Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Worlds collide.

The hockey bags that lined the walls are gone.
The fans are no longer oscillating.
My house is quiet.
But, evidence is still everywhere...
My fridge is still jammed with trail mix and Coca-cola.
My ipod still plays 'Blame it on the pop' and 'Boondocks'.
A tightened doorknob.
A cleared shower drain.
Bondo-ed mouse holes.
A sparkling white balcony.
And the list goes on and on.

It's been 2 cozy weeks my family. They all stayed in my apartment and it was full of sweat and music and laughs and wonderful memories.
I love it when my two worlds collide.

Inevitably a goodbye had to happen (which I am still recovering from), but my new and improved apartment coupled with the hundreds of pictures are a reason for me to give thanks that these dear ones came to share my life for 2 sweet weeks.
It was a definite highlight of the spring... Here's a little taste!

Broc and Ashley with the kids and I at church

Holly, Ashley and Broc with Dida and Senson (kids from the mountains)

Broc and Opa building a home in SourceMatelas

Holly and Ashley scrapbooking in the classroom with Ana and Mina

And of course... No trip is complete until a stop at Gwopapapou!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Time to Learn

A blog written by: Ashley Wiebe and Holly Czepek

On April 14th, we set our alarms for 3:30 a.m. to catch a plane that would start our journey into a country recently rocked by a violent earthquake. When we landed in Port Au Prince, Haiti, the first thing we had to learn was how to adjust to the temperature. Our bodies had quite a shock as they transfered from chilling in a refrigerator to cooking in an oven. On our journey to the Mission of Hope, we soon discovered that our bodies could sweat in more places than we could count.

The next few days were spent learning the definition of hard work. We tried to position ourselves in the areas we could be most effective. We quickly learned that we didn't have the muscles to carry large bags of cement mix, but we were skilled at using a trowel to level the cement into a porch. We didn't have the strength to push a wheelbarrow full of concrete, but we could organize a tent full of supplies. Our tools ranged from a shovel to a sewing needle, and from a paint brush to a drill in under a week.

While being in Haiti, we have had the blessing of staying with Diana in her house along with her Opa and brother. This is very convenient, but at times can be quite challenging. We have learned to be patient with each other while waiting for our turn in the nice, cool, refreshing shower, and sharing close quarters with one another. We have also learned patience with team leaders and others while working on the job site.

What we have also learned while being here is the culture difference. We had a chance to experience a true Haitian market recently, and we learned to tolerate the dust, smell, and noise that comes with it. The language barrier can be challenging at times, but we have learned to communicate with one another by using body language. On Sunday, we attended the morning service at the Church of Hope. We realized that even though we have culture differences we still worship the same amazing God.

We have learned a lot in this past week, but the most important thing we have learned is that we wouldn't be able to do any of it without the grace of God! He is the one working in Haiti and we are merely his tools to help do the job.

Thank you for all your prayers. Please pray that our team can continue to do the work that is needed, and that we would all stay safe, healthy and willing to work.

We will leave you with a creole phrase we have learned: Nou Renmen Ayiti! (We Love Haiti)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday.

Today began a full lineup of math tests, Confederation projects, water consumption experiments and teaching the short and long 'oo' sound.
Life goes on as rapidly as ever (check out some of my spring highlights here), except this time it's a great thing because Wednesday can not come fast enough.

At approximately 6pm on April 14th, the big yellow bus will ascend the mission hill carrying 47 Canadians INCLUDING: the best brother ever (Broc), my 'official' sister of 9 months (Ashley), my sweetheart of a cousin (Holly), and my unstoppable Opa... He underwent triple bypass heart surgery a little over 2 years ago and can still keep up with the best of them!
Needless to say, I can hardly wait for them to crash on my couch.
I can't wait to feed them mangoes from my fridge.
I can't wait to trek with them into the mountains.
I can't wait to flag down a tap tap and pack them inside.
I can't wait to show them my 'world'!

