Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 7

Have you ever started the day being told you were literally the answer to someone's prayers? I don't know that I had before. Today we brought ten boxes of Feed My Starving Children supplies to an orphanage. There's nothing magical about that. However, the feeling of divine intervention comes in to play when you factor in that the food had been loaded into our truck by mistake, our stop at the orphanage was unplanned and the orphanage was having a church service praying for food when we arrived. The head of the orphanage and his wife were so grateful. I have heard Matthew 25:40 (The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’) lots of times; it's rally cry for outreach. Today was the first time I have ever had the recipient of a deed quote that passage and tell me (and the team) that that is exactly what we had done.  If that happened more often, I think getting out of bed in the morning would be a lot easier.
We took a break this afternoon to visit a scenic overlook in the hills. Up in the hills is where many of the nicer homes in the Port-au-Prince area are. It really is a great view and you can see much of the surrounding area. Next to me at the overlook was an American man with a home in the hills and a couple who was visiting him. I overheard the couple tell the man how awesome Haiti is and he responded that it rocks and they should go grab a beer at the bar. Before walking away the visiting man asked if that was Cite Soleil in the distance. The man responded, "yes, see how crowded the houses are? Poor people always live close together." From where I was standing it was very easy to see and hear the distance between Haiti's have's and have not's.

The Favorite Day for Me

Well I am writing this a day late as my favorite day was yesterday.  It started with the team going to "The Home for Sick and Dying Adults."  This is my second trip however on my first trip we did not make it to this location.  As can be expected, I was very nervous to go to a location that had dying adults to rub lotion on them and to minister to them.  It is not really something I had ever experienced before but I loved it!  The people really seemed to enjoy the attention...........and after they warmed up to us they allowed us to lotion their body.  This was actually not something I found uncomfortable, it was the complete opposite.  As we made our way around the room more and more people wanted the attention and were very grateful for what we were doing.  This started the day out great!!

After that we were blessed to have the opportunity to visit two more orphanages to play with the kids!!  That was a lot of fun as well.  The kids really seemed to enjoy the attention but I think we enjoyed the fun more :-)  After the play time with kids we headed off to the dedication of the BRAND NEW CHURCH in Titanyen.  This church is called Grace Church and is now open for the entire community.  The church was packed for the energetic service of worship!!!!

I truly feel best to have had the opportunity to be a part of the blessed day!!

God Bless

Day 6

Sometimes the best way to experience life is to break through your comfort zone and just embrace what comes your way. If I feel like what I am doing is truly needed and appreciated, I can force myself to ignore my own comfort much easier and start doing things that seem almost surreal. That's how I was able to do wound clinics during my last visit and that's how I found myself at a rural hospital today applying lotion to patients.
We visited the Home for Sick and Dying adults today and my duty was to go to the men's wards to see which patients wanted to have lotions applied to their dry skin. I really wasn't sure how I felt about that but it was needed so I did it. To my surprise, the awkwardness subsided about a minute in to my first patient and instead began to feel a little bit like I was out of my own body. I was there doing it but I felt like I was watching and it was interesting. I applied lotion to the arms, legs and torsos of about a dozen patients and, although none spoke English, each one told a story on their bodies. I could see scars from years ago. I could tell that a leg had been broken in the past and had healed without being set properly. Hands were so leathery from hard work that they felt more like hide than flesh. Feet were thick with callouses from years of walking barefoot on the rocky Haitian ground. Some stories were fresher, as I could tell one patient I was putting lotion on was clearly recovering from some type of pox. If I call in sick next week with "pox," I have some idea as to where I got that.
We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon visiting orphanages where we sang songs, did crafts and distributed supplies.

