Monday, January 26, 2015

2 days.

So, God works in some pretty dang crazy ways.  Let me tell you a story.

I've been going with my sister to her GC (Gospel Community) while I've been home, which has allowed me to begin to get to know some great people.  This past Monday, we were talking about what we wanted GC to look like.  Honestly, while everyone was talking I was thinking to myself about what was supposed to be coming next in my life and how I could strengthen my relationship with God in the hopes of finding that out.  Dozing off in my own thoughts, I was tapped on the shoulder.

I turned around, kind of embarrassed that I hadn't been involved in the conversation.  Kara looked at me and said, "Do you want to Rwanda with us this summer?"

I immediately say, "Yeah, sure!"

Now if you know me, that is the complete opposite of what I would do.  The opposite.

Kara seemed just as surprised as me when I answered.  She was like, "Really?"  And me, realizing what I just said go, "Yeah.  I think that'd be great."  Or something along those lines.  I think I was talking while trying to process the fact that I just said yes, so probably did a lot of stumbling over my words.  She said, "Well that was easy."  I remember thinking to myself, "What just happened?"

Now, for those of you who know me know that decisions are just about the hardest thing for me in the world.  Ask me what I want to eat, and you better plan on a half hour back and forth talk about how I don't care, or that I like two things equally.  So, the fact that I just said yes to going on a trip to another country I've never been to and don't know much about, is like, a big deal.  I give all the glory to God for the decision to go to Haiti this past summer, because I know that was not me.  That is a whole different God moment story, which you could totally ask me about.

So, that was on Monday.  I came home with the constant question, "What just happened?" running through my head.  All day on Tuesday I found myself on Imana Kids website, researching Rwanda, and on the application page of the trip.  God was working on me and I didn't even know it.  Wednesday, I really felt God telling me it was time to commit.  Why or how?  I have no idea.  I was feeling peace about saying I was going, even though I was beyond nervous.  I decided to message Kara and ask her if she was serious when she asked me to go with her.  Kara, such a grace-filled gal, told me her question was legit.

And thus, I signed up.  Two days.  Two days is all it took for God to rock my next plan of action.

Now, as many of the people who know me know, I still talk about my time in Haiti often.  I've wondered if I'm supposed to go for a longer period of time.  I've wondered if this is God telling me now isn't the time for me to go long-term in Haiti.  If He has bigger plans for me in Rwanda.  What He's preparing my heart for exactly.  If this is just more prep before going to Haiti for a longer period of time.I do know He's given me a huge heart for the orphans of this world through my experience in Haiti; for His beautiful, joyful, loving children.  I have a blog entry about that started, hopefully I'll finish that sometime to share with all of you. :p

For now, I do believe it was God answering Kara when she asked me, not me.  I am so excited to this trip and all God has planned.   I will be in Kigali, Rwanda partnering with Imana Kids, an Orphan-Care Ministry, for two weeks at the end of July.  Most of my time will be spent at Kimisagara Orphanage, spending time showing love to some amazing kids by playing, singing, doing crafts, and playing soccer with them.  Imana Kids guide the children to know they are loved by God, help provide an education, and provide their basic needs.  It's so cool to me that these kids are giving me the opportunity to spend time with them and learn from them.  They are opening their home and hearts.

If you want to learn more about Imana Kids, check it out here!  This organization was started right here in the metro area.  They're actually doing a Gala Dinner on Feb.15th, which you can check out and RSVP on their website (and Facebook)!

I'd like to ask for you all to begin praying for myself, the rest of the team that I will be going with, and the kids down in Kigali we'll be spending time with.  Ask the Holy Spirit to equip us with the capabilities to love and serve beyond what we are able to do on our own.  If you would like to help support me financially, you can do so with the following link right online with the link below!  I'll also be sending out support letters in the near future, so if you'd like one, let me know. Thank you all so much, and for reading this long thing. :p

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Returning Home

Well folks, it's been a week since I got on my first plane to head back to the states.  I never imagined coming back "home" would be so hard.  The time was filled with many tears and a heavy heart.  I'm sure the workers at the airport thought I was crazy!  As my plane left the ground, I felt God telling me that this isn't goodbye, until next time.  I don't know what that means, but, Bondye konnen (God knows).  Since I didn't post about my last week in Haiti, I'll start with my highlights from my last week in Haiti!

