Saturday, March 15, 2014

Haiti day 7 by Liz

Today we began our journey home. It's hard to leave this place. But with us we carry the memories made, friendships formed, and the images of precious children. It's never easy leaving a place where you have left part of your heart. But it's not goodbye, it's "until we meet again". We have seen God move in tangible ways this week. He has been evident and present in every part of our trip. He has guided and led us every step of the way. I'm always remind of His faithfulness. The way He loves, the way He protects, and the way He comforts each one of His children. For me it's easier to leave the children from Source de la Grace, because I know that each day, they come home to the arms of precious house mamas that love them dearly. I know that The Lord has His hand on these sweet orphans and that ultimately He is their protector and provider. It's comforting to be able to leave these children in the care of a Savior who loves them far more than I ever will or could. He has them, and I have to remember to trust in that.
But I can't help but wonder about all the other kids out there who simply are in desperate need of love. Who don't have the opportunity to come home to people who care about them and protect them. Who don't know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved. Who don't know what it means to have someone fight on your behalf. Who rummage through trash to find food to temporarily fill their empty bellies. Who beg on the streets for money. Who sell themselves at night to men who use and abuse them. And I'm constantly asking, "but God, what about them?". And over and over again He reminds me, "I have them too". "But what are you going to do about it?". Honestly, I don't know. What I do know is that I'm forever grateful for places like Source de la Grace who are changing lives, one child at a time.
As we loaded the car and made our way towards the airport, I was taking everything in. The sights, the smells, the sounds, all of it. I was reminded that God is here, and He is moving. He never left. He never forgot them. He has always held this country close. In the midst of pain and heartache, He was right there. He saw every tear, every heartbreak, every loss. Standing at the earthquake memorial yesterday was even harder than last year. Tears began to come as I closed my eyes and could envision the chaos of the country on that tragic day. Devastation on every level. People screaming out for their loved ones. People wailing at the death of those close to them. Car alarms. Ambulance sirens. Heartbreak after heartbreak. So as we drove through the city today I was reminded of the emotion of yesterday. How does a city and country ever recover after something like that? How do you pick up the pieces and move forward? Strength. Pure strength from The Lord. That's the only way. They had to push through, they had to carry on. It's something I'm deeply moved by and that I admire about this country.
It has felt so good to be back in this country that has taught me so much. I'm constantly blown away by the hospitality and love of the Vaval family. Today I left an extension of family. There is a deep love that I have for them. Words can't even really explain what they mean to me. I'm grateful for the many nights that I got to sit with Francoise and Kristie. It was such a joy to get to know them in a deeper way. As we would sit around the table and talk "business" only to immediately be followed by laughter and Kristie being fascinated by the new words or phrases we taught her. Oh my heart. That family is precious. The way Francoise would look at me and say "my daughter" and then force me to sit on her lap. Though I swear I was going to break her legs, it was such a sweet and tender moment. To be welcomed into their family with open arms. Francoise finally let me help with dinner. For those who haven't been or don't know her, that's a big step. To be upgraded from setting the table to helping with the food means there is a level of comfort. She doesn't always let people help, so when she know you have reached that sweet spot. Where you are no longer a guest in her home, but you have become family. So she's no longer afraid to put you to work. They're some of the most compassionate, loving, generous people I know. Every single one of them. And I'm blessed because of them.
Today Tamara, Niaya, and I said our goodbyes to the team in New York. We sent them on their way and the three of us headed into the city. What a different culture to step into. The city is beautiful, but it's also a little heartbreaking. Its full of our own darkness and constant images of the things we worship and value. We took a bike carriage through Central Park which was beautiful. Then we headed down to TimeSquare. As images flashed and I overheard the conversations of those around me I was reminded of our brokenness. Of the things that have taken us captive and that we have allowed control over us. As we walked through the candy stores and toy stores, as people hustled and bustled to buy souvenirs, I couldn't help but think what that money could do for those we met in Haiti. It could feed families. It could send children to school. It could build water wells. But instead we spend it on a temporary fix. I'm not saying this for anyone to feel guilty. But I can't help but wonder what it would look like to replace our temporary fix with something that could change the situation for a person across the world, across the ocean, or even across our street. These are the thoughts that are swimming in my head as I take in all this city has to offer, both the good and bad.
Tomorrow I'm so excited that we get to spend the day with Pastor Moise who is our missionary in Haiti. He is praying about coming here to be a missionary to this city. I can't tell you how excited that makes me. Someone who has done so much for Haiti and has raised up such a beautiful community. To think that he will be here bringing light into our own darkness. So powerful. It brings me great joy to see his heart for this city and I'm excited for what The Lord has in store for him here. A city that is materially wealthy yet spiritually poor. Praying that this city will see its own form of poverty and find what it means to have true wealth.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Haiti Day 6 - By Robin

