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Monday
Apr202015

Mountain Mission

So much has been happening in the past month, I have not had the time to be able to fully capture the moments. But this weekend was incredible and it would be unjust for me to not share the experience with you all. (If you want to see the photos for this post, please click here: http://www.haitiarise.org/hear-our-heart-blog/ 

Here is the slideshow of photos from our trip:

We went on a mountain mission trip, we being an awesome team of our Haitian church members and leaders from Legliz Mahanaim as well as Erica, who's here with us from Canada for two months. It was quite the journey and a blast. 

Since early April, we had been planning to go visit our sister affiliate church, Legliz Mahanaim DuFour led by Pastor Edmond, which is located high up into the mountains above Grand-Goave. To get there is a long journey across the mountains on motorbike, then by foot or by donkey. The rainy season makes the route even more treacherous with mud and slippery rocks. So when we met earlier in the week, we told Pastor Edmond that if it rained, we don't think we could make the trip. He looked worried and disappointed and hopeful at at once, reassuring us that God would hold back the rains so we could make the trip. Marc and I both determined that no matter what, we were going to make the trip with as many would come with us. We made the appointment for everyone to meet at 6am, rain or shine. 

Saturday morning

6:00am came, we eagerly headed to the church, although it had rained lightly in the night. No one showed up. We started making phone calls and by 7am all 15 but one of the team showed up. We prayed and with much joy and courage, we started on our journey.

8:00am The first leg was the shortest- Anel drove us in the Kia van to Petit Goave. As we were heading out of town, our last team member showed up. She almost got left behind! There was also another short delay at a police roadblock just out of town. Our team consisted of: Marc, Lisa & Leah, as the leaders, Stevens, Ronald, Joassin, Vayola, Louisna & Johanne, a core of our worship team, Luciana & Yolette, sisters and kitchen staff, Canje, our mountain guide and resident evangelist, and church sisters Jule & Manicia, and Erica of course. 

We arrived in Petit Goave and Canje, who grew up in the mountains and knows the road well, had made arrangements for motorbikes taxis to take us up as far as they could go with drivers who were experienced with the road. But a revolt broke out as other drivers were upset they were not hired. One tried to demand that each motorbike only take one passenger when they could take two, cause they wanted to force us to pay more drivers. We all hopped on our rides and broke away.

9:00am we started up the road, when the drivers that were mad for not being hired whipped on ahead of us and tried to block the road so we couldn't pass. After lots more lively discussion and arm throwing and a truck also trying to get past, the blockade was broken. But further ahead again, they raced to set up another blockade, this time with large rocks in their hands and threatening to stone us, like that is really going to convince us to put confidence in them to be our drivers! The Spirit of God was definitely with us though as none of us feared and finally we just pushed through. Canje threatened that he would report them to the police since he knew all their names and they gave up, throwing their rocks to the ground. 

Our whole team realized right away that God wanted us to go on this trip, cause the enemy was really trying to thwart our plans. 

This second part of the trip on motorbikes took about an hour and a half, up steep, rocky dirt roads that were slippery with mud and water. Marc had decided to drive his own motorbike for the experience of it and he was doing really well, til another motorbike was riding on his tail and pressuring him to go faster. He hit a slippery turn and dip at the same time and wiped out. Thankfully, he was not hurt badly and his bike just got a broken mirror. But he decided to let Ronald drive the rest of the way and he rode as passenger. There were some parts of the drive that were through riverbeds and then up very steep, rocky slopes.

10:30am we came to the point where the drivers would turn around and we had to continue the journey on foot. This was at the peak of the first mountain behind Petit Goave. We still had four mountains to cross over on foot to get to DuFour. 

With the weather being very cool and cloudy, we all prayed earnestly that the rain would be held back. The air was thick with a cloud of mist that we walked through, some places so thick we couldn't see those walking 20 feet in front of us. The soil was deep orange with clay and fertile with all kinds of crops growing. Really, the mountains are the heart of Haiti, where the sources of food come from. The mountain people work so hard with the land and most of them make the trip twice a week to bring agriculture produce down to the markets in town. It is strikingly beautiful. We met many friendly, helpful folks along the way that would help us find paths of least resistence through the muddy, slippery rocks.