-I had my first moto ride!  A friend of a friend, Lele, was my driver.  It is SO much more fun than a van or the back of a truck, our usual means of transportation.  We went to the Monjole, a hotel pool, and it was great to just relax and catch some final rays :)  On the way back, I even tried to have conversations with Lele, some in Creole with some English, which was fun and difficult, and Jenna found pretty funny :p
-We had vets come to COTP to give shots, do some neutering, etc.  I was able to learn a lot about the kittens and we were able to learn the sexes of our kittens! :)
-We celebrated Canada Day with a surprise party for one of the long-term volunteers, Carla, complete with Canadian charades.
-I made purple pudding for preschool successfully, and the kids loved using it to paint!  I was surprised that not many of them actually ate it.
-We started using a behavior management system in preschool that I have been really excited about.  The kids seemed to be understanding and it was going well!
-Jenna and I (well, mostly Jenna :p) made a very delicious, healthy dinner with a TON of veggies and quinoa.  Who says you can't eat healthy in Haiti? :p
-Celebrating the 4th of July in Haiti was awesome!  We started the morning playing water games with everyone on campus.  Then in the afternoon we had a mini parade, where each house made their own float.  We got all decked out in red, white, and blue!  We dressed up a ton of the kids, which was adorable, and had a ton of painted signs.  We won for the best use of animals, having two kids dressed up in a cow and kitten costume. :)   We ended the night with a grill-out with a ton of delicious food!  Despite my fear of heights, I rode the harness that was hung from one of the trees, which was a blast! I figured if I was going to injured, I was going back to the states the next day anyway ;)

Being back in the states is an indescribable feeling, or maybe I just don't know how to describe it.  I think I've felt a lot like I'm in a daze, unsure what to think or feel.  There's just so much here. I used to be comfortable here.  I think it's easy to get comfortable here in the states because there's everything we could possibly "need."  But now, I don't think I want to get comfortable.  God doesn't call us to be comfortable.  I want to remember where I lived for seven weeks, how I lived, who I met, what I did, what I saw.  I may have been out of my comfort zone while I was in Haiti, but I don't think I've ever felt myself trusting and relying on God more than while I was there. I was able to take away a lot of my distractions and focus on seeing God's work in the world and my relationship with Him, something I haven't been doing so well lately.

Something that I thought about a lot during my time in Haiti is what is means to surrender.  To surrender your life completely to God, something that I've found to be a struggle.  A couple weeks ago one of my friends, Holly, let me borrow a book called A Place Called Surrender.  It was about a man's journey is his fight with cancer.  Through what seemed like a tragedy, he felt God teach him and his wife about what it means to surrender and trust Him completely.  Through this book I was able to learn that surrendering your life to Christ involves absolute trust and being willing to walk in complete obedience, wherever it may take you.  It won't be easy, and the path may be confusing and difficult, but God will open up your eyes and heart to His plan on His time.  One quote I liked from the book was, "Every challenge and hurt is carefully crafted by Christ to help us reach our full potential and to draw us closer to Him."  Sometimes I feel that I've had a lot of challenges and difficulties thrown at me in my life and I'm not sure why.  When I'm faced with challenges, I usually try to fix the problem myself or try to not let it phase me by handling it on my own.  But I don't have to.  By surrendering my life to God, I don't have to go through hardships alone or wonder why they are happening.  I need to draw close to Jesus, resting in His love and grace, seeking Scripture, and praying.  I want to live and rest in this place called surrender.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Week #6

I don't really want to write this blog, to be honest.  I don't want to write it because it means that I only have one week left here.  Seven days to take in as much as I can, do everything I want to do before I depart, not knowing if/when I'll return.  I love Haiti. I love COTP and their ministry.  I love the kids here with all my heart. I love all the people here that I've met and grown close to.  I love teaching preschool to my six wonderfully crazy kids.  I love that God put me here, not knowing the reason or purpose.  I love all the new experiences I've been able to have here.  I love hearing angry cows and chickens in the morning and at night from my house.  I love our five little kittens.  I love the conversations that I've been able to have here.  I could go on and on.

