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Friday
Nov212014

Amazing Celebrations

I left Haiti last Friday on a high. What an amazing time the Grand Opening celebrations were. We had a fabulous time with all of our visitors from North America. It was the biggest crowd we have ever had all at once and every single bed in the place was full. It was amazing how well everyone got along considering they were packed in like sardines in the place. I am sure there were some personality clashes, but they were not evident. We have such amazing partners and it truly was a big party with all of our favorite people.

The Tuesday night was so much fun. The Haitian thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment, as we had the most famous Haitian comedian, Tonton Bicha, come to perform, as well as an amazing gospel group called Dift. They did some powerful evangelistic skits. There were over 1500 people in attendance and it was beautiful. I had interpret the jist of the play and skits to our North American guests since it was impossible to translate word for word during the performances. Once people understood, they too thought it was pretty funny. The best part was just having the time for everyone to come together from the community and be able to offer them some entertainment to enjoy. In the midst of such a hard lifestyle of survival, it was a great relief for many, I am sure, and brought the community together.

The Wednesday morning ceremonies were beautiful. We had dignitaries from the local government- the mayor, deputy, chief of the police, commander of the UN, congressmen and the Minister of Social Affairs. There were some other officials there as well and about 800 guests in attendance. We had a band play the national anthem for Haiti and Michele Roberts & Margaret Roberts sing the US and Canadian anthems. We had speeches from the various officials and from Tracey Minke with CrossRoads Church who solely funded the reconstruction of the technical school, and Dr. Bob Cutler who funded the construction of the medical clinic. After all the wonderful speeches, we led a tour of the facilities and did a ribbon cutting. There were tons of local and Haitian national meida there taking photos and video. We did interviews in the computer lab and we've heard that the footage has been on tv stations all over Haiti. So exciting!

I want to specially thank everyone who took the time to come and celebrate with us. For our Haitian staff who worked tirelessly to make it all come together. For our International board of directors for their tremendous support and efforts together to make Haiti ARISE a success. And to all the Haitians who participated from our church, community and schools.

Now coming back to Canada, the frozen north, its a bit of a downer. I wish that the kids and I were all down there with Marc still. I have to remind myself that for the sake of the kids we stay through the fall so they can participate in important sports and social activities for their development. But my heart is truly in Haiti and I miss it terribly when I am not there. I love Canada and it is just as much a part of our lives, but being here in winter and while Marc is still in Haiti is not my favorite. The only real downer from all the festivities that happened is some of our guests got sick on returning home, including myself. I have an impression that the food that was catered may not have all been up to par, although it was tasty and beautiful. I am really sorry for any bugs anyone may have brought back with them from that tasty meal. We rarely have food issues with our visitors cause we do all of the cooking in our own kitchen and ensure that health safety standards are kept. But this event was catered by a company from PAP that was supposedly professional at what they did. So, I'm praying and hoping everyone who got sick gets better real soon!

I am really looking forward to getting back to Haiti by New Years and being in the sun!

You can check out photos from the event here:

Wednesday
Nov122014

Grand opening set up

I'm getting more and more excited by the minute! It is Wednesday, the day that the Grand Opening celebrations are going to begin. The yard is a hub of activity as everyone is helping prepare. We built a stage, we have landscaping done, the electrical in the shops is being installed. Chairs and benches are being moved to set up tables and dining areas, and the whole kitchen has been cleaned beautifully.
The best part of the festivities is all of the wonderful people that we have here with us. They're more than 50 guests from North America that have come down to join us and they've all been helping out to get things ready. Every single bed in our residence building is full and no one is complaining. It's been so fun to hang out and have our partners get to know each other. We have people here from Washington, Alberta, BC,and Saskatchewan. Our staff and workers are thrilled to have so many people here as well. We had a fantastic leaders meeting with all of our Haitian staff leaders and our international board yesterday. All but two of our board members are here with us, as well as a large number of the Roberts family- our matriarch, Claire, as well as her two sons, Lane and James (who are Haiti ARISE Chairman and Vice-President) and their wives Michelle & Margaret, as well as three of her grandchildren- Micah, Emily and Nicole.
We had some artists from a mountain town called Vallue come to paint some murals on our walls at the entrance of the property. It is strikingly beautiful! I can't wait for tonight's activities. It's going to be so much fun. We have a famous Haitian comedian called Tonton Bicha coming as well as a gospel group called Dit. It's going to be so much fun, and it will be interesting to see if all of our foreign visitors will be able to understand the skits since they will be in Creole. 😀

Here is an album of photos you can see all the activity of the preparations.

