Mowing Musings

30 May
Mowing musings:
 
As I was out mowing my yard this evening, I had time to ponder some statements and situations that have come to the forefront of my life the last few weeks. And I just kept thinking, if only every person could have empathy, kindness and understanding for the people in their lives and the people that cross their paths.
 
You see, we all have different stories – we all are at different stages of life – we all have different levels of responsibilities – we all are on this journey called, LIFE. And to each of us, our struggles are real – our worries can be overwhelming at times – there are things we wish we could change. We all have experienced loss of some kind – there are different kinds of loss…. loss of dreams, loss of health, loss of finances, loss of relationships, loss of loved ones. Every loss leaves a hole and an empty space in our lives – no matter what kind of loss it is.
 
The world would be such a better place if we didn’t place more value on what we are dealing with and where we are in our present situations bigger and more difficult than everyone else and his or her situations and place in life.
 
My story is not your story – your story is not mine. For me to think my story is better than yours or more important than yours is very selfish. To each of us our story is big and important and hardships are difficult. I should never place more value on what I’m going through over what you are going through. To each of us, our hurts are real – they cut to the bone. To each of us, our loss is very painful…no matter what that loss is.
 
When we say, well, people just don’t understand where I am and what I’m facing and what I’m dealing with”, we are really staying stuck in a pity party that is going to do nothing to move us forward. I may not have gone through exactly what you have gone through but I can empathize because I’ve had my own disappointments and struggles.
 
Each of us is writing a story and our story is very real. Let’s respect one another’s story and let’s not compare. But instead, let’s extend kindness, understanding, and empathy. Let’s not demean or place lesser value on other’s stories and think that our story is the most important story. Let’s build up, support, and encourage and truly listen when someone else is sharing where they are and what they are feeling.
 
I hope we will place value on every person in our life – whether it’s family, friends, colleagues, the person at the grocery store, etc. Every person has worth and value – let’s recognize that!
 
From my heart……
Thanks for reading!

Haiti, Thursday, February 23rd

28 Mar

Thursday was the “off-day” for the team.  It was a free day and we discussed the night before what we would like to do.  The options were presented and we chose to visit the Musee de Pantheon National Haitian in Port-au-Prince so we could learn more of the history of the country we were visiting.  

The city was in the middle of celebrating Carnival days so the drive from Bon Sam was full of things to see.  Lots of traffic, lots of sidewalk vendors and lots of trash from the festival goers.  Again, I was grateful that I was not the one having to drive!!! Driving in Haiti is not like driving in the US.  I know the Haitians understand how it works but I would be in multiple accidents in just one hour’s time if I had to drive.  I was in amazement at how the traffic works and that the vehicles were not full of dents and fender benders!!!  We could still see some of the devastation from the 2010 earthquake; they haven’t been able to fix all the buildings.  This was very evident in the Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption.  It was destroyed but part of it was left standing.  There are talks of reconstructing it but nothing has been finalized.

The Museum only took about one hour to go through but it was very informative.  Of course, I love history and love learning about other countries so some people may not have found it as  fun 🙂  We walked to one of the areas that had been one of the tent cities where people lived in after the earthquake.  It was eerily quiet even though it was in the middle of the city.  At one time it was a very nice park in front of the presidential palace.  There were several monuments but there’s a wall around it and not many people are allowed in there.  Delta, our security man, was able to argue his way and allow us to gain access and walk around the grounds.

We left there and headed back to Ti-Marche so we could check on the lady who had suffered the stroke on Tuesday.  We were also going back to the house where we had left Bruno.  I had already determined that they may have chosen to use Bruno as food and was prepared for that reality.  I was SO excited when we turned the corner and I could see Bruno under the tree munching on some grass.  The lady came out and greeted us with a beautiful smile and she came to me and took me back to see Bruno.  I can’t even describe the joy I felt that shewas happy to see us and remembered me and wanted me to see Bruno.  We were saddened to hear that the lady whom had suffered the stroke did not make it – she was only 52 years old.   Grim facts that the average woman dies at age 65 and the average man dies at age 60.  Strokes are the #1 killer.

