Sunday, November 12, 2017

Winding down

This morning we attended Grace Church in Titanyen.  The church service was full of kiddos from Grace Village and people from the surrounding community.  There was lots of music - some words we understood and most we didn't but we knew we were worshiping our same awesome God.  The prayer and sermon had amazing intensity and it was clear that this church plays a significant role in the community. 

The kiddos from Grace Village were all seated in the front benches of the church and dressed in their "Sunday Best."  So sweet to watch the older ones take care of and keep in order the younger children.

After church we brought Dave Gunnlaugsson to the airport.   We all have such immense respect and love for him.  We thank him for his leadership, for sharing his faith, for his humor and smile, for walking with us on each of the 5 trips Incarnation has taken. We wish him safe travels! 

On to the top of the mountain!  We drove by the Palace and National Cathedral, both were heavily damaged from the earthquake in 2010.  The ruins of the National Cathedral are being left as a memorial for all the lives lost during this catastrophe.  The people who had been on the first trip noticed significant progress from boulders in the streets and rubble everywhere to a community that is recovering.  Then we made our way through a light rain up the winding road to the top of the mountain to look over the city of Port-au-Prince.  As landmarks were pointed out, we reminisced about the places we served and visited throughout the week.  What a rich experience we have had in this amazing country.  

When we returned, several of us went to see the neighborhood boys who have a bracelet business - part of the proceeds go to fund their education which is a requirement to be in this enterprise!  They were excited to meet us.  

Our words of the day and conversations tonight were reflective of our week and the impact this experience has had on us, collectively and individually.  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Listening for God's Call

(Kristi) As we approach the last days of our trip to Haiti, evening conversation has turned toward discussions around what we are being called to do - not just here, but at home too.  We've been blessed by each other in so many ways, encouraging one another when we were down and reveling in the beauty of watching each other shine Jesus' light brightly in this world using our own God-given gifts.  We have witnessed the beauty of living in community and of the support and strength that it brings.

Today we met a couple at the Haiti Deaf Academy, Meredith and Keith, who listened carefully to God's call. God had planted an ember in Meredith's heart early in her career,  which turned into a flame after a recent visit to Haiti. This led to them serving as missionary directors, using their unique gifts to teach sign language to 50 children ages 5 - 15.  In their current role, they provide loving care and housing for the children until the summer, when the children return to their families.  Although there was not one, but two language barriers for us today (both Creole and sign), we found that our common language of play bridged the communication gap.  We prepared lunch, prayed, played, shared Bible stories, sang, did crafts and filled the play yard with a melee of fun... like a couple of kids using Greg's face and head as a human canvas.

(Deb) One little boy who stole my heart was Fritz, a five year old who had moved to the Haiti Deaf Academy in September with no language skills whatsoever.  Fritz cuddled right into my lap for story time and giggled joyfully while Pastor "Hurricane" Gary sprayed the kids with water.  He drew a chalk picture for me of the tap-tap that we had arrived in and ventured off to a game of basketball with Bill as the human hoop - so he made EVERY basket.  When it was time for us to leave, he wrapped his arms around my neck, squeezed me tight, and started to cry softly.  Fritz will forever be in my heart.

(Becky) I met Choisenie, a blue-eyed deaf girl from Cite Soleil. When she arrived at the academy two years ago, she had no language. She was originally believed to be developmentally delayed, but was instead found to be deaf. She approached me right away to show me that our eyes matched, and together we searched for blue items to reinforce our shared eye color. After a few hours of play, including four-square (which I had to re-learn and then teach to Choisenie), we together selected a bracelet for me to purchase in the modest gift shop which was made by residents of a nearby deaf community. I will never forget this precious girl's beautiful face, her eyes, and our time together.

