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