As you probably already guessed, my blog posts will be pretty few and far between in the next 2 weeks. I'll do my best to post some pictures and highlights here and there, but stay tuned for a full update in the coming weeks!

... Is it Wednesday yet?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eske nou kab anwole zong ou?

I have a thing for nail colours... The cherished bottle of lime green I purchased in grade 5 was only the beginning of my polish fetish. You name the colour and I've probably got it in a few different shades. Sunshine yellow, ocean turquoise, metallic purple, prism glitter, french manicure pinks, even the nail decals to complete the package. Yes, I will hook you up.
And coming to Haiti surprisingly did not hinder my collection... Thanks to girls night pedicuring, every time I go home I have an excuse to gratify my thrill of new and exciting trends in the manicuring world. In my last trip to Florida, I hit gold when I found a set of blues in 'click-pen' format... Teagan was thrilled!

What does this have to do with anything, Diana? You may be asking.
Well, today I'm going to tell you a nail polish story...

A few years ago, my dear friend Amber was in a very serious car collision. She had numerous bone fractures and breaks and was held at Hamilton General Hospital for one very long month.
During my visits to her hospital bed, I toted along my nail polish bag and appointed myself as her toe fashion artist... The gowns they give you in hospitals aren't the most trendy, but I was deliberate about compensating for that with some bold toes. We experimented with stripes, rainbow patterns and confetti designs, but the favourite for both of us was definitely black with white polka dots... A pattern that has lingered to this day!
Anyways, throughout my time at the hospital, the Lord planted a little seed in me. It was such a joy for me to share this passion of mine with Amber to give her a boost during her hard days, and I thought about the what it would mean to other bed-ridden patients in the other rooms of the hospital. I sometimes shared my idea to go and paint toenails with people around me, but due to my strict university schedule and other commitments on weekends and evenings, my dream was never more than that... Just another dream on the 'bucket list'.

This week in Haiti, the clinic has been non-stop. Numerous medical teams and surgeons have landed on the ground, performing surgery's in the OR (one of the only sterile operating rooms in the country), setting up a prosthetic lab for amputees, and treating many patients that have been sent to us from Port-au-Prince's larger hospitals. In addition to the earthquake victims, there have been additional emergency needs, including one of our own Haitian staff ladies. On Monday morning, Nalize was in a very serious motorcycle accident, while on her way to the mission, which left her with 2 broken bones in her leg and a broken wrist. We are grateful that her life was spared, and although she is in a lot of pain right now, the doctors say that she should be back on her 'feet' again in 3-6 months.
All of this to say that on Tuesday afternoon, I ventured down to the patient dome (where about 20 other post-op patients receive care) to see her. It had been the first time I had seen the inside of the new 'dome' since it had been set up and I was amazed at how much it resembled a real hospital ward. Beds lined the sides of the tent and doctors and nurses passed from patient to patient assessing their needs and progress. As I sat close by Nalize's bedside and talked with her mom, I echoed their gratefulness that there is a place that these patients can be cared for so wonderfully, and be able to heal with professional care.

And then another thought struck me. Actually, it was the Lord taking the cover off of my eyes. As I looked around at the other beds I saw women - young ladies, little girls, elderly women - all with warmth in their eyes that lit up when I smiled at them. Here was my chance to 'live the dream'.
Before I left on Tuesday, I chatted with another girl who was recovering form an operation. She looked to be about my age and her leg was in a large metal brace that had been applied through surgery in order to avoid amputation. Her name was Emanuella, and when I proposed my idea to come back the next day and paint her nails, she broke out a beautiful smile.
I don't think my feet touched the ground on the trek back to the guesthouse. By the time I reached my house, I was a sticky, sweaty mess of dust but the shower was not my priority. I flung open the Rumford's door where my junior girls sat chatting on the couches and told them of my plan. They were equally as excited to join me the next day!
Wednesday afternoon could not come soon enough. After school in the morning, I gathered up my nail polish and called Nicole, my friend from the Hope House, to refresh me in how to say 'paint nails' in Creole.
That's where today's title comes in... It's Creole for, can we paint your nails?