In the evening, we got to attend the social event of the season in Tetonyen: the dedication ceremony of the new Grace Church building. Grace Church had been operating out of the dining area of Grace Village, but had significantly outgrown the space and a new beautiful church building was built down the hill in the village outside of the Grace Village compound.
 I don't know if the entire village was in attendance for the event, but it was probably close to it. One thing that you may surprise you is that in Haiti going to church is an event and even poor, rural villagers try to have one formal outfit for church, weddings, etc. Attending the dedication of a church counts as one of the occasions for people to dress as nicely as they could and it was on display. There were hundreds of well dressed locals in attendance. It was a who's who of Tetonyen.
I was glad to have been in attendance for this historic day for Grace Village, Grace Church and Tetonyen.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Seeing Through Jesus' Eyes

Written by:  Melody Sandell

Our team was blessed to begin our day worshiping at the nearby Haitian church along with the Haitians in the nearby community at 6am.  We were filled with amazing, uplifting worship and praise - Haiti style!  Dancing, singing, praying and shouting praises aren't words enough to explain the experience.  This is always one of my favorite things about Haiti, when we sing the same worship songs together, in both English and Creole, while they are two languages, but one song, praising the same God, together.  While we worship, we smile and hear praises and love for Jesus and the desire to live our lives for Jesus.  One cannot say that the Holy Spirit wasn't felt by all that were present.  Did you hear us praying for you?

We came home to the guesthouse for a wonderful breakfast before beginning our day at General Hospital.  None of the team members had been to General Hospital before, so we were all a little nervous for today's mission.  We went with the other Healing Haiti Worship Team and served the individuals at General Hospital together.  We got off the tap-tap and joined in a concert for the people waiting to be seen and hoping to be admitted.  There were many women and children waiting, and while they appeared weak and weary, they had bright smiles as they enjoyed the music.  We then divided into smaller groups to visit the patients and families within the hospital.  My group went to a small room with around twenty five beds with sick children and their mothers.  The children were very ill and the conditions we difficult to witness.  Some children had even been abandoned by their families, yet others had mothers attentively sitting at their sides.  We handed out small bags of donations with a few basic necessities.  We prayed for them and Lisa and I partnered together to gently massage lotion on the moms and children in the room.  When we were done, we served those waiting in the hallways with our lotion.  We then went back to the waiting area, used a few of my choppy French phrases, and rubbed hands and feet with lotion to almost all of the women and children waiting to be seen until joining the rest of our team serving in other rooms of the hospital.

I'm not sure I can accurately fully describe the hospital.  I am not sure I can even really call it a hospital in words or even in my mind.  There were several concrete block buildings with small rooms, with many people, make-shift beds, cribs that were broken and rusty, IV's taped and tied, children lying in their beds weak and hot with fever.  The floors were dirty.  We didn't see any electricity.  Imagine a hospital without electricity... Some parents looked as if they knew their children might not make it, while others had small glimmers of hope.  Ill people were even seen in their cars with IV’s hanging from the roof of the car.  Patients are seen by a few doctors and nurses, but nothing is provided for them.  This means if medication is prescribed, bandages are needed or surgical supplies are necessary, families need to go out onto the street to nearby vendors to purchase items needed for their medical care.  No meals or hygiene items are provided.  We were not allowed to have photos here.

My only personal hospital point of reference is when my children were born.  One may say that was more like a stay at a luxury hotel than a hospital in comparison to the hospital we visited today.
We then visited Gertrude’s, the orphanage for disabled and abandoned children.  While the rest of our team enjoyed a playful visit with the children along with the Worship Team, our Donations Advocate Team (Laura, Lisa and I) met with a long term missionary there to discuss how we can best help with their donations needs.

As we closed the night and discussed our feelings and words about the day, we discussed how maybe we had the opportunity to see a little bit of Haiti through Jesus’ eyes today.

Next the Gertrude experience writing by Luke Hudak:

After the whole hospital experience I was feeling a little meek but knowing that children were in the the foreseeable future my spirit and energy rose ten fold. Right away, like any opportunity to hold and play, main word being PLAY, everyone scattered to find where God would put them. Laura pointed out a girl she saw at here last visit and gave me the insight to make her laugh and smile owwwwww so big. Me and Jeff ran wheelchair races with this girl to get an awesome reaction, a reaction that melts hearts. The music just started to get going and me a Jeff traded off girls to this cute and quite girl and we held hands the whole time even when I got found out by the best snuggling boy ever. We all jam out to the great music from the worship pastor from eagle brook church, mine and Laura's church none the less. What an awesome feeling music can change, there was no more language barrier, difference of culture or any sadness for these handicap children. There was just musical worship and spiritually growth happening on both sides. Truly Heaven is in the eyes of these kids because God was all around us, showing us how to live like his son . . . Jesus.   


