Sunday, August 16, 2015

"How Great Thou Art"

There are some things that transcend the brokenness of humanity.  
This past week has been filled with reminders of the walls that divide us.  More times than I could count I've had to shake my head and shrug helplessly in paralyzing inability to respond to the Creole of the six year old child standing in front of me.   The desperate struggle of members of the Cite Soleil community to get to the front of the water-truck line was in stark contrast to the long hot showers and cold ice-water most of us are accustomed to having readily available anytime we desire.  The wounded children and tired mothers crammed into The General Hospital with flies swarming, cardboard mattresses, and hardly any staff sat in silent resentment of the contentious conversation that continues to surround the Affordable Care Act.  There is a lot more than distance that separates us from the Haitians.

Still, this morning we shared the church at Grace Village with the Haitian people as we gathered to worship together.  As the band led "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" and then "How Great Thou Art" in Creole, I sang along in English.  There was something exceptionally beautiful about this communion of differences: "Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee: "how great thou art, how great thou art".  
Our souls sang in a shared tongue that transcended language: "How great thou art! How great thou art!"
This soul-song continued as the congregation continued with prayers whose words I couldn't understand.  Only "Jesus" and "Alleluia" made sense to my ears, but the soul-song: "How great thou art!" transcended words.  For this Jesus suffered and died: even the most desperate and suffering are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  
More than race, language, or economics can ever divide us, Christ unites us.  
To be "in Christ" is to claim these brothers and sisters as my own.  To "take up the cross" is to share in their pain and claim it as my responsibility.

(Pause in the writing)

I paused because it was pouring outside and we went out to dance in the rain.  After a little salsa dancing we went up to the veranda to dive across the water-covered tiles like a slip and slide.  We were hot and dirty and the rain was glorious.  I imagine the kids (maybe the adults too) in Cite Soleil were out in the streets playing in the rain as well.  When the floodgates of heaven open up the rain falls on the rich and poor alike.  This is the way of God's grace; it's poured out on all of us.  

It would have been beautiful to dance with them in the streets of Cite Soleil.  I imagine that's what heaven will be like.  
The walls of race, nation, language, politics, and economics are washed away as we dance in God's grace, every voice singing together: "How Great Thou Art!  How Great Thou Art!"  
Haiti is filled with things that should cause us to despair, but we've also seen plenty of reasons to hope.  Faith is the confidence that the God in whom we hope will overcome the reality that could lead us to despair.  The people of Haiti have faith.  In spite of everything, they have a powerful, passionate faith.  They have a faith that transcends everything in the world that could lead us to despair.  They have faith in Christ who has conquered the world.

I pray that you and I might grow into that same faith.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day Six - Our Final Service Day

Day Six - Our Final Service Day

Today was our final day of serving in Haiti, and it was an incredibly busy day.  We started the day at the Haitian Initiative Feeding Center.  This is a program by which boys and girls can get one meal per day if they participate in the soccer program.  The children that we met were so polite, and so excited to talk to all of us.  They spoke a bit of English, and liked to play thumb wars and slap hands with us.  It was actually really cool to see many of the boys in soccer jerseys from many Minnesota area youth soccer teams.  After we saw the feeding center, we walked over to the soccer fields.  The soccer fields were not the traditional soccer fields we are used to seeing in the US.  The fields were completely gravel - the picture of us is actually on the soccer field.  It was really hot, and the players did not get a water break.  This was yet another example how incredibly resilient the Haitian children are.   Immediately following the soccer fields, we went to our first water stop.  This was very close to the soccer field, and was a very fun stop!  As is typical, there were many children there that wanted to be held and to play games.  This was also the stop that is very near to Venel's house.  He is an exchange student that has been with Carol and Marni's families this summer.  The girls pictured here is the female soccer team that came to Minnesota this summer!  More on that further down from Marni.

