Haiti Saturday Travel

What an adventure! As I write this post from my phone, I realize I need to take more pics with my phone. I’m going to try to give a day by day account of this trip. 

I last wrote as I was at the airport before leaving home. From there, the rest of our travels were definitely blessed by God. That is the only reason I can think of as to why we made it. At CVG, we boarded on time and all looked great for our flight to Philly. We were able to get some breakfast at Subway once we were past security. Then, we had to de-ice the plane, which added extra time. We were late to Philadelphia and arrived at our gate there at the time the plane was supposed to take off, and although the door was closed, the plane was still there. Once the gate agents saw there was a group of us headed to Haiti and it would be way too much trouble to try & rebook us, etc. they reopened the door and let us on. If you know airlines, they NEVER reopen that door. We were told to pick an open seat and sit. That’s what we did.

In Philadelphia, we sat….and sat….and sat…for more than 2.5 hours waiting to de-ice and take off. We left Philadelphia about 90 minutes before our flight from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) was supposed to leave. We arrive to FLL and looked at them flight on the airline website where it showed we had just missed the flight and one of our team members received an email saying he had been rebooked out of Miami the next morning. We didn’t rush right off the plane. 

Once we deplaned, our team leader asked about rebooking. The gate agent asked what flight we were supposed to be on. When she told him Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the agent told us the flight was still there and it was just a couple gates down. We went down and saw that, indeed, the flight hadn’t left yet and they were currently boarding. There was another group on a missions trip in front of us. As we all stepped up to scan our tickets and board, we had all been rebooked – the other group and ours – about 20 people. They hadn’t given our seats away, so they rebooked us to this flight – and even had our bags taken from the storage area (bc we’d already been rebooked) and loaded to the plane. We made it on this flight. This flight that was scheduled to leave at 1:55 originally, but was delayed in Haiti coming to FLL, so it was still there when we arrived. 

We arrived in Port-au-Prince (PAP) about 6:30 PM or so, but we made it. We had to pay our $10 “tourist tax” and go through customs before heading to baggage claim – which is also an experience. It’s super crowded, so a couple of us watched for and pulled our bags (we had a unique travel tag on them from Servants In Fellowship) while others loaded them to the carts. Some of the luggage (in general) had been thrown onto the carousel from the plane, that at one point, several suitcases started falling off. It was just an experience to go through. Nothing like any of my other travels. 

It was only by God’s grace that we made it. As much as Satan did not want us here, God protected us and provided a path. We were all exhausted and super hungry when we arrived at the guest house, but we made it. I’m excited to see what the rest of the week has in store! 

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How Can You Influence People?

Today, we ended up with a rain day. We were supposed to start building homes in the mountains, but with the weather, it wasn’t a good idea. So, we ended up visiting Faith Academy started by FanFan, visited a Fish Farm run by Dr. Val, and then spent some time shopping at the tin market. It was a pretty cool day.

Let me start with Fanfan. I cannot even begin to tell you his story or how God has used him to do amazing things. Fanfan grew up in an orphanage here in Haiti, where he learned about Jesus early on. At one point, he felt a call from God to start a school. He negotiated the land price, made the transaction, and started building. Faith Academy used to be just grades K-6, but this year was able to add 7th grade. Next year 8th grade will be added and 9th grade the following year. The enrollment of Faith Academy is up to 400 students. Because public education in Haiti isn’t free, only 50% of kids here are in school. At Faith Academy, the cost isn’t like that of the other public schools. The quality of education is better. Faith Academy is supported by many in the US, so kids could attend for free, but Fanfan wants parents to have a stake in their child’s education. At Faith Academy, they’ve been able to support a lunch program that was just once a week, to feeding kids everyday. It’s amazing what FanFan is doing with Faith Academy. My last visit here in 2015, they had just finished building the cafeteria for Faith Academy and had the walls for the chapel up. To see that all completed with benches and everything is beyond words amazing. 

I wish all of you could meet FanFan and experience his love for Jesus and how closely he listens to God’s call. When he walked into a classroom, the kids and teachers all stood up for him, out of respect. God has used FanFan to bless so many. 