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Widows & Sackcloth

Written by:  Rhonda Wilson

Our day started out with a tour at Grace Village.  They showed us their new brick bread ovens that are being built. They have named the ovens Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.  Grace Village is in the training phase for the women of Titanyen so they can have bread for their family and be able to sell it in the community.  They also have the aquaponic farm for Tilapia up and running with 4 containers, the run-off water is used to water the vegetable garden.

After our Grace Village tour it was time to visit the supported Healing Haiti Seniors and Crippled. Now we turn to James1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Our 1st stop was a gifted tailor with scoliosis.  Next was a 58yr Grandmother raising her 5 grandchildren the youngest was 1yr.  The Mom had passed away 4 days after the baby was born.  Her son also lives with her, as his wife had also passed away after their 14mo old twins were born.  Next was a 21yr old boy that lived with his mom.  He had an Epileptic Seizure when he was 12 yr old, but without the proper medical treatment he ended up with cerebral palsy and is bedridden.  Our 4th stop was another Grandmother that told us she was so old she couldn't remember her age.  She was living with her Grandson and his 3 children.  Our last stop was with our oldest senior at 95yrs old, she was the sweetest little Grandma.  She lives with her son, daughter-in-law and their 4 children.  At each of these stops we made them a sandwich, gave them applesauce, water, massaged them with lotion and sang with them.
Our Oldest Senior (95yrs)          


  (Psalm30:11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.                 

This morning we visited Grace Village, an orphanage and school run by Healing Haiti. I'm glad to report that it still continues to impress. Since my last visit, they have completed the medical and dental clinics and have nearly completed three new residences for the orphans. Above and below the clinics are apartments for the long-term and visiting medical (and other) staff to sleep. The clinics, like Grace Village itself, are brightly colored and clean. There was a team of dentists, dental assistants and hygienists from Minnesota working there today. The new orphan residences are built to be more of a residential family-style home with about a dozen kids to each residence pod; this replaces the dormitory-style housing that the kids are currently living in. The dorm style housing is common but research and experience have shown that the residential style would make for a better experience for the kids. If you ever decide to become a Haitian orphan, keep your fingers crossed you end up at Grace Village.

This afternoon we went through the countryside of Titayen to visit the sick and elderly. We were able to visit five homes during the course of the afternoon. We visited three elderly people, a bed-ridden young man (20) with cerebral palsy and a thirty year old with extreme scoliosis. A typical visit includes some food delivery, singing, and a conversation (through a translator) about how they are doing and what items they may want or need in the future. During the last couple visits, I talked with some of the children outside who were now home from school and interested in talking to a stranger. ("Stranger Danger" is not on the radar here. I guess they don't watch America's Most Wanted in Haiti.) Actually, one of of the boys recognized us from the morning's visit to Grace Village. I can't post his name online for privacy reasons, but it would be a perfect name for an international cat burglar. Someday, when I become a renowned cat burglar, I will use the name and you will hear it and say, "yes, that is a great name for a world renowned cat burglar and I knew him when he was just 'Jeff."

On our way back, we stopped by the Mass Graves from the 2010 Earthquake. In the past, this has been a nondescript field and if you didn't know what it was, you would never guess. It was remarkable for how unremarkable it was. In the U.S., there would be a large memorial to mark any spot that over 300,000 bodies were buried, but in Haiti there was nothing of note. That is going to change. Today, we found that a wall has been built around the grave area and there are plans to build a memorial garden. One could argue there may be better ways for the Haitian government to spend its money, but I am glad those people will finally be getting a more significant memorial.
On tap tomorrow: an orphanage for special needs children and the General Hospital

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


We started out at the Home for sick and dying children.  This stop was different than last year's visit for me.  There were a lot of parents visiting their children, men as well.  We saw the men much more involved in changing diapers, showing affection, and playing with their children.  It was a really neat thing to see.  There was another large missionary team visiting as well, so with all the parents there, most of the children were all busy.  The few kids that were left were hand picking who they wanted to play with.