However, following the format of my last blog posts, I'll continue and share some highlights from this past week. This week went by SO quickly, but it was a great one!
-I spent Monday and Tuesday with Jenna and Holly at the beach.  Staying overnight was such a relaxing and wonderful experience!  We spent time reading, snorkeling, wading in the ocean, taking naps in hammocks, and laying out.  It was great to get to spend time with two beautiful, Godly women who I've grown especially close to, having great conversations and just being able to relax.  We got delicious chocolate ice cream with our dinner, and yummy breakfast, which was definitely a plus :). I came out with hardly any sunburn, which is practically a miracle if you know me at all :p
-I watched a local soccer game between people from COTP and Lagossette, which was really fun to see, and one of the boys I've spent time with homeschooling was able to play, and it was great to see him play out one of his passions.
-I went for my first run in Haiti!  Maybe wasn't the best life choice with my ankle, but it didn't really hurt :p It's still sore, but isn't very swollen.
-I babysat one of the international girls for a morning, which was really fun!  It was great to get to know her in her home setting and spend time with her besides in preschool.

On the downside, this week we've had more people getting sick :(. Two of the boys that I homeschooled got sick late this week, which was really difficult for the family because they left today for time back in the states.  I was sad to not be able to hang out with them more before they left.  The Willis family, as I said, left today, which was a tough goodbye, or "see you later."  They are such a sweet, caring, generous, selfless, hilarious, Christ-loving family and I've absolutely loved getting to know them and grow close to them.  I appreciate them so much for the generosity and their openness to welcoming me here.  I look up to them a lot, and know I can call them if I ever need someone to talk to and they'll listen.  I grew really close to their kids, and it will be hard not to see them every day.  Luckily, I will see them again someday, God willing :).  One of the long-term staff members here is also sick, as well as a short term volunteer. Prayers for health are definitely needed and appreciated!

Although I may not know the true purpose or reason for God placing me here in Haiti, I know Haiti has forever changed me and will always have a special place in my heart.  I may have become frustrated at times while being here, but I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.  God has given me comfort and peace of mind  so much while I've been here; I've never felt more comfortable. While I've been here, I haven't really been worried about what my future will be or what God has planned for me. I know whatever it is,  it will grow and stretch me and have a great purpose.  It may not be easy, it  may not be what I want or think is right, but it will be worth it.  It's now just waiting with the peace of mind  that God will show me when the time is right.  If you would have told me a year ago I was going to Haiti for 7 weeks, I would have laughed at you.  Now, I can't even begin to put into words how thankful I am for God's work He's done in my life through this.  Sarah laughed at God when He said she was going to have a son even though she thought she was far too old. But God used that experience.  God used that experience to teach Sarah faithfulness and to draw near to God at all times.  God made the impossible possible.  It was on God's timing that Sarah had a son.  Hebrews 11:11 tells the story of Sarah's faithfulness as well.  I was just like Sarah, I laughed at God for trying to point me towards Haiti.  I'm just now beginning to see some of the reasons why, and I can't wait to see what further plans He has for me.  God is so good.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Week #4&5

Well folks, I'm done with week 5 here in Haiti! I kept pushing back doing the blog last week,so I'll try to talk about both weeks here :p Haiti has definitely been winning my heart over lately. I am feeling so comfortable here and love it; it feels pretty much natural, which is crazy!! It's definitely beginning to get into the summer heat, which is not so exciting, but, all part of the adventure!  As I've passed my halfway point, I'm beginning to get sad that I will have to leave this place. Seven weeks seemed like such a long time arriving here, but it now doesn't seem like enough! It's gone by so fast, and keeps going by faster, and I just want it to slow down the next couple weeks!

