Wednesday, April 28, 2010
We are home from Haiti! Our last day yesterday reminded us that even though this particular journey is ending, we have a responsibility to take what God has shown us through this time and continue the journey at home...to continue to love and pray for these children and the people of Haiti and the plan God has for them. This was evident in the sweet time we shared with Rogelin (pictured with our team) just before we left. Our last team in February had the privilege of meeting Rogelin, so it was a joy to see him again and for this team to meet him as well. Here's a little background on his story...
During the earthquake Rogelin was out taking care of an errand for his father, and when he returned home he found his house destroyed with his parents inside. Grief-stricken and alone, he was found by the Global Orphan Project (GOP) and brought to the Orphan Transitional Village (OTV) where we stayed. HIs story was recently featured on 60 Minutes as part of GOP's piece about their work with orphans, specifically in Haiti. Rogelin is 15 years old and currently unable to attend school, but he shared with us his high hopes of continuing his education and one day becoming a doctor. When I asked him what kind of doctor, he excitedly responded, "for children!" Our team bonded with Rogelin immediately. He has such a servant's heart, as he was always by our side when we needed a translator to speak to the other children or just a helping hand with a project. His smile and joy are contagious. After one of our team times one night, he happened to join us at the end when I was closing us in prayer. I was crying, so when the prayer ended, he walked over and hugged me so tight. He was a sweet reminder of God's love and how we all share each other's pain. It was amazing how he responded to us and our needs considering how much he must be burdened himself through the tragic loss of his parents only months ago.
Before we departed for home, Rogelin asked us if our whole team would pray with him before we left. It was an honor to surround this amazing young man, lay our hands on him, and pray over his life and God's plan for it. We took this picture with him and printed him a copy to keep. Jen also gave him a Bible, wrote all our names in it, and signed it with Jeremiah 29:11 to remind him that Jesus has a very specific plan and purpose for his life. Praise God that the trials this incredible boy has been through can and will be used for the glory of God. He has a plan for Rogelin...and all of us!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
God does not give us more than we can take. I know the truth behind this. But sometimes God trusts me with a surprising and overwhelming load.
Today was one of those days. Today a vast scope of the destruction left by the earthquake was revealed to us. Unfortunately, what we saw was only a glimpse of the entire story. But within that destruction there was hope. The streets are now filled with bustling traffic where two months ago they were desolate. Shop vendors line the streets selling their goods outside their fallen store fronts. And outside the Palace gates within a perimeter in which country people were not before allowed, tents which those people call home lie in the shadow on the once great building.
Exhausted emotionally, spiritually, and physically we returned to the OTV and prepared for the second part of our day. Our prayers had been answered and Pastor Calix’s (excuse the spelling) orphanage had been completed and was ready for beds. Finally we would be able to fully carry out Sweet Sleeps mission: to share God’s love by providing beds to the world’s orphaned and abandoned children. We sang songs, danced, worshipped, and loved each other. It was such a joyous time! Then we traced each child’s hand onto a sheet, along with the orphanage’s name, each child’s name, and Pastor Calix himself added his hand! The children giggled with delight as they each pointed to their mark on the bedsheet. Then it was time for the beds. Bunk bed frames were in place and mattresses added. And each bed was made up with the clean, healthy, colorful sheets that YOU, the supporters who donated hundreds of sheet, provided. Each child also received a Creole language Bible. We were able to explain God’s love to the children and that each night when they lie down they will know they are lying in God’s lap. We explained malaria prevention with the life saving mosquito nets. And we prayed over each child, room by room. And at last, before we departed we gave every child a lovely handmade doll given by a loving group of women. It was a blessed day!
But of course, now we are preparing for our return home. We are preparing for our goodbyes and are trying to understand what we have seen. Our hearts have been broken and will always be scarred. But because of those scars we will never forget.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I am on my second journey with Sweet Sleep in Haiti. I don't know why I thought I would be more prepared this time around. As I packed for the trip I even thought how much easier that process was this time because I knew what I needed and what to expect based on the last visit. But I was scared...I am scared, admittedly...of what God is showing me through this time.
