Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Called to GO!

Just got off the phone a few hours ago with our Haiti mission team. We had our follow-up call and I have to say - I really miss those 5 ladies! It was such a great dynamic and even in the midst of an emotional trip, we had so many laughs. I just love how God puts mission teams together. Each person picked out by Him for such a time as this - to go and to serve the least of these - together! You share such a deep connection with these people you just shared an amazing journey with. And no one back home could ever understand what you've seen and heard and felt - except for this team that was there with you. And so... you come home and you miss the children you loved on while you were there but you also miss your team. The people you've come to know and love  -who only a week or two prior - were total strangers. And now, you can't even imagine having never met them. 
And so it goes with mission teams - God orchestrates them. We go with amazing people who felt the Lord calling them and who made the sacrifice of time and money to go and minister to the least of these - exactly what James 1:27 calls us to do. And we love on kids who don't always feel loved or special. We remind them that they are. They are NOT forgotten. We tell them about father God and how He has a hope and a future for them! And how even though they can't hear Him or see Him - He is always there, always listening, always loving. What an honor to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus to GO, to SERVE, and to LOVE. We go and it's not about us for a change. It's about having our eyes wide open to the needs around us and seeing how we can step in to make a difference in the lives of those around us. But in the midst of putting others first, a funny thing happens. We are blessed too! Sometimes I think more than even the people we go to bless. In giving, you truly will receive. But that's not why you do it - that's just a cool thing God does as a result. 

I love to GO! I love to be surrounded with children - getting to bring hope and joy and help! I love to make new friends - lifelong friends - with the team you served with. And most of all - I love knowing that I am exactly where the Lord has called me to be. Because there's no better place to be than in the center of His will!!!!

So my question to you is.... Where is the Lord calling you? And will you GO? 

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The girls get their new beds!

October 2010 - Visiting Orphans partnered with Sweet Sleep to provide 45 beds to the kids at Children Household of Tomorrow Orphanage in Port au Prince. This is a video of the girls seeing their bedroom with their brand new beds. They were so excited. Even the workers were jumping up and down for joy! And most of the kids didn't even have a bed at all prior to getting these. We are so thankful to Sweet Sleep for providing these beds! What a joy for our team to be able to assemble them and present them to these precious kids!

Who will go?

Now that I'm home from Haiti, I'm thinking about the next trip there and how we can continue to love on and bless the precious children of the orphanages we partner with there. The needs are great but the workers are few. Will you go serve in Haiti? We need you! The children need you! If the Lord is tugging at your heart to go serve the least of these in Haiti - He will be faithful to provide the means to go. After all, He loves those kids even more than we do!

What: Visiting Orphans Mission Trip 
When: March 5 -12, 2011 
Where: HAITI - Port au Prince & Surrounding Areas
How much: $2100 - $2300 - will vary depending on what city you are flying out of
cost includes all flights, all food, lodging, transportation, tips
Where do we stay: Heartline Guest House
What do we do: We take supplies with us to bless the orphanages - this varies each time depending on what their current needs are. The team will have conference calls at least one month before the trip so you will have plenty of time to coordinate who is bringing what and coming up with ideas for activities to do with the kids. We play with the kids, do arts & crafts, tell them bible stories and just love on them - which often means just having 3 kids on your lap giving you lots of hugs! 
Orphanages: We have partnered with 3 orphanages - this team will be visiting at least 2 of them. One is called Well Being and is home to 30 kids who currently live under a large Unicef tent. Another is Children of Hope Orphanage in a beautiful rural area called Thomazeau located an hour outside of Port au Prince - home to 43 children. The third possibility is the Children Household of Tomorrow Orphanage in the heart of Port au Prince, home to 44 children and recent recipients of 45 beds that Sweet Sleep provided and our VO team assembled. 

Photo above is 3 of the precious little girls from the Children Household of Tomorrow Orphanage in Port au Prince with the dresses our October team brought for them made out of pillowcases:)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Before and After

Beds before. Most of the kids didn't even have a bed but the ones who did - this is what they looked like.

Beds after! 45 beds - all with brand new fresh sheets, a stuffed animal and personal toiletry kit for each kid.

Their stove before
New stove we bought them!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's hard to say goodbye

All the emotions hit me the most when I get home - all that we saw and all the children we had to leave behind. When I'm there - there's so much poverty and sickness and heartbreaking conditions all around that it's an overload on the senses and the emotions. I'm in "leader" mode when I'm leading a team and so it's different than it used to be when I was one of the team members and had no other responsibility. In leader mode, I could easily get so focused on schedule and plans and the "itinerary" I put together - but in Haiti - you can't cause nothing really goes exactly as planned anyway. It doesn't on any mission trip so I have learned more and more on each trip to let go of my plans and let God show me His. And it's neat to see how He works it all out. It's kind of a fun adventure when you just let go. Of course, I still plan, I still keep the team's safety and well being as first priority and try to make wise decisions as to what to do when plans change. But it's been freeing to let go of the control I used to THINK I had. But when I'm in leader mode - I find that there's a balance that needs to happen. Yes, I need to lead and care for my team. But I also really feel that it's important to be part of the team too. And most importantly, to love on the kids we are there to minister to. If I'm being really honest, it's easier to just keep busy and take photos of the team members loving on kids and keep my distance. That way you don't get too attached to any kid and leave with your heart ripped out of your chest when you have to say goodbye. But you know what - I don't want to be about what's easier on me. It's not about me! The first few days in Haiti, I realize looking back that I did keep my distance a bit. But the last few days - I was in the moment loving on those kids - often with 2 or 3 on my lap or in my arms at a time and I LOVED it!! And the best part of the trip for me, hands down, was gathering all the children around me and telling them about the Lord, reading them bible stories and telling them how much He loves them. They are not forgotten and I felt such a joy and it was such an honor to be able to be the one that got to share that with them. They were so intently listening to the bible stories those last 2 days - they are so hungry for the Father's love. And I don't ever want to forgot to remind these precious little ones of His promises for them. Now that I'm home, I just feel sad. Honestly, I don't love Haiti - it's way too hot and it's so dirty. The trips there are exhausting - partly because of the heat but hugely because of the pain and poverty there. But I love the people of Haiti and I especially love the children. And so I do hope I get to go back. I feel like I'm building relationships with them and now having been twice, it felt more like home. More than anything I long for each one of the children we loved on to know the love of a mom and a dad. But the reality is that some of them never will. That breaks my heart. If I focus too long on that - it weighs me down and has the potential to steal the joy of knowing that our team went in and brought light into a dark place for a few days in Port au Prince. The enemy would love to have us all thinking we didn't really make a difference and to discourage us with so much of the negative that it causes us to give up. But I'm not giving up - I'm not believing his lies. 44 kids now each have a bed to sleep in - not even half of them had one prior to that. All the little girls not only have a bed but moved back into the upstairs in a building they haven't slept in since the earthquake. That in itself is a huge victory! When I get overwhelmed with emotion, I need just remember those girls jumping up and down and squealing for joy when they walked into their room and saw all their beds for the first time. So thankful to Sweet Sleep for providing such a wonderful blessing! I need to remember that we gave each kid their own toiletry kit and a container to keep all their stuff in - when they probably have never had much of anything of their very own. I need to remember how our whole team had children all around us and we gave them love and prayed for them and brought smiles to their faces. It's hard to come home and leave those children behind but I have to believe that we also left behind some hope, some joy and a message of God's love for them that will stay long after we returned home. I left part of my heart in Haiti with those kids and so that makes me sad to be home in so many ways. I missed home while I was there but now that I'm home, I miss all of them. And I see their little faces in my mind. I hope to see all of them again in the near future and thank the Lord for the honor and privilege to be able to share His love and the message of Jesus with them. Seeing all their little heads bowed, eyes closed and hearing their voices all praying together to thank God for keeping them safe in the earthquake was a moment I will not forgot. I feel like I got to be a part of such a sacred, sweet moment - and I wouldn't trade that for anything. No matter how much it breaks my heart each time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Last Day in Haiti

