Tuesday, August 14, 2018

And so the week begins...

Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust /Reiser Relief: 

Getting on the plane en route to Haiti in anticipation for a week of challenges and overwhelming feelings... But you know what they say... You truly can never grow until you’re pushed outside of your comfort zone. All of the emotions will be felt while in Haiti... Feeling tears come on from all the abandoned children. Feeling the rage of anger take over from all the social injustices. And the engulfing feeling of anxiety from a completely new experience. However, throughout all of this, God will always be right by our side. It is in this time that we must place faith in the fact that the Lord will bless us and keep us. He will shine His face upon us and use each and every one of us as a vessel for His testimony and purpose. 

Day 1

This morning dawned with a sunrise that filled the skies with a pink hue that seemed to wash over the landscape. These quiet precious moments were a much needed inspiration for the day that awaited our team. The amazing thing about God is that when his morning glory greets us from the sky no matter where you are or what impoverished conditions may surround you, bathed in his glow, everything is beautiful. 

In fact, after today myself and several other team members have seen God’s beauty here. It has been a hard beauty for sure...buried in the trash heaps of Cite Soleil. Our ladies unloaded 3 separate water trucks inside the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere. The homes were constructed out of the best pieces of the local trash. Women and young children met the water trucks expectantly. There is zero freshwater available in Cite Soleil. It is trucked in 6 days a week. After their containers were filled the women and children carried giant 5 gallon buckets of the water back to their dwellings. Several team members helped carry this water, it was difficult and laborious to say the least. 

I’ve saved the best for last! The children in Cite Soleil were among the most precious I’ve ever seen. They chased after the truck yelling, “Hey you.” As we left the Tap-Tap (our truck) they couldn’t jump into our arms fast enough. Our ladies held as many as we could trying to give everyone a turn. Most didn’t wear clothes and those that did were soiled and frenetic. 

I can’t describe how proud I am to be a part of this team. These ladies gave of themselves and then gave more. We also got to tour Hope School and Church located in Cite Soleil as well as Terrepromise School. So thankful for these educational opportunities. Several of us wound down the afternoon swimming in a nearby resort pool. 

Every meal has been on point and the staff have been gracious and accommodating. Tacos for dinner last night, pancakes and eggs for breakfast this morning and finally chicken yakisoba for dinner tonight. We are being well taken care of and covering each other in prayer. Decompressing has been a bit tough given the conditions of Cite Soleil we were exposed to today. Fortunately, God has placed each person here for a reason and to fill a specific purpose. We are encouraging each other and trying to share the love of God to all we meet. 

Please continue to cover us in prayer as this is only the first day. We would covet your prayers for strength both mentally & physically as well as guidance and protection. We love you all and await what tomorrow may bring. 

In the Company of our Mighty King.

Kate & Ashley

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Water Truck, Orphans, and Babies

Stop 17. This started out as a "slow" stop. Playing with kids while the water truck was filled. We were excited to reconnect with many of the kids we met earlier in the week. Some of the team impressed the children with superhuman feats of strength by hanging on beams. They are very humble, these members of our healing haiti team (insert eye roll). The filled truck was ready and once we started the hose, the environment got a little more chaotic. Even with rain the previous nights, the need for water was great. While some filled & hauled buckets, others got their hair done by very focused beauticians.  The water truck was filled again and we were off to the second stop.  Those running the hose were faced with a tough challenge.  We had to stop the hose 3 times due to crowd rowdiness. It was a blessing to see piles of kids dumping buckets of water on their heads. We got to witness the benefits of rain first hand, giving the gift of play and relief, something we take so much for granted.

Walking into "For Your Glory" orphanage we were met at the door by a few kids that came rushing to be held. Some were squishier than others. All had smiles. The facility was very nice and everyone employed/volunteering there was welcoming. As we walked through the hallway it opened up to a large playground with a few tables where we chose to take out the nail polish, crayons, & paper. The nail polish was a big hit. A very big hit. It found its way onto not only nails, but fingers, toes, tables, and faces. A few of our more masculine members of healing haiti ended their visit with some glamorous manicures. The older boys were busy playing frisbee, basketball, and soccer and un-impressed by our skills. It was great to see some of the kids getting so much 1-1 time. Once again, we loaded the tap tap with the hope that the kids received as much joy from the visit as we did.

