Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Beach and a Baby

It's been another busy week here in Haiti! Fortunately, yesterday I was able to 'getaway' to a local beach resort and spend a day by the Caribbean sea. For those of you who grew up with me, you will be able to appreciate this more, since it was always a dream of mine to live by the Caribbean sea! It became clear to me yesterday that the Lord never forgot about it. :)
I'm including some pictures from the day, and I look forward to returning there again sometime in the future! :)

As far as the rest of my week goes, I'm sure you are all anxious to know about my sink situation. Well, on Wednesday afternoon, the plumber came to check out the problem, and after a bit of sweat and elbow grease, my drain was working perfectly! I also had him check out my low-pressure shower head while he was here, and now I can actually wash all the shampoo out of my hair in the shower instead of having to rinse the extra suds out in the lower tap. It was pretty thrilling! 
Another eventful afternoon this week was on Thursday when I travelled with the van der Mark family and a few Haitian's from the mission to a school shelter in Cabaret. It was the same place I had visited a few weeks ago with the medical team, but this time we brought with us a ton of new clothes that had arrived on one of the containers. Before we left, we organized all of the shirts by gender and size, and then we took a large truck full of everything to the school. It was such a blessing for me to be part of the distribution of the shirts. From the moment we arrived, all of the residents began coming out and swarming around the truck. They were so thrilled that we had come to them and over the afternoon more and more people lined up.
We tried to bring some order to the process by having the men, women, and children line up and come in a separate times, which worked for most of the day until the end when they realized we would be leaving and things got crazy! We had all of the clothes in a school room (where the people with lost homes have been sleeping) and one by one they would come in to get sized in some clothing and then exit the room for the next person. This method was working well for us, until we started recognizing people. We began to realize that when people would leave with their shirt, they would get back in line to come and get more clothes. It was hard to turn away these people, knowing how desperate they must have been to stand in a long hot line just for an additional shirt, but we still had many more clothes to give out.
As we were passing out clothes in the schoolroom, there were also many young men and women poking their arms through the cement holes in the walls. I could hear them calling out to me 'Blanc! Blanc!' (which means 'white' in creole), hoping that I would pass them some clothing through the windows so that they could avoid the line. As the hours passed, the crowds of people outside grew, as word began to spread through the villages, and the volume of people's voices got very loud. By the time we left, we managed to give out clothes to the majority of families, but there were still people who did not get to us in time. It was very difficult for us to leave, but we had to abide by the rule at the mission - where that staff must return to the mission grounds before dark, due to the danger in the villages at night. Hopefully we will be able to go out again soon and give out the remaining clothes.

I want to share with you one encounter that I had in the school room that I will never forget. After giving out clothing to the men and women, young mothers began coming in with their babies. As we began to sort through the baby clothes, one of the mothers gestured for Cheryl to see her baby (she had remembered that Cheryl was a doctor from our previous trip). As Cheryl held the baby, I could see her concern as she told the mother that she would need to come to the Hospital of Hope the following day. The baby had an extremely high fever, and Cheryl said it was very important for the baby's survival that she come to the clinic. As Cheryl wrote down the mission information for the woman, I came aside the mother and felt the baby's forehead... It broke my heart. The poor baby, only two weeks ago was burning hot. She was wrapped in a thick blanket and wasn't even sweating. It was clear that this baby was very sick and immediately I shared Cheryl's concern for the baby's survival. When I got home from Cabaret I began to pray that the baby would make it through the night so that she could receive treatment at the hospital. 

