes, there she was ... doing a quick little jig
down the aisle of the church heading straight for Tom.
My heart immediately fluttered and was filled with excitement
and warmth since I knew Tom would be just thrilled to see
her once again. Then, after greeting Tom, to my amazement
she individually greeted each one of us just like she had done in July.
She wanted to make sure that the visitors to her church felt at home.

Tom gave her a piece of gum as she continued dancing
down the aisles, waving her hands in the air in worship.
Shortly thereafter, she reappeared with a gift for each one of us ...
pieces of candy.
She sweetly placed a piece in our hands as she looked us in
the eyes.
Then, she found a seat in front of Tom where she sat quietly alone.
Well ... Tom would have none of that ... he did not want her sitting
alone so he politely escorted her over to an empty seat
right next to me.

As the music continued, she placed her hand on my shoulder
and began to pray silently over me. I couldn't believe the tender,
loving care she showed by doing this act for a total stranger!
When she was finished with me, she repeated this practice
with several of my other team members. We were all so
touched by her grace and eloquence. She was so precious
and made us all smile. We were the outsiders at this church,
but felt completely at ease.

So ... if you ever come to Haiti, don't be surprised
by the warm welcome you will receive, especially
from a little elderly woman at the Morning Star Christian
Academy in Port-au-Prince. Just like us,
you will be touched by this angel.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's Not About Me...Or is it?

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Traveling over roads that are nothing but piles of rubble, bouncing, lurching, assaulted by honking, chaos of people and cars and vendors, and no apparent rules of the road, yet arriving at a new destination with each trip.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Visiting sick, dying and abandoned infants and children, spending an all too short period of time sharing in their care. Feeling my heart about to burst as I held, caressed, fed, sang to, danced with, prayed over, while feeling and aching with an inexplicable peace and of being home.

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Gazing upon a landscape of rolling mountains, so lush and green, and an ocean of brilliant blue and calm serenity, while my feet are solidly planted on millions of pebbles under which lie the remains of thousands of men, women, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Sharing in the intimicies of lives lived in complete squalor, amidst garbage, human waste, wandering animals, aghast at the sight of children running through the streets of rubble who bear witness to the lack of food, of water, of basic medical assistance, and feeling so overwhelmingly blessed to be able to hug, to hold, to caress, and to deliver items which may ease some of the burden of unimaginable circumstances.

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Awed by the resilience, the dignity, the strength, of a community that has suffered so very very much, yet displays humbleness, grace, and indeed hope and joy, while surrounded by utter devestation.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Overwhelmed by the knowledge that so many people have opened up to God’s grace and shared their hearts in a variety of ways in and through Healing Haiti, and so humbled by and grateful for the gift of being a part of something that is so amazing and through which God is working.

It’s not about me. Or is it…

Bursting with hope and pride with the visual observations of a place which brings the promise of a new beginning for children who have known so much struggle, heartache, loneliness, and yet have been taken in and cared for by selfless individuals who also have known struggle and heartache.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Tossing about on truck rides home from excursions, reflecting on our multi-faceted visits, overwhelmed with our experience, physically present in Haiti, but already feeling seeds being planted that will bloom when we return to our homes. Brainstorming on how to respond. Feeling my mind begin to leave where I physically am, and travel to where I physically am not. I can’t help but to feel my hands begin to clench again and stomach begin to cramp as I wonder if I’m not already starting to run ahead of God, rather than follow.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

Being a part of a group comprised of unique individuals with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, gifts, and walls, each with their own story, yet all having stepped out in faith, despite any fears or insecurities or questions, to serve. To be a part of something bigger than themselves and their “normal” lives, knowing not what was to come or evolve, but willing to take a leap. A group who has shared, served, laughed, cried, eaten, slept and prayed together, while being broken open and apart and humbled in very individual, unique, personal ways.

What is God trying to teach me? What am I open to humbly learn…

It is with a heavy heart, yet a soaring heart, that I must acknowledge that this visit to Haiti is drawing to a close, and I am preparing to go forth, to travel onward, to leave, while bringing a part of Haiti with me that will remain with me forever. Inside a heart that has been torn apart, in ways I could never have imagined, as my eyes witnessed sights beyond comprehension, my hands reached out to touch and to work and to pray and to praise in an place beyond comprehension, my feet trod upon a ground that was unsteady at best yet delivered safely at every destination that was beyond my comprehension. It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. As God teaches me, what am I willing to learn? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How will I apply the lessons? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How can I be used as a vessel for His grace to pour out in abundance over all the world? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How will my capacity to love be transformed by this amazing journey? It’s not about me, yet it’s ALL about me. How can I humbly continue on the transformational journey that God has designed for me? I don’t have the answers to any of these, and so many other questions, and I’m not sure I ever will.But with a heart that is cracked wide open, it is my fervent prayer that I humbly obey, follow, and serve with a love that knows no end, no boundaries. May that love and humble gratitude be reflected in all of my choices and actions.

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” Mother Teresa

Jennifer Shultz

Healing Haiti Team Member

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Beginning...