When we walked into the home for Sick and Dying Babies we were immediately asked to start feeding the babies.  We were told to grab a spoon and bowl and feed them one by one.  It was pretty quiet when we got into the room and surprisingly stayed that way throughout the feedings.  Once all the babies were fed, we walked around picking the babies up to give them love.  During that time was when it started becoming very hard.  After you would put a baby down, they would start to cry but you wanted to make time for all the babies to give them all love so you had to do anyway.  We took some outside and rocked, bounced and loved on them.  We just tried to give as much attention to them while we could.  It was such a amazing experience but so heartbreaking at the same time.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Thursday and Friday

Thursday our group got to go to the Mass Graves, Grace Village, on Elder Visits, and Flueri Restaurant.  Over the years these places have really developed and every year that we come back we see significant advances.  One of my favorite aspects of Healing Haiti is how they are able to pivot as an organization.  They start or work to start a new program, see that it is not working perfectly and change that program to something even better.  There are several examples from the past few days.

We began our travels by stopping at the Mass Graves.  The Mass graves were a necessity after the 7.0 magnitude earth quake in 2010 that claimed over 200,000 lives.  After several days, the cemetery in the city was full and there were too many bodies that the government did not know what to do with them.  They brought those bodies out to Titanyen, an area about 1 hour outside of the city, to a hilly and somewhat deserted area.  Once people started to hear about the Mass Graves, they began to bring their own loved ones out there as a final resting place.  In the first few years it was simply enclosed by walls, but each year it seems that they develop and improve it.  It is truly a beautiful place of peace.  Our host, Valerie, was able to tell a little bit of the history and the importance of this day in the life of Haitians.

After a short time we traveled a little further to Grace Village.  Grave Village was the dream and vision of Jeff and Alyn Gacek and has simply improved each year.  It started out as an orphanage with rooms for boys and girls and a feeding center.  A school was added shortly.  Then a clinic for the people of Titanyen.  Now the orphanage has pivoted so that permanent orphans are in home pods with house moms (and dads when available) and brothers and sisters.  They have chores, and try to live as much as a family as possible.  The dorm rooms are still used for housing, but now when the government needs to find temporary placement for orphans they request that Grace Village take them in.  These children are called stop and go children, because they probably will not be permanent residents of Grace Village.  There are also transition children that live in these dorms.  These are young men and women that have grown too old to be orphans and are transitioning to life on their own.  Some of them are in college, some of them are in technical school or in some way getting ready to live life outside the orphanage.  The school has also grown beyond what it once was.  Now students that live outside of Grace Village also attend the school.  Each student pays tuition that covers their education, their uniform, a meal every day, and their books.  Students can be sponsored  through Healing Haiti.  Healing Haiti knows that without education there is no good future for their own children and for the children of Titanyen.  The school has one of the first technology labs that is building knowledge in the tech fields as well.

Finally, Healing Haiti has opened Flueri Restaurant and Bakery.  The goal is to teach people to become bakers, give them skills, sell bread to people who will sell in the market, and at the same time sell to businesses.  We were given a tour by Peterson, a Haitian that was educated in the U.S. in business. He is the second in command at the bakery and restaurant.  He told us that they used to go through 5-6 sacks of flour a week and they now go through about 10 a day.  Their business is booming.  They have also opened a restaurant in connection to the bakery.  They are teaching the transition students skills to help them succeed in the real world.  The goal of Healing Haiti is to eliminate orphanages in Haiti by becoming job creators and eliminating the need for orphanages.  The fact is that in Haiti, like in many developing countries, there is a significant percentage of orphans that actually have parents.  The reality is that these parents simply cannot afford to raise their children, so they bring them to orphanages where they believe they will have better lives.  Healing Haiti would like to eliminate the need for parents to feel like they need to give away their children for a better life.