It was super cool to hang out with some kids at recess time. There were a few girls who wanted me to just carry them and out of nowhere, it seemed, I became a human jungle gym. But you know what? All some of these kids want is a little bit of love. Someone to love on them and brighten their day. Watching Greg with a girl named Lovely was special. Work he had done with a previous organization brought Lovely to him and Cathy. He said when she arrived at the orphanage, she was 2 years old and weighed just 8 pounds (yes, you read that right – 8 lb). That’s what an average newborn weighs. Now she’s in 5th grade at Faith Academy. The smile on both her and Greg’s faces when they saw each other – I can’t even begin to describe it. 

The impact that Greg, Cathy, FanFan, Chris, & Kendra are having on the Haitians they work with is beyond words. Truly amazing things happen when we listen to God’s call. We are seeing it each day we’re here. 

Greg introduced us to Dr. Val today. Dr. Val is originally from the Ivory Coast, Africa and attended Auburn University in the states for his masters, Ph.D., and his post-doc. What he learned there, he has been able to implement and improve the lives of Haitian families. Dr. Val owns a fish farm. We got a tour of it today. We saw the itty bitty baby fish (which look like minnows) & the little bit older fish (think your average goldfish size) they keep at the hatchery. Dr. Val told us that they give the families that actually raise the fish a farming kit. They raise the fish until they are big enough to be processed back at the hatchery. When the fish are processed, Dr. Val is able to sell fish to hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores. He’s also able to sell them to the street merchants who make a living selling the fish. Currently, Dr. Val has 254 fish farmers with the kits. Those fish farmers make $2000 (US) by raising these fish. Dr. Val is influencing many lives through his fish farm.

After visiting Dr. Val, we went to the tin market to do some shopping. This is always an interesting place. Artists are trying to make a living with their tin art. Some of the art is extremely beautiful. I’ve learned to barter at the tin market. This is the place I like to pick up little thank yous for those who have supported me for this trip. It’s also a chance for me to support a Haitian family. I may not spend a lot of money, but $10 US is huge for these guys sometimes. I learned today that it takes 66, $50 Haitian to make $1 US. We take so much for granted. We have so much that we are blessed with in the US. I don’t mind spending a few dollars on tin art to support a Haitian who use trying to make it on his own. Don’t get me wrong, I do think these guys probably make some money off tourists, but you never know what their needs are.

Where are you in your life? How are you influencing people? God has called me to a life of serving Him by serving others. Being in ministry means that I probably won’t be making a ton of money, but the treasure that I am seeking is heavenly rewards. I love serving others. I love seeing their smiles or watching them understand something fully for the first time. I tutor a 6th grade boy in Over-The-Rhine (in Cincinnati). He hasn’t had half the opportunities I did at his age. He struggles with school. I’ve come to love this kid and it pains me when I see him struggling and not able to fully understand the concept we’re working on. Outside of his schoolwork, I hope to have a positive influence on his life. I pray that God will work in his life and that he will go on to make a bigger impact on someone else. 

Micah 6:6-8 says, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give him my firstborn for my transgressions? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul. He has shown you o man. He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” 

Maybe you don’t have much money you can offer, but what about your time or your talents? How will the Lord be pleased with your offerings?

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Haiti – Our Last Couple Days – Finding Beauty in the Garbage

Thursday and Friday – we spent the days in the Village of Kago building houses. By the time we finished on Friday, we built 5 homes over 3 days. I cannot even begin to put into words the feelings and emotions that bubble up when we present the family with the lock & key to their new home, as well as a Bible, before we pray over the house and family. In our blessing of others, we are blessed. 

Before tearing the first house down on Wednesday, I got a video of the water (from Tuesday’s rain) running into the house through all the holes they had in their roof. I try to imagine myself in their shoes. My family and all our possessions in a super tiny makeshift home – made from rusty tin/metal and tents/tarps (and the tents are NOT anything like the ones we use in the US for camping, etc.). In a conversation I had with FanFan, I learned that the average Haitian family lives in less than $2 (US) each day and Middle Class families earn about $150/month (US $). 
God was working on, in, and through me. Being in a country like Haiti, you learn to appreciate all we have. In the US, we’ve become such a materialistic society. It’s all about what we have. Whereas in Haiti, people are so happy with the little that they have. They have a joy that is inexplainable except that it comes from God. 

I loved working side by side with or Haitian friends. The community in which we were building helped us in building. The kids would help unload the truck and bring our supplies to us. When was the last time we saw a sense of community like that in our own neighborhood? It’s amazing to me. 