One of the very first things we saw on this trip as we drove the streets was a "tap-tap" (a Haitian version of a taxi or trolley) with an interesting message on it. They are very brightly painted with words all over them, and in English it proudly proclaimed "Jesus was be here." We laughed and got a kick out of it - the same way these adorable Haitian children laugh at me when I totally botch their language in an attempt to communicate with them. We may not have all the words right, but there's always an important message underneath. That tap-tap now reminds me that Jesus was here, is here, and will be here always. However, that's too long to paint on a tap-tap, so "Jesus was be here" pretty much covers it.
God is continually teaching me to totally trust and turn things over to Him completely. That's crazy to me. I don't mean that irreverantly, because I know that's what I am supposed to do. I just don't feel comfortable with anything that involves me letting go of my plans or not having some sort of say in the process. During team time last night, I shared Psalm 46:10 with the group - "Be still and know that I am God." And today the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 was brought up a couple times by group members, which reminded me that God has plans for us to grow and prosper - not to be harmed! These verses and that brilliant tap-tap message reminds me that God is here and has it covered.
And speaking of His "covering" of us and all things...we will be taking Sweet Sleep beds to a new orphanage tomorrow. This particular orphanage is special to me because it houses 3 very special boys who have stolen my heart. I am so excited to be part of a team and ministry who will supply them with a new bed, sheets, and a bible. We will have the opportunity to share God's love and give them a physical reminder of the rest, comfort, and covering that love brings. Thank you for praying and supporting our team and these incredible children.
Jesus was be here,
No child should die from a mosquito bite, yet EVERY DAY more than 2,000 do.
We do lots of things in our lives in the name of "prevention". If I asked you to take 30 seconds and make a list of all the things we work to "prevent" the list would include things like: cancer, weight gain, speeding tickets, unplanned pregnancies, sun burns, bad reputations, car accidents, fights and so on. My own list would include the word "malaria".
Today is World Malaria Day. There's no Hallmark card for it (yet), no televised parade or big rock star campaign. It's a seemingly small designation to mark one of the world's deadliest diseases.
Each year more than 1 million people die from malaria; 85% are children under the age of 5. In Uganda, where Sweet Sleep is actively working to prevent this disease from taking the lives of precious children, more people will die this year from malaria than from AIDS.
Really? All I can think when I hear myself say that is "WHY?" We know the cause. We know the cure. Friends, let's save these children's lives!
I'm happy to say that all gifts made today for mosquito nets will be doubled. That's right...we're having a "save a little, save a lot" day. I implore you to go to our website, www.sweetsleep.org, and make a gift TODAY to help save a child's life. A treated mosquito net is only $8.00. In fact, I further encourage you to become a bedhead. Sign up online to make a reoccurring monthly gift toward mosquito nets and you'll know you'll be saving children's lives all over the world, every day of the year. Amazing. Really.
I'm writing this blog from Haiti where, as I type, our Sweet Sleep team is outside loving on orphaned children and preparing to lead them in a beautiful time of worship. Pray for that time. And then pray for how God would lead you to respond to the need the children have for a simple mosquito net.
Later tonight I'll pause, like I have been doing each night here, and will count up the number of mosquito bites I've gotten as the sun has set. I'm blessed to have preventative education, malaria prevention drugs and a net. These children deserve the same. They need us. They need you.
Thanks special friends. You are a blessing. You are the reason we can be here, holding these precious ones and sharing HOPE and LOVE with them. I am incredibly thankful to you.
See you in the next blog,
Today we attended the community’s worship service, a long, passionate, and deliberate service. After each age group recited their Bible verses, they dispersed to their families or back to their orphanage group, and many came to sit with us. Two girls sat on either side of me. One was about 7 and the other was a pre-teen. We held hands, hugged, sang, and searched for scripture in my Bible. At one point, the younger girl tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the older girl. She was lying on my lap and a single tear slowly trickled down her cheek. Her name is Esther.
Of the few orphanages I have visited, all have been exceedingly happy places. In fact, that joy and faithful gratitude to God has overwhelmed and humbled me. But here it is different. There is also sadness here.
