Friday, February 28, 2014

Compassion Haiti 2014 Day 3

Here we are! The day we had been waiting for. We were going to meet Andy! I felt excited and nervous all at once! What if he didn't like us? What if he was disappointed? What if we didn't have a connection?

Yvonne called our name and we got up to go meet Andy. He came with his older sister, and a staff member from his project. Andy had to travel 3 1/2 hours to Port au Prince, and then spent the night there and then made the 1 1/2 hour trip to us. This was his first time spending the night away from home.

When we saw him he went to hug me and I could have started crying right there. He was smiling and was so happy to be there. We were off to a good start!

 He loved swimming in the pool. There are a lot of children in Haiti who haven't ever seen the ocean or have gone swimming in a pool before. We spent most of the morning at the pool. Nate even borrowed some shorts and got into the water. For those of you who know my husband, the water isn't his most favorite thing. He doesn't know how to swim. But this precious little boy was worth it.

This was our translator, Frankie.
 During lunch, I asked Andy what his favorite toy was to play with. He told us that he doesn't have any toys. That took us so off guard. I should have realized that because the two homes that we visited had no toys in them. But still…no toys? The thought seemed so foreign, especially coming from America where we have an overabundance of toys and entertainment in general.

So Nate then asked Andy what toys he would like to have. Andy replied that he would like cars, trucks, and machines. I had gone shopping for him about a month earlier. I wish I could say I had prayed about what to get him, but honestly, I had just gone down the aisles and picked out what I thought an 8 year old boy would like to play with.

Nate went upstairs and came down with Andy's bag. I found him a CARS book bag at Target. It was the only one left. He unzipped it slowly and started pulling things out.

Love their faces!
He pulled out a Jesus Storybook, written in Creole. He had a tablet and new crayons. He pulled out an Arizona Cardinals T-shirt. And then he pulled out 5 matchbox cars and a lego set that made three different kinds of heavy machinery. I felt so humbled at the kindness of Jesus, that he would allow us to be the catalyst to answer this dear boy's wish. That was an amazing moment.

All smiles!

 Our time was coming to a close, so we asked Andy to draw us a picture of his home. After he drew a picture of his home, we took turns drawing a picture of ours.

Here is a picture of our whole team with our sponsored children

Just before saying goodbye
We then prayed for Andy and his family and then it was time to take a big group photo and then say goodbye. The day was already over! Saying goodbye to that little boy was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was so hard to let him go. We knew what he was going home to. The unfairness of it all seemed to hit us. Why him? Why does he go home to no clean water, electricity, no bathroom? Where supplying the basics takes up most of the day? And then, why us? Why do we get to live in a nice home, with clean water at five different spigots, a dishwasher, refrigerator, and three bathrooms?

And as we watched him get in the van and drive away…it hit me. God designed it this way on purpose. He not only blesses us with what we have, but He also allows us, desires us, to be His Hands and Feet. To take what we have and share it with those around us. Its our responsibility.

Yes, we could take Andy home with us and his physical surroundings would be improved, but that still doesn't help the problem. But Compassion does. Compassion equips these children with the tools they need to rise up above their circumstances and to make a difference in their country. They have a pride in their country and a strong desire to see Haiti become a better place. By sponsoring a child in Haiti, you are helping equip the next generation of leaders in that country. And not just leaders, but Believers. That is amazing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Compassion Haiti 2014 Day 2

Our second full day in Haiti we traveled only about 40 minutes away from our hotel to visit another project. This time we were focused on the Child Development Program (CDP). This program focuses on children ages 3 up through high school. The children did a presentation for us. They sang songs, some sang solos, and a girl even played the trumpet. We also introduced ourselves and told where we were from. We then led the children in a rousing rendition of "Hallelu Hallelu Hallelu Hallelujah!" Oh, that was pretty fun. The kids got a kick out of that. There was lots of cheering going on! :)

After that, our team broke into four small groups. Each of us did a different activity and the children could pick where they wanted to go. One group played out on the "field", which was a dirt, concrete, stone field. Another did crafts, the third did face painting and fingernail painting. The group I was in jumped rope. What fun that was! I can't remember the last time I jumped rope. And the kids were awesome at jumping rope. Some could jump double dutch, some could jump with partners and jump around each other while jumping rope. I was happy I could jump in! :)

After playing a few hours, we then had lunch with the staff and learned about what each one's job is at the project. We also got to see where they are constructing new school buildings, built to code and strong enough to withstand strong earthquakes.

Me and Sara. Everyone on our team was just so awesome.

Roof of the new school rooms

Safety blinds
We then went on another home visit after lunch. It was a quick walk across the street and then down a turkey path to a bunch of houses scattered here and there. We went with our translator and one of the staff members from the project. The home we went to was a four room house, with one of the rooms being rented out to someone else. It had a concrete floor, concrete walls and a tin roof. There was no kitchen in the house. It was outside under a roof with tarps around it for walls. Inside there was no electricity, running water or bathrooms. There is typically a community "bathroom" which can range from a hole in the ground to an outhouse. 

In the home was the grandmother, the matriarch of the home. She had her daughter living with her who had three children. The daughter's husband left her when she was pregnant with the  baby. There was just a heaviness about the home. You could tell there had been a lot of pain and sorrow experienced there. We talked to them a little and then prayed with them. We asked the grandmother what she would like prayer for, and she answered that she would like her family to know and believe in Jesus. As we gathered around to pray, this dear woman, who looked like she was in her late 70s, and couldn't get around well, sank to her knees for us to pray for her. I have tears again just thinking about it. One of the other team members worded it so well, "It was as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders as she knelt there for us to pray for her."