A Change of Heart   -  Friday in Haiti


This week has been about the kids…...the precious orphans living at Source de la Grace. We have hugged and kissed them, played and danced with them, talked (kinda) and sang with them, prayed with them and over them, and laughed and cried with them. Their beautiful smiles and joyful dispositions have taught us more about the amazing God we serve and plenty about ourselves. The imprint that these kids have left on us has changed our hearts and I am extremely grateful for that.  They have shown us the beauty of Haiti in their faces and their pure love for Jesus, but today we were blessed to see the physical beauty of this country. At 9:00 a.m. today (that would be 10:00ish in Haitian time) we loaded the tap tap. (For those of you who do not know what that is…’s one of the most common forms of Haitian transportation. Picture a Toyota pick up with beat up picnic table benches in the bed of the truck for seating. Add much age to the vehicle, a few brightly colored paintings on it, the strong stench of diesel and the craziest driver on the planet and you have a tap tap.) Anyway, off we went to the northern part of the island to Club Indigo for a day of debriefing and relaxation. Pastor Moise has made it known to our Riverside groups the importance of seeing the beauty of his country at the end of an emotional and exhausting week at the orphanage. Many of us had troubled hearts about this “day of fun” after all we had experienced, but once there, we saw the true value of our excursion. We hit the beach with many thoughts in mind. The first, of course, was to plop in a chair and just stinking do nothing. The next was to teach our three translators and two drivers to swim. Sounds a little crazy that these energetic young men live on an island, yet do not know how to swim. Well, not to worry, Liz, Becki, John, Naiya and I’m not sure who else, made it their mission to organize a Swim 101 class. Not too sure how successful it was, but witnessing their gallant efforts created billowing laughter and cheering. While watching their antics, I realized how important this day was for those young men who served us so faithfully all week. This Club Indigo was a gift and a blessing to them in a huge way. God is so good about the way he works our hearts and changes them as He sees fit. After much sand and sun, we took “real” showers (ask us about that) and loaded the coveted tap tap to head to the earthquake burial site to pay our respects. My heart was aching as I stood at the entry to the gate of the memorial area, but as He does, God changed it rather quickly. Six or seven children from a nearby village came to the site and just wanted to say hi. Becki was quick to get out her Polaroid camera and begin clicking snapshots of these cute kids. They were gracious and polite as she handed each of them a photo. I could see the excitement in their eyes and knew how it blessed them. We were also able to give each of them two protein bars as we sent them on their way and you would have thought we sent them with a steak dinner. Once again, we loaded the tap tap and headed to the guesthouse. Today was like every other day in Haiti. It was full of all kinds of emotions and full of the Lord. We’ve seen Him everywhere in this place and we are so grateful that He provides opportunities like this to

change our hearts.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Haiti Day 5 - Christi