We got up this morning and after breakfast, the team made peanut butter sandwiches for the kids at the orphanage in PAP. Beverly was running to the store and we had WAY more peanut butter than we had bread for so Susan went to the store with her to get more bread and crackers so we'd have something else to give to the kids with their sandwich. Amy and Susan then went over to the doctor they had taken the boys to to see if the results were in yet but he had too many patients so they decided to go back later. Our driver got here about 9 am and once the girls got back from the doctor down the street, we loaded up and headed to Delmas 31 to pick up Sally Todd who was on our June trip and was able to join us today to help at the orphanage by checking out all the kids medically. She brought her medical kit and Susan assisted her. Turns out - they know each other. What a small world - they go to the same church. Susan is a nurse at a school and she and Sally saw every kid at the orphanage today. Gave meds to a bunch of them. And we got to feed all of the kids. Gave each one a peanut butter sandwich and a pack of crackers and then a few hours later - gave them all another half a sandwich and we still had some left. I swear the food multiplied! It went a long way and it was great to be able to provide a meal for them with some protein (peanut butter). We also got to play a lot with the kids today. Jump rope, bubbles, duck duck goose, the hokey pokey, head shoulders knees and toes and I taught them the "Hallelujah Praise the Lord" song I made up with the kids in Ghana and they sang it with me. It was so cute. The heartbreaking part is all the kids that will latch on to your legs or just stand as close to you as they can and hold your hand or sit on your lap and they look up at you and ask "Momma?" They clearly have an understanding of adoption and white people sometimes coming and taking kids home and they were basically asking us to take us home. Several little girls knew some English and literally asked some of the team members if they would adopt them. That breaks my heart but I can't blame them. I'd be asking the same thing if I were them. One of the workers came up to our team today and was trying to talk to us. We got our drivers son to translate for us and he told us what she was saying. He said she was saying that her daughter was adopted to the US 7 years ago and she hasn't seen any pictures in 5 years and just wants to see her daughters face. She started crying. It was heartbreaking. Amy prayed for her and then the lady prayed too. It was a sweet moment where she got to minister to the lady. 
My favorite moment of the day was gathering all the kids in a circle and telling them the Noah's ark story from a book I had with me and then I talked to them about how God protects us and said "who wants to say a prayer to thank God for protecting them from the earthquake?" One kid raised their hand but then got shy and didn't want to pray out loud so I said "let's all pray out loud together at the same time". That's how they do it in Africa and the kids were totally into that. They all bowed their heads, closed their eyes and they really did pray - they were so cute. I prayed for them and they each prayed and it was probably at least 2 minutes. Such a sweet moment with them. After we were done doing that, shortly after, we ended up saying our goodbyes. One of the little boys that the team took him to the hospital named John Wesley - he was bawling his eyes out when Leslie put him down. He was reaching for any of us and just crying so hard. He was such a sweet boy - he just loved being held and he did not want us to go. That breaks your heart. The rest of the kids were just playing and seemed ok when we left - just waived goodbye. 
After we left, we dropped Sally back of at Christian Light Ministries and she gave us a tour of the school there. And then we headed back to the Guest house. We said our goodbyes to the driver and his son who helped us translate the past 3 days. The driver asked if I would bring him a digital camera next time I come and I decided to just give him mine. It got dropped in Africa so it had duct tape holding it together but it still works well so I asked if he wanted that one. He kept insisting he didn't want to take my camera if I needed it and he could wait but I told him if he didn't mind the duct tape - he could have it. He was so excited and thanked me. I took out my memory card so I would still have my pictures of course. And I'm just realizing I'm going to have to get a new camera asap so I can load my photos onto my computer. Or I could get one of those things you put your memory card in and plug into your computer port. I will get my pics off soon so I can upload them. Such great photos and so much that we did here. Great videos too. My batteries were dead so I didn't get any today but the team did - we're going to share pics so that'll be good. 

It was a great trip - this team of ladies was phenomenal, the Guest House is amazing and takes such great care of us and I  just love the kids here - they are so precious! Wish I could take them all home. I have a feeling I'll be back and that's just fine with me. I love the people of Haiti. 

I am excited to come home tomorrow though - always good to be home and see all my friends who are my Nashville family. Praying for smooth travels, on time flights and travel mercies for our team as we fly home tomorrow. Thanks for all your prayers - we saw a lot and were able to help in many ways. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Delivery Day - beds, stove and more! It was awesome!!

Today was long but awesome. God is working in Haiti on this trip. It's been so awesome to see how He has provided in so many ways! We went to the Children Household of Tomorrow orphanage in Port au Prince today. On the way there, we stopped and got some soccer balls from a roadside vendor and stopped at a supermarket and got some waters and snacks for the day. We were hoping the beds would be there for us to start putting together when we got there but they weren't. Ron, who works with Sweet Sleep in Haiti had come by that morning to deliver bibles for all the kids and workers that were age appropriate and mosquito nets for all the beds. While we were waiting for the beds to arrive - there was a neighborhood boy who hangs out at the orphanage and wants to go to the school they have there but he doesn't have any books. So we decided to take his book list and go get him some books and a bookbag. There was a list of about 15 books and we found all but 3 of them and a pretty cool bookbag all from street vendors near the orphanage. When we got back - the first set of bed frames had been dropped off by Sweet Sleep. A guy named Collins whose been in Haiti for a few weeks helping out Heartline Ministries - which is the same ministry as the guest house where we are staying - went with us to help us today. He was a Godsend! The first set of beds didn't seem to fit together so we waited for the guy to come back with the rest of the beds so he could show us. The rest of the beds arrived in the afternoon and they were not easy to put together. Turns out - they don't just snap together -they are metal beds with a piece on each end that has slots for all three levels of bunks to go into. They didn't fit quite right and it took a really, really long time and a lot of pounding with hammers to get them together. Thank the Lord Collins was there because he did the brunt of the work. We didn't finish until 6pm. And it was hot today. I don't think any of us has ever felt so sweaty or disgusting in our lives. If I had my camera cable - I would have to post the video I took of the girls when we got all the beds put together upstairs for them - 5 sets of triple bunks barely fit in this one room but they did fit and so 15 girls will be sleeping in there. And I got a video of when they all walked in there and they were so excited - they were jumping up and down for joy. I will for sure post that video when I get home. Even the staff ladies were excited and the smile on the directors wives face and all the kids faces were priceless and worth a million more days of hard work. We put the mattresses with fresh brand new sheets from Sweet Sleep on each bed and we put a stuffed animal donated while we were here from Heartline Ministries on each bed and a toiletry kit we made for every single kid that was in a little shoe box size plastic bin with a lid. We also brought more of the dresses that Amy and her friends made out of pillowcases and sheets and they are super cute - we got to put some really adorable little girls in those dresses. And although we took some shoes the other day - they were open toe shoes and they had said they need closed toe shoes. Heartline also gave us a huge box of those which was perfect. We paid for the orphanage to get their toilet outhouse building cleaned out. And while we were there, the stove that we bought on Tuesday was delivered. It was like Christmas at the orphanage. It was awesome. I wish I could fully describe it but I will just say it was worth the hard work and the sweat! Those kids are all sleeping on a bed tonight - a comfy, clean bed! I wish I could be a fly on the wall when they all got to pick out their very own bunk and go to bed tonight - I can picture joy and giggling and excitement as they went through their toiletry kits. So awesome! The kids there are so adorable. Wish I could take them all home with me. 

