Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Jim here! Well, I’m not in Kansas anymore. Not even Ar-kansas (which is where I live). We wrapped up our last visit to the orphanage today and though the team returns to our respective homes tomorrow, I know not a single one of us will ever be the same. I’ve had the privilege and joy of sharing this trip with my daughter, Katie, and she and I are going to share today’s blog entry, as well.
Since the “ safari” truck was not available this morning, we rode to the orphanage in two shifts via SUV. I’ve got permanent marks on my fingers from putting the death grip on the holding rails that run across the top of the caged truck, so a front seat SUV ride was welcomed. At the orphanage, we gathered the kids together for a final group presentation to remind them of why we came to give them new beds. They told us that they loved the beds and were sleeping well. We told them we hope the beds remind them of God’s great love for each of them and that Jesus said no one could snatch His sheep out of His hand. Please pray with us that each of these beautiful children will truly understand and respond to the message of the gospel.
As usual, the ladies on the team worked their magic by organizing crafts for around one hundred kids. When they’re not crafting, the girls are constantly ministering to these kids by holding them, rocking them, playing with them, allowing the kids to “do their hair”, etc. In fact, seeing the constant loving interaction between my new friends and the children will be a lasting memory for me.
The guys spent the afternoon working on two building projects that were badly needed. Most of the work was done by Chet, who the kids refer to as Rambo. If you saw his flowing locks and sturdy stature-not to mention his “Survivor” worthy bandanas, you would understand how he got that nickname. I carried stuff and said, “Great job, Chet.” Three of the boys helped us with both projects and it was gratifying beyond words.
The good-byes in the afternoon were indeed short and maybe the sweetest I’ve ever experienced. Hugs and God bless you’s were passed around, tears were shared, then we loaded into the truck. I will miss many things in Haiti. I will miss some of the most beautiful kids I’ve ever seen. I won’t miss that truck.
Katie here! I had the pleasure of spending this trip with my dad who was the oldest on the trip. I made fun of his clothing choices, like how he wore house shoes to breakfast and dinner, but he held his own with the younger men, Rambo and Todd (papa blanc). But in all seriousness, it truly was a blessing to serve the orphans of Haiti alongside my father. The kids at the orphanage loved it when my dad told them he was my “papa.”
Today was a hard day but a blessing all the same. We took two shifts to the orphanage in the morning, because the caged truck was occupied. The second group was delayed getting to the orphanage, but the first group was busy helping kids make their crowns for the “worthday” party. I got such a warm fuzzy feeling when we, the second group, pulled up to the orphanage and saw all the kids waving and smiling on the balcony, each with their precious paper crowns sitting on their head. The kids were so proud of the crowns, and every one of them was wearing one, from the one-year-olds to the teenagers.
Soon we began the “worthday” party, where we handed out oreos and marshmallows to the kids. Sweet Mary Virginia handed out the marshmallows and whispered to each child, “God loves you and we do, too.” Then we handed out gift bags, which were a huge hit. I quickly realized that putting noisemakers in the bags was a poor decision when the whole orphanage was blaring with different honking sounds. I couldn’t help but think, though, that this is probably the only instrument these kids have ever played, and that they were making such a joyful noise to the Lord.
In the afternoon we decorated t-shirts and all the kids wrote their names on their shirts and drew pictures and many of them wrote, “Jesus loves me” or “Jesus I love.” My sweet little friend, Joanne, asked me in broken English, “Do you know Jesus,” and “Do you pray to Jesus every day, every night?” It was such a blessing to hear her precious giggle when I told her that I do and asked her the same. I will never forget that smile.