Prior to visiting Fleuri Bakery and Restaurant we visited some of the elders in the community.  We went into the homes of elders that are sponsored by Healing Haiti.  As soon as we arrived, we got to work washing their feet, painting their nails, and giving hand and neck massages while Rocky and Izzy played the guitar and we all sang. We also brought them meals and gift bags filled with towels, soap, and snacks.  This was the first time many of us have ever washed someones feet even though Jesus instructs his disciples (and us) in John 13:14-15 to "wash each others feet".  It was an emotional and beautiful moment being able to serve them and see the joy in their eyes.  It was easy to love on the them because they reminded us of our grandparents and how they are some of the greatest blessings in our lives.  We ended our visit with a group prayer for each of their special prayer requests.  

Then it was back to the guesthouse for a traditional "Haitian food" meal consisting of chicken drumsticks, meatballs, plantains, okra, beans, cucumbers, and of course rice and beans with a traditional potato and gravy sauce.  

Another special time of our trips is our reflection time at the end of each day.  We start with a devotion and end up sitting around for hours visiting, crying, and discussing the highs and lows of each day.        

Friday morning we woke up at a quarter to six to head to Church on the Rock. It was a very eye-opening experience getting to observe a display of such great faith. It was apparent to see the Holy
Spirit living within the attendants including our team. The pastor prayed for Israel, for the U.S, and even for our whole group by name.

We then went back to City Soleil and played with the kids at Stop 17, which is where Hope Church is located. It was very exciting recognizing familiar faces that we saw the previous Wednesday on a water truck stop. We spent our time swinging children around, playing soccer (futbol), and getting fresh new updos from the little girls.  Playing with the kids is amazing, but also remembering the situation that they are in is difficult.  When we took out bubbles it started out very calm, but the moment other kids see the bubbles they try to take them away.  It is a simple reminder that if you have little even a little bottle of bubbles is something desirable.  

Lance, Nancy, Lauren, and Bailey were able to meet their sponsored child at Hope School and it was very heartwarming for them. Then we were given the opportunity to serve the children lunch at Hope School.  The summer program at Hope Church feeds each of the kids a meal a day- maybe their only meal for the day.

We then headed to Fleuri Restaurant near Grace Village for pizza and fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Water is life

Go to your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room and turn on the faucet.  What happens?  Water flows out at a temperature that you choose, of course.  Go to the grocery store or gas station and look in the water section to see which kind of water you want to drink today.  Some of these products, which comes free out of the tap, can cost more than $3 for a bottle.  But it tastes better, right?

Today we went into City Soleil, the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere, to give water to people who have no option of turning on a faucet, nor the means to afford water for their family.  Healing Haiti runs a free water truck 6 days a week to give families something they need, a necessity of life.  We went today to help distribute the water to these families.

There are several jobs that are needed at the water truck stops.  The first is running the hose.  You crouch at the front of a long line of buckets as water flows from the fire hose.  Your job is to make sure that you fill each bucket while at the same time not spilling any on the ground.  During the whole process you have people who are desperate for water- this could be the only water they get for a few days until the Healing Haiti water truck returns- speaking loudly in a language you don't understand as you do your very best to give as many people water. You usually have 2 assistants, one who holds the hose up and another who helps move buckets to the front.  They can also take over when your back gets sore from crouching.

The second job is to help carry buckets.  Usually women and kids from 8-14 are responsible for getting the water from the truck to their homes in buckets that weigh between 25-50 pounds, depending.  Some bucket have handles with the plastic to protect the hands, some of them no longer have the plastic, and some of the buckets don't even have handles anymore.  Without the help of the group, they would be left to do the grueling work by themselves.  Another aspect of this job is to help the women lift these buckets on top of their heads, which is an amazing feat itself.  While lifting the bucket you really need to make sure that you are following the lead of the woman because if you go too fast you will lift beyond what she is lifting and end up spilling the precious cargo, or if you lift it too slowly the same thing will occur.  You need to be able to follow her direction and pay attention to what she is doing.

The final job is loving up the kids.  When the water truck rolls down the street it is as if someone has sent a message to all the children in the neighborhood that Healing Haiti is there and ready to love up on them.  Many of the children in City Soleil do not get the same type of attention that we are accustomed to seeing, so they crave attention from the "Hey you's" that come to deliver the water.  Some of these children are restavek children, which are child slaves.  Most of them coming to the city with a promise for a better life, but getting much worse than they ever imagined.  The love that they are shown during the water truck stops may be the only love that they will receive until the next water truck.  We probably heard "hey you" over 1000 times today, but I bet no one in the group got sick of it.  Watching group members hold 1-3 kids in their arms at a time is one of the best sites to see.