 

Wednesday
Nov052014

Thrilled!

I can't believe how thrilled I am to be back in Haiti. I feel so much more at home here than in Canada. Wierd to say... but it's like that old TV sitcom, Cheers (yes, I was a bit corrupted as a child to watch this as a family show). Norm always loved going to the bar, cause that's where everyone knew his name. He was at home there. I could definitely say that of Haiti. There is no striving to feel like I belong, I just do. Despite my blazing white color and blond hair, no one here seems to even notice anymore. They are quick to embrace me, to be sincerely happy to see me, ask how all the kids are and hug me some more. Even the lady at the Natcom office where we get our internet and phone service. Love it. They do, however, always remark how I've gotten 'gwo', bigger, even if I have not gained weight, cause in Haitian pleasantries, this is a highly flattering comment- not one I particularly enjoy, but accept because I know they mean to compliment me. 

This trip is going to go by too fast. I can already tell. I left the kids behind in Canada, much to their dismay and contrary to their begging to come along. We've all missed Haiti this fall, (although it has been one of the most beautiful Canadian falls we've had), but since they are still engaged in various activities, I could not bring them and I can only stay away from them for a short time. It's a new feeling to travel without the herd of kids in tow. I actually went into a grocery store in PAP the day we landed and DIDN'T buy anything! It was a rereshing feeling to be saving money, since I didn't have anyone to buy something for! No diapers needed, no special cereal or snacks... wonderful. 

I traveled down specifically for the Grand Opening, but with James Roberts (our Canadian HA vice-president) and a team of electrical guys from Eastside City Church. I was glad to have Olive Ralph, Roy's (aka Papa Noel) wife, join us as well as Edna Vega also from ECC, so I was not the only female. Hard to compete with all those die-hard Roughrider fans. I did manage to force them all out of green and into their Haiti ARISE team t-shirts though before entering Haiti, even James! He's such a rebel at heart, but who can resist complying with a sassy, bossy female. :) So they are all working hard to get the elecrtrical worked out and installed in the new Tech School shops. We've purchased a new generator to power the shops and James and Bill went on a shopping trip to get all the supplies. And the team brought lots of stuff along in our bags.

We also have three great couples here long term- Wade and Marilyn Fitzpatrick are back as Team Hosts, Paul and Diane Sampson are here to work in the clinic and in the mechanics shop, and Laurens and Louisa VanVliet are here as our Agriculture and Goat Program Developement Coordinators. It is such a pleasure seeing God's provision for what we need in the way of skills and human resources. Laurens and Louisa are busy getting the grounds ready with landscaping, Diane is painting the clinic, Paul is working with the team and servicing all of our inverters, batteries and fixing AC units, and Wade and Marilyn are moving things around to prepare more rooms to fill with all of our guests coming for the Grand Opening. We have about 40 more people set to come Nov 10-14. Can't wait. It's going to be such a blast with some of our best friends and partners here with us to celebrate. So, we are all working hard, getting things up and going... I, of course, am making sure everything has enough money to get done and preparing for some artistic decorations, and taking lots of fun pictures as I go. Look, we have a new sidewalk going to the clinic!

Last word. I of course am sooo thrilled to be back with my amazingly handsome husband. I'm complete with him.

