Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pardon the Interruption

We pardon this interruption of Haiti recaps to share with you some pictures from our successful surprise party for my parents' 60th birthdays. We've been scheming for a few months, and about 30 of my parents friends could make it. The ploy was that they were meeting Joe's in-laws (Kerry's parents) for brunch, and Joe did a great job throwing them off. They were absolutely floored! Here's the video:

We all helped with the planning, but Jenny really took on most of it. She did an awesome job and I think Mom and Dad are still shocked from it all! It was a great afternoon celebrating them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Part II: Break my heart for what breaks Yours

“Break my heart for what breaks Yours; Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like You have loved me.” ~Hosanna, Hillsong United

These words were in my prayer as we flew into Haiti’s airport. I knew I wasn’t ready for what I would experience, but I wanted God to show me His people through His eyes. I desired to really see the pain but also the joy; the sorrow but also the hope. As I mentioned in the last post, the way people lived was hard to see; they were living to survive. It was difficult to witness and discouraging for the state of the city. But, once we got to interact with the kids, everything changed.

The first place we worked at was a school; Mrs. Louis wanted us to finish building the security wall (almost every building is behind security walls in a “compound”)for the school and put up a water cistern. She also wanted us to remove a heavy addition that she was afraid would crush the church in the event of another earthquake. When we got to the school on Monday morning, we could see the children in the open-air classrooms; they were reciting French words. It was like music to me! At about 10:00, they got their break. First the little kids poured out, and then the older ones. {I think this school only went to 6th grade.} Of course the kids ran to these new white people who they were peering at during class. I’ve really never seen so much excitement!

The younger kids were in precious yellow uniforms, while the order ones were in white and green uniforms. The uniforms made them that much cuter! Once we got to interact with the kids, we started pulling out the things we brought: bubbles, chalk, soccer balls. The kids absolutely loved the chalk. It’s incredible how naturally artistic many of the Haitians are! One of my favorite moments was sitting on the ground with the kids dangling over me, watching me draw simple pictures of a star, flower, smiley face and heart. They would then replicate the image until they perfected it. You could see the beam of pride pour out of them once the pictures were finished. Their smiles will never fade in my mind.

The kids also loved to play hand-clapping games. They knew some and they loved learning ours. What a simple thing! And bubbles, they would scream and run around trying to catch a bubble…this never got old.

And one of my favorite things I got to do is something Michael and I often do with our nieces and nephew: play chase. This was by far the best thing I did with the little kids. They loved to hide and play chase. I don’t think I had smiled and laughed so hard! They would run and laugh and it warmed every part of my heart. I wish I had that sound on a recorder!

Michael and I both also got to play soccer with the younger and older kids, as well as the neighborhood boys (more on those neighborhood boys in the next post). Michael didn’t get to play with the kids as much since he was on the roof most of the time, but he did take a break to play soccer which he loved. So many of the kids have exceptional talent…and they play on concrete- not grass!

A few more shots of the cutest kids!

Hopefully you got to see the joy that these children brought to us. Their innocence and happiness were sighs in my soul for the Haitian people. These kids, even though they’ve seen more in their short lives than most of us have, have the heart of God. These sweet little kids are what give me hope for Haiti. More updates later!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Haiti Part I: The State of it All

It’s the first 24 hours since we’ve arrived home, and I’ve had a sad day. I’ve been surprised with how emotional I’ve been. I think it’s because 1) I’m coming down from a high from the team unity; 2) the trip we’ve anticipated for 3 months is now over; and 3) I feel like the people of Haiti have been abandoned and although I was able to leave, they had to stay. This trip has forever changed me (and Michael too), and because of its impact we wanted to share our trip in a few separate blogs. Here is the first of a few different posts.

When thinking of how I can describe our trip, I have many words and no words at the same time. How do I put into words what we saw, felt and experienced? As soon as we got out of the airport and into the streets, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing…people living in some sort of chaos. Survival- not living. Tents are everywhere. For a city built for 300,000 and the size of Charleston, there are now 2.5 million people in Port-au-Prince, most of them living in tents. Even if their houses made it, they live in fear of a future earthquake and won’t sleep in their homes. Rape, kidnapping, robbing, sexual promiscuity, etc have become rampant. People from the country have moved into the city so they could have a tent and receive free food and aid from relief organizations. From what we’ve been told, the tent cities are communities within themselves- they have a leader and oftentimes it’s better than the way they were living. This astonishes me. I was so choked up driving around with the way people live, that it’s so hard for me to imagine that they like living this way. The city is filthy with rubble everywere. One building would be a crushed 4-story pancake, and the one right beside it wouldn’t have been touched. The smell in the city I will never forget- it’s the smell of human waste, trash, and sadly, even decaying bodies under buildings that haven’t been dealt with yet.

I think what bothers me most about the state of the city is the way the government has handled this crisis. Haitians that we were with has described it as the rich in Haiti getting richer, and the poor getting poorer. The government officials are making money off of this tragic earthquake and have done nothing to help their people. There’s no military, a non-effective police force, and because of the cycle of handouts, a lot of people aren’t working. We drove past the country’s government palace (similar to our White House) and it was severely destroyed (below). And it looks like the building hasn’t been touched. Just across of it is a tent city of 60,000. 60,000!! That blows my mind. Apparently the president didn’t speak to his people for a month after the quake!

Organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, US AID, American Red Cross, Shelter Box, Water Missions International, and others are making a difference. And it’s group like ours that are going to be the rebuilding factor for this city/country, not the government, sadly.

I’m worried it might get worse before it gets better. But I’m hoping that what has happened will make this country stronger and better. What we saw was really hard to watch, and although you might say it would be difficult to see hope there, I could see it. I could see it in the boys who shared their faith with us and who were sincerely interested in what we were doing. I could see it in the smiles of the people we talked to. I could see it in the church where people still praised and worshiped amongst tragedy. I could see it in the innocence of the children at the schools. I could see it in the Haitians we worked with. And I could truly feel God’s presence there. The Haitians are His people, and Haiti is His country.
Port-au-Price is a tough, increasingly dangerous capital of a country; but it’s also a beautiful city filled with hope.

Many more photos and stories to come later. Thanks for following!

This is our group at the airport with some of the Haitians we were with...what an awesome team!!

This is called a tap-tap. It is their "transportation system". They fill these cars up to the rim and then when someone is ready to get off, they "tap" the side of the car. I've never seen cars filled so tightly that it nearly drags on the ground while driving!

I have a lot more pictures of the kids...this is just one of many! They were so fun and adorable.

These are pictures of the palace.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blog During our Trip

We'll be taking a break from our blogging next week while we're in Haiti, but our team leader will be updating this blog,, with daily posts. Feel free to check in if you're interested!