Friday, January 30, 2009

Dry Season

Right now Haiti is dusty. Very dusty.
The last time it rained was a few nights ago, but that was the first time for a few months, and with the intense heat all day long from the sun, Haiti has become quite a desert. The land that was green when I arrived in September is has gradually become a dusty, dirty, brown landscape. Even the trees that still have a little green left on them are so covered with dust that they look as dead as the rest of the plants around them.
Fortunately, my neighbour has a green thumb. Rachel who lives directly above me has turned our 'front yard' into quite a tropical paradise. So while the rest of the mountains suffer with no water, our garden thrives with daily showers and has the color to prove it. 
It's beautiful!
Unfortunately, I still do have to suffer the other 'side effects' of this season in Haiti. 
The dry season has produced a lifeless landscape, which has resulted in a lot of field forests, which has resulted in a lot of.... dare I say it, mice.
Yes, the mice have come. I thought my proactive choices of keeping all food in my airtight fridge and microwave would subdue the mouse population in my apartment, but they still feel a need to visit. Over the past week, there has been at least one mouse sighting per evening!
Fortunately, Hanna has been quite handy thus far. Although she doesn't kill them immediately, she does slow them down quite a bit which gives me time to call over someone brave enough to finish them off. I am trying to convince these brave ones that I am playing a part in the riddance process by screaming... I think it paralyzes them for a split second. Haha. 
Yes, I admit I am quite fearful of the little creatures, but slowly I am building up a tolerance to them... I don't really have much of a choice do I?
Well, I guess it's just another part of the true Haitian experience, and it could be worse. Fortunately the dry season has wiped out two of my previous challenges, mosquitos and a leaky ceiling, So I'll try to focus on those blessings. :) And hopefully the can of Mono bondage foam that Broc brought me will help the situation by closing up some wall holes.

Besides the mouse issue, this week has been absolutely AWESOME! On Thursday we took a trip to the beach and spent the majority of the day soaking up some glorious Haitian sunshine. The team workers truly deserved it, and the kids and I went along for the ride. Working in the Haiti heat is no picnic, but it pays off on beach day that is for sure! I still can't believe it when I hear about all of the snow you are getting back home... It's quite a different story over here!
On Monday there is a trip scheduled for Cabaret. We will walk through the market and visit 2 orphanages. I am looking forward to another outrip with the group. It's so fun to experience everything with Broc too!

Thanks again for all of your prayers surrounding my teaching. With the team here it's been a little challenging to plan - too many distractions, and in the next few months I have a lot of work to cover. I especially ask for prayer with my planning for Teagan. She has a lot tough science and math concepts that need to be mastered, and my concern isn't for her, it's for me! She is a very bright girl, and is progressing wonderfully, but some of the curriculum she is expected to learn in grade 7 is a little daunting for me to teach, especially when I have 2 other grades to cover. My teaching before Christmas got us through the basics, but now I have to face up to teaching things like ecosystems and earth plate tectonics and heat energy... Things that I don't completely understand myself. So I would really appreciate your prayers as Teagan and I navigate through this together. Pray that I will be okay with not knowing everything, and that I can serve as an adequate guide for Teagan. As I gather resources and try to put together projects that are both educational and enjoyable, it's often discouraging because I feel that she could learn so much more if I was more knowledgeable. But it just causes me to lean on the Lord and trust Him to help me plan and provide for what she needs. He is the Great Teacher and I know with Him in me, I can do greater things than I ever thought I was capable of.
With that being said, I guess I better tackle my planning for the next unit.... The Rebellion of 1837! Lord, give me courage!  

Monday, January 26, 2009


The wait is over!
Canadian team #2 has arrived and already begun their work of building projects and clinic outreach all over the mission and villages in Haiti.
With this team also came Broc, my brother, and a few other familiar faces from home. 
When Broc unloaded all of his bags into my apartment last Wednesday I had such a warmth in my heart. Finally I was with family! It has been such a blast hanging out with him here in Haiti. On Saturday I travelled with him and his work crew to Cabaret where they had been building a home for one of the church ladies - Madame Monkel - who lost her home in the hurricane. It was hard work but the home is almost finished and will serve as a shelter for her seven children. You can see some pictures below of the work day...

