Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Thanks

Living far away from family is definitely a sacrifice—not just for us but for those family members we have left behind.  It seems more exaggerated with the ocean between us.  It’s during the holidays especially, that I am so thankful for this missionary community that we are apart of.  We all come from many different parts of the world; all missing our families and friends. I’m thankful that this community has become like family and that we are able to celebrate the big holidays together.

Thanksgiving day is not a holiday in Haiti, but as an American, it’s one of the most important holidays of the year.  There are many different (Haitian) holidays we celebrate and observe throughout the year and many US holidays we tend to forget about.  For us, Thanksgiving isn’t one we forget about!  The last few years this has been a very special gathering for us and it wasn’t any different this year!

Once again, we hosted over 100 people at our house for American Thanksgiving!  The final count this year was 104 to be exact.  There were many old friends, a good amount of new friends and a few we don’t get the chance to see that often.  We welcomed Americans, Germans, Canadians and Haitians.  I really enjoy organizing and hosting this gathering every year. 

People ask how we pull this off every year.  Well, we have lots of help!  Our job mostly consists of organizing everything and communicating.  Some people donate their turkey that they received from Agape Flights and I asked Agape to purchase and send in any extra turkeys we needed to feed 100+ people.  This year, we cooked 6 turkeys!  Everyone signs up to bring one or two dishes, we gather all the tables and chairs the missionaries have and sit down for an American Thanksgiving feast.  Don’t think I’m fitting all these people in my house!  We have ample outdoor space and we pray for no rain, which thankfully we had none.  Many people came down earlier in the day to decorate and make the tables pretty.  After we ate dinner, we had a time of sharing then dessert and lots of conversations.  The kids enjoy a kids craft and time to play with each other.

It was a fun day, one that left me feeling contented and grateful.  While we really miss our family, we feel really privileged to be serving alongside this community of people furthering the gospel in Haiti.

During this season of thankfulness, we want to say an extra “thank you!” to those of you who support us financially, prayerfully and emotionally so that we can serve in Haiti.  We are appreciative of your sacrifice!


Expansion of the HFK Deworming Program

Last Tuesday was an exciting day for me and for those of us who work with the Hope for Kidz Child Sponsorship Program because we rolled out phase two of the Deworming Program.  Earlier in the year, we rolled out phase one of the program.  I wrote a report in March on all the reasons we believe deworming (one pill, once per year) is an important part of the HFK program.  To read about that again, go here

For the 2012-2013 school year we dewormed 9,000+ kids in 33 schools.  This year, we were able to add all the satellite locations that have sponsored kids as well as a few new sister church schools.  That alone is a huge expansion. For the 2013-2014 school year, we dewormed 12,000+ students and teachers! The deworming program is not just for the sponsored kids, but for every child in all of our schools that have sponsored kids. 

For phase two, in addition to the increased number of students treated, we added an important aspect to the program: worm prevention education.  Last week, we asked all the school administrators to come in for a meeting.  We reviewed with them the process of distributing the meds to the students, went over how we want them to keep records and distributed 12,000+ pills and cups.  Then each school received an educational illustrated flip book.  Much thanks goes to those from The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Chicago’s NW suburbs who developed most of the educational materials that we use for the deworming program!  It is a priceless resource.  We taught the administrators the information in the flip books including how you catch worms, symptoms and how to prevent catching worms.  There were many questions and dialogue.  At the end, we taught them all a catchy song about worm prevention that they can use with the kids.  The information and materials were well received. We now require that the educational materials are taught to every class in every school each year.

Overall, the HFK Deworming Program is just a small part of the child sponsorship program.  The one pill per year and prevention education once per year is a tiny financial part of the puzzle, but is having a huge impact in the health of these students.

To those of you who sponsor a child, we want to say a big THANK YOU!  Your sponsorship is impacting more than just the single child you sponsor—it’s impacting the whole school. 

Sharing the Gospel with our Hands, Feet, and Mouths...