As Dad wrote, it was very difficult to say goodbye, and I definitely shed my share of tears, but these precious orphans have left a mark on my heart that will always be there. I will never forget Joanne, Kech, Monika, Immanuel, Jameson, or any of the other kids. Thank you all for your prayers and support, because we definitely felt them this week. It’s a bitter sweet night as we prepare to leave the country, but I know all of us are thinking about the day, whether in heaven or here on earth, when we will see our little orphan friends again.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
It is a joy to share that today is the day our group leaders, Todd and Laura Ramey became a family. Before we give the highlights of this precious adoption of 3 Haitian boys (Wilnes, Woody, and Wendy with y pronounced z in Creole) we want to take you on our Palm Sunday journey…
At 8:30a.m. we were all dressed up and ready for a quick ride in the “tap tap” truck to Dr. Bernard’s church where he preaches just down the road outside Petionville. Dr. Bernard is a man of many hats in Haiti. Not only is he a preacher but he is also the owner of our guest house, attorney to the Ramey’s and director of several orphanages. (not the one that we are serving) As we pulled up there were precious children with their Sunday best on holding hands and walking into a beautiful white church. The architecture was amazing as they had iron symbols beginning with Noah’s ark, the ten commandments and the cross. Katie commented that this was exactly the kind of church that she would want to be married in. After joyful singing Dr. B asked Laura and Todd to come and share. This was unexpected but they did a beautiful job thanking the people of Haiti for welcoming us. Dr. B translated in Creole to the congregation. We were then surprised that as a group we were asked to come forward and sing a song to the church. Thankfully God blessed all of us with the gift of Heather’s voice. Her angelic voice filled the beautiful church with “Lord I lift your Name on High” and the rest of us were her backup singers swaying and sometimes raising our hands in Praise to Jesus (Chet just swayed…). Unlike typical Haitian churches, Dr. B’s service was only an hour and a half. We considered it a blessing to have a relatively short service along with the cool breeze that flowed through the church. I’m not sure if others have mentioned it, but contrary to typical Haitian weather, we have experienced pleasantly warm and breezy days. In fact, hardly anyone has seen a mosquito. We are OBVIOUSLY feeling your prayers with these simple blessings of comfort.
Following church we returned for a wonderful lunch and then gathered our cameras and water bottles for a sightseeing excursion to Port Au Prince. Our precious interpreters (Stephanie and Argentine) took us through the heart of the city where destruction and the reminder of the earthquake surround you. I (Mary Virginia) had the opportunity to sit with Heather in the front of the truck and snap pictures through the city. (In the back of the tap tap truck you are literally in a cage and therefore pictures are not good) We felt as though we were part of a movie, that what we were seeing couldn’t be real. The poverty was overwhelming to me. Tents, shanties, tarps, as far as the eye could see. The smells, the dirty polluted air and the crowds of Haitians were intimidating but we felt a peace that only the Lord could provide us as we slowly moved through the city.
We were taken to the orphanage were Stephanie and Argentine had lived and actually experienced the earthquake in. This was one of Dr. B’s orphanages and it was an excellent facility which included a library, computers and a separate building separating the boys and the girls sleeping quarters. As a group, we were all hit with the sheer contrast of the desperate situation at the orphanage we are serving in Petionville. While touring the facility, Todd received a call that their boys were at Dr. B ‘s office near the palace. It was the first time to meet up with them since we had arrived in Haiti. This day had been prayed for by so many of you reading the blog and by our group.
It was a short but emotional ride to the location where the boys, their orphanage director and caregiver were awaiting. In addition to the boys, their mothers had travelled a great distance to meet and give blessings to Todd and Laura. Its hard to put in words the emotions that we all experienced as this “new life” was being exchanged on the side of a bustling Haiti street. It was not private, it was not quiet and it definitely was not without tears…just as a family should be. Watching Laura and Todd run to their children and hug them and then the exchange of words of encouragement and love to the mothers was unforgettable. We will forever hold those moments in our hearts. Again, another blessing that the Lord has given our group, to be a part of this reunion up close and intimate was not only a blessing, but a gift to each of us. We saw Jesus through Todd and Laura today, and will forever feel a bond with their boys.
The rest of the day seems even frivolous to mention but again our eyes were exposed to so much. We saw the palace destroyed by the earthquake, and then stopped at the main cathedral in Port Au Prince. Once again we all felt and witnessed the poverty stricken people of Haiti in a very close and personal way. Some looked to still be injured from the earthquake while others were so frail and hungry that they begged us for food. As they started surrounding us our driver became uncomfortable and we were quickly moved towards the truck and on to our last stop. An amazing overlook of Port AuPrince where the first family picture of the 5 Ramey’s was taken (unless you count the one of the three boys and their Dad peeing on the side of the road).