We left there and went to a fishing village on a beautiful lake.  I do not know the name of the village.  Our drivers could only go so far on the dirt road and then we had to walk.  It took us about 30 minutes and was downhill as it took us to the water’s edge.  Lake Azuei (or Etang Sumatre) is the name of the lake and it is simply breathtaking.   As we made our way towards the lake, we attracted village children, teens and animals.  Most of them could not speak English but that didn’t keep them from trying to communicate.  They all knew what a phone was and all knew how to pose for pics.  They loved seeing the pics of themselves after we would take their picture.  Their smiles were beautiful and it reached into their eyes – they may not have much but they are happy.  Their was one young man – about 17 years old – who knew English so he walked with me and chatted for a while.  His name was Francois.  He wanted to know where I was from, what we were doing, etc.  We caught up to my friend, Dena, and he wanted to know her name and asked her if she was a grandmother.  She replied that she was.  He then turned me and asked if I was a grandmother.  I replied, no, I’m not…I don’t have any children.  He was astonished and quickly asked, “What’s wrong with you???”  I laughed and laughed – I’ve never had anyone ask that directly of me…although, I’m sure people have wondered.  I told him that I wasn’t married and really didn’t want to have children without a husband.  That question was the highlight of the night as I shared it with the team at our evening devotion time.  

There was a old wooden boat pulled up to the shoreline.  We gathered around it and the wind was coming off the lake and the waves were choppy and we could hear the waves coming up to the shoreline.  We could hear the laughter of the children – the bleating of the goats – and the sky was blue with puffy white clouds and the sun was just radiant.  Ashley asked if we could have some prayer time, so the team stood in a circle and one by one we just openly prayed what was on our mind at that moment.  It was the most peaceful, serene moment I have ever experienced.  It was almost as if we were experiencing what Jesus may have experienced on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  We just stood there for a few moments taking in the scene, the mood, the peace.  I wish I could truly share with you all what it felt like.

The sun was beginning to go down so we needed to make our way back to the vans.  It was uphill all the way and we all had several children holding our hands and wanting to help us up the hills.  I had a little boy on each side of me and another little guy tried to come up and hold my hand and the other two would not let him.  It was as if they were my personal bodyguards and were taking it upon themselves to make sure I safely got to the top and didn’t stumble on any rocks.  When we got to the vans, we shared all the cookies and snacks we had and then we began our way back into the city.  We knew that we were going to stop at Vol cafe and have pizzas (it’s a cool little cafe that serves various food…including pizza AND they had an espresso machine so Dena and I were able to get a much-needed latte!!!) but what we didn’t know was that the kids from Bon Sam were going to meet us there.  After not seeing them all day, it was so much fun to have them surprise us and then we were able to see them enjoy the playground and eat pizza.  It truly was a full day and one filled with so many blessings.

As I was trying to find the name of the village we stopped at, I came upon this website – click on the link and go read about Dr. Abe who is helping to bring sustainability back to the fishing families who live in these fishing villages.

 

www.poutimoun.org/empowerment

A moment at the Y

17 Mar

Today, I subbed for another instructor.  I’ve subbed for her before and noticed an older gentleman that would come in close to the time that class was to start.  I perceived him to be more on the quiet side – but he would always thank me at the end of class.  Someone had something to me at one time that caused me to form a preconceived idea of him which is something none of us should ever do.  We shouldn’t form an opinion until we have taken time to get to know someone for ourselves.  We even have to be careful of taking our friends’ word about someone and not making sure we find out for ourselves.

There were only two participants today – it’s Spring Break here in Knoxville area.  And they were chatting about his recent trip back to India.  He was sharing how he had attended a wedding that lasted for six days.  He was giving details about the beautiful flowers and all the food and that each day there were 500-700 people in attendance.  I was fascinated because I truly enjoy hearing and learning about other cultures.  I started class and so the conversation stopped.  I taught and then was cleaning up and waiting for him to get his mat and put his Equalizer away.  I decided to engage him further in conversation and that one moment turned into an hour-long conversation that left me with my mouth hanging open as I listened to him share about his life and all that he has done.  I mentioned to him several times that he needed to write a book  and share his life’s story.