Friday
Aug292014

End of Summer

It's amazing how quickly the summer sun seems to shy away behind the clouds of rainy days as the fall hastily approaches. I keep praying the cold weather will hold off a little longer, or I will be longing to get back to Haiti sooner than later. It's nice to be in Canada when it is bright and sunny, but the cold... well, it makes me rethink. It has been a busy summer and our busyness is not done yet. We still have about eight more churches to visit, our AGM and board meeting coming up September 19th and the MFI Leadership conference to attend. And in the midst of all that, we are working on developing our little basement in our Airdrie townhouse to make a little more room for the kids while we are here in Canada. So the rest we always hope to find while we are back in Canada, before being thrust back into our activities in Haiti, seems to elude us. We do get a sort of rest- more time as a family and couple together, a chance to travel and enjoy the beautiful countryside, and visit lots of our friends and family. So it's all good. We sure are learning a lot though about construction and the differences in building practices and styles from here and Haiti. Drywall mudding and taping to me is like art and I enjoy it, while 'boarding' (in laymen's terms, putting up drywall), is NOT my favorite, especially in a stairwell on the ceiling. By the end of each day, Marc and I are so stiff, we each take a nice hot bath or shower and then collapse in bed. We have big hopes to get this little project done before Oct 15 when Marc will be heading back to Haiti. We will see... I can understand how homeownership can become so life consuming for some people. It is important to have a secure, comfortable and restful home and really neat that you can have the possibility to express your passions and talents through things like gardening or home projects, but there is something freeing when we choose to live simpler and not so consumed with just our own desires or environment. We did not have a home in North America for seven years. It was hard to be a nomad when we'd travel around all summer, but we were also free in a way of the burden of homeownership maintenance. I don't know, there are pros and cons... I am actually very grateful that we now have a home in Canada to come back to and to be able to provide a place of security and stability for our children. Between our home here and in Haiti, they know where they belong, whereas when all we did was travel they were always wondering where we would be next. Yet, I think there can be a marriage of security and simplicity while still having a heart to be free so we don't miss opportunities to reach out and go beyond ourselves and our own environment. That's what I strive to teach my children.

Meanwhile, back in Haiti things have still been busy. We get news regularly from our Controller, Kerby Aristhene, who calls us with updates and questions on the activities happening around Haiti ARISE. There has been a lot of church activities with the youth, children and women's groups. (Check out the Haiti ARISE facebok page, as Sylvio posts a lot of pics) Construction has continued on three homes we assisted in building and on the construction of a storage depot next to the newly finished carpentry shop. We are really excited about the container that was shipped from Vancouver, as it finally arrived on site in Grand-Goave, with all contents safe and sound and accounted for. A big thank you to James Roberts and Eldon Ortlieb who coordinated the loading and shipping of the container, and Lifeline Christian Mission, also located in Grand-Goave, who helped us by receiving the container for us in port and helping it to clear customs smoothly. This container will be a tremendous blessing to the technical school as it has all the tools necessary to well equip our shop classes for carpentry, mechanics and welding. (I'll be sending pics right away in a newsletter.) We can't wait to get down there to set up the shops! I can't wait also for the Grand Opening that is scheduled for November 11-13, 2014. This is going to be an amazing time with lots of important people present! In preparations for that, our staff has also been hard at work planting flowers, landscaping, writing invitation letters to government officials and planning for the ceremonies.We also will be having an electrical/plumbing specific team coming just before on November 1 to help us get some final things set up and resolved. I am hoping to travel down with them if I can secure childcare for two weeks.

I'm getting my head ready to get back into homeschooling with the kids. Classes for the elementary school and technical college should be opening back up very soon as September is right around the corner. We have a number of young people as well that have been a part of our Education Fund program who have graduated from high school and will be continuing on into college. It is so exciting seeing this next generation of youth rise up and many of them are eager to learn so that they can in turn serve their community and Haiti ARISE Ministries.

I just want to thank you all who support Haiti ARISE and us, the Honorat family, in your prayers, friendship and financial support. Without you all, we could not be making the difference we are in Haiti today! And we want you to stay involved with us! Many hands makes the work light. So make sure you come and register with us in our upcoming events:

Annual General Meeting- September 19 @ 5-8pm being held at Eastside City Church, 1311 Abbeydale Dr. SE, Calgary, Alberta. Dinner will be provided. You can register online at: www.haitiarise.org/agm-registration/

Ride for Refuge- Oct 4, 2014- Join us for the ride! You can bike and help us raise funds for Haiti ARISE. Check out how to be involved by visiting the www.rideforrefuge.org site and make sure you do it in support of us! We already have four teams signed up to ride in Red Deer, Calgary and Saskatoon. You can ride or support.

Grand Opening- Nov 11-13, 2014- This will be the major event of Haiti ARISE's history thus far. Ten years in and we are finally having it! We can't want to see all of you who are joining us for these celebrations. If you have not solidified your plans to come yet, register online at: www.haitiarise.org/event-registration/

Can't wait to see you all!

Wednesday
Aug062014

Traveling in the Sun

We have taken to the road now. Done with flying for the moment and sticking to the pavement. We took a few flying trips already this summer to Oregon, Washing and California and although I love the destinations, I don't love all the flying.