The next day was Friday, and I was anxious through my whole morning of teaching to see if the baby had come and if she was alright. I spoke to Cheryl when she returned from the hospital later that afternoon, and to our shock, the mother and baby had not come. Cheryl thought that it was probably due to the cost of transportation to get to the mission that the mother was unable to afford. So in this blog, I urge you to pray for the precious baby who is in desperate need of a doctor. I don't know if I will ever see or hear of the mother or baby again, but it is my prayer that the mother will find a way to bring her baby to the clinic on Monday and that she can get the proper treatment for her child.
Please keep this in your prayers, and I will update you when I know anything.
Thank you again for all of your prayers for me and the missions staff in Haiti. It is such an encouragement to know that I am being lifted up and that the Lord is in control and working through each aspect of life here.
May we continue to live in the peace that He is Sovereign and that there is hope in every circumstance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Week 2 - Life in Haiti

Good afternoon everyone!
I thought that I would take a bit of a break to give you all an update on my week so far. It's day 2 of our second school week, and so far the kids have gotten progressively better at working through our morning routine. I especially love how the three of them are avid readers. You probably won't believe me, so I am attaching a picture, but at 'recess' time instead of going out on the playground or having a snack, they sit on my couch and READ! It kind of shocked me at first... I thought that I was coming across as too strict about learning :), but I realized that they actually love to read! The only slight problem with this is that we only have so many english books here in Haiti, so hopefully we can find a way to get more books throughout the year!

Another part I love about teaching is listening to Bridgely do math. He is my youngest student and is just beginning to learn how to add. But what is unique about him is that when he works, he always sings... It's so cute to listen to him belt out the numbers and hum different tunes while he is adding numbers. Fortunately it doesn't bother Teagan and Grayden, so I let him sing to his hearts content... I should really take a video of it sometime. :)

As far as other Haiti life goes, this morning I woke up very hot and sweaty and realized that my fan wasn't on. My first thought was that it had quit in the middle of the night so I tried to turn it back on, but I soon found out that the power was out in my whole house. At breakfast this morning, I learned that due to the generator and inverter tendencies at the mission (don't ask me to explain this any further... I am not an electrician!), our power source will need to be repaired, and who knows how long it will take... It could be a few weeks or even months. Fortunately I still have water in my apartment, and wireless internet, so that is a blessing, but if you think of it in the coming days, you can pray that the power problem can be repaired quickly and easily. 

In addition, my kitchen sink in my apartment is extremely clogged. When I moved in a few weeks ago, some Haitian men had just finished painting, and they had drained all of the extra paint in my sink. The water from the tap became progressively slower to drain over the next couple of days, and despite my attempt to unclog it with Drano Max, it's still fully plugged. There is a Haitian plumber that works for the mission who has been asked to come and fix it for me, but he still hasn't shown up. As you can see, my sink is pretty disgusting right now. It's full of cloudy, dirty water with cockroaches floating in it, and it's beginning to smell. So you can also pray with me that the plumber will come to fix this problem soon!

Well, I think that's all for now. I am going down to the warehouse for the rest of the afternoon to organize children's clothes that were found at the hospital. When we organize the clothes in advance by size and gender, it makes distributing them in the village a lot easier. Even through such a seemingly insignificant task, I get such fulfillment to sort through the clothes, knowing that each piece will be received by families with gratitude, and worn for many years to come. 
Thank you again for all of your encouraging words and for keeping me in your prayers. I am attaching a few more pictures with this post to show you more sights from Haiti, and children I've met so far. When I browse through my photos after I've put them on my computer, sometimes I have to remind myself that I actually took the picture! It's amazing to reflect on what I've been experiencing!
Bye for now :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Full Heart

