Monday, December 5, 2016

Haiti - Dec 5-8, 2016 - Pastors Seminar

At the beginning of December 2016, a team went to Haiti to provide training to pastors and church leaders. For three evenings, the team would share together at the pastors’ seminar where over 300 pastors and lay leaders gathered.  During this seminar they received strong Biblical teaching and encouragement from Pastors Jean Moise, Herve Pierre, Herb Codington, and Alan Stegall.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Haiti - Nov 4-18, 2016 - Medical

November 5, 2016

Hi everyone! Today was our first full day here, and what a busy day it was! Even though it is a Saturday, we still started doing physicals on our students at Degeance. The principal arranged for them all to be there, and we were able to see all of the preschool-3rd graders! Next week's team will finish the 4-6th graders. The team all commented on how well behaved and polite our students were, and I think everyone found at least one student that they just fell in love with. :) We were all huffing and puffing by the time we hiked up to the school, but it was well worth it!

Shari, Deb and Belinda started off their day by locking themselves in their room after the rest of the team had left the mission center. Oops!!! Once they figured out how to get themselves out, they kicked off our Community Agents program today with 14 people (2 from each of our school communities) and were so encouraged by how it went! The group had great questions and are all very excited to continue learning about how they can help our nurse Anite take care of our students.

Overall, it was a great day. The first day is always a little bit chaotic as everyone tries to get in the swing of things, but I think we developed a really great rhythm and we're all enjoying learning together! We're looking forward to going to church at LaHatte tomorrow morning and visiting with the community members there.

November 7

Joanne: Greetings from Hot Haiti J! Today was a fairly early day but no mountain hike. The school we went to was accessible by truck! That’s a big truck where we all load into the semi enclosed back and some sit at a picnic table on the back and some stand! Not too long of a ride but certainly no lack of surroundings to absorb!! My job today was assessing children and asking what they needed to see the Doctor for. The children definitely have a way of tugging on our heart strings and even though were hot and sweaty all day, the blessings and fulfillment definitely over ride that! The children’s faces light up with their bright smiles when we speak to them which in turn brightens our day! The highlight of my day today certainly was meeting my little sponsor girl of about a year and my sponsor boy of about 7 years. I met him 5 years ago when I was here but today I noticed he had come out of his shell a lot more and  we had a nice chat! He was so happy to see me and I was thrilled!! When your sponsor child hugs you, kisses your cheek, thanks you and shows his gratefulness for your assistance and then tells you he loves you, well, I'm sure you can only imagine what you feel! Beyond words! It was a good day!! Stew, beans and rice for supper. A refreshing cold shower and now an early bedtime. Tomorrows another early day, with a mountain hike!

Deb: I’m writing the blog tonight to share about what we did with the community health agents today.  Shari and I taught this morning and Belinda joined us for the afternoon session. We taught about nutrition and demonstrated hemoglobin with a gown with red balloons taped all over it to represent healthy red blood cells. The students really liked the visual and had fun popping all of the balloons, which meant no hemoglobin left – and I fell to the floor (dead).  At the end of the morning,  we had the students act out scenarios to demonstrate what they should do in situations when they start working at the school. In the afternoon, we taught the students vital signs, and they all took turns checking each other’s weight, pulse, respirations, and temperature.  The teaching stethoscopes borrowed from Rhodes were very helpful. Our translator this week has been excellent and he is enjoying learning all of the medical content along with the health agents. Tomorrow we will continue lessons on first aid and dehydration. 

November 8

We're all very tired, it's been a long and beautiful day, but we wanted to report a few praises really quickly before we head to bed!