We had a great week out in Desriveaux. It was great to get out into the country once again. I spent the week with Walloon Lake Community Church in their first visit to Desriveaux Church. This was their first trip, an opportunity to consider officially becoming a C3 Partner (Sister Church).  Where is Desriveaux?
School Gathering
The week began with a welcome like I have never experienced. There was such an excitement in the air as we arrived. The Haitian church shared immediately that they had been praying for 15 years for a visit from a team like this. Their prayers had been answered. The hospitality of the typical Haitian puts the hospitality of the typical American to shame.

Friends.  Boys.
While we were in Desriveaux, we had lots of gatherings with the different groups of the church. We met with the Youth Group, School Kids, the Ladies gathering was truly SPECIAL including a fashion show!, as well as several services with the church at large.  We held an evangelistic service. We delivered food to widows and the desperately poor in the area.  We gave out a total of 50 Food Boxes.  We visited a Satellite church to encourage them.  We gave a quitar.  We built benches for the school.  We handed out 750 Jesus Story books to every child.  We truly shared the Gospel with our hands, our feet, and our mouths.  I use the word "we" carefully.  RMI made it all happen for sure, but it was only because of Walloon Lake Community Church's generosity and preparedness to bless the socks off the Haitian Church.  Of course, I know the US team members would say they received the largest blessing themselves! 

Building School Benches
Due to lots of rain, the main road coming home was cut off. We had to spend an extra day "on the road", actually in the Duchity MEBSH church. It brought back memories of staying at this same place during Hurricane Sandy in 2012! Luckily, this time, we were only there 1 night.

Praying with a Widow
God was honored as I believe lives were changed, both Haitians and Americans.

One of the team members wrote on her Facebook page...

"I left 10 days ago on a trip not knowing what to expect... but it wouldn't have mattered. My expectations would have been far exceeded. God is so good! He has amazing ways of showing me new things that I never realized before. I pray each and every day I will wake up with the heart of the Haitian church at Desriveaux. With their attitude of joy and thanksgiving for God's never ceasing love. My home might be here but my heart is in Haiti."
You can see all my pics from the trip here

Stuck in the Mountains... Again... v 3.0

In Haiti, we have to remain flexible.  But, sometimes I think God has a sense of humor.

Remember Hurricane Sandy in 2012?  I was stuck with the team from NewChurch Georgetown in the town of Duchity, on the wrong side of the Glass River...  Here are the pictures and a video to remind you.

By the way, if you want to see what progress looks like in Haiti...  Look at this picture of the Glass River last year, and now look at this pictures of the bridge that is there this year.

1 year later, just a couple of weeks ago, we, yes, the same team and I, got stuck AGAIN in Duchity due to a road block.  The team and I just looked at each other.  Really?  Luckly, this time, we only stayed in Duchity about 45 minutes and the road opened up.  It gave us a nice opportunity to visit with our friend the Pastor, who we had spent those long, windy and very wet days with 1 year ago.

Here we are, stuck in Duchity, Haiti
Again, yes, AGAIN, a third time, coming back with another team, this time from Walloon Lake Community Church, we got stuck... in the same place!  This time, the main road was cut off, due to 5 days of heavy rains mixed with road construction.  Apparently, the road slid down the mountain, and the more rock and dirt they would add, the more it would slide.  Finally, after several day of fighting with heavy equipment, they got it to stick.  But, now all the dirt they had added was like a big bowl of wet soup.  We waited, and we waited, only to realize we had to back track and spend the night.  The next day , we waited and waited. After parking the trucks, and walking up to see the scene, we watched truck after bus after truck make a run for it, only to get stuck and have to be pushed or pulled out.   Finally, after sitting all day, we made the decision to hike out with our essentials.  We had no idea how long the road would remain blocked and we had no desire to stay another night!  After some phone calls to friends with trucks on the other side, we hiked out across the mud and jumped into the trucks of friends.  The team was tough, they took it well.  The team was on it's way.

Hiking out in the Mud
Here are 2 videos of a bus trying to make it out.  #1 and #2.  We watched this scenarios happen 50ish times.

What an experience.  I am sure it won't be the last time I am stuck on a road in Haiti.  It's totally worth it!