Some highs from the past two weeks:
-I definitely feel that there's been a turnaround in preschool! The kids are used to having me in the classroom. There have been less behavior problems overall and the kids are great! We've done some fun activities that went even better than I planned and I am really enjoying it!
-ELLA HAD KITTENS!! :) :) This was definitely a top highlight! Jenna and I even guessed when she was going to have them.  Five wonderful kittens, who now have their eyes open! We probably watch them for at least 45 minutes every day. :)
-Jenna and I went stargazing on the roof and talked about life. I love stargazing! We even saw the brightest shooting star I've ever seen, and it had such a long tail. It's definitely been a blessing to have such an awesome person to live with, and we can definitely be real with each other.
-I watched Despicable Me with the Grace House. It was so fun to see the Haitian kids' reactions to the show and watching them dance and giggle!
-We got a new admit, an adorable 22 month old girl. I'm excited to see her get more comfortable with everyone here and her smile!
-We all watched the USA vs Ghana World Cup game together, and it was fun to see everyone cheering for the same team! The volunteers also has peanut butter filled pretzels, which were amazing :)
-Jenna had a friend from the community come over, and it was fun to listen to her talk to Jenna in creole and pick up on phrases (occasionally joining in), as well as talking in English. It was cool to learn from her a little more about the culture. She had never seen a redhead before and we showed her one, but she said she didn't like it :p She also said that she doesn't like super blonde hair, but she liked mine haha. We were able to look at things on Pinterest and have small girl talk :) We also talked about dating a bit, and I learned that different families have different rules as to when you start dating. For example, in her family you don't start dating until you're 18.
-We made a delicious dinner dish of quinoa, veggies, almonds, and craisens.  It was SO good! Jenna's not only letting me stay with her, but I also get cooking lessons! ;)
-The normal preschool teacher here, Tori, returned and it's been fun getting to know her!
-I went to the Citadel! Oh my goodness, it was beautiful. If you don't know what it is, look it up, seriously. It's the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere that the leader in 1820, Henry Christophe, built when Haiti gained independence from the French, just in case they tried to fight back.  We rode horses up the mountain, which was really cool, and I had never ridden a horse before.
-We've celebrated four birthdays in the past two weeks for the kids, which is so fun to see their happiness and excitement, and watching them eat the cake :)
-After about a week and a half of our showers and sinks not working, they were all fixed and we can shower again in our own house!! :)
-We played ultimate frisbee with a volunteer group.
-I was able to skype my family a couple times, which has been great! I'm so thankful for the ability to see my family.
-A volunteer group threw the adults a pizza party, which was delicious! Some of us played dutch blitz afterwards, and Kirk and I kicked butt second round! :)
-Jenna and I had a mini getaway yesterday and laid on the hammocks at the beach for an hour, which was SO relaxing after a busy week!!
-We had ice cream yesterday! I had a corn flavored ice cream bar, which was actually really yummy! It tastes like the corn based cereals.

On the down side, I did have my first decent injury. :/ While playing ultimate frisbee on Wednesday, I ran into a hole and sprained my ankle. The first couple days it was pretty swollen and painful, but it's going down now! I was able to have my first crutches experience, and we have a child's size boot here that I've been using to get around in :p I appreciate everyone's prayers for a quick recovery! I really am not a fan of having the attention on me because I was the lucky one to find the hole, but everyone here has been so caring and helpful! It's uncomfortable for me, but I've gotten a taste of what it feels like to be served through this experience, rather than being the one serving.

The past couple weeks I've really been thinking about what I do when I go home. Do I share stories with everyone I see? Do I stop spending my money on the unnecessary things in life? Do I start sending money to the wonderful organization here that has special place in my heart? Do I start planning my next trip back? I know someone can't give me the answer, but I wish someone could :p. All I know is I'm not ready to leave. This place is a home to me, and these people have become very important to me. I love seeing these kids light up when they see you with arms wide open, hearing their giggles, hearing them say your name with excitement, and watching them grow and heal.

I think coming into this trip, I thought this would be a way for me to learn how to trust God completely, because I had to.  I didn't know anyone, know the language, know the culture, know what I was going to do, and was completely out of my comfort level.  However,  sometimes I feel like I'm still trying to hold into that small piece that I control, even here.  Learning how to give your whole life to Christ isn't easy.  Thinking about what God has next for me in His plan is something I definitely have been praying about consistently and trusting He will show me what He wants next. Does He want me to come back here? Does He want me in an inner city setting? Does He want me to do something more missional and community based? I don't know, but what I do know is I can trust God has a plan far greater than anything I can try to create.