  • We got to hike the long route to Dupin this morning and enjoyed the beautiful view!
  • We saw 5 different classes today for physicals, and only a handful of preschoolers screamed bloody murder and cried their eyes out! ;)
  • A lot of follow-up was done from students that we've seen on previous trips, and we were encouraged by what we saw in the majority of them.
  • Community Health Agent training went extremely well; the students enjoyed learning how to do basic first-aid, putting on splints, and even carried Shari right out of the gazebo!
  • Our day ended in in the most beautiful, celebratory way. We saw a little boy at Dupin that we felt needed a minor surgical procedure done, so we talked with his parents and decided to bring him back to do that. Belinda, Jack, Ted and Pam worked on him while his father soothed him until finally the procedure was finished. Afterwards, the little boy's father was talking to us, and the most incredible thing happened. He said they had gone to several different hospitals to get it looked at, but he never thought they'd have enough money to get this done for their son. But, he saw something different in us. He said he wanted the Jesus that we had and that he wanted to become a Christian! He dropped to his knees right there and the rest of the group around him followed suit as he became a brother in Christ! I can't explain how awesome this was; everyone is still trying to wrap their mind around it but hopefully we can share more of the story tomorrow. Please just join us in celebrating with and praying for our new brother! God works in awesome, awesome ways and we witnessed the Holy Spirit moving in this place tonight! :)

November 9

Joanne:  Hello everyone following this blog! Today mom and I have been away from home for one week and oddly I feel caught in a bit of a time warp. This is such a different world that on some level it’s hard to imagine life back home. Tomorrow is the last day for most of the team but those of us staying the 2 weeks will be greeted by a whole new team on Friday. 

       Today we got to sleep in a bit later which for me was about 6:30. Then the breakfast bell rang earlier than anticipated so I had to rush just a bit. We left for St. Marc at 8:00 and unfortunately no hike involved today. Despite the humidity and the heat, hiking is a highlight for a lot of us! The scenery is amazing and when I say there’s never a lack of things to feast your eyes on, I'm certainly not exaggerating!! For me the day was filled with assessments on junior and senior high students. Dressed in their tidy, all-matching uniforms, socks and hair accessories, each school is unique in their own color and style.   I’ve learned a bit of creole that I can greet and ask the students a few questions. We encountered a few heart breaking scenarios and a few of us shed tears when faced with the harsh reality of what some of these children endure on a regular basis L.  A mother also brought in her little girl off the street (she wasn’t part of the school) to see if the ‘white people’ could help her. She had stuffed a substance of some sort up her nose and her local hospital had turned her away after telling her they could not help her. The girl did fight as children do, but with  the help of God, this amazing team was able to relieve this sweet child of this obvious discomfort!!

Deb: Writing to give an update on how the community agent education training is going.  Belinda, Shari, and I are forming relationships with our students, which is the most rewarding part for me. They are very sweet and gracious and are working hard to learn each day. Today we had them pack the first aid kits that will be taken to each school. The students received their very own stethoscopes today, and they were so pleased. Tomorrow is their final exam, and we are all hoping that they do very well. Over the weekend there will be a few more classes with them here at the mission center, then on Monday, I think we will begin to go to the schools with our students where they will be serving. It will be like a “clinical” experience for them. I am very excited to take them to the schools and actually have them start doing the skills that they have learned this week. So far, the experience is a 10 out of 10.

A momma brought her little girl into our clinic at the very end of the day to get something taken out of her nose (as seen in the first picture of Mary holding the girl). As the team was working on the little girl, another one of our team members and a translator prayed with the mom. She accepted Christ! WOW! Pastor Herve later said that many people in the Haitian culture only know of voodoo-- a religion and practice that is NOT one of love and empathy. When this momma saw the way we loved and cared for both she and her child, she wanted to be a part of it. Herve's confident she'll start coming to church now. Awesome! The Holy Spirit is moving here in Haiti, friends!! :)

November 10

Today was Team One's last day in Haiti, and it was a bittersweet feeling for everyone! The majority of the team went to MPCA to begin doing physicals on the 700 students that we have there. We were able to see grades 4-7th, which is a big accomplishment! Everyone was very busy, very hot, and very tired... but we were gifted with cold bottles of soda, which was a wonderful surprise!

The Community Agents and our four faithful team leaders for that group completed their last day of their training. They took an exam and received the last bit of their supplies that will equip them to start their clinical practice next week! They were SO excited, jumping up and down in celebration of their supplies!

Tonight we got together as a group one last time to share who we were praying for throughout the week, took time to hear Pastor Herve's testimony and pray over him, as well as do some shopping from the vendors. We have had an incredible week together and have become more like family instead of just a group of people who met for the first time a week ago.  There have been so many great things that have happened throughout the week, and so many ways that we've seen God show up and be faithful.

November 11

Last night we took some time to pray over Pastor Herve and the ministry that is happening here.

