Monday, June 25, 2012

Haiti Mission Trip

We had an life changing trip to Haiti.  I am going to do my best to share everythign we saw and experienced.  We have a ton of pics and I wish I could share them all, but that is just not possible.  We all came home changed and humbled from our experience.

This is our team as we were preparing to head to the airport in Louisville to begin our trip.
We had an amazing team from Graceland Baptist Church:  Connie & Alan Marcum, Betsy & Noah Wright, Chris Knear, Josh McCarty, Drew Sherrow and our family.  We left Louisville on Friday afternoon and flew to Ft. Lauderdale - got to our hotel there about midnight and were back to the airport for a 6 am flight to Port au Prince Haiti.

We were met at the airport by our mission partner from SMI - Frank Williams.  He had all of our luggage corralled as we went through customs and loaded on to the SMI bus to head to Guitton where the Mission House is located.

Driving in Haiti is a bit scary to say the least.  There are really no rules and so you have people passing and speeding and doing crazy things...we learned quickly to just look the other way and trust that our drivers knew what they were doing!  :-)

Driving from the airport toward our first stop was quite an experience - we saw what was left of the tent sad.  Yes people live in these tents!
Our first stop was at the mass grave site from the earthquake of 2010.  This site has over 200,000 bodies buried in it.  Even standing at the site it was very hard for us to comprehend the enormity of the situation...bodies were brought to this site by dump trucks.  There was no way of anyone knowing if their family member or friend was brought there or not.  There was a memorial at the site...I can't remember the exact translation but it was something to the effect of "We will always remember". 

From here we went on to Guitton to the Mission House.

Guitton is known for their Voodoo, this area (and the whole country) is steeped in this evil cult.  The Mission House is on a secure compound and we felt very safe there.  The picture above shows the inner gate - but there is also a high stone wall with razor wire that surrounds the compound.  They had running water, electricity, showers, nice beds and wonderful food.  Frank's mom Kay Afterkirk, was our wonderful chef and was aided by Connie.

After eating a wonderful lunch we ventured out to the village of NaWash.  It is about a 15 minute walk or about a 20-30 minute drive from the Mission House...weird I know, but walking is quicker due to the condition of the rocky roads you have to take.  Graceland gave $25,000 to SMI to build a church in the village of NaWash.  Graceland has adopted this village and any teams that go back to Haiti will go to this area to work and help in meeting the needs of the community.

The first thing we did was stop by the church to see how the progress was coming.  The structure was built, windows installed and was ready for painting and the roof to be put on.  Our task for the week would be helping to carry in the gravel to level the floor before pouring the concrete and painting the outside of the church.  Here is a pic of what it looked like when we arrived...
After surveying the church and land we headed in to the village to meet the community.  There are about 2,000 people that live in NaWash.  This village has been around for over 200 years - originally formed for the people who worked at the sugar cane mill just down the road.
We met under a huge tree and interacted with the kids and took pictures - which they LOVED!  Frank relayed through an interpreter what we were doing and that we would have their first church service on Friday.  The adults and children of the village seemed to be really excited about it.
After that we all headed back to the Mission House to rest up for our big work week ahead!

Rob, Chris, Tyler, Logan, Drew and Noah (along with Marshall - another team member we adopted in Haiti) slept outside on the patio.

They got to experience (hear) a Haitian funeral party/voodoo ceremony.  The party we can only guess was to remember the life of the loved one they lost - the music started out fine (although LOUD) but as the night progressed went in to a voodoo ceremony.  It was definitely an experience for them and an opportunity for us all to pray against the evil that exists.  As believers, we know evil exists and sometimes experience it, but the evil that lurks in Haiti is ever present and needs constant prayer against it.

The girls (me, Betsy and Connie as well as Stacy when she arrived) slept inside and shared a room.  The nights weren't horrible as well all had fans we could point right on us and had a breeze that would blow in through the windows.  We had a couple nights when we had rain and had some sprinkles on us which actually felt good.