This week, Todd and Laura’s hopes to see their boys kept getting postponed as things often do in Haiti. First they thought they would see them Friday, then Saturday…but it was Palm Sunday that God chose to bring them together. What a Glorious Day it has been to each of us.
As Chet and I have written this entry together he kept coming back to the following scripture which we will leave you with:
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” tell them “the Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly. They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “what are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on the road, while others spread their branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
Mary Virginia and Chet
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Kenzie and Heather here! We wanted to update all of our followers about the events of late. To begin with mornings, we have been awakened daily at about 4:30am by the same obnoxious rooster. As I'm sure you can imagine we have taken turns describing how we could slaughter it ;) haha! So we rise early, and to a wonderful breakfast because our Haitian caregivers have agreed to make all of our meals which we were in no way expecting! They have been great help to us. This morning a family staying in our guest house joined us on our expedition to build beds in the orphanage. They were very sweet and helpful. Today was our last day of actually building the beds because our men were so efficient!! We were able to present the beds to the children today, explaining to them that the beds, which were topped with beanie babies and Creole children's Bibles, were representative of God's love for them. The children bombarded us with hugs and "thank yous" as they slowly realized that EVERY child would have a bed! They were so excited by the presentation and amazed us with their feedback. When asked what they favorite parts about the gifts we gave them, they overwhelmingly agreed that the Bibles were their most treasured gift. This surprised and touched our team so much... and we know that tonight those kiddos are all tucked in reading away (to the extent that they are able) in their new Bibles from Sweet Sleep! Thank you everyone who made that possible! Even though today was the big bed presentation day, it was also a very challenging, sobering day for all of us. We grew closer with the children today and had many emotional breakthroughs that were very rewarding. Children who had been withdrawn began to smile and play. Some said "I love you" for the first time. Each of us bonded with different children and have spent the last few days trying to invest in relationships with them, building trust. However as we grow closer with the children and see more of their beautiful hearts, we also hear more of their stories and the hardships they face. Many team members today felt the heavy weight of reality fall on us as we learned more of the suffering that many of these kids experience on a daily basis. We had to collect as a group at the end of the day and share prayers and tears as we realized that this situation is much bigger than ourselves or anything we can do in a week. We had to give it back to God and trust that His greatness can override any difficulty that we see in the present. We believe that this time with the children and the hope and comfort provided for them through the beds will impact them eternally. That faith has been our stronghold as we have to continually remind ourselves that we ARE making a difference even when the situation looks grim. Please join us in prayer for these kids- they face more pain than most of us will ever see. On a happier note, we (Heather and Kenzie) have continually conversed today about how much we love our team!! They are truly incredible. Each member has such different gifts that they bring to the table... we truly need eachother. If even one person was absent, the whole team would be less effective because we all edify eachother and meet the needs that have arisen on this trip in unique ways. Plus, we have a blast! This is such a crazy, witty and easy-going bunch. We could have not asked for better people to serve alongside. Thank you all for continuing to pray for us and our kids- it is desperately needed. We love you all!! We will post pictures and video as soon as we return :) Kenzie and Heather
Friday April 15, 2011
It is amazing how God puts together a mission’s team just like a puzzle. We just spent an hour hanging out with one another after a great day at the orphanage talking about the victories and challenges we have experienced. There have already been a lot of laughs and a lot of tears as we serve alongside each other here in Haiti. We are a team of 7 women and 3 men. Let me just start with the men…Jim, Todd and Chet. They have done most of the bed assembling in the past 2 days. They had a period of time this morning where they had put together all of the beds that had arrived (2 flat tires on the vehicle slowed up the delivery a bit). When I say these men worked- I mean they worked! Not only have they assembled 12 triples bunks (36 beds) but today during the time between bed deliveries, they built stairs, they did something involving plumbing, and something up on the roof. None were content resting or even sitting. They literally poured blood, sweat and tears into their work today- and for that…I am thankful. For those of you that know, love and support Jim, Chet, and Todd- you are blessed to have such Godly men in your life. They each left a part of themselves in the orphanage today- each proving worthy of the calling they have received.
