Sunday, February 28, 2010

No Mirrors

They have no mirrors here. The children do not know what they look like. They ask often for us to take their "photo, photo!" because they get so excited to see themselves on the screen after the flash goes off. They smile, they laugh, they praise God no matter what. These children have taught me many lessons so far, and this is one I learned today.

Yesterday my pocket mirror broke. I realized I am now like these children with no mirror here. So, I decided to look at myself through their eyes today. They were my mirror. So, first, before I go any further, let me describe what I looked like today on the outside - frizzy hair up in a hat, a trace of makeup, a big t-shirt (thanks, Em) and some scrub pants. When they saw me and all the team members, these children shouted for joy and grabbed for us like we had just hopped out of a limo to walk the red carpet. While they are definitely awestruck by my blonde hair and white skin, I began to realize it was not at all what I looked like that drew them to me or my teammates. They have a genuine desire to hold and be held...and unfortunately they do not get that often. What we are giving them cost us nothing...yet provided a gigantic return. And as we processed tonight as a team, we admitted it was nice to be loved, to be held, to be accepted by these precious children for no other reason but that we loved them.

This morning a child sitting in John's lap next to me in church took my bible and begin flipping through. His finger landed on a page, and he held it there for awhile. I could see some of my writing in the margin, so I was curious about the scripture. He was holding the page to Psalm 139. I know he couldn't read it, but it was interesting to me that he was holding the passage open...a passage that says he is fearfully and wonderfully made! I had marked that page, because it had a profound impact on me during one of my studies recently, and I had dated it so I would remember the moment. This child, a little over a month later, reminded me about that scripture and what it says about true identity and undconditional love. As the service went on, this same child was so comfortably resting in John's lap and arms that he eventually fell asleep. He was comfortable, he was loved, so he found "sweet sleep" resting in arms of love and compassion.

If you get a chance after reading this, check out Psalm 139 and find rest for YOU...the person He made you. Sit still and let God hold you in his arms...just as you are. No need for a mirror.

Much love,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday, oh no Saturday ... time has no meaning ;) There is nothing but love, laughter, and sunshine.
Today we were with the children all day! We started our day with spagetti for breakfast, hey don't knock it till you try it. The flurry of acitvities included: Leigh Ann's famous "lawn mower" song (thanks Darlene for sharing with her) they children love all the motions. we tried making shakers with birdseed in plastic eggs. One small oversight, birdseed with sunflower seeds, so yea they broke open the hot glued eggs and sat around eating the contents. bubbles, singing, drawing, futball (soccer), duck, duck, goose (you should have seen Gary and John they looked like the three stooges running around the circle. The day end activity...all the girls had the honor of having their hair done in braids/corn rolls. Leigh Ann actually had not had her hair down until today. WOW did they like all her hair. They were so proud of what they had done.
There are so many sweet faces, and so loving. All they want is to be with you. It is quite interesting in watching them pick you. I do not know what attacts a certain child to an adult, but it is very direct and each time you come back they are just like your own children. They come running and grab your hands and hug you.
There are 2 boys who all day have been at my side. Geno is around 4 and does not speak much. While I do not know his story, he is withdrawn from the other children, playing away from them. We curled up late this afternoon on my lap and slept for a couple hours. The other young man is 13 and he had been coming and going all day until this afternoon when he came up and put my arm around him to hold him. He never spoke but sat there the whole time Geno slept. They are children, no different from my boys back home. I am learning more from them than I could ever teach them.
Oswald Chambers says it best, "If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it. Ask yourself "Have I been carried away to do something for God not because it was my duty, not because it was helpful, not because there was anthing in it all beyond the fact that I love Him?"
God I love you!

"A new family member at the Orphan Transition Village and in Heaven'

This afternoon I'd like to share something with you from our partners we're here serving right now, The Global Orphan Project.

Alan Dietrich, live from Haiti:

Two precious lives forever changed by the earthquake in Haiti. The first is Jean Marc Vaval, the son of our dear Pastor Moise Vaval, GO Haiti Field Director. You’ve read that he had not been found since the quake. The excavation of his school where he had last been seen has been occurring, and we visited there yesterday. The massive structure was completely leveled, and the grounds covered in school papers. Jean Marc’s body was found (earlier this weeek) and eventually taken to University Hospital. Though his body is there, we know that he is in heaven with our Lord and Savior. His parents are true faith heroes – serving orphans and their community tirelessly each and every day and night, including during this time of uncertainty, with grace and determination. Please lift up a prayer for their family.

