Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Bittersweet Day

Today we were blessed with the opportunity to worship at the Port-Au-Prince fellowship church. Much to my surprise the church was very similar to services I'm used to experiencing back home, but with a little extra "soul". The service was filled with both Haitians and ex-patriats, many of whom are serving through Christ in the community. When I attend church at home I tend to be on the shy side, quietly singing in worship. But today I went to the service with an open heart and new perspective after speaking with a young man that lives near the Healing Haiti guesthouse. Earlier this week this wise 16 year old boy made a profound statement that immediately stirred my heart. As we were singing in worship together he told us that we should always raise our hands to God and clap while singing; because some people do not have hands. I will never forget this statement and the immense gratitude this young man has for a humble life. Consequently today I clapped and sang with a newfound purpose and love for what God has given me. I've prayed for the people of Haiti countless times this week. I've prayed for their health, basic needs, dignity, peace and continued faith. There is so much to pray for that at times it feels overwhelming. But at the service this morning they did not focus on praying for their own advancement, but for our brothers and sisters of Christ who are persecuted for their love for Him. Every moment in Haiti I am reminded of how blessed we are and how basic gratitude should be.

Later in the afternoon we traveled up the mountain for an astonishing view of the island. From up above the view is picturesque...with beautiful mountains, foliage and a crystal blue ocean. I took in the view and thanked God for his beauty, but was eager to quickly trek back down the mountain. For me the true beauty of Haiti is in the people, in their smiles, their gratitude, their love for Jesus and their perseverance. It's with a heavy heart that I experience my last day in Haiti and leave behind the family that I gained this week. Our team now shares a bond that only we can understand. We have seen things that are hard to describe and at times are hard to talk about. But God has brought us together in support of one another and changed our lives forever.

For our loved ones back home, for those who prayed for us and supported us...I ask for your patience as we ease back into our daily lives. I ask that you pray for our reentry and that we continue to be His servants in whatever He leads us to do. God is good and through Him anything is possible. And perhaps He will call upon you next to serve on this incredible mission!

- Tamra Smilanich

Last Day, A New Start

Today was our last full day in Haiti. We started it off by attending a wonderful Haitian church. These people love the Lord and love to sing His praises. The service was in English so that was a bonus. From there we rode the tap-tap (a Haitian bus, so to speak) up to the top of a mountain that over-looked Port-au-Prince. It was breathtaking. On the way down we stopped at a couple of road side gift shops to buy some souveniers and some Haitian spices that we have come to enjoy. That was about it - just a little R and R. It was great.
This trip was amazing and so were the group of people that my family got spend the week with. We started off  as a group of people and ended as a group of close friends. We experienced so many things together, some amazing and some heartbreaking, but we were all here to just serve the people of Haiti and grow closer to the Lord. If you have a chance, you need to do something like this. It really is life changing. I know we will be back.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday's Focus on God

We began the day by attending church services at the Tent Church. The pastor mentioned in the
sermon that we were each led the service today by God. The church is located in a area surrounded by slums and yet the prayers were not for better living conditions but for world peace. Several nations were mentioned.  Some of them were Israel, nations of the middle east and Africa.
We were asked to select a partner and pray for their individual concerns. This was very meaning full.
When greeting the Haitians there were smiles and firm handshakes. They were very welcoming.
A great experience.

The founder of Healing Haiti, Jeff Gacek, came to speak to us this evening.  Jeff gave us a powerful talk about letting God opening the doors and closing others.  He really gives all the glory for the success of Healing Haiti to God and not to his work.  Jeff's role is to simply be present and available.
John Roadfeldt