On to the women on the team. Kelly, Mary Virginia, Laura, Heather, Katie, McKenzie and myself (Kristi). We are a mix of introverts/extroverts, girly-girls/tomboys, singers/dancers (or neither!)—and we are each drawn to different children in the orphanage. I could not be in better company. We have sheets on all of the beds (girly ones on the girls’ beds) and boy “ish” ones on the boys’ beds. Today in crafts each child made a cross that Mary Virginia so carefully hung on each child’s bed. Kelly and I spent time with some of the other girls painting nails (the girls painted ours blue- call the nail polish company b/c we have renamed it “Sweet Sleep Blue”) and we painted all of theirs pink. Kelly let them braid her hair (OUCH!) as we spent intentional time connecting powerfully through the art of human touch. Mary Virginia is just the master- never flustered she personally tattooed probably 50 kids today (they are fake-no worries) and in her sweet voice made sure each child heard the words “Jesus loves you.” Laura spent quality time with many of the caregivers today. You know Laura cares because she is so expressive with her face, her hands, her entire being…she loves and she loves fully. Side note: Laura is also known at the orphanage for the rap music on her iphone! Katie took the time to play basketball with the older Haitian boys….sweating like she was trying out for the WNBA- not intimidated in the slightest that these boys that were much taller than she is! McKenzie is another one of those young women that just never seems flustered. She is “young”, only 18, with the wisdom, passion and maturity of someone three times her age. It sounds funny- but she wiped noses today! I know that seems weird to write about, but she did so with the tenderness of a mother…and that’s all I have to say about that. Precious. Heather has connected with so many of the children here. Her face just lights up with every child that crosses her path and the kids/teenagers know that she is so genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.
If you are reading this, you likely know one of these amazing women. I can honestly confirm what you already know, which is that your life is better and richer for knowing one of them….as is mine. God knew what He was doing when he brought the 10 of us together from 3 different states to serve in this time, in the place, for this reason. We intend to finish assembling the beds tomorrow that each of God’s children may know a sweeter night’s sleep. Thank you for reading...we are all humbled that you would care enough about us to pray, love and support what we are doing.
Thursday April 14, 2011
WOW! Well, we were up at 4:30am, on our plane at 7:00am and stepping off in Haiti around 8:30am. I was amazed at “baggage claim.” It was total chaos. We were warned, but it’s just not the same until you are there. There were people standing on the conveyor belt throwing luggage. There was no, “excuse me, let me get my bag so I can get out of your way.” It was like a bull in a china shop. But all 20 bags made it, praise God, and we boogied out of there.
We made it outside and waited on our ride for about 45 min. The landscape in Haiti is very mountainous and very beautiful. I noticed immediately that it is very loud. The Haitian people “holler” when they speak to each other. My children would have no problems here. It would kinda feel like home to them.
Our ride pulled up. We met our Haitian Sweet Sleep contact person, Ron. Super cool Hatian. He brought us a luxurious “Tap Tap.” It looked like a big red caged mini flatbed truck. We rode in back to the place we are staying for the week. As we rode, we did get to take in all the sights and sounds of Haiti. No question Haiti is like you imagine. There were lots of crumpled buildings and thousands of people lining the streets selling anything from whittled sticks of sugar can to Kleenex. There are makeshift homes made of tents as far as you could see in some areas. It was a humbling sight.
Driving in Haiti is a mess. There are no rules or laws or even common courtesy. People honk constantly-CONSTANTLY. This little boy, we didn’t catch his name (it’s hard to understand them, I think), but this boy was probably 10 but looked 6, jumped on the back of our cage and said A-lo! We tried to make him get down, but instead he hustled us out of crackers and some chocolate. I would have given him my shoes because he didn’t have any, but you have to stop.
We finally made it to the orphanage. It was great to see all of them…FINALLY! They all ran to the edge of their balcony. They were jumping up and down, waving, so happy. We were a little overwhelmed. Tears were welling in my eyes. I took a deep breath and asked the Lord for His strength.