And, from the same University Hospital, a new life begins. A ten year old boy, the only child in his family, named Jovani Michel, was returning home from the store with groceries for his mom when the earthquake struck. By the time he reached home, he found that his mother and father did not survive. He wandered to the grounds outside the Palace, which now lay in ruins as well, and slept outside the gates for several nights. Someone brought him to the University Hospital, where the clinicians and US Army soldiers serving there fed him and gave him a cot and sleeping bag, and called us. We are blessed to have a new, very energetic member of our family here at the OTV. And, the rest of his life on earth begins tonight in our care.

Our team is being blessed by the children God has called us here to love. I've never worked with children who are so in need of love and attention and to feel you close to them. One of our team members is a child trauma counselor who continues to help us understand the actions of the children that stem from what they've experienced over the last 6 weeks.

So often I see what happens to a child when they lose their parents. This week I've seen what happens to parents when they lose their child. As I type this, Pastor Moise and his family are in a time of great sadness. Pastor is leading the funeral of his precious son, Jean Marc, who was days shy of turning 9 on the day of the earthquake.

Since the earthquake, Jean Marc's parents have continued to search the rubble of their son's school. After a week or so he was listed as "missing" however, Mrs. Vaval felt God had given her word that her son was okay. She began to get word that he had been sighted in the Dominican Republic and so last week she was going from field hospital to field hospital showing his picture and getting reports he had been sighted. When his body was uncovered a few days ago, Pastor had to make the difficult call to his wife, still searching in the DR.

Pray for pastor, his wife, two daughters and son as they take time as a family to heal. Pray especially for Mrs. Vaval whose mother's heart is deeply broken and is still struggling to understand the word she believed came from God, while she wipes her tears away at Jean Marc's burial site.

Blessings to you, sweet friends.

See you in the next blog,

Friday, February 26, 2010

What a day it has been!

What a day it has been! (see pictures in post below)
Our team started out this morning at 4am from the Dominican Republic. We had an adventuresome drive to Haiti this morning. Pit stops with pigs, roadside water purchases, and random speed bumps every few miles were just a few of the exciting things we experienced on our 5 plus hour drive to the border. Near the border we were surprised with a mile long line of trucks trying to get through to Haiti. We are praising God for our driver Frank and God's amazing provision as we miraculously were aided through the miles of traffic by the police who cleared the way to the border ... almost like Moses parting the Red Sea. There were dozens of buses loaded with folks that looked as American as us that were waiting to cross the border, but ours was the only bus let through.
We passed through into Haiti and made it to the GOP compound about 11am. Jen knew we had arrived when she heard the cheering of the children. What a greeting it was - happy smiling children and great big hugs from Jen! After a quick breakfast of yummy pancakes and eggs we got a quick tour of the compound and got to work loving on these beautiful kids.
We spent the early afternoon loving on the kids. Immediately we each had five or six children holding our hands, sitting in our laps, touching our faces and our skin. They yearn for personal attention and touch. Leigh Ann led the crowd in the Lawn Mower dance, the Hokey Pokey, Our God is a Great Big God and so much more! Gary and John got the soccer balls in movement and then introduced the hand slap game. All were hits!
Later in the afternoon Kim and Holly organized all our supplies and the rest of the team had the opportunity to return some children to their parents. These children are from Pastor Moises' church and their parents let the GOP care for their kids for a month while they got their homes in order. All of these children's homes were destroyed in the quake and they were so excited to be going home to their families.
The TapTap was our mode of transportation and we were packed in like sardines. We each had a child on our laps. The young one that I had the pleasure of holding was a young boy about 2 years old. He was not talking, only sucking his thumb and staring wide eyed at everything. After about 20 minutes of our ride, this precious child fell asleep in my arms. Absolutely completely limp, a very sweet sleep. It was amazing that he could sleep through the noise of the vehicle, the horns honking, the vendors and people yelling ... this little child just slept on trusting me to his care. Isn't that the way God wants us to trust Him? To just pray to Him with our needs and desires and to fall into His arms which will protect us no matter the danger? Oh how I pray each of these children can trust in Him and feel secure hope that only He can provide!
We saw some of the damage from the earthquake. It was immense and very hard to describe ... very similar to what we saw in Indonesia after the tsunami in 2005. It is like a war zone. Everything is demolished and there are displaced people in makeshift housing in any and every open space. They are going to need a lot of help for a long time here in Haiti. I only hope that the world does not forget these people.
This evening we had a lovely dinner of chicken legs, beans and rice, slaw and veggies. It tasted like prime rib after this long day! We took time for a little encouragement and a devotion. Now things are quieting down. The kids are watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang while Gary and John are helping set up a tent for Jen (who just spied a grasshopper on Kim's back and yelled "That's not a bug, it's a pterodactyl!") Truly, the bug situation here is not terrible and we are SO happy for that! The room situation here is like the Taj Mahal compared to my recent mission trips ... but shhhh! don't let my hubby know, he thinks I'm roughing it! :)
James 5:13-19 was the reading in tonight's devotional. We are so blessed and these children have suffered so much. We are praying tonight that we show God's love and compassion in all we say and do to all we come into contact with the days we are here. Please continue to pray for the team and our work here. It is going to be an awesome week ... God is doing great things in Haiti!
bon soire!