Wow, so much has happened in the past twelve days, it feels almost like a dream... I've slept in 6 different beds, held countless orphan children, worshipped in Creole, navigated through 3 Haitian markets, travelled into Cabaret on 2 separate occasions, moved into my apartment, and taught a week of school... and that's just the beginning!
But looking back, I stand amazed at how the Lord has been so real to me over this time of change, uncertainty, fear, and new beginnings. 
I have been reflecting on my experiences thus far, and I have noticed a change in my heart. For the first time in my life, I feel that my heart is truly filled. For years, I had a deep longing to fulfill the dreams in my heart, and now I've arrived in Haiti... to a place where these dreams are now a reality. 
I feel like I have such true purpose here - in the moments of holding a child, or looking into the eyes of a baby, or seeing the joy in a mother's eyes when a truck arrives with rice. It's in making a difference. A difference that it so tangible. I witness it everyday. And it gives me such joy in living.... A purpose and fulfillment in knowing that there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be, nothing else that I would rather be doing, and the Lord knew it all along. 
Don't get me wrong, life still isn't perfect... I still sweep up dead cockroaches from my floor every morning, drip sweat from the heat all day, and long to sit around the kitchen table with my family for supper, or spend an afternoon shopping with friends, but somehow all of the pain and loneliness fades when compared with the joy of serving the Lord. There is unexplainable peace in knowing that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. People searc
h their whole lives for something to truly fulfill them, and I feel so blessed to be in that place. 
I look back to my blog postings a few months ago, the insecure feelings I had about leaving and starting this journey, and I realize now that I had nothing to fear. It makes me think about how many times I fail to trust in the Lord's plan because it's unknown to me, but this Haiti journey has taught me that the Lord knows far better. He has the bigger picture, and because of that I can be confident in His plans. Looking ahead at the unknown is scary, but I am a living testament to the Lord's faithfulness throughout the seasons of life.
I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for the role you have played in my life, and for the support you have given me as I have taken this step. Thank you for your p
rayers, your hugs, your encouraging words and excitement for me. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful extended family, and to see how the Lord is using us all to accomplish His work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My first day of school... Teaching!

Well... I survived my first day of teaching!!! :)
Thank you all for praying for me. My kids arrived at my house this morning at 8am for their first day, and I admit that I was very nervous. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I hadn't been able to plan or prepare very much for this coming week, so I was a little unsure about how it would all pan out, but it was a great morning. We set up a classroom agreement that covered our rules and expectations, and I got them each set up for the coming months. I think that it will be a great year ahead. Thank you for your continual prayer for me in this area. Although I only have three students, I still need to cover a lot of material in each of their grade levels and I hope I can maintain their enthusiasm for learning. I just keep asking the Lord to teach through me and I know He will!
Another thing I forgot to mention yesterday was about the church service. One thing that really moved me during the worship time was the way that the Haitian people passionately sang and praised the Lord. As I mentioned a lot of the songs were familiar, just sung in creole, but the words we sang took on a new meaning for me... Words like - I'm trading my sorrows, I'm trading my pain, I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord, and - I'll fly away, Oh glory, I'll fly away, when I die hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away.
As I was singing, I really started to understand that for these people, heaven is their only hope. They are living in pain, hunger, sorrow from death and disease, and yet they believe that someday through Jesus sacrifice they will have no more tears, no more hunger, no more disease, no more disaster. It was so moving to watch these people sing and I don't think I will ever sing these songs the same way again.

Well... I should probably get back to planning my school week... Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement! Love, Diana

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Church, cabaret and school tomorrow!

Good afternoon everyone!
I just wanted to write a quick post to you before dinner to tell you about my day so far... I went to my first church service at the Church of Hope this morning. It was so neat to gather and worship together with all of the Haitian people. The whole service is done in creole, so I didn't understand much of it, but a lot of the songs that we sang, I was familiar with the english version, so as soon as I recognized the tune I would sing the english words. It was a neat experience!
After church, Rachel invited me to go along with her and Patris (a Haitian friend of hers who works on the mission), into Cabaret for lunch. She said that usually on Sundays she takes a trip to her favorite Haitian restaurant called Yolty's. So we went down to the road and waited for a tap tap (Haitian taxi) to come and pick us up. Once one came along we jumped in the back of the truck and held onto the wooden fence around the outside. It was quite a ride! 
But as we entered the village of Cabaret, I was stunned at what I saw... As you probably know, Cabaret was one of the areas in Haiti that was hit very hard during hurricane Gustav. I could hardly believe my eyes as we drove... Cement homes literally torn to pieces and roads totally washed out. And yet the people were still carrying on their regular routines washing their clothes in the dirty water and selling their goods along the roadside. I hope I can figure out how to post pictures in this blog which will help you get a glimpse of the disaster.
So once we reached the restaurant, Rachel and Patris led me inside where stray dogs and chickens wandered freely under the tables and into the kitchen... I tried not to think about it as I ate, but the food was really good! I had fried bananas and chicken with rice and a haitian sauce. Delicious!
When we finished, we walked through the village and Patris bought two large sticks of sugar cane for us. We jumped back onto the tap tap and when we arrived back at the mission he cut the outside off and gave me a piece... I had never had anything like it in my life. Rachel taught me how to eat it by biting off a chunk and sucking out the juice and then spitting out the bark remains... It was really good!
So now I am back in my apartment and could just about go for a nap!
I want to ask you before I go to keep my in your prayers tomorrow morning as I start my first official day of teaching. With so much going on, I really haven't spent much time preparing these last few weeks, and although the first week will be a lot of settling into a routine and establishing the routines, I hope that I can spark a passion and excitement for learning with my kids. So pray that I have enthusiasm and good ideas for our first week together.
I will try to post sometime this coming week and let you all know how it is going!
Thank you so much for your prayers! Love, Diana

