Saturday, February 28, 2009

Looking back, looking ahead...

Wow, it's hard to believe that February is coming to an end!
I don't know if time is going by fast for you all back in Canada, but it sure flies in Haiti.... Just this week a new team arrived, and the leader of the group was one of the first people I met when I arrived in September. When I saw him the other day, all of my memories of first arriving at the mission and eating and sleeping at the guesthouse came back and I realized how far I have come, or instead, how far the Lord has brought me. 

Yesterday I was doing some reading with Bridgely, and he asked if we could go back into his book library - books he has written himself... you know what I am talking about Kristine ;), and we were both really surprised at what we saw... His handwriting has changed so significantly we hardly recognized it! It was really neat for us to see how far he has come over the past few months, and it was quite rewarding for me as his teacher too! And that's just one small area of growth in the academic department... Each of my students have been growing and learning so much, and it's often not until times like yesterday when we were able to look back and really see how far we've come. It's in those moments of reflection that I really see the Lord's guidance, purpose and blessing. Often in day to day reality I am not aware of the bigger picture, but even in my growth spiritually, I see the value of the mountains and valleys I've journeyed in my times of looking back. 

Now looking ahead to the days to come, I have lots to look forward to and more places for my roots to get deeper. One highlight that has just begun has been my opportunity to work with Jacqueson, one of the boys at the Hope House. Jacqueson was born with a cleft palate, and just this past December was fortunate to have surgery done by an organization called 'Operation Smile' to have it repaired. Although his mouth has healed completely, he still has many poor speech habits based on the twelve years he spent talking without a part of his mouth. Since the surgery, Rachel has been working with him almost daily, using exercises that were recommended by a speech therapist, in order to help Jacqueson develop proper speech techniques. The way I fit into all of this is that Rachel is currently in Canada helping to plan her sister's wedding among other things, so for the 3 weeks that she is gone, she asked if I would work with Jacqueson. I was pretty honoured that she would ask me, and am thrilled for the opportunity! 
We have had only 2 sessions so far, but I am really enjoying it. One thing you need to know about Jacqueson is that he is quite a character and loves to joke around. Yesterday, we were doing one of the exercises where he had to blow out a match using his mouth, not his nose (a way to practice controlling his breath). I struck the match to light it, and usually he blows it out immediately, but as I held the match by his mouth he just looked at me with a little smirk as the match burned down closer and closer to my fingers. At first I waited expectantly for him to blow, and then realized the joke he was playing on me, so much to his amusement I began to react, and pleaded with him to blow it out before I got burned. Sure enough, he blew out the flame without it burning me and then we laughed together, but that's just an example of his sense of humour.... He keeps me on my toes! :) 

Another thing that I am looking forward to is traveling to Oranzge with the mobile clinic team tomorrow. Currently there is a medical team at the mission that has been doing out-trips and giving free treatment almost everyday to surrounding villages. On numerous occasions I have heard Cheryl talk about the village in the mountains (Oranzge) that is quite a trek in the pick-up trucks, but what a rewarding experience it is to go and treat patients who have no means of getting to the clinic. I've had the hope of going along for quite some time just to experience it for myself, but they usually go out on weekdays when I have to teach. However, it just so happens that this weekend they are taking a team there on Sunday, where they plan to play the Jesus movie and have a church service with the village people in the morning, and then do treatment in the afternoon. I spoke with Cheryl yesterday and she said that they would probably have room for me, so I am really looking forward to it! By no means can I treat people or offer much assistance in the medical field, but I am willing to do whatever I can to help with organization and assisting the doctors and nurses with an extra pair of hands. It is also my hope that I will get to see many of the children and love on as many as I can.
So I guess that's a little update from me.... I hope to post some pictures from the day along with some stories from my experience tomorrow. Thanks again for all of your prayers!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Not Lost

It has been one wonderful week - emphasis on the full! Cortney just left after spending a week here with me during her reading break and it was awesome!!! I really didn't know it was possible for a week to go so fast, but looking back on all of the pictures and things we experienced together, we surely made the most of it.
After Cort arrived on Saturday night, we organized a ton of school supplies and children's toys and clothes that were purchased by students that I worked with during my teaching block at William E. Brown School last spring. They fundraised and gathered materials that were shipped to Haiti in December, so last Sunday Cort and I along with the van der Mark children and the Sunday School teachers passed out all of the stuff in Kids Church. There were over 200 kids present, so we tried to make it as organized as possible by setting up all of the materials in a separate classroom. Then once the classrooms were filled, the kids came about 20 at a time to pick out a gift. I must say that I was especially impressed by the way that Teagan, Grayden and Bridgely offered so much assistance. I was thrilled by the way that they were such great helpers and took leadership by selecting suitable gifts for the different ages and genders of children coming through, and passing them out with such love. It was so fun to pass it all out with them and it was surely a happy day for all of the kids. The picture below shows us passing out dinky cars to the boys. They loved them!

After church, Cort and I went with two of my friends who work at the mission, Sadrac and Wicky, to Pain Plus, a Haitian-American restaurant. Cort got to experience her first tap tap ride, walk through the Haitian market and try sugar cane. It was so fun being able to tour her around and share my new life with her. On Monday and Tuesday I had school with the van der Marks, so she came and checked that out as I taught, and then we had the rest of the week off! So, much to our excitement, we headed off to Kaliko beach and spent Wednesday and Thursday in paradise! We stayed in our very own 'bungalow' which was pretty fun, and soaked up some Caribbean sunshine.... Maybe a little too much, as the past few days have led to some sore skin! Oh well, it was worth it! :)

It also worked out really well for us on our trip home to get dropped off at Good Samaritan orphanage to meet up with the van der Marks and Cheryl's parents who are visiting for a little over a week. I was so happy that Cort was able to the see the kids that I have become especially attached to, and they absolutely loved her!

Our last days were spent exploring the mission and last night was the kickoff of Youth Camp at the Mission of Hope. Every year during 'Carnaval' week in Haiti, which is kind of like a party week in Port-au-Prince, the mission offers an alternative program for young people in the area. Last night Cort and I watched as young people beginning at age 10 up to age 25 arrived with their bags and gathered in the church for their Friday night session. It reminded Cort and I of a youth retreat like Pitch and Praise.... Lots of loud music and laughter with a ton of young people... Probably close to 400! So it was really cool that Cort and I were able to witness the beginning of that together and now for the next couple of days I will be participating in the many other activities going on. Evening sessions are always my favorite because of the worship times. It's so awesome joining the voices of so many passionate young people and singing and clapping together! 
Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to Cort just a few minutes ago, and it was definitely hard to see her go. I'm happy to say the sadness hasn't hit me as hard as saying goodbye to the Canadian team a few weeks ago, but I really wish that the time spent with family never had to end. Life is so good and full of life when I have someone that I can share it with, but when people leave the loneliness sets in.
Which leads me to the title of this blog... When Cort arrived she brought a few different leisure reading books, and one of them was the currently popular novel called 'The Shack' (I'm sure most of you have either read it or heard of it). I've heard many different accounts of the book from friends who have read it, and have lately developed an interest to read it myself, so while Cort was here I began to dive into it. I'm not going to get too much into the story, but I wanted to share a part of it that I have really connected with so far. At the end of one of the first chapters, the main character is having a talk with Jesus, and based on the pain of his past he has a lot of unanswered questions. During the talk he tells Jesus that he feels lost. And Jesus responds by taking his hand and responding with words that really spoke to my heart. He says, I know you feel lost but remember, I am not lost. And I am with you. You are not lost. 
I know that 'The Shack' was written by a human being, so I cannot take what it says with more authority than the Bible, however during this portion of the text, I felt the Lord really speak to me and it paralleled with what I believe about Jesus from the truth that comes from the Bible. The words that Jesus spoke to this broken and confused man is just what I needed to hear. 
There are many times I have here in Haiti when I feel lost. Times when I wonder what I'm doing here and why the Lord would ask me to be in this place. I lose sight of who I am and my sense of stability is gone. It is then when I start to look back through the photo library on my computer with pictures from home, and I try to bring myself back to who I was before this journey began. I try to find hope in the place where I once was, but many times the pictures seem foreign and I can't seem to find my way back. 
These 2 lives that I am somehow a part of seem to twist and blend together in my head and then separate again so fast and I find myself losing hope. Losing hope of ever doing what I was called to do. I wish I could just crawl away and leave this mess of emotions and expectations to someone who is better qualified. But through the words in the book, I was able to remember the truth that even in the deepest and darkest places in my heart, Jesus is here and he's holding out His hand to me. I am not lost. I felt such a peace because even though I feel lost, Jesus isn't. He knows the way and He isn't afraid. All I have to do is trust Him. I may feel confused and alone, but as long as He is with me, I am found. And I am given the freedom to live abundantly.
I appreciate your prayers in the coming months as I attempt to live out these new truths that are beginning to permeate my heart. That I would be open to the life I live here, and that even in the storms of doubt and confusion I would remain found in Him.

Friday, February 13, 2009


It's been another blur of a week! 
On Monday I passed out my mid-term reports to the kids, and they are all progressing very well. Since it was my first official mid-term reporting, I was very anxious for feedback and fortunately was able to sit down with Laurens and Cheryl last night and we went over everything. Because they carry such large responsibilities, it's often hard to find time to discuss school 'business' so I was grateful for their feedback and above all for the way that the Lord is helping me and the children have a successful year.
I also appreciate all of your prayers and encouraging e-mails that I have received these past few weeks. Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here. I feel so out of my league managing 3 grades and ensuring that they are meeting all of the curriculum guidelines. And on top of that, it's often a struggle just to be away from family, and the people that I can lean on when I get discouraged.
But every time I start doubting or feeling overwhelmed with my insufficiencies the Lord brings along a smile from one of the Haitian workers, or a breathtaking sunset or a child to hold my hand and I remember why I'm here. Not by my own strength, but by the Lord working in and through me.
That being said, this past week has been filled with many moments of joy and praise to the Lord for bringing me to this place. On Tuesday I got together with Rachel and Amy and 2 other ladies visiting the mission for our weekly movie night. Amy, Rachel and I call it our 'date night'. Just since the Canadian team left, Rachel and I decided we need to start a weekly dinner/movie night where we are deliberate about getting together and just having a chance to hangout and relax. So this weekly trend has really been a highlight for me, and it's reminded me again how thankful I am for the girls here in my same 'life stage' that I can build friendships with. The Lord knew I needed them!
Last night was also a special occasion as we celebrated Valentines Day with the Hope House kids. One of the visitors to the mission donated money for there to be a special dinner, the kids created beautiful decorations for the dining hall, and Rachel made chocolate cake! And an added bonus was having the New Jerusalem kids (about 15 children who are currently living in an orphanage in Titanyen, but are supported through the mission and will soon be living in the new 'Hope Village' when it is finished being built), were able to join as well. It was a really fun evening! We had playtime and pictures and then the biggest feast I've seen since I've been here. The kids were loving it and so was I!
So that brings me today, where Cortney was supposed to arrive later this afternoon. Much to our disappointment, she is spending tonight in Miami due to a problem with her flight out of Chicago. Fortunately she is safe and you can pray for her if you read my post in time that she will rest easy tonight even though she is alone and has had a very crazy day. Her flight has been rescheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince tomorrow around lunchtime, so I am hoping to meet her at the airport and then we can begin our week together!
Thanks again for all of your prayers and encouragement as I journey along this winding road!

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm trying to learn Creole.
Over the past few months I'm proud to say that I've grown significantly in my ability to understand what Haitian's are talking about (as long as it is at a slow rate of speed), and I've received a few compliments here and there by Haitians about my communicating ability. I still have a very LONG way to go before I ever become fluent, but I seize every opportunity I get to pick up a few more words or tips. Fortunately, my complete immersion in this country has allowed there to be no shortage of good teachers!
Yesterday I learned another new word in the context of another 'only in Haiti' moment, so let me tell you about it.
Before church yesterday Rachel asked me if I would like to spend the afternoon with her going to Simonette to see Patris and his new wife, so I was definitely up for the outing.... Little did I know what other adventures the day would bring!
So after the service we met up with Patris who took us on his motorcycle first to Gwopapapou and from there to Simonette (which is like a 15 minute ride). The catch is that Wesley, another friend and mission worker also came along, so we had a bit of a dilemma.... Somehow we had to manage to get the 4 of us there, and we only had one motorcycle.
I have ridden on Patris' motorcycle with Rachel on numerous occasions to the restaurant, and although it is a little risky, it saves the 3 of us from having to walk. However, yesterday Patris decided that we should try to squeeze onto the motorcycle with the 4 of us and make our trek to Simonette. Well, if being white-skinned and blonde-haired wasn't already enough for Rachel and I to stand out, yesterday's ride certainly was! There we were riding on the motorcycle with Patris driving, Rachel next, me behind Rachel, and Wesley behind me. I'm sure it looked like we belonged in a circus! I couldn't stop laughing as we ventured through the jungle and waving to passerby's as we passed. It was wild!
So here is where my new word 'woy' comes in. I hear Rachel say it with expression every once and a while, and it was repeated often on our trip yesterday, so I asked Rachel what it meant. She said you say it when you are surprised, kind of like 'Whoa!' or 'Oh my goodness!', and it can mean something good or something bad. In our case, it was a little bit of both....
Part of the route to Simonette involves quite a steep hill that leads down to the road by the water. As we approached the hill, Patris began to coast, but even the lack of acceleration didn't slow us down in the least. We began to bump down the hill quite rapidly and I could barely stand to watch. It was a miracle that we made it down all in one piece!
Coming up a few hours later was a different story. This time we had to climb up the hill, and Patris' motorcycle, as powerful as it may be, didn't have the guts to get us to the top. As we began our ascent I could feel the engine start to fade, and Patris (who was pretty much sitting on top of the handlebars so that the rest of us could fit), wasn't able to properly steer, so with a choke and a cough the motorcycle quit and leaned to it's side spilling all of us off. Fortunately no one was hurt but there were quite a lot of 'Woy's coming not just from Rachel but me too!
Don't worry, the story doesn't end there. After we got off the ground and dusted ourselves off, we had to walk ourselves up the rest of the hill. Fortunately, Patris was able to get his motorcycle started again so we hopped back on and finished our journey back at the mission. Overall, it was an adventure in Haiti I will never forget! Woy! :)
I guess just reflecting on the whole experience of yesterday, I once again marvel at the way the Lord has protected me and kept me safe here in this foreign land. There are so many things that are normal in Haiti that would be so risky in Canada, and I'm definitely aware that the Lord has helped me to stay safe. And it's often not until after I do something that I think back and realize the potential dangers that could have happened, but I know that the Lord is watching out for me and for that I am grateful!

To close, I hope that today's entry has been familiar to my blogs in the past about my joy for living in Haiti. It was a hard time for me to let go of the wonderful time I had with the Canadian teams, and it's still not easy, but I am thankful for all of the Haitian people and children that have flooded me with love and affirmation for being in the place that God called me to be. I feel like I am getting my old self back a little more everyday and I so appreciate all of the prayers and encouragement from you all back home.
On Friday, Cortney (my cousin) will be arriving and spending her reading week here with me. I am so excited for her to see my life here and to get to spend time together in this wonderful place. And I'm sure she'll have her fair share of 'Woy' stories to share with you when she gets back! :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beginning again.

This morning was rough.
Actually, the start of this whole week has been rough as I've tried to emotionally prepare myself for today's goodbye. The month of Canadian teams is over and I don't really know where to pick up from. 

I think the weirdest part is that I never thought it would be this hard. I knew saying goodbye to Broc wouldn't be easy, but I never thought I would feel such a loss to see the bus drive away. I've think the reason it's been so difficult for me is because it's the first time I've really been able to tangibly connect Haiti with home. It's the two parts of my heart, and for the first time, they have been joined together, making it a pretty sweet combination. But now a piece is missing, and it hurts a lot.
When I arrived in Haiti back in September, I had to start from scratch because I had no family connection. I had to establish this life all on my own and it was hard at first, but it was starting to become like a home. Then I went back to my other 'home' for Christmas and since the day I returned back to Haiti, I've been surrounded by Canadians and friends of family, or people that actually have heard of Wainfleet (that's a pretty big deal over here!), and it's brought such a sense of love and family. Especially when Broc came, these two weeks have been so full of joy. It took me a few days to adjust to him actually being here and it not just being a dream, but since then it clicked, and now I don't really know how to go back to how things were. It's lonely here without the team, and this month has really made me aware of how much I miss you all.

But I have to begin again right? I can't dwell in this state of loss and sadness. I have to move on, I have to pick myself up and count the blessings that I do have. It's not going to be easy, but I'm trusting the Lord to bring along fresh joys in this new chapter.
Reading in the Psalms this week, I was encouraged by the verse in chapter 142, which says 'I pour out my problems to Him, I tell him all my troubles. When I am afraid, You Lord, know the way out'. 
I'm feeling pretty afraid right now. My problems are all around and I don't really know where to start, but this verse promises that I can have the courage to press on because my Jesus knows the way out. Even though I can't see what's ahead I believe He has not abandoned me. 

49 Canadians just left Haiti, but Jesus didn't. He's still here. I find hope in that.