On Sunday we attended church in Guitton.  Church used to be held on the Mission Compound where they also hold school, but there was issues where some of the people attending were trying to take over the church and they were practicing Voodoo, so Frank closed the church and it is now used as a school only.  The pic below shows what is now used only as a school.

The pastor of the church moved the services to his home - they are held under a tarp in his front yard.  Because we were considered guests of honor we were seated on the "stage" and introduced ourselves.  What an experience to see the Gospel being taught and the Haitians singing praise to the same God we serve!  Although we didn't understand the words we felt the Holy Spirit at work.  Frank and Rob also preached through our translator - they both did a fantastic job.  It was really great for Rob to speak directly to the kids - it was Children's Sunday - something we didn't know until we were there.  We had over 180 people that attended on this particular Sunday. 
Sunday is not a work day in Haiti so we went back to the Mission House and had lunch and fellowship and started prerparing the bags with the toiletry and first aid items for NaWash.

Logan really connected with the Haitian kids - they call him "Logans" and love to hang out with him.  This is him and a couple kids he met the first day!

He also got to drive with Marshall in his little "clown" truck that was renamed as Logan's truck.  He did a great job seeing it was a stick shift!  He also got to drive the tractor as well - he had a blast!

Monday began our work week - we were all ready to get started!  Everyone worked so hard - especially the guys carrying in the gravel for the flooring.  It was hot and miserable but everyone did a great job.  We had a lot of the kids and some adults come from the village to watch us.  We were able to interact with the kids - it was really a great experience.  I was so proud of our 4 teens Drew, Noah, Tyler and Logan - they all worked so hard and didn't complain!

At the end of one of our days as we were cleaning up, some of the kids helped Logan, Drew and Rob clean there hands in the aqua duct.  Speaking of the aqua duct - this is their ONLY water supply and it is controlled by the government and only is released at certain times.  This is the water they use for EVERYTHING - drinking, cleaning, bathing, washing clothes, you name it.  It made me think about how we take our water for granted - we know that when we turn our faucet on we can drink it without the thought of getting sick or fear that it will run out.

We were joined by 3 others from Indiana while there - Sid, Stacy and Bobby.  Bobby was adopted from Haiti as a child and just this year started coming to Haiti.  Stacy brought a ton of hair stuff for us to hand out to the girls and women while we worked on the church - they loved it!

Each morning except for Friday most of the team headed to the church to work on painting and finishing touches on the outside.  Others stayed behind and worked on projects at the house such as building shelves in a shed, putting up doors, lots of cleaning and organizing.  We also worked on  preparing the bags for handing out to the community.  Each family (we had enough for about 150 or so) would get a bag of rice, a bag that included soap, anti-bac wipes/santizer, shampoo, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste and first aid supplies, and a bag for each child containing a toy, bracelet and toothbrush and toothpate. 

One of the special things about the kids bags was that a friend of mine in New Mexico, Raina Timms, just "happened" (don't you just love how God works?) about 100 McDonald's toys that she and her kiddos had been saving and posted on Facebook about it.  I of course immediately said we sure could use them in Haiti.  She figured out a way to get them to us and those are the toys we used.  What is even more special is that her kids prayed over those toys. 

Below are some pictures of when we went in to NaWash to deliver all the bags.  It was nothing short of chaotic and a bit scary, but God kept us safe and we were able to hand out the supplies and give a quick "God Bless You" in Creole.  There is just so much need in this village - lots of kids and people following us around begging for the bags we had...but one of the conditions was that they must be in their home to get the bags.  We were constantly telling the kids and adults to go to their home.  So hard not to be able to give to all, but this is just the first step in teaching the village on how to interact with Americans and to learn that we will be back to help.

