Sunday, January 18, 2015

What is Church?

What is church?

Today we experienced what church really is. 

In America most our churches are surrounded with walls, topped with a roof, and filled with chairs. While this description fits the basic churches of America it is not The Church that Jesus talked about. The church is not about walls, sound systems, chairs, crosses, or floors. The Church is the people. The Church is Christ in us, all of us as one body. 

This morning our team got to experience what The Church is, or more like Who the Church is. Today in the poorest country in the world, in the poorest neighborhood, in the poorest district, we had church. We had church on top of 14 feet of garbage, dirt, and buried dead bodies. We had church for the first time on this plot of land by telling one man to spread the word about church on Sunday. One man, and God did the rest. People and children poured into the lot which will one day be a beautiful church building. 

Today we had church in a circle, with one microphone and a guitar. We had church Haitian beside American, naked children in arms, holding hands, praising and singing Jesus loves me. Every detail wasn't planned out, there were bumpy moments, but above all there was God. What a site to see people standing on a mound of garbage praising, hands in the hair, lifting up bold prayers, and trusting in one God who came to save and love all of us. 

At church this morning, I (Emma) got to sing to a little boy about 4/5 years old, who, unlike all of the other children was not smiling. When I started to sing “Jesus Loves You” to him, ignoring everything else around me, this boy got the biggest smile. Each time I told him Jesus Loved Him his face would just light up. What a blessing to be a part of this community, this Church that Jesus united, where his presence is our joy, where his love is what brings smiles. I think we all learned valuable lessons about the Church today, and were each touched in unique ways. As for me, today was an epic love letter from God to us. A love letter that many wont understand, but to me will be a long treasured souvenir. 

After church, we got the opportunity to drive up the mountain and visit some markets. We business students put our sales knowledge to the test bartering with the locals. We saw amazing paintings and tin decorations. The crowning glory of it all was the view which we got to witness briefly before being encompassed in the refreshing mist of the clouds. 

To finish off the night Jeff Gacek spoke life into us. He shared his story of chasing success, and encouraged us to pursue significance. God has chosen each of us, at this time to be here together. God has a purpose for each of us. I ask you to pray with me for Holy Discontents within this team as we wrap up our trip. Let us be vessels of His love, letting His purpose flow in and through us.-------Emma

Friday, January 16, 2015


Today was our second day bringing the water truck into Cite Soleil and it was nothing short of amazing.  The smiles on everyones faces continued to impress us and they only got bigger once we hopped out of the truck.  We brought water to many deserving Haitians in District 26 and in N'ap Boule.  After distributing water to District 26, we walked to District 17 where we learned that we will be having the first ever church service at Healing Haiti's new church in Cite Soleil.  Thus far, there is no building, seats, or structure.  It is simply an open plot of land that sits on 16 feet of garbage.  It is sure to be a powerful service knowing that even without a church we can come together and be thankful for all that God has blessed us with.

After spending a couple delightful hours with Haitians in Cite Soleil, we travelled over to Lapherre Orphanage to brighten the kids' day.  Along with our team, we brought many fun toys and snacks for the kids to enjoy.  Besides the yummy snacks, the kids smiles really glowed when we were playing with the rainbow parachute.  This also filled our teams faces with smiles as it brought joy to the kids and it reminded us of the awesome days of elementary school.  While some were playing with the parachute, others were playing soccer.  We tried to keep up, but the kids are much better at soccer and definitely made us work for every goal.  Being that we were blessed with a good amount of time to spend at the orphanage, we were also able to sing songs and paint t-shirts with the kids.  Once it was time to leave the orphanage it was hard to leave the kiddos as always, but we were looking forward to the pizza we were fortunate enough to enjoy at Pizza Amoure.  At Pizza Amoure, a local pizza place run by missionaries out of their own home, we enjoyed a fun team dinner that involved great food and even better company.

The whole team is thrilled to get some sleep tonight as the kids wear us out every day.  Tomorrow we will be going to the beach with some of the kids from Grace Village to swim and enjoy a beautiful Haitian day.