Haiti Day 5


WOW! How in the world do you begin to put into words ALL the Lord has done today? It seems impossible but I will do my best and give it a go. We were out the door by nine o clock and made our way to Source De la Grace orphanage. I was lucky enough to get to ride in the tap-tap and as we drove through the middle of Haiti traffic, God began to download so much into my mind and heart and I was finally in a place I was ready to process. I was quickly reminded of something our translator, Du Du, had said the previous day. He said, “The sun always shines in Haiti.” Jesus agreed. By looking at Haiti, one might not feel the same, but in that moment, it was as clear as day that the sun and God’s Son are ALWAYS shining in and on Haiti. So I decided this morning to choose to look for it. I felt the weight, or importance, of what He was saying so I rode in silence as to not miss a thing. He began to show me his love for the Haitian people and it was almost too much to hold in my soul. He seemed as excited as a child on Christmas morning to show me each one of them and how He loved them. Every place I looked, my eye was met with what seemed like millions of Haitians. God wanted me to take note of each one and made a point that each hair on their head deeply matters to him. Sometimes when I think about loving, I think about people who look like me and think like me and God has totally blown the lid off of my reality of love and what it should look like. Very humbling……… As we continued to drive, I also felt a different heaviness. If you were to look around, you would see what looks like devastation, chaos, and noise. It seems to be an overload of the senses. God has been so sweet and gentle in my processing. As gently as you can imagine, he responds to my questions, outbursts and tantrums.  I feel like I can easily look at the circumstance, judge it through my broken vision, and instantly get overwhelmed. God always breaks into my questioning and panic with, “Yes, but I am bigger. I was here before you came and I will be here when you leave. I have posted watchmen over the city. I do not slumber or rest. I love this place and these people.” This week is about you learning more about love.  So, just rest and partner with Me today so that the people in Haiti AND YOU will see the kingdom of heaven crash down into the earth.”  He then reminded me of the day before riding in the tap-tap when He whispered to me “rebuild the walls.” I have noticed that God either speaks in phrases or half sentences, or it could be that I continue to cut Him off and interject.  Needless to say, He said rebuild the walls. I said “That’s good. Can I have more information please?” He then begins to show me Jeremiah 31 and Isaiah 61 and 62 which talks a great deal about restoration and rebuilding the walls of the city. So sweet. Please join us and read and proclaim these words over the city of Haiti.  When we arrived at the church, we were able to pray this and declare this over the church and city. We got to the church and began painting, hanging out with some kids, and filling files. For me, it’s really easy to get focused and busy doing something that I miss what’s going on around me. So I hopped around to the different areas trying to catch the many glimpses of the Kingdom of heaven braking forth. I look to my right and I see faces through bars, peering out. You can’t help but smile and go. I walked through the fence and was soon covered in beautiful children. I’m not sure there is anything sweeter. They immediately grab my face and begin to kiss my cheeks. The boundaries of language are broken when we embrace. The boundaries of cultures collapse when we are wrapped in each other’s arms. The kids are talking in Creole and I am talking in English and it is as if we are speaking the same language. It sounds like the language of heaven. However, I soon realize we may need a translator as the conversation gets deeper and I can no longer answer every question and statement with, “huh?” The continuing question for many of the kids is “When are you leaving and how long are you staying?”  My heart breaks for the inevitable. I begin to have all the what-if questions ramble around in my head but the truth is that I get on a plane in two days and they stay here and somewhere deep inside if I am honest, I am not okay with this. So I begin to groan and cry out for the Father to come because it is too much for me to handle. All around us, kids are playing, taking pictures(which by the way they LOVE) and dancing. But for now, it’s as if time has stopped and all is right in the world and as it should be as I gaze into the most beautiful, gentle, and accepting eyes of the sweet boys and girls. Each child had their picture taken and received the Polaroid to keep.  These are more precious than jewels to these children. As the house mothers call for lunch, we realize our time here is coming to a close. The sweet love of a child I am embracing squeezes tighter and I can feel her stomach moving in and out as I pull her closer. I grab her face to look into her eyes and see tears streaming down her face. The translator asks why she cries and the answer is already known. She motions for me to follow her and she leads me to her purse. She pulls out her picture and hands it to me. I am now crying, not because I realize my time is coming to leave, but because first thing this morning God said he was going to show me what love is and I am already getting the picture of it. This child does not know me and has never seen me, but is willing to give up ALL she had for me. The most precious tangible thing to her, she freely hands over to me in an act of love. Before Haiti, I could say honestly say that my stuff made me pretty happy.  The world became a little more right side up for me in this moment. This child wanted me, who has so much stuff that doesn’t matter, to have her something that matters more than anything in the world. It will be a picture that will remain in my heart forever. She then walks me to the gate and grabs Du Du our translator. With tears still streaming she says something in Creole. DuDu looks at me and says, “She says that even though she may not see you again, you are deep in heart and she will remember you forever.”  This is love. And this love has made an imprint on my heart more than words can express. As I walked back to the tap-tap, my heart was broken and I was devastated. The why questions began to come again and I once again began to flail a little bit. I hear a “Ssssshhhhh. Remember, the sun always shines in Haiti.’