It is a beautiful summer in Canada this year, making me so grateful to the Lord to be here and have time to spend with our family. While we are traveling to promote Haiti ARISE and share updates with our partners and new churches and individuals, we are also taking time to hang out in between with lots of precious friends and our kids. We left Airdrie on Friday, August 2 to venture across the mountains on the Canada long weekend. We braved the roads of RV's and people fleeing the city to go to some other destination away from home for the few days off work. We were pretty lucky to find a campsite in Sicamous that evening, that was even complete with pancake breakfast in the morning. The kids were thrilled, both for the tenting time and the breakfast. Then we hit the road on to Agassiz. We spent an awesome few days with our friends, Laurens and Louisa Van Vliet, who spent a number of months in Haiti with us this past spring teaching agriculture and they are now heading up our Agriculture Steering & Development Committee and planning to return again to Haiti in the fall to venture on some more researching for getting the goat farm up and off the ground. We had a fabulous chance at a Brunch on the farm on Monday morning at our dear family friends, George and Debra Boyes' place, The Farm House Natural Cheeses. These guys have actually been our inspiration for starting a goat farm in Haiti and they are doing an amazing job at providing homemade, fresh cheeses, butter, milk, creams... and encompassing the neighboring natural local farmers products by showcasing them all in an annual Brunch, a beautiful spread of gourmet foods all locally grown and produced.

We also got to visit our friends at Surrey Alliance Church and thank them for their tremendous support over the last year in helping with the operating costs of the technical school as well as sending a fabulous team of hardworking tradesmen and artists. Great friends there, and kids that our kids love there too. Then Monday evening the Van Vliets hosted a lovely BBQ at their place for people who wanted to connect and hear more about Haiti ARISE. We got to visit with some old friends and make some new ones. Now we are taking a few days to visit our dear friends in Abbotsford, the Krahns, on their blueberry farm with their brood of kids (9 to be exact.) We got right to work picking juicy, plump, purple berries with them, of which they have a huge abundance this year.

After this, we will head to the Okanogan to visit Roy and Olive Ralph and have a little camp out there for a few days. Can't miss out on some Up and Down the River card games! Then we will head to Nelson, BC for a week to hang out with our dear friends and adopted ma and pa, Pastor Jim and Doreen Reimer. We'll also drop in at Castlegar Christian Fellowship and a new church contact in Fruitvale before heading back home.

This road trip is a welcome little break to some development work we've been doing in our Airdrie townhouse basement in an attempt to make a little more living space for our kids while we are in Canada. Once we get back home there, we'll get back to work. Actually, since I mentioned it, if there is anyone in the Calgary area that has any contractor type skills at all and would like to come help out, we would sure welcome a few more hands. We are eager to get this done before heading back to Haiti in the fall. And hiring contractors sure is expensive! Ouch!

Well, here's to enjoying the Canada sun and heat! Lord, let it last! And thank you for all of our dear friends and partners you have allowed us to meet over the years, which make trekking across Canada so fun.

Monday
Jul282014

Flying High? 