Sweet Sleep Team Has Arrived in Haiti!

Just a few quick pictures of our first afternoon with our BBC/Sweet Sleep team in Haiti!

The team has arrived!

Kim Cox already loving on some orphans. That didn't take long!

Kids getting ready to be reunited with their families! Amazing...

More cuties about to reunite with their families!

There are some exciting things to share with you -- like this trip we're on at this very moment to help reunite these kids with their families and an exciting bed-building project we'll be doing next week! 
More to come soon. 
Stay tuned!


A Different Haiti

Sweet Sleep began work in Haiti in 2008 after the country was left battered from rock and mud slides and scared children without mommas were in need of beds and loving places to lay their sweet heads.

 This is the view from my window this morning. I can hear sweet children singing....

So it is today. However, the Haiti we minister to in 2010 is a different place than it was just two months ago. Over the last year and a half Sweet Sleep has been praying for and working with partners in order to lay an effective infrastructure for our ministry here. God has opened doors and in the weeks since the quake, has shown more and more of the plan He has for us here.

One of our partners is The Global Orphan Project. I've been blessed by everything we have experienced with them. Sweet Sleep's first container drive was for 2,000 orphaned and displaced children being cared for by Global Orphan. Within the hour Sweet Sleep's first team of volunteers from Brentwood Baptist Church will arrive....delighting hundreds of little ones who I'm been watching peer around the corner each time a car honks at the gate. God is going to smile this week as His children are loved. We are blessed to glorify God this way.

Sweet Sleep will provide beds and bedding and Bibles to thousands more children in Haiti. Next week we will provide bunks, bedding and Bibles to an orphan home being rebuilt by Global Orphan. Much more will come on that.

For now, pray for our team to be intentional with these traumatized children. Pray for God to use us to bring peace to their hearts. Pray for our ministry here. Pray for your own involvement. And, pray for God to direct your own involvement in our work here.

We're blessed to minister with you. Know you are with me as I touch the sweet faces and hold the hands of each precious child.

See you in the next blog,

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Packed and ready to head out in a few hours for Haiti...uncertain of what awaits us but certain God is in control and leading the way!

Experiencing Haiti -- Under the Stars

I have to say I was sad to miss last week's Sweet Sleep Under the Stars event at the Planetarium in Nashville. However, I have been able to experience Haiti under the stars instead. 

Due to the recent aftershocks, our HORT group has been sleeping on the roof of the building where we're staying. Here are some photos of our new digs. 

This is where our guys are sleeping.

This is our team commander, John, making Jodi and me our rooftop pad.

We're learning to sleep like these sweet friends of ours - outside under the stars in fear of another aftershock.
At least we have somewhat comfy mattresses at our rooftop camp - these children are sleeping on a table.
Praying we can get beds to kids like these soon.

So much has happened here - we've met with lots of pastors and aid organizations, hugged lots of orphans and have some incredible stories to share. Hop over to our HORT blog and read the story of our translator Smit here. He spent days translating for us before sharing that he, too, is an orphan. Wow. 

Here is our latest HORT map as we're plotting churches that are caring for orphans in their communities.

If you would, spend some time praying for these churches today. Pray for their people who have been through so much. Pray for the orphans they are caring for -- that they would find comfort and peace in Jesus. Also, I'd love it if you would pray for our HORT team as we wrap up our work on the ground here this week. 

Also, please pray about giving to our Haiti Relief Fund. You can make your donation, of however much you feel led, here. We've already received requests for over 500 bunk beds for 1,000 sweet orphans here in Haiti and many more requests will come. 
We need your help to provide healthy, comfortable Sweet Sleep beds. 
A complete bed for one of these children in Haiti is just $200.