~Willie and Danny

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A day filled with Grace

Day 4 started off with a special treat; a 6 am Haitian church service.  Haitian churches are much different than most churches in the US in the sense that it has less to do with listening to a sermon, and more to do with individually expressing one’s love and prayers to God through music and prayer.  We saw many people praying up and down the aisles, along with people pacing back and forth within the pews.  We decided to walk back from the church instead of taking the tap-tap in order to experience a more typical Haitian morning.  
After arriving back at the guest house we all ate our typical, delicious, family-style breakfast.  Today’s schedule consisted of a visit to Grace Village, caring for the local elders, and an emotional stop at the mass grave.  Grace Village was created by the people of Healing Haiti back in 2011.  In short, it is a place for the people of Haiti to go for many different reasons.  Grace Village is compiled of many different aspects including a school, a clinic, a bakery, and homes for children who didn’t previously have homes, or were no longer able to stay at other orphanages.  Grace Village was built to give children homes, a place learn, jobs for adults, and an opportunity for the Haitians to look forward to their future.  Fortunately, we had the opportunity to play with the kids during their recess time.  Nothing makes the kids smile more than picking them up and hugging them constantly.  I (Danny) immediately connected with a boy whom I couldn’t understand what he said his name was.  He was a young boy, probably around the age of 4, and loved when I would push him on the swing.  The toughest part of hanging out with the little kids is saying goodbye when they have to go back to class.  This little guy didn’t realize how he was making my day so much better with only a few hugs and some good ole’ fun.
Our next activity for the day included visiting and caring for the elderly within Titan Ye.  In Creole, Titan Ye stands for “less than nothing”.  We made several different stops to the homes of elderly women.  During these stops, we cleaned their hands and feet, rubbed lotion on their hands and feet, prayed for them, gave dresses and shorts to the children in surrounding homes, and sang with the help of guitar from our Haitian leader, Emmanuel.  I (Sammy), with the help of Emmanuel, freshened up my piano skills for the first time in a very, very long time and was actually awakened to the fact that we, as Americans, live extremely busy lifestyles.  Between work, school, homework, and other daily activities, we forget to take the time to really slow down and take the time to do what really makes us happy.  It’s important to take time every day to relax and thank God for the blessings and beauty in each and every day.  

Our last stop of the day included a stop at the Mass Grave.  Over 300,000 people were killed during the earthquake and being able to see the grave was extremely emotional and moving.  While at the mass grave, we got the opportunity to hear a first hand experience from our Haitian leader, Brunet.  Brunet was downtown when the earthquake hit and therefore saw everything happen right before his eyes.  Hearing his story really turned the entire situation into reality.  Once Brunet finished his story, we realized that there was a large group of Haitians that lived in Titan Ye who had surrounded us.  We decided to give them meals from Feed My Starving Children, and since we didn’t have enough to go around, we handed out two bags of our own personal snacks to help.  Perhaps the most difficult part was still not being able to give food to every person that came to us.

Sammy and Danny

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Before I explain Gertrude’s orphanage I would like to give a quick explanation of this trip so far. My word of the day today is trapped. Initially one might assume that by “trapped” I am referring to the people of Haiti and the poor country that they reside. Any of you reading this who HAVE NOT visited Haiti could sympathize with this statement. These people are struggling and they do not have the option to leave, it seems like a pretty straightforward metaphor, but it is not that simple. Visiting this struggling country is giving me a chance to see deeper and to empathize rather than sympathize with Haitians. They live in some of the poorest slums of the world yet they have the biggest and brightest smiles I have ever seen. It sounds so cliché to say that, but the emotion is impossible to describe. The happiness and sadness that is experienced down here is so contradictory that it overwhelms you and tares your heart apart.

Upon arriving at Gertrude’s we were met by a woman named Lauren who helps care for the 45-55 children that live in the house at any given time. Lauren led us to the back of the house where class was being held. The children ranged from age 3 to 20 and half had visible disabilities. When we walked into the classroom area an older child walked up to me and grabbed my shirt with both hands. Valarie, our Haitian guide, laughed and told me, “uh oh, he chose you!” This thin Haitian boy holding my shirt stood about 4 and a half feet tall to me, but would have easily stood 5 and a half feet tall with the ability to stand up straight. His stance was a crouched position as if he had been holding a 100 pound weight on his shoulders since birth. When he released my shirt, he patted my chest then patted his own and quickly removed his shirt. He handed it over to me and pointed at his chest. I looked over at Valerie and he told me that he wanted me to put the shirt back on him. I delicately put the shirt over his head and helped each of his decrepit arms back into the sleeves and gave him a big smile. He smiled back and then removed his shirt again… That is when I realized what Valerie’s “uh oh” meant. This process repeated itself 7 times over before Lauren led us back over to the entrance where we went into a rehabilitation room. We brought 7 children with us that each had different special needs. Each of the members of our group worked personally with the child that stood out most to us. 

