Sign your name, save a life…

In May 2010, I traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on a mission trip. It was only for a week, but that week was enough to impact me forever, and I long to return to that special land.

I learned yesterday that one of the orphanages with which we worked, the Son of God Orphanage, has been trafficking its children and abusing them. And my heart is truly broken. We delivered dozens of mattresses to this place so that these precious children wouldn’t have to sleep on concrete anymore. We spent time with them, loving on them, praying for them. And now to find out that their leadership is so corrupt and evil…it’s too much to bear.

You can make a difference simply by signing your name to a petition! This petition will be sent to CNN when we reach 10,000 signatures so that they can help expose the corruption, since the government of Haiti is protecting the orphanage leaders.

It will take less than a minute of your day, but it will make a HUGE difference in the lives of these orphans. PLEASE sign your name!

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-freedom-project-expose-human-trafficking-at-son-of-god-orphanage-in-haiti?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=friends_wall

One Month Later…

Five days after I returned home from Haiti, I left for São Paulo (Brazil). I knew that it wouldn’t be enough time to process anything, and I pushed Haiti to the back of my brain so that I could fully engage in our mission while in Brazil. And it worked. When I returned, I spoke at church on both mission trips, and had to refresh my memory as to what had happened in Haiti!

But now, God is bringing it all back, and I am finally beginning to process it all…and as I looked through my pictures today, tears came to my eyes. My heart is re-breaking for Haiti, and I can’t wait to return…and I can’t wait to see what God continues to teach me through this experience.  I am ready.

“I saw what I saw, and I can’t forget it…” –Sara Groves

“Something on the road cut me to the soul…” –Sara Groves

(http://www.youtube.com/eastshorebaptist#p/a/u/1/fMvvz1xNi5Y –the video put together by D. Jostenski of my photos…)

(http://eastshorebaptist.org/sermons/2010%20Sermons/Audio_05_23_10.mp3 –the audio of my “talk” on Haiti and Brazil…)

Greater Things Have Yet To Come: Haiti (part one)…

As I sit down to blog about my Haiti experience, I am still not sure exactly what to say or how to say it. I will break this up so that it’s not an overwhelming blog. 🙂

It is astounding how six days can change your heart forever.

I’ll begin with my time in the Ft. Lauderdale airport before boarding my flight to Port-au-Prince. I was sitting in the waiting area when a group of 20 college-aged white people walked in with a guitar…it was very clear to me that they were on a mission trip 🙂  So I asked one of them, and they confirmed my suspicion.

One of the girls began talking to a Haitian man who was sitting across from her about the earthquake, and I overheard most of the conversation. I wrote in my journal two quotes from the man: “I don’t think we’ll ever get out” (in reference to recovering from the destruction). “They never finish the job” (in reference to the international community starting in really strong at the beginning with help, but never staying to see it to completion). I pondered this as we flew into Haiti…

…even from the plane, we could see tent cities for miles. As we drove through Port-au-Prince to get to our house from the airport, it was hard to not be overwhelmed by the piles of rubble everywhere (and by the seeming lack of driving laws!). We passed many tent cities sponsored by several different nations. The devastation was and is incredible–yet, people are making the most of it. Shops are open on the street in front of the buildings in which they once operated, amidst the piles of rubble. There is so much color, everywhere–buildings, umbrellas, clothes, fruit, flowers…and it provides a stark contrast to the gray piles surrounding everything.

I immediately began to ask the question, “where do they even begin to rebuild?” Everywhere you look, all you see are damaged/destroyed buildings…I was brought back to the comment made by the Haitian man in the airport, and I joined him in his sentiment…at first.

We had an orientation on Sunday night to Haiti, to what our week would look like, etc. We were told to be fluid, not flexible, because flexible can break. What a great concept, especially for what was ahead!