Two of the little boys looks kind of sickly so Amy and Susan went in the bus while we stayed at the orphanage and took those 2 kids to the doctor that Beverly at Heartline has used before for the babies here. They took some blood and will get the results in a few days. It'll be good to find out what's going on with these kids. A medical team just arrived at Heartline tonight and some of the team members were talking to them and they said they could go by the orphanage in PAP and the Well Being one to check on the kids - I hope they can cause that would be awesome. There are several kids at Well Being who looked like they could use a doctor visit. 

While they took those 2 boys to the doctor, the rest of us hung out there with the kids. We got in a circle and did the hokey pokey and then head, shoulders, knees and toes. And while I had them in a circle, I asked if they wanted to hear a story and they all said yes so they sat down in a circle and so did I and I pulled out a book about the story of David and Goliath. My goodness, they listened so attentively - much moreso than my Sunday school class ever does:) The book I had bought a few months back on clearance at Lifeway was actually pretty detailed about the story and it was really good and they were really listening. After I finished, I told them that even though David was a small boy - God had big plans for him and even though they are small - God has big plans for them too. Then I told them that the beds that we are putting together for them - that we are doing this because God sent us because He loves every single one of them. I asked if they knew how much God loved them and they all said yes. And I said that God hears them and even though they can't hear his voice - He is always listening and when they lay down at night in their new comfy beds - they can pray to God and he will hear them. I told them how we all came on an airplane from the USA and that we did that because we wanted to tell them that God loves them and that we love them too. It was so awesome to see them listening so attentively and being able to share God's love with them. Sylvestre was translating the story and all that I said as I talked. And then as we were finishing up - the beds came. 

It was a great day - my favorite day so far. I love those kids and it brought me such joy to see them so excited and to know that they will be sleeping in a clean comfy bed tonight. Thank you Sweet Sleep for providing those beds. And thank you to our team of gals here who raised money to come but also money above and beyond that to be able to provide so much for these orphanages - including the stove and lots of food. I'm tired, we all are, but it was a great day and it's been a great week! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A great day with precious children who have not been forgotten!

Today was a great day in Haiti. We went to Well Being orphanage and dropped off a bunch of bags of corn meal, rice, butter, oil, onions, pasta, sauce, etc. We also found two baby walkers along the way and took them there because they have 2 kids that could use help walking - their legs are turned wrong and they were clearly having a hard time getting around the other day. Susan suggested a baby walker might help and so awesome - we found 2 of them for sale along the street on our way there! It was so awesome to sit those two boys in there and see them light up. I got some great pictures - which I will have to post when I get back since I forgot my camera cable. The momma with the amputated leg who cares for those kids is amazing! The kids who were there and go to afternoon school instead - she was helping them with their homework. She has a file on each kid and keeps the place very organized. She is precious and wanted us to stay the whole day. I wish we had more time and could have. Next time, we will know ahead of time to spend a day or more there.

After we left there, we headed to Thomazeau. The roads were better so we didn't risk getting stuck like we did on Monday when it was so muddy. We got to see all the kids in school and we got there around lunch and they all got out of school around 1 pm so we got to play with all the kids for the afternoon. I help a little boy who is probably around 18 months old who's name is Michael. I held him a lot when we went in June. He's a pretty big kid for his age - they call him Big Mike. He's very skeptical and looks pretty serious most of the time but he is super cute. And after a little while today, he seemed to warm up to me a bit. Little Willby who has CP has a smile that lights up the room and Ashley from our June team brought down this awesome walker thingy for him - he is able to be right out there with the other kids and gets around so great in that thing. He can sit up by himself in a chair and is doing so great. And he just loves people and to be held. But he cries everytime we get ready to leave - he is so smart and he knows exactly what's going on. It breaks my heart to see him cry like that. Several of the kids were hanging on to team members necks or legs really tired and crying when we were getting ready to leave. Lots of tears - us and the kids. It's hard to say goodbye to these precious kids that we all wish we could find a forever family and most of us have one or more kids that we wish we could be a mom to. Precious, precious ones. 

They sing a song that sums up exactly how we feel and we know God feels about them and I'm so glad they know this song. I pray they believe it with all their hearts. It goes like this: 
"I am not forgotten, I am not forgotten, I am not forgotten - God knows my name!!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A good day but a hard day

Today was good but by far the hardest day so far. We went first to the orphanage in Port au Prince and stopped by unexpectedly but just to see what kind of stove they wanted and get an idea of some more of their needs. We found at least 10 of the young kids were not in school and they told us right away that these kids are not in school because they don't have shoes. But then we saw that there were shoes inside the room where they sleep so we're not sure exactly what that was about. We had a duffel bag full of clothes and shoes and so we went and grabbed them and fitting these 10 or so kids with shoes and some fresh new shirts and shorts. It was amazing how many of these clothes just happened to fit. Amy and her friends back home had made these pillowcase dresses and those are awesome. I need to take those on every trip. They are lightweight and also easy to fit because they are adjustable. While it was great to be able to fit these kids in some shoes and clothes, it was also heartbreaking to see the conditions. I cannot wait until they get new beds on Thursday. It is hard to really even describe all that we see without someone having been there for themselves. Pretty much all of us left there feeling overwhelmed with all that we saw, how huge the needs are there and yet - not sure how much we can even do when we are not there everyday to monitor how things are handled. You can see a big difference between the orphanages we've visited. And of course, one of the big differences is finances - who has more support. But there's also integrity and without having a person on the ground to make sure money is being used where it's supposed to and kids are getting the items we donate - sadly, you just can't always trust that things are as they say they are. I wish that we could. But we can't. We told the orphanage director that we wanted to get a quote from the guy who comes and cleans out their bathroom area. It's basically an outhouse and someone has to come clean it out every so often for obvious reasons. They told Amanda it cost about $400. I asked the lady today to get it in writing from the guy tomorrow when we are not there and then to have him come back on Thursday when we are there and we'll pay him. We don't want him to give us a quote on Thursday cause probably when he sees all these white people, he will jack up the price. And so is the way of many places we visit. So we will see on Thursday when we go what kind of quote there is and what documentation they have to give us to show what the quote is. We did go and buy a nice GE stove for them today - they needed a gas one and I talked to Beverly at the guest house about where to go and what kind to get so that was a huge help. It costed about $550 US dollars to buy a stove and all the accessories such as a propane tank and hose hookup, etc. which I didn't think was too bad. It will be delivered to them tomorrow. So when we go on Thursday - they should have it there. We took a photo of it to make sure the right one gets delivered. Also on Thursday, Sweet Sleep is having the beds delivered. It's hard to even describe fully what their beds are like  - it is a huge need and what a huge blessing it'll be for them to sleep on not only nice new beds but sheets! None of their beds now even have sheets and most of their mattresses are falling apart. The kids there are so beautiful, so precious and so worthy of the love of a mother and father. I would like to see every single one of them adopted into a loving family. It's so heart breaking to see the conditions they are living in. 

