Saturday, July 9, 2011

Give thanks in all circumstances

This morning waking up at my mom's has been wonderful! I started spouting off a list of things I am so thankful for or really enjoying about home so I thought I would give you a little taste of my thoughts right now:

My thoughts of thanks this morning:

  1. I didn’t wake up to clanging of the dog box or to dogs barking
  2. I didn’t have to sleep in a cocoon of the mosquito net.
  3. I didn’t have to put on bugspray immediately when I got out of the bed.
  4. I was able to sleep in a queen bed and I could spread out instead of my twin bed.
  5. I had a fan blowing on me without worrying about using up my battery power.
  6. I was able to check my email from my bed at whatever time I wanted.
  7. I was able to eat cereal and have hot tea!
  8. I get to eat breakfast with my mom!
  9. I can wear pajama pants and not be sweating!!!
  10. I can walk around barefooted without lots of grime on my feet.
  11. I can flush the toilet without having to pour a bucket of water in it.
  12. I get to use a fresh towel!!!

Ahh what a life we are blessed with! I am so thankful to be home but I can’t tell you how many times I have already thought about Cannaan, the kids, the rooomates, and Haiti this morning. I hope that doesn’t change. Thank you Lord for your blessings!

Home again Home again!

Well, we have returned! Bethany and I flew back into the Charlotte airport at 5 pm yesterday!!! It is so good to be home and mostly so wonderful to see family!

The trip home was a long day that is for sure! The night before leaving I got only 30 minutes of sleep and Bethany only a couple of hours. We wanted to squeeze every possible moment in and we both wanted to do a couple of special things for the kids before leaving. Thursday night we hung out with the kids after dinner since we wouldn't see most of in the morning before leaving. We received tons of precious notes and cards from the kids, shared LOTS of hugs, laughed and even saw a few tears. It was hard to say good bye but so great to know we were coming home.

After bedtime for the kids we walked back to our DARK house....the generator was still out and so still no power in our house. We were left to pack by flashlight, candle light and head lamp! I think my head lamp was probably my most useful item I took.....right after BUG SPRAY! Quite a challenge to pack in the dark :-) Once packed I got started on my little project. I always do this- wait until the last possible moment to start this awesome, time consuming project, but I love it! Earlier in the day I had this grand idea to make some art to leave for the kids to put in their houses. Right after lunch I scoured Canaan for some scraps pieces of wood, and at Canaan I was pretty likely to find some! I ended up with eight or nine pieces of wood covered in dirt, bugs, and who knows was else. I cleaned them, sanded them, wiped them down to get them ready to paint. While doing this a little group of interested little boys joined me to help :-) Once all was ready, I got the paint and let the guys paint the boards. I wouldn't tell them what I was making except it was a surprise! They love painting anything and many of them picked up many other pieces to paint. Ferdinand, one of the boys who loves to paint, even decided to give the dog box (the box they drag the dog in for it's burial--see the FB video!) a painting face lift. So with all of the boards painted I sat down around 11pm to craft them into signs with verses painted on them. I wrapped wire around them so they could be hung. I slowly painted letter by letter and finished the project by 2am! Bethany was up much of the night writing amazing letters to each of the kids!

goodbye house!

We left them these surprises on the breakfast tables for the next morning after we were gone. We were planning to leave at 5:30 in the morning for the airport, but in Haitian time that means at least 6:00 or later. Around 6, sure enough Johnny our driver moseys on up to the cafeteria, chats with few people and is finally ready to go. We take off, waving to some of the kids already up busy at their jobs for the day. We head down Highway 1 toward Port for the last time. Johnny the driver takes us the LONG way around getting to the airport b/c last time we were in Port we saw something terrible happen on the road and he won't go that way any more. We drove right through town with lots and lots of traffic. You know that feeling when you know you should be nervous about running late and possibly missing your flight and yet no one around you is in any hurry??? Well, that was me...except I knew I could do absolutely NOTHING about it! So I sat, enjoyed the surroundings, chatted with Johnny and Bethany as we drove ALL over Port and tried not to look at my watch. We kept encountering stand still traffic so Johnny had us weaving in and out of all of these little roads, and I'm not going to lie, it felt like we were getting further and further away from the airport! Finally, 2+ hours later we turned the corner and there was the airport!!! We both let out a sigh of relief once we were finally on the plane then I closed my eyes and dozed off before we were even off the ground!

Once we in Ft. Lauderdale, had traveled through customs, and rechecked our bags we passed a Chili's in our new concourse. We both looked at each other and said: Salad? Margarita? Yes please! Haha, so we sat in Chili's for our first American meal and toasted our fabulous trip :-) Once we were in Charlotte, we descended the escalator to see the smiling, excited faces of Bethany's parents and my mom!!! It was great to be home!