We were given a special treat today as the transition kids from Grace Village (Haitian orphans who are too old to stay in the orphanage so are transitioning to college or careers) who intern at Fleuri Bakery and Restaurant joined us for their service day.  The young people that intern at Fleuri do a service project each week and today they joined us on the water truck.

We met them at Hope Church.  Hope Church is a church and a school that was literally built on the trash in City Soleil.  When they built the church they had to, twice, dig deeper and get longer footings because the trash was so deep.  Today Hope School has kindergarten- 2nd graders.  Each year they add a class.  Eventually, the plan is to have a kindergarten-8th grade school.

After one of our stops we got to visit Fleuri Farms.  Three years ago Healing Haiti bought farm land (approximately 20 acres) now called Flueri Farm.  When they bought the land it had some fruits and vegetables already planted and since have planted more.  It has plantains, sugar cane, mangoes (used at the Flueri restaurant in their Mango Creme Brulee), coconuts, limes, avocados, and pomegranates.  We even got to taste some of the produce.  It was very cool and I can see it growing into something bigger and better.

Tonight we were able to reflect on the importance of simply loving others the best we can!  Days like these can be exhausting but are so rewarding and eye opening.

Tomorrow is another full day full of great experiences.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

So Many Blessings...

Tuesday, August 7th

Lauren and Lance woke up the earliest to help our Haitian hostesses make an awesome breakfast of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, fresh mangoes, pineapple, bananas, and avocado.  They also have fresh juice every morning from the tree in the yard and it is amazing.  

After eating we prepared for our day.  Our first stop was Gertrude's orphanage.  Gertrude has about 30-40 kids some are disabled and some are able bodied children of all ages.  Entering her compound brings such joy as the children showed such excitement for our presence.  We felt blessed to be in their presence as well.  Nora planned an awesome dreamcatcher craft activity that all the kids (and adults) really enjoyed.  Some of the kids used the materials to make cute dreamcatchers and others just used the materials to make necklaces and bracelets.  They really loved the beads.  It was so much fun watching the group play with kids in wheelchairs, swinging in the swings, and just holding the babies.  It was quite the experience.  

We left Gertrude's and came back to the guest house for the afternoon.  A bunch of us went over to Elite Hotel to cool off and have some french fries.  

The afternoon's activity split the group where the Schmidt family, Livvy, Marcos, Lauren, John and Ella went to the home for Sick and Dying Babies.  That group split in half and went to the room with the infants and the other half went to the room with toddlers to help feed.  When we entered the place was pretty quiet, but that would all change.  After the feedings we began to hold the kids.  The moment that you went to put one down they would begin to cry.  Luckily after feeding there were two other groups that joined us to love up on some kids.  Each person in the group held one or two babies at a time.  It was difficult, beautiful, fulfilling, and heartbreaking all at the same time.  The work that the sisters of charity are doing is amazing as they take babies who are malnourished and bring them back to health.  

Nancy, Lance, Hannah, Nora, Joanna, Rocky, and Bailey went to For Your Glory orphanage. 
There were 55 kids and 2 dogs there today. All of the kids were excited to see us visitors pull up as they were all sticking their heads out of the windows. When they were let out of their rooms, they were everywhere. A lot of us sat at the arts and crafts table to make necklaces and color pictures. Some kids even drew portraits of every individual visitor. Others were kicking balls around and playing with marbles. Rocky was in the back playing guitar while kids sang along helped him strum with sticks and other make-shift guitar picks. The kids knew a lot of contemporary Christian songs and Rocky and the kids worked together to play them.

We got back around 5pm to an awesome dinner of rice and ramen, which seems like a weird pairing but is actually pretty amazing.  We definitely have not gone hungry!  We ended the night with reflection time.  Ella shared her families experience with trying to adopt which put the whole day into perspective.  

We had a great day filled with so many blessings!

