Saturday, October 4, 2014

Get Over Yourself (Part Deux)

Today made for my fourth day of delivering water in Cite Soleil and my second visit to Gertrude's Orphanage.  My word of the day for my first trip to Cite Soleil was Gehenna (a place of extreme torment or suffering).  The point is that on my first trip, a lot of the shock was in the conditions I see Haitians living in.  My very visceral reaction to those conditions, while very useful for stirring things deep within me over the long haul, would sometimes prevent me from effectively ministering to those around me due to deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.  This was least true at places like Cite Soleil, but maybe most true at places like Gertrude's Orphanage and visiting the elders in Titanyen.

On this trip to Gertrude's, as well as with yesterday's trips to visit the elderly, I found it much easier to focus on the people around me and to be very comfortable ignoring the conditions of the stuff and focusing on the people themselves without distractions.  One of the people I was able to focus on was a girl I saw two years ago--I fed her lunch when we were at Gertrude's.  I was able to get her in the seat swing at Gertrude's and she squealed with delight and grinned ear to ear.  But I was only able to figure out that is what she wanted to do by paying lots of attention to her body language as I wheeled her around in her wheelchair--quite frankly I was amazed I actually figured out what she wanted.  I don't think I would have been able to focus that clearly last time.

Another boy at Gertrude's was just a smooch machine--the most gentle, feather weight kisses you have ever received in your life.  He just wanted to be held and walked around and he would just snuggle against your neck and then alternate between a quiet serenity and smooch machine.

Pictures of those two will have to come later--uploads aren't cooperating at present.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Joy in The Bread of Life!

Thursday: Today was a delightful day of visiting Grace Village’s Compound and the town of Titanyen in which it resides. (pictures will be added when wifi improves!)

 Our visit began with a tour of Grace Village – Healing Haiti’s flagship compound in which dozens of orphan children live and go to school in with even more dozens of the poor children in the town of Titanyen located about an hour up the coast from our Guesthouse in Port-au-Prince.

We saw bread being made in the wood fired bread ovens, the aquaponics gardens fertilized from the accompanying tilapia fish farm on the site, the many kids in school for the start of their year, and the medical clinic which cares for the surrounding area’s residents.  It is a bright beacon on the hill created by the Grace of God working through the Body of Christ and overlooks the town and the Caribbean!

We spent the afternoon visiting seven different elder’s homes – very vulnerable due to their ages and/or health conditions and/or their having to support grandchildren despite their circumstances.  What a joy to see their happiness at receiving visitors bearing “Manna” in the form of a hot meal and music and lotion massages and deep prayer for their specific needs in health and for the need of their grandchildren.  We hope they saw the Bread of Life in our visits just as we saw the Joy of the Lord within each of them!

We’ve completed three long days of serving many people in a variety of extremely vulnerable circumstances – and yet we look forward to even more opportunities to be His Hands and Feet during the rest of our stay in Haiti!


A Day of Healing

(Wednesday) You’ll notice no pictures today – that’s largely due to the mission focus on medical areas today – we don’t take pictures in hospitals out of respect for the patients.

Our day began with a tour of Papillion Enterprises – the commercial business arm of the Apparent Project.  These people reach out to the community by training people to make jewelry and sculpture and providing day care for their children while they work and learn skills to become employable in other capacities as well.  Only five years old, they already have product placed all over the United States and are improving the lives of hundreds of families with livable wage jobs here in Port-au-Prince.

We then proceeded to the PAP General Hospital pediatric ward – a free medical care facility for city residents.  However, “free” means the doctors will see you, but you need to buy your own medicines and get your own tests done separately – something most of the people we visited could not afford to complete.  However, healing takes place there to the degree the resources allow for.  We brought care packages of soap, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrush and applesauce in the bags sewn by our church members plus some cold water to refresh the parents of the children in the wards.  We also spoke with many parents, held many children undergoing treatment and prayed over them for strength and healing to take place over the many weeks that they spend there.

One special little baby we named Belle, a two day old unnamed orphan baby with severe birth defects.  She was completely alone in the world as well as within the ward and it would appear that her prospects were indeed grim.  She was held and prayed for and her little heart raced in response to having someone actually touch her and love her!

We also visited the Home for Sick and Dying Children near our Guesthouse in Haiti.  The nuns and the workers there bless these children with their selfless care.  They treat many diseases as well as a great number of malnutrition cases.  We assisted the workers with diapers and feeding time, giving us a chance to help love them up and comfort them as well as easing the workload of these wonderful people.

A small portion of our group also went downtown with the nuns to the Wound Clinic (conducted right in the streets of the city) and treated many people with chronic open wounds that are in constant need of cleaning and treating.

All of these medical encounters were such a blessing to us – a chance to let God use us to help with the healing process while He guarded and protected us in very difficult circumstances.  Indeed a day of healing!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Living Water

Haiti – Tuesday, Day 1
Today we were “scheduled” to deliver water first thing in the morning and we were up as planned, filled with a fine breakfast prepared by our guesthouse hosts and eager to get on with things.  The water truck broke down before we got started and we spent two hours “stranded” at the water pump station.  First off, it appears our schedule for the day was not God’s schedule.  And our view of being stranded was God’s plan for us to spend time with people that we wouldn’t have otherwise met.  Some on our team helped a woman prepare items for a meal for her family.  Very cool. 