Thank you for praying for Sweet Sleep and our work to provide beds for orphans here in Haiti and around the world. We couldn't do what we do without you. I'm so very thankful for each of you today.
See you in the next blog,


Monday, February 22, 2010

A Night In Their Shoes

I'm from Illinois. I do tornadoes. Tornadoes let you know ahead of time they'll be in your area and you local friendly TV weather man will tell you exactly what time they'll be arriving at your doorstep so you'll already be waiting for them in your bathtub with a mattress over your head.

Earthquakes, it seems, don't lend the same kind of thoughtfulness. If they did then our 230,000 brothers and sisters estimated deceased would have been waiting for the quakes arrival with their loved ones in soccer fields and open public areas.

The devastation here, as you've seen over my pictures this week, is shocking. It's maybe like being on a movie set---except these people aren't actors--they're victims and because of 38 seconds they've lost everything, including their dignity and their innocence.

As compassionately as I've been able to, I've listened to countless stories from pastors, children, mothers, aunties, translators and any other national about the afternoon of January 12th and their hurt and struggles since. Sometimes you don't even have to hear their stories. It's written across their faces. Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands are sleeping in tents. Some because their homes have "cracked" or "crushed" and some because they are so fearful of what might happen as the land below their feet still shakes without warning.

This morning God changed my capacity to understand their fears.
I couldn't fall asleep until just after 2:00 am. My last thoughts as I drifted asleep were about the ceiling above me and how heavy it would be if we were to have an earthquake and it landed on my head. A little over two hours later I was instantly awakened by a strong shaking and a deep rumbling sound.

I knew instantly it was a quake, maybe the better term is aftershock. I got out of my bed in warp speed, however my foot was tangled in my carefully tucked in mosquito net.

My roomie, Jodi, says the scene of me getting out of my bed is one she'll never forget. She thought a rat or giant vermin had landed on her bed and was trying to figure out what to do. Jodi says she doesn't think either of my feet touched the ground in my bedroom, but rather one touched down in the hall. I would say there's strong truth to that possibility.

This is my bed after a normal exit.

This is my bed after this morning's evacuation.

In the hallway I hit the ground hard. I think one of my feet got tangled in my mosquito net and pulled me down. I screamed...really loud either as I was going down or while I was down. I couldn't get my bearings or wriggle free instantly and I remember looking up--up, to see if the concrete was falling out of the sky yet.

I scrambled up and ran toward the stairs where another team member was already at the top. There was a lot of commotion and I don't remember what was happening around me because I was expecting walls to start caving in any second. If it sounds dramatic, well good. It was. Still is.

I sped down the stairs and jumped off the last 2 to get to the gate. I really expected to start feeling concrete hit me. At the gate we had a harsh reality; we weren't able to open the gate out of the house. I stood there, in the dark, looking at the gate and to the courtyard thinking, "We're going to die right here at the gate."

Somebody on the team asked where Michlet (the young man helping us out at our house) was. As logistics chief, I felt it was my responsibility to instantly start yelling his name so he'd come let the gate open and free us. That didn't really work so much.

Suddenly...or as it seemed at the time, finally, Alan--another team member came up and leaned down to move the metal latch which opened the gate, freeing us into the courtyard.

As we collected our wits in the courtyard some of the team hadn't been sure of what was happening until I screamed, bringing "a moment of clarity" as Paul said, about what he wondered was really happening. Others hadn't felt it, but were awakened by my scream. I won't charge them for that, but I do expect Christmas cards from now on.

As team members started going back inside I couldn't make myself. I actually ended up crying...full of thoughts of the week that had finally caught up with me.

As long as this blog is, the whole thing lasted 5-10 seconds. 38 seconds must have seemed like an eternity. Our aftershock registered as a 4.7. Today we were 2 hours from Port Au Prince and a pastor told us they'd felt the shake as well. Incredible.

Friends, I cannot urge you enough to continue to pray for these people. Be intentional in remembering the hurting, praying for the hope Haitians are seeking as well as the wisdom needed as Haitians rebuild a country.

And, pray for the American church as HORT looks to find churches to help walk with Haitian churches in caring for orphans and families in their community. And for your own involvement as you journey with us to give comforting beds to children who are emotionally traumatized and need a loving place to lay their sweet heads.

Oh, and Jodi is now calling me Elasta-girl.

See you in the next blog,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Two stories from Haiti: Privileged to Share and Blessed to Pray

This is the sound that generally starts my day. I don't normally hear a helicopter during my daily routine, but here...there's no daily routine and helicopters are a frequent sight..and sound. Earlier this week a pastor we were meeting with talked about the psychological needs of the orphans he is caring for.