Healing Our Hearts

We had the honor of meeting 19 beautiful children at Juno's orphanage this morning.  The kids met us at the entrance and eagerly walked us into their primitive living quarters while showing us the mattresses that they sleep on.  While there is a definite language barrier for most of us that do not speak Creole, there is a universal language of smiles, hugs, and kindness that is easy to share with each other.  They brought us outside and worked with a translator to introduce themselves.  They offered to sing us some songs in Creole and English.  As soon as they started singing songs for us, I couldn't help to feel the tears start welling up in my eyes.  I sat there listening to their beautiful singing and couldn't help but think of how unfair the world is to them.  It just breaks your heart.  We read them a story, played games, gave them some snacks, prayed for them and reminded them of Jesus' love for them.
Then we headed into downtown Port au Prince to visit the public General Hospital.  I am a nurse and was thinking that I might find this place pretty interesting, but what I saw was not at all what I was expecting.  There were big noisy rooms filled with parents, babies, and rows of metal cribs.  My brain could not really absorb how different this atmostphere was compared to where I am used to working.  No OSHA safety requirements, computers, identification bracelets, hand sanitizer or running water.  I did see parents holding their babies and looking for hope in a place that seemed hopeless.  We were able to spend time with some of the parents and their children.  Thanks to many donated supplies, we were able to give away bags full of basic hygeine supplies that hopefully brightened a spot in their day.  It broke my heart to take it all in.
I have had the honor of being on this trip with my husband and our two boys.  Our group has graciously taken our boys under their wing and guided them through this journey.  This trip has opened our eyes to poverty in a way that is difficult to explain but very easy to see, hear, and feel.  Our kids have taken it all in with a graciousness that I have found to be beautiful yet heart-breaking at times.
Our evening closed out with meeting the founder of Healing Haiti.  Jeff lives in Minnesota but was able to meet with our group tonight on what is his 70th trip to Haiti.  He shared with us some of his life story and described how his heart was broken into a million pieces when he saw the needs during his first visit to Haiti.  He encouraged us to let this trip change our lens of how we see the world.  I loved his description of how having a broken heart gives God the opportunity to repair our heart back into one that more resembles His.   

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Serving the Elders

Today we had the privilege of visiting the elders of Titanyen, located right below Grace Village. The average life expectancy in Haiti is 52, so many of the elderly have outlived their children and have no one to take care of them. Because they are not able to contribute to society, they become outcasts and are left to struggle to care for themselves. Many are not able to walk far or have little strength to pump their own water so their basic needs go unmet.

During our visit today we were able to bring them food and water, sing and pray with them, wash their feet and rub lotion on their bodies.

Our first elder was a man 78 years old, Lindor. He was orphaned but has close neighbors that he often visits with. Lindor was elated to see us, we could tell by the sparkle in his eyes and smile on his face. As we sang to him he clapped along as he listened. When asked what he would like us to pray for, he asked for us to pray for the health of the man who help to care for him. A selfless man.

Merolen was our second elder visit today. She is 92 years old and lives with her grandson and his family. This sweet, quiet woman only asked for a dress to wear to church and for someone to help get her there. We were able to wash Merolen's feet, apply lotion to her delicate skin, sing and pray for her. As we left her home, Dusty turned to her and said Ke Bondye Beni'ou (God bless you). Merolen responded with an unexpected request...she asked to have Dusty's t-shirt. Perhaps trying to fulfill her request for something appropriate to wear to church. While Dusty would have loved to give her shirt off her back, it would have left Dusty shirtless!

Our next visit was to a gentleman named Dieufort. He has family, but they live far away in the mountains and are unable to care for him. Dieufort's two room house has a cement floor and walls, the roof is made of tin and leaks. Dieufort has prostrate problems, but is able to walk and cook for himself. Again we were able to care for this man with prayer, song, washing and massaging with lotion.

We visited a joyful and faithful woman named Vertilia. She is devoted to her four grandchildren who live with her. Her 11 year old grandson has special needs and she cares for them all. Her home has a dirt floor, tarp walls and a tin roof. For her and her 4 grandchildren they sleep on a twin bed, full size platform and shelving that is used for bunk beds. Vertilia was most concerned with being a good hostess. She quickly went into her home and put on a new dress and headscarf. We asked for a chair to seat her on and she motioned for one of us to sit there instead. She was so full of joy, it was evident that her faith brought her much happiness. As part of her foot cleaning and massage, she also took off her scarf to be treated to gentle massage to her head.