I seriously need to rant a little about the whole airport experience these days. Anyone who's had to fly, would you agree? It used to be novel and enjoyable, with an excitement to venture somewhere far away and new and those assisting you at the airport used to share with you in this excitement. But nowadays, it's just a big pain in the butt once you walk into the airport til the moment you're finally sitting in your seat on the plane.
Let's walk together through the agony of checking in and security... Unless you are part of the elite Business class, or have your Star, Gold, Latitude, Priority or whatever other tier you've managed to reach from racking up frequent flyer points or paid extra for those few extra inches of leg room, then you'd be waiting in line with me while that isle on the other side of the line divider stays virtually empty. (I'm not bitter to those who have reached a higher tier, just find the ladder a bit ridiculous. Marc reached Priority once and was fun while it lasted.) It's even better if you have the privilege of traveling with an infant, whom you can never enter on your booking itinerary online or beforehand. I'm usually refused at the little electronic check-in kiosk that's supposed to make life easier since I have an infant- why wouldn't they make the process easier FOR those traveling with children?? It takes extra long for the agent to figure out how to get the lap infant onto my boarding pass, but eventually it's all squared away, after paying an extra tax for baby. Ok, on ahead to security, the most joyous part of the adventure. They have the line for families and handicapped at most airports now, which is a nice gesture, but does not actually get you on ahead of anybody, since I always seem to be the target of random selection for screening. Ok, why would a mother with five kids in tow bother transporting drugs or bombs?? Just sayin'. And why in the world do they have to check your boarding passes five times in the same line up?! I love it when they tell you to put your boarding pass in your passport with the photo page open in one line. Then at the next line you enter they tell you something different, with a slight attitude at your perceived stupidity for not knowing what you're 'supposed' to do. Pretty soon too you're not gonna be allowed to travel with any liquids, gels, gum, metals, foods, or electronics... Maybe not even paper! Can you believe that a security scanner picked up that I had a paper receipt in my pocket and I was told to remove it? Heck, it'd be easier to travel in your bathing suit and then buy what you need at your destination. (I dream of a day when that's all I will need to travel with on my way to an exotic beach destination...but that's besides the point.) Then at least I wouldn't have to unpack my whole carry-on in front everyone to expose all my belongings, or have my body scanned through my clothes.
Well, since I'm a conspiracy theorist, I think it's all a big scam to force us to buy more- $5 bottles of water, $10 sandwiches. Or maybe it's all politics, a way to avoid the real issue of why the whole security process even had to be instituted- extremist terrorists who, from what I've followed mostly seem to be from the same type of people group. Maybe I'll get myself in trouble saying so, but it is a free country with freedom of speech, right? Instead of making us all suffer with cumbersome security systems and processes that waste a whole lot of our time and energy, why can't they profile based on those groups who've posed the threats in the past? (I'm not at all meaning to comment racially.) Why are these 'random' security checks posed on the vast majority of innocent travellers just trying to get to their exciting destinations? I know, it's all in the name of safety, for the common good, while we risk losing our rights of freedom, privacy and who knows what else.
Today, we had an early morning flight, thankfully with no kids this time and it was a bit less painful. But they tell you to be there two hours before. Security wasn't even open when we got there two hours before. Marc and I were the first ones in line and what do ya know, they had to screen us. Seriously? The first ones in line? I jokingly asked the officer if that body scanner they made me stand in causes cancer. He didn't seem to think that was funny. Then when they told me I had to have my hands swabbed to check for chemical residue, the machines weren't even ready yet. I tried to lightly joke with them again that they were getting right on it first thing in the morning and again not amused. I know they are just doing their job, but do they gotta be so serious to make you all nervous like they are going to find out some secret sin of yours before you're able to escape on your voyage? What have we done anyway? We're just trying to get to that fun getaway.
Well, we finally get through and to our gate. When called to board, the list if all the elite tiers is rattled off for priority boarding and THEN pre-boarding for those who may need a little extra time with little ones or elders. I'm sorry, but how is that pre-boarding if half the plane is already loaded with the elites? What really cracks me up is when they finally call economy class passengers, but you better not go into the Priority boarding side of the lines even though it's empty and there's two agents taking tickets.
Kay. I think I've said enough for now. Maybe another time I'll rant about the actual airlines and immigration. That's another load. I do want to say of all the flights I've taken lately, I appreciate Westjet the most. They really do try to bring the fun back into flying high, once you get through check-in and security. I guess a solution to this experience would just be to not fly. Unfortunately, that's impossible for our lifestyle.