The second water stop was at a location named "Four Coffins".   This was a stop that we were supposed to go to on Tuesday, but the schedule was changed.  Because of this, the people at this stop were severely in need of water as they hadn't received any in at least a week.  Think about that for a moment - what would you do if you didn't have access to any fresh water for a week?  As you can imagine, there was a sense of desperation at this stop.  Much more urgency to get the water.  Many people were immediately bathing in the water as soon as their buckets were filled.  At this difficult spot, amid the pushing and yelling - there were also the sweet moments. One of our translators did a wonderful job keeping everyone in line and making sure there was no "budging" in front of anyone.  He is extremely careful to ensure that the system is fair, and that everyone gets the water.  However, he made exceptions for the elderly - and would allow them to come to the front of the line. There were also children at this stop that still just wanted to be held, touched and love.

One of the many great things about Haiti, is the many organizations that have been started to create jobs for the Haitian people.  This afternoon we were able to spend time at The Apparent Project.  The Apparent Project is a non-profit working to preserve Haitian families and prevent kids from being orphaned.  The artisans (employees) create jewelry and home decor.  All of the pieces are made out of recyclable material such as thin cardboard (cereal boxes, soda boxes, etc.), 55 gallon oil drums, aluminum cans and clay.  Again - this is just one of the many organizations working to create jobs for the Haitian people so they will be able to support themselves and their children.  Each night we have had to say one word that summed up the day.  Today my word was hope.  Each day I have been able to witness something that shows so much promise for Haiti and the Haitian people.  Thank you Haiti for sharing your beautiful country and people with us this week. 

-Christene (first timer)

Today was a big day for Carol and myself!  Many of you know that we have been hosting Venel, who is our Haitian Initiative Soccer Exchange guest that came to stay with us on July 2nd.  We got to meet his mom and sister today.  It was beyond anything that we can explain in words and we feel so incredibly blessed to know that he has a wonderful family waiting for him at home when he returns.  Many happy tears were shed today as we have come to love Venel very much.  We are so grateful for the experience, it is one we will cherish forever!  ~ Marni

Friday, August 14, 2015

Near to My Heart

Today (day #5) started at 5:30 as we arose to attend the early morning service at Church on the Rock. As the Haitian attendees raised their hands in praise, we were in awe of this powerful worship experience.

After breakfast we had a last-minute change of plans and learned we'd be visiting "Jehovah's" - an orphanage for special needs children.  I was thrilled.  There is a special place in my heart for the mentally and/or physically handicapped since I have a special needs brother.

Visiting this wonderful place was a first for Healing Haiti and I believe these kids had the time of their lives.

We put on an a little, unplugged concert of Christian worship songs.  I was on tambourine duty while Danny played the guitar and Erik dazzled the kids - singing and playing.  He even threw in "The Hippo Song," which was a favorite for the kids.

Today, I felt pure joy praising God and entertaining these children.  I'm hopeful it's a day they'll never forget. :)

Next, we visited Rebuild Globally - a unique company purposely built in Haiti by an American after the earthquake in 2010 to provide jobs for Haitians.  They make the coolest sandals out of tires!

LaLou Orphanage was the next stop.  Again, we played music, provided a snack, and with the help of the kids we created a personalized tie-dye shirt for each child.  Some of our team members have the ink-dyed fingers as souvenirs from this endeavor!

This mission trip has been incredible for me.  I've seen things that totally break my heart.  I don't want to just go back home and continue living my same-old life.  How can I?  I want to do more for this country and pray that God will show me His will as to the next step.

On Monday we met 8 strangers at the airport who became this fantastic team whom I now call friends.

If you ever have the opportunity to be part of what Healing Haiti is doing here in Haiti, I highly recommend that you jump right in.

Michele – first-time team member

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Joy and Gratitude

As this is my third trip to Haiti, I often get asked what we do while we are here.  I generally explain that we deliver water to Cite Soleil and visit orphanages and hospitals and then describe those in more detail if people show interest or ask questions.  However, I rarely talk about elder visits or explain why we visit these particular elders.  Still, every trip, I have left with elder visits at the top of my most treasured moments list!  Today was no different...