After we left there, we went and got the stove and then we had our driver take us to Well Being orphanage. Our friend Daniel did not show up this morning so our original plan of going there this morning went out the window and we decided to go to the other place and go get the stove instead. But then I realized that this same driver was with Amanda and the team the other day when they went to Well Being and I had Sylvestre asked if he remembered the way and sure enough he did. So we headed there and I'm so glad we did. This amazing momma who has taken in all these kids is precious. You can tell that the kids there are well loved. They are currently living in a big Unicef tent but you know what - they have that tent spotless in there. It's put up on a cement slab and there are actually bunk beds in there and the floor was swept clean and all the beds were made (with sheets) and they each had their little backpack hung up next to their bed. They had a divider down the middle to separate boys from girls. I was extremely impressed at the cleanliness of the setting and of all the kids. They are clearly well cared for. But at the same time, there is still much need. But we all got a real sense of integrity from her and the people who live in the house and have opened up their property for these kids to live on it. I asked many questions about how much it would cost to buy land nearby and what their needs are. My prayer and hope is that we can get a church in the US to partner with them and buy some land and build an orphanage. I really feel that they would care for it well and are very honest and deserving of the help. We gave the kids each their own toiletry kit and Susan had some sticker earrings and she put them on the kids - even the boys wanted them. The kids were cheerful and fun! And laughing a lot. They sang us a bunch of songs - their voices are so beautiful! I definitely think Visiting Orphans will continue to partner with them! We also gave them some sheets and clothes too. I know they will go to good use. 

After we left there, we went to the market. It was filthy and tight quarters between booths and a little bit chaotic for 6 people to try to maneuver through. But we did find a vendor that a gentlemen Sylvestre asked to help us with our stuff showed us too who would give good prices and we bought food for the orphanage in PAP and the Well Being orphanage. We got 2 bags of rice, 3 bags of cornmeal, 2 big packages of pasta, 4 big cans of tomato paste, 2 huge things of vegetable oil, 4 rolls of this salami type meat they use in the rice sometimes, a bunch of onions and scallions and 2 huge things of butter. We will deliver half of that to Well Being tomorrow on our way to Thomazeau to spend another day there. And the rest we will take to PAP on Thursday. 

Today was a busy day and emotionally hard. But it was good and we have an amazing team of women. And we are trying our best to love on the children of Haiti and make the best use of the resources we have with us. Please continue to pray for us - for wisdom and guidance and that we will be a blessing to the people here. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

photos day 2

The kids working on their journals
The team loving on kids
Haiti beauty salon:)
Sweet Willbe

Day 2 - A day in Thomazeau

Photo above: a beautiful drive to Thomazeau. Takes a little over an hour to get there but worth the drive. Our awesome driver Jean went through some amazingly crazy looking mud holes that I did not know how we could drive through without getting stuck. He is a rockstar! And the Lord is good - we did lots of praying to make it through the roads. And we did.

We had the most amazing day at Children of Hope orphanage. The kids there are precious and well cared for. Since I was there in June, they have added several buildings and now have a school where many of the neighbor kids can come attend. They just finished it and today was actually their first day of school. How awesome that we got to be there for that. They also built a building where all the boys now sleep, which makes more room for the girls inside the main orphanage. The kids at Children of Hope are so much fun. They are so affectionate. We pretty much had a kid or several on our laps or in our arms at all times. And little Willbe who we met in June is doing so great. Our past team member Ashley has been coming down and working with him and he is so much more mobile now. And he's still just a sweetheart - his smile lights up the room. His crying when I said goodbye broke my heart. He was happy all day until he saw us waiving goodbye to everyone and he started crying. Broke my heart! Bobby said some folks are trying to adopt him. Would so love to hear he got to go be with a forever family. 

We gave all the kids their own individual composition book for them to decorate and make their own so they could journal, draw, etc. And we gave the orphanage 42 backpacks (thanks to everyone who donated) and a bunch of other supplies such as diapers, wipes, tablecloths, kitchen utensils, etc. We know that anything we give here will be put to good use and indeed be used for the kids. I love the folks who take care of the kids at Children of Hope. It is clear that they love the kids very much and are doing all they can to take good care of them. 

As we always do, we heard some heartbreaking stories of how the kids came to be there. The children of Haiti have seen and been through so much more than most of us can imagine or even really want to know about. It is heartbreaking. And yet, they are so resilient and thank the Lord for loving, caring people like Bobby and his wife who started Children of Hope and love on these precious kids who deserve that kind of love. I pray every one of those kids is adopted into a forever family. 

It was a great day - the whole team loved it! And we have an amazing team - I love all these ladies - it feels like we've been friends for years. I love how God puts teams together. His ways are so wise. And He is indeed in all the details. 

Sylvestre - our translator from the June trip - joined us today and helped translate. And we had the same amazing driver Jean. And the same bus and we're staying at the same place - I even got my same bunk bed. It feels a little bit like home being able to come back to all these familiar places. It's really cool. I have a feeling that I'll be back again:)

We just had a delicious dinner at the Guest House. Beverly and staff hook us up each night with the most amazing meals. After a day of playing with kids, getting dirty and sweaty and feeling totally disgusting - it's such a welcome sight when we pull up into our "home in Haiti" and can go in and take a cold shower, organize our supplies for the next day and have our team meetings in such a comfy and safe place. We love it here and are so thankful we found this place! And that they had room for us. There's always other missionaries staying here too so we get to make new connections and meet awesome new people. 

How funny is this - a guy who just arrived from the Dominican Republic and is here tonight - well, I said "you look so familiar" and he immediately figured out that we met in the DR when I came in Oct 2008 for the International Advocates Conference with Compassion. He's a project facilitator with Compassion. It's such a small world. 

Ah, a cool breeze is blowing in and it feels so fabulous. Thank the Lord for cool evenings. I've been sleeping like a rock. I'm sure partly because I do feel so at home and comfy here. I love how it has all come together - and I can't wait to see what the Lord will continue to do with Visiting Orphans in Haiti! 

Tomorrow we are visiting an orphanage that is now in run out of a tent. Amanda visited last week when she was here and told me about it. Our friend and translator Daniel is coming tomorrow to go with us and we will visit this orphanage. We will give them enough toiletry kits for each kid  - there are 25 of them. In the afternoon, we are going to go shopping to get supplies for the orphanages with orphanage donation money that the team raised. The orphanage we went to on Sunday is in much need of food - the kids are very hungry and we found out they are not getting very many meals each day. So we are going to bring food and actually make sandwiches and hand them out to each kid on the two days we are there. We will also hopefully be able to provide a new stove for them. We'll see what supplies we can find. 

Will add more updates tomorrow but probably not more pictures since I'm giving the camera I've been using to get pictures onto my computer to our friend Daniel. So I will have to add the pics when I get home. But I will still add updates. 
Stay tuned! And thanks for your continued prayers!

more photos - day 1

Photos above: 
1. Leslie holding some sweet boys at Children Household of Tomorrow orphanage in Port au Prince
2. Susan & Leslie and all the kids holding up their art project we brought - they made a little Haitian flag
3. Me with sweet Naomi and Susan with John Wesley in the background

Love these kids!

First full day in Haiti

Haiti... always an adventure. We had a great day and it's so helpful to have been here before to know what to expect. Like, for example, lots of waiting. Chris from Heartline Guest House told me last time that he spends 80% or so of his time waiting - waiting at the airport for folks to arrive, waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, etc. One thing you realize quickly on a mission trip is that waiting is part of what you signed up for and flexibility is key. Thankfully we've had teams who have been amazing with all this. It's a different culture and you really do have to roll with it if you want to have a great trip. 