Thank you all so much for your prayers for this past month and more!! The trip was an incredible experience and it's hard to believe it's over! I know there is so much processing, reflecting, laughing to come, but I wanted to let you all know we survived a month in Haiti and it was wonderful! I am going to add some more blog posts because there are still so many stories and pictures I want to share so please keep checking back!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

not to us

Can't believe another week has come and gone by. The realization that we're coming home soon is exciting and depressing at the same time. Here are some highlights from the past few days in Haiti.

Saturday- One of our roommates, Stephanie, had been at Canaan for two weeks working in the medical clinic and flew home out of PAP (Port-au-Price airport) at 8something in the morning. This meant we had to get up at 4something to leave at 5. Typical Haiti happened and we left at 5:35. Johnny the driver said, "I tink Stephanie was a little eeempashunt dees merning?" And after Katie (another roommate) said, oh yes Stephanie was a little impatient, we got what he was saying and laughed. Mollye and I climbed into the back of the pickup to drive 2hours into Port. Let's just not talk about my hair after that ride. Molls brought a hat- smart girl. We got to take tons of pictures and talk about the state of the life we saw around us. We passed many tent villages and saw the extreme poverty that sits in the dust heaps. There wasn't an extreme amount of earthquake aftermath showing near the roads. Katie has been to Haiti several times so she's super helpful as a stand-in tour guide. She says they were very quick to come in a bull-doze the mountains of concrete and rebuild, at least near the roads. The slums were further back. I can't imagine what those were like since I was devastated by what I saw. We got to go see a beautiful mountaintop lookout, walk through a petting zoo at a Baptist mission, visit a wealthier side of town, see the bustling Port market, and passed through City Soleil on the way home- one of the most dangerous parts of Haiti. It felt very dark there and I saw many things I won't soon forget.

Sunday was a beautiful day. The housemates and I have been having "Sunday school" and we're reading through Colossians. We had a great time of discussion and prayer for this community. Church was much shorter than usual. The whole service can last about 4 hours on a given Sunday, and this one was about 1.5 hours. There was a funeral that afternoon they had to get ready for. We decided to go and show our condolences. When the family came in, they stood around the casket and took lots of pictures. Everyone dresses in black and white. You can't wear red because that means you had something to with the death. It was the home-going of an elderly lady who had been involved in Canaan's congregation. If someone started crying they immediately walked out. Haitians don't understand or like tears. A band was there with trumpets and trombones. We left early because two buses full of people came and they needed more room. Apparently Haitian funerals are as big of a deal as weddings and sometimes the whole town turns out. Afterwards we had some roommate time cutting bandanna necklaces for the kids to make and did pilates. :) After eating, Mollye and I got to have a Haitian dance lesson in the cafeteria and learned to Kompa. So exciting because we both love to dance and haven't done much of it this month!

Today we began our last week of school. :( We're working on painting canvases and helped the children finish up those. Mollye and I (and some other little helpers) fixed a mural of a parrot that had been patched over. We had a feast for 4th of July dinner. The Haitian Independence Day is on January 1 but maybe the cook knew because it was a lot of food :). Rice and peas in the mold of a pound cake, tomatoes, lettuce and corn, piklez which is a Haitian "vegetable salad" (I see it as basically a bowl of raw onion slices), and grilled tilapia. Tonight our roommate Katie got back from being in Port all day and brought us Hershey's dark chocolate nuggets with almonds and three candles- red, white, and blue. We sang "I'm Proud to be an American" and lit them. Just kidding about the singing. Hope you're celebrating well, America! Obviously it has been a very atypical 4th. There was also another dog burial- Look on my facebook for the video or get me to tell you about those sometime!

Just got back from devotions with the kids. They know we're leaving soon and it's getting so sad to think about it. God has blessed us with some pretty awesome relationships here. Please pray we'll be a blessing to all around us and use our time wisely these last few days. We also need a good place to leave the art supplies so they can continue to use them when we're gone! Thank you for your prayers and I have been praying for my friends at home. Lots of love from Haiti!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This is the day that the Lord has made....Let us Rejoice and be Glad in it!

(written yesterday)

Well, I feel like I reached a milestone today. As I was walking back from the classroom after a long, full day of art, surrounded by kids we have to practically kick out for dinner, I realized today is the first day that I have really LOVED being here. Many of my days have been pretty good and sometimes fun, but never have I finished the day feeling that I loved being here at Canaan and in Haiti. Today was a great day in many ways:

-I feel like I really taught the students some art skills that they probably didn’t know. Watercolor techniques: Wet on wet, wet on dry, color washes, how to use Mr. Brush :-), horizon lines, and filling up the page with color. On to the details tomorrow!
-Having kids so eager to get into art they beat on the door or wait outside for more than 30 min.
-Having to practically drag students out of the classroom at dinner time because it is so dark from the brewing storm.
-I am feeling much more connected to the students and getting to a point of being able to joke around with them.
-Getting lots of hugs or smiles and laughs.
-I am finally getting used to the slower, relaxed pace of this community.
-Most importantly, I am really loving pouring into these kids.