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Haiti day 4 by Sue

The day started very early – especially for someone not particularly fond of mornings… wake up was at 6 a.m. We all were up ready to go, and were filled with another delicious breakfast prepared by Francoise (?). At 7:45 we were loaded into the tap-tap and truck and headed out to our second orphanage (and by truck I mean in the bed of the truck). Last night as a team we figured out a better system for getting all the kids through the medical screening. We kept going around refining ideas until we came up with a plan we felt confident would work. We were all anxious to implement it today! After all, it had taken us two days to see 35 children at Source de la Grace and we were now expecting 100! Our goal for today was to see 40 as we had to get back in time for church tonight. But first we had to get there. For this you have to imagine sitting on a piece of wood while going over extreme bumps with no padding what so ever. Definitely not the most comfortable ride but certainly a great experience! Holding on with one hand and trying to inconspicuously to take pictures with the other was definitely a challenge and one I have not yet mastered! The good news is that Serena graciously gave up her airplane neck pillow and we all rotated using it as a cushion. The relief was a gift to all of us!


It is really hard for me to get a grasp of what the city looks like because everywhere I look I see a building, or the remains of what use to be one. There isn’t any natural terrain in sight. So the backdrop is cement against a hazy low lying mountain range in the distance. To me this highlights the poverty because it is set against such a crumbling background. I’m not sure this is making any sense. My only other experience with this type of poverty is in Africa, most recently in Uganda/ There the people seem to live amidst the countryside; here they seem to be absorbed by it. In Uganda the people live in a backdrop of beauty.. You can visibly see the richness in the land. Here the people seem to live within a concrete world. I see a huge contrast between the people we pass in the street and the people we see in church worshipping among us. The former seem angry and lost. Few look up and smile or wave. Yet those in the church are passionate. The children (even the very young) sit still as if knowing God is to be revered. The benches in the church are hard and yet they all sit for hours singing to and praising the Lord. It is a beautiful picture of faith. They are not embarrassed to show their faith and they come as a true expression of love for Christ. It is really refreshing to watch them worship (I just wish I understood what they were saying).


And so back to today. Our plan from last night was put into action and was working like a well oiled machine. We actually had it down to a fine and…until…the doctor who oversees the orphanage informed us that complete physicals had been done on each child just last week. Oops! Somehow this small detail didn’t get communicated to us, but with this new information it did not make sense to continue. So our prayer for how we were going to finish with 100 children in two days was answered within two hours of arriving. We certainly didn’t expect our prayer to be answered in this manner, but it did allow us the rest of the day to play and interact with the kids. We no longer were task/project oriented. Instead, we could really bask in the kids and just enjoy who they were. What a blessing!  This blessing occurred because our second truck had left after dropping us off in the morning and was not expected to return until 2. However, at 2, when it still hadn’t arrived, part of the team left, leaving the rest of the team behind to wait for transportation. Our goal was to get back in time to shower and get dressed for church before John had to preach tonight. Unfortunately, due to traffic, we barely made it home before turning right around and leaving again. So we looked good but if anyone got too close they might have run in the other direction! This time us tap-tap riders had the privilege of riding in the back of the truck, something I would NEVER do in the states! I am still trying to figure out why we think it is OK to do it here!!! Some questions I’ve decided are better left unanswered! Thirty minutes in the truck on top of three hours in the tap-tap and I can tell you my entire body is sore! Honestly I don’t know how many muscles we have in the human body, but I do know that every one of them hurts at the moment. But tomorrow is another day to experience more Haiti and I will be up for whatever comes my way!


Again, church was good. The prayers, the singing, John’s message… it was all very good. The other half of our team that got left at the orphanage did not make the service as their transportation was very late in picking them up. Though they missed church they were all able to come home and take showers! So in our own ways every team member was blessed! The rest of us will be going to bed stinky as their currently is no water. Fortunately everyone in my room went to church so no one person will stand out as stinky!!


I can’t believe we only have one more full day. Since we won’t be going back to the orphanage tomorrow Liz and Tamara are talking with Francois and Kristie to see where we can best serve tomorrow. I am so glad that I have come. I have had the chance to see many new hearts work together and that has been a true gift. I hope everyone leaves all they have behind tomorrow so we can bless a country that is in desperate need of blessings.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Haiti Day 3