Yesterday, Broc came to church with me and we sat with the village kids during the worship time, then we followed them out to kids church which has about 300+ kids. Quite an experience! After church we took a tap-tap to my favourite Haitian restaurant, Gwopapapou - which means Big Daddy Chicken! From there, we caught the bus full of team members and made our way to Tytoo Gardens, an orphanage in Simonette. It was an awesome day!

And on top of having just Broc here, there have been 49 other friends to keep me company too!
I can't even put into words how wonderful it has been to have some Canadian love around here. Everyone is so friendly and excited and it is contagious. It's amazing how easily I've been able to get to know people and really be a team with them even though we have never met. Most of them are complete strangers, and yet before I even ask them their name I feel like I can relate to them and understand them because we both have the same purpose in being here: To bring hope to Haiti.
That's what I think is so cool about the Christian walk. I love how we all have a common thread in what we believe, so no matter what we do or who we are, we are a body. Praying, singing and sharing during the devotional times at night is kind of like a little taste of heaven. Even though it's people from all walks of life coming together with their own story, we are all united by one overarching faith and hope. 
It's a family of God.
And it's not just Canadians, it's people all over the world. We all have a role to play in this journey and we are all called to join in. Not just here at the Mission of Hope, but all over the world. No person's part is less important than the other because we need each other. It's a privilege to be together with this extended family of brothers and sisters. Even the people in Haiti, despite the language and cultural barrier, I find myself connecting and understanding them in ways I can't even explain. All I know is that it comes from Jesus, who's whole life purpose was to bring love and unity to mankind. I see that happening here in Haiti everyday and it's such a blessing to me.
Even though I am so far from my relatives and friends, I am thankful for the way I can be spurred on and loved by this giant kingdom family.

PS~ I hope you like the new look for my blog.... I tried to coordinate it with the colors in my apartment! :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Only in Haiti!

Over the past few months I've caught myself again and again saying 'only in Haiti!'
Last night I had another one of those moments, so I thought that I would share it with you. :)
The Friday night movie at the Hope House was postponed to Sunday night due to the funeral preparations, so last night all of us guesthouse-ers took the trek down the hill to spend the night under the stars with the most lovable kids in the world.
Laurens and Cheryl had to spend some time with the team leader coordinating the last few days of work, so I took the kids with me down on their ATV. As we drove down the hill, I could hear the engine of the quad start to choke, and eventually the whole thing stalled. We were out of gas. About halfway down the hill at that point, I wasn't really sure what to do. Walk back up for help? Abandon the ATV and keep walking down? The kids had another idea. They wanted to push it down the hill... and I gave in. With that they willingly hopped off and gave the ATV some help gaining momentum and we began our descent. At one point when we got going pretty good, I told the kids to jump back on and we laughed and enjoyed the thrill ride of coasting down the dusty slope. 
There I was on a dark January night in my shorts and tank top steering a gas-thirsty ATV down a mountain with my students... and loving every minute of it. 
Only in Haiti. :)

You are probably wondering what happened next. 
Well, the kids and I parked the ATV by the Hope House when we reached the bottom of the hill, expecting to walk up the hill at the end of the movie, and come back down to fill up the ATV in the morning. But kindly after hearing about our unique ride down, Rachel offered to give me a ride up so I could bring down gas and take the kids back up on the ATV at the end of the movie.
So I went back up with her to get gas, only for Laurens to tell me that the ATV had a reserve tank, so all I needed to do was flip the switch. The solution was easier than I thought! But of course, had I known that earlier, the kids and I would have missed out on our adventurous decline.

And who knows what adventures await?
Broc arrives on Wednesday and I am so thrilled to see him and the other familiar faces that are a part of the team.
I will warn you now that I probably won't be updating my blog quite as regularly while he is here, but stay tuned for more stories and pictures (from my new camera that he will be bringing! hooray!) coming up soon! 


We said goodbye.