Thursday
Jun052014

Party til the end

Well, we made it. In five hours we will be on our way to the airport and still none of our family have contracted the epidemic virus, Chikungunya that's hit Haiti. We've been praying so hard. Unfortunately, Marilyn got it and one of the members on the EMI team that was here this week, but Marilyn is ding much better and hopefully no others will get it.
We all leave the campus tomorrow, so today was a pretty crammed day getting everything done. All those last minute loose ends and many others that you didn't expect to pose themselves, were in a mad rush to get accomplished. The list of priorities kept shifting each day as we've gotten closer to departure, yet there still has been time to teach the youth worship team a dance, enjoy some goodbye parties, take Bibles back to the prison and gather all of our staff for EMI team's last day presentation of what plans they are developing for us. The ladies group together with the young girls club put on a lovely party for me, Marilyn and Elisa tonight. They all shared some encouraging words, prayers, some songs and the girls even danced. We eat cake and drank pop and gave lots of sweaty, enthusiastic hugs goodbye. I love these women so much, an exceptional bunch and it's a blessing to be a part of them. The girls choir also had a party for Miesha, Jasmine and Ariana. I think they had a blast, as their singing and dancing was louder than ours. They all left with candies, drinks and dresses made from pillowcases that a friend from Strathmore gave this year. Then we ended tonight before packing the rest of our bags w a party for Kiki, our little guy that lives w us. He's 10 years old and is an orphan. He'll be staying with our nanny, Nadia, while we are gone, then come back home when we return in the fall to our house. He's already considered an Honorat, just doesn't carry the name officially...yet.
Yesterday, the boys club had a party too for Asher, complete with cake and a trophy for their soccer tournament. The only one who didn't get a party this time was Marc and Austin, which didn't bother either of them. They were too busy eating the cake from the others.
Elisa and I went back to the prison w Johny Laguerre, one of our youth workers and Musset who is our Tech school director. It was a long day and they wanted us to distribute the Bibles, not just drop them off, which it's a good thing we did cause so many others wanted the Bibles too. I was even shocked at two men in civilian attire actually grabbed two out of our hands while we were giving them to the prisoners and were forceful about it. I didn't know at the time they were policemen, but I was really mad at them, cause we had just enough and I thought we'd be short. The prisoners were all so grateful, lots of them started reading right away. Some of them passed us thank you notes. We were glad to find that 8 of the 135 prisoners we met in Sunday had been released. Some prayers answered for sure.

The EMI team worked hard this week to develop further plans for our campuses. Tomorrow they will continue on to Port Salut to go visit our friends we just saw a few weeks back. They are just getting started with their work and have similar vision.
I'm going to miss Haiti of course, but looking forward to getting away from the heat and this epidemic going around here. Also look forward to seeing our Canadian and American friends and family.

Sunday
Jun012014

Prison visit

Today we went to visit the prison after church. Our women's group and men's group from the church, about 25 people in total. Our ladies group all gathered their resources together- rice, beans, oil, canned fish. We prepared the meal before church as well as hygiene packs for each of the 150 prisoners. Our men's group bought drinks and we went w money in our pockets for any unseen needs. Our Canadian friends, Elisa and Mark, came and contributed too. They both have a heart to see those unjustly imprisoned provided legal assistance. This was an introduction for them of just how rough the just system, or lack there of, is in Haiti.

In Haiti prison is no cushy place. This is a missionary visit that is a very difficult experience. The prison we came to visit was in Petit Goave, the next town after Grand Goave.The station is dilapidated and rundown, paint peeling off the walls and the smell of urine and sweat fills the air. I can't imagine it's a smell anyone can get used to even after being here a while. Those that land here are in deplorable conditions. There are two cells, maybe rooms that are 12' x 12', and each was holding 73 men. There's no space for all of them to lay down. If one has been in jail a long time more than the others, he may have the privilege of a makeshift hammock tied w a sheet and rope. If others want to have a little rest in it they'd have to pay about $20 US. Many innocent prisoners are here with little hope of being released if they don't have a lawyer or family to fight for them. Most prisoners don't eat every day since families have to bring food for them. Even those who so have family that bring them food may not get to eat much of it since other prisoners take their share. There is no place in the cell for them to relieve themselves, there's no beds let alone a mattress and some don't even have clothing to put on.
We arrived around 1pm and were well received by the policemen on duty. We had to request permission from the court ahead of time, so with our letter of approval it was not difficult to get in. We first visited the prisoners, standing in the corridor of the two cells, gate locked behind us and many arms reaching through the bars towards us. We sang and prayed for them, with many expressing sincere thanks and passing out notes to us with their names and requests for prayer, sandals, money, legal assistance with some even stating the reason that landed them there. We promised them all we would pray for them. Then we served them rice and beans by bowls that were passed by chain into the cells, later accompanied by the hygiene packs. We were even able to have funds to give every prisoner 100 gourds, which is only about $3 US each, but can still help them buy some sandals or crackers.
The visit deeply affected everyone in our group, but most of all Elisa and Mark as well as Jean Sylvio who accompanied us on the trip. Last year he fell into a situation that landed him in one of those cells. In fact, that was the reason for my first prison visit when he was there. He was very somber and reflective and openly shared about his own experience in the prison and his gratitude for the grace of God on his life to be free today.
While we were sitting back after and watching as family and friends brought food in, I was looking around at this seemingly God-forsaken hell hole (excuse the expression), and suddenly a small bird flew right into the station, landed on a table to peck at some dropped pieces of rice, flitted around and then flew away. I was struck by the startling contrast of beauty and freedom against this hopeless backdrop of bondage, as though God was reminding me that no matter how deplorable this situation looked, He is still in control, the Maker of even the birds of the air that are clothed in splendour and do not toil for their food and that He can care for even the least of these prisoners where they are. After all, isn't that the very reason He sent us, to care for the orphan and widow and visit the prisoner in their distress? That is true religion, doing the will of the Father. And if that is a part of what He has called us to as missionaries, I am more than happy to endure the pungent smells and deplorable sights to fulfill His will.