His name is Arun Arora and he was born in India but moved to German when he was 23 to being his work as an engineer.  He’s lived in 20 countries – moved to the US about 34 years ago and has traveled to every state and every major city.  He said Colorado is the most beautiful place in all the world in his opinion and lived there for 15 years (I hope I’m remembering  all the details…I was listening intently and trying to take it all in!).  He worked for ABB, which is a Swedish-Swiss multinational company that operates mainly with robotics and automation.  However, he also mentioned building substations and transmissions for utilities.  He’s consulted for many companies – and the list goes on.   It appears as if he never married and he only moved to Knoxville because his brother became ill.  Otherwise, he would still be in Colorado…skiing, skating and backpacking.  I could have listened to him even longer because I’m sure there is so much more that he could share!

Our Y association in Knoxville is wanting us to share moments and stories that members tell us so I knew this was definitely a story I needed to share because I’m not sure very many people at that facility know any of this about him because he’s just one of those quiet people who come in for class and never says too much.  I emailed the director of that branch and recommended that he sit down for a cup of coffee with this gentleman and block out some time just to hear some of the history and wisdom from this member.

It was truly one of those moments when I was reminded that every person we come in contact with has a story and that we need to look beyond the outward appearance and go past the accent we hear when they talk and be more aware of these eye-opening moments that fill our days if we will just take the time to pause and listen.  My life became even better after spending one hour listening to Arun and hearing some of his fascinating life that he has lived.  This meek and quiet man has had so many adventures in his 75+ years of life that he could probably write one book for each year of his career.

Did I have that one hour blocked for him on my schedule of the day?  No.  In fact, I had several projects that needed to be finished for my online classes and had planned on being home by a certain time.  But as he began sharing with me, I consciously made the decision that I was just going to be present in the moment and listen to the life experiences and wisdom that I was being honored with as he chose to share with me his life.  I do not take that for granted and feel very blessed and grateful when people like him cross my path and cause my life to be enriched because they’ve spoken into.  You never know what one moment will hold and if we aren’t careful, we can miss it.  What moments will you choose to act on?

Haiti, Wednesday, February 22nd

9 Mar

For the women, we were given the luxury of staying at Bon Sam orphanage all day long.  It was the first morning that we didn’t have to be up and ready by 8 a.m. And even though we didn’t sleep in, we all sat around and chatted over our cups of coffee as we soaked in the morning sunshine and the sounds of the kids in school.  Oh, yes – in case I forgot to mention, there’s a place for school right in the compound and kids from the community are invited to attend as well.  It’s one big area and then they divide into three parts for the three different age categories.  They start the morning by lining up at the flagpole, they sing a song (we heard several different songs while we were there), pray and raise the Haitian flag.  They then go to their school and continue with the lessons for the day.  

A few of us chose to walk to the little store that was close by – we needed to buy a birthday cake because this would be the annual birthday celebration at Bon Sam.  Most children do not know their actual date of birth – nor do they know the exact year they were born.  So many times, the date of birth on their file is just an estimation.  Therefore, Second Chance Haiti chooses to celebrate everyone’s birthday at one time.  Even though it’s only a 15-minute walk to the store, we aren’t allowed to walk without our translator and security.  I found myself craving junk food I would never eat at home…..Pringle’s.  I bought Pringle’s every time we went to the store.  I didn’t eat the entire can and would share with everyone…but, still, Pringle’s??? Couldn’t figure that one out unless I just wanted the salt or the reminder of food from home.  I also would buy pineapple juice and a small bottle of Perrier and then mix the two; it was very refreshing.

We got back and then decorated for the birthday party.  Lots of streamers – party hats – goodie bags with lots of candy – gifts bags with presents – the famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – and then we had outdoor activities planned.  It was funny because some of the girls had made lots of pb&j sandwiches; however, as we started passing them out, we quickly found out that each child (from the littlest to the oldest) wanted at least TWO sandwiches. So, once again, we were making pb&j as quickly as we could until we had given everyone at least 2….I’m pretty sure several ate three.  And then, there was cake!  We sang the HB song and then enjoyed cake….even the dogs were given some crumbs.  Smiles were all around!

