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

Saturday Night Top 10 - Haiti 2014

Saturday Night Top 10 - Haiti 2014
1. Delivering water to the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere - Cite Soleil
2. Taking the orphans of Grace Village to the beach
3. Holding and feeding the children at the Home of Sick and Dying Babies
4. Helping and playing with the disabled children at Gertrude's Orphanage
5. Playing soccer with the neighborhood boys
6. Being taught how to salsa dance on the roof at night by Jean
7. Going up to the mountains and seeing the mass graves from the earthquake
8. Getting to know the team and becoming friends with the Haitian people
9. Seeing how resourceful the Haitian people are and their beautiful art work
10. Watching the World Cup outside with the translators and other Haitian staff
-By Aubrey (and kind of Zack)


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Feeding our Children

 Saturday July 12, 2014

Our time spent in Haiti has consisted of visiting orphanages. One orphanage in particular touched all of us tremendously, called 'La Phare', While there, we played with the children, putting on a puppet show and jump-roping. This orphanage had very little space to play and one small room for gathering. La Phare is run by a Haitian couple along with the grandmother. During our visit the man took our leader to a closet to show her that they only had one small box of food left which would only feed the children for one day. This broke our hearts and set us into action. We were able to obtain 10 boxes packaged by Feed My Starving Children. This would be enough for one month.
For those of you who have served at 'Feed My Starving Children' , I can assure you that the food DOES get sent to those in need. GOD IS GOOD! As we were leaving the orphanage, the man who runs it hugged me and said "Mesi" to which I replied "Jezi renmen ou" (Jesus Loves YOU).

We have witnessed a lot of suffering due to hunger during our time in Haiti yet we were always greeted with a smile and a sweet "Bonjou or Bonswa."  As poor as this nation is, I have never witnessed such love for God as I have here in Haiti. Even in poor living conditions and not knowing if they are going to be able to eat, they still give all praise to God and are so thankful. I am certain that they have helped me a lot more than I have helped them. They have shown me humility, graciousness, and selflessness. For that I am truly blessed and humbled.

Dusty Willner         

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Beach Day


Today we had the option to take a group of kids to the beach and swim in the ocean. We had planned to take the kids from Isaiah's orphanage but God had different plans.  They were unable to go and instead we went to Grace Village and answered the prayer of one of the missionary workers there who had been praying to take the kids to the beach before she returned to the states but was unable to make it happen.  She was so grateful we just showed up and were able to take 24 kids to the beach. The joy and excitement we saw on their faces was amazing.  We swam, played, took a boat ride, had lunch and thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.

The picture of the girl with me (Pauline) was a very special girl.  She was rescued from a life of child slavery and I spent the entire time with her.  She enjoyed just being together and her smiles were so special to me.  She never left my side.  I will never forget the look in her eyes as I hugged her good-bye and told her I loved her.  It is so hard to not be able to do more. 

It was a beautiful day with lots of laugher, joy and smiles.  The picture of the girl with me (Jessica) was a little three year old girl filled with joy and happiness. We were sitting in the water away from everyone so she wouldn't get salt water in her eyes.  She started singing 'Glory to God. Glory to God. Glory to God forever' and I started to sing along with her.  Once she heard that I joined in she had a huge smile on her face.  I will never forget the smile of that beautiful girl. 

We wanted to show all our friends in Eden Prairie the fun we had giving pinneys and teaching the kids at Juno's orphanage how to play lacrosse.  The kids are so appreciative of new activities and having us play with them.  We have seen lots of Eden Prairie jerseys here in Haiti. 
We have been blessed beyond what we could ever imagine by the children and people in Haiti.  We have experienced so much in a week and we hope and pray that we never forget what we have experienced and that our lives will be forever changed because of the joy we have seen here. 
posted by Pauline and Jessica Lagerquist

Friday, July 11, 2014

Another Beautiful Day! Water Truck & Grace Village

Another beautiful day here in Haiti! Today we started off the day with more visits to Cite Soleil with the water truck. We were welcomed with bright smiling faces from the beautiful Haitian children. There is no feeling like it when holding these beautiful children and their love and compassion is incredible. Today I, Katie, was tired and extremely dirty from carrying children and water buckets... and as I was walking back to the Tap Tap to continue to our next water stop, one child stopped me. He pointed to my dirt stained shirt and set down his bucket of water in all of the chaos around us. He then continued to dip his hands in his bucket of water, that he was carrying home to drink, and tried his best to wipe off the dirt on my shirt. I stood there, amazed at his compassion and kindness. The Haitians we have met have opened their hearts and homes to us everywhere we go.
 It has been an amazing experience and especially to be able to be here with my mom. As we walk through the streets with children surrounding us, we are able to communicate through not only hugs but a little bit of my mom's high school French class is coming in handy as well. It is amazing how we are able to communicate with these kids and how they ask if she is my mom. My mom is able to respond in French that she is my mother and I am her baby. I love watching her show them the love that I have always had.
Later in the day, we were able to visit Grace Village, a little slice of heaven here in Haiti. It is an amazing complex that Healing Haiti has built over the years for orphaned children, which now has a medical and dental clinic that we were able to tour today. It overlooks the beautiful blue Caribbean Ocean. We have the opportunity to take children from a different orphanage to the beach tomorrow, should be a fun day!
This week has been such a blessing to all of us and our little family here in Haiti. There are not words to describe some of the experiences we have had, but we look forward to sharing our stories with you all! :-)

God bless!!!