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm here!

Good morning from Haiti!
Let me start by thanking all of your for your e-mails, thoughts and prayers so far. It has been such and encouragement and blessing to me over these past few days. I thank the Lord for the amazing support that I have from you all!
So now for an update!
I arrived in Haiti on Wednesday morning. Fortunately, my flight with the van der Mark family wasn't cancelled due to the hurricane weather, so I was thankful for that!
When we arrived, Brad Johnson picked us up at the airport and we got through customs very easily since he is known by the officials there... What a blessing! We took a mini bus to the Mission of Hope, but first we had to navigate our way through the city streets... It was a wild ride! The roads are extremely rough with giant potholes everywhere. Trucks (carrying many more people then they commonly would in Canada) honk and swerve around the streets making it quite an adventure. Along the streets there are people selling anything and everything. There are dumps and markets and homes and stores scattered everywhere. Needless to say, I had never seen anything like it in my life! Once we got out of the city, we traveled through the mountains to where the mission is located. Right now due to the rains, the hills are covered with lush tropical plants, and the mission sits on the side of a mountain overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It is quite a view!
Upon our arrival, we were told that the container we had packed and shipped out at the beginning of the summer had still not arrived. This does not affect me too much, since I brought the majority of belongings with me on the flight. However, the van der Marks were pretty disappointed since they have a lot of stuff on there. Right now we don't know how much longer until it will arrive, but we are praying that it will come as soon as possible!
Another unexpected adjustment for me over the past two days has been my apartment... I am moving into an apartment who Claudel, the mission's worship pastor, and his family just moved out of. The catch is that Claudel is Haitian, so his idea of clean is a lot different than mine. The apartment is filthy!!! Fortunately I am able to stay in the guest house until I can get it a little cleaner, but it's quite a daunting task! Yesterday I swept out my kitchen drawers and they were infested with cockroaches and mouse dirt. I spent the whole morning sweeping, and although it was discouraging and difficult, I praise the Lord that I had the strength to do it. Today I am hoping to finish cleaning the kitchen area and start the bathroom. Yipes!
One funny story is that when I first began cleaning yesterday morning, Teagan (my oldest student) and Cheryl (her mom), were with me, and a cockroach jumped out from behind the fridge and started crawling into the bedroom. Cheryl had bags in her arms and couldn't kill it herself, so she gave a dustpan to Teagan and told her to whack it hard. Teagan went in for it, but it kept moving around and she got scared. So all of the sudden, I heard myself say 'I'll do it!', so I grabbed the dustpan and they started cheering for me. I cornered it and it took me a few shots but I got him! It was the first of MANY cockroaches! But even through that experience I have found that the Lord is showing up and giving me courage and initiative to step up to the challenge. As we would say in 252... Git 'er dun! :)
The last thing I want to share with you for now is the highlight of going to see the orphanage children. There are a little over 40 children staying at the Hope House right now, and they are a wonderful group of kids. They are so well cared for and they have great programs put together for them. I have had a chance to talk with them briefly so far, and I can't wait to get to know them all better. The majority of my time that I've spent with children so far though, has been with the orphans from Cabaret (a nearby village which was flooded from the hurricane). There are about 100 children ranging from age 2 to 20, and their orphanage was lost in the storm. It is beyond words to describe what I have experienced in these past two days visiting them. The majority of them do not have any shoes, and about half of them only wear an oversized t-shirt. They are dirty, many of them are sick, and there are insects buzzing around their heads. On the first day that I approached them, I didn't know what would happen, since they were all just standing in the dirt looking at me. But as I came closer and began to smile at them, they began to come towards me and blessed me with the biggest smiles I have ever seen. It is a moment I will never forget. 
Since that time, I have started to get to know some of them, and now whenever I come they just want me to pick them up and hold them. It has been overwhelming for me to see how these precious children have lost everything... Parents, family, clothes, even their orphanage, and yet they smile and laugh and sing and play like ordinary children. It has really taught me a lot about joy and learning to live one day at a time.
Today I hope to get my apartment a little more clean and homey, and also make another trip down to the orphanage to see the kids. I wouldn't miss that for anything!
Thank you again for your love and prayers for me... I ask you to keep praying that I will have perseverance and peace as I work to get my apartment ready, and that I will continue to live each day in the present - not wishing I was back home, or feeling defeated by all the work that lies ahead, but fully alive in the moment. It is my goal to start school with my students on Monday next week, so you can also pray that I will feel ready and excited to begin a routine with the van der Mark kids.
I apologize that this post probably isn't the easiest to read, as my thoughts are all over the place, but I hope that it gives you a glimpse into my experience so far. 
I will post again soon... Love from Haiti, Diana