The missionaries told us about a conference that was held in November 2009, a conference that had a greater impact on Haiti than they ever imagined possible. A group of 2,500 Haitian pastors met together to pray for their nation. They specifically prayed that God would “break the spine of Haiti”, and “shake the things that could be shaken.” They asked God to remove the corruption from the government, to get rid of the voodoo influence, and bring revival. We all got chills. About two months later, God answered that prayer in a mighty way! Wow…

This year, Haiti cancelled Carnival (a voodoo festival) and called for three days of prayer and fasting. Haiti is a country that made a pact to serve the devil for two-hundred years, and voodoo is a very real thing there. So, the fact that this festival was cancelled is incredible! Hundreds of thousands of people gathered! The Lord is shaking people’s hearts daily…and the spirit of darkness, fear, oppression, and anger is disappearing…

Adventures in Missions (the organization with which I went) has been working directly with Haitian pastors to empower them to help their people, which I think is the absolute best approach. Many of the pastors, when asked what they most needed, said that they need discipleship–not food, not water, not buildings. And they said to start with them. In a country filled with so much need, so much desperation, these pastors recognize that man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of the Lord, and that was so encouraging!

Haiti is a magnet right now–God is bringing people from all over the world here to “help Haiti”, but these people are leaving with a new sense of spiritual hunger and desperation that they are taking back to their homes. God wants to bless the nations through Haiti, and I can definitely say that my experience is in line with that! People are going home infused with an urgency and a desire to serve Jesus more!

God is working in Haiti, and we were so encouraged, so inspired by the joy and determination of the people…

And I’ll write more later… 🙂

Greater Things Are Still To Be Done: Haiti (part two)…

Many people have asked what we specifically did there, so this post will focus on that.

We worked with a man named Pastor Theodore, who serves in a community filled with hungry people–physically and spiritually–near Carrefour. We went down there each morning for a couple of hours and prayed for the Lord to lead us. One thing I loved about our trip was that it was so Spirit-led. On Monday morning, we were split into groups of two or three, with an interpreter, and told to walk around the community and do whatever God led us to do. At first, it was quite scary! I am used to plans, details, specifics. But I quickly learned that allowing the Holy Spirit to work and lead is the best way to go!

We started out prayer-walking, and made our way down the main “street” in the community. We approached an intersection, and my teammate, Ola, felt compelled to pray right there, so we did. Our translator (Pierre Louis) told us then that intersections, or crossroads, are where voodoo practices often take place. Interesting that she felt compelled to pray there! We prayed for two people who were very sick; one of them, a man with TB, told us that he hasn’t been able to take his medicine because you have to take it with food. I had a bag of crackers in my bag, and I felt compelled to give them to him. When we saw him later, he was sharing those with his family–so precious to see him unselfishly sharing! 🙂

It was hard to look around the community and grasp that this was real…that this is their reality, their daily life, and they can’t easily escape.

We would go home for lunch (for two reasons: one, because we can’t just eat in front of them, but also to allow us a time of rest after working in the extreme heat). We would also prepare during that time for our small-scale Vacation Bible School that we did for the kids, which consisted of a group game and/or song, a story (that we would act out as it was narrated, because they loved that!), and an activity like coloring or making things out of pipe-cleaners. We had at least 150 kids each day!

Random memory: as we walked through one afternoon, inviting kids to come to VBS, I heard a girl singing, “Na na na na, you are the music in me”–which is from Disney’s High School Musical! Even in the poorest of countries, High School Musical has made it’s appearance. 🙂

Another random note: I ate goat meat down there–without knowing it. It was actually really good! I thought it was beef until the missionaries said, “this is the best goat we’ve had so far!” 🙂

Our house had electricity–when it was on. I quickly became so accustomed to flickering lights, or non-existent electricity that coming home to constant power has made me more thankful than ever for the simple things we enjoy.

Toughest moments: As we drove to our site each day, we drove past a section of homes in the median of the road…they have no where else to go, so they live in the five foot (my estimation) median in the middle of a busy street. Heartbreaking. The kids play in the space between the curb and the tires that their parents have set out about two feet from the curb.

We saw children who live with absolutely nothing, who make toys out of garbage. Oh the contrast to American children…

I had a child ask me if I could get him a passport so that he could come home with me to America…several asked me for food because they were/are hungry…

Yet, in the midst of this extreme poverty, the Haitian mindset is not what you would expect! The pastor told us that they essentially say “I know I’m hungry, and I know my house fell down, but I know that in Jesus I have everything I need.” Wow. They rejoice in what they have, not like the developed world which so often becomes “depressed” because of what they do not have.