Nancy & Katie



Thursday July 10, we visited Juno's Orphanage. We went there with the intent of providing the orphans with love, arts and crafts, games, and flavored shaved ice.  This entire week has been filled with our serving of the Haitian people. What I didn't expect was to receive so much more from them. 
While visiting Juno's we met a 10 year old little boy named Wayclef.   As soon as we stepped off of the tap-tap Wayclef chose who he wanted to play with right away. The only toy he had to play with was  5 rubber bands. We sat down and he began to show me tricks with his rubber bands,  After that we played games and ate hand made snow cones from a huge block of ice we brought with us.  All of the children were grateful to have shared the afternoon with us that before we left, Wayclef placed all of his rubber bands around my wrist and wanted me to take them with me as a token of his gratitude.
This is a 10 year old little boy who already understands the act of  being selfless.
It has been our experience this week that the majority of the Haitian people are not bitter or cynical due to all of things that they go without, food, clothes, toys, and even parents.  They are so grateful for what they DO have and give praise and revere God as GOOD!
I will forever keep Wayclef's rubber bands as a reminder to always live my life selflessly and give praise to God for all that is good in my life.         

"Unselfish and  noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls". - David Thomas   

-Christian Willner                                                          

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three Words

Haiti is nothing like I ever imagined, it is amazingly beautiful but at the same time it is so heartbreaking. While being in Haiti these past few days there have been three words that have really hit me hard; love, joy, and faith. I have learned to love unconditionally and that a little bit of love can go a long way. Seeing the children in the streets of Cite Soleil and at the orphanages come up to me with their arms spread apart just waiting for my love and affection has showed me that no matter how little you have or how hard your life may be, you can always show love and be loved. The joy that these children show on their face, even when they have pretty much nothing and are living in shacks is unbelievable to me. Sometimes at home in America we get so caught up in materialistic things, and how well we are doing in our sports or in school, we forget to be joyful and thankful for all the things God has provided for us and how lucky we really are. The last word, faith, is probably the most important to me. Faith is knowing that God will provide for you and that everything will be okay. The people here in Haiti must have so much faith in God just to get through their day. They have to have faith that He will provide them a place to sleep, food to eat, and clean water to drink. It was so hard for me to leave the little kids in the middle of the street in Cite Soleil, and to leave the kids at the orphanages because I have no clue what is going to happen to them in the future. But, with God all things are possible and I know that he has an amazing plan for each and every one of us. Haiti has really changed me and my perspective on life. The children I've held and talked to will always have special place in my heart. I can honestly say I am so happy that I came on this trip and I've become so much closer with God. I am so excited to come back!



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Children of Haiti


When I had an opportunity to serve the people of Haiti, I had heard many stories about the children of Haiti.  I have been in awe that people can survive on so little in the aspect of food, water, medical care and the basics of life.  So if the adults struggle, how do the children survive?
Today was a chance to spend the day working with children.
We spent the morning with babies at the Home for Sick and Dying Babies which is run by a group of Nuns.  They accept and care for the sickest babies that would be left to die without their help. 
We all had a lot of apprehension, and this is the one place that made me nervous.  I love spending time with kids and babies, but how sick are the kids and how could I help.  I have worked with many children, but never with the severely ill - even the name is concerning.

When we arrived at the Children's Home there was a lot of the infants parents spending their allotted 1 hour per day visiting with their ill baby.  We were their to hold and comfort the many that didn't have a parent visiting.  When you walk into the rooms we were split between Room 1 - which is the sickest babies which were not alowed to leave the crib room and Room 2 - which has the healthier babies and you could walk around their playground. I ended up in Room 2 and picked up a little boy name Jean[French for John] - I was meant to hold him.
Jean and I did several walk-abouts and looked at the trees, fences, flowers and anything to explore and talk about.  I felt pretty comfortable with Jean and before long he was making noises and looking at me and starting to smile - I haven't lost my touch from my babies :)
Jean was about 20 lbs and around 22" long.  Janell (My daughter) came over and asked - Dad do you know how old he is, but I didn't know - she checked for me - Jean was 4 yrs old but looked like a 12 - 18 month old.  he couldn't sit up, or crawl, let alone walk.
Next I went over to Room 1 and held many babies who were much smaller and more frail - I had a chance to hold God's precious gifts - but I thought what is their future in a resource challenged country?

After lunch we stopped by an amazing place called the Apparent Project - they take local artisans and make jewelry and crafts from recycled products that are donated such as cans, bottles, and cereal boxes.  Besides making really beautiful crafts they have employed over 200 people.  One craft was heart jewelry necklaces that was being made for a sorority in the USA.  They said that their workers are paid $15/ day which is 3 times the average Haitian salary.  They found a way to support many of the locals by being creative.