The houses we build aren’t anything extravagant. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The houses we build are 12×12 made out of 2x4s, plywood, & tin. For most of us, we can fit that in our living room. These houses don’t have a kitchen or indoor plumbing of any kind. It’s one room with a window, a door, and 2 plywood shelves. BUT – it’s dry without worry of water ruining their possessions. It means they aren’t sleeping on the ground. It might be cramped with a family of 5 or more people in there, but for the Haitians who get these houses, it means everything to them. They are more than grateful that we would come and do this for them. 

I got to work with a Haitian named Mack. Mack is someone I will never forget. He is from the Village of Montreal where we built the last time I was there. He is now working with Greg & Kris in other villages. Mack doesn’t speak English. Yet, he and I worked together to finish a couple houses. We learned to communicate with each other despite the language barrier. Mack didn’t smile much, but when he did it was a beautiful smile. I don’t know much about Mack’s background, but my guess is he is more than grateful to be doing this work after seeing his village blessed with homes. There was just something about Mack that makes him unforgettable. The world could use a few more people like Mack. 

(This is Mack and me)

I can’t begin to describe or even explain how God moved in me and worked on me during my time in Haiti. Some things became crystal clear to me. This was a trip that was scheduled at the perfect time. It was something I needed even more than I realized. Thursday night, as I sat in my room, writing out my prayers, I was listening to music and tears streamed down my face as I finally said, “Ok, God, if you’re leading me down this path, as anxious about it as I am, I will follow you”. I’m not ready to publicly talk about this path, but I ask that you pray for me because it will be a long and rocky path. 

Trust seemed to be the theme of the week. As we all shared on Friday night about what we got out of the week, there were a number of us working through a lot of hurt and pain. There was a lot of tears. I’m glad I have new friends who are walking this road with me. God puts people in your path for a reason. Something that my new friends and I talked about was finding the beauty in the midst of the ugly, the hurt, the grief, etc. Sometimes we have to really search for it, but in the midst of everything, we can find something beautiful. As I continue to find the beautiful in my pain and hurt, I know that God has my back. 

In Scripture we read, “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). In the midst of tragedy, trauma, & ashes, we can find good. As we drove by what seemed like endless trash on the side of the road in Croix des Bouquets, there were some beautiful flowers blooming in the middle of the trash. 

I believe that we, as God’s masterpieces, are often the beautiful in the midst of crap and trash. We live in a world that is all about what is for them, instead of what they can be for God. We are the beauty in the midst of trash. We are light in a dark world. In Haiti, where there is hardship and uncertainty, there is joy. So many are hurting and grieving, while you may not be able to see it right now, there is something beautiful there. Take heart, friends. Trust in the Lord. He’s got our backs.

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Perfectionism Isn’t Needed

Wednesday….the day of our trip that I struggled with most. I felt like a failure because of my struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. 

We were building 2 houses  up on the mountain on Wednesday. The ride up was long and bumpy and, for me, anxious. Getting up some of these roads in the trucks we use can be really hard. As we found out Wednesday, if a truck is too heavy, you won’t make it up the hill. My morning started with anxiety. It didn’t get any better after that. 

What was super cool was the kids, in the Village where we are building, helped us carry wood & tin from our trucks to the actual worksite. This was one little guy, who can’t be more than 3 or 4 years old, wanted so desperately to carry things. He was so tiny and cute. When we were carrying the wood for house #2, we gave him some of the smaller pieces to carry. The kids and their willingness to help is just so amazing. They want to help. They’re so grateful for what they are receiving. 

I attempted to hammer in some nails on Wednesday. I did that fine on Monday. However, I struggled with it on Wednesday. I bent more nails than what I got hammered in. I started to really beat myself up about it. I started to listen to the lies I was telling myself. 

Once we got back to the guest house and unloaded/re-loaded the trucks, I had a few moments alone where I was able to get myself together. I started to remember that I am God’s masterpiece. He created me for a purpose. I don’t have to be perfect. That’s why Jesus died on the cross – because I am imperfect. All I have to do is trust God, trust in what/where/how He is leading me. 

I came to Haiti seeking God. I’ve been trying to figure out what God is trying to teach me. The lesson I’ve taken away from this trip has been to trust God wholly. He’s not going to lead me astray. He only wants good things for us. Trust is a really hard thing for me, so this has been a harder lesson for me. I can’t say that I will always succeed in trusting, but I will try.