Monday, August 6, 2018

A New Adventure Waits

Our team consisting of the Kratch family- Nancy, Lance, Lauren, Bailey plus Marco; the Schmidt Family- Rebekah, Steve, Emma, and Izzy; Nora, Livie, Hannah, Rocky, John, Ella, Joanna made it safe and sound to Haiti after a long day of travel.  We are leaving behind important people and important events, but are ready to embrace all that Haiti has to offer.  All of us were up very early, but travel went well and we arrived to the beauty that awaits us.  We shared a meal of awesome tacos- especially that Guacamole filled our bellies.  The fellowship that we shared is a good introduction to what we will be sharing throughout the week.  Tomorrow is going to be an awesome day.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we open our hearts to what Jesus has in store for us.  We will pray for all of you throughout the week as well.  More to come!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mother/Daughter Davis.Larson

DAY 3 ON THE GROUND IN HAITI.  Moms & daughters team from Minnesota.

We’re 72 hours into our missions trip with Healing Haiti.  Fifteen females and thus far no drama among team members?  That’s an incredible streak.  Anyone who lives with teenage girls should know we’ve got a good thing going right now.

This morning, we saw one of the best-run orphanages in town.  (Mind you, this is my first trip to Haiti, so my reference point is limited to the last three days.)  Even so, the children were happy, well-fed, organized, obedient, and clean.  I’m not sure there’s an exact quote from Scripture that says “cleanliness is next to godliness”, but it sure rings true in this case.  God’s presence is felt in this school/orphanage/church/mission field. 

Most of the team members spent time with a dozen different kids, floating between playing soccer, making bead bracelets, skipping rope or coloring.  The girls were resourceful; the moms were troopers.  (We do have over-achievers in this group; I’m not one of them, but if you’re married to one – you already know that!)   I was saved by a 16-year old boy who wanted to improve his English-speaking skills, so we spent 30 minutes working on all kinds of common English phrases.  Like calling “when the land shook” an earthquake.  Like learning his dad was killed “when the land shook” and he still misses his father terribly.  Like learning his mom was sent to the Dominican Republic to get a job so she could send money back for her kids.  Which was why this 16-year old boy and his six siblings landed at the orphanage. I asked him if he knew Jesus.  “YES, I pray to Jesus every day and love him for giving my mom a job in the Dominican Republic.”  Well, now we had something cooking.

Our midday stop included an inside peek at a serious effort to create a sustainable business and employ a dozen women in the process.   Papillon is the name of the little shop & factory.  The jobs at Papillon give men and women dignity  -- and a salary:  the pottery &  jewelry made are of good quality and very marketable.  The messaging is faith-based and filled with hope.  Hats off to everyone behind this effort! 

We split up into two groups on the final stop of the day.  (Leave it to Minnesotans to try to “cover everything”, these over-achieving Midwesterners.)  Six team members went to a quiet orphanage, and although spread thin, found time to connect with each kid, whether special-needs, ornery, happy or shy.    

The other ten stopped at Home for Sick & Dying Babies.  The name of the place tells you everything you need to know.  A few of us (me) cried the first twenty minutes until we got our bearings, then we went to work loving on these kids.   “No phones, no pictures, period”:  the posted signs made it clear these little babies weren’t to be exploited. 

I have to hand it to Healing Haiti for their clear policy of not bringing cell phones or any electronics into these locations.  Yes, we don’t need selfies posted on Instagram.  More practically, though, I was struggling with the heat and desperately wanted to know how much time we had left at that location.  Temps were hovering at 98 and the heat-index was well-above 105 degrees.  I wanted my phone to see what time it was.  I was also irritated at myself for being so miserably hot and letting it affect my experience –  how effective I was (or wasn’t).   “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak;” even the great Apostle Paul experienced this.  Dear Lord, this afternoon was blazing hot!

5pm did finally come and we were free to go.  On our way out, we stumbled upon the reason we were absolutely supposed to stay there until closing time for visitors:  the priest was administering Last Rites to Maria, a little girl making her journey from death to life.  The ten of us surrounded the crib and prayed with the priest and the nuns, as Maria was sent to her heavenly home with dignity, love, and, finally, no more pain.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”