We went to church today with the Heartline Guest House - it was an English speaking church and reminded me very much of my church at home. About half of the people were white missionaries. But the other half were locals which was really cool. After church, we came back to the Guest House. Beverly ran me to the closest grocery store so I could get bread and stuff for lunches for our team for today and the week. Got some Coke Light for several of the girls who love Diet Coke - it's the closest thing to it here. Also - side note: Coca-Cola is way better here and not made with high fructose corn syrup. After the store run, we threw together some pb&j sandwiches, ate some chips that are just like pringles and had ourselves a lunch. 

After we ate, it was about 1:20 and our driver hadn't shown up yet so I called. Good ole Haiti - even though I made a reservation on the phone a week ago and even though I sent an email reiterating the dates - what do you know - they didn't have us scheduled until tomorrow. Well, at least I knew we had a ride tomorrow cause I spoke to our actual driver. We want to leave by 9 so we told them to be here at 8. If we can leave at 8 - great. But we're on Haiti time so 9 will be just fine too:) Not a huge deal that the ride fell through because right before I left TN - Amanda had been emailing with another ministry about transportation they use. They had written back and said they'd try to help us but at that point, I had it lined up but... I knew enough to say "hey, just in case it falls through - can you give me your Haiti number in case we end up needing transportation". And wala - I pulled out that useful phone number, made a call to a very nice gentleman who hooked us up by calling a tap tap and reserving it for the afternoon for us. Since there's only 6 of us - that was the perfect size. And super fun way to explore the city. It was a neat adventure and WAY cheaper. I'm thinking we need to do that more often. I didn't realize that you could reserve a tap tap for your team - I thought they were all tap taps that anyone could jump in and it might get a little crazy to hop on down to the main road and try to squeeze 6 ladies onto. So this was a nice surprise. There is a photo attached of the girls getting into one - it's basically a pickup truck with a cab on the back and a wide open back so people can hop on. No one hopped on with us. We got a much later start than we planned but all worked out and it was a good intro to meeting the kids. 

We got there about 3:15 and stayed till around 5. We had so much fun with the kids. One of the team members brought a big colorful parachute thingy where you throw a beach ball on it and all the kids stand around it and make it fly up. See photo. Another team member brought cool art projects of the kids making their own Haitian flag. That was fun. And we had a jump rope and bubbles for each individual kid - the kind they give out at weddings. They liked that. I did a tour of the orphanage to see where we might be able to fit the beds when Sweet Sleep delivers them on Thursday. And then when all the excitement had sort of died down - kids were just piling on our laps and hugging on us. It was so precious. I had a sweet little boy and girl both on my lap at the same time. 

Our team is awesome and it is amazing to see how many supplies we brought. Monday we drive out to Thomazeau to visit an orphanage there that's more rural and reminds me a bit more of African culture. I'm excited to see those kiddos again. 

I figured out a way to get photos uploaded so some are attached from our day. Stay tuned - I will post again tomorrow. And thanks for the prayers!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Safe and sound in Haiti

We made it to Haiti. The whole team made it on time to Miami and we found each other no problem. After we boarded the plane, we were notified that they had to call in a pilot and they didn't know when he'd get there. Minor detail:) Thankfully the plane was filled with Christian missionaries who were all in good spirits and made the best of it. We just chilled on the plane until we took off about 2 hours later. The flight to Haiti was only 1.5 hours so not too bad. We are here at the Heartline Guest House and we just had a delicious chicken pot pie and salad dinner prepared by the fabulous Beverly and staff. We are tired and hot and probably going to bed very early after a long travel day. But we are super excited to be here and looking forward to church in the morning. 
I'm bummed that I forgot my camera adaptor to plug it into my laptop and get my pics off. Hoping I can figure something out to be able to upload pics. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Haiti - here I come!

I leave in the morning for a week in Haiti. I love how the Lord works - when I left in June, I had no idea I'd be going back just a few months later. And I definitely had no idea that I'd not only want to go back, but I'd be as excited as I. I cannot wait to see those kiddos again and get to spend more time at the same orphanages to be able to get to know the kids this time. And to be able to bring lots of stuff to help them.

I'm the type of person who likes to meet needs and when we went in June - it was a hard trip for me because we didn't get to meet as many needs as I would have liked. It was a scouting trip in a lot of ways so we were someplace different every day but it was certainly beneficial to go - otherwise, we wouldn't have identified the places we'll visit this time. But still - it was hard seeing all that we saw and not feeling personally that I had really helped much. But now - I get to go back and lead a team and bring help. We have a small team but I fully trust it'll be big impact! There are 6 of us total and the team has raised extra funds to be able to help the orphanage with things like a new stove. We are bringing a plastic bin for each kid that will have their own personal toiletries in it - deodorant, shay butter, toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloth, comb and bar soap. I am pretty sure these kids have probably never each had their own set of those things. We are also bringing stuff to decorate those toiletry kits so each kid can make it their own. And the team came up with some great ideas for arts & crafts - we'll be helping the kids made these really cool suncatcher necklaces and one of the girls on the team is bringing journals for every kid. Someone else on the team is printing out some bible verses on stickers so the kids can pick one and put it on the inside of their journal that they will also decorate. Our awesome translator and friend, Daniel Vallon, translated them for us so we are printing them out in Creole. The 2nd orphanage we are visiting sent me an email saying they needed some sheets and backpacks and some other items - and we are bringing a backpack for all 44 kids, and all the things they need. On top of all that exciting stuff - Sweet Sleep is providing beds for 44 kids at Children Household of Tomorrow orphanage where most of the kids are currently sleeping on the floor. We get to tell them how much God loves them and that every night when they go to sleep in their new bed (with sheets), to remember that God loves them so much that He sent us to give them these beds. I am so thrilled and thankful to Sweet Sleep for providing for these kids in such a tangible way!

I'm excited to say the least. But I'm also fully aware that it's gonna be hard to leave in a week and come home. You get attached to these kids when you go and spend considerable amounts of time with them. Usually one or two really steals your heart and it's a different kid for each team member - but it always happen - we each fall in love and want to be a mom to these precious kids who don't have one. I'm not gonna lie - it's heartwrenching at times. But that's not a reason not to go. It just reminds us of why we do what we do and keeps us passionate to do more, to help the least of these. God does break our hearts for what breaks His. So my prayer request is - pray for our team, for unity, guidance, strength, protection and for our hearts. I will blog often so stay tuned for photos and updates. I know God is up to something big - I can feel it! And I'm thrilled to be part of it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I love my job!!!!