I don’t mean to be too dramatic. The children here are happy and healthy and well cared for. The tears are sometimes quiet and hidden but at other times it’s haunting. There is the boy who wails, half a dozen times a day, for ten minutes and sometimes more. They think he might be autistic. But there are no therapists here to teach the mamas how to settle him. There was the young girl who was pinched on the arm by her friend. She cried for almost an hour. I held her and sang to her. But the tears would not stop. And Esther; I don’t know what triggered her tears. But they were there.
There is a trauma and a fear and a loneliness that is here. And it breaks my heart. I have not understood so fully the purpose of a mission journey like this until now. To be the one to hold that child in their time of sadness is my honor. “Assuredly I say to you,in as much as you did it to one of the least of these, my bretheren, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
“So many fallen, but hallelujah! There are no orphans of God.” –Avalon
God is so good! ALL the time! I know that if you have been around me anytime in the past 2 weeks then you have probably heard me say this phrase a time or two. It has become my new little phrase lately, but I truly have seen it in so many different things the past few weeks that I just can’t stop giving God the credit and glory that He is good all the time. If we truly believe it in our heart, you will see that it is true too.
Many of you know that a few weeks ago I grew weary as to why I was going on this journey to Haiti . I started to think of every excuse as to why I couldn’t or shouldn’t go. 1st it was the timing thing. It just didn’t make sense with all the different activities that my girls had going on and all the different responsibilities that I had at both of the girl’s schools and dance that I could possibly go out of town, let alone another country, during this week. But my wonderful husband, family and friends stepped right up to offer to take care of them and I know they are. Secondly, it just didn’t make sense to me that at this time it financially really didn’t fit into our budget to spend so much on my travel expenses, expedited expired passport, vaccines and medicines. But here again my family and friends took care of this by either a generous donation to my trip account or to the benefit garage sale I had the week before my departure. All my financial burdens were met. (Thank you to everyone that helped with this burden, I can’t thank you enough. It has meant the world to me as to how generous y’all have been) Thirdly, I have developed a fear of flying over the past several years. I know I shouldn’t, as God tells us to not have any fear (Isa 41:10), but I have and I thought I really do not know any of these team members. Whose hand am I going to hold if we end up on a rough flight? But here again that was answered as the Lord laid it on my sweet mom’s heart that she too was suppose to go on this mission journey with me. (By the way family and friends: we are getting along rather well…no major fights…ha…yet anyways…Ha!) And thank you God for 2 pretty uneventful flights here. Now everyone start praying for the same for the return.
Lastly, one of my biggest excuses that I was trying to pull was that this trip was way out of my comfort zone. Anyone that knows me well knows that I am a very emotional gal….I cry at everything happy or sad. So how was I going to go to Haiti and work with orphans who have just gone through such a tragic event? I have been on mission trips before but mostly medical ones where I am not with the same kids or people but for a day or a few hours. But this trip I would be with these kids every day and be building a relationship with them. How was I going to be able to do this trip without being an emotional wreck? How was I going to handle leaving all these precious kids? So yes, I am weeping a lot of tears so far on this trip. And yes, I have been developing some wonderful relationships with these kids.
But I am so thankful that God has allowed for me to go on this trip and has taken care of every “excuse” I had. It truly has been an incredible experience so far. This trip has met every expectation I had and beyond. There are way too many wonderful things and some great stories to write and blog about on here that I have experienced so far. The kids are so precious and loving. I just want to hug and kiss every one of them (which I usually do!) They are so excited to see us. It just melts my heart to see them come running up to me and grabbing my hand or hugging my waist. There are usually 3 or 4 kids on us at all times. They are beautiful! Like I just said, I have so many wonderful stories that I could write about that I have experienced the past 2 days, but if you know me well then you know I could and would ramble on and on and on, so I will wait to do that when you have time to sit down with me to hear about them, I am so excited to see what God has planned for our team for the next 3 days while we are here in Hait ; I know it will be more wonderful things and stories. I am so thankful for the Sweet Sleep organization for making this trip possible and for taking me out of my comfort zone. I love everything that Sweet Sleep is doing for these kids and was very excited to get to see the beds today that they are having built here in Haiti for these kids. I hope and pray it won’t be long till these kids will have these bed to call their own and be able to have “sweet sleep” that they so deserve.