The day was full and despite kinks in our schedule (that becomes a norm around here with the pace of Haiti!) we were still able to see tons of students and get them started on watercolor paintings. It was neat to see which students took off and didn’t really need much guidance while others needed a TON of motivation to paint a landscape, one color and stroke at a time. We will finish up on these landscapes tomorrow and I can’t wait to post pics of them! Right now FB via my phone seems to be the best avenue for posting pics with our internet service…so check often! It takes a really long time to upload anything through the computer. I am trying to post 2-3 pics a day from action in the art room! I cannot wait to post more pictures, I think they will just astound you!

We are feeling a lot more settled in our little house of 6 six girls! We moved to a different house before the huge team came down to consolidate. With the water pumps fixed (thanks to the team!!!) We have running water for the sink and shower, hurray!! We have internet in our house (spotty most of the time, but better than nothing). We are getting to know our sweet housemates better and better. We are still with two girls from NC, Robin and Amy, who are teaching reading on a similar schedule to art classes. Our other two housemates are of the medical persuasion. Katie and Stephanie have both spent lots of time here at Canaan so it’s nice to have some seasoned friends around. Katie is a med student in Birmingham and runs the Medika Mamba clinic for the malnourished kids that come to the health clinic. Stephanie is a pediatric nurse from St. Louis and she assists in the health clinic. Both of these girls were the stand in vets last night if you saw my Facebook post!! A dog that lives here at Canaan (one of prob 50) had a very badly injured leg that was going cause it to die if not helped. So, the girls used what medical skills they share and amputated the leg! It was a horrific happening of the evening, but it was successful even after the dog escaped a time or two. She is still hanging in there today! And in Haiti with no emergency vet (or vet at all for that matter) you do what you gotta do ;-)

As for the rest of the should be a very different week. Without a team of 40 people buzzing around the community playing soccer, working on thousands of projects, packing out the cafeteria, and the constant high energy it will be pretty QUIET! We are halfway through our trip and I imagine now that we are in somewhat of routine the two weeks will go quickly. Bethany and I planned most of our remaining art teaching days, focusing on three major projects with the kids. We talked through our goals we want to accomplish in the time we have left in this community. We really want to be instruments of God in these kids’ lives. We want to be filled with joy and energy and live life to the fullest with every moment we have left with these kids. We are here to teach them and serve them. The possibilities of what to teach them are endless, but we have to do the best with what we have. I really want to teach them art foundations that they can continue to build on even after we are gone. Please pray that we can be well rested and inspired to teach our very best. Please pray that we can show God’s love through our every action and word.

We are excited to see what the next two weeks will bring!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

fire and dancing

We had such an awesome week! A team of about 40 people arrived on Monday afternoon and they brought........ 13 bags of our art supplies! Praise God they got here and the kids are LOVING them! This team had several different teams who headed up soccer camp, VBS, evangelism in the mountains, cooking for everyone, and construction. They fixed our water pumps so everyone could have water. :) The summer staff here was a little apprehensive about so many people coming in but they were amazingly efficient, and very energetic, so it ended up being a huge blessing to all of us.

Art class! With our massive amounts of supplies!!

Monday: Mixing pastepaper and paint to make sketchbook covers. The kids learned how to smooth out the paint, stamp and write designs on it, and take care of the tools. :)

Tuesday Plan 1: Stitching paper into the sketchbooks with yarn. Tuesday Plan 2: Realizing we only have one hole-punch that works so after class has begun we need 700 holes punched by hand before they can get going. Tons of flexibility and thinking on our feet happening here!

Wednesday frustrating morning: We are excited for the kids to have their own sketchbooks in to draw, write, and learn to love using their imagination and observation. We took them outside to draw things around them. The middle-school aged ones are the same as anywhere else: very quick to tear themselves down and easily discouraged. Some want to learn to draw better, but even after I would try to help them, they would go back to the same way they knew, or not want to continue at all. These Haitians have a very interesting attitude towards accomplishing goals. It will take much longer than a blog post to explain, and I don't even understand it.

Wednesday better afternoon: Using Mollye's awesome homemade crayons, we did a texture rubbing lesson with the kindergarten class. They LOVED it! They ran around squealing back and forth- placing their paper on different objects and rubbing their fat rainbow crayons over every surface. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the week. I was thankful for their joy, and that we could build foundations for letting them see things that they pass every day in a completely new way!