Today we had the absolute honor to visit and serve Marie who is a well-loved member of the elder program by all who meet her.  She is expected to be around 104 years old and is so completely full of joy that you can't help but smile from inside your soul to just be in her presence!  The team washed and lotioned her feet and hands and gave her a new coat of nail polish that matched her joyful smile.  All the while, Marie sat with her hands raised, eyes closed, and smiled as she praised the Lord in Creole!  Pastor Jacqui held her hand as tears flowed and the team worshiped and praised together.  This was such a humbling moment for I imagine the hard hard life this woman has lived for 104 YEARS, and then watching the passion with which she still praises God for all that she has!  I will never understand all the devastation here, but I am constantly in awe of the faith and grateful hearts the beautiful Haitians spite of it all.

We also had the joy of visiting Aloude who has been blessed with 16 grandchildren, all of whom she is raising on her own because her children have either passed away or are unable to care for them.  She, along with many of us, shed many tears while listening to her granddaughter share her beautiful voice singing praise about our merciful Lord in Creole.  We were also able to paint the nails of three of her granddaughters...and their smiles were priceless as they showed their Grandmother how beautiful their nails were!

The team struggled to see that Edmund, our third elder visit, was not feeling well and was only up for a short visit.  However, return goers were excited to see his new home and to see his brother visiting and helping to care for him while he is ill.  It is never easy to watch elderly grow ill, but it was especially difficult to see this typically joyful man struggling to get out of bed or eating.

After our visits, we toured Grace Village....another place that fills us with such hope and joy for the future.  Healing Haiti and the vision created so many years ago has become a reality and the children are so well cared for there.  I am constantly in awe of the new ways in which Healing Haiti has found to serve and create self-sustainability for the Haitian people, from the aquaponics gardens to the brick ovens, bakery and community church.  Grace Academy is providing education to over 400 children and the clinic was busy with patients, both of which are open to the community of Titanyen.  What an amazing blessing Grace Village is for this wonderful community!   

We completed our day of service by visiting the Mass Grave Site...another extremely humbling place of sadness and loss.  All those who were present during the 2010 earthquake that forever changed Haiti have their own story, and we were blessed to hear Jonas, our interpreter's account of such a tragic day.  He estimated that around 300,000-400,000 people died on January 12, 2010 in a massive earthquake that completely shook the land of Haiti.  It is impossible for me to fathom this experience or understand the magnitude and numbers of friends & family that were lost, nor to understand how those that lived through this tragedy were able to cope and find hope for their future.  Yet...the faith of these people remains!

Although devestation and poverty have struck this country with a vengeance, we have a lot we can learn about finding JOY in the life we have and all that we have been blessed with from the smiles and sparkle that still remains in the Haitian people.  I needed this reminder more than I even like to admit, but today has renewed my JOY and GRATITUDE for God's abundant blessings in my life!

Sara Mosher

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Holy Ground - August 12, 2015

"Then The Lord said to Moses, 'Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.'" Exodus 3:5

For the past two days I have been standing on holy ground.

It hasn't always looked like it, but it is true nonetheless. I first realized it yesterday in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest places on the planet, much less here in Haiti. After our first water stop where we delivered clean water for free (don't ever take your clean, accessible water for granted!), we made our way to the site of Hope Church, the church that Healing Haiti is building in the midst of the city. It is being built upon 12 feet of garbage as well as the grave sites of poor Haitians who couldn't afford any other burial. It is transforming a former garbage dump into a place of hope. It is indeed holy ground.

This morning we spent time at the Home for Sick and Dying Babies. With around 30 children in each of four rooms, it serves primarily children whose parents have brought them there because they are malnourished. Our job was to simply love the children and help feed them lunch. As we walked among the rows of cribs, we were indeed standing on holy ground.

In the afternoon we spent time at the National History Museum of Haiti, where we learned not only about the history of Haiti, but also about the resiliency of the Haitian people. Our guide took great pride in his country and as he shared Haiti's story, we found ourselves traversing upon the holy ground of the history of an amazing people.

Then it was off to General Hospital, the government-funded hospital in the middle of Port-au-Prince. We delivered water and small care packages and held hands. It was hot, crowded with parents and sick children, with flies among the patients and seemingly short on staff -- and it was indeed holy ground.

Looking through the eyes of our American abundance it would be easy to look at all these places and see only a trash dump, malnourished children, a troubled history or overcrowded hospital. But when you realize that God is present and calling us to do something, just like God called Moses, then you see that you are indeed standing on Holy Ground. It would be easy to look at the magnitude of the problems and make excuses like Moses did for not going. But that would be to underestimate God's ability to work through even the smallest of actions to bring hope and healing to a hurting world. It would be to misunderstand our role in making things right. We aren’t the ones who can "fix" the problems of the world - only God can do that.

But, just like God promised Moses that he wouldn't have to take on Pharaoh alone, God promises us that we don't have to take on the big challenges of the world alone either. All we have to do is respond to the people that are right here in front of us and do what little we can. Because God can take a water hose, a hug, a willingness to listen to someone else's story, and a small care package and use them to change the world.

Because you see, it's all Holy Ground if you're open seeing it. I am grateful for this opportunity to stand upon the Holy Ground of Haiti. And I can't wait to see what God has in store for the next several days.

Jacqui Thone—first-time Team Memberå

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Water Delivery – Cité Soleil, August 11, 2015

Once In Lifetime Experience

Weeks of preparation for this trip did not emotionally (or physically) prepare me for my first full day of service in Cité Soleil. Seeing the photos of children clinging to Healing Haiti missionaries doesn't do justice to the overwhelming joy of having three young boys climbing up and holding on like you're their father or big brother. Here I am a complete stranger from Dallas, Texas and these kids immediately bonded with me – pulling and clamoring to be picked up and held, played with, or just be affirmed and loved as a fellow human being.

cite soleil, healing haiti, water delivery August 11, 2015

After the physical demands of the first stop, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to give the second group of kids the same level of attention. That fear abated quickly as I switched to "hose duty" on the second stop. My wife was filling the buckets as I held the hose on one shoulder and a young Haitian girl on the other.

Our third stop, near the ocean, was the most intense as there were more people and we were at the mercy of the afternoon sun. Clouds passed by, providing some relief, and I thought "the Lord is blessing us with some shade". We filled many buckets while the children bathed and splashed in the clean refreshing water.

As we boarded the "tap tap" for the trip back I was relieved and saddened at the same time. Relieved now that the physical work was over but already missing those smiling faces and playful hands, stroking (and sometimes pulling) the hair on my arm. Saturday is our next scheduled water delivery and I'm sure that letting go will be even harder.

During our group time tonight we shared a "word of the day". Hope, resilience, spirit, conflicted, walls, and joy were just a few that encompassed the feelings and thoughts from this amazing experience. Some of the new-timers, present company included, had perhaps different words than those who have been to Haiti numerous times. But even the veterans were touched in new ways it seems.

It's only our first full day and already we agreed that today was like "one week rolled into one". Some might say that "God has forgotten the people of Haiti"; but my hope is that God is doing something in each team member that will inspire us to seek Him more fully and never forget Him...or the precious people of Haiti.

Danny Jaco - First Time Team Member

Monday, August 10, 2015

We're Here!

We're here. We're in Haiti. Port-au-Prince, Haiti to be exact. It's warm, muggy, ok, it's hot. But we're not here for vacation, we're not here for a good time, we're here to help, spread the word of the Lord, deliver fresh water, deliver supplies to all those in need.

Traveling today was pretty uneventful, no one was left behind, we didn't have any major incidents other than the Texas duo oversleeping :) we certainly were blessed with beautiful weather to make for safe travels to Haiti today, our first day of many to come.

So with that being said, it's time for rest. More tomorrow.
Bònn nui  (goodnight)

1st Time Team Member