God is so present and so active here.  I see it in the people here. They are some of the most selfless people I've met.  They care so much about the children and people here, being involved in the community, building the community up.  And have fun with it. They have true joy while working here, even over the smallest things.  I look up to a lot of the long term staff that's here.  I see God in the joy of the children, the nannies, the children on the streets waving as you drive by, and the beauty of Haiti itself.  This place is pretty great :)

Prayer requests I have:
-Quick healing for my sprained ankle.
-Safety of the volunteers traveling back home today and coming here.
-Easing my heart and mind due to the fact that I have two weeks left.  I am very sad to leave and wish I could stay longer.
-Good health for the volunteers and long-term staff.
-Those here caught in the voodoo religion would find Christ and turn away from their old ways.
-We would be able to find a nurse that would be willing to stay for a couple weeks here.
-Safety and comfort for the Haitians here that do not have enough food for their families or a place to call home.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Week #3

Man, saying I've been here for three weeks already seems unreal!  It does seem like I've been here for a long time, but as I'm reaching my halfway point, it makes me sad to think I'm almost halfway done with my time here in Haiti,at least for now ;) This beautiful, wonderful place has definitely begun to capture my heart.

Let's see here, some highlights and things that have happened this week:
-I had my first beach experience here, and I cannot begin to capture the beauty of this place with words. We had to drive up what seemed like a mountain, and the beach was on the other side. The water was clear,deep blue, and the sun beat down hard (which resulted in a painful sunburn afterwards, but worth it :) ) I spent my time looking at the coral and fish underwater, avoiding sea urchins, and finding a TON of sea glass with a young lady, Jadyn, who has become a wonderful friend of mine (she also happens to be one of the girls I homeschool during the week, so that's pretty nice!). When I went to pay for my meal, they brought back my $20 saying that it was "bad" because of a small rip :p It was definitely unexpected, but they hold a very high standard for the American money here while theirs is often crumpled or old, which is pretty unique. However, they later look my $20 from Jaydn and her little sister for some chocolate ice cream haha, which could have been one of the best highlights this week. SO GOOD.
-The following day we went on a hike to this gorgeous waterfall.  The walk to the waterfall was really cool, as we passed numerous Haitians washing their clothes in the stream we walked next to(or in) for a majority of it, various goats and pigs, or collecting big rocks to sell. We even had two little girls follow us the whole way, wait for us when we went to the waterfall, and walked back! We had to "boulder" these pretty big rocks to get to the waterfall, and also did a bit of rock climbing on top of it.  I swam in a waterfall.In Haiti. Pretty cool :) I am constantly reminded of the beauty that is here, you just have to keep your eyes open and look around you.
-The field director and his family have returned from their time in the States!  They're a very fun, exciting, loving family, and I'm excited to continue to get to know them!
-We celebrated a little boy's 1st birthday, complete with a tractor chocolate cake! All the older babies enjoyed eating, or playing, with the cake haha.
-On Friday we had pizza for lunch, and then had chips and salsa for dinner from the DR. I am beginning to miss some American food, so this was a good day. :)
-On Saturday we had a grill-out farewell party to a couple who is moving to the states. We had hamburgers, hotdogs, corn, fruit, and desserts.  Needless to say, I may have gone a bit overboard with how much food I ate ;) With the country music playing, it made me feel like I was at like a summer BBQ in the states, which was kinda funny :p
-I was able to skype my family this week as well! My nephews are pretty dang cute, and we've already made plans to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs when I return :p Home's been hit with some pretty decent storms this week, so I was pretty thankful everyone is safe and there isn't too much damage!
-I've finally found out my placement in Chicago for student teaching in the fall! I'll be in 1st grade, as well as a K-2 resource room.

I still am doing preschool every morning and homeschooling in the afternoons.  I've been doing letter of the week every week, last week focusing on the letter "L."  Although the kids don't know all their letters, they're all mostly pretty good at knowing the letter their name starts with, and it just so happens one of the students' names start with an L! Preschool is definitely an adventure, but I do really love it, and the kids. They are definitely a very challenging crowd, which has taught me to have a lot of patience, as well as learning more about behavior management.  I do get pretty drained, but I know they enjoy it and it makes it worth any chaos that may happen :p. Homeschooling is really fun and more low-key.  The kids seem to really enjoy it, and they seem to be learning, but I also am learning a lot from them! The older kids have taught me a lot about Haiti, and I've loved getting an 11 and 13 year olds' perspectives!