Our day started with a 2:00 am wake-up and here I am blogging at 9:30 pm. It should feel like a very long day, instead all I feel is excited and inspired. In less than one day I've already been transformed in a way I could never have imagined. Everyone I encountered before arriving in Haiti told me this trip would change me, that I would never be the same. Those words are not powerful enough to express what this journey has already brought to me.

When Tom and Julie pulled in my driveway at 3 am I was greeted with an amazing amount of energy. Tom had volunteered to drive us to the airport, just drive us, he wasn't going on the trip with us. This man doesn't even know me but was willing to get up at 2 am to take ME to the airport. He was truly excited for me and my team. Our team assembled by 4am at the gate and checked our bags full of supplies for the people of Haiti. By 5 am we were through security and waiting to board the plane. After a layover in Miami and our first meal together as a team we boarded the plane for Haiti.

As I settled in for the very short flight the gentleman next to me asked what we would be doing in Haiti. We talked briefly about this being my first trip to Haiti. He had the same enthusiasm and excitement for me to experience the people of Haiti as Tom did in the car ride to the airport. I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the passion the people that have come to this beautiful place before me possess.

As we approached Haiti I was in awe of the beautiful ocean and mountains. I didn't expect to see such beauty given the extreme poverty I had been preparing for. Quickly upon landing I saw the first tent city. Everything I had read, or picture I'd seen didn't come close to capturing the scene. To think that just two hours prior I had been in an airport with every imaginable thing I could need or want was eyeopening. I still can't find the words to describe the feeling when you first see the streets that really don't resemble anything that we would imagine driving on at home, or the haphazardly constructed tents that are homes. What got me the most was the outdoor shower that was being used by a woman amongst the tents. Such an intimate part of life that I was witnessing as we drove by.

This is only day 1, we haven't even done any work yet! We sat down to a dinner prepared by the very gracious Healing Haiti house staff, then followed up with some singing together as FanFan played his guitar. FanFan possess an amazing spirit, so incredibly God filled in his singing, I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it.

Tomorrow we will start the "work" part of our journey, delivering water to the people of Haiti. So far I have so many questions racing through my mind. Why? Why do these people have to live in such poverty? How? How can we truly help these people?
I already know that one week of my life is not enough.

Courtney McCormick
Healing Haiti Team Member

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

God is so good…

Five jobs. That’s what our leader, Jeff, told us we would be doing today. “When we go out with the water truck, there are five different jobs you will be doing.” Filling buckets with the water hose, moving the buckets under the water hose and out of the way, keeping the line of people and buckets moving, carrying water to people’s homes, and making ourselves accessible to the kids. Five jobs – each one important, each one meaningful, each one refreshing in it’s own unique way. With God’s strength and a lot of teamwork, we were able to perform those jobs at the end of three different roads in Cite Soleil today.

Although I knew Cite Soleil is the poorest slum in the Western hemisphere and I had seen pictures of the water truck stops before, I was not prepared for what I experienced. It was unlike anything I’d ever done, seen, smelled, heard, or felt before. Our senses were overwhelmed and overstimulated. Today we have been left nearly speechless and unable to fully process all we have experienced in this culture that is so different from ours.

Having those five jobs to do gave us a purpose in this unfamiliar environment. Filling the endless line of buckets with water was fulfilling. Watching the crowds of people desperate for free water was chaotic. Taking the heavy buckets of water through the narrow path of tin shacks was eye-opening. Being the love and playmates the children yearned for was heartwarming.
After the water truck was empty at each stop, Jeff took us for a walk to and along the beach. All I can say is “wow”! The beaches in Cite Soleil are unlike any beaches I know. As Jeff explained to us, the water truck drives as far as it can on the paved road before stopping to deliver water. Beyond the water stop is where the poorest people in Haiti live. The further from the end of the road you go, the closer to the beach you get, the poorer the people are. They are farther away from access to water, food, and services. Unlike most countries where beachfront property is considered quite valuable and where wealthy people own homes, beachfront property in Haiti is the least desirable and where the poorest of the poor live.

On our walk to the waterfront each time, we were accompanied by a small cluster of children surrounding each one of us. Amidst the endless piles of garbage, the overwhelming smells, the scene of small one room homes made with tin walls and roofs, and some children’s bare feet walking on seashells and glass was the sound of children singing “God is so good, is so good, is so good, is so good” over and over. Hearing that song from the two little girls in my arms and on my back seemed like such a contrast to what one would think they would feel considering the destitute conditions surrounding us.

During our debrief at the end of the day, Jeff asked if we sensed God’s presence today. I immediately thought of the girls I carried to the beach today. They were filled with God’s love, His hope, His Spirit. Maybe this is what Jeff was talking about when he said we need to empty ourselves completely so we can let God fill us – just like the water buckets today when we dumped any small amount of old, dirty water remaining in the bucket so we could fill it with the fresh, clean water. If we dump the remainder of our old sinful selves out and let His clean Holy Spirit fill us, maybe then we too could sing with the children without questioning: “God is so good, is so good, is so good, is so good…”

Healing Haiti Team Member