On Saturday afternoon I rode down the hill with Rachel to the Hope House where we escorted the children to the church for the funeral. Before the service started, the children filed into their seats and then two by two walked up to the open casket where Rachel stood to say goodbye to their dear sister. It was heartbreaking as each child took an envelope up with them that enclosed a letter they had written to Maggie, and left it by her side. The younger children started going up to see her first, and about halfway through I went up with the girls sitting by me. After giving the girls a few moments to say goodbye, we walked back to our seats and one of the girls walking with me began to cry. She cried in my arms through the whole service. As the rest of the Hope House children came back to their seats and the service progressed, there were many more tears but I was amazed at the way that the children comforted each other. At one point in the service one of the older Hope House girls got up to read scripture and she broke down about halfway through. Without hardly needing a prompt, two of the boys instantly left their seats and went to the stage. One of the boys continued reading the passage, and the other boy with a solemn face put his arm around the girl and escorted her off of the stage.
One particularly memorable part of the service was when all of the children went on stage with one of the ladies from the worship team, Vena. Vena sang the verses for 'It is Well' and when she got to the chorus, all of the Hope House children echoed, "It is Well". It was heavenly. The funeral also included beautiful tributes by Rachel and Brad (director of the Mission).
After the service, we followed the casket out of the church and when it was loaded into a waiting car, we followed the car by foot for at least a kilometre to the cemetery. Even though it was a very sad journey, it was comforting to be together. As we walked down the long dusty road in the hot sun, none of the children complained or asked to be carried. They were content to simply hold hands and be together with the ones that they loved.
As Rachel read in her tribute, Maggie's life didn't start out very well (she was found abused and burned in a garbage dump), but it surely ended well. She had friends all over the world and 57 brothers and sisters sending her off to her eternal home. 
When we arrived back at the mission, Rachel had prepared cake and hot chocolate for the kids, and as the mommies got everything ready in the kitchen, the kids sat outside singing worship songs just like they had done on Friday evening. It was truly beautiful.

Now that the funeral is over, the children seem to be coping better, however please continue to lift up the Mission of Hope, Rachel, the mommies and the Hope House children in the days ahead.

Friday, January 16, 2009


It's been a very moving evening.
I just got back from the Hope House and I don't really know where to start, all I know is that so far this night has been one of the most memorable nights I've had in Haiti so far, and I know that I need to blog about it.
This afternoon Rachel mentioned to me that there would be a special time with the Hope House kids tonight before the funeral tomorrow. Kind of like a preparation for what will be coming. I didn't really know what to expect when I arrived, and I was trusting the Lord to help me comfort the children, despite my lacking language. When I arrived though, I was shocked at what I found. There were benches set up outside and all of the kids were sitting together and singing praise songs. As I entered some of the kids came up to greet me and led me over to the other children. Two of the boys had guitars that they were strumming, not on key, but one of the older boys was leading the songs from a seat in the back. He would begin singing a song and soon all of the kids would join in as loud and wholeheartedly as I've ever seen or heard.
If there is a song that would honour God the most, I think I just witnessed it, coming from the lips of these dear children.
Just days after losing their sister, time stood still as these children sang from the bottom of their hearts words like "I could sing of Your love forever" and "Saviour, He can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save".
As I stood there in that moment with them under a crystal sky of stars, I felt the Lord there in such a present way. He was comforting His children and they were returning their praise. It was beautiful.
As the evening went on both Rachel and Madame Delva, who is the head mommy at the Hope House both shared and prepared the children for what to expect tomorrow. They walked through the program and told the children about what was to come, and also answered many of the questions that the children had.
Tomorrow will undoubtedly be hard, but there is hope because we will do it together. I am thankful for the blessing these children have been to me, and the amazing example of what it means to praise Jesus in the storm. Praising Him simply for who He is.
I go to bed tonight with their voices ringing in my mind and the memory of a beautiful girl who is singing along, and she is with her King.

A week in review...

This week has been quite eventful. Let me tell you about some of my adventures...

On Sunday afternoon I travelled with the Canadians (they have become my long lost family members - and also including some people from home: Dorothy DeKlerk and Catherine Stallwood) to Tytoo Gardens to visit the orphans and pass out gifts from Sauble Beach Church. There I got to meet Ed (the owner of the orphanage) for the first time and hear his testimony. It was so touching in the way that he openly shared with the team members about his journey, originally buying the oceanfront land to build a night club. However, his heart was changed by the little children that came around every afternoon looking for food, and eventually he opened his doors to the children that needed him so much. I was deeply moved as Ed's eyes filled with tears as he spoke of the love he has for the children and for the way that the Lord is using him to help so many desperate orphans. He is surely an example to us all.