Yes, there are a few kids I adore and would love to bring back with me (don’t worry John, I know I can’t as I already have checked on it…ha!) but I do know that God is good ALL the time and he has bigger and better plans for each one these kids here. They are in good hands. They are in God’s hands. I am just so thankful that our team gets to love on them this week.
Blessings from Haiti!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Two days in and I’m finally starting to pick up a little Creole or French or French Creole from the children here…valuable words and phrases like “Hot!”…“No, I mean it’s really hot!” and the more slang vernacular for “How are you doing, Caucasian man or woman.” And I have, in turn, taught a few kids the lyrics to 70’d dance anthem “Funky Town,” which not many people know was derived from a 19th century spiritual, “Lord, Won’t You Take Me To.” (In the interest of being honest and good Christian living, I must admit that that last part is not entirely true…He who has sinned much needs much forgiveness.) And despite these important cultural exchanges, a frustrating language barrier exists. The first question the children ask you is, “What is your name?” (In English) And once you respond and ask theirs (In English, of course), you are left with a period awkward and delightful smiling and even more delightful touching. During games and playtime, the children squeeze off Creole on automatic fire and all I can do is shrug my shoulders and smile sheepishly, like I do when I have to tell my wife I’ve done something dumb. Not that all is lost…you immediately recognize the melody when these sweet voices sing in their native tongue, “I’ll never know how much it costs to see my sin upon that cross.” I look down and hold tightly the hands of my new friends Stanley and Sam and little Cecil tugging on my shirt tail and it occurs to me that, perhaps, language barriers are necessary in some instances to keep us “on mission.” Words are powerful…they can be encouraging and, yet, they can me misinterpreted or misunderstood. In His infinite wisdom and mercy we are prevented, through conventional means, from telling these precious kids how much we love them and how they will not be forgotten…so we must show them. Then I briefly remember my skeptical friends and even strangers who have heard the gospel many times but have never seen it. I don’t wish to discount words. God can use them how and when He chooses, but we humans have proven ourselves to be a careless lot and, maybe, we should just concentrate on being love in action and leave the words to Him…Which reminds me of St. Francis’ famous directive to “Preach the gospel wherever you go and when necessary, use words.” Without conversation constructed of verbal language, the orphans of the T.O.V. and Julie’s House and Nicole’s House have spoken to and melted our hearts…with wide eyes and even wider smiles and hugs you with would never end…They sing a melody sweeter and clearer than “Here I Am To Worship” and certainly more uplifting than “Funky Town,” though I maintain that there’s a good chance that there’s a Funky Town section of Heaven. While I fear that our attempts to out-love these kids will fail, I pray that we, at least, make the final tally respectable.
Friday, April 23, 2010
As this day comes to an end I am left reflecting on, of all things, the supplies rooms. There are two rooms, one with toys, recreation items, craft materials, and clothing. The other is filled with medical supplies, baby goods, and sundries. In addition to these rooms there is a warehouse full of meal rations and water. The rooms are neatly organized by kind and supplies are obviously rationed closely and responsibly. And as a result, the children here are clothed, fed a 100% nutritionally complete meal, and are enriched with crafts and activities. All of the supplies have been donated to the Orphan Transitional Village.
Shortly after the earthquake, Sweet Sleep along with Brentwood Baptist Church worked to organize first a bedding drive. Then a drive for a variety of other good was held. And in preparation for this trip the team collected twin sized sheets. The donation of these goods sustain these children and give them a life in which they can develop and thrive. So I hope this blog gives encouragement to all those who are not physically here but whose gifts are. Not only did your sheets, coloring books, diapers, and hand sewn dolls make it here, they are being handled responsibly and with respect. They are critical to the growth and development of some of the most precious children I've been blessed to serve. And I thank you for being such an important part of these children's lives.
