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.  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!