November 12

Congratulations to all of our students for passing their final written exam.  Today we spent most of our time at the Mission Center reviewing content and getting them ready for “clinical” next week.  The team members doing physicals today got back to the Mission Center around 12:30, and while they were eating lunch, Shari and I took the Community Agents to Lanzac to measure heights and weights on the children before the other team members arrived to do the physicals. They loved it! One of our Community Agents taught the little children our hand-washing song while they were waiting to get measured and weighed. Since they loved doing heights and weights so much, I can’t wait to see how they will react next week to actually seeing children in the schools and orienting to their jobs.

Joanne: Hello all again! Well we're into our 2nd week J. Another awesome hike up to the Degeance school. Literally pouring sweat but it was great! In the afternoon we came back to the mission center to see the small Lanzac school children. Doing a small lancing procedure to drain a large abscess on a small boy looks quite different in Haiti than anywhere else I’ve had the pleasure of assisting with a procedure. To give him some privacy at least from his class mates, we carried him across the small school yard to another empty classroom, laid him on an old wooden table covered with a blue pad, and did the best we could with equipment we had. Assisted with not only medical people but the boy's mama, my translator and my mom held the child down so we could relieve him of a very uncomfortable abscess to his buttocks. Trying to do teaching via a translator to explain to the mama how to do daily dressing changes on her own with likely very limited and primitive resources also proved challenging. It is so rewarding to see the smiles on these peoples faces for helping them! There are no complaints or grumbling whatsoever, only grateful hearts! Just a little friendly reminder to those of us who have been so fortunately blessed to have the resources we do in US and Canada, please don’t complain the next time you have to wait for 30-60 min in the waiting room to have your “prescription filled” after you’ve left the comfort of your own home, gotten into your heated or AC car and comfortably driven to your modern, clean hospital.  Many of these mamas have a long walk up or down a mountain with at least one or two children in tow in this humid heat with smiles on their faces because they know someone will help them today! Also after a procedure like this , we would probably be able to have the dressing changed at our local hospital as well! I'm not sad I have the resources I do where I live, nor am I sad I was born in Canada, however I am sad for these less fortunate folks and glad I could help just a little.  We met the new team yesterday after most of our initial team left and it's nice to have another great team! The ocean and the cold showers have been a great relief at the end of a hot work day. Tonight we played games and had a lot of great laughs!! 

November 13

Today was a relaxing day for the majority of the team. We started our day by walking down to Lanzac to worship with the sweet people of that church. Shari sang a song about Psalm 23, which was well-received by everyone in the congregation.

After church many of us enjoyed a nice breezy (YAY!) day on the beach! Many of us swam, others took naps in the hammock, and a few of us played cards! The Community Agents were back today for more sessions; Mary Kay taught a session on worms, Crystal taught about different medications, and other information was presented as well.

We're thankful for a day to relax and regain some energy before a busy rest of the week! Please be praying for the rest of our time here; for the students we will be seeing, the traveling we will be doing, and for our eyes to be opened to the things God puts in front of us!

November 14

After a nice relaxing day yesterday, we started off the work week by heading in two different directions. The majority of us went to Chardene to do more physicals on the students, while Deb and Shari took a few of our Community Agents up to Degeance to start their clinical practice.

The Community Agents were making sure that the students were taking their worm medicine and also getting an idea of what their day-to-day tasks will look like.

We were EXTREMELY busy at Chardene today... we saw around 250 students, plus worked alongside the other Community Agents to give them some practice on their job! Wow!! We literally worked until the sun went down and drove home in the dark. Thankfully, we got to see the majority of the students and Mary K presented the worm seminar to all of our students as well. The pictures that she used to show the students what can happen if they take worms really helped open their eyes to why taking their worm medicine is so important!

November 15

Today our team hiked the hour-long (one way!) hike up to Dupin to finish doing physicals on our students. We were thankful that some of our students met us halfway down the mountain to help us carry supplies!! It was a BUSY and productive day; again, we stayed there longer than anticipated but were thankful to get everything finished. We saw a student from last week that we did a minor procedure on and we were encouraged by what we saw. We’re all very tired but the team is doing well and working hard!