Thanks to the abundant grace and blessing of God, we have everything we need. So, instead of receiving presents from friends, we asked them to give back to others by way of a birthday bash benefit that went to help sweet orphans through Sweet Sleep.
Our birthday party took place in the Connection Center at Brentwood Baptist Church with tons of our friends in attendance who gave more than $200 to Sweet Sleep in our honor.
We couldn't have been more humbled by their graciousness and support of a ministry we both love dearly. We hope the funds given at our birthday party will be used to bless orphans around the world through this wonderful and amazing ministry!"
Kaylan and Bethany get it.
They understand that we're living in a world where $200 can be used for a lot of different things.
This sweet baby will be grateful indeed.
There's a reason they call these "Mission's Journeys" and not "Missions Trips".
After a long day of traveling, our team made it to the orphanage in Port-a-Prince Haiti. We started our day at 4:45 am at Nashville International Airport. A couple of hours later we were in Miami for a five hour layover. Once everyone was boarded our flight to Haiti, the pilot informed us that there was a mechanical problem closing the cargo hatch door. It took over an hour to fix the cargo hatch.
Fortunately, we had an uneventful flight to Port-a-Price. On approach, we got a birds-eye view of the damage and tent cities. Suffice to say, it has a different impact on you when you seeing it outside an airplane window as opposed to on TV.
We knew we weren't in Tennessee anymore when we saw the cargo hanger that served as immigration, customs, and baggage claim. (Don't mind the date stamp, I bought a new camera for the trip and I hadn't set the date yet)
Our drive from the airport to the orphanage was interesting, to say the least. Below is a picture of the traffic in Port-a-Prince.
I promise to never complain about traffic in Nashville or at Brentwood Baptist Church ever again.On the drive, we passed one of the large tent cities that has been in the news recently. It is built in a dry riverbed and there is a need to move the people and tents to higher ground before rainy season starts.
When we arrived at the orphanage, we were greeted by 70 kids who were waiting for us. We spent the next hour playing with and getting to know the kids. It was amazing to see how friendly the kids were. Almost every kid asked my name and wanted to see my watch.
We were told later at dinner that most of the kids at the Global Orphans Outreach transitional orphanage had at least one parent. Many of the parents have made arrangements with the orphanage to look after their children while they are looking for work, repairing their homes, and other earthquake related reasons. It's nice to know that we're able to show the kids love and attention while their family is regrouping from the earthquake.
All of our team members are doing great. We're excited to see what God is going to do through us and with us on this trip.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Although now that everyone knows what they missed, I might have to fight for my spot!
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
A week from this very moment and I'll be standing inside the Nashville airport waiting for my plane to Haiti where I'll be taking my new friends, Brian Petak of Fellowship Bible Church and Caryn Shapiro, their volunteer Haiti coordinator, to discover what ways God has in store for their congregation to minister to orphans. Love that.
Two week from tomorrow I'll be back at the Nashville airport, this time with a team from Brentwood Baptist and Kairos who'll be ministering to orphans at one of the orphanages we're working with there. It's going to be a great time, so plan to check in to read our blogs.
Right now though you have a chance to help. And we need you to act.
We're collecting twin sized sheets, new or nearly new, to take down there. Sheets can be pretty much anything but flannel...I think flannel sheets in Haiti is as close to purgatory as one would ever want to get!
So, we're making this easy for you with the help of our friends at the YMCA. You can drop off your new or nearly new twin size sheets anytime this week (before Sunday) at the YMCA on Concord Road during their regular hours. You can also bring them by our office.
Both groups will be bringing down sheets for the thousands of beds Sweet Sleep is giving to the precious little children in the months to come. Our linen resource was heavily damaged in teh quake or otherwise we would continue to resource the Haitian community---as Sweet Sleep believes in doing in every community we minister in around the world.
So, tell your friends, clean out your closets, get your dorm involved as you pack up for summer.....post this on your Twitter or Facebook! Hit up your local Targets and Walmarts!! The kids need your sheets!
See you in the next blog,