We finished up our afternoon by stopping by Gertrude's, which is another special children's home.  They take in children with a variety of disabilities.  The majority of the kids are 8 - 15 years old and they have learned to live as a family. 
The high point was when we first walked in the center where the kids were and a boy ran and jumped into my son Zack's arms - he had remembered Zack from last year when they played together. It was fun playing with the children and to see another person who stepped up in God's plan to fill a great need.

My final thought is to ask -
What have I learned from today's experiences? 
What can other's do to help these precious children of Haiti?

God Bless

Jon Lorton

Dusty, Christian, and Me with our new friends

Zack with his friend with Gabby and Aubrey to the sides

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our First Day in Haiti

Our First Day in Haiti

Today it was water truck day in Haiti. We went into Cite Soleil with our water truck and made three stops delivering water to the locals. The first thing you notice when you get off the tap-tap, besides the smiling, yelling kids, is the horrendous odor. In the words of Wally, it smells like, "Dying hogs and garbage combined." Once you get past the smell however, you are truly able to appreciate the beautiful people of Haiti. You see partially clothed, filthy children giving you the biggest grin. You see teenage boys helping an elderly man fill his bucket with water. You see mothers laughing as we play with their babies. You see older siblings pushing their little brothers and sisters in our arms so they can get held and loved for a little while.  It amazed us time and time again today how the Haitians are some of the kindest, most joyful people despite their lack of material items. You can see through their  huge smiles that they are rich in spirit!

Once we returned to the guesthouse, we played soccer with the neighborhood boys. It was great to see them again and to see how much they have grown since the time Janell was here. I let in a lot of goals and was relieved by a Haitian, but it was still a blast. The weather was nice today, but it is pretty hot. All and all our first day in Haiti is something we will never forget.

- Wally and Janell

Monday, July 7, 2014

Home Sweet Home

As I sit here on the patio/roof of the new guest house listening to the goats, I remember sitting in a very similar spot a year ago promising that I would be back. A few weeks ago, it had hit me that I was returning to Haiti, and the word that came to my mind was home. I'm going home. I would never have thought that that is what would come to my mind. Haiti is a third-world country where people suffer daily and children are sick, but still they have the joy of the Lord and constant praise on their lips. That is a far cry from my comfortable home with air-conditioning and a nice cool pool in my backyard. I sleep in a nice bed and am never hungry. Food and clean water are at my fingertips; transportation is not a worry for me. My worries consist of what I will wear or how soon school will start. So, how can Haiti be my home? Home is where family is.

 Last time I was here, the children of Haiti broke my heart with the unconditional love and trust they so freely gave me. Without me knowing it, they had become my family. Maybe they don't remember me, but I remember them. The noise and even smell of Haiti were welcome to me because of what they symbolize.

When I'm in Haiti, I feel so present in the moment or like I am exactly where I'm meant to be. I have never really felt that so strongly and powerfully anywhere else. I think of it as God's way of telling me that I'm not crazy for coming and way off course. Quite the contrary, I think God's saying that this is exactly where he means me to be. This is my home.

Don't get me wrong, Haiti comes with its own set of dangers, risks, and worries. The devil tends to make the adventure of Haiti into a huge feat that seems undefeatable and terrifying. It's true, we can't defeat it, but with God's help and strength which he freely gives us, ANYTHING is possible. I'm counting on it. God is my Savior, and HE comes with immeasurable power and unconditional love, and you can't beat that. I know he comes before me and stands behind me. Therefore, I fully expect to see miracles and experience God's presence in amazing ways.

 You can worry about what tomorrow will bring, and the danger of getting sick. You can worry about anything, and trust me, it comes as a second nature to me. However, I've really felt God saying that the more I let go and put it in HIS faithful hands, the more he will open my eyes to all HE is doing within our team and in the field.

 I've felt him saying that he provided for me and took care of me last time, so why wouldn't I trust him now? He showed me his faithfulness time and time again. If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I can only imagine what this trip holds. I have a feeling God is just excited as I am that I find myself home, in Haiti.

By: Cassie McLain

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Here We Go! Yoked To Jesus

We've packed our bags and are ready to head out early in the morning for an opportunity to be God's hands and feet for this next week down in Haiti.  Our team is a mix of both youth and adults, parents and young adult children, first timers and returning goers.  We know that this team was not put together by accident and look forward to seeing how God will transform both our hearts and minds as we love and serve together these next 8 days.

Today I was reminded in the sermon today based off of the scripture verses Matthew 11:28-30 that it is a privilege and honor to serve our Lord and this great Kingdom of His.  In serving, we should rely on Jesus's yoke and not our own efforts.  When we are yoked in with Jesus we will learn from Him and we will find rest in Him!  This brings me such peace when preparing for trips and the unknowns that lie ahead.

We appreciate your prayers that God will use us mightily as He transforms our hearts, stretches us in our serving, and health and safety for all! 

Thank you for following our blog this week!

Margie Schroeder, Trip Leader