Sunday, August 18, 2013

I want to always remember~

When I was asked to blog tonight, I selfishly (very selfishly) said that I did not want to. I think I was
afraid to pour out what I was really feeling tonight, and it is sadness – plain and simple! Don't get me
wrong, I CAN NOT wait to see Dana and my Boys – I carried them in my mind and my heart all week long and I can't wait to see them all late tomorrow night and give them kisses when I get home.
Tonight, our awesome fearless leaders asked us all to writer ourselves a letter and they would send
them to us at a time in the future when they felt called to do so. How did they know this is exactly
what I needed? After writing my letter I feel a lot lighter. It is to be a personal letter, but I want to
share just a piece of it with whoever is reading this blog!
“I never want to forget how I felt when I played soccer with the neighborhood boys – taking a leap of
faith and just jumping in and and playing. I never want to forget the feeling I had stepping out of the
tap tap for the first time in Cite Soleil – it was as though I was running through a dark tunnel toward a
bright light. I never want to forget seeing the kids reach up to me for the 1 time and the overwhelming emotions I felt as I bent down to greet the children and there were so many on my that I had a hard time standing up. 

I never want to forget seeing the look of desperation on the Haitian people as they clamored to get in line with their buckets for water (some hadn't received water in 1 week). I never want to forget the precious babies at The Home For The Sick & Dying Babies and Children – they were all well cared for and had food to eat. I never want to forget feeling uncomfortable and stretched at Gertrudes. I never want to forget both the comfort and the discomfort of our tap tap – the Haitian streets are sometimes there and sometimes not and it is almost always a bumpy ride. However, I felt like our tap tap was, at times, a place of safety – of refuge. I never want to forget the humbling feelings and overwhelming emotions I felt on our elder visits and the joy I felt serving them. I never want to
forget the discomfort of General Hospital – the cribs, the stench, the lack of resources, the
abandonment, the sickness. I never want to forget the worship – being completely filled with the Holy Spirit. Watching how the Haitian people praise God is overwhelming and so awesome! I never want to forget the smiles. I never want to forget the smells, the cows, the pigs, the goats. I never want to forget the friendships I have made, I hope to have lifetime connections with this group of people. I never want to forget our Haitian staff – they provided me with safety and comfort all week long! I have learned so much! I love you Haiti – I will be back!”


Leap of Faith

Today was our last day as a team in Haiti. In some ways, it feels it has gone quickly, in other ways, it feels we have been here and known this wonderful place and its people for much longer.

Our day started with a trip to Grace Village to participate in worship. It was a powerful and moving experience. Our team joined the children and staff of Grace Village, as well as other members of the surrounding community who gather each week to celebrate and give thanks together. The cozy room in which we worshiped was filled with an energy and spirit unlike anything I have ever been apart of. It was a memorable morning our team will undoubtedly carry with us in each of our hearts as we return home.

Next, it was off to the beach for our final team excursion! After we left Grace Village, we headed to Wahoo Bay Beach for an afternoon of swimming. The beach was beautiful! Surrounded by mountains and flowering trees, it was the perfect setting for an afternoon of relaxation and reflection. Team members enjoyed floating in the water, collecting sea shells to show children or other loved ones at home, and even jet skiing for a lucky few!

My favorite part of the beach experience was when we got the idea from another group of beach goers to do some “pier jumping.” Similar to cliff jumping, only off a pier-like structure instead.  Standing high above the clear water, the rocks looked frighteningly close to the surface. Brunet, our translator, told me repeatedly that it was safe, but I still had my doubts, those rocks looked so close!However, I overcame my fears and took a leap of faith into the beautiful water below. To my surprise, it was actually quite deep! It was an exhilarating experience that I was happy to try more than once.

For me, the jump from the pier was representative of the leap of faith that many of us took in making this trip. We set aside our fears and doubts to answer the call and open our hearts to all that Haiti had to offer us. We are the ones who are blessed to have had this experience and are forever changed as a result. As we return home to our loved ones tomorrow, we will remember the people, the places, and the emotions we felt here. In the future, when life presents us with situations that challenge us and stretch us to our limits, let us continue to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and take the leap of faith!



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Perseverance and Hope

Today was so refreshing after such an emotional week!  We were able to spend the morning with the children at Grace Village and then spent the afternoon at Isaiah’s orphanage in Titanyen!  Grace Village is an amazing sight up on the mountainside and it can be seen from quite a distance!  I am constantly in awe of Jeff Gacek and Alyn Shannon’s vision for Grace Village and all that they have done by creating Healing Haiti!  The clinic is almost finished and the Haitian construction crew continues to work day in and day out to get it ready!  The aquaponics system is quite remarkable and is up and running at full capacity.  They are ready to harvest the second batch of Tilapia from their tanks and the plants are growing and producing vegetables!  I am excited to see how the whole operation works and how they can include the community by providing food and work for them as well. 