As we reached a little further on about an hour in, some of the church members from DuFour had actually come down to meet us with five mules to help carry our bags and those who couldn't handle the walk. This was a good thing, cause Marc's knee had started to swell from his fall on the motorbike. Lousina, Johanne and Sr. Jules also took one. One man with a mule remained with me, eager to give me a lift as soon as I would allow him to, but I felt much more secure with my feet on the ground, slippery as it was. He was persistent in coaxing me to ride, so I mounted, but the mule was a bit stubborn and his feet seemed to be weak in the mud. He slipped and fell, rolling me onto the muddy ground. I wasn't hurt, but not too convinced I was safer on the mule, so I walked mostly. When my legs got tired or the way got super muddy, he would again encourage me to ride. Our team was having a great time though, enjoying each others company and the beauty. For many of them, it was their first time on a trip into the mountains like this. It was neat to see a mission trip from their perspective, although it was still in Haiti, to them it was like another country. Erica was a real trooper with not a peep of complaints. She even carried her own bag the whole trip.

Half way in, we reached a point where we thought we'd made it, but Canje was just showing us where his house was and there was a church there. He still spends a lot of time in the mountains, although he now lives in Grand-Goave. At that point, the landscape really changed too. Not only was it slippery, we were passing through very narrow paths with sharp volcanic looking rock on eaither sides of us. And after another hour again, the landscape changed again to even narrower paths on the sides of the mountains. We were literally walking on crests of the mountains, with steep slopes reaching up on one side and straight down on the other. I had to keep my eyes on each step and not look down or my head would spin. Lucianna had a hard time starting about half way in, feeling she just couldn't go anymore. We stopped a few times to rest, drink and eat some bread and nuts. Although we were all tired, we were all still smiling! 

2:30pm a group of young ladies from the church came to meet us, as the last hour of the trip seemed to be the hardest. All of our legs were like Jell-o and the path was almost straight up the mountainside. I actually felt like I was rock climbing instead of hiking. We reached the village of DuFour where there is a beautiful health clinic and Catholic school. I couldn't help wonder how in the world these people built these concrete buildings way up here! 

3:30pm we finally arrived! After 7.5 hours of travel, five of those walking, we were glad to be in DuFour! Those that had been on mules and been fast walkers had made it half an hour before us. We all plopped onto chairs that were readily available for us weary travelers as the church folks were already hard at work making us food and promptly served us bread and coffee or hot cocoa. It was delicious! They stripped our feet of our dirty runners and socks and swept them away to be cleaned for us. The people were so hospitable; they prepared buckets of water for us all to bathe, offered us mattresses and beds to rest on and prepared a savory soup with dumplings, goat, carrots and potatoes. We had a few hours to bathe, rest, eat which were all very welcome, before we prepared for the evening service.

6:00pm the church service started. The worship team was a band of men with drums, tamborines and a long metal tube that likes a cheese grater that they scrape with a stick to create rythms. They have a small generator to run 3 lightbulbs and the little church was packed with maybe 100 people. We had a rockin' time! Our team all shared testimonies and songs and I shared a word out of Matthew 5:1-12 about the Beattitudes. Service went til 10pm.

10:30pm we all gladly collapsed into our beds. Pastor Edmond gave us his two-room house to sleep, one room full of mattresses on the floor for the ladies, and the bedroom with two beds and mattresses on the floor, a bed for Marc and I and the rest of the spots for the guys. I fell to sleep fast and woke once to go to the bathroom, which is an outhouse about 15 feet from the house. I think it was midnight by then and I could still here Pastor Edmond and his wife and others talking in the yard. 

Sunday morning

5:30am we all woke to Lucianna's gentle singing a song about waking up. Then we spent a half hour in prayer and each slowly rolled out of bed. I was first to bathe as I wanted to stretch my sore body and wash my crusty eyes! I actually don't think the church people slept much, cause again they were up early preparing breakfast for us. We had a traditional bitter tea, which is made with local herbs tasting like dandelions, and salt. Yuck! It was fun to watch Erica's face as we told her she had to drink it before she could have bread and very swet coffee with milk.

