Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Don't blink.

There's a song that my dad likes to sing to me by Kenny Chesney called 'Don't blink'.
The words of this song echo how fast paced life is. Time is fleeting, and the more you try to cling on to the moment, the faster the wheels seem to spin. It's that pit in your stomach, the lurch of change and things you can never control. It's the flurry of butterflies and the living in the moment and embracing all that is to come.
This past week there has been a whirlwind of emotion and memories and celebrations as we've wrapped up the school year and said goodbye to the beloved Rumford family.
This is us at the beach for Teagan and Maddy's graduation.

The Rumfords have become such an integral part of bringing hope to Haiti this year, and we will miss them VERY much. Grant's presence at the clinic and his emergency services with the ambulance were a God send to Haiti this year. Sandy's work through HaitiOne and each of the kid's bright smiles and involvement in programs with the Hope House and church will leave a big hole in all of our lives. Please keep each of them in your prayers as they head home to Canada and begin again.
Watching them pack up has reminded me of my upcoming return home as well, which brings mixed feelings.
I have a lot of anticipation about flying home on July 1st (Canada day - good timing, eh?). I can't wait to embrace and catch up with so many loved ones, to take some long country drives, to share stories and pictures, and indulge in some tastes that I have missed. I am also relieved to come away and have more time to process the events following my return in January. Just last week I joined a team in their trip to Port-au-Prince to see the effects of the earthquake and on our return we stopped at the mass grave located in the mountains nearby Titanyen. This is where over 60,000 bodies from Port-au-Prince were buried. Had I known that this stop would be included in the trip, I wouldn't have jumped on the bus. In my mind, I was nowhere near ready to face this magnitude of a reality, but my will wasn't enough to keep the bus on the highway. We veered onto the goat path of a road and climbed up to a flattened piece of land on the mountainside. There was a cross made out of what looked to be rebar on the high point of the hill. The rest was a barren field, which symbolizes my feelings well. My fears and day by day grievances have faded, but there is still a lot under the surface. I trust that as I come away for a while, that there will be time to process and prepare for all that is to come as I return. Thank you for all of your prayers as I've been away and I can't wait to see you all and live in the blessing of my church family.

In the same way, the idea about packing up for 2 months while life continues on in Haiti isn't going to be easy. I know the goodbyes that I have to say aren't forever, but I will surely miss my other home. I feel like especially in the past 5 months, my relationships with the people of Haiti as well as the MOH Staff have gotten a lot stronger, and I will miss them all terribly. Seeing the bright eyes of village children as they wave. Sharing a Haitian meal with friends after church on Sunday. The steady stream of loved ones coming into my apartment and plopping on my couch. Making banana muffins with my students. Visiting the beautiful amputees in the patient ward. Fresh grenadia juice. Cold showers, acoustic music and a humming fan after a hot day. Mountain family visits and watching Poppy's watermelons grow. Hailing down a tap tap and crunching in. The most breathtaking sunsets and thunder clouds spanning the sky.

The road for this year's journey in Haiti is coming to an end and I stand amazed at all the Lord has done in Haiti and in my life. As I live out these final days I sing along with the song - I don't want to blink. I don't want to miss a moment. And yet just as the seasons change, I am confident that the Lord will have fresh provisions in store for whatever comes next.

Lord, you have been our home since the beginning.
Before the mountains were born and before you created the earth
and the world, you are God.
You have always been, and You always will be.
~ Psalm 90:1-2

Thursday, June 17, 2010

beach speech.

Tomorrow is our last day of school, and we will be celebrating it in style!

In honour of the grade 8 girls completion of the school year and their merge into grade 9 this coming September, we are dressing our best and having a ceremony on the beach. Over the past few weeks I've been writing a poem to sum up our year to read aloud for my students and their parents during our formal part of the day. I thought that I'd post it here for you to read and give you a glimpse of our fantastic year together!

beach speech!

i’d like to take some time today to give a tribute to my class,

each one that has been a part of a year that has gone so very fast!

looking back i am truly amazed at how far we’ve come,

so let’s go back for a moment to where we had first begun.

we overcame a lot of big hurdles together,

starting with our guesthouse classroom in september,

we worked amidst the wind, dust, diesel trucks and noise,

including haitian cooks and drivers and dustin’s water delivery boys.

(believe me, we often said WOY!)

over time we watched our classroom get built a little more every day,

and looked forward to the time when it would be our place to stay.

after our move, we stayed true to our subjects through thick and thin,

even when the helicopters threatened to land on our roof made of tin.

when the bell rang each morning we all came to our one room schoolhouse,

in addition to the many uninvited visitors including tarantulas, moths, lizards and a very large mouse (or should i say rat?)

by those stubborn mosquitos we’ve been eaten alive,

but with the help of some trusty bug spray, we all have managed to survive.

we loved trekking off campus for sa pi bons, french fries and chicken at the beach.

we had ice cream at the sugar cane museum, and baked a lot of banana muffins - these kids sure love to eat!

you parents may be wondering from all these fun activities if we did any work at all,

let me assure you that your kids conquered many walls.

ana and mina learned english, bridgely and riley survived a volcano eruption

grayden and sammy mastered long division and the grade 8 girls finished in time for graduation!

someway, somehow,

that brings us to now.

we may not be in a school gym or have all of the cap and gown gear

we may not be marching to ‘pomp and circumstance’, but there is still reason to celebrate this grade 8 year...

teagan with her sharpie-striped fingernails,

never complained about researching genetic dna or reading fantasy tales.

we can always count on her to describe historical figures with an overgrown beard...

she can sum it all up in one word ‘weird’.

madison loves her tang extra sweet,

and can always be counted on to confirm that her beloved penguins were not beat.

she has recently taken on a new challenge this season:

in her pursuit of super junior, she learns how to speak korean.

it has been a wonderful year of memories,

one that i will never forget even when i reach my seventies.

i am amazed that we’ve made it all the way from september through june,

and wherever you go now, i pray you will continue to grow and bloom.

i thank God for each of you and the way you have played a big part,

you all, in your own special way, have warmed my heart.

keep growing and dreaming and living out loud,

no matter where the path leads you i will always be proud!

and now that we’re here and the school year is through,

it’s time to celebrate all that God has helped us to do!

Friday, June 11, 2010

One week, and then some.

We are 5 days away from school end. Somebody pinch me.
We've plowed through science units and regrouping lessons and letter blends. We've mastered long division and analog clock reading and how to spell conclusion. We've learned how to speak English (woot woot!), how simple machines offer a mechanical advantage, and how to make secondary colours. I could go on, but I think you've got the idea.
I still stand amazed at how we've reached the end of our units by the scheduled June end date. After 3 weeks of non-curricular school time following the earthquake, I was weighing options about having to add on extra hours to our school days, or having Saturday morning sessions (can you imagine how the kids would have reacted to that?), or prolonging the school year by another month or so. There was no way in my mind that we would be able to get it done without some kind of compensation.
But day by day, lesson by lesson, the Lord has enabled each one of us to press through and git 'er dun.
Thank you for all of your prayers for the kids and I over the past couple of months. As I finalize the last of the report cards I can truly say that it is only through God's strength and provision that we made it to the end of the year in time. And what a year it was... I will blog more about this soon!

In other news:

I had a tarantula in my house this week. At first glance, he seemed to be accommodating himself quite nicely under my coffee table, but believe me when I say that he quickly got the boot (thanks Laurens).
Let's just say that I've been tucking my mosquito net in a little tighter lately.

These days I've got a bit more of a spring in my step in the anticipation of my 'cheri' (sweetheart in Creole) of a friend, Sarah, coming to Haiti this coming Wednesday. You may remember me blogging about her and a few other interns that were here last June. Do half-baked cookies ring a bell? Well, she has been a wonderful blessing in my life and the Lord is bringing her back to Haiti! She has committed to returning to the Mission of Hope and serving as a part of our medical staff here. Please keep her in your prayers as she says goodbye to her family and transitions full force into Haiti life. Track with her on her blog here.

Last but not least, if it comes to your mind, please keep me in your prayers on Sunday morning. I am going to be living a dream of mine since I got to Haiti - telling the bible story in Creole!
I have told many a kids church story over the past year and a half, but I am always dependent on a translator - nothing against them - I would certainly sink without their help, but I've always had this urge at the back of my mind to tell the story without someone standing beside me. So this Sunday I'm biting the bullet. I may not be close to speaking fluent Creole, but with some behind-the-scenes assistance from some Haitian friends, and a few rehearsals each day, I'll be flying solo on Sunday. It is my prayer that no matter how broken my speech might be, that the kids will take something home with them. A reminder of the Lord's unfailing love for each one and His desire to transform their lives.
Thank you for your prayers as we wrap up the end of the school year as well... I'll hope to add in some pictures in my next post!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Where the watermelons grow.

John Deere doesn't exist in Haiti... Well, except for the bedsheet set I saw on one of the guesthouse bunks last week.
What I am trying to say is any farming equipment or machinery you farmers back in Wainfleet like to use are very rare over here. Farmers in Haiti do all their work manually. In village outtrips, it is very common to see men in their fields working the soil and growing up lush plantain trees, sugarcane bushes and all of the other mouthwatering fruits and vegetables that are emerging this season. As the rain becomes more consistent in the evenings we are coming into one of the best times for prime tropical fruits. Despite the influx in the mosquito population, this is most definitely my favourite time of year in Haiti!

So let's explain this blog title shall we? - It's time for a mountain update!
Over the past few family visits, I've been watching the watermelons grow.
The father (Poppy) of one of the families that I visit has 2 large gardens that he tends by hand. He relies on evening rains, hot sun, and a lot of sweat by day to make his precious watermelon and pumpkin seeds sprout to new life - Beautiful produce that he plans to sell at the Titanyen market to provide for his family. Every time I visit with my friend Sadrac, he escorts us to his garden and proudly shows off his crop. As you can imagine, we always marvel at the progress of the vines extending, leaves greening, yellow blossoms, and finally, baby watermelons emerging (see the little guy above my left foot)!

Sidenote - One of Sadrac's favourite foods just happens to be watermelon, so when we first found out that he would be growing a whole crop, we were pretty thrilled. I informed Poppy that we would be his best customer, but I barely finished my sentence before he insisted on giving us as much as we could eat without a fee. I know I have said this before but I need to say again how generous and thoughtful the people of Haiti are. I knew that it would be no use going against him on this issue because Haitian's love to give back whatever they can. Watermelon season starts full force in July and already yesterday we were given 3.

So in addition to a watermelon feast, yesterday we did something a little extra special. Two awesome girls from Mississauga, Heather and Tiffany, joined us on the mountain trek where we toted along a portable DVD player which Heather had brought from Canada. A few days ago, Sadrac mentioned that sometime he would like to play the Jesus movie for the kids. You are probably all aware of the well-known film, and he had possession of a kids version in Creole, so with the DVD player in hand, we headed out with a blanket and 2 cans of Pringles to have a mountain movie!

We had told the kids and prepared the parents at church on Sunday morning that we would be stopping by later on in the afternoon, so you can just imagine how excited they were about it. They greeted us with big smiles and hugs as we came into view. Sadrac set up the theatre by perching the DVD player on an upside-down metal bucket and we spread one of my spare bedsheets out under the big cactus tree. The kids quickly took off their shoes (most of them go barefoot anyways), and the movie started in full swing.

It was so fun to watch the young ones sit mesmerized and adults alike cuddled with babies in their laps to watch the show. As I sat with them, I thought about how many times this film has been shown, how many countries and viewings it has had all over the world and how together my friends and I were able to share it with this special family. As the heinz 57 puppy came and licked up crumbs while the rooster strutted about I felt such joy about how this heavenly message of love is for all of us. The humble homes of these families may not be recognized as worthy in the world's eyes, and yet the sincerity of their hearts and belief in God's grace allows them to inherit such a beautiful kingdom. A kingdom that will be far greater in their eyes than even I can understand.

I feel so privileged that they live so close to the mission and that I am able to visit them and see them at church regularly. In the sweltering heat, the kids still squeeze up next to me or pile on my lap during the service, and I love hearing their voices of welcome as we near their home.

I still marvel about how it all began on a simple walk down the mission hill. The Lord truly ordained that moment, and I thank Him for giving me this gift of friendship!