“Your grace has found me just as I am, empty-handed but alive in your hands.” –Majesty, by Delirious

More to come…

You’re the God of THIS City: Haiti (part three)…

‘”My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

–2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Besides our ministry in our community, we were able to do a couple of unique things that were so awesome! On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to go buy and deliver mattresses to an orphanage, as a result of a generous donation. So, we spent four hours driving around Port-au-Prince in our three vehicle caravan, finding places to get mattresses (no Wal-Mart in Haiti), and then delivering them to the Son of God Orphanage in Carrefour. We got quite a tour of Port-au-Prince as we did this…

And we got to see some beautiful people…

We got to hang out with the children at the orphanage for about 15-20 minutes after delivering the much needed mattresses…and we didn’t want to leave them behind.


Friday was a similar experience. Our team split into three groups and we went to deliver all the supplies that had been collected and donated (TONS of stuff) to three pastors and two orphanages. My group went to an orphanage in Leogane run by the Fleury Foundation that was only 10 miles from the epicenter of the quake in January. The building was decimated, but not a single child was lost! God worked a miracle, and it was through a baby boy named Charlie…

Charlie was left on the steps of the orphanage before the quake (I can’t remember how long beforehand). They normally don’t take children this young at this orphanage, but decided to keep him. The afternoon of the quake, all the children were outside with a nurse who had come in to teach the children how to take care of their new baby brother. Absolutely amazing…only one life was lost, and that was a housemother who went in to get two girls, and when the building collapsed, her body shielded the two girls and saved their lives. God is amazing…

Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.” –Proverbs 21:13

We went to the boy’s camp first, and discovered that they were out of food…so we went to the market and bought food for them (this was not part of our “plan”, but as I said before, the trip was about the leading of the Spirit, not our plans). I really wanted to take these precious boys home!

Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.” —Proverbs 22:9

Before the earthquake, there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti (the term orphan in this case doesn’t necessarily mean that their parents are dead–many are just abandoned)…

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” —James 1:27

A man came to know the Lord this week, and needed an English Bible rather than Creole, because he spent many years in the U.S. and speaks English better than Creole. So I gave him mine. No hesitation. This week I realized that I am rich…I may not have a job, I may feel poor, but I am rich…and I have 4-5 Bibles of my own, and this man had none…

Our team was able to prayerfully decide how to bless our community with a budget of $2,000, and we decided to give rice and beans to the Pastor to distribute, as well as to buy wood and other roofing supplies so that they could put a roof on their cinder-block and tarp church. The food was delivered under the cover of darkness (we felt like it was a mafia deal, LOL) for safety reasons, and the building supplies were delivered to the church to their complete surprise. It was SO awesome to be able to give to them! They only had two tarps covering their church when we came that week, and we added more to that (picture below) before deciding to give them the supplies to build a real roof.

Friday night, Pastor Theodore’s church wanted to have a “thank you” service for us…and it was so amazing. They worshiped, a choir sang for us, they prayed for us, and a few of us shared how this week had impacted us. The love between believers is astounding, and surpasses even language barriers! It was so hard to say goodbye…

My life has been changed by this week, in ways that I probably don’t even realize yet. We experienced so much, saw so much…

The song by Sara Groves, “I Saw What I Saw” has even more meaning now…

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road, cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
(what I am made of)
and what I know of love

So, there you go. A brief glimpse into my experience in Haiti. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I write about Haiti…but for now, until I get back from Brazil, here’s a little bit about my trip.

Haiti is a country filled with joy, hope, love, determination, and peace…despite the media’s portrayal. And I am encouraged, inspired, and ready to advocate for them! 🙂

Please pray about how you can help the people of Haiti. My prayer is that the stories/images/testimonies from my team will inspire people to action. You can SPONSOR children through World Vision, Compassion International, etc. You can GO to Haiti through several organizations (I recommend Adventures in Missions). You can DONATE to organizations that are serving down there (there are numerous, just make sure they are legitimate organizations). And you can PRAY. But please don’t ignore these images and stories…allow God to speak to your heart and change you from the inside out! 🙂