Here's a few photos. We weren't allowed to take any inside, but this is just out front and some of out group after we distributed. Tomorrow we will be sending 150 Bibles too.

Saturday
May312014

One more week... To escape fever

Well we are holding out for one more week. Next Friday we fly out back to North America making a stop through Ontario to visit Oshawa Community Church and Impact Church in Kingston, Ontario. The weeks just before we leave Haiti are always crammed busy with preparations getting ready, as well as lots of people wanting to see us before we leave. They all want to get there last-minute request in before we leave for the summer. There are also lots of meetings to plan for programs that are going to happen in our absence and to prepare materials and resources for each group of the church and ministry to use all we are gone. We have a great leadership team that will help keep things going strong over the summer months with mostly church activities happening. The elementary school will close in June and the technical school closes for vacation in July, then there will be kids programs, youth programs, women's programs and men's programs for the church. This Sunday before we go, the women's and men's group from the church are going to visit the prison in Petit Goave. We've had our friends Mark and Elisa visiting from Canada this week and they will be accompanying us and tomorrow we will go check out the port in Miragoane. A team from EM I just arrived today will be helping us with further plan developments for our campuses and projects. I haven't had time to think about packing yet although the girls have already packed their carry-on suitcases. I'll probably need to check what they've packed, but they've done a pretty good job as they are eager themselves and ready to go.

My main concern right now is getting out of Haiti healthy and strong with our family and our other missionaries and mission team that are here right now. There is been an epidemic fever that has spread across Haiti and throughout the Caribbean called Chikungunya, which is so painful in the bones and causes major swelling in the glands that most people who get it can't even get up and walk. It seems to affect those who are under stress or already weak or worse, but it can be debilitating for up to two weeks or more. There have even been some reported cases of death because of the fever, but seemingly only in children or older adults who were already weak. This is a completely new fever for Haiti and probably the Caribbean. They say it has been in Africa and southeast Asia since the 1950s but is just started to make its way over to the Western Hemisphere. It's carried by two kinds of mosquitoes that carry the same fever called Dengue and there's no vaccine or treatment known for it except pain relievers. I'm praying hard that none of us get it as we cannot afford to lose any days before we go nor can I imagine travel with this kind of sickness. For the past week we've kept the kids inside the house as much as possible, sprayed them constantly w repellent and even spray the house so that no mosquitoes have the opportunity to bite us after they have bitten another person with the fever. I even had to opt out of our all-night prayer service tonight in order to keep the kids home. More than half of our staff and our church people have contracted the fever and it seems like people are dropping like flies around us. Please pray with us and keep us in your prayers that this fever will not hit our family or any other missionaries. Please also pray for our staff that no more are affected and that those that are sick are healed quickly.
We are eager to get back to Canada and start traveling to share about all the awesome things that God has done this year. I would say in the last six months this fever is the only bad thing that's really happened. And I praise God for that! It has been an amazing time to see what He has been able to accomplish through the mission teams that we have had come down and the operations of all of the ministries going on. Today we had a great staff meeting with those that could be there evaluating the year together. We asked them three questions:
1. In your sector what do you believe Haiti ARISE has accomplished this year?
2. Overall how do you feel Haiti ARISE has impacted the community?
3. How have you personally contributed to the vision of Haiti ARISE?

Their group answers were inspiring and encouraging as they all shared them with everybody. It was also a great activity to help them see how much they have helped accomplish this year. For those of you that will be joining us for our Annual Meeting in September, we will be sure to share the results with you! Now as we get ready to go we are looking forward to seeing all of you when we come to visit your church and area. If you would like us to come to your church and we are not yet scheduled, please make sure you get in touch with us as we will be so happy to visit with you.
Also stay posted for our newsletter which will be coming out shortly and share a bit of an overview of what's been happening.