8:00am church started with Sunday School. I must mention here that Legliz Mahanaim DuFour is a church that we have adopted and become their mother church. Pastor Edmond planted the church in 2004 and was independent, but aware that he needed an afilliation and covering. After many visits, pastors conferences and building relationship with us, we accepted their church to come under our covering and name. So we are seeking to accompany them to help reach their community and build up the church. We had a powerful time, again, in worship. Stevens led worship, then Pastor Edmond led more worship, then our team sang and gave more testimonies. Amazingly, there were groups of visitors from two other churches also in the mountains that showed up so the little church was even more packed. All the songs, testomonies and scriptures shared flowed in one vein. It was so much fun and so powerful.

12:00pm church got out and we had a short meeting with the leadership team, which was encouraging as they shared their vision for the community and how they hope we can assist them. Our whole team concluded that this is a trip that we need to make as a church missions project at least twice a year, July and January when there is no rain and we are looking at ways we can build tighter relationship with the church. They have many youth and children that have to come down to Grand-Goave for schooling, so most of them attend our church while they are here. Many of the young people were going to accompany us back down the mountain as they were on their way back to school this week. 

We had lunch and then got our bags packed up and ready to head back on our journey.

2:45pm We decided to take a different route down the mountain that would be shorter, but steeper and more direct, although it still crosses over three mountains. But since there was no more rain, it was dry and easier to cross. Most of it was right along the ridge edges of the mountains, some places barren red rock. It only took 3 hours on the way back. Marc, Johanne and I rode mules most of the way. I had a good mule this time that worked very heard and steady following the other two. By the end of the second hour though, I had to get down and give my butt a rest by walking! The day was beautifully perfect, with a pleasant cool breeze.

6:00pm we arrived at the motorbike station and waited for the rest of the team that had been on foot. The motorbikes all arrived and were down the mountain and into the church yard by 7:30pm. We were like a train of bees honking through the town, three people on each motorbike. 

It was a thrilling experience and wonderful time of bonding with our church team. I think Erica just about speaks Croele now and has made some good friends. All of us have sore bodies, but rejoiced that we all made the trip safely. Marc is laid out resting. He pretty much shot his voice preaching Sat and Sunday and his knee was still sore. I'm looking forward to the next trip! In that last picture, the farthest mountain behind us is the one we are at the top of!

Friday
Mar272015

Full days

These days have been very full, sometimes I am amazed at how much happens in one day. There seem to be some days in Haiti that past very slowly, but the last few days have not been that way.
We are in our second day of our youth conference and nightly crusades. It starts with early mornings getting our whole family to the campus for breakfast and to make sure things are ready for the services. I was responsible to get the speakers' sermon notes translated and photocopied to pass out to all the attendees of the conference. We peaked at 400 today and expect more youth tomorrow since it's Saturday. Our kids and the Collin kids have been involved serving and preparing tables for the three meals a day we provide for all the youth. Miesha takes great pride in her service, even wearing her apron and hair covering. The littler kids, Jasmine, Ariana and Austin, along with Kanyon Collins, took to caring for some newborn chicks. Ariana got a bit zealous bathing them and Austin was a little rough and squeezed one a bit too tight. The boys, Asher, Kiki, Ken and Griffin also took part in the youth sermons. They got to learn all about purity and how to treat girls right.