This week, the drums and chanting  has begun for the voodoo ceremonies in town.  There is a witch doctor in the village we're next to, who also happens to be the lawyer/judge person, so he has a lot of power in the town.  Honestly, I had a really hard time sleeping the first night they went on.  They went till at least 4:30 in the morning!  Talking about it and actually hearing it is completely different, and hard to put into words.  It's gone on 3 times this week.  Something that I've really thought about because of this is spiritual warfare.  Something that I think scares me more than the sounds themselves is the fact that here, you are physically able to see and hear the spiritual battle occurring.  But in the States, it's not as easy to physically see.  Where is Satan working that we're not able to see?  Something I've thought about a lot.  Fear itself is something I've been thinking about and I think God is working me through in my time here. I was scared to come here, feeling inadequate and all the unknowns. I was scared to come alone. I was scared of getting sick. I was scared of the voodoo that happens. I was scared of being hurt. But, God tells us numerous times not to fear; He is with us.  Psalm 46:1-2 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way."  I have  looked upon this verse a lot this week, while I have been feeling tired or scared.  God is right here with me, and I have no reason to fear anything on this earth.

I continue thinking about what God is showing me during my time here in Haiti; what actions will come out of this.  A new volunteer asked me yesterday after talking about why I chose COTP, "What is your long-term goal?" Phew, did that throw me through a loop!  I answered with, I don't know. This question has constantly been on my mind now, and I really don't know.  Am I supposed to come back after this experience? Am I supposed to share the many stories I've witnessed while I've been here, spreading awareness and sparking new interests in Haiti? Am I supposed to be teaching in a low-income situation like this, or even in another country? Am I supposed to encourage everyone I know to adopt?  I really don't know the answer to this question, and it puzzles me a lot and continue diving into prayer for the answer to become known.  As I've been reading Matthew, chapter 26 verses 31-46 stood out to me.  How many times have I seen the poor, sick, thirsty stranger and turned the other way while I was in the states?  Here, it's easy to see those in need and feel compelled to help. Back home, you're often stuck in a comfortable setting, surrounded by distractions and your own wants being filled, and I think we often forget this crucial calling.  Being intentional with the poor is so heavily emphasized in the Word, but I've seen it so often ignored, especially in my own life.  Before coming to Haiti, something that had really begun to hit me is seeing churches back home completely missing the aspect of reaching out to those in need, those in the community that didn't know the love of Christ.  Being comfortable is great, but we aren't called to comfortable.  We're called to follow Christ, spreading His love, glorifying His name, following His commands.

I want to thank everyone for all your prayers and support, I know this wouldn't be possible without the power of prayer!  Prayer requests for this upcoming week:
- Strength and endurance in preschool, and that I am able to show the children love and grace.
-Prayer that those caught in the spiritual warfare will turn away from voodoo and find the love of Jesus.
-I continue learning creole and can begin more communication with the Haitians.
-Protection for the volunteers and long-term staff from a new disease going around, Chikungunya.
-Guidance towards what God is trying to teach me through this experience and what actions should come out of it..

Friday, May 30, 2014

Week #2

Week #2 is complete!  I feel like I was just writing my post last week, time kinda just flies by.  It's been a great week full of new experiences.  Some things I've done this week:

-I went to the market on Saturday with Terri, Val, and Carrie.  It is CRAZY packed and busy, and we went at like 10 in the morning.  There were people selling all sorts of produce, cleaning supplies, cooking supplies, etc.  I was even called "blanco" by an older lady trying to get my attention.  With the help of Terri, I was able to buy my first purchase using gourdes, a pineapple :)
-I was able to wear my hair down for an hour during church, one of my greater accomplishments :) It went up straight afterwards.
-Jenna and I went with the Willis family to celebrate Jadyn's birthday at a pool.  It was on top of a hill and had an absolutely gorgeous view of the city below and the ocean.  This family is the sweetest, caring, and patient family you will ever meet.  I managed to come out of the day with only minor sunburns!
-I attempted a conversation in creole with one of the ladies that does the laundry here.  I guessed a lot about what she was saying, and I didn't say very much, but I was happy about it!
-I've learned from a volunteer here that 18-23 year olds' frontal lobes are not fully developed, so common sense may not be fully there! :p
-I put my handprint on the COTP wall, kind of a big deal. :)
-Jadyn and I, one of the girls I am homeschooling, baked for over two hours instead of doing school for her thirteenth birthday, and it was the BEST.  We made cookies with oreos in the middle, and brownies with oreos, chocolate chips, and marshmallows in them.  We're kind of pros.  She's the coolest 13-year-old you'll ever meet.
-We celebrated Jadyn's birthday with a girls' game night that consisted of spoons, KEMP, and signs.  I don't think I've laughed as much as I did this night while I've been here.  There's such a solid group of women here and they all are awesome.
-Homeschooling with the international kids has been going really well, with both groups of kids.  They seem to enjoy it, and I really like it too!  It's fun to teach in a more relaxed environment.
-I skyped my sister and nephews!  They're pretty cute.  When we got off Skype, Caleb told my sister, "I really miss Chelle." They look so big compared to the kids I see here.