Despite a few minor hiccups along the way (some ladies thought we were giving the nail polish as gifts and didn't want to give the colours back... my collection may be slightly limited as a result!), it was a wonderful experience, and even better that all of the girls could join in with me. The smiles and bright eyes that emerged as we passed from bed to bed was such a blessing to my heart.
I say all of this to say that I am in complete amazement about how the Lord took my dream from many years ago and allowed it to surface here in Haiti. As time has passed, it kind of got suppressed in my mind, and I don't think I would have ever made a serious effort to do anything with it during my time here had it not been for my visit down to the patient dome to see Nalize after her accident. As usual, God was at work far before I was aware of it!

This blog is not intended to glorify myself or the girls that joined me on Wednesday afternoon. It is to give glory to the Lord for planting seeds and weaving circumstances and whispering truth into our hearts. We have been blessed so abundantly here, and what a privilege it is to share this joy and blessing and in this case, pampering with other sisters in Christ. He gets all of the praise for the way He has brought us to this place and strengthened us to be vessels of His love and joy.

I want to end by saying that there may be dreams in your own heart that you think could never happen... Like me, there might be seeds that were planted long ago that have never bloomed, and I want to testify through this simple experience that the Lord is so faithful. As it says in the book of Psalms - Commit your way to the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Keep believing and holding on to His timing for the little things that you may have a tendency to lose faith in. He will not let you down.

Thank you Lord for planting the seeds and for making them grow.
Thank you for the blessings that you bring across our path every day.
And thank you for nail polish.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


... A new view.
I went for a mountain hike on Saturday afternoon. This was an initiation for the big climb that we are anticipating when some of my family arrives with the Canadian team this month (8 days and counting!).
We ventured off of the mission road, stopped to say hello to our mountain family friends (I playfully bragged that I'd be waving to them at the top and had their doubts I could do it!), and then proceeded through the stone gulleys, thorn bushes, and steep inclines. Each time we trekked to a higher summit, the Mission of Hope got smaller. The world as I know it in Haiti became a little 'Lego' set of life. At the height of our first mountain, I did a slow rotation and took in the small pieces of my life from above. It's amazing how miniscule these buildings that I've been dwelling in seem when compared with the vast land, and how much smaller I am amidst it all.
As I looked down from above at the anthill of my life, the stresses and struggles that I deal with everyday seemed to shrink along with them. It's so easy to get caught up in daily traps along the way, and yet all the while, there is a much bigger picture happening... The openness and space and beauty on the top of the mountain was like a wake up call to not get stuck in a 'little' life.
I don't want to let temporary dilemmas define what my days are about. I want to have a bigger picture. As the sun began to set over the mountains and we trekked back to my 'world', I prayed to be continually reminded that smallness should not be an excuse for shallowness.

... A new light.
5:30am Easter Sunday morning, evidence was everywhere. The grey hues of clouds transformed into bursts glowing of color. Streaks of light poured out from behind the mountains. Progressively, long shadows emerged, and sunlight broke through. It warmed my skin. The rays exposed everything it touched. The once-dark land was brought to life in color.
Beginning the day with the sunrise was a rare chance for me to truly stop. I didn't have to check my watch. I didn't have to oversee anybody. I didn't have to think about my mismatched pyjamas. I simply got to sit still and watch the splendor unfold - Each minute more beautiful than the last.
After the sun came into view fully and I walked back to my apartment, I had a new sense of refreshment. Despite my alarm going off 2 hours earlier than normal, I was energized and enthused about the day ahead, no coffee required! - although I could have gone for donut :). The time of quietness was like a wave of peace over whatever was to come that day, as the rest of the world awoke.
If only everyday could start so well.
But. It does... I'm just not deliberate about noticing it.
Each and every morning there is a light show beyond any man-made display, while most of us sleep it away. Please don't take this as a guilt trip to start waking before dawn every day... I'm not changing my alarm for the long term, but it has made me think about how often I let myself miss out. How I fail to seize opportunities and be amazed at the Lord's beauty around me all the time. These are everyday miracles that the Lord abundantly gives, and most of the time I just take them for granted. I don't want the routine of my life to distract me from these 'whisper' moments. It's in these places that I am given meaning and life.

... A new decision.
Yes, it's that time again. Time to look back on the road I've tread, and time to look ahead at what the next year will bring. As the next few weeks pass, I appreciate your prayers for not just me, but for all of the families here as our year commitment reaches it's finale and the page turns.
I'm facing quite a different scenario this time around compared to last spring. With the flurry of weeks that have passed since the earthquake, I feel like time has been on fast-forward. There hasn't been much time to process what's past or future. I feel like I haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg when thinking about bringing closure to what has all taken place. The Mission of Hope has become headquarters for far more than any of us saw coming so fast, which equals more people, more staff, more growth, more change.
I can feel change happening in my own heart too.
I love teaching these missionary kids. I feel so blessed to be in this place where I can use my training, use the abilities and passions that God has given me to be a part of the ministry of the Mission of Hope. It has been a privilege to guide them this year and to see who they are each becoming in the Lord.
And as the weeks turn to months and the months turn to years, more passions have been sparked in my heart. I met this beautiful mountain family, got connected with brothers and sisters in Nashville, and have been blessed by reaching out to Shaylyn, Senson and their families and neighbours.
Relationships have strengthed too. This past weekend, I spent some time with Sadrac and Wicky, interpreters at the mission who have become my Haitian brothers. In our meal conversation, they began sharing parts of their past with me - history of their country, dreams in their hearts - all things that I would have assumed I knew plenty about, but for the first time I really began to understand a depth about their lives. It was such a blessing to hear them confide in me and hear what their vision is as they move forward after the earthquake.
As these situations of relationship-building and understanding continue to cross my path, it's my prayer that I may be a good steward of what the Lord is planting in me and through me... That I may not pass over or neglect anything He is at work in.

On Sunday night I sat on the van der Mark porch with friends and Laurens posed the question - If you were given a blank page where you were asked to write what your life in Haiti is about, what would you put?
The question scared me at first because I didn't know what to say. Where to even begin!?
But as I returned to my apartment that night, I couldn't get the question out of my brain. I found myself taking out a piece of white paper, highlighting the question at the top, and I have been jotting thoughts down ever since.
I don't know what my time left in Haiti looks like. I may be flying back on a one-way ticket in 3 months, or these past 2 years may only be the beginning of a lifetime. Only God knows that far ahead, and right now I don't think it's going to do me any good to get hung up on where my life is going to be in 10, 20, 30 years. He's only going to chuckle at me.
Instead, I can think about where He has led me and what He has established in me thus far, and what He wants me to do with it now. Based on the opportunities that truly make my heart full, I know I want to be about relationships. Empowering people, going beyond the surface, pointing people to Jesus through love and deeds.
I know that this passion can surface in many areas - from the missionary kids I'm teaching right now, to the friendships that I'm establishing through the church. I don't know where it's going to take me in the future, but I ask for your prayers as I discern and anticipate what is to come.
One of the main themes that I never want to emerge as I continue on this journey is a life of complacency. I am often tempted to give into what's comfortable, what I'm familiar with, what I know I am competent in, and leave the risk or challenge for someone else. I ask that you pray along with me that as decisions are made in the weeks ahead, that I would not have a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of confidence and trust that the Lord is guiding me through. He knows the path I take and I don't ever want to forget that His strength will be enough through every high and low.

So there's a smattering of my discoveries and dilemmas and whatever is in between.
Thank you all for your support and unfailing prayers and encouragement not just in the decision times, but throughout the year. I am truly blessed to know you in my kingdom family.