The sidewalk chalk was handed out and everyone found a spot on the concrete block wall to draw and that kept everyone occupied for at least 30 minute.  It was a beautiful wall filled with lots of hearts by the time the kids were finished.  Then we had soccer happening, whiffle ball being played, and double dutch jump ropes going round and round.  I think Summer and D’Anna were at their post for at least an hour.  Lots of laughter filling the courtyard as everyone enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.  Another group visiting from Georgia stopped by and they joined in playing with the kids and drawing on the wall.  It was very heartwarming to just sit there and watch the interactions between the “blancs” from the US and the kids of the orphanage just being present in the moment….playing, laughing, communicating even though we didn’t speak the same language.

It didn’t matter what was happening all around the world – didn’t matter what was happening back in the United States – didn’t matter what was on social media and what was on the nightly news – didn’t matter what was happening in the lives of actors, actresses, music icons, sports icons, and reality TV.  What did matter was the love that was being shared between everyone there – the smiles that were lighting up the eyes of every person – the squeals of laughter as the kids enjoyed the adults playing soccer with them, trying to jump rope with them, drawing on the wall with them, pushing the swing for them, throwing the whiffle ball to them, or taking fun selfies with them.  That was the most important thing happening in the world at that moment, and I’m sure God was smiling down on Bon Sam that day.  You see He holds a special place in His heart for children – He says He knows us before we are even formed in our mother’s womb.  When we take the time to love on a child, especially a child without a dad or a mom, we make Him happy and the world is a becomes a brighter place because of those interactions.  Those are the moments that will matter when all is said and done….it’s not important to me if I ever meet anyone “famous” because I’ve met the most famous people I ever want to meet and it’s those children at Bon Sam.

Haiti, Tuesday, February 21st

7 Mar

The day started bright and early as we loaded up the vans to start the day.  We collected the chickens and the goats and loaded them into the vans and on top of the vans and began our 45-minute drive to the village of Ti-Marche.  As we turned off the main highway, several team members chose to ride on top of one of the vans. So, again, we were very noticeable in our vans with the blancs on top of one and goats on top of another.  Lots of smiles and lots of waves as we drove through small housing areas and the “town” part.  

We arrived to the church where the pastor is the one who lets Second Chance know who in the village could use some extra help.  We began our parade of blancs carrying chickens, leading goats, and weighted down with 15-25 pounds of beans and rice in our backpacks.  And as we walked, our parade grew because kids and adults would join us to see what we were doing and where we were going.  They were also very quick to lend a hand to help us jump over a ditch filled with water or help us with a stubborn goat or cranky chicken.  Kids wanted to hold our hands and wanted us to take their pics and then see themselves on our phones.  I quickly learned that I couldn’t give something to one child because I would then be surrounded by 10 more and I didn’t have enough to give.  So, I will be making an Oriental Trading order before my next trip so I have something to give everyone!  They love watches, sunglasses, and bracelets.

We were out traversing fields and crossing little creeks for several hours as we were led to the homes of people who needed some extra love, some prayers and a little reminder that there are people in the world who care.  Most of the houses were one-room shacks made out of mud and straw….others were a little bigger made out of concrete block and tin roofs.  The views, however, were spectacular.  Mountains in the distance.  Lush vegetation – trees of coconut, mango, avocado, and lime.  Crops of beans, sugar cane, corn, beets, potatoes.  There were chickens, cows, pigs, and goats.  The children could run around and play and not have to worry about traffic and “city” dangers.  Far away from the loud noise and the hustle and bustle of the city.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  Beautiful blue skies – palm trees – sunshine – I’ll share some pics later…or go follow me on Facebook or IG.

We would give one goat to a family because they then would allow that goat to breed their neighbor’s goat and then the baby goats would be shared with others in the village.  I think that is what I found so overwhelming and humbling is that even though they don’t have lots of material goods…what they do have, they share with one another and will share with you.  I think we Americans could learn a lot about it being more blessed to give than to receive and how we really don’t need all that we have in our houses and homes – wealth isn’t measured by what we have but by the relationships and love we have in our lives.  We left Bruno (the goat) with a mother of 7 who is a widow.  If I had to guess the size of her one-room house, I would say it was a square of 10 feet by 10 feet.  I know it wasn’t very big at all.  Our translator would translate what our spokesperson would say and would translate our prayers, as well.  I was able to hug her and be the recipient of one of her beautiful smiles.  The $30 it cost to purchase Bruno seems so small in relation to what it means to be given that goat.