This morning we were able to share our faith lesson with the children at Grace Village.  They listened intently as we acted out a play about Daniel and the lion’s den.  Grant and Chris played the king and three of the children played the part of Daniel, the lion, and the angel. After the lesson, each of the kids made a shield of protection from a paper plate and colored them with pictures and scripture.  We then played a sort of tag game where the children acted as lions and our team became “Daniels”.  They hid in the playground and they chased us as we tried to sneak through.  It was so wonderful to hear the laughter and joy as we chased the kids…such a great reminder that they are children much like our own and they still have this sweet innocence like children should even though they have been abandoned, enslaved, abused, and heartbroken.  It was such a joyful experience!

The contrast from Grace Village and then to Isaiah’s was immense!  Their living conditions were much more difficult to comprehend, but it was heartwarming to know that they were loved and cared for.  It was wonderful to hear Isaiah’s story and I’m sure I will not do it justice, but it was moving nonetheless.  Him and his brother were orphaned as children by their parents’ deaths and were raised by their Grandmother until she passed when they were teenagers.  The day after the earthquake in 2010, they went to Cite Soleil to check on their friends and bring people some rice, oil, and other necessities. They became overwhelmed and absolutely heartbroken by the number of children wandering in the streets without family as so many never returned from work the night of the earthquake.  They had been completely orphaned as the earthquake took over 300,000 lives that day.  Isaiah and his brother were so moved by this, that they went home and prayed together.  The next day, they went back and picked up as many children as they could (16) and brought them home with them.  They gave their lives over to care for these children as if they were their own.  They recently moved to the countryside in Titanyen because Jeff Gacek had a property that was available for them to use for their orphanage.  What amazing men to sacrifice all that they had to provide for these orphaned children!  I was so moved by their ability to persevere in the absolute hardest time in Haiti’s history!  The children at Isaiah’s were so polite and well behaved and we truly enjoyed the time that we spent with them doing crafts, playing soccer, and painting fingernails!  Again, the innocence of children was still present and it was so heartwarming to hear their laughter and joy in the simple games we played!

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to return to Haiti and I know that Haiti is forever on my heart!  I cannot imagine my life without these people or this place and I feel so very blessed for what God has given me through Haiti!  The faith of these people never ceases to amaze me!  I am constantly reminded of what is truly important in life, and at times I am so frustrated when I try to understand why it takes this much pain and heartbreak to receive and live out that message.  I want Haiti to always be a reminder for me to live my life for Him and to focus my energy on loving others and living in constant thanksgiving for all that I have been given.  I am SO BLESSED and so THANKFUL! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hey You! Pote Mwen!

Hey You!  Pote Mwen!

The Haitian children shout, “Hey You! Hey You! Hey You!” on all sides of our tap tap truck when we pull into Cite Soleil to deliver water to the neighborhood.  They run up shouting and greet us as we get out of the truck. 

“Hey You!” is a happy greeting which basically means, “Hi!  Pay attention to me!” to the blancs (white people) who visit.  We all wave and smile and shout, “Hey You!” back to as many little children as possible.   It’s quite a welcome!

Today, both water truck deliveries were pretty intense.  The first neighborhood hadn’t received a water delivery for a week-so there was a lot of pushing, shouting, and arguing in the water bucket line and near the water truck where we fill the buckets.

Eventually, the men of the group were handling the water lines, while the women played with the kids.  Even the children were a bit aggressive today.  They all clamored all over us, saying, “Pote Mwen! Pote Mwen!”  Many children, even “big kids” like ten year old boys fought with each other over who would get to be picked up by one of us women!

I figured pote mwen meant “Pick me up!” Chris said, “Carry me!”  Erin thought, “Pull me!”  In any case, the children were asking us to pay attention to them and lift them up!  While the adults were scrambling for their water, the kids were scrambling for our love and attention.  I’m glad were could bring both-even if it meant getting jostled around, breaking up some fights, getting dirty, and feeling uncomfortable in the hot sun.

We all found ways to entertain the children.  Ring-around-the-rosy with two girls became a circle so big-I thought we’d be in the way of the hard work the Haitian people were trying to accomplish organizing all their water buckets.  So I forgot the fact that I don’t sing very well and led group in the hokey pokey.  It was so fun!  I was happy to find a way to lift them up all at the same time.

This afternoon, our group drove to Downtown Port-au-Prince to volunteer at General Hospital.  This is a free hospital and the conditions are POOR.  Some of the people in our group with medical backgrounds had an especially difficult time because there was such a lack of resources.  There were even mice running around the room.