This was before my aftershock experience and so I hadn't thought about this until I heard him speaking, but apparently the choppers make the ground and things around feel like they shaking. He said the children will start running and they have to tell them things are okay. Now he is trying to teach them to clap when they hear or see a helicopter. Who would have thought. Certainly not me.

The 4.7 aftershock I described in my earlier blog changed all of that. The helicopter rumbling is much like the rumbling I heard when the aftershock hit. Mind you, the rumbling was much deeper and from an unseen and unpredictable force. Still, I know that every single time I heard a chopper, a chair scrape the ground, a car muffler...anything remotely like the deep groan of the earth, I panic: my heart lurches forward and I stop breathing and want to take off running. The children of Haiti have been through so much pain. Addressing their emotional needs is a challenging task when their very existence and struggle for water, food and shelter seems, at times, impossible to meet. All I know to do is to pray for these children who I have been blessed to be able to know by name. I consider it my joy and responsibility to share their stories with you, so that you may also pray for them.

This is sweet Tangette. She became my best friend. She came and sat next to me and was doing anything she could to just be near to me. I told her she had beautiful eyes (sometimes it's like charades, and that's always fun). She was beautiful...and not just her eyes. She had such a beautiful spirit. She left my side for a while and came back and sat down and talked to me. She said, "You are bee-u-tifulll". That made me happy.

After a little while longer, Tangette went and got a friend. Turns out it was her older sister, Marie. They were both delightful girls and it was a blessing to sit and love on them and tell them how beautiful they were.

A good deal of this was happening while my task force leader, Alan, was interviewing the pastor and I was, clearly, taking scrupulous notes and capturing the time on video and camera. The pastor introduced Alan to Rosetta, the woman with the broken arm in the photo below. She has 8 children, ages 3-23. At the time of the earthquake she was in the street outside her home, all of her children were inside. Rosetta ran back inside to get them and in doing so had many bricks fall on her head. In the process her arm was also broken. Unfortunately it wasn't set correctly and so doctors had to break it again. Their home is totally destroyed and they are sleeping in the street with their neighbors under a tarp. Pray for this sweet family. Rosetta also now has no job.But, she has her children. And, Jesus. And, her church.

Here's one of my favorite photos of my time here.....pray for these sweet sisters (the younger of the 3 is named Lesta). As I'd come to find out they lost both their parents and their 3 brothers in the earthquake. They are now living with the Pastor. What a precious honor to know them and to pray for them. And, I'm glad you can join me in this need....I promised them you would.

See you in the next blog,

Friday, February 19, 2010

We divided into three teams today to meet with pastors in differenet regions whose churches were involved in caring for orphans before last month's earthquake. I'll just share a little of that experience with you....

This is Evans. He is 7. On the day of the earthquake his mother went to go get water and never came back. Now orphaned, he is living at the church...

This is Pastor Pierre and his family. When the earthquake hit the Pastor was in a tap-tap (a little van or truck that is used for mass transportation). He said concrete his the vehicle and cars were hitting each other, but he was fine. Elsewhere, a wall fell on his little boy, but he was okay. His daughter was walking between two walls and once she passed them, they collapsed into where she had just been. His wife was at the church--which suffered damage. Pastor Pierre said, "God wouldn't let anything happen to them!"

After I took this picture I showed it to the family, first with their littlest girl, Elie. I was holding my camera in front of her and she reached up and took it with both her tiny little hands. Her eyes were as big as they could be and she couldn't stop studying it. I wanted to move it to show her brother and sister, but she wasn't done. Finally she said something excited in French Creole which translated was, "My daddy and my mom are happy!!"


See you in the next blog,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some perspective....

I recently received a message from someone saying they were glad I was here in Haiti. Their next sentence was, "Is it really as bad as the news makes it look?" I replied back that it wasn't as bad as the news is making it.

It's worse.

Few at home will ever know what Haiti is like right now and it's difficult for me to put into words.

I was talking to someone the other night about how beautiful Italy is and how happy it makes me to be there. They asked me to describe the countryside to them. I did my best, but told them you really could not fully describe the beauty of God's creation to somebody, you just had to experience it. Today, I'm thinking it is the same with trying to describe complete and utter destruction.

Since you're not here I'll attempt to share this with you...through pictures and words. Few words because your emotions will give you the right ones I cannot provide.