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Building a Library

Just FYI – I am using the WordPress app on my phone – while it is in airplane mode – to write and post. Is it working? I hope you are reading! 

Monday – our first day of work. My day started a little earlier than others, as I volunteered to get up to make our lunches with 2 others. We take a cooler to the lunch site, which contains PB&J sandwiches for everyone (we just put them back in the bread bag after we made them), several cans of Pringles, & 2 packs of cookies. For the most part, that will be our lunch all week. Of course, we have several water coolers we bring as well for use during the whole day.

Yesterday, we built a library – a first for Greg. We took all the materials to the site & cut the wood, etc. as we went. The library is the latest addition to the Village of Grace. When I was here in June 2015, we visited the Village of Grace on our last day. It was a project that was being started while Greg & Cathy were back in the states for awhile. Here we are 18 mi the later, there are 160 home replacing the tents, plus a school & a church. Now, a library. It’s amazing to see the difference.

It was fun to be greeted by kids from the Village of Grace. There was one little girl that just wanted us to hold her. She didn’t say a word, but wanted to be held. 

We unloaded what we needed to get started, and then we got started. We start with the foundation of the library – the floor. At one point, as we were nailing in the floor (which is plywood), Greg noticed there was a small gap and it wasn’t flush with the piece next to it. No one was blamed. The nails were removed, and it was put where it needed to be and then the nails were hammered back in. Next, the walls went up. This takes more time than we realize because soon enough it was lunch time.

After lunch, about 5 of us started building the furniture while the rest worked on the library. I spent my afternoon building 6 tables and 5 benches. This took all afternoon. We left the worksite at 5:15 PM – dinner was supposed to be served at 5. Needless to say we were late. We didn’t have time to clean up before supper. We were dirty, hot, sweaty, & tired. I can’t remember a day where I’ve done such hard physical labor since my Army days. 

I never thought of myself as a carpenter. My papa was a carpenter who built houses. All I could think was I hope I would be making him proud. How I wish he and I could be doing this trip together! I miss him everyday and he’s been gone 10 years now. Papa loved Jesus and it was evident in the way he lived his life. I pray and hope that I am half the person he was. I think he would enjoy being here in Haiti, sharing the love of Jesus by doing something he knows so well. 

It is my hope and prayer that as we go through the week, that we loudly exhibit the love of Jesus through our actions. Sometimes it’s something as little as playing a game with kids around the worksite that could make a difference. When I get to heaven someday, I hope to see a lot of the people that o interacted with on my missions trips. 

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Sunday in Haiti

We all crashed after getting to the guest house and eating supper on Saturday night. We crashed hard! Sunday was a day of rest and worship. We attended a church – the same one I had attended with Hyde Park when we came in 2015 -where we got headphones to listen to a translation of the service. It was more of a contemporary service where songs such as Here I Am To Worship were sung – but in Creole. I was so blown away by the attitude of worship that filled the church. In the US, I’ve attended many a church service where the congregation is singing Praise & Worship Music, but there was no real attitude of worship. I loved sitting at this church and closing my eyes, just to listen to the people sing. It filled my heart. 

The Pastor gave a sermon based on Isaiah 30-32. The Israelites kept falling away from God, essentially because His timing is not their timing. They felt abandoned by God. They would rather have returned to a life of slavery in Egypt. God supplies our needs. We just have to remember that our timing is not always God’s timing. He probably has something even greater in store for us. Don’t go back to your Egypt.

As I sat there listening to the sermon, I wrote that phrase, “Don’t go back to your Egypt” in my notes. I came on this trip in desperate need of this time of 100% relying on God to get me through. My anxiety is high. I want to go to my husband, but I can’t exactly communicate with him, so I’m having to rely 100% on God. I’m drawing closer to my God. I don’t like being in a place where I am weary and worn – my personal Egypt – relying on others to get me through. I’m able to sing with a heart full of worship for my God because He makes me happy and fills me with joy!

After church, we went to a restaurant called Kokoye for lunch. We sat outdoors, enjoying the beautiful day that it was. We ordered our food. Eventually our Frank’s came. An hour later our food cane – except for 4 of us whose food was an additional 30 minutes later. I ordered a fried chicken sandwich and fries. It was pretty darn good. It was nice to get to blend with the other team – who are from Ohio as well (not Michigan as I stated Saturday AM). 