Thursday, September 4, 2008


As the date of my departure is fast approaching, I've had a lot of friends ask me if I'm ready to go. But it's not an easy answer. I feel like people need to specify which area of readiness they are referring to. You see, there are a lot more areas of readiness than I thought. 
So here's my answer... And it's the long version!

As far as packing goes, I am feeling good... I have two oversized hockey bags compacted full, and I'm going into town with my mom today in order to get the remainder of items left on my list. I feel way less stressed about leaving with all of my materials compartmentalized and put away instead of having stuff strewn all over the place. So in the area of packing, I am set to go!

I'm also feeling more prepared emotionally these days... As I mentioned in my last post, I have really been blessed with a peace and excitement about going to Haiti. Over the past few days, I've also had more contact with Rachel Montgomery in Haiti, which has been so cool. We even tried out the webcams yesterday which was fun! Having her there right now, and knowing that she will be around when I arrive really puts my mind at ease too. I thank the Lord for helping me to remember that I don't have to worry about anything... He is in control!
Last weekend I also attended a Hillsong United conference in Toronto with some friends from youth, and it was such a blessing for me to be there. I got so pumped about the year ahead through the worship time, and now I am just so ready to put these words I've sung into action... It's time!

Which leads me to the last readiness 'department'. Reading through the first two categories, you probably think I am doing really well getting ready to go... My bags are packed, I'm excited... But there is just one thing stopping me: Saying goodbye. I know that this is part of the package of leaving, but over the next few days I know I will undoubtedly have a lot of tears as I see people for the last time. These next few days are going to be ROUGH, and I have moments when I just want to give up. It feels like it's going to be too painful, and I'm scared. But when I think about it, I am reminded just as I wrote at the beginning of the summer, that the Lord has a new thing He wants to do in my life, and He can't do it as long as I'm walking on easy street. He is going to break me and change me and stretch me and put me back together again as a new creation. I've been waiting for this, and I know it's time. 

But with this in mind, I ask that you will keep me in your prayers at this time. Please pray that I will be able to let go and that even through the pain I would be reminded of the Lord's constant presence and faithfulness. Thank you for joining with me on this journey... It's almost officially begun! And I'm going to leave you with an exciting thought: My next post will probably come to you from Haiti! :)