Wednesday evening the team organized a worship service that would be in English. This was a great time of refreshment for me. Even with a translator, it's been hard to be involved in a church service that is very unfamiliar. Because of teams coming in and out, the kids have learned many American worship songs so they came and sang along. I can't describe how their voices swelled and raised through the hot air over the mountains. They sing with their whole hearts. My heart and eyes were full as they lifted praise, "You're all I want. You're all I ever needed. You're all I want. Help me know You are near."

Thursday: Puff-paint shirts! Since we had lots of puff-paint donated (so fun!) I bought tons of boys' white t-shirts from WalMart and we passed them out to paint. The always-a-trip Wesh wrote "Fresh Prince of Haiti" on his. He just got back from the states and speaks English very well, even understanding figures of speech and sarcasm, so he is a comfort to talk to if I feel like others aren't understanding me very well. :)

Friday: We decided to have an "open-studio" day where the kids could come in and work on what they wanted to. There are beads all over this campus because the girls and boys have been furiously making jewelry like it's their job. I helped cute little Astephania make a beautiful necklace which I assumed was for her, but she was making it for one of the girls on the short-term team. I was excited to get these beads and jewelry kits here for them because they don't have much of their own, but I've seen that everyone is making things for other people. How awesome to see their love and generosity in those ways.

Friday evening, the team built a bon-fire (just when you thought it couldn't get hotter in Haiti!?!?!?) and we had s'mores around it with the kids and sang songs. We started out pretty mellow, singing worship songs and the kids seemed kinda tired, but man how things progressed. First of all, even Haitian babies can beat out a rhythm on time. They love to drum. The boys started drumming on barrels and we started singing louder and louder. Then the dancing began. We were spinning and twirling with warm cheeks and sticky fingers and fire sparks crackling. Before we knew it there was a big circle and they had started "Little Sally Walker." This is when one person is dancing in the middle, chooses a person who has to imitate their dance, then that person is in the middle. The kids began this and many other dances... some got in the middle and did the whole dance of JBieber's "Baby". I feel like the kids really loosened up to us and we all got to a new level of comfort. At some point Mollye can put up the pictures she took of this fun night. We laughed and laughed and danced and sang and laughed some more. I don't think I'll ever experience something like it again.

This morning the team left and there was a cloud of sadness over this whole community. The team has been here before, are coming again, and house Haitians when they come to the US- so relationships run deep. I got to taste a little of what the kids experience all the time. People come, you make friends, then they leave. People come, then they leave. It's kinda rough. I know we're not here that long and not much longer left, but I was glad to have that taste of that part of their life, so I can know a little bit better what they go through.

Prayer requests:
-As I type this, there's a tropical depression over Haiti. The winds and rain are really strong. It could potentially develop into a hurricane.
-One of the girls here teaching reading, Amy, has gotten some sort of congestion sickness. Please pray for her to heal over the weekend so she can have energy to continue teaching.
-Please pray that I'll really make connections with the older girls. We have gotten much closer but the conversations don't hover over too many significant things. I'd love to encourage them in the most positive ways I can, but if they're afraid to open up, I just want to love and love until all my energy is gone.

-The group came at the perfect time. Thank you, Lord. It was a tough first week and a half, and their tremendous energy lifted our spirits. They were here to love on the kids AND us, and that was an amazing gift from God.
-I get to be here with Mollye. She is an awesome teacher and a great friend. I am learning a lot from her wisdom. I also really really enjoy her comments and perspective on life. I can't imagine being here by myself. It has really helped to have a confidant and familiar face. She adds a lot of laughter just when I need it. ["HurRAY! I found a paperclip!!!"]
-I can feel the prayers of many. Thank you so much. God has given me such a gift by letting me come to this beautiful, needy place. I'm really really looking forward to the next two weeks. I know they're gonna fly by. :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday and Saturday

Our hike today. We started at 5:30am up the mountain (to the Caviat- a freshwater spring we swam in at the top) and got back just before 10. We took some guys and girls from Canaan as guides (and for protection/Haitian knowledge). Some of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. These ladies were already coming down the mountain at 6am- one carrying a load of bananas on her head, and the other a wet load of laundry in bare feet.

Some of the girls from class!

Jefferson, who they call "Son-son" making his self-portrait, and Wenchel. Of course we have fallen head over heels for these little ones. They are so laid back.

highlights from the last week..

A good look at Canaan! Taken from right outside the cafeteria.

getting the art classroom ready...

visit to the malnutrition clinic....

More of Canaan...
view from where we live :-)

lizard in our house :-)

trip to the beach! great relief ;-)

views from the walk back

hurray for water!!

morning hike!


collecting water from the rain

our guides for a morning hike

a dinner out at a local resort

good first week :-)