Deb: The community agents started their clinical experiences yesterday.  Shari and I were with four agents in Degeance and Pam was with two agents in Chardene. They arrived before we did and had all of their initial responsibilities done of checking the bathrooms, lifestraws, and hand-washing buckets. Today we had three agents at MPCA and Pam had two at Dupin. The other agents are helping the team with physicals while the three of us are supervising what they will be doing on a daily basis after we leave. The hand-washing song we taught the agents when we first got here has been such a big hit. They have gone to each classroom and have taught them the song as well as the importance of washing their hands. It has been so much fun to see them take a leadership role in their assigned schools. It has been so rewarding to see them in the clinical setting putting into practice what we taught them last week. I’m looking forward to the next two days.

November 16

Today we had a busy day working at two different schools, St Marc and MPCA. We were excited to finish physicals on all of the students at Saint Marc and also got another grade done at MPCA! Deb hiked up to Degeance with a couple of our Community Agents to do some training up there and had such a wonderful time with them!

Josh and Crystal had fun this morning too; they went on a field trip to a couple of different pharmacies in Saint Marc with Pastor Herve and Anite! They were amazed at how crowded it was and thought it was interesting how the prices of things compared with the prices that we would find in the States. It was a neat experience for them and a fun way to start their day!

We're all very, very tired but feel so blessed to have the opportunity to serve here.

November 17, 2016

Today we experienced first-hand why Mission Possible stresses the need to be flexible, flexible, flexible! Our team headed out for LaHatte early this morning, drove almost an hour, and then discovered that the road was way too muddy for our truck to get through. We had to decide whether to get out and hike all the way up to LaHatte or turn around and go back. Because it was so hot, and no one was prepared to have to hike, we turned around and headed to MPCA to do more physicals there. There are ALWAYS physicals to do at MPCA!! Shari got a chance to close her time with the Community Agents in prayer, which was very special to them. We got all of the primary students seen, and a good chunk of the secondary students, so we're really excited about that! It's been a challenging, tiring, and hot week, but we all just feel so priviledged to be able to be His hands and feet here in this country!!

Joanne: What a 2 weeks this has been! Exhausting, fulfilling, emotional, hot, sweaty, challenging, awesome, upsetting, funny, fun oh and did I say emotional?  If anyone out there reading this is feeling the need for fulfillment in their life, Haiti isn't going anywhere- (I Hope). I'm definately leaving a part of my heart here! Yesterday after work I was sitting in some much welcomed shade when this sweet, adorable little girl (3 years old) walked up to me and latched herself to me and didn't let go. I started showing her pics on my phone and before long 3 others joined in. I took some pics of all of us and showed them. They light up to see their faces on a photo! So simple for us but huge for them!! It's refreshing to see children that are so easily satisfied with so little. They just want to love and be loved! When it was time to go, she held my hand and we walked to the truck together. I heard her little voice say something to me in Creole but couldn't understand. My heart sank a little when I realized it was the first time she spoke because it was just before I was to leave. I had a good idea what she had said but clarified with a translator. She wanted to go with me! My heart broke! What do you say? What do you do? It's so hard and I haven't been quite the same since! What a bittersweet evening tonight! I'm starting for home tomorrow and am so excited but I'm incredibly sad to leave the children and my new awesome Haitian and American friends behind. This trip has been all I wanted and more. I felt the need to go way back in April and committed myself then, but am still not sure exactly why God wanted me to go. It doesn't matter and I may never know but I'm so thankful and will never regret coming. I'm also so glad I was able to take in such an awesome experience with my mom! What an awesome memory! Thanks mom! Thanks to my family for supporting my decision and to God for the opportunity and looking after us every step of the way! Also- If there's anyone interested in sponsoring a child, please let me know. Mission Possible has an awesome sponsorship program!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Haiti - October 8-15, 2016

October 9, 2016

Greetings from Haiti! The photo team arrived in good time yesterday with no major hiccups. Flights were relatively smooth and the team members who came from five different locations are now getting to know one another and working as a unit.