During the outing I had a bit of a downfall.... Literally. As I mingled with the many children, I found myself at one point on a small cement ledge about 5 feet up on the side of the orphanage. Sitting up there we could see for quite a distance and we sang and took pictures together. At one point I stood up to get more of a group shot, but clumsily I forgot how small the ledge was and fell off! Right away people came running and all those around was very worried that I had broken something. But miraculously I stood up and didn't have so much as a scratch on my body. Many of the nurses said that with the distance I had fallen I could have seriously injured myself, but praise the Lord I was fine. Since then some small bruises on my leg have formed, which must have been from the impact, but I am pretty thankful for the Lord's protection. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't so lucky. It came down with me and suffered the worst of the damage. It is broken, which means that I am not able to show any pictures from the trip with you, but it could have been much worse!

Our week of school has also been quite eventful.... We have caught a bit of Canadian fever with the team being here and I've tried to get the kids involved in as much with the team as possible. 
On Tuesday for art we made teeth models for the dental hygienists to take to the schools and demonstrate to children how to brush their teeth properly. 
I guess we proved that coffee filters and marshmallows can be effective outside the kitchen! :) The kids and I had a lot of fun making them too, and from what you can see from the pictures we took on Teagan's camera, we probably got a little too much fill of mini marshmallows! ;)

On Thursday we headed down to the Hospital of Hope to see the nurses in action. They have been doing a lot of mobile clinics in surrounding villages which is awesome, but we were able to check out the action on our home turf.
For more detailed tracking on Laurens and Cheryl's work with the group, make sure you check out their blog - their link is on the right side panel of my blog page.

Then on Thursday afternoon we hopped back on the school bus with the group and headed into Cabaret for a market/orphanage visit. It had been almost over a month since I had seen the Good Samaritian kids in their orphanage, so I seized the moment to go along with the team and turn our school afternoon into some hands-on learning, or as Teagan calls it, a cultural learning experience! ;)
During the time at the orphanage the children had their mealtime and I am still amazed at how the youngest ones (some not older than 3) can finish an oversized plate of rice just as quick as the older ones. As I sat on the floor with a few of the children as they ate I was also humbled by the way they offered food to me. Even though they only get 2 meals per day of rice, they are still generous to share whatever they have. 
After the children finished eating we were able to pass out toys that Catherine Stallwood and a few of the other women had organized for the trip. It's always my favorite part of the trip when we get to hand out gifts because the kids get so excited. There was also a box of supplies that my class at William E. Brown purchased and sent with me for the children in Haiti and I am looking forward to passing that out in Sunday School in a few weeks!

Now that the school week is done, I can look ahead to the weekend.... I'm going to try my best to get some more planning for next week done this afternoon as well as fit in a trip to the kids club in Titayen. One of the ladies at the church has started this little bible study with all of the children in the surrounding villages all on her own. During the time they spend together they sing songs, have a bible story time and she feeds them. I was amazed when I went the first time to see so many children (close to 100), and the way that this blessed lady cares for them both physically and spiritually. It is my hope that when we go with the team and bring food for her today it will be a great encouragement.
The weekend also brings anticipation for next week, especially since my brother Broc will be joining the second Canadian team. I can't wait to have him stay with me in my apartment. Hopefully we don't fight to much. Haha.

Finally, tomorrow is the funeral for Maggie so I appreciate you keeping everyone who knew her in your prayers. She was truly a special girl to all that knew her and it will be hard to say goodbye.
Thanks for sticking with me through the lengthy blog today. There is just so much that has been happening! I definitely feel that I am adjusting back into my life here in Haiti, and I thank you for your prayers about this. Please continue to pray that I can stay focussed on my task of teaching and that I would have creative ideas for the next few months... Your support is such a blessing!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A sad time

I am sad to have to write this message today, but the children at the Hope House and many of the mission staff need your prayers right now.
Over the past few months, one of the girls at the Hope House, Maggie (18 years old), has been suffering with an unknown illness, and was recently admitted into a hospital in Port-Au-Prince as her condition worsened. 
Much to our sadness, last night Maggie passed away. 
It brings us hope to know that she is in heaven. She has no more pain. She is with her Maker.
However, this reality also leaves the mission with a big hole that Maggie once filled. 
At the Hope House, the children are like family, and they have lost a dear sister.
Please also pray for Rachel and the mommies as they comfort the children while at the same time grieve Maggie's loss. She was so beautiful, wasn't she?