But today held another twist. This morning Aida Collins was not feeling well. In fact, she was getting increasingly sharp stomach pains and fever. By lunchtime, we were all quite concerned for her. Praise be to God who knows way before we do when something is about to happen and makes a way to be sure His children are taken care of. Usually when we have a conference happening, everything else closes on campus- schools and clinic, sometimes even construction. But this time, Pastor Ed Allan brought along with him Dr. Helgardt and Senat so they could assist in the clinic. Though it was open all week, today I insisted the clinic close since all the staff were also involved in the conference. So when Aida came down sick, not only was a doctor available, he was right on campus and diagnosed right away that she had appendicitis.
Things got really interesting then. I was still trying to translate, print, and copy some last minute notes when we all suddenly had to decide what should be done with Aida. The next session of the conference was about to start and the show had to go on, but we all paused to convoke everyone to pray- the ladies in the kitchen, the whole church of youth and leaders and a message out to all of our friends through Facebook.
Now let me take a brief pause here to explain the dire picture of available, skilled and sanitary health care in Haiti- there is very little. In Haiti we have to trust God to provide and care. Most hospitals in the country are run down, not very clean conditions, costly to pay for services and the doctors are scarce or unskilled. There is one local hospital which, fortunate for us, is run by Cuban doctors. They are skilled and the hospital is relatively clean, yet they often lack the needed supplies and drugs. I had no idea if they'd be able to do an operation, but I thought they could probably do an ultrasound or refer us to where we ought to go. So for Andrea and Keith as concerned parents in a foreign land with all this to consider plus the uncertainty of being able to clearly communicate through language barriers of not only Creole, but also Spanish with the Cuban doctors, I can only image how overwhelmed they felt. In fact, Wade was already making calls to the travel insurance company to see about airlifting her to Miami. On top of that, Keith & Roy had made a trip to PAP for some very large and necessary purchases for our upcoming projects and they had only just arrived at their destination when he got the call from Andrea.
So we decided to take her to the local hospital. Again, God made concessions for us. Cadet, one of our staff, called a friend who works inside that was able to get the doctors to receive her right away. Just 20 minutes later and the hospital would have been closed. We also had a young lady from our church who's been studying in Dominican Republic come for the conference. She was able to accompany them to help translate since she can speak English, Creole, French & Spanish. Dr. Helgardt & Senat also went along to be sure she received proper care.
Andrea called me after their consultation with the doctors. They could do the operation here, or she could risk traveling to PAP to a larger hospital if she wasn't confident of their skill.... What do we do? What would you do? I knew right away a trip to PAP could take a long time and cause her appendix to rupture over all those bumpy roads. I suggested she trust them to do the operation right away. They did and Aida came through it in a very short time. The doctor even showed the appendix to Andrea and Dr. Helgardt- it was very inflamed.
So praise be to God. Meanwhile, the conference went on, the women in the kitchen prayed and rejoiced at the news of the successful operation and we had a powerful time of prayer and prophecy over the young people.

I brought the Collins boys home with our kids to wait until they could go see their sister. And we prepared to go to the crusade in town. Marc, Pastor Ed and Pastor Jeff & Karyn with the other missionaries were already there in a lively time of singing, dancing and gospel message. Andrea came to pick the boys and I herded the rest of the kids to the crusade. After it was all done, we got another call. They were hoping to take Aida home, but it seemed they upset the doctors with the suggestion since they explained they are responsible to ensure she heals completely. If she goes home and there's complication, they won't receive her back. So after some discussion, we agreed that Andrea should stay over with Aida in the hospital.
Sigh. All in one day.

Sunday
Mar222015

family movie night

So here is what our Friday family movie night typically looks like in Haiti:

1.Leave the campus early to go home and have enough time for a family movie together. Arrive home at 8:00pm
2. Spend 20 minutes debating whether to watch a DVD we have all seen (which in hindsight,would have been the easiest) or a new movie.
3. Finally decide we will choose a new movie from Netflix and try to watch it off of Asher's PS3.
4. start to get PS3 set up, but to access the internet, a Software Update is required. We start the update.
5. 10 minutes later, the update is only at 8%
6.The power goes out.
7. Search around in the dark for a flashlight to turn on generator.
8. Cannot find flashlight. The generator is out of gas.
9. Turn on inverter, restart software update on PS3.
10.Meanwhile, we try to start the movie on the iPad. There is only 10% charge.
11.Plug in the iPad to charge and find out charger is not working. Other charger is at the campus.
12. We send Rosney and Ken to go pick up the other charger, since our phones are also almost dead.
13.They come back with no charger. Must have got put in the office.
14.Meanwhile, the city power returns. We decide to wait out the Software Update before switching the power back over.
15.Miesha and I play Scrabble. The update takes another 30 minutes.
16. Update finishes, we switch the city power back on, restart the PS3, then it has to initialize- another 10 minutes.
17. Finally, we get to Netflix, but the internet is too slow and it cannot sign in.
18.By now, it is 10:30pm. We decide to scrap the movie. Miesha and I finish our Scrabble game, the boys play FIFA, as usual.
19. 11pm we all get ready for bed.