So while this home visit was hard, it was good to know that Compassion is there, partnering with the church, to love these children. To teach them about the Friend that never leaves them, even in all the uncertainty  and difficulty of life. And to give them a hope.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Compassion Haiti 2014

We are here. In Haiti. We landed in the capitol around 12:30. We got our luggage, found our transportation and headed to our hotel in St. Marc. We are staying in a hotel/resort called Club Indigo. Haiti is a country that lacks infrastructure. There isn't much industry to promote employment. In fact, the unemployment rate is about 80%. When driving down the road, you would see people everywhere, just outside, hanging out. Children are not required to go to school. You  must pay to send your child to school, even public school. Since scrounging out a living to pay for food and walking sometimes miles for water is of the utmost importance, education isn't seen as very important. Plus, when babies are born, birth certificates aren't always issued, so the government doesn't even know how many children are in the country or have any way to enforce education. So children can very easily fall between the cracks.
Boarding the plane in Miami--Haiti bound!

These are called "tap taps".

They are the major form of transportation in Haiti. Most people don't own automobiles, and so they ride these.  They are usually crammed full. There's always room for one more! :)

Our brightly painted room

Our waste basket made out of woven cardboard 

The pool at Club Indigo

Play area

Ocean view

It felt strange checking into such a beautiful place after driving through some hurting, impoverished areas. But Compassion's theory is that they want the sponsors to have a place of calm and peace to return to at the end of each day, to be able to process what they have experienced and seen during the day. This is also where the children will come for the visitation day. Most of them have not seen the ocean, or swam in a pool.

Our first full day in Haiti we drove about an hour and a half to a place called Gonaive. We visited the Child Survival Program (CSP). This program is for mothers of young children, ages newborn to 3, or pregnant mothers. The program teaches mothers how to care for their children, and also teaches them life skills and vocational skills.  This was the scene that welcomed us when we arrived…..

We walked off the bus and these little cuties were sitting under this pavilion just waving and cheering and clapping. It was so precious! I almost started crying up at the gate! They had the cutest matching uniforms. Oh, the joy!

So we did what any human being would do, we walked down and hugged and smiled and blew bubbles and passed out stickers, and basically just hung out with these kiddos. 

We went inside the church then and the mothers were inside. We met the pastor and other staff that worked there at the project. The mothers then sang some songs for us. It was so beautiful.  We ate lunch and then we broke into four groups and went to four different homes, of mothers who participate in the CSP. 

We went to the home of a mother who had two children and was 9 months pregnant with her third. Her husband was not employed. She has been attending the classes at the project center and has learned how to sew. She has also learned how to take care of her children better and what to do for them when they are sick. They lived in a two room house. It had a concrete floor, concrete walls and a tin roof. The kitchen was outside. There was no electricity, running water or bathroom. There weren't screens in the windows. She did have a mosquito net for the one bed in the house. She was a lovely woman. So pleased to have us there. So happy to talk to us.

Her nine year old child came into the room. What beautiful young girl. She had such a joy and cheerfulness about her. We asked her, through the translator, what she wants to be when she grows up. She smiled shyly and immediately piped up, "A doctor." 

What Compassion does for these children is offer them a hope. They are receiving the tools and being taught how to use their education to make a better country. They are being given hope. Which is priceless. 

I am in awe of these strong mothers, raising these children up in what seems like impossible circumstances. But they are being held up and supported by the amazing staff and they have a Hope. And His Name is Jesus. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

It begins

So we have started our trip to Haiti. Honestly, I have never felt let such conflicting emotions about a trip. It has felt so....opposed. Which I guess shouldn't surprise me. Anytime God desires to stretch and take us to new places, or use us to bring Him glory, there will be opposition. 

I ended last week feeling excited for the trip coming up, but over the weekend I started getting a head cold. And then the thought of laundry, cleaning, packing and organizing suddenly felt very overwhelming. Nate came down with the same cold. We got up Tuesday morning and just felt completely exhausted and drained. Nate mentioned he didn't know how we were going to get this done. But we determined that nothing was going to steal our joy.

So Tuesday evening we left and drove throughout the night. We stopped Tuesday afternoon and spent the evening with family in Louisiana. Now we are headed to Florida. We should at least make it to Tallahassee tonight. Tomorrow we will finish up. Sunday we fly out of Miami for Haiti. 

In order to help us prepare for our trip, Compassion sent us a sponsor guide. It details what we need to pack, how to pack, what we will be doing and seeing, as well as the specific area we are going to. There is also a place for journaling with questions to get you thinking. The first question is what does it mean to have compassion? I guess when I think about a compassionate person I think of someone who not only sympathizes, but empathizes. They are kind and loving. They will help a person in every aspect: emotionally, physically and spiritually. The next question is how would you define poverty? Not too long ago I would describe poverty as being poor. Maybe not having a "livable" house, no food, education or job. I would have focused more on the physical environment. But after doing some reading and "growing up", I would say you could have all the amenities in the world and still be poor. Your spirit can be impoverished. And that is the poverty that is so dangerous. 

So as we near Florida and our coming trip, my heart feels excited and nervous. I can't wait to go.