Today reminded us of the elders in our own lives and the  cherished times we had with our loved ones. As we shared during our devotion time in the evening, some of our words that we shared were Hope, hope for a better care of the elderly. Survivor, Lindor survived the cholera epidemic by the grace of God. Honor, honored that we were able to serve them.

Annette and Dusty




Wednesday, February 18, 2015


I experienced a variety of conflicting emotions today. Shock turned to heartbreak, which turned to anger, which miraculously turned to joy. I've seen poverty. I've been to the developing world. But I've never seen this kind of poverty. This kind of poverty rocks your world. Haiti doesn't have "poor neighborhoods." Haiti is poor. Devastatingly poor. And today, our team ventured into the poorest neighborhood in our hemisphere...a slum so chaotic and seemingly overwhelming that few aid 
workers are willing to enter. But Healing Haiti delivers water to Cite Soleil...and I'm so thankful that I was able to be part of it today.

As our team pulled into Cite Soleil, water truck in tow, we entered an unending maze of tiny corrugated metal shacks built on feet of garbage. It smelled of sewage and charcoal, and went on as far as the eye could see. But in a place that appeared to be full of suffering and sadness, dozens of little children with huge smiles began running after us. As we slowed to a stop, they shouted, "Hey, YOU" over and over again, and we were nearly tackled by them as we climbed off of the truck! As some of our team filled countless buckets with water, others just played with these kids...ring-around-the-rosie, thumb wars...some games are universal. And you know what? They were so thrilled. The joy of a tiny smile and a full bucket of water in the midst of sadness and's unspeakably wonderful. We also took some of the kids to the site of a church being built by Healing Haiti...where we all danced and sang, "God is so good." And He is.

Later in the day, 5 of us went with the Sisters of Charity to their clinic in the city to help with wound care. As someone who has never worked in the medical field, it was definitely outside of my comfort zone. I'll spare you the (gory) details, but after cleaning and dressing the wounds of Haitians of all ages, I was humbled. I was humbled by their strength and by their dignity. I was humbled by the Sisters, who love and serve like Jesus daily...without want of recognition or praise. And I was grateful to be in the presence of both.

As we left the clinic, one of the Sisters gently urged us to view those we serve as Jesus. When we are dressing the wounds, hugging the children, serving the least of these, we are doing it unto Jesus. She encouraged us to be praying for those we're serving while we're with them. What an incredible gift of wisdom from this dear woman!

For me, the big takeaway from today was twofold. First, I'm so thankful that we serve a God who identifies with suffering - who sent His Son to suffer - and who calls us to seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow. And we get to be His hands and feet in this work! And second, when Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive, He was inviting us into joy that transcends sorrow and anger. It IS more blessed to give than to receive.

- Erika Paul

Water Truck Day


Hello this is Tanner Freeburg. Im a 16 year old on this trip for the first time with my whole family, and it has been amazing so far.
   Today we took water down to Cite Soleil for all of the people that needed it. When we got there the kids all saw our truck and just followed us down the street chanting "Hey you!". Seeing how happy they were just by seeing us was amazing. It got a little chaotic when we were giving out the water but for the most part they have a good system that they use. Some of the people help with the water hose and the rest of us just held the kids and played with them. They would literally climb us and swarm us, it was great. You could really tell that all of the kids just wanted to be loved by someone and I think all of us were happy to be that someone.
   After we got back from the water trucks some of us went to go play soccer with the neighborhood boys and some went to the wound clinic, I played soccer. We rode down to the soccer fields all crammed together, singing as loud as we could. It was amazing watching the boys lead us even though most of them were younger than us. My team lost the soccer game but we made a lot of new friends in the process.
   This trip had been great and Im looking forward to what else God had planned for us.