We did what we could to help-passing out coloring books and blowing bubbles.  We felt helpless, but I think we did brighten some patients and parents’ day…or at least provided a few laughs for the people watching our inability to provide assistance with their medical needs.

When we arrived, I went to a tiny nine-month old baby, with arms and legs skinnier than a newborn.  I was afraid to pick her up at first, but carefully lifted her into my arms.  Suddenly-a woman popped her head and chest into the open window next to the crib, explaining this was her baby---I was shocked to discover she was bathing outside the window!

After the baby’s mom came back to the crib, she proceeded to bath the little baby, then wash some dishes, and finally washed the baby’s laundry by hand next to the crib in the middle of the hospital room.  At least, I could help hold the baby!

Our experiences today were pretty uncomfortable.  In fact, I felt pretty helpless and out of place several times.  God is stretching us and helping us grow…even as it’s been difficult.  Going forward, I ask God to help me remember what the Haitian children kept shouting to me…..Hey You!  Pote Mwen!  Pay Attention and Lift Others Up….even when it’s hard, or I don’t feel adequate, or I don’t know what to do.   

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Today, our 4th day here in Haiti, we visited the elders and got a tour of Grace Village. It has surprisingly been my favorite day so far. On Monday we played soccer with the neighbor boys and I loved that, it was so much fun! Tueday was water truck day, we had 3 stops, and I also really liked that, especially the 1st stop. On both days I loved seeing all the kids and they just instantly swarm you and want love. It's crazy how fast you make connections. I will admit I got a lot of attention from some teenage boys, a couple of them asked for my number and if I have Facebook. LOL. I really liked seeing the teenagers though, talking to them, having real conversations like I do with my own friends about life and school. Then yesterday we went to the home for sick and dying babies and an orphanage for disabled kids. I didn't really enjoy yesterday because I just felt really awkward and uncomfortable. Since last night though I have had a really good feeling about today. Before we came on this trip  my mom had told me all about the elders because when she came to Haiti last year it was her favorite part. I didn't think I would enjoy it that much. I honestly thought I would be grossed out and wouldn't want to touch them but that all changed the second we saw the first elder, a man named Dieufort. I even cleaned one of the elders feet and put lotion on her. I was so surprised at how much I loved today. Every stop we went to was just magical. That's the only word I can think to describe it. But when we all stood around and sang and prayed, it felt magical. I never want to forget that feeling. All of the elders made me think of my own grandparents, especially my Great Grandma. Then,, when we were on the tap tap later on, my mom said they reminded her of Great Grandma too and I realized how lucky I am to have her and be close to her. Our last stop was a woman who is 43 years old, and it was her and her daughter. We got to go inside their home which was smaller than my bedroom and had nothing but still felt like a home. There was one bed that she shares with both her kids with curtains hanging up above. There was an old picture of an ocean that was faded and broken. There was a table with all of their belongings and a little kitchen area. They do the best they can with what they have. She was worried about school starting soon because she can't afford books and uniforms for her kids. It showed me that they are really no diffrent than us, kids are still kids wherever you go and she was still a mom, just like mine, only wanting the best for her children. She, like my mom, would do anything for her kids. We also got to get a tour of Grace Village today and it was INCREDIBLE. Such a beautiful, amazing place, with beautiful people. I can't wait to go back on Saturday! Today was just a GREAT day!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Haiti - Faith in Motion

This morning the group arose early to attend a local church service at 6:00 AM.  To all this was an amazing and awe inspiring experience, even drawing several members to tears of wonder and joy. 

Here surrounded by so much want and need the people, many of whom have little as we all were reminded by our trips into Cite Soleil yesterday, and the surrounding tin shacks and tent cities, came together and built a place of worship, their place of worship.

What struck me immediately was the raw power and totality of the faith therein.  Here everyday, from 6-8 AM, the people come to worship, to thank Jesus for providing and caring for them, and for being their savior and their strength throughout.  Everyday.   From outside you begin to feel the energy, with loud, joy filled, thankful singing rising up from within.  As we entered it became clear we were witnessing faith in motion.  The large but simple structure was filled with people, singing, releasing their sins, or more powerfully deep in personal prayer – walking to and fro, up this row of folding chairs and back that one, in the aisles, along the walls, everywhere.  Arms raised, hands opened, moving, moving, moving - physically and spiritually.   How can I begin to touch this level of faith?  Awesome.      

After another bountiful breakfast provided by Focine, and the Healing Haiti kitchen staff we journeyed to the Home for Sick and Dying Babies, and then on to Gertrude’s home for children with special needs. Some had expressed concern or reservations about this day, anticipating sadness or being overwhelmed by a desperate or hopeless scene, but it was not this that we found. 