It was such an incredible experience to be introduced to the various villagers….to see their smiles…to feel the love that was so evident in everything we said and did that day.  We may not speak the same language but a smile and hug says the same thing in any language and crosses all cultures, ethnic groups, and language barriers.

We came to a house where a lady was being cared for by her daughters and we found out that she had been out in the field working that morning and had suffered a stroke two hours prior to our arrival.  Nate and Jeff are first responders and have careers here in the US in the medical field so they were able to explain some things to the daughters and to give some recommendations.  However, we all knew it wasn’t very probable that she would survive.  Strokes are the number one cause of death in Haiti – the risk factors are high blood pressure and sickle-cell anemia.  Average life expectancy is age 60 for men and age 65 for women.  It was a sobering moment as we realized she was only 52… Yes, there are lots of moments where the reality of things can be very overwhelming and seem so hopeless; but then you see the eyes of a child light up when you give them a piece of candy or a pair of sunglasses or take their pic and your heart begins to feel hope and purpose again and you know that those are life changing moments for everyone..and that it is your life that will be changed the most profoundly.

You have to have moments of fun and laughter – otherwise, the sad emotions could be overpowering.  We had lots of those during our days.  I think of D’Anna passing out bags of beans and rice from her backpack and instead of her backpack getting lighter…it seemed just as heavy as when she started.  What she didn’t know is that every time Nate took a bag out, he put a big rock in.  She just kept trudging along while leaning forward because of the weight on her back.  After a while, Nate finally fessed up, and she, along with the rest of us, had a really good laugh.

We left the village and traveled to a lookout point where you could see the mountains of the Dominican Republic in the distance (we were only about 45 minutes from the border) and could see Lake Enriquillo….it’s the largest lake and the lowest elevation in the Caribbean. It was breathtaking!   A stop to meet the baby boy born to Roger, another of their translators, was a precious reminder of the circle of life.  We drove back to the orphanage a tired, dusty, exhausted team but with happy hearts and grateful spirits.

I also have to share how one always wants to travel with Second Chance Haiti board member, Mike.  He brings the sour patch kids and the twizzlers.  He was on our van so we were the ones who got to travel with the good stuff! Lol!  On Sunday afternoon, the people in the other van thought they could confiscate the bag of sour patch kids and that would be permissible.  We tried to get them back to no avail…even sending our security person over to use her authority to hand them over.  Well, all it took was Mike walking over and holding out his hand – they had to return the bag to its owner.  That is why you want to be on the van with Mike! In all seriousness – sour patch kids, twizzlers, peanut butter, nutella, tortillas to the side and not taken into consideration – Mike is a man with a servant’s heart who is willing to use his skills and talents to make life a little easier for those with whom he comes in contact….whether it be helping a little girl get her stubborn donkey to start walking, constructing trunks so the orphanage has storage, or praying for a person in the village. Just don’t ask him to go back to the market to carry chickens!!! lol

Addition for Monday’s blog:

I forgot to mention one of the most important things we did that day at the FOSA orphanage (in my opinion).  One of our team members wanted to carry on a ministry that her friend’s mother had started several years ago.  She has passed away and no one has carried on this ministry.  Britt had purchased stuffed animals for all of the children there; however, as people who believe in the power of prayer and in the love of a Heavenly Father who can watch over these children, she wanted several of us to join with her in prayer.  We all held several of the stuffed animals and then took turns praying over those animals – we prayed that these children would be comforted when they were feeling sad and that they would feel peace on days when everything seemed chaotic.  We prayed that they would feel love on the days they felt alone and uncared for and that they would remember there are people in this world who care about them and love them so much.  Tears fell from our eyes as we listened to the heartfelt prayers of our fellow team members.  Knowing that we cannot be there in person to brush the tears away from these children’s eyes and we cannot be there to give them a hug and we cannot be there to comfort them in the middle of the night when they have a bad dream.  However, we know a God who can do that and we knew that the power of prayer can transcend miles and distance and can do more than what we can do in our own human effort.  So, I would ask that you remember these children every time you pray for your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren.  I know that it will make a difference!