(Jennie) Today, I met Noahy.  He is the only student at the academy that is truly an orphan. He was loving from the beginning.  He followed me around, helped out with passing out of the sidewalk chalk, and especially enjoyed the face painting.  He gave me a beautiful new "Groucho Marx" look. We had a long Minnesota good-bye, with hugs and tears by both of us, waving the "I love you" sign through the gates.

Service and Serving

It was a day to rise early.  We were up before the crack of dawn to be at a church service that started at 6 am.  The team attended Church on the Rock, which has several differences from Incarnation both architecturally and what happens during the service.  The church building has no doors.  It is a large single room roughly the size of our sanctuary and Grace Hall put together.  This room has a balcony as well.  When we arrived we were greeted by music and preaching, not because we were late, but because the “warm up act” was already underway.  With loudspeaker cabinets half the size of a semi-trailer and the watts to bring them to life, worship at Church on the Rock is LOUD.  What we missed in translation we gained in volume.

There were about 300 people at the service, and about 50 of them were seated.  The majority were on their feet walking up and down the aisles, between the rows and even outside the church engaged in prayer, listening to the words and music coming from the stage.  They worship in a much more animated way than the typical service at Incarnation (OK, any service at Incarnation).  These are people who come to church before going to work, or going on with the rest of their day.   It was interesting to see how other people conduct their worship, and humbling to see how many people make daily worship a part of their regular lives

After the service we enjoyed a walk back to the guesthouse on the neighborhood streets.  It was much more active than when we rode to the church on the tap-tap.  Many people (most?) walk to their daily destinations of work or school.  

Our first service opportunity was at No Place Like Home orphanage.  We presented the Bible story of Jesus calling his disciples where they were out in a boat, and while Jesus was sleeping a storm comes up that rocks the boat and it drenches the boat’s passengers.  But Jesus wakes and calms the storm.  In our presentation of the story, the tempest was brilliantly played by Pastor Gary Medin, with a squirt bottle.  The story was brought to life by our interpreter, Valery, and the kids loved it.  The Activities team put together other fun stuff for the kids as well.  We had soccer balls, plus arts and crafts and sidewalk chalk to leave with them to play with after we had gone on our way.  We also sang several songs with them, and in return, the kids sang a song for use in Creole.

Our second service stop of the day was at Mephibosheth Orphanage for special needs children.  We did the same Bible story including a repeat performance by hurricane Gary, and sang some with them as well.  But there were also some differences.  We had more time to spend with this group of kids and we had balloons to blow up for them, face paints, and bubble soap.  So we had a great opportunity to play with the kids, and be kids ourselves.  We were treated to 2 songs by a young  lady who lives at Mephibosheth who sang like an angel.

We ended the day with thought-provoking devotions, sharing what we as individuals have learned from Haiti and how we hope to bring a part of Haiti home with us.  It is clear that what we’ve seen and done in Haiti is messing with our hearts, bodies, minds  and spirit.

It was a great day for the team here in Haiti.  We got several chances to learn more about the culture and daily lives of Haitians, and to serve more of God’s children.  The weather is typically blazing sun and plenty hot (for Minnesotans), but we’ve been blessed with overcast and cooler weather that has been very easy to tolerate. Except for the occasional rain squalls caused by hurricane Gary.   

Friday, November 10, 2017


Dave (Katzke)

These our words of the day for Thursday, our fourth day in Haiti. Half-way through learning about this holy place in-person and from the holy people here.

We spent the day in the city Titanyen.

In the a.m., we split up into separate tap-taps and visited nine elders' homes. Serving activities included supplying water packets, juice, apple sauce, as well as, washing and massaging their feet, hands and shoulders. We also enjoyed singing to them and with them, one group accompanied with two ukeleles and the other with a guitar. Each session concluded with a personalized prayer based on the needs they shared. Our new elder friends included Guerline, Jude Jean Pual, Lauremise, Pierre, Viergelie, Lindor, Ofhane, Fleuriciane, and Marie. All were grateful and so were we.