Yes, I do love my job at Visiting Orphans. The Lord fulfilled one of the desires of my heart when He orchestrated this whole thing. He's such an awesome daddy! And He knows our giftings and the things that we're passionate about. It's so funny - some of my favorite things about my job while I'm in the office are things most people wouldn't really like and with my creative background in design - most people would be surprised to know that I like. I like to be organized so sometimes I created spreadsheets and hand them out to all the employees. For example - I think it's helpful to have a spreadsheet with all our 2011 trips listed by month. We have so many trips next year, it's hard for me to keep track. So I enjoy putting together things that'll make it easier for me and in turn, hopefully easier for others in the office. I love when I have to order brochures or supplies and I get a coupon and it saves VO a bunch of money. I love working on budgets for future trips and figuring out itineraries for our teams. I love working with travel agents to find flights for our teams. I love getting phone calls or emails from ministries or individuals we've never worked with who just found us online or heard about us through word of mouth. I love that we don't have to have a big marketing budget to spread the word about mission trips to love on orphans! It's so awesome to see how the Lord is so much bigger than any ad campaign and it excites me everytime I get a call and the voice on the other line says "we have a group of 15, can you plan a trip for us?". I used to be in advertising and while I never disliked it - I was no longer passionate about it for the past couple of years I was in it. The more my eyes were opened to missions and how I could help children around the world - the less I even cared about selling products to the general public. I continued to do my job to the best of my ability because I feel that's what we're called to do - to work in all things as if we're working unto the Lord. But my heart just wasn't in it anymore. And I kept praying for the Lord to direct me and show me how I could do something to serve Him more directly and to be able to use the giftings He's given me to do it. I am in awe of how perfectly He answered my prayers. But I'm also very aware that He put that desire in their in the first place because it wasn't too many years ago where that wasn't even a thought or desire at all. 

Another huge part of my job that I love is traveling and leading teams on our trips. I'm excited to leave for Haiti on Saturday and love on the kids there and to bring a whole bunch of much needed supplies to the 2 orphanages we will visit there. I'm excited to meet our team in person. We've been having weekly conference calls for over a month and I already know they are amazing women. Can't wait to share this journey with them. I will be blogging almost every day since we have wifi at the Guest House where we're staying. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for our team of 6!

Another really exciting thing that is going on right now is that I've been talking to Shepherd's Field Children's Village in China. www.chinaorphans.org  They are an American run Children's Home that has taken in thousands of kids over the years that other orphanages couldn't handle because of severe medical issues and special needs. Many of the kids have gotten surgeries to correct or help with various medical needs. They've found sponsors for the kids which provides them with one-on-one care, among other things, and over 800 kids have been adopted into forever families. The more I learn about them, the more excited I get about Visiting Orphans partnering with them for future teams. And if you read any of my previous blogs - there was little girl in Chifeng, China that stole my heart when I was there last April. I named her Jordan but her Chinese name is Zheng Tian Luan. I'm not totally sure what her condition is although I think it may be Arthrogryposis (just my uneducated medical guess) cause she couldn't bend her joints in her arms and had a hard time using her hands to grasp. I mentioned her to Tim at Shepherd's Field and he said they would love to know more about her and potentially be able to help her. My heart leaped with joy when he said that! I contacted our China contact and asked her to contact the Chifeng SWI to inquire if they would be open to partnering with Shepherd's Field to send Jordan there to get surgery and medical help specific to her needs. And this week, I got an exciting email that they are happy to let her go to Shepherd's Field and actually have sent one other kid there before. They gave us the number for S.F. to contact them directly and start the process. Obviously this is just the beginning stages right now but this is exactly why I really, really, really love my job. Sure, I love creating spreadsheets and planning trips but what I love the absolute most - is being able to connect people and ministries together to change the lives of children in a positive way. My hope and prayer is that not only will this precious little girl be able to get the best medical care - but that she would also be able to be adopted into her forever family! I can't wait to see what the Lord does with all this! I know He put her on my heart on that trip last spring for a reason. Now, that's exciting stuff!!!! 

I can only imagine what else He's up to that I don't even see yet. And Haiti... so excited to see what He has in store there! 

The Winning Team

I love to hear other people's stories of redemption and forgiveness and how God radically transformed their life of sin into something beautiful that glorified Him. He is in the transformation business and I am so thankful to have been transformed. I remember in college the emptiness I felt and how I tried to fill it with all the wrong things that this world offers. My girls small group right now is doing the Beth Moore Daniel study right now (it's awesome btw) and she talks about the Babylon we're living in. The more we do this study, the more our eyes become more and more aware of the Babylon mentality around us. It's on tv, in movies, magazines, you can't even go into a grocery store without being bombarded with it. We do indeed have to be intentional if we are to live in this culture and yet not be conformed to it. I think of those college days and I remember the way it felt to be lost and I never want to be there again. The joy of knowing the Lord is beyond any temporary earthly pleasure that is so readily available all around us. Recently, I went downtown for a friends bachelorette party and I saw me, 15 years ago, in all the faces of those girls who were parading the streets and going into all the bars hoping to get some kind of attention to make them feel validated and beautiful. I don't even know the exact moment when I realized I didn't even want that kind of attention. But I know I'm glad my eyes were opened and the Lord set me free from that feeling that told me I wasn't beautiful, I wasn't worthy of love and I wasn't enough. I bet if we're honest, most of us can relate to not feeling like we're enough. But beloved, you are enough. You are a child of the most high King. He's your daddy and you have access to His inheritance. If we all knew that, really knew that and really understood that we're forgiven and He doesn't see our sin when He sees us - I think we'd live a lot differently. I know I live a lot differently now than I did before I knew that. And even now, I forget sometimes and insecurity creeps back in. But the more I know the Lord, the more the lies that so easily entagled me in the past are obvious to me as lies. It's a battlefield and we have the weapons we need to conquer. It's right there in Ephesians 6 - put on the armor God! Take hold of the victory that is already yours in Christ Jesus and tell the father of lies that he has no hold on you anymore!!!!! It's an ongoing battle and I still have moments where I struggle just like anyone else - but the good news is - we already know how the story ends. Our team wins!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Exciting Haiti news!!!!

Just got word last week that Sweet Sleep has approved our request for providing beds for 50 kids at the Children Household of Tomorrow orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti. I am beyond excited! I will get the honor of being there when these new beds are given. They are also providing mosquito nets for every bed, sheets and a bible for every child and staff person. Praise God!!!!
Originally I was supposed to lead a team to Costa Rica Oct 2 - 9. I went back in March and fell in love with the kids there and wanted to go back. But as the months were approaching - I really felt like the Lord was telling me to let someone else lead that trip and that I was supposed to lead the Haiti trip.
I went to Haiti this past June and to be honest, it was a really hard trip. It's a hard place to be. And I loved the children there and was glad that I went but I was also really ready to come home at the end of that week. I had no intention of personally going back. But about a month later, I felt the Lord telling me He wanted me to. I shared this with Amanda, my boss, and she said she thought it would be better to have a staff person lead this Haiti trip anyway cause it is such a hard trip. The person who was going to lead it had originally wanted to lead a Costa Rica trip anyway so I got in touch with her - and she was totally on board for switching. And then a month or so later, she had to back out from leading and a lady named Kim Woodside who just went for 2 weeks to Costa Rica with two back to back teams had contacted me about leading a trip there. So it's been neat to see how God has worked it all out. Kim is leading Costa Rica. I'm leading Haiti. And we leave for Haiti Oct 16th. We are taking so many supplies down, I'm not even quite sure how we will fit it all in our luggage. We have 6 of us going and we're taking toiletry kits for 100 kids, 45 or so backpacks, arts & crafts and 50 sheets that Sweet Sleep is providing are being sent down with us too.
A few months ago, I didn't want to go back to Haiti. But now, I absolutely can't wait! Especially because we are going to meet needs and provide things that they don't have finances for or access too. And that excites me. I love to be able to help - especially these precious children, many of whom have lost their parents. Haiti is a hard place but my prayer is that our October team, with the help of Sweet Sleep, will be able to share the Lord in a very tangible way! Please pray for our team, the 2 orphanages we'll visit and all the staff and children! Thank you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's not only about orphans....