As you can see from the pictures, there are various types of "homes" in the village.  Some are concrete and some are made with whatever the owners could find to make a shelter.  The house is just a couple rooms and really just used for sleeping since most of the time it is so hot.  Cooking is done outside over a fire pit.  No electricity, no running water, no bathroom, no kitchen.  Some families have mattresses to sleep on but many don't.
Another day we were able to go to the school in another village (Saintard) where over 1,200 children attend.  We were first treated with  a group of students singing - we came up on them practicing and had them sing their full song again - not really sure what the song was, but they did a great job and sounded awesome.  After that, we were able to go in to the classrooms and interact a bit with the kids.  They have Kindergarten through High School at this school and children and adults of all ages.  The school does not provide food for the kids, it costs about $400 a day to feed everyone - this is such a need!  Please be praying that God would provide a way to feed this school each day of the school year!

Behind the school there is a small village where SMI has started a little neighborhood of homes.  They are in the process of building more now - each home costs about $4,000 to build.  There are 5 families that live there now and we were able to give them some bags of rice and some bags for the kids as well.  They were so appreciative.  It is the small steps like this that make a difference.

We were also able to visit an orphanage ran by Ms. Phyllis, another ministry separate from SMI.  She has a large campus and hosts a number of groups on site.  There are about 50-60 children that reside in her orphanage.  She has made a decision that she does not adopt out the children that are placed with her, which I have very mixed emotions about.  It just broke my heart to think that the kids there will never have a true family.  But they do have a place to sleep, food to eat and they do go to school, which is much more than some of the other children in Haiti.  This orphanage is definitely on my prayer list.

This is where the kids shower...
The next 4 pictures are the kitchen where the kids prepare their food and where they eat...

Sid handing out candy to very excited kiddos!

One afternoon we were treated to a trip to the beach at the Wahoo Resort.  What a beautiful area this was.  The water and beach were absolutely amazing and the backdrop of the mountains was breathtaking.  Rob, Josh, Tyler, Logan, Drew and Noah were all able to go snorkeling - they had such a great time.  It was an awesome afternoon of fellowship and a time of refueling for all of us to get back to the work we came to do.

One of the others days those who stayed behind at the Mission House were able to take rice in to the village by the Mission House in Guitton.  We split into two groups and one group was able to give to those Haitians who were involved in the voodoo ceremony giving them a "God Bless You", we pray that a seed was planted and God will grow it in their hearts. 

Kay and I had a very touching moment with one of the women, she is a believer and comes to church in Guitton each week.  Madame TiTi is her name and she is wheelchair bound so to get to church is a chore on the back roads.  She lives in a small room in her son's "home".  We went in with our interpreter and asked if we could pray for her and she agreed, but before we could pray she had to put a prayer covering on her head, so humbling for me to see so much reverance in the midst of her situation.  Kay offered up a wonderful prayer that left us in tears, it was truly a moving experience.  It made me think of how many times I offer up prayers to God without the thought of the true reverance he deserves...and yet this woman in the midst of poverty and with nothing to her name knows her place before her King.  Brings tears to my eyes just recalling this special moment.

Our last day was spent preparing for the first chuch service in NaWash.  Some of the guys went to get the chairs and sound equipment and set it up at the church.  We all headed over and found the church filled with tons of people looking in from the outside.  There were also several people from the village of Guitton there to show their support - how awesome is that!  We were all very excited to see God at work.  Frank, Rob, and 2 Pastors from neighboring villages were able to share and we had some time of singing praise songs.  Frank was able to get a popular Christian orchestra group to come and sing for the service.  This was such a hit!  Everyone that could stand and dance was up and praising the same God we worship!  So awesome to see.  There were probably over 300 people that showed up for this service.  We pray that lives were changed and that a seed was planted that God will grow in their hearts.

By the end of the night we were all exhausted and fell in to bed for a few hours before rising to leave early the next morning. 

I think I can speak for all of our team members in saying that this was a life changing trip.  We experienced so many things while there - some much to emotional to process at the time.  I am still processing much of what I saw and witnessed while there.  I am humbled that God chose to me to serve this week with HIS people.

There is so much need in Haiti, not only the kind that money, time and effort can help, but a HUGE need for the love of a Savior.
Our final picture before leaving with our team and the SMI team.  They were all so awesome!

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