I stuck with the child that chose me. He started screaming with excitement when he realized that we were going into the rehab room because he knew that there were toys to play with in the room. Lauren told me that if abled, he would spend his entire day in that room playing with the Legos. The funny thing is, he did not even understand how to put Legos together. He would just hold them in his hands, put them in piles, dump the bucket out, and clean them up. It was like playing with a 9 month old child when given legos. I tried to help teach him how to put the Legos together, but he just could not comprehend. 

Within this room there was 7 different individual stories going on like this. In this room was a child whose crib was accidentally lit on fire by a candle, a young girl who had almost no physical capability at all, a young girl who knew how to walk but refused to do so in hope that somebody would push her in a wheelchair. All of the volunteers in this room grew a strong attachment to these children over the hour or so that we were there, but the story that stood out to me most was Willie, one of my teammates, and the motionless and emotionless child that he was rubbing lotion onto. Willie was rubbing this child’s muscles for probably 30 minutes with no sight of emotion. None of the toys in the room could conjure a smile from this child. Then I heard a laugh and looked over at the two. Willie was tickling this child to the result of an abundance of smiles and giggles! This moment made me realize that there was hope for these children and also the children of Haiti.


Broken Hearts

Today was another amazing but heartbreaking day for our team. We started the day with a delicious breakfast prepared by our Haitian staff and then set out for an unpredictable day. Our team split up in the morning with 10 of us going to the Home for Sick & Dying Infants and the other 6 going to Gertrude's orphanage. I went to the Home for Sick & Dying Infants and it was an experience that will live with me forever. As we walked in we saw lines of people waiting to either drop off their children or to visit their children that were sick and staying at the home. Walking in, we encountered rows and rows of cribs with babies in them, 99 children total. Some of the babies were crying to be picked up and others were too weak to cry and lay still with an IV in their tiny arm. It didn't take long for our heart strings to be pulled; we immediately jumped in and picked up the babies to show and to tell them we love them and Jesus loves them ("Jezi renmen ou"). Some of our team was holding two babies at a time, others holding on to one until picking up the next. At this moment we all wished we could have 99 arms to love, cradle and pray over each and everyone one of them. After hours of holding, loving, and feeding the babies, it was time for our team to go. Laying the precious little angles down into their cribs and hearing their cry is a feeling we will always remember and I am so grateful to have been blessed with this heartbreaking experience. 

After stopping back at the guest house to grab a snack and to refresh, we headed back into our tap-tap (bus) to go to The Apparent Project to learn about the organization and to do some shopping to support them. We toured the facility and learned about this organization that had been started to give parents the chance to work and support their families. With over 300 people employed, every one with their own story, we saw all the hard work and detail that goes into every piece of artwork and jewelry they create. After being extremely impressed and inspired by the organization and all the business they are doing, we filed up with amazing smoothies served at the "Clay Cafe" and headed to our last stop of the day. 

On our way to General Hospital we hit "rush hour" - the ride was long, slow, and bumpy - but it gave us a chance to take in Haiti for what it is and to view all of the different neighborhoods that are so different from our own. We visited General Hospital and handed out 115 care packages that Marijo and her daughter packed for us. They were a big hit! The General Hospital was also a heartbreaking visit for our team that made each and every one of us sorrowful but also grateful. As we pulled up, we had the warmest welcome from two little boys that came running out, arms flaling and ready to give us all the sweetest hugs, as if we have been friends forever. As we entered the hospital we witnessed families with young children and babies crammed into two large rooms waiting to see the doctors. With families shoulder to shoulder with sick kids and a sighting of a few rats, our team definitely had ours eyes opened to what healthcare could be like and for how grateful we are and should be with our own. We also experienced a sense of helplessness and of being underserving for all the aid we have access to and take for granted everyday. With all eyes on us, we made our way through the hospital handing out our care packages. Making sure every family had only one, to be fair, made the process a little stressful, but was a good test for us. Our translator and leader, Emanuel, brought out the guitar and played and sang a variety of worship songs. As songs of God filled the air it insistently brought a sense of calmness and hope to the whole facility. It didn't take long and our team was out amongst the families, holding their babies and singing to the songs of worship. We left there with tranquil and broken hearts. Coming home from an emotional day, we had the privilege to enjoy an evening meal together, reflect on all that we have experienced in only one short day, and thank God for our courage and protection. 