The water truck did get fixed and we were on our way.  Three stops and 5000 gallons of water (5 gallons at a time).  City Soleil has indeed changed in the two years since I have been here.  It is incremental improvements, but improvements nonetheless.  Garbage is still everywhere.  People are still living in tin sheds.  The smell is still horrible.  But fewer tents exist.  The streets felt a bit cleaner.  And the children were still excited to play and smiles reached from ear to ear.  Some of us have experienced this before and some saw it for the first time today.  As we debriefed this evening, it didn’t matter if this was new or you had seen it five times previously, the emotions were still strong.  We all simply struggle reconciling the comforts of our lives back in the US with the conditions that exist here.  As one of our teammates said tonight, “no sane person can experience this and shrug it off”…not a reconcilable situation.

Before we left City Soleil we walked out to a ridge of garbage looking out into a garbage filled field.  Behind us were the tin sheds where people lived.  This is a spot where Healing Haiti plans to build a church.  There would be a thousand easier places to build a church in Haiti, but God doesn’t always go with “easy”.  This will be a huge challenge for the organization, but one that presents an opportunity like no other.
Please pray for this church, those that will organize it and every person that will walk through its doors.
Day 1 is in the books.  We were two groups of strangers just 48 hours ago.  We are now a single group of people who are laughing and crying together and doing our best to serve the wonderful and beautiful people of Haiti.

A really really good Day 1.  Tomorrow brings a new “schedule”.  May we be open to the plans He has for us and not get ahead of that in any way shape or form.
Rick Jones


Arrival Day - His Work Has Begun

(Sorry for the delay in posting - wifi issues - it is Haiti afterall!)

We've arrived safe and sound and will have a more complete report tomorrow night!  However, God has already provided opportunities to be His witness.  Our teammate Colleen had a wonderful witness time on the plane ride into Haiti from Miami with a nice Haitian woman with whom she shared a similar personal situation - the death of a spouse.  It led her to reacquaint the women with some core faith scripture that provided her the reason for her to have hope despite her pain - her hope in a Savior who is active in this world and knows our pain and wants to be in our lives.  


You never know when opportunities to give a reason for your faith will arrive.  God gives many small opportunities each day to share His love with others.  We look forward to more chances tomorrow - We'll have a full day on Tuesday when we deliver water in Cite Soleil and visit a teen football (soccer) program.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Prepping and Praying for Departure (T-60 hours to go)

Dear Friends,

Out latest St Michael's team to Haiti is nearly ready for departure this coming Monday morning and we're excited to be leaving for a chance to serve where He leads us!

Thanks to our many supporters, we have a full set of double suitcases (12 for the six of us) filled with medical and personal care supplies for the various mission settings we minister within.  Here's a few shots from our Packing Party last Sunday where we squeezed over 500 pounds of your donations into 12 bags!

We will be wheels up early Monday morning, arriving in Haiti late afternoon for our week of serving the "least among us".  On our itinerary are a variety of places:
  • Cite Soleil slum visits delivering water
  • Several orphanages including a field trip with them to the beach!
  • General Hospital's pediatric ward
  • Hospitals for Sick and Dying - adults and children
  • Elder care home visits in Titanyen
  • Touring Grace Village in Titanyen, home of orphans, a church, a school, a clinic and an aquaponics garden!
  • Worshiping with our Haitian Brothers and Sisters.
We'll be traveling with another small team (also from MN) and will be in service together throughout the week.

Now Your Challenge:  Please pray for our team as it serves in these settings.  Pray for God to provide us with special needs that we can meet and ways in which we can show His love.  Pray for our team members to impact the people we meet and be impacted by the people and situations we face together.

We intend (wifi willing) to blog each night (after 9pm your time) with the day's activities and some pictures representing our day.  Please pass along this website to anyone interested so they can keep up with us firsthand.

To God Be The Glory!

Tom Solberg

Monday, July 14, 2014

Not Lesser but Greater


  I am writing to you from the gate at the Miami airport waiting to board the plane headed to Minneapolis.  I am ready to get home and sleep in my own bed but it feels like I left part of myself in Haiti.  It really was and is a wonderfully impactful place.  At first it felt like an alien planet but after a few days it took a new shape.  It’s weird because I imagine that when people back home think about Haiti they think about the earthquake, poverty, starvation, or third world.  What is sad to me about that is some people might equate that to lesser.   A whole nation that is lesser than the rest.

                What I saw on that island was anything but lesser.  Yes, I saw the effects of a 4-year old earthquake, yes it is a very poor nation, and yes it is the “third world.”  All of that was really hard to see too.   Like when we visited the mass grave of those who were unidentified after the quake, or when we went into Cite Soleil, the poorest slum in the western hemisphere,  or when we visited an orphanage and found out they had enough food at most a week.  However what I noticed more than that was people.  People who were doing what they could to get by. People who had hope and faith in something bigger.  People who had stories, stories that they knew were a part of a much larger epic.  What I saw was a city with a chance to rebuild.   What I saw was the joy of little kids when they saw white people in Cite Soleil there to give them love and water.  What I saw was tears of joy in the face of a director as we brought a month’s supply of food to his orphanage.

So maybe when we think about poverty we shouldn’t think “lesser” we should think about people with amazing stories.  Anyway it’s been a long week and I’m tired and I got a plane to catch.

Bon Voyage

John Koepke