Picture the White House. Some of us have stood in front of the gates, some been inside. All have seen pictures. Picture its grandeur. Picture what it means to our country, to our leadership our pride and our strength. Now, picture the majestic building in...the bottom floors giving way to the floors above it and the White House just sinking in to itself. This is the "White House" of Haiti:

Now imagine our Senate, Treasury....everything where our important papers are and decisions for the country are made. Nearly every Haitian government building looks like this:

Yes, government has its issues. Regardless of any of that, because all was lost in the collapse of these buildings, the people of Haiti have lost their "existence" in the country they live in.

Haiti is a deeply spiritual nation. Most of the country is Roman Catholic. Here is their Cathedral...their place of worship....the place young men and women became husbands and wives, where children sat by their parent's side during church....where they found community:

And now the people who depend on Haiti's government and who worshiped in the Cathedral have homes that look like this:

It's definitely not easy to summarize the situation. What I can tell you is that, as my pastor Mike Glenn has said repeatedly, Haiti is not going to be a problem that goes away overnight. It is a marathon. So, if you've given your $10 to the cause and think that's all that's required of you, I encourage you to pray over that again. If you've stopped keeping the people of Haiti in your prayers, I implore you to petition God on their behalf in everything you and your family pray for. And, if you are a church body wanting to put your love and faith into action and compassion, then do not waste a moment.

There are vast ways in which you, your family, church, school, office and community can help. If you sit and say you don't know where to start, I'll sit there with you and give you possibilities to pray over. Anything is possible. What is not acceptable is saying that nothing you do can make a difference. Every ONE THING you do makes a profound difference.

Especially to the orphaned, the abandoned...the displaced and the vulnerable children of Haiti. Children like these precious ones:

Pray. Get involved. Advocate. Give. Check out HORT at or Sweet Sleep at Do something. Today.

See you in the next blog,

photos and thoughts from haiti

Here are some of our HORT members spending time with kids at the Global Orphan Project village.

More of the sweet kids in the village.

A tent city on a hill.
I've seen, heard and experienced some amazing and overwhelming things so far this week...
  • Our friends at the Global Orphan Project reunited a child with his parents after being separated for 5 weeks. Amazing. Thank you, Jesus!
  • I passed a group of Haitians this morning dressed in white walking down the street singing praises and thanking God. Hands down the most moving thing I've ever seen.
  • I stood in front of a school and orphanage for handicapped children that was absolutely flattened by the quake -- overwhelmed by the sight, the smell - and my thoughts. 
"the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Romans 8:26
Please continue to pray for Haiti and for our HORT team today. Your prayers are doing great things here...

See you in the next blog,


    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Faces of the Children We Met Today

    I wanted to share with you a few of the faces of the children we met today. 
    I'll tell you more about what we're experiencing here in my next blog.

    more soon..... 

    First Orphanage Visit and Tuesday Morning with HORT

    Good morning, friends... A few photos of our morning in Haiti.

    This is a school/orphanage that we visited this morning that was completely collapsed. The CAT machines were just firing up when we arrived. They were moving rubble from one pile to the next. It would stop after each moved load and a group would come and scavenge through the debris. We saw them pull out a copier and many, many, many little readers (school books). 

    The sight was overwhelming. The smell I really don't have words for.

    This is the presidential palace. Hard to believe...

    Here's the reason it's hard to get legal issues resolved in Haiti. This is the courthouse.

    Amidst the rubble, hope. The cross at the Cathedral.

     Thank you for praying for me and for our HORT group today. More soon...


    Monday, February 15, 2010

    day pictures

    for you to enjoy...stories later.....

    landing in the dominican....

    just between the DR/Haiti border in a place called "No man's land" that doesn't apparently belong to either country so they just have a market.....

    The road just after crossing into Haiti. So pretty...

    a sheet city

    UN soldiers

    Along the way

    Along the way to Haiti we've had a detour, a few road blocks with burning palms and tires, random goats, a stop for gas where some of the team took a zillion cute pictures of cute school children and 2 drivers. Still not sure about that one. Good stuff though.

    We're an hour from the border. Will post pictures later. Continue to pray for safety in traveling.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

    Report from the Dominican Republic

     Lake Henry: though it sounds more exciting in Dominican tongue.

    Just a little travel insight for you all as we wrap up our 1st travel day here. You know, a little something to ease you and I both in to what is about to happen.

    Most of our team met up in Miami, where the airport is colder than Antarctica. There are 11 of us total and with all the gifts God has brought together in the team, it's important for y'all to be praying because monumental things are going to happen.

    I've never been to the Dominican before, but it was interesting to see the landscape as our plane descended this afternoon. I was just taking everything in and then suddenly saw 8 baseball diamonds in semi close proximity.  It made me wonder what that was about and I made a mental note to ask you baseball knowers about this.