After leaving the elders, we visited Mission of Hope which is one of Feed My Starving Children's largest distribution partners globally. They send out 91,000 meals a day through their education channels and various partners. Derek from Texas, a young member of the church advancement division, provided us with a tour of the office and the warehouse where we saw 2.2 million FMSC meals stored on palletes ready to feed hungry bodies. It was so awesome to see! To put that into perspective for our family and friends back home, Mission of Hope feeds a Duluth-size group of people. Other partners we saw in the warehouse included Tom's shoes, World Vision, 3M, and other manapak-like providers. Derek also shared the other ministries that Mission of Hope fuels like standing up schools and hosting teams and individuals of volunteers to serve the mission. They are also building a university and tech/trade school on the campus. Pretty cool stuff.

Our serving day ended with of Grace Village, Healing's Haiti's footprint in Haiti. For those that have in come previous year, they were able to see the progress that has been made in just a short period of time. They've replaced their aquaponics (tilapia pond) with a vegetable and herb garden. With the support Ann Spinner and JAMF (blessed shout-outs to Minnesota!), we were able to walk through their a library of books and technologies. Healing Haiti has also added onto the school and is now serving 350 students from sixteen years of grades and added subjects including Spanish and music. We were blessed with a surprising rendition of The Star Spangled Banner as we passed through the hallway. We may have had a couple music lovers join in. ;-) We also toured the new bakery on the grounds and witnessed the making of one of their popular items - street bread. Street break is sold to Haitians to resell to the community.

One special moment at Grace Village was the introduction of Dave Katzke to a child that his family sponsors; her name is Jessica. At first she was timid, not surprising as an interpreter was necessary and something being tall. Jessica warmed up to Dave quickly. They were able to spend an hour together, conversing about their homes, their commonalities and geography.

We served many today but we were also served in so many ways.

One literal we are served each evening is with a warm meal made by two lovely Haitian women. Their names are Ulta and Phaunis. Tonight we feasted on traditional Haitian foods. A savory vegetable stew spooned over rice and beans, green squash, beef meatballs, fried plaintains, steamed broccoli with onion and, the group fav, fried chicken legs accompanied by hot sauce which seems a crowd pleasing condiment for every meal.

As we do every evening, our day concluded with a small group discussion on the upstairs patio under the sky's stars. Tonight was uniquely supported by the background noise of Haitians worshiping at a church in the neighborhood. Today's reading, Matthew 14:13-21, or as many refer to as "Loaves and Fishes", laid the foreground for a connecting conversation about those we are dependent on to be free to come here (likely all of you reading this blog) and what we are willing to give up to be more of the hands and feet that God calls us to be.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Blessed to be a Blessing

Today brought the gift of meeting and engaging with two FMSC partners that Incarnation has not previously visited, Help for Haiti and Hot Futbol. Help for Haiti was established in the mid nineties and Sandra and Pastor John who lead this organization have faithfully obeyed the call and over the years have established a variety of ministries serving some of Haiti's most vulnerable - children, elderly, handicap and homeless. We served elderly and handicapped individuals by distributing food, clothing, soap, crutches and canes. We also prayed individually for those receiving resources and care, giving these precious children of God the dignity they don't often receive due to age, illness, and perceived burden on society. Hot Futbol is an after school soccer program that not only teaches children ages 6-17 fundamentals of soccer but also builds leadership skills, assists with academics, provides positive role models, and Bible teaching all while receiving a FMSC meal every day. Interestingly on Saturday game days, Hot Futbol not only feeds their team but also provides the opposing team an FMSC meal. We were inspired by the passion and sense of calling Ricardo (lead) and Andy (an assistant) have for this ministry and their love for the children they serve. Hot Futbol is also a depot for other smaller ministry partners who may not be able to receive direct distribution from FMSC. Food from FMSC Coon Rapids packed on July 10, 2017 was located in their container. A portion of our group also visited a home for sick and dying children. One participant expressed how she was moved spiritually as she could feel the warmth of God's presence even after putting the little girl down. While language barriers exist, the small reaching arms and the call for mama from immobile infants was common language making it easy to pick up and love on the children but so difficult to put down and let go of an outreached hand. Participants also enjoyed interacting with several 3-5 year old children who were healthy enough to be mobile but still receiving care. It's amazing to see how eager and welcoming children are even with strangers. We engaged in laughter and excitement. As we heard the stories of Sandra, Pastor John, Ricardo, and Andy it inspires us to listen for God's call and take action in our own ways, using our own gifts. Never underestimate what God can do with a small segment of time and gifts to bless others.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Holy Buckets