The second half of our day was spent at Juno's orphanage.  The kids were so excited for us to arrive. As soon as we emerged from the Tap-tap, each child picked one of us out to grab a hold of.  They wanted to play and talk, but mainly just hold our hands or get a hug.  I am again reminded of the importance of human touch and need we all have for affection as acutely demonstrated by these kids.  We sang songs, played games, did a faith lesson and then a craft.  Jeff and Luke along with our Haitian interpreter Nixon, taught the kids the Haitian version of Simon Says.  It took a couple practices, but they finally got it.  The kids all thought it was hilarious when one messed up.

My favorite part of the day was right at the end.  Each of the kids were asked to run and sit on their beds.  Each child was given a tote bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, canned meat, applesauce, a comb/brush, and bar of soap inside.  In addition, each was given a homemade pillow.  The kids loved their gifts and all had a huge smile on their faces.  As we were leaving, all the kids ran up to the Tap-Tap, totes in hand waving goodbye. 

Our first stop today was the Home for Sick and Dying Children. If you can think of a worse name for a place, I'd prefer not to hear it. Now, in reality, that is not it's proper name; it is run by nuns who, in the spirit of privacy and humility, do not allow visitors to refer to it by its actual name so it has become known instead as the "Home for Sick and Dying Children." True to its name, it is filled with children who are not in great shape. I got to take care of four "babies" during my three hour shift. I put babies in quotes because, although they look like babies, many are just small for their age because of sickness and lack of nutrition. The two year old I held today looked like he was only one year old. The seven month old was long but could not have weighed fifteen pounds and her skin, no longer plump from baby fat, sagged off or her body like the resident of a nursing home. Holding her, you could feel the rattle in her breath. Some babies are hot to the touch from fever. Unlike my previous visits here, this time there was an able bodied person to attend to the children at almost a 1:1 ratio so children were able to get diapers and be fed much faster. One gets the sense that although the babies are sick and many would die without care, they will get the care they need and will get better. At least that is what I tell myself.

After a brief visit at the Redemptor school, we spent the afternoon at Juno Orphanage. I had not been there before and it was a highlight of the day.  As I was getting off of our Tap Tap, I was a marked man. A fourteen-year-old girl named Franscela called dibs on me and she claimed me the entire visit. Big smiles, hugs and no personal space for about three hours; she was a real sweetheart. Our group led the children in singing, activities, crafts and snacks. If you were looking for the hottest spot in Haiti for a game of jump rope, you need look no further than Juno's. Our visit was capped off by sharing gift bags for the children; the tote bags included soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, apple sauce, canned ham, a brush and a small handmade pillow -- these are the sort of things that would be met with polite thank you's or labeled "epic fail" in the gift department for kids back home, but these kids responded with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for Santa.

On deck for tomorrow: visiting the 2010 Earthquake Mass Grave and visiting the elderly. The travel brochure just writes itself doesn't it?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Water day

After breakfast this morning, we made our way to Cite Soleil for the day. They say Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Cite Soleil is one of the poorest parts of Haiti. It is just outside of Haiti's capitol, Port-au-Prince, and is a collection of shanty towns and tent cities. If you and your family set up the family tent in your backyard, it would be an improvement over the permanent homes of many of the citizens of Cite Soleil.

We started our day with a school tour lead by its administrator, Elder. He says there are currently 450 students enrolled at that school. Each classroom held about 40 students and most relied on the natural light from a small window to provide lighting for the classroom. So most of the classes were quite dark by U.S. standards. The exceptions were two classrooms that were held out on a terrace on the upper level. One item I found noteworthy from the terrace view was a church across the street. On the side of the church was a painting of a white business man with collar and tie with a halo behind his head; it just felt like there might be a message being imposed there.