Haiti, Monday, February 20th

6 Mar

We started our day in the Croix-des-Bouquets market.  We were educated the night before and were told that we couldn’t take backpacks, purses, cameras, phones, etc.  We needed to stay in a line and with the group at all times – we were not to stop to look at anything.  It’s always a challenge for our security to take such a large group to the market and we needed to do all we could to make their jobs easier.  Well, they could tell us all they wanted to but it truly couldn’t prepare for the actual market.

If you’ve ever watched, The Amazing Race, when they go to a local market in a third world country, then you have some idea.  Even watching it on TV, I was not ready for the actual craziness.  I would never attempt this on my own and am glad for our security and our translator.  There were vendors, people, motorcycles, cars, jeeps, truck, BIG trucks, wheelbarrows, live animals, dead animals, etc.  Anything you can think of was being sold.  There were thousands of vendors.  I was trying to take it all in but it was very difficult because you had to look down at your feet to watch where you were stepping.  There were a few times that we had to grab the hands of the people in front of us and the people behind us.  BUT i loved it!!! And can’t wait to go back!!!

We were purchasing live chickens, live goats, beans and rice.  We went to the chicken lady first and let Ashley and the translator barter.  I think we ended up with 10 chickens.  They were tied together as pairs and we had to carry them by their feet.  You can imagine that this was quite the feat 😉  They didn’t really like being carried upside down and would get a little agitated.  Plus, from the time we bought them until we got back to the van was about one hour.  So, they had lots of time to get unhappy.

We went to the meat section next…..that is the area that I didn’t like.  Tables and tables of raw meat, organs, etc. It was warm so lots of flies and not a pleasant aroma to take in!!!  But, that is where we had to purchase the live goats.  I used some of the money given to me to purchase a goat.  So they got me a little male goat – I named him, Bruno.  And then I was able to parade Bruno all through the market.  He actually was a good goat – he didn’t like to get his feet wet so any time we came to a little bit of water, he would just stop and I would have to pull him to get him to move.  He also was quite hungry so would try to nibble on anything green that he saw.  Of course, the Haitian vendors didn’t like that so I had to make sure he didn’t “steal” anything!  You can imagine the fun we brought to the market.  There were 15 of us “blancs” and we all were parading goats or carrying live chicken all through the market.  One of the goats would just lie down in the middle of the road and refuse to move. So, our translator proceeded to just drag her as she bleated loudly! Yes, there were lots of smiles on the faces of the vendors and lots of laughter, as well.  We crazy white people parading with our menagerie!

We took the animals back to Bon Sam orphanage and then drove over to FOSA orphanage to spend the rest of the day.  Some of the team worked on getting the clothing and shoe sizes written down for all of the children.  The guys started building some storage trunks.  And then some of us went to another market so Mariflor could purchase the items to make us dinner.  Of course, I went with that group.  I loved the market experience and wanted to see a different one.  This second one was nicer and not as chaotic as the first one.  After that we went to a very nice grocery store, and we enjoyed some cheese, some bread, and a bathroom with running water!!! The rest of the day was spent having a Valentine’s Day Party with the kids, giving the kids their sponsor gifts and then enjoying a fabulous dinner made by Mariflor.  We had okra, plantains, potatoes, bread, spaghetti with a meat gravy and onions, peppers and garlic.  It was SOOOOO good!  Our van stopped at a cafe on the way back to Bon Sam to get food for a volunteer who had been ill – it was quite fun because the cafe is called, Vols Cafe, and is decorated in orange and white…but it has nothing to do with the state of Tennessee. Dena and I were happy girls because they had an espresso machine and we were able to get a latte.  It’s the little things, folks!

It was a great day – lots of fun memories made.  Some discovered that the market was not their thing and they don’t ever want to go back 🙂  Others of us loved the adventure and the chaos.  We ended the evening on the roof under the starry skies and shared our highs for the day, lows for the day, prayers, and devotion.  Then went to bed and fell asleep to the sounds of the Haitian city.  Nothing like it!

Haiti 2017, Sunday, February 19th

5 Mar

I’ve been home from Haiti for one week; however, it has taken me the entire week to process, ponder and reflect.  Today as my Pastor started a new series, The Blessed Life, I knew I was finally ready to begin sharing my week in Haiti.  