Haiti…. wow! What an incredible country! It is so hard to put into words what we have experienced since being here. We just concluded day three and of course the Lord has been faithful to show up and reveal Himself in mighty ways. Yesterday, I felt so numb to all emotions. It was hard to take in everything I was seeing, smelling, and hearing, but today the Lord has further stirred my affections for Him. We spent several hours at Source de la Grace finishing up our medical screenings with the kids. It was a much simpler day than yesterday which allowed us to be more relational with the kids. Yesterday was hectic and crazy making the language barrier seem ten times worse; however, today it almost felt as if we were speaking the same language as the Haitians. We were able to connect with them in a completely different way. It was so precious and such a blessing! Our team has been tremendously encouraged during this trip. The Lord has healed many kids and restored many lives since we’ve been here. What a beautiful thing to witness. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. More to come tomorrow!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Haiti Day 2 by Donna

Today we traveled to Source De La Grace School and Orphanage to give health screenings to the children in the orphanage and begin painting a kitchen.   We saw many miracles today.  This was my first time to ride in a Tap-Tap, what an experience!  I sat on the very back of the bench, out in the open, and was able to have an awesome view all around me on the drive to Source De La Grace this morning.  My hands and arms are still sore from the death grip I held so tightly on the Tap-Tap.  Once we arrived at the church, we set up the health screening stations and craft stations.  It was a lot of hard work screening the children, getting them medications and doing crafts with them. The best part of it all for me was engaging with the children and being loved on by the children.  Many of the children would grab your hand and hold on tight, grab you around your waist or neck, climb into your lap, hug you, kiss you, or even spin you around!  On the way home (Pastor Moises’ house) from the orphanage, I decided it would be better to sit further inside the Tap-Tap and enjoy a different view.  We saw God’s provision once again.  Bryce was riding in the back of a truck in front of our Tap-Tap, with his leg hanging out (as most men do).  After many gentle headings to put his leg back into the truck by the mother’s of the group, he continued to choose to leave it hanging out.  God spoke more sternly to him.  Bryce chose to put his leg back into the truck just in time, because our Tap-Tap was hit from behind!  All were safe.   The presence of God has been evident.  God continues to lead us, protect us, restore us, and bless us!


Haiti Day 1 by Niaya

One day (or night) began with a three and a half hour flight from Austin, Texas to somewhere in new York. This flight was full of people overflowing with luggage, which meant that, of course, Donna, my mom (Tamara), and I could not fit our bags into the overhead bin. the flight attendant took our bags, gave them a number, and then handed them off to a man. They then told us that our bags would arrive at the next stop safely. Worry-less, we sat down in our hot seats in the hot plane. Once we reached our destination of New York, all of us wandered in front of the exit of the plane waiting for our luggage to arrive. We wandered, and wandered, and wandered. Our bags were nowhere to be seen. Confused, we went up to a woman working for Jet Blue. After talking for a few minutes, we soon discovered that our bags had arrived at the carousel, however since we were going to have a connecting flight, we weren't going to leave the airport. it was 1 am. and we had no choice, we had to leave, grab our bags, wait until 3:30(A-M!), re-go through security, THEN we would get back on track! Our team had no choice. Our herd tiredly migrated to the carousel. I picked up my bag, my mom hers, and Donna grabbed her suitcase. As we started to walk away my mom glimpsed a neon rainbow belt attached to a bag. She immediately recognized it as Serena's bag which was meant to be shipped straight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After grabbing the bag, a few other suitcases that were supposed to be shipped straight to Haiti, began to arrive as well. We pulled off the three bags, confused, and then it came to us. God was ten steps ahead of us. he made sure that everything would work out. He gave us a miracle. The rest of our day was full of organizing, napping, worshiping the Lord, and sleep deprived hallucinations! Today we will paint, play with children, have medical clinics and discoverer God in the smallest crevices of Haiti, all the while knowing that God is ten steps ahead of us.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Here We Go... Overflow Team Haiti

Today is the day! After months of praying, planning and anticipating, this afternoon we leave for beautiful Haiti. I think all of us are a little anxious to get through the next 24 hours and get our feet on Haitian ground.

Please keep us in your prayers

Pray for:
1. Safe and easy travel.
2. That the airline will have mercy on us and not charge for our extra baggage.
3. That all of our baggage will arrive on time.
4. Health for the team.
5. Energy, as we are taking a red eye flight.
6. Unity for the team.
7. That we would have His eyes for the hurting, His hands of healing, His heart for the lost.
8. Deep meaningful connections with the people we meet.
9. Hearts open to all He has to teach us about who He is and who He is calling us to be.
10. That we will walk in gentleness and love.