After lunch, we came back to the guest house and napped for a couple hours (the girls I am rooming with and I crashed hard. Once we woke up, it was supper time. After supper, we had devotions together and then some of us colored while some played Dominoes before bed.

During our devotional time, Greg asked us 2 questions that we all went around the circle and answered. 1. Why are you here – on this trip? 2. What do you hope to get out of your time here? 

I’m here for a few reasons. 1. I left a huge piece of my heart here last time. I’ve been itching to get back to Haiti since then. 2. As I stated earlier, I NEED this time. I NEEDED this trip. I need to connect with God & be fully dependent on him. I need to surrender ALL to Him, including my family. 3. I’m here because God called me to be here. This is a desire He put in my heart. I’m happy to be here.

I hope to get closer to God through this week, working on my anxiety and trust issues. I’m hoping to heal some of the hurts I’ve encountered over the last year. I know God is pruning me and has been pruning me. That can hurt. Pruning is necessary because it helps to create more and better fruit. Sometimes it really sucks to be in the pruning season, but it is needed if I am going to live my life and have a ministry fully reliant on God. I want to effectively share the Gospel with others, not just by words, but by showing it. This pruning season is part of that.

Continue to pray for our team. I’m looking forward to an amazing week.

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Serving Jesus Off The Grid

It’s 5:15 AM – on a Saturday – and I’m sitting in an airport. I am anxiously waiting to board a plane headed for Haiti, where I will be serving Jesus off the grid for the next week. I am excited to be in a place where I will have to be completely and fully reliant on God to get me through. I’m in a place, in my faith journey, where I NEED this experience. 

We will be taking a series of connecting flights before landing in Port-au-Prince. I tend to get some serious travel anxiety. It all stared yesterday when our first flight was cancelled because of weather. Thankfully we found it a day ahead of time so our flights can be rearranged. Then the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport happened. This is where our last connecting flight is. To say I’m anxious is a serious understatement. I attempted to sleep last night but tossed and turned all night and got just 90 minutes of sleep. Caffeine is a must for me today. I spent my sleeplessness in prayer and even used the Bible app on my phone to cast all my anxieties on Him. 

Once we land in Port-au-Prince, we will be picked up and taken to the guest house. We will have no access to internet, tv, etc. We will be completely off the grid. I am OK with that (except that I won’t see how the Seahawks do tonight). I am going to have to be completely dependent on God. 

Going on this missions trip is putting me out of my comfort zone completely. On Monday, we will start our task at hand. We will be building 12×12 tin homes for Haitians who are still living in tents from the 2010 earthquake. If you know me, you know that this is so far out of my comfort zone that it’s not funny.

I need this trip. I need this time to draw closer to God. With my renewed sense of hope in 2017, this is the perfect way to way to kick off the year. As I started preparing myself for this trip, I started realizing how much I am craving a situation like this – being totally dependent on God. 

A Facebook friend of mine posed a question the other along the lines of would you blindly follow God’s call no matter what it means you’re giving up or doing? I feel like I’m in that situation. I’m in job limbo. Let me confess, the day I found out my job was being eliminated, I was prepared to hand in my resignation without any kind of plan. I was concerned about this trip and my upcoming girlcation in a couple weeks. I think, no, I believe that God saw I was going to be obedient to His call and blessed me in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. With the elimination came a severance deal. God is still providing for my family. A week and a half later, I got a call to interview at another church. 

Being in a country where I know very little to none of the language and doing construction where I have no access to my husband, my friends, the outside world is following God blindly. I am really excited about that. 

As I was tossing and trunning, the song is Oceans came to mind. You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail…..Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders….wherever you would call me. This week, God has called me to serve him off the grid. It will be a nice break from electronics, the news, all the hate and pain we see everyday in our first world problems. I love this song and I sing it as a prayer. How often do we sing it without really thinking about the words or meaning what we are singing? I want God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit to lead me to a place where I MUST fully trust and rely on Him. As a person with some serious trust issues, this is a huge leap for me. 

I’m looking forward to seeing how God is going to use me, grow me, and what He is going to show me while I’m in Haiti. I ask that you pray for our team of 9 as we travel, that our hearts would be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit, as well as for the Haitians we will be ministering to. I hope you get an opportunity to do a missions trip where you are completely off the grid and you have to wholly trust Jesus. 

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