Sunday
May112014

I love Haiti

This week I have really been grateful for where God has placed me. I love Haiti. I think Haiti has changed me more than I could change Haiti, or shall I better say that God has used Haiti to change me and teach me many lessons. I know a lot of our missionaries and teams say so too when they just come on a short trip. I remember my first mission trip to Jamaica that absolutely changed my life.... Why? Why does Haiti or other places have such a profound impact on people's lives? I have lots of theories, full of those. Lots of spiritual principles I can see that apply, but I don't know if I can ever fully explain the mysteries of God's ways at work in our lives to teach us and grow in us.
Here are a few things this week I am grateful for that have been teaching me some good lessons:
Haitians know how to pray, with fervency and passion. Out of necessity, out of their prospective poverty, they know their humble place and when you call for a prayer service, people come. We've had two, powerful all night services of prayer full of people and prayer that is not just this quiet, keep to yourself kind of reflective prayer. No, it's noisy, Scriptures being read loudly, arms waving wildly, voices crying out in song and cries. It's beautiful. One after another, someone gets up to the mic to motivate the prayers of the people, present prayer requests of repentance, liberty, healing- and not personal requests. Not simple requests of 'so and so has a cold,' or 'so and so needs food'. No, passionate, deep prayers. Even the children know how to pray! I have learned a great deal of how to press in and seek God for change of my own heart, for my family, for this country. Haiti has taught me this. In fact, when I think about it, this lesson started years ago when Marc and I were in Bible College and he would get up at 5am to prayer for two hours- EVERY MORNING! My lessons in prayer, though they started way back then, still stemmed from Haiti. My husband is still a passionate man of prayer today and still strives to inspire others to pray fervently for God to move.
I've also learned that living a life 100% for God and ministry in a foreign field (though it's Marc's homeland), provides a fertile ground for raising our kids to also be passionate about ministry. Today I was truly blessed as we went up to Tapion Church, our children/youth church up the mountain from Grand-Goave. Our young girls club from our church went up to assist in their service and build relationship w the youth there. Miesha and her friend, Norlie, came along to join us. To my surprise, Miesha offered to take the small kids w Norlie for them to lead the kids in so be and games. She and Norlie even led the little kids in a skit of Jesus. I just sat back and watched, with great contentment in my heart. After the Tapion service, I brought the girls back to our church for their choir practice. All my girls are singing and dancing with the girls choir, ages 3-13, and Miesha has a solo. I pray God keeps raises these kids of mine up to make an even bigger impact in the world than I.
Another great lesson I have learned in Haiti is to be content with what I have or what I am able to do. In North America we have way too much striving and for things that are not of lasting or eternal value. We are never satisfied w our clothes, our cars, our fitness, our hairstyles... In Haiti, Haitians do take great pride in what they do have. They dress sharp, like to have the latest hairstyles too, yet... there is still a great element of having to be content with the little they have. I have learned to sacrifice a lot living here in many material ways, but it has proven to be so life-giving and freeing to my spirit, not to mention I save lots of money not buying useless stuff. Even with the slim selection of food entrees has helped me be grateful. There is one reputable restaurant we frequent. The meals are consistently tasty, but the selection is either fried chicken or fried goat w plantains and salad. That's it. That's the menu. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet, it's the outing we look forward to all week long. In my eagerness to attempt an exercising program here, I seized the first pair of runners I found in some of the clothes missionaries left and started jogging. My route is always the same, from home to the campus, a whole 1 km, yet by the time I arrive, I am sweating enough to have run 5km, thanks to the humid temperature even at 7am. After twisting my ankle about four times on the rocky road, I decided I should content myself with walking instead. We then got to pick up some used bikes from the market, which I excitedly worked into my fitness program to save my ankles. To my luck, I have a knack for hitting ever single big rock or bump head on with force, but I am still happy. Happy to have a bike, happy to have an avenue to exercise and happy to save my ankles. I may not lose all the weight I would like to, but that's ok. In fact, Haitians think being a bit bigger is beautiful. I'm in the right place. :) My only problem is no matter how long I spend in the sun I still am as white as ever. I may braid my hair, speak perfect Creole, dance, sing and pray like a Haitian, but I'm still a very white American. Yet even in this, God has given me contentment. He has called me to be a vessel of reconciliation, a symbol of how God is reconciling the world and drawing them to Himself, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.