I just recently returned from my 4th mission trip in 5 months with Visiting Orphans. All of the trips have been amazing and yet very different from each other. And I've discovered that our trips are yes about ministering to orphans but they are also about meeting needs and being Jesus to kids, adults and whoever God puts in your path and at the same time - allowing God to change you. Yes, you're ministering to others. But watch how God also ministers to you. Prepare to be changed!!! 

Costa Rica was in March and was a 10 person team all pretty much from the Nashville area. It was my first time as team leader and we had an amazing team! And our in-country guide, driver and translator were so fantastic - they truly made my job as leader sooo easy. They are top-notch!!! The kids were so amazing. We visited 2 different orphanages near Limon. We danced and sang and did arts & crafts and just had so much fun with the kids. We even got to take both sets of kids to the beach all at the same time. They had a blast and so did we!!! I fell in love with a little boy named Ariel who was 2 years old and very withdrawn. He didn't fall in love or bond with me - he kind of kept his distance. He would sort of let you play with him but he did not want to be picked up, held or touched. And you could tell he was very skeptical of all of us. He did better with the men - especially when they would pick him up, turn him upside down and tickle him. And Brian, our guide, helped him ride a skateboard which he really loved. But with me and the other girls - he wasn't really too interested in connecting with us. And I could really sense that this kid had already been through alot. He had 4 older siblings who were also in the orphanage and they were all precious. They weren't orphans. Not in the sense of the definition we tend to think of when we think of an orphan. They still had a parent alive (possibly both but we know for sure their mom is still alive) and yet, here they were in this orphanage in Limon, Costa Rica. We found out later from our translator who asked some questions for us, that most of the kids in Costa Rica who are in these 2 orphanages we visit still have one or both parent living. And yet, there they are - not being cared for by their parents. We learned that a lot of them are taking away from their parent(s) due to abuse, neglect, drug addiction, etc. The sibling group I mentioned above was taken away from their mom for neglect - neighbors apparently called the police because the children had been left home alone. Can you even imagine leaving a 2 year old home alone? I can't. I hate to even think about what could have happened. Those kids had been taken from the mom that time but in other instances, she had just dropped them off there. So they've been in and out a lot. No wonder they didn't want to attach to any of us and were skeptical. We found out later that their mom is pregnant again and that she hadn't been by to check on her 5 kids in months. By the time our next team went in July, those 5 kids had gone to live with their grandmother. And my prayer is that they are in a loving home with her and being well provided for and loved. I have some photos from that trip printed out and hanging in my room - it reminds me to stop and pray for them. I may never hear about them or see them again - but they are in my heart and I will continue to pray. That trip was my first VO trip but even if it hadn't been - it was really hard for me to leave knowing that a lot of these kids don't have stability and are in and out and we may not see those same kids again. And we wouldn't get to know if they were ok or not. That was hard. I cried like a baby when I left those kids. I pray their families would get healing and help and be able to care for them the way they deserve. 

China was in April and we were a 7 person team led by Frank Pass. I had just been hired on full-time as Mission Trip Coordinator in March and needed to go to China to see how one of our trips went so that I could coordinate all the China trips. It was a beneficial trip for sure. I learned so much that has already served me well in planning other trips. And I also fell in love with the kids there. We visited one orphanage in Chifeng, China for many days in a row while we were there and a majority of the kids were considered children with "special needs" according to China. I just saw children - beautiful precious children! And I fell in love with a little girl who was withdrawn and skeptical and was very difficult to get to smile and didn't want me to hold her at all for the first few days. Chinese names are hard to say so I named her Jordan, which happens to be my favorite girl name and she looked like a Jordan. Her name was actually Jun Tien Luen - no idea how that should be spelled but that's my best guess:) By the 3rd day, she would let me hold her. Jordan had a condition that I've heard called "Teddy Bear Syndrome" where she can't really bend her elbows and her hands are turned outwards so when she was trying to pick something up - she had a difficult time but would scoop it up with both arms at the wrist. And she could hold on to small items like a crayon but not a bigger item like a ball. She would just bat at it on the table but if she wanted to hold it - had to scoop it up between her arms. One of the days we had a game where she just played with crayons - picking them up and dropping them, then I would pick it up and hand it back to her and we'd do that again and again - when I handed it back to her, she would smile and her smile was beautiful. What a precious little girl. So many physical limitations with the kids there and yet, their resilience was amazing and they adapted and were able to come up with new ways to do things. Frank, our team leader, fell in love with a little boy with no arms and that little guy would just cry and cry but when Frank would pick him up - he would stop crying and be perfectly content. And if you could see how he could pick things up with his feet - it was amazing. He picked up Frank's cell phone and passed it back and forth from foot to foot. He was so cute. And he stole Frank's heart. I don't know how many of the kids there are true orphans - my guess would be that a lot of them were simply cast aside due to so-called "special needs". And that is heart-breaking cause every one of those kids were precious. And every one of them deserves love! So for that time in Chifeng, we went in and we loved them and held them and played with them and gave them one-on-one attention. And next year, a lot of that same team is going back to the same orphanage again to do exactly that again. We also took the orphanage shopping with donation money and got them several washers and dryers and 4 microwaves for the orphanage. Even though these kids don't have moms and dads to care for them - the Chifeng orphanage was wonderful. They clearly love those kids and those kids love each other. We have since found out that Chifeng is not even on the adoption registry list so unless that changes, these kids will not be leaving there. And I hope that does change and those kids get forever families. But I do know that the orphanage felt like a big family and I am sure it's not like that everywhere so in seeing that and how well those kids are being cared for - it made it slightly less difficult to leave them because we knew they were in good hands. Though I did cry when I said goodbye to Jordan and walked out the door to leave. That was hard. And I think of and pray for her often. 

Haiti was in June and I didn't know I was going until really last minute. I was co-leading with Bethany Haley and Barbara Crossman and we made a great team! And we needed 3 leaders cause it was a hard trip. I've not quite experienced chaos like Haiti before nor since. There's a desperation that's very real and very obvious. And there's SOOO much need. It became very clear that there was no lack of places to go that need help. We visited orphanages, tent camps, helped out in a medical clinic, went to a school, gave medical attention to kids on the street and tried to intervene for an unborn child to the mother who was thinking of having an abortion. I didn't personally do all these things - but our team did. Each person had unique giftings and they put them to use in Haiti. I'm not a medical person and I'm not trained in trauma therapy or counseling - it was amazing for me to watch our amazing women at work in these areas. They were a huge blessing to me and to all the people we met there. They helped so many children and adults. And they were incredibly flexible. Haiti was the trip that all came together day by day, flexibility was #1 because plans fell through, things changed and nothing really happened quite the way we planned. It was often stressful for us as leaders and it was very hot there. And yet, this group of ladies handled it with the utmost grace and flexibility. The team truly blessed us leaders by having such servant hearts and positive attitudes. Yes, we loved on orphans in Haiti - but we also loved on each other, we loved on orphanage staff, and lots of adults and kids at the tent camps and other places we went to. And our team loved on our translator Sylvestre by deciding to help with college. They saw great potential in that young man and wanted to invest in him. And since returning, they have gone to great lengths to make that happen. It's been so neat to watch how God works during and after these trips. It never ceases to amaze me. He is such an amazing God! 