    The other thing that was interesting to see if the countryside. Lots of green and fields divided into handmade, hand worked plots bordered with brown potholed roads.

    As we got closer to the city the countryside drastically changed and suddenly there were metal corrugated house with tin roofs everywhere and tropical palm trees and such. It was a drastic and interesting change. Made me want to be out among the people and children watching life and taking pictures.

    Our team enjoyed Valentine's dinner together and we're now hunkering down for some much needed rest. This task force came together quickly, so sleep was on the back burner for us all. It's good to have a place to be together and to rest before we jump into the trenches tomorrow.

    Thanks for praying. Sign up for blog updates and you'll know each time I post about our work. Just scroll around and look for the orange icon that says something about RSS feeds. It's easy to do, trust me!

    Thanks friends. The DR is on Atlantic time, 2 hours ahead of central. We'll depart here at 7:00 am AST and expect it to be a 7 or 8 hour drive.

    See you in the next blog,

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Would you pray?


    I suppose if I would have gone to bed tonight I'd be waking in 15 minutes to get ready for the airport. It's hard to believe I'm just a few hours away from a flight that will take me to meet with 10 others from across the States who'll make up this first HORT (Haiti Orphan Relief Team) iniatitative. We have much to do and it's absolutely necessary to have a giant team here at home praying for all that is happening.

    Here is a post from one of my fellow team members, David Leventhal, with Hope for Orphans, explaining a bit about our mission as well as ways you can begin to pray. I'll be sure to keep you posted on how you can continue. And, I thank you so, so much for being a part of this mission in this---and so many other ways.

    By way of reminder the overarching aim of the Haiti Orphan Relief Team (HORT) is to identify, train and resource Haitian churches to be the direct rescue and care mechanism for Haiti’s hundreds of thousands of orphans. This is truly the most effective and scalable response to a need of such great complexity and magnitude. The primary goal is to better enable Haitian churches to reunite or keep children within extended family structures. For children that have no other options, HORT will help Haitian churches to provide direct care in home environments, not institutional orphanages. U.S. churches are also part of the solution and are being recruited by HORT to come alongside these Haitian churches in church-to-church partnerships to initiate, strengthen and grow their outreach to orphans in their immediate communities. These partnerships will also work toward the self-sustainability of the orphan rescue and care efforts in Haiti. HORT is a Christ-centered, church-focused initiative based on the assumption that the church has been clearly called by God to care for orphans (James 1:27).

    As for this first HORT deployment, here are some specific prayer requests:

    * Pray that as a team we might be the hands and feet of Christ to the people of Haiti.
    * Pray that our attitude toward the people of Haiti would be servant-focused, that is, that we would see ourselves as their servants for Christ’ sake.
    * Pray for unity of hearts and minds amidst the team – that logos and egos would be left in the U.S. and that our attitude would be that of Christ (Philippians 2:1-8)
    * Pray that HORT would be able to begin to effectively map out a long term, sustainable orphan-care model for Haiti
    * Pray that as a result of our efforts many Haitian children would find love, support, education and care in a Christ-centered environment
    * Pray for safe travel from the states to Dominican Republic and then from DR into Haiti
    * Pray that the Lord would lead us to the churches and pastors He wants HORT to engage
    * Pray for discernment to know how to handle the unexpected issues that will certainly arise
    * Pray for extra patience and grace for wives, husbands and children back in the States.
    * Pray for the Lord to raise up churches in the U.S. that would be willing to partner with churches in Haiti in a church-to-church partnership.
    Pray by name for the team for spiritual (Ephesians 6:10) and physical protection:
    o John Roberts (Incident Commander)
    o Paul Myhill (Liaison Officer)
    o Jodi Jackson Tucker (Information Officer)
    o Scott Vair (Planning and Finance)
    o Byron Schick (Operations)
    o Jen Gash (Logistics)
    o Theo Sandberg (Task Force Leader)
    o Alan Hunt (Task Force Leader)
    o Aaron Bensko (Videographer)
    o Dieula Previlon (Local Cultural Expert)
    o David Leventhal (Task Force Leader)

    Tuesday, February 09, 2010

    Disaster Response Experts Team With Orphan Care Organizations to Create Long-Term Solutions in Haiti

    Four days, Friends! Subscribe to this blog and you'll get emails each time I post stories and updates from Haiti. (Just click on the "subscribe" button!)