After the school tour, it was on to water delivery. Healing Haiti has more than a couple dozen water stops and we made it to three of them today with a full water tanker truck at each stop. At each stop, we are greeted by a line of people waiting to get fresh water. These lines are primarily women and children, but there were more men today than there have been in the past. Getting water is apparently deemed to not be man's work. Because this is the school year, the children we are greeted by are either 1.) too young to go to school, 2.) too poor to go to school or 3.) restaveks. There is a lack of public schooling in Haiti so families must rely on paying for private schooling. Private schooling can cost a couple to a few hundred dollars a year per child -- not much by our standards but quite a bit when you don't know where your next meal is coming from. Restaveks are children in a form of societally-approved child-labor/slavery. It's like a less cheery version of Cinderella without the prince, without the music, without the godmother, more work, and a less supportive family structure -- it still has mice, but they don't talk. It is estimated that there are more than 300 thousand restavek children in Haiti.
Upon visiting the shoreline, we find that beach front property is no more desirable now than it was at my last trip. There are pigs wallowing in filth. Waste (human and animal as well as trash) saturates the entire coastline along Cite Soleil. It is here that people come to go to the bathroom. It is here where people leave there dead to waste away. It is here where the children join us in song. There is a bite to hearing the children happily sing "God is so good. He's so good" with this backdrop. Those that we encountered truly appreciate all that they have which by our standards is nothing. From our perspective, it's much more of why would God put these people in this situation. Upon reflection tonight, we turned to John 3 and the story of Jesus and the blind man. Jesus says that the man is blind not by any sin of his own or his parents; he is blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Focusing through this lens rings true because God is much more evident here in Haiti where there is nothing than He is is at home where we have so much but want so much more.

Cite Soleil

Today we had an experience that was full of many different emotions. It started out by all loading up on the tap tap and heading out to Cite Soleil. Once you pull up, you hear the sweetest little voices yelling "hey you! hey you!" You match the voices to the faces and you see the most beautiful smiles gleaming at you, although you also see children that are hardly clothed, if at all...running around barefoot, so used to it you can tell they hardly notice they are walking on trash, and broken plastic or glass. Once you get off the tap tap they all just jump to you...they giggle and giggle so happy to be loved and get some attention. It is bittersweet. They are such a light, and have such faith that some long for. It makes you realize how much we depend on back in the states, so we almost forget to depend on God. Here they have all they depend on is God Himself.

Here is where we brought out the children to sing and dance with them. It is so heartwarming to hear them sing "God is so good, is so good!!"
So it was nonetheless, a day filled with so much love. These children teach us more than I think we could ever teach them. Their hearts are so pure and their love is so sweet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Travel Day

What a difference a day can make. I woke up at 2:30 this morning to a zero degree Minnesota and will be going to bed in ninety degree Haiti. It didn't take long to melt the winter out of my bones and just start sweating. The sweating is not going to stop until I leave next week so hopefully I'll shed some of my winter weight. (There has got to be an easier way to lose weight than going to Haiti.)
I arrived here this afternoon on an earlier flight than most of my team so I got a little quality time at the Healing Haiti guest house compound before most other arrived. What I found most interesting is the feeling of coming home. I am staying in the same guest house and will be in the same bed I was at in September 2012 and there is an uncanny feeling of familiarity and belonging here.
Tomorrow will be the water stop day. That is traditionally the most physically demanding day of the trip compounded by the emotions of seeing the crowds of people lining up for clean water. I anticipate being wiped out by this time tomorrow.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ready, Set, Go!!!

The February 2014 team is prepared for another adventure with God in the beautiful sunny and warm land of Haiti!

Since I saw my formidable shadow this morning, winter in MN will for sure last another 3 years so right now 95 sounds really good.

Please check back daily for lots of stories and pictures of the things God has provided for us to do.  While we've planned our journey's stops, it's the people we minister to which we cannot plan for and know that as we serve them, our hearts will be touched as well. 

Sign up with your email and you should be getting daily updates from the blogsite - they will be starting from Haiti beginning tomorrow night Feb 3rd.  We usually are updating and writing at the end of our day so the latest should be out there around 9-11pm eastern time.

Your prayers are very key in our partnership - pray for safe travels by air and throughout our journeys by truck throughout the area's poverty stricken towns and cities.  And pray for God to work mightily through our words and deeds to meet the needs of the people we encounter and show them in a small way how Jesus loves them so very much!

Tom Solberg