This blog will be about our first full day in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, which happened to be Sunday, February 19th.  We were up bright and early in order to attend Sunday morning services at the church our translator attends.  We arrived there around 8:30 but the congregation had arrived earlier for small groups.  The church was packed but they had reserved a space for us on the front row.  The church building made out of blocks – if I remember correctly, the roof was made out of metal.  There’s no air conditioning – only ceiling fans and some standing floor fans.  The Sunday we were there was the Sunday that the young people led the service from the singing to the speaking.  Beautiful voices filled the air as the Haitians worshiped God.  And although it was in French and I really couldn’t understand anything that was being said or sung, I could feel the joy, gratitude and love being expressed in their songs and words.  Their faith, their hope and their trust in God was very visible and evident in the way they sang and worshiped.

I noticed the joy on every face and I took note of how the people were dressed in their finest Sunday clothes….which don’t even get me started on how we Americans like to approach our church going in all of our casual, laidback attitudes and casual clothes as if we were spending a day working in our yards.  The colors of clothing were vibrant on the ladies and the men were wearing their suits and ties or slacks, dress shirts and ties.  It was very evident that going to church is very important to them and dressing for the occasion of being in God’s House is something that take as utmost importance.

After the service, our team served them sandwiches, chips and a drink.  I wish that I could have spent more time getting to know each of them but a quick “bonjour” and a heartfelt smile was all I had time to do.

We went back to the orphanage to change clothes and then head out of town to a remote village.  It was about 45 minutes out of the city;as we turned off the main road and drove on a dirt road for what seemed like miles and miles, we all questioned how in the world did they ever find this village to begin with!!! Nate and Jeff wanted to go back and check on a little toddler.  When Nate and Jeff were there in December, this little guy had fallen into a fire and was burned very badly.  Based on the severity of his burns, the toddler only had about a 10% chance of surviving.  Nate and Jeff did what they could and then they prayed for him.  Consequently, they wanted to go back and see how he was.  Well, the power of prayer was very evident because the little guy was well, walking, and the scars were so minimal…one would never be able to tell that he had been burned so severely in a fire.

Walking through the village where most of the houses were just little one-room shacks made out of mud with a straw roof, I was made aware of all the little things I take for granted on a daily basis.  When you go to one of these villages, your hand is very quickly taken by a child as you are walking.  All of a sudden there will be kids everywhere and they want to say “bonjour” and hold your hands.  Smiles are big and they are curious to see why the “Blancs” are there (french word for “white” and that’s what they call us!).  We had not had time to pre-make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; however, about 8 of us got in the van and had makeshift assembly line where we used machetes and pocket knives to cut the bread and then spread the pb and jelly with spoons, pocket knives and whatever else we could find that would serve a purpose.  We don’t have an exact count but I know we made at least 200 sandwiches.  We gave those out along with chips and a drink and some candy.  Lots of smiles because everyone loves a good ol’ pb&j!!!

We got back to Bon Sam (the orphanage where we stayed) tired but happy – we enjoyed some Haitian spaghetti on the rooftop and then came the best part of the day….we would sit in a circle and go around and share what was our high for the day and what stood out in our minds.  Fabulous moments spent with people who have become friends.

I climbed into my top bunk bed and shrouded myself in my mosquito netting and fell asleep listening to the dogs barking…roosters crowing (yes, they were a little confused as to when exactly they are supposed to crow!)….sounds of Carnival…  Hoping and praying that no spiders or any other kind of creepy crawly animal/bug would wander in via the window right beside me.  However, I had the best view – as I looked out the window right beside me, I could see the stars and then in the morning I could look out the window across the room from me and see the sunrise happening with the mountains in the distance.

Today, in my Pastor’s message, this is what made me think of Haiti and the beautiful Haitian people:

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in such generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”  2 Corinthians 8:1-3)

I saw time and time again during my week there that even in their poverty they have overflowing joy and such generosity.  I watched the kids at the orphanage over and over again receive something and then very quickly share what they had been given with their friends.  They wanted to share what they had with us.  But what stands out to me the most is their overflowing joy.  I am purposing in my own life to be joyful…to have overflowing joy and to give freely from my heart.