To be honest, I don't really know where I fit in all of this. Since I arrived in September, Maggie has been getting progressively worse, so I didn't really have the chance to get to know the loving and happy girl that most people at the mission did.
Please pray that I can be what people need right now... A comfort to those that are grieving. It's difficult to know what to say or what to do, but I am asking the Lord to show me how I can shine His hope and peace at this time.
Thank you.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hustle and Bustle

I've landed in Haiti!
It was definitely not an easy goodbye on Tuesday morning, but as I peered out of the airplane from my window seat I experienced such a peace when the mountains of Haiti came into view. Over the past few days I've seen many of my Haitian friends I had to leave behind in December and they really have confirmed to me that this is where I belong right now. One particular encouragement came to me this morning from one of my translating friends that works for the mission. He gave me a wooden mug with a note inside that expressed his gratitude for my friendship and for all of the ways I have been involved in at the mission. It really sparked a fresh flame in my heart.

As far as life at the mission goes, the main event this week has definitely been the first Canadian teams' arrival. On Wednesday evening around 6:30pm I watched with the other staff members as headlights made their way up the hill to the mission guesthouse. That was the last moment of calmness that we shared before the bus doors opened and 49 team members began to unload and set up camp for the next two weeks.
During this next month of teams from Canada, Laurens and Cheryl will be very busy keeping the teams occupied. Laurens is heading up the construction team, and Cheryl will be organizing supplies with the nurses for outreach with the Hospital of Hope and mobile clinics. This also creates more busyness for me as I will be on call for the kids while their parents will be working many overtime hours.
This weekend I really need to prioritize my time as we will be starting school this Monday. I will be honest - I didn't open a book over the break, so I definitely have a lot of ground to cover with the 3 seperate grades, but I'm just hoping that the Lord will give me ideas and that my planning times would be very productive.

It's always a challenge for me to balance my time of prep and interaction with the team, and especially this month having so many friendly faces from home around, I struggle to put the time into school planning. I just wish sometimes that I could have more freedom to do other things, but I must remember that teaching is my priority this year and I have to stay committed to the task. And the promise of the verse in Philippians - He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it - reminds me to press on and keep relying on the Lord for strength.
Thank you for your prayers for the kids and I as we jump into our routine next week, and also that I would have an extra measure of patience during this month of craziness. I guess I better keep going on my lesson planning... Bye for now! :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Home. Just the word brings a warmth to my heart.A few weeks ago I took the trip home to Canada for Christmas and it has truly been the best Christmas ever. Before I even stepped on Canadian soil I was greeted by over 20 of my closest family and friends who came to the airport to surprise me. As you can see from the picture, they came prepared! haha!

Even the snow was fun!

Yes, I will say it again. It has been the best Christmas ever.
But it's over now and life has to move on. I have to go back to reality.
This reality brings mixed feelings. I was confident that it wouldn't be hard for me to return to Haiti when I left in December. Haiti is finding a special place in my heart and I was sad to leave, so I thought I'd be able to come back quite easily.
However over the past few weeks I've been reminded of all of the things about my Canadian home that I don't have in Haiti : comfort like clean water (hot or cold) straight from the tap and no bugs or critters pestering me, but most of all, a congregation of friends and supporters encouraging and loving me beyond what I could ask for. I am really going to miss all of you and I am trusting the Lord to provide for me in these lacking areas in creative ways, just like He has been doing in the previous months. It's easy for me to get discouraged when I am not encouraged in Haiti like I am so blessed by the support at home, but it prompts me to remember who I am doing this service for. I'm doing it for the Lord, not for anyone else, and so my reward will come from Him someday. I am thankful for the joy of serving Him in Haiti and the blessings I've already been rewarded with in this new place. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers in the coming weeks.