Our crew of 21 had water truck day in Cite Soleil. We saw lots of changes from previous trips. We visited Fleri Farm before heading into Cite Soleil and saw so much potential - 28 acres with fruit trees including mango, papaya, coconut, bananas. The farm ended up being our first stop as we went with the flow and some traffic snarls with the water truck put it a little behind, so we got a great tour and had fresh coconut water right off the tree. On to first water truck stop, lighter than typical turn out with the recent rains, but still lots of time for interaction with the kids and the community. As our truck went to refill, we got an extended visit to Hope Church and School, which today was school to kindergartners and first graders in the school's second year of operation. For most of us, this was the first time seeing the completed church and school on what used to be a large garbage pile on the shores of the bay, now filled with brightly colored uniformed kids at a highly energetic learning level. Hope! Couple more stops of the water truck, building thru the day our last stop was very busy, lots of kids, lots of buckets, lots of smiles. We also did a "walk about" an area of Cite Soleil that took us right to the sea. Broken sea shell paths, pigs and goats roaming, kids swimming and fishing. Several of the kids tagged along on this part of the adventure. After we finished with the water truck, we visiting the Haitian Soccer Initiative - a soccer and meal program for boys and girls. Several of the kids enjoyed practicing their English speaking skills with us. So many powerful impressions from the day - our group observed positive changes that have happened since their last trip and that that gives us hope for the future for the people of Cite Soleil. The kiddos who are in school, the church, the farm, etc. At the same time, there is so much need - it can overwhelm a person. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to spend this time today with God's beautiful people of Cite Soleil. We continue to pray that God opens our hearts to really see and demonstrate His love and care for all His people. On behalf of Crew 21, Terry C and Dave K

Monday, November 6, 2017

Early Deja Vu


Don, Dave, Bill and Vicki zoomed down 35E to the airport and didn't see a single car on the way. That told them we were all up early. Everyone made the our 3:45 meeting time.

People we met
- Kristi and Erin met a man from Haiti who now lives in Atlanta. He was going back to preach and help install A/V in new churches his father has started in Haiti.
-Several met people in Minneapolis and Atlanta that thanked us for serving in Haiti.
-Dave & Don met a guy on the tram at the Atlanta airport that was from Haiti, had moved to New York for 15 years and had been in Atlanta for 3 years.  He thanked us for serving in Haiti. Gary met a guy that was volunteering his time to explore building a tsunami and/or a hurricane shelter. 
- We met Michael from Healing Haiti that was coming to do video about a hospital/health facility in Port au Prince. 
We felt a part of a positive adventure and were inspired by the connections we made today.

Deja vu - I've been here before. Paying $10 to get into Haiti (seems odd). Chaos at the airport (but not as much chaos as before). Crazy traffic, horns honking, changing route on the fly. Washed out Curbs road as we approached the guest house, purple gate leading into the guest houses. Dogs running around in the grounds, take your shoes off before going in...

Erin and Grant (two of the three rookies) spent the trip from the airport to the Healing Haiti guesthouse pointing out sights to each other that caused them to gasp, and 'my goodness!' each other. The veterans were amused watching their wonderment.

Sitting for our first meal around the large table - expanded to accommodate the record number of participants this year. Lot of discussion, lots of laughter, lots of getting acquainted.