Movie night in Haiti is a bit of a challenge.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Day trips

With our long term missionary staff we are taking some day trips for research, cultural learning to get and see the country. On Saturday I went with Keith and Andrea and our driver, Yvon, to go on a tour of a ministry in Titayen north of Port Au Prince called Healing Haiti and Grave Village. We are working on building relationships and networking with other ministries doing similar work and seeing what we can learn from them. At first we just thought it was an orphanage and wanted to go see what they were doing. We were surprised to learn they recently changed their model and philosophy of orphan care to incorporate family units and homes. It was a great tour and connection. We asked lots and lots of questions and learned a lot! We met with the directors and shared vision together. It was very inspiring to see a place in Haiti that is implementing this model with success and seeing great fruit even in the short time they've changed things. They testified of how many behavioural issues they were encountering before with the children had virtually diminished to a very low percentage after the children were placed in the individual homes with parents. They have an onsite social worker and counsellor that meet with the kids and parents regularly to assess their progress. Many kids said now that they have a family, there's no reason for them to act out, cause it was just for attention. Keith, Andrea & I were rejoicing for God's confirmation through this divine appointment.

Then on Wednesday we got to take our mid-term missionary staff to Jacmel for a day out. We enjoyed a great day of site seeing through the historic city and I was amazed at the development and progress there's been in Jacmel even in just a year. There's a new Boardwalk all along the waterfront where Carnaval was held last year and many historic buildings are being restored. They are even building a bridge across the river that leads up to Basin Blue, a beautiful waterfall that we've visited many times in the past, but never enjoyed the treacherous route to get there. In fact, last time we got stuck in the riverbed when we crossed, with water streaming in the bottom of the doors. Some guys had to pull and push us across. That was the last time we went.

I meant to post this last Friday, but as I saved it, I lost half the post. I'm convinced computers have their own will and sinful nature! I'm actually posting from my phone now, as my computer has completely crashed yesterday, leaving me feeling at a loss with lots of projects needing to be completed from the computer. Amazing how reliant we become on such things that are not lasting then act shocked and dismayed when they die or fail us. I'm reminded of Paul's words to the Colossians in 3:2 to not set my sights on earthly things, but to set my eyes in things above. I'm constantly reminded of this actually, in this environment where very few things last or run as would normally be expected. And with the teams we have coming too I think that's a major lesson God teaches them as projects don't always end up working out like we have planned. Especially coming from a society where we can just run to the closest Home Depot, Staples or Apple Store to replace or buy the supplies we need. I'm now trying to figure out how to get a new laptop here or how I can get mine repaired and mindful that I'm going to lose a lot of 'productive' time while I wait for a solution. But even in this, god in His grace and sovereignty knows why and how. I must trust that He'll work it out.

I ask for your prayers as we are embarking on the establishment of the Children's Village. We are feeling much resistance in the spiritual realm from the enemy. We know this is God's heart to care for widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27) and to set the orphan in a family and place of belonging. The enemy is not happy. Yet we still know Gods hand of favour is greater! Believe with us.

Monday
Jan052015

A New Year Dawns

We are back! It's a new season, a new year, a new day! 2015 I believe is going to be a year of completion, a year of fulfillment for the ministry, as 5 is representative of the five-fold ministry and 3 is representative of God's completion, perfection and fullness. So we are walking in this inspiration! I believe too that God is going to personally fulfill the gifts and ministry that He has in each of those who are called His. I don't mean by this that after this year, it's all done! But that He is bringing into fullness all He has for us in ministry. I can see it! It's a completion of the beginning, an establishment of all He's called us to. I am anticipating this new day.
We are back in Haiti now, finally! We barely escaped the wave of freezing cold weather in Alberta and have come to a perfectly warm 26 degrees Celsius in Haiti. We arrived on the last day of the year 2014, in time to celebrate and worship God for His great works this past year. We had an amazing dance party of a church service to bring in the new year! We finally crashed in bed at 2am.
Our weekend has been getting settled back into life in Haiti, and that often takes effort and patience. The city power situation here is worse than before. We've hardly had power at all, maybe for three or four hours at night between midnight and four AM. So we are trying to get power set up for our house so we can have water and some lights at night. At the campus we've been repairing generators and getting them filled up with gas. We also came home to a dry well at our house, which doesn't help the water situation. I'm grateful that we have some strong boys around to help carry buckets of water from the local well to bring home so we can shower, brush our teeth and flush the toilet. Turns out we have to buy a new water pump as well as dig our well deeper. Oh the fun of living in a developing country. But, even with all this, I'm actually grateful to be here with less amenities because it helps my focus turn to spiritual things rather than natural things. I have such a hunger for God, which I feel is in the atmosphere of Haiti helping us draw near to God.