These children were living in squalor. I don’t think our team had any expectations so we all walked around as Madame, the main “mama” showed us the conditions. There was raw sewage inside the building and more cockroaches than you could count. The smell was so, so bad. BUT, the children were joyful. Our team, who totally rocks, pulled it together, went outside and began to meet the children. Two of the guys, Chet and Jim left with Ron and got bleach and scrub brushes to clean before we started to build the beds.
The children were beautiful! They were full of energy, they were awesome. They wanted to know us and teach us things they know. They took turns jumping rope, coloring, they didn’t ever fight. I was totally shocked over that. They all got along very well. I got out a little notebook and crayons (Jen Gash gave me that tip) and sat over in a corner and began talking to a girl who was more quiet and to herself than some of the others. I asked her to write her name and her age down. She wrote, “Delenda 9.” I wrote, “Kelly 36.” Her eyes got real big and she, too, could not believe how young I looked for my age. I wrote, “I love you, and Jesus love you.” She wrote, “I love you and I love Jesus.” Delenda laid her head in my lap and quickly fell asleep. As the attention faded, a little boy, Angelo, who I could have put in my pocket, just laid down on my lap and fell asleep, too. As I sat there, I watched Laura, our team leader, make her way over to a mentally handicap boy-really cute boy named, Jean. He looked up and smiled and she sat down and put her arm around him. They both began singing Jesus Loves Me. Then she pulled out her bible and and began reading Psalm 139 to him…”O Lord you have searched me and you know me….you hem me in-behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me….For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…” Jean just rocked and listened. It was a powerful moment for me and I know for Laura and Jean. God works on all of us all of the time.
I am so thankful for Sweet Sleep. We were at this orphanage for four hours and four children fell asleep on me. I am so thankful for this team and getting to know these awesome people. We have Kristi, the passionate, down to earth, therapist. Mary Virginia, the energetic, sweet nurturer. Heather, the beautiful, kind-hearted singer. Laura, the veteran, and lover Haitian boys (she is adopting 3). Kenzie, the amazing, righteous 18 year old. Katie, the wickedly funny, smart senior in college. Chet the humble builder. Jim the dry, super cool teacher of the Word, and Todd the guardian of us all. I am humbled to be a part of this group. We all have our own different strengths and God has put us all together for a reason. We all want to bring glory to His name. I am going to stop writing now and go to bed. Love to my family and friends and prayer partners!
Friday, April 15, 2011
The team is doing great! Half of the beds were finished and installed yesterday and the guys should finish up the rest today as the ladies spend some time leading the kiddos in fun activities.
The team has asked for prayer... The conditions in the orphanage they are serving are quite intense -- it is overwhelming but the team is extremely thankful to be meeting some crucial physical needs and to be sharing the Love of Christ with the children as well. More updates coming soon!
Thank you for your support of our work and prayers for our team and the children they are serving...
Director of Communications and Church Partnerships
Sweet Sleep - A Bed For Every Head
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Thanks for praying for these ten team members:
Laura & Todd Ramey
Chet & Mary Virginia Frist
Jim & Katie Osment
Our fabulous team of 10 will be working with about 120 children this week...loving them, leading them in worship, fun times, Bible stories and giving them beds, bedding, mosquito nets and Bibles! There are many children here whose lives were forever changed by last years earthquake. All have been living with trauma as a result. God has provided two counselors on the team who will be able to work with some of the children and educate the caregivers in ways to help the children long-term.
A couple weeks ago I received a phone call from a missionary in Haiti who was in tears. She had just been at the orphanage our team will be serving this week. Her heart was broken by the sights and smells of these children not having enough safe, clean places to sleep. She thanked me for the new beds we would provide and said we couldn't get there soon enough.
Our Sweet Sleep beds will indeed be clean, safe and smell good. More importantly, the team will tell the children about how these very beds are reminders to them about God's love, protection and purpose for them. They will tell each of the 120 children that when they lie down at night and pull their covers up around them, it's like God giving them a hug. They will share stories with the children about how God lovingly created them and how He desires great things for each of their lives. It's going to be an incredible week.
Thanks so much for the support you've shown to the team and to Sweet Sleep. Our team will be blogging stories, pictures and video each day. I encourage you to check back. Or, save yourself a step and "subscribe" to this blog. You'll receive an email alert as soon as a new post is made.