We ended the night joyously with a Salsa dance lesson at the guest house from John with many laughs. We are heading to bed to prepare for another incredible day in Haiti.   


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We made it through our first day! Today we brought water to three different locations in Cite Soleil. It was amazing to see the kids run to our tap-tap (bus) right when we pulled down the street. They yelled "Hey you, hey you!" When we got out of the tap-tap the kids immediately jumped into our arms wanting our love. My favorite part of today was when the kids sang "Happy Birthday" to me in Creole and English. It was fun to see all their happy faces and excitement to be together.  
After delivering water to Cite Soleil we visited the HI (Haitian Initiative) Soccer fields where we watched the kids play soccer. The passion that each kid showed to the game was amazing to see. We also saw where they got to eat a meal before they played. The program designed to encourage kids to stay focused and stay in school in order to enjoy a meal and play the game. 
It was a great first day in Haiti. The sun beat down and we are tired but we are ready to go for tomorrow...after a delicious Haitian spaghetti meal! 

Nicole, Britt, and Catherine

Monday, January 12, 2015

Each Day is a New Adventure

...and our Haitian adventure has officially begun.  Each one of us is incredibly thankful for safe travels, a welcoming staff and an engaged team.  We are grateful for the opportunity to travel to this amazing country, full of noises, smells, and an atmosphere foreign to us all, but one that has already captured our hearts.

We have left the comfort of the familiar and are opening ourselves to a world totally different from our own.  We are here to meet people we couldn't invent and see scenes we couldn't imagine.  We are trusting God will embrace us on this journey, walking with us and guiding us along the way.  A sense of His presence is already here - in the hearts of our amazing students who have responded to the call to serve, in the Healing Haiti staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare for our travels and in the sweet smiles of the beautiful people of Haiti.

We are grateful for each of you - in one way or another you have supported, loved, encouraged, and trusted us to join this adventure.  You have graced each and every one of us and for that we are blessed.  Although we don't know exactly what is on the road ahead, we are certain we are equipped for the journey.  Our week is guaranteed to be anything but dull or predictable; it's certain to be full of excitement, fear, trepidation, tears, love, joy, encouragement and wonder.  It is a precious gift and will certainly contain surprises.

We're looking forward to the adventure ahead of us and are already aware we're bound to come home blessed and full of God's grace, embracing His trust and with changed hearts.

With Love from Haiti,

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Will I Feel?

How will I feel?  Will I be safe?  Will I get sick?  Will I be as excited in Haiti as I am now?  We all have questions.  We all have doubts.  Each of us will search to find purpose and meaning in what we are about to see.

The mission trip we signed up for months ago is now upon us.  The pre-trip preparations are all complete.  Items purchased, donations collected and everything is packed.  We are now faced with a couple of days of quiet waiting and reflecting on what we are about to embark.

There will be joyous times.  There will be uplifting moments.  There will also be days filled with introspection.  All of this will come together to make a permanent imprint on us and the way we look at things.  We will all be affected differently, but this is certain, we will all be affected.

"What do you have to offer?  More than you probably think.  You have the gifts and talents you were born with.  The blessings of education.  The skills you've honed as you worked at home and in the marketplace.  The life experiences that have matured you.  The pain that deepened you. The love that spills from God's heart into yours.

Once you decide to invest even a small portion of the blessings God has given to you into the lives of others, you'll find the seed of something powerful sown in your own soul.  And someday, in the midst of giving yourself in the spirit and act of volunteering, that seed will blossom into the amazing realization that this is what you were made for!" --- Bill Hybels-- The Volunteer Revolution