Though some circumstances were dire indeed, the opportunity to touch one of these children, to connect and raise a smile, was all that mattered- overpowering all else.   There were many children in each place, but what was important was to be there with that child in front of you, at that time and place, to make a connection.  As we gave our small gifts of time and love to these little ones, I was struck that they in turn with each priceless smile, glee filled laugh, or just a simple sigh expressed while being held, channeled back Gods boundless love.  We were called to give love and attention to some of God’s littlest ones, and I believe God put them in our paths to move and feed the faith within each of us.   




Feeling complete today after delivering water and loving on the children. My heart was left in Cite Soleil last August in 2012 during my first trip. I experienced so many emotions with my heart breaking and asking God why? Why these children? Why can't I help all of them. In America, I could call 911. I could get them new shoes, underwear, something. After praying to God to prepare me for the day and ask for his strength and guidance, I was able to get out of the tap-tap, hold a child and SMILE! I did become emotional at some point, but I knew at that very moment I was holding ONE child and giving them what they needed. I was making a difference with that ONE child. It did not have to be material rather I gave them the hug, love and smile they needed for that moment. I was reminded by my team leaders last year about the starfish story that saving at least one starfish may make the difference! I did that today. My team did that today... We touched at least ONE child. God is amazing and he was with each of us today holding our hands walking this difficult journey. I feel so blessed to be experiencing this trip all over again. God is so good!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Wow!! I am really back in Haiti! 2 days in and this experience is so very different yet the same as a year ago. I feel different about it, things look different, it smells different. But the kids, the people, they are the same, they love us, they love the Healing Haiti staff, they love school and they love Jesus! Yesterday was new as we got to play soccer with some neighbor boys, awesome experience, they are great soccer players! Today was water truck day, we traveled back into City Soleil. We made 3 stops. Last year this was my favorite day ( next to visiting the elders ), I was so happy to go back, it is a different world then we live in. Last year it was a lot of loving on the little kids, but with Amanda here we seemed to attract many more teennage boys ( go figure!, they all say I love you to her! )Loved hearing  them talk of getting to attend school as that is a privilage here. We also hear alot of God Bless you and thank yous from them. I feel absolutely content, so very Blessed to be here!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome to Haiti - Just say Yes!

Greetings from Haiti - We made it!

Our morning started early at 1:45am when the wake up calls started being delivered.  Thankfully the plane rides were uneventful, but you could tell the anticipation begin to rise when we took off from Miami to Port-au-Prince.  As we exited the plane we knew our adventure was beginning.  Our Healing Haiti staff rescued us after we busily retrieved all of our bags.  We all boarded the Tap-Tap (basically a truck with a huge cage in the back with benches) and took off for the Guest House.  With people all along the side of the road selling a large variety of items we noisily passed them on the rough bumpy roads. The sites and smells of Haiti were now real.  I have to say it wasn’t all that bad.  They have been working on rebuilding the area since the 2010 earthquake and it shows.  I was reminded that we were traveling though the good part of the city when I saw a city of tin shacks off in the distance. 

Once we made it to the Guest House we quickly unloaded our bags, but our leaders had the great idea of rounding up some of the local boys and heading to the soccer fields.  Once our staff helpers alerted the boys that the game was on, they rushed towards the Tap-Tap and boarded on with us.  The boys were very comfortable with us and shortly down the road they broke out in song.  The first song was Glory to God and was sung in both English and Creole.  The mood was set for a friendly game of soccer.  The fields were busy with young boys and the soccer games looked intense.  After our makeshift soccer field was made we put on our previously donated Eden Prairie jerseys.  The local boys quickly got the game going and man can they play!  Most had shoes, but some boys were running in the grass with bare feet, somehow seamlessly missing the large rocks and chunks of broken concrete.  You could tell that this was probably a major highlight for them all and we all thoroughly enjoyed playing with them.  Sure they probably took it a little easy on us, but our team did manage to make a few goals (I’ll always remember the one that I somehow got to go in)!
After the game we headed back to Guest House #2 and enjoyed a wonderful taco dinner.  Needless to say we were all very hungry!  After sorting out our donations we started to relax a bit.

So the first day was awesome, but I think we all know that the next few will be much harder both emotionally and physically.  We can all tell that God is here and working though us to help glorify Him.  On Sunday I asked someone at church that went last January if he had any tips for a rookie and he told me to “Just say yes”.  To try new things and volunteer when asked to do so.  It doesn’t take long once you are down here to get into the helping mode.  I’m excited for our team to tackle this mission this week and I’m ready to say “Yes”.  God will be with us helping us with all that we will encounter.  For this I am thankful.

Justin Langager