I don't feel like I have super deep thoughts while I'm here, which I guess is good and bad.  Something that I guess I've been struggling with a bit this week is how God is a God of love, yet these kids here have been orphaned, abandoned, starved, and abused.  Some of these kids have already seen or experienced more than most of us ever will, and I struggle with that.  If God is a God of love, then why do these kids have to go through this?  Yet, I see love multiple times every day while I'm here.  I see how the nannies love these kids, taking care of them for hours on end.  I see love in the endurance the volunteers have amidst many trials.  I see love in the little boy's face when he puts his arms up every time he sees you and you pick him up.  I see love in the joy that these kids have.  I see love in the laughter when we're playing duck, duck, goose in preschool.  I see love in the two-month-old, under seven pound, baby girl I'm holding right now as she sleeps in my arms.  Gods loves me, just like He loves all the kids here.  Sometimes I think I get blinded by the bad in the world and don't see all the places God is working here.

Another thing that I've thought about this week is forgiveness.  God forgives us and shows us grace continually.  Sometimes, I just can't grasp my mind around that.  How does He do that?  I know that for myself, sometimes I can't quite get myself to forgive, and hold grudges, which can turn to resentment.  One moment in particular this week was definitely a test of patience/forgiveness.  During preschool, I had a little girl in time out, and I was talking to her, her hand slipped out of my grip, and she smacked me across the face and laughed.  At the time, I had her apologize, and then gave her a hug and let her continue playing.  Afterward, I realized that I was actually really mad about it.  This girl has enjoyed pushing my buttons consistently.  Forgiveness is hard.  I realized, we smack God across the face continually, yet He forgives us.  He loves us so much He welcomes us with opening arms right away.  I don't really understand it, but He does.  So, I went in the next day and tried love her just as I would any kid.  It wasn't easy.  But, God does it, and it can't be easy for Him either, the way I see it.  God is pretty dang awesome.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Press On

It's officially been a week since I've arrived in Haiti!! Oh man, that's a crazy thought. It doesn't seem like I've already been here that long, yet I also feel like it seems so long ago that I got off that plane in Cap Haitien.  Let's see what I can tell you guys.

Traveling by myself wasn't too bad. I really didn't feel ready to leave family behind, so there was definitely some tough goodbyes.  I made it to all my flights on time. On my flight from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale I sat next  to an incredible woman. As we were about to take off, I saw that she was reading a Jesus Calling devotional, so I was like hey, this could be pretty cool.  She asked me where I was going and I told her about my trip.  I mentioned how I was just excited to see what God showed me while I spent time in Haiti, and that began our conversation. She was originally from Jamaica but lived in Ft. Lauderdale now. She began to  reassure me how God always has a plan, and that he makes everything beautiful in His time.  She asked me how I came to know Christ, and then shared her amazing testimony. Something that she told me that has stuck with me is when she was going through a hard time in her life, she heard the Holy Spirit whisper to her, "press on."  So cool!  It was so encouraging to hear where she came from and how reliant on Christ she was. She ended up praying for me on the flight! It was such a reassuring thing because I truly felt not ready and didn't really wanna go.  When we landed in Ft. Lauderdale, I called the shuttle and waited. I ended up taking the wrong shuttle to the wrong hotel. :p So I went back to the airport and got on the right shuttle, and got to my hotel around 8. It was raining, and unfortunately it was an outdoor pool, so I didn't get to swim. I stayed up almost all night and got like an hour of sleep because I was so nervous and really felt inadequate. I was reassured by people on the phone or through text, so that was definitely a blessing and I am thankful for you all!! :)