We who have stayed at the Mission Center before have noticed a few landscape modifications compliments of Hurricane Matthew... the yard that had been dirt and rock covered is now covered in a deep layer of sand. The stone benches have their stubby legs exposed as the dirt around them was washed away. The pier we love so much has gotten much shorter as a large section was broken off or washed away. Since the island received a fierce washing, all the ground and foliage are much greener than usual. And since the rain washed all the trash into ditches and waterways, the city streets are actually much cleaner (at the expense of the water supply, unfortunately!). We do think that the cities, while still crowded and busy, have had far fewer people in them this weekend.

We attended St Marc church this morning- the first service after the hurricane. It was sorrowful to hear the weeping from those who experienced loss, but also uplifting to see the desperate faith and reliance on God from the people there. Tom, from our team, gave a testimony that was well received.

October 11 and 12, 2016

We've had a really busy couple of days here in Haiti! Just yesterday, our photographers took over 1,800 pictures of students and teachers and classes at two different schools! I haven't counted yet today, but the number will be big since we worked at two different schools again!

Our team is working hard and getting along well. We have settled into a fast-paced rhythm that helps us accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. On Tuesday we worked at Lanzac then Chardene, and today at Dupin then Saint Marc. Whew! Tomorrow will be a little easier, traveling to spend time with students in LaHatte, then at MPCA Secondary school.

We've had some beautiful sunsets here, and the one tonight was even more special as Tom and Laurie renewed their wedding vows on the beach to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Pastors Herve, Jean Michel, and Emmanus joined us to officiate the ceremony.

October 14, 2016

What a day we have had! We started out with plans to photograph students at two different schools. At LaHatte, is was even hotter than usual, but we feel it was worth it for time with some of our favorite kiddos there! On the way back out, driving through what is usually a dry riverbed, our big red truck got stuck in the mud left from last night's rain. We're grateful our American and Haitian guys were able to use sticks and knives to fill in the muddy ruts with dry dirt then push the truck free.

Because the truck had no cover and the sun was so hot, some of our team were feeling overheated. When the truck then broke down on the highway back to the mission center, we were grateful for a random concrete wall that gave us shade while we waited on the side of the road for Pastor Herve to pick us up with another truck. 

We decided to skip our second school and came back to the center for cold sodas and naps instead! We've all felt better since supper, and are now watching another storm move in over the ocean. The cool air blowing through the cabana is a huge relief!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Haiti - July 16-23, 2016 - Teacher Seminar and VBS

July 17, 2016

Happy Sunday, everyone! :)

We started out our morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on a new day! Our morning started out at Saint Marc church where we got the priviledge of worshiping with our Haitian brothers and sisters and also spent some time playing with the kids!  Some of us got to reunite with old friends, which was also a lot of fun!

After church, we went to MPCA to watch our first class of students graduate from the Mission Possible Teacher School! The ceremony was very well attended- there were many proud family members and friends who were there with their cameras and phones to capture the exciting moments! Tracy and Pastor Moise both gave speeches, a group of young men performed a dance, a young boy sang a song, and a lot of other special performance were given which made for a very high-energy event!

This afternoon we have gotten the chance to swim in the ocean and just hang out with each other. We're excited for a big week ahead and are looking forward to seeing what God has in store for all of us!!

July 18, 2016

 I have so much to say yet don’t have any idea where to begin, so I apologize ahead of time for any rambling. ;) There have been so many emotions coming into this trip for second time, both similar and new. We have been able to experience some eye-opening things and build many beautiful relationships, while also re-kindling some old on this trip already, even though it has only been the first official day of working with the kids. After a nice day of church and hanging out with the team yesterday, today we headed out with eager hearts to our first school, Chardene. There were five different stations and I was placed into the music/instrument group with Mallory and Kaitlyn. Woah, the kids sure do love their music! The energy they have and their passion for praising the Lord overwhelmed me; they were so passionate that we ended up with a few broken instruments (wooden sticks and wooden desks is not a good idea). This passion and love just forced me to take a step back from dancing and just take it in. God is so good. His love can be expressed in everything that happens around you and through the people that He gives you. After the school we ended up at MPCA school and painted chalkboards in four different rooms and just fellowshipped with each other. Last but not least we had the very much-anticipated Haiti vs. America soccer game. We were able to wear team shorts and look like an actual team, and according to the guys we were not allowed to lose… but we all know how that ended ;) After the game it poured down rain and instead of taking cover we all ran out on the field and took advantage of the moment to cool down and play some mud soccer in the middