Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fighting Off Sleep

It has been a very long day. Our day began after breakfast with a city tour of Port au Prince. We drove back down the road toward the airport and up into Petion Ville, one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake of January, 2010. We all piled in the back of the truck for the ride, so the smells of traffic, dust and open sewers came at us all with unrelenting frequency. While we drove through the city towards the main section of the capital, we watched as many were leaving home to go to church in their finest clothes and looking resplendent. Walking past piles of garbage or riding on the back of a hired motorcycle, nothing was unpressed or unpolished, many in spotless white. There are signs of improvement. Some of the pancaked houses and buildings have been cleared away, one of the presidential palace's domes has been removed, there are less tents in the parks around the palace. Much of this is mere window dressing. Many of the people who left the tent cities in that area were paid to leave. It is believed that many were given the equivalent of $300 to leave. Where they went was of no concern and nothing else was provided. The larger tent cities are showing more signs of emerging entrepreneurship and permanency as more people are opening small roadfront stands and selling items from the road and tarps are replaced with more corragated panels and cinder blocks. We got back for lunch and then headed over to GOG to work on installing the waterlines for the kitchen sinks. We started to install some urinals in the boys bathroom, but as is usually the case in Haiti, nothing quite goes as planned. The parts on hand may not always work, or need to be reworked to fit. Progress was made and plans put in place to continue where we left off. The afternoon was spent playing with kids and then church. The service was led by the kids, as usual. Jonas played guitar and led worship with many songs in Haitian and English. Kemsleye gave the sermon on Jonah 1. It was illustrated as God's provision in a time of need. Our God is faithful when we are in need and is able to protect His children under His wings. Nicky, I was blessed to hold Franz throughout the service. We gave the kids some candy and some sunglasses after the service. The boys had made some origami flowers and some cards and a present for Mama Katia as today was Mother's Day in Haiti. They truly are sweet kids. We said our goodbyes and went back for dinner. Paul and I asked if dinner would be Haitian or American. Smith said he would check and we were all pleased to learn that it would be Haitian. White rice with chicken and peas. Hot sauce for those who needed it. We debriefed as a group, got prepared with info for the morning (light breakfast at 5:30 and out the gate at 6 am), sang a couple worhsip songs and left to pack and go to bed. As for me...shower, pack, and whatever order it comes. We look forward to seeing our families late tomorrow and kissing our sleeping children when we get home. Goodnight. Todd.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another awesome day in Haiti!

We are having major problems posting to the blog, but email seems OK so Debbie/Jessamine/Lisa/Nicki/Elise are posting for us via email.

Saturday, May 26

Another awesome day in Haiti!

We got up a little early to see the work happening at several of the FMI projects nearby. First we toured the property where they are going to build small homes/apartments for the kids as they age out of the Gift of God orphanage. It is a 1 acre lot a short walk from where we are staying. There was a Haitian crew there digging the hole for the septic tank (by hand of course – 12 feet deep). So it was neat to see the 2nd day of construction on that project. The kids will be able to rent one of the apartments as long as they have a job or are in trade school or college. I think they are going to call this site "Hope Village".

Then we walked over to the site where Brad Simpson & Todd worked in the mud on the plumbing in October. There is a whole complex of buildings there now, which are nearly complete. This project was originally going to be an orphanage and medical clinic run by Mike's ministry (Global Orphan Hope), but just recently Mike's organization decided that they were gifted in construction & development but not in running an orphanage, so they donated it all to FMI. FMI will use it in a similar way as they do the Gift of God orphanage. So FMI is raising funds to finish the construction of the buildings (including removing the medical office walls) and making plans for setting up an orphanage there. Some of the buildings will be used to train the kids in sewing, welding, woodworking, and other skills they will need to make a living in Haiti.

After breakfast we headed back up the mountain, on some crazy streets with crazy traffic and everyone selling things. The mountains are very steep so it takes some extremely skilful driving to make it up the twisting, crisscrossing roads which are frequently blocked by disabled vehicles, piles of building materials, and hundreds of people walking along the edges of the road. The drivers honk their horns every few seconds to communicate with other drivers and pedestrians, and though chaotic and a little scary, I did not see any accidents – but I am sure there are many. It is rare to see a vehicle with no dents.

Once we arrived, Frank gathered us together and had us walk around the rooms of the house, praying for the children who would soon live there, the families who will adopt them, the future nannies working there, the parents/relatives who gave up the child, etc. We then grabbed our materials and blasted through all the second coats and remaining unpainted items. We basically painted everything in the house that was dark-colored – including about 125 feet of decorative railing, the grates on about 12 windows, an interior railing, about 5 doors, 3 closets, 6 beds & bunkbeds, some walls, etc. We also removed, washed, and reinstalled all the glass louvers on about 7 of the windows. The house looks dramatically different than when we started.

We wrapped up our work at 2PM and headed still higher up the mountain to the orphanage that Rachel currently runs. Rachel has about 10 children, ages 3 months to about 4 years. All of them have been adopted and are waiting for the paperwork & process to be complete, except for Jasmin who was about 3. Jasmin was brought to Rachel's home by her father 4 days ago. His wife had died, and though he struggled to feed Jasmin and himself, he was just not able to. He came to the painful conclusion that in order for her to survive, he needed to give her up. As he handed her over to Rachel, he said "I have cried my last tear". Needless to say we were all deeply moved.

We took many photos there, but we are not allowed to post them online so you will have to wait for us to get back to see those.

Tomorrow, Katia is finishing the second day of a cake decorating seminar that she is hosting at the guest house dining area. The cake she is making for the seminar is gigantic – 5 feet wide and 4 feet tall. One of the ladies from the team is helping Katia with the seminar. Check the photos to see a photo of the cake.

In the morning we will tour the city to see the earthquake damage and tent camps. After lunch we will head over to the Gift of God orphanage to spend some time with the kids and to participate in their worship service at 5 PM (time changed to work around the seminar).

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue our work here. And speaking of prayers, today Renee was fully recovered and painted up a storm!


Photos from Haiti - by Dave Miller

OK well this blog is driving me crazy, I cannot log in plus our wifi is having problems so I am just going to post my update from yesterday here quickly before it goes out again. Also I have uploaded a couple more photos. Photo upload is really slow so we cannot do many. But we will bring back tons of photos :-).

We did not have Internet service Friday evening so the last post is delayed, sorry! We'll post about today later...

Bonswa from Haiti - by Dave Miller

Bonswa from Haiti!

We had a great day today (Friday). After Katia's wonderful breakfast we hopped in a van and a pickup and drove up, up, up to the Rivers of Hope orphanage to paint, paint, paint. Rivers of Hope is a new orphanage in a leased home that will be run by Rachel Danache. AGCI will coordinate adoptions from Rivers of Hope. This video from AGCI explains this relationship way better than I can:

The house needed a lot of cleanup and painting. We painted all the black iron work (railings, bars over windows, etc.) as well as some new doors which needed to be painted. Others on the team also disassembled some bunk beds and started reconstructing them into cribs.

To access the inside of the bars we had to remove all the glass louvers. We quickly discovered that each one is custom fit and it can be quite a puzzle to get them back in if you don't stack them in order. By the end of the day we had it down to a science. I poked a tiny piece of glass in my finger while reinstalling a louver which "Doctor" Paul cleaned and dressed with professionalism and flair.
Paul is now the official team medic.

Speaking of medicine, Renee, one of our team members from Nashville was out today with a stomach bug, but she met us at dinner so hopefully she is on the mend. Please pray for her continued improvement. Everyone else is healthy.

On the drive up (2 hours) and down (1 hour) we got a good taste of Haitian commerce. There were people buying and selling the entire way, thousands of people crammed along the roadside selling everything among the piles of rubble, trash, and 5 foot deep by 5 foot wide gutters (with no curbs by the way). Most of the people looked to be quite poor.

The traffic was intense, especially because the Haitian President was in the area so there were lots of police on ATVs & SUVs which added greatly to the congestion. Some of the guys rode in the back of the pickup so they had a very memorable ride.

The Rivers of Hope home is close to the top of the mountain. As you climb higher, both the vegetation and prosperity change dramatically. We saw many beautiful flowering trees and vines, and fruit trees were everywhere. The houses were also much larger.

Tomorrow we are going to finish the painting then head up even higher on the mountain to one of the Mountaintop Ministry orphanages (another AGCI partner, see video link above) to spend some time with the babies/kids there and learn more about what AGCI is doing with Mountaintop Ministries. Willem and his wife Beth were with us all day today and coordinated the work.

Tonight we talked for a long time with Dan Jensen about the people and country of Haiti, and the work that God is doing here through the partnerships between FMI, AGCI, Mountaintop Ministries and others. We can tell you more about that when we get back.

On Sunday we will spend the entire day at the Gift of God orphanage where the October team served, first in their church service, then just spending time with them.

Well it looks like our Internet connection is out for now so I will have to post this in the morning! I probably won't be able to post any photos until tomorrow night though, sorry!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hit the ground running

Today we arrived in Haiti.  After a little delay in getting out of Miami, one of the panels fell out of the ceiling prior to take off, we made it to Port-au-Prince.  After a bit of an adventure in baggage claim, where Dave's black bag was lost.  Once we discovered that Dave's bag miraculously changed colors during the flight and was now blue, we were able to locate it.  We then ran the gauntlet to get to the van and enjoyed a nice ride to the guest house.  We had a quick lunch and went over to GOG.  What an amazing place!  We were greeted by swarms of smiling kids who just simply wanted to hug us and hold our hands.  We had a tour of the orphanage and Todd informed us that there have been many changes and upgrades since the last trip.  The apartments upstairs are now occupied, and almost complete.  The kitchen is almost finished and they now have 3 charcoal heated stoves, and a stainless steel sink.  We attempted to do some plumbing to finish the sinks in the apartments and the kitchen but were unable to due to lack of proper parts.  So instead we got to spend more time with the kids.  The highlights are that they clearly remember their friends from the October trip and were so excited to see the pictures from the last visit.  Todd was greeted by his hat being stolen and kids trying to wrestle him and rub his head.  Dave was the man of the hour as he was swarmed by kids looking at the pictures from the last trip.  He had kids all over him the entire time we were there.  It was so clear that these kids love Jesus and they couldn't help but sing about it.  I was able to connect with one of Lisa's friends from the last trip, Teddy.  Once he discovered who I was, he stole my sunglasses and only wanted to take pictures of himself to send back.  They all asked about the October team and wanted to know if they were coming back.  God is blessing us so much already with our interactions with the kids.  We are heading over to the new orphanage for painting tomorrow.  Thank you for your prayers!


On Their Way

The guys had a long day of travel yesterday to Miami via a layover in Dallas.  I spoke to Paul this morning as they waited to board their plane headed to Port au Prince.  It sounds like they had a brief but decent night of sleep, along with a nice hot shower.  They were due to land at about noon their time and spend the afternoon with our friends at Gift of God Orphanage.  He said they'd do their best to write a post tonight.  I sure can't wait to hear about their time with those gorgeous kiddos and amazing staff at GOG.

On the home front (Nicki and Debbie, please feel free to make any additions:), my sick little Emilie is on the mend.  My heart was encouraged by this chunk from Psalm 41, brought to my attention by my pal Sara:

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
The Lord will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land
and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness.

May God's kingdom be furthered and his name glorified as a result of this trip.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

T-Minus 10 Days and Counting

The months and weeks since we signed on to this adventure have all slipped by and we are down to the last ten days before we leave. Paul and I have discussed it and we both swear it must be longer away than that. Dave, please tell us we have more time. It's time to spray clothes for mosquitos, pack up our bags, and make sure tickets are ready and that we won't forget our passports.

If anyone still wishes to help with supplies and donations for the trip, this is the time. There is still a need for diapers and infant formula, teenage boys clothes, painting supplies, art supplies and musical instruments (sorry, no sousaphones). If anyone has anything they want us to bring, we will need it dropped off at Harvest by Sunday, May 20. We are excited, and as for me, a little anxious. I won't speak for Paul or Dave. You can ask them directly. Time does not stop and we ask for your prayers for our final prepartions; material, mental and spiritual. We look forward to our time in Haiti and hope everything comes together smoothly. Thank you for your support. We look forward to continue sharing this adventure with you.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Second verse, (not quite) the same as the first...

This Memorial Day weekend, Paul Andrewjeski, Dave Miller and myself (Todd) will be partnering again with AGCI for another exciting adventure to Haiti.  I am excited with anticipation for the upcoming trip.  This trip is quite different as it is not all Harvest people who have been preparing and getting to know each other for months in advance.  I look forward to serving with Paul and Dave, but the group is very large, over 20 people with a couple families from all over the country.  The dynamics will be quite different.

Much of this entry comes from the language supplied for our prayer cards so it may sound very familiar.  With that in mind, I would ask for prayer for group unity as we are so diverse and have not had the ability to meet and prepare as a group.

I would ask for prayer for the logistics.  Travel times change, many different travel itineraries, and in country supply considerations.  We hope to be able to provide a gift of bibles to the children and would like to make arrangements in Haiti to procure them...more to share about this in the future.
Funds are still a concern.  Raising support for the trip and sharing the call with friends and family...funds to purchase the gift bibles for the kids in Haiti.

We look forward to continue in building relationships with FMI and GOH and their staff, the chance to help build and install Harvest's Christmas gift to the Gift of God Orphanage and potentially have the opportunity to build relationships and improve another local orphanage that will be providing children for adoption to the new Hope City Orphanage from GOH.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We're coming home!

We can hardly believe our time in Haiti is nearing and end.  We have to leave for the airport at 5:30 tomorrow (ahem, 3:30 Pacific time!), but we wanted to write a short note to you before we leave.  A lot has happened today; attending the orphanage church service, touring the aftermath of the earthquake, saying goodbye to the kids -there is a lot to process. 

The Presidential Palace, completely destroyed by the earthquake.

It looks the same as if the earthquake happened yesterday.

We've been exposed to so many things that we weren't exposed to before - things that are making us think deeply, and pray. 

The churches here don't see a need to help because kids on the streets are "normal" for them.
One of the many vast tent villages, where people are still living after their houses were destroyed in the earthquake.

But we are not in despair because the kids at this orphanage are a BRIGHT LIGHT here in Haiti, and we know there is hope for the future of this country. 

We are weary, emotionally and physically, but are very excited to see our families tomorrow.  We too are excited to share with all of you in more detail (and in person!) our experiences someday very soon.  Thank you for praying for us and we cannot wait to see you!

The Team

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Razor wire and guard dogs... ...and silly girls who lock their keys inside

One of the things that has been so cool here is how amazingly secure and well-protected we are.  Our contacts on the ground here are taking amazing care of us and being very vigilant about taking every single precaution.  Any concerns that we had coming in were totally alleviated once we met up with Dan and Smith at the airport.  

But the reality of this country has definitely been interesting to observe.  Every house is within a compound surrounded by cinderblock walls and razor wire, and there are guard dogs released at night just in case someone makes an attempt over the razors.  Each day we go in and out a padlocked gate from the guest house and through another one into the orphanage.

One fun thing that happened today was that one of us girls locked the keys to our dorm inside the door.  And man, that dorm was built to be impregnable, as we soon found out (a credit card or slim jim was not going to do the trick here!).  But it was also a little comforting to see that our host family is serious about safety.

...Tomorrow we're getting the pleasure of going to the orphanage's church service and then taking the kids on a field trip to a historical park and the team's going on a tour of the city after.  Busy day, better get to bed!

No wonder we're so tired!

Some of the things we've done so far:

We did so much laundry that they had to hang up three more clothes lines in addition to the three they already had up ("and by laundry, imagine Debbi & Nicki crouching over 5 tubs of water, scrubba scrubba scrubba, rinsa rinsa rinsa, and hang them up," -Lisa).

We made 60 boxes of macaroni and cheese over an open fire with powdered milk and the kids ate over a box a piece.

Painted lots of little girl nails and sat for lots of manicures (and too bad for you the nail polish remover is coming out tomorrow night before we leave so you won't get to see them!  ;)

A few of us on laundry crew got to use an old-fashioned iron heated with charcoals (that one very tough girl picked up with her bare hands), and spontaneously broke out in song, belting out "Lean on Me," "This Little Light of Mine," and and learning some of their Creole songs.

We nailed bracer panels onto 14 bunk beds.

Got 52 fabric paint handprints.

Some of us built a divider wall in the girls dorm ("and by dorm we mean cinderblock rooms with concrete floors and bunk-beds crammed side by side" - Lisa)

We made millions of friendship bracelets.

We taught 5 piano lessons on a keyboard drawn on paper.

Took lots of video and pictures.

Helped the kids decorate 52 picture frames.

Ate LOTS and LOTS of amazing food (we've been showered with affection by Katia & Smith, the Haitian orphanage directors here).

Visited and prayed over the new orphanage.

Sewed frogs (and frantically tried to manage the needles!)

Painted two ceilings.

Popped 52 bags of popcorn.

Watched a movie where the kids didn't mind or complain AT ALL about the long wait to set up the projector, or it being in English, or having to stop it 1/3 of the way through when the generator went out.

Toured the bakery that where the kids are being taught to keep a job and earn income for themselves.

Put on lots of bug repellant.

Taken 27 showers half on the floor (the water pressure here's a little low...)

And MOST importantly, all the while:

Playing with, cuddling, teaching, holding, playing basketball and soccer with, dancing, singing, snuggling, rocking, laughing with, being taught by, and LOVING 52 beautiful, wonderful, amazing children who love Jesus with all their hearts.

-The Team