Ghana, Africa was my most recent trip in July/August. I absolutely love Africa - the culture, the people, the joy, the sense of community and the simplicity of life there. I saw poverty but I rarely saw anyone who seemed to even notice they were in the midst of it. We were welcomed with smiles and greetings everywhere we went. A lot of that was because of Cheryl Read who was gracious enough to let our team come join her International Hope & Heritage team. They had already been there 30+ days when we arrived. And VO had never been to Ghana so it was really helpful to go and learn from Cheryl. I learned first and foremost that in Ghana - relationships are everything. I saw the importance of returning to the same places year after year and building those relationships. I saw how important being formal is there. It all goes back to relationship. I will never cease to be amazed at how much people can carry on top of their heads. And at how little kids can carry babies and other small kids on their backs. They take care of each other in Ghana. And I loved it there! I loved sitting across from a little girl who loved mimicking everything I did as a game. I loved singing a song I made up on the spot with a group of local kids from huts along the beach in Aflao. I loved helping a medical missions team by counting pills under a tree in a remote village outside of Tamale. I loved doing the hokey pokey with 30 kids, holding babies in the Anfaani orphanage and helping the kids at Hands of Mercy Children's home with their homework. I loved watching Cheryl's team tell the Panorama bible story to widows in mud hut villages and getting to join them for an entire day of hut to hut evangelism. We did so much more than minister to orphans on that trip. 

And that's what I love about what I do. I get to watch as the Lord moves on the hearts of each team member, I get to see what passion he stirs up and I get to hear about how team members come home and can't just go back to life as normal. They come home changed. And they aren't content to just go on with life as usual. They start new ministries, they sign up for more trips, they start the process of adoption, they sponsor kids, they start raising money to support an orphanage, and so much more. And I get to be a witness to it all! There is nothing better than that. After all, it is out of a similar experience that I'm here today doing what I do at Visiting Orphans. I went on a mission trip in 2007 with Compassion. Honestly, I never had a desire to ever go on a mission trip prior to that. But I wanted to meet my sponsored child and I had just read the part of Purpose Driven Life that talks about asking God to send you. And I had prayed that prayer and the next day got an email about a sponsor tour to the Philippines. God's timing is perfect. I have no doubt of that!!! That sponsor tour changed my life and I couldn't go back to life as usual. I had to do more. So I sponsored several more kids, became a volunteer and later an area coordinator over 18 volunteers in Nashville. And my passion for missions was born too!!! I wanted to go, go, go wherever I could, as often as I could. And 3 years later - I lose my ad agency job only to start helping out with admin work part-time with Visiting Orphans at exactly the same time that it grows from 12-15 trips a year to 25 trips and suddenly has an immediate need for a full-time person to plan trips. I didn't even go looking for it. I was just there and I was open and willing to do whatever was needed. And because I was already helping with anything and everything - there I was in the position to be considered for that role. And here I am - Mission Trip Coordinator of a missions sending agency. Only God! Only God!!! 

 Franklin (my sponsored child) & I - 2007

I challenge you to ask God "will you send me?"! He'll send you. He'll show you. And He'll radically transform your life. It won't look exactly like mine. He has a way of custom fitting each of our paths to our specific giftings. He is a God of details. And He has a plan for your life and He has a plan for the lives of all the people you will touch on the mission field. It's orphans, it's widows, it's village chiefs and translators and your in-country guide. It's everyone God puts in your path. Go where the Lord is calling you and see if He doesn't change your life as a result. If you step out in faith and let God guide you - you'll be amazed at what He'll do. I know I am. I'm amazed everyday that He's put me in this place, that He would choose me for such a time as this, and yet - I'm willing and although I don't feel qualified, I'm also not afraid. I am confident that He will equip me for that which He has laid before me. And thank God - He does!! Cause I can't do it on my own, that's for sure.  It's my job to take the things He's put before me very seriously and try to be as diligent and faithful with it as I can with the most integrity. But He's doing the rest! I'm just letting Him use me and feeling humbled and honored that He would choose to. If He can use me, He can use you! We're all broken, sinful humans. But we have an almighty God who can do infinitely more than we can ever ask or imagine. And I hope I get to hear about what He does in your life!!! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heavenly voices in Ghana

The local kids didn't know English but the word Hallelujah translates and they understood that. So I made up a song for us to sing and they wanted to sing it over and over. I think we sat there and sang it for about an hour. I added a "Praise the Lord" little extra part and it was so precious to hear all their little voices singing it. It was probably my favorite moment ever!!! I had one kid sitting on my left leg, another laying down on my right and a cute little boy in front of me on the bench facing me and just fascinated with touching my hand. And a bunch of kids all around me. Beautiful Ghanaian children singing with me - it was like heaven to me!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My favorite day in Ghana

Our last day with children in Ghana was my favorite day in Ghana and is right up there on the list of all-time favorite days in general. We got dropped off at Pastor Christian's church on the beach in Aflao and our van went and picked up the kids at the orphanage to bring them there. We had told them we could shuttle them in several trips but they showed up and all 40 of the kids piled out of our little 12 seater van - it was quite impressive. They were sooooo excited and it was so awesome to see the joy on their faces! Tons of kids from the area who live near the church, many of whom go there, came down to play. I think there were at least 100 kids on the beach with us all day. I got some great pictures. I took so many photos on this trip that I filled up both my memory cards. So many great things and beautiful children! On the beach, some of the team played soccer with the kids, some just held hands and sat with kids on our laps (me included), some went in the water and played in the waves with the kids. It was such a fun day. I sat on the beach with a group of about 7 kids around me and taught a tiny little 4 year old boy how to do the hand clapping game where you do hand to hand across and then clap in between. It was so cute. Another little girl played with me too. And then other kids just wanted to hold my hand or sit next to me. Most of the kids who were around me where actually the neighborhood kids, not the kids from the orphanage. Although sometimes it was a mix. It was very evident that the kids in the area are desperate for love and affection. I spent most of the day with kids holding my hands, sitting on my lap or just standing all around me. But my all-time favorite part of the day was at the very end. The kids from the orphanage loaded up into the van and I was sad to see them go but while we sat and waiting at the church for the van to come back for us - we kept playing with the kids who lived nearby. I was inside the church and Caleb had been playing drums in there so me and some of the kids started dancing. We did that for awhile and then I started doing the hokey pokey to the music and though they didn't understand me - they mimicked everything I did and did it with me. It was so fun. Then I taught them head and shoulders, knees and toes and they followed right along on that too. Then I asked them to sing for me and one kid who kind of spoke english said the word hallelujah which told me that they probably all knew that word. So I spontaneously started singing it over and over and made up a melody. And the coolest thing ever - they totally started singing with me. We sang it quite a few times and then I led them outside to sit in the shade on a bench behind the church. There were 2 benches and I sat in the middle and all around me and the entire other bench in front of me filled up with beautiful African children, all looking at me to see what I had planned next. I hadn't planned any of this and yet it was just flowing and I was loving my time connecting with them and bridging the language barrier. One of them started singing the Hallelujah song I made up and I joined in and then all these cute kids joined in and we must have sat there and sang that for about an hour. So I added a bridge to it - Praise the Lord 4 times and then it would go back to Hallelujah. Jess came over and took a video of it. It was a truly wonderful blessing to just sit with these precious children singing to the Lord with them. It was the most beautiful sound in all the world! This one little girl who was smaller than the other kids and sometimes would almost get plowed over when they were swarming one of us - I picked her up and put her on my lap. Another kid was laying on my other leg and a sweet tiny boy sat in front of me facing me and he touched my hand the whole time - he seemed quite fascinated with my white hand. He was so adorable! All I can say is sitting there on that bench with them singing was one of my favorite things ever!!! I will upload the video when I get home for sure.