    Here's the story below from Yahoo! News:
    PR Newswire

    Tue Feb 9

    Unique team to deploy Valentine's Day

    RALEIGH, N.C., PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A volunteer team of U.S. disaster response experts and orphan care providers is coming together to provide strategic help to Haitian churches. The team will equip and train Haitian church leaders to provide local, long-term care for orphaned Haitian children in the aftermath of the January earthquake.

    The Haiti Orphan Relief Team (HORT) is a cooperative volunteer effort of disaster response experts and orphan-care professionals from many U.S.-based ministries that have joined forces to respond to the crisis in Haiti. An initial HORT on-the-ground team will deploy for a two week period beginning on February 14, 2010. The team will work to identify churches in Haiti that can be paired with U.S. churches for ongoing partnerships in caring for orphaned children, so that local resources can sustain this effort beyond the HORT team's deployment.

    "We know that this disaster is not going to be fixed overnight, but by putting in place key pieces of infrastructure, efforts can be sustained and strengthened long after the HORT team has returned to the United States," said John E. Roberts, past Director of the Federal Government's National Interagency Training Center, and Incident Command System (ICS) team commander for HORT. "We are looking to build a long-term solution to the immediate crisis."

    Recognizing that many Haitian church facilities were destroyed, HORT will use advanced mapping techniques developed by the U.S. government to physically identify the church facilities that are best able to provide long-term solutions to children now and in the future.

    "We are looking for churches that want to become part of the long-term solution to the orphan need in Haiti. Â We encourage U.S. churches to come alongside the churches of Haiti to address this catastrophe," said Paul Myhill, President, World Orphans, and a member of the deployment team.

    A Valentine's Day fund-raising drive is under way to help HORT deploy. Donors can personalize an eCard with a Valentine message and for every eCard sent, the team will personally deliver a Valentine to a Haitian orphan.

    "Outside help alone won't reach Haiti's deepest need. If we're serious about helping Haiti's orphans toward a bright future, it'll be absolutely vital to equip and support committed local Haitian churches to care for the orphans in their communities," said Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans.

    More about HORT can be found at:

    Collaborators in this effort include:

    Christian Alliance for Orphans,

    Global Aid Network,

    Hope for Orphans,

    Lifesong for Orphans,

    Love Haiti,

    Loving Shepherd Ministries,

    Sweet Sleep,

    Together for Adoption,

    University of North Carolina, School of Public Health,

    World Orphans,

    Thanks friends....see you in the next blog!


    Wednesday, February 03, 2010

    Haiti Orphan Relief Team (HORT)

    Sweet Sleep is a member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). Several of their partners and multiple US disaster relief experts have come together to create an initiative called HORT, Haiti Orphan Relief Team. Its 15-member team deploys for Port-au-Prince, Haiti on February 14, 2010 to implement a short and long-term strategy for displaced and orphaned children in the wake of last month’s devastating earthquake.

    HORT is comprised of disaster response specialists as well as leaders from non-profit organizations that are members of the CAFO. I have agreed to serve as the deputy logistics director.

    The team will create a communications infrastructure with a radio command system which is used by FEMA. Team members will train Haitian church leaders and orphanage directors to use the system to communicate their needs and to provide updates on their situations. Additionally, our team will be using a GIS mapping system to chart the coordinates of each orphanage and Christian church we can learn of. This infrastructure will become the basis of a permanent network that will provide immediate and long-term assistance where and when it’s needed most.

    The specific mission is to support the churches of Haiti to care for orphaned children. This will be accomplished by pairing U.S. churches with Haitian churches, to provide ongoing resources and support. HORT will collaborate with and train Haitian partners to sustain this effort beyond the deployment period. The mission goes far beyond today’s immediate needs of Haiti’s orphans as HORT establishes a network of support for these children for years to come. The Haitian churches which link with orphanages will later be linked to churches in the United States who will walk alongside them in rebuilding a sustainable Haiti and strong children.

    HORT partners are: CAFO, World Orphans, UNC School of Public Health, Together for Adoption, Sweet Sleep, and Orphan Lifeline. Information and giving opportunities to HORT can be found at

    Haitian churches will be matched with US churches who are interested in long-term ministry opportunities to walk alongside their brothers and sisters and children in Haiti. People can also keep up with the happenings in Haiti on our website as well as this blog or the link on the home page in the next few days and beyond.

    I would greatly love to have everyone’s prayers for this work---for the details, planning, fundraising, travel, health, safety and execution of everything involved. I’ll keep you posted over the next 11 days…oh, my.

    Appreciate you!!

    See you in the next blog,