We are also so glad to have some great missionaries with us this year- of course, the Fitzpatricks again, the Sampsons and we also have the Collins family with us til June and Scott and Carling, a young medical couple to work in the clinic for six weeks. You can check out their blogs under Long-Term Missionary Blogs at haitiarise.org

We started our Pastors Conference today. We already have more than 300 pastors! Exciting.
I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday
Dec102014

Sleighbells ring... are you listening?

Hmmm, not sure I have heard the sound of sleighbells at all lately, in fact, I am not sure if I ever have! But, hey, it's Christmas time and everyone seems to be crazy about this fat, jolly old man with an overgrown beard for a month solid. Society is bent on convincing us that we need to shop more and buy our kids lots of stuff so that we can lie to them and get them to believe in this guy who does not exist, with a bunch of flying reindeer, somehow tresspassed into our house on the eve of Christmas to fill our house with more stuff. The whole thing baffles me. How far have we come that we can hardly even mention the real reason for the season in public. Why is that? Well, for the conspiracy theorist that I am, I believe that the enemy of our souls is doing a real good job at getting our society dooped, guilting parents into debt and deception, all in the name of miracles, magic and dreams. But why? Is Jesus so hard to believe in that we have to replace him with a make-believe man of few words(hohoho)? A man that most children only have the hopes of having one glimpse of in the whole year and that will only honor their wishes once a year- if they are nice and not naughty? And really, do any parents ever give their kids coal anymore? So, we are essentially telling even the naughty kids that its ok, they can get away with it and Santa will still reward them. The whole thing actually really gets me. In fact, I think that Satan has our culture worshipping this made up god in a huge anti-Christ effort to cloud over the true meaning of Christmas and draw people away from meeting the actual Savior of our souls. Satan is tricky. He likes to use bright colors, flashy costumes, sparkly fairy dust and incredibly ridiculous settings to draw our interest away from the exact opposite God presents to us- a simple child, meek and mild, born in a humble stable with no huge audience or huge announcement (except to a few wise men and shephards who were observant enough to be watching). Jesus' Christmas was not piled with useless shimmery wrappings, but was presented with a few very special and significant gifts- gold, frankincense & myrrh. He was not untouchable, but born in a very real and commonplace way, accessible to anyone, yet not demanding our attention... just... inviting it.

Shouldn't we rather spend our time remembering the true reason we celebrate? Others may wish to partake in all of the false god celebrations of Santa Clause (forgive me if that is sounding harsh). I won't judge any who do, but that is not what its about. I just would rather teach my children that there is a more precious gift than just a wrapped present under the tree. And there is a more priceless sacrifce that was given for us when God sent His one and only Son, a babe wrapped in cloth and placed in a cattle stall. I would rather reminisce and spend my time worshipping the King who came to deliver and save, His birthday that was fortold for generations. And I would rather celebrate together with my family the awesome fellowship and privilege we have to know Jesus everyday through His love, Word and grace, rather than have my kids write letters to Santa for their own selfish gain. I would rather find ways to reach out with random acts of kindness to show God's love, not just this month, but all year around. I would rather give of myself and teach my children to do likewise, just as our Christ does for us. That is the true meaning of Christmas, to celebrate the greatest birth of all. The most beautiful of stories foretold in Isaiah 9:6 (and all througout the OT), and brought to pass in Luke 2 (and all throughout the NT).

Those are my musings of the season. Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas time with all the lights, decorations and smells. But I love the why most of all.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday
Nov292014

Inspiration through a cold winter's day

Well, today's post is far from Haiti, but more of my personal musings and inspirations. With Marc still away in Haiti, surely sweating as he works hard to get things lined up for construction projects and medical team clinics and such, I am back up in Canada literally freezing my butt off today. The blizzards of winter have finally hit. I have to be grateful for the beautiful summer and fall this year and for it taking a while to get the winter snows caught up, but when it comes, it comes in a blast. So my days are mostly inside, busying the kids with school work, starting in Christmas crafts and to my bubbling joy, giving them some art lessons. Of course, on this very worst day so far this winter of -21 degree Celsius weather, all the kids had afternoon activities we had to get out to and after battling the gusty winds of snow that kept drifting over the van, we made it ever so gingerly to gymnastics and Asher's taekwondo testing for brown belt, which I might add he passed fantastically. When we got back I was determined to get the van back into the garage so we wouldn't have to be abruptly thrust into the cold winds and struggle to get the vehicle warmed up next time. This required some maneuvering since we have some stuff in the garage that had to be moved around. But we got it! Yeah.

Anyways, that's all just to paint a backdrop for you for the imagery on my canvas that God is inspiring in me lately. I have asked myself often this fall, why am I here with the kids while Marc is down in Haiti doing the work? We should all be down there and for all practical reasons, we chose to schedule things this way for the last couple years- to supposedly save money, to focus some attention on the kids and their schooling and activities... I often have to remind myself of these practical reasons when I'm feeling bored with such a 'normal' life here. But I am also finding that God is using these times when I feel shut in by the snow and a bit disconnected from Haiti to spark in me a passion that I've felt has laid dormant for many years. See, when I felt God called me many years ago into missions I was actually on my way to pursuing my own dreams- out of high school, first year of art college, which I landed in with the help of a number of art scholarships and a dream to live my life for art, maybe going into advertising and graphic design. Funny how God works things, cause I guess in a sense I am doing just that these days for Haiti. But in someway, I thought answering God's call meant abandoning my own dreams. And maybe it was supposed to be that way for a time. But now I have this deep urging and sense that God is reviving my passion for art and that it does not have to be a separate part of me or another life.

When we attended the MFI conference this Oct, God really spoke clearly to me in a number of ways. One way was through a workshop we attended where our good friends, Rob and Cindy Litzinger, who pastor an amazing church in Santa Maria, CA, were the speakers. He spoke on creativity and how God wants us to create because we are called to be like Him and how there really is nothing new under the sun, nothing truly original cause it all comes from God in the first place, but then is recycled, revamped, revived through many different people. He shared a great little book with us that was like a revelation to me and it ha so enlightened me. The book, called 'Steal Like an Artist', basically encourages to not be afraid to be creative, to not wait til you get some amazing epiphany of greatness that you think is so original, but instead seek out to emulate, copy, reproduce and then add your own spin on things that you truly find inspiring. It's actually quite Biblical in theory as even Paul encouraged to Timothy to follow him as he followed Christ and to be like him.

So, I'm going for it. I'm breaking out and I'm going to answer Gods call to be creative, to live creatively, to see life like He does, like an artist, finding beauty and fascination in everything around me.
I love these few quotes from the book. This first one really made me laugh, cause I have always labeled myself a procrastinator- even wrote a paper on it in college for which I procrastinated. My professor ironically commented that the paper could have been much better if I had not procrastinated. But this quote brought some light to me. I've often wondered why I find some of the things I'm required to do are such stuffing tasks that I'd rather leave for later.


And the next graph is exactly the process of creativity that has often kept me bound from even starting in the first place. That awful fear of failure, or not being good enough. But that's the awkward grace of humanity, that we all fail and yet can learn and overcome our failures til we one day create a masterpiece.

I love this last one, as I've (and we probably all do) try so hard to busy myself with all the things I think I or other people think I SHOULD be doing, that I don't often allow boredom to creep in. But in fact, it's the quiet times, (sounding Biblical again) those times we force ourselves to not DO, but just BE, that we can actually hear better- hear God, see things we normally would not, and be inspired to something new... Maybe that's another part of me being here now when I think I should be in Haiti.

I'm eager to see what is in store. So, though I do miss

Haiti terribly, I also cherish these times when the cold and the isolated culture here renders possibility for God to prompt me to try something new, to draw me to seek Him more and what more He has in store.

I hope you too will be able to find some inspiration wherever you are, whether in the cold or not.

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.