Waking up at 3 to be at the airport by 4 was a bit rough, to say the least.  I met a man at the airport who had started a school in Haiti and was also sponsoring  almost 20 teenagers. It was really cool to hear his stories and to see how passionate he was for the people here. We had to walk outside to get in the plane, which I thought was strange. I slept most of the plane ride over. When they told us we were almost here, I looked out the window and saw so many beautiful mountains. It was so weird to not see a bunch of roads and buildings. When I got off the plane, you had to walk outside to the airport building. I could see a bunch of people looking at us from the fence, and I was a little nervous I wasn't going to be able to find the guy picking me up. The guy I met at the airport helped me get through customs, which consisted of them stamping my passport and kind of looking in one of my bags.  When I walked outside, I can't really describe my feeling, I just knew I had to find who was picking me up and say "No mesi" to people trying to help with my bags. Luckily, Jenna and Toto came to pick me up, and I recognized her so it wasn't too difficult.  The car ride to COTP wasn't too bad, I just looked outside a lot.  The roads aren't the best here, and there's a lot of chaos on the roads.

I'm living with Jenna in an apartment/ house sort of deal, and it's pretty nice.  She's pretty awesome and chill, so it's really not awkward at all which is a definite plus!  There are a ton of daddy long legs, which I've grown to  ignore, or try to. She has a cat, Ella, who is pregnant and just so cute!  She sometimes cuddles with you, and kills lizards in my room.  The shower here is cold, which has been a struggle and I find myself arching my back as much as possible to avoid getting hit with the water.  Hopefully I'll get used to it!  I've gotten bitten by like a hundred mosquitoes, but that's probably never going to end.

Let's see, my typical day consists of me waking up to the sounds of cows, the lawn workers, and the school children next door.  I get ready and then prepare for preschool from 10-12. Preschool is definitely an adventure!  I have 5 children, four Haitian children and 1 international student.  There's definitely a language barrier that is super frustrating, although it is taught in English.  This is definitely the hardest part of my day. I feel like I'm  constantly redirecting behavior or telling a child to "sheta"(sit).  We do activities, circle time, reading time, water break, crafts, and some sort of activity or game to end the day.  Planning sometimes can be a challenge because  I never know what they are going to spend 2 minutes on, or if it will take like a half hour.  It's different every day, and there's a lot of times where you just have to laugh. Val helps me, and I'm so thankful she's with me, or I might not make it though the days haha. Then I eat lunch, which is prepared  for me, and switches from Haitian to American food every day.  Then I do homeschooling for a couple hours, two days with two older kids from one of the house parents, and two days with younger kids.  I do geography and creative writing with the older kids, and reading with the younger. I really enjoy this time, and the kids are so great!  Then I eat dinner and hang out.  They have worship nights on Wednesdays. I've hung out with another volunteer nurse, Carrie, quite a bit, who arrived about the same time and it's nice to share the experience of not really knowing what's going on.  Sometimes Jenna and I watch the Amazing Race in our apartment or chat; we've got through a whole season already, and I'm getting hooked :).   I don't really feel like I have culture shock, you just know things are different here.  I feel like if people ask me specific questions I'll be a whole lot better at this, because I don't really know what else to say!  Hahaha.  I already can't imagine going back, I think a lot of things will seem different to me.  I can't think back to whats happened, but you can definitely ask me questions!  I can get online on my phone, so I can email or Facebook, although I try not to get on Facebook a ton. Something that happened today that's been on my mind a lot is that a baby passed away.  I never met her, she was brought to the hospital the day I came(I think) because she was so little and malnourished.  Yesterday we were told she probably wasn't going to make it through the day, and she passed away in her sleep.  It makes me sad to think this is real life for so many people here. We still have very small babies here, and right now they're gaining weight every day, which is a huge blessing!

So some things I've learned/random stuff
1. Haitian families are very different, like it could be anyone that cares for the child, like the grandmother, cousin, uncle, older sibling, etc.
2. Marriages are rare, and they often have children with numerous people; it's cultural.
3. Chaval is horse in creole :) The preschool kids LOVE horses.
4. Haitian food is pretty good!  There's rice, beans, chicken, plantains, Haitian meatballs, etc.
5. There's over 200 kinds of mangoes in Haiti, and some of them are really stringy.
6. I don't know how, but when we make brownies here, they taste so much better, but I think it's just because it's rare.
7. The nannies are always so happy and cheerful!
8. The voodoo doctor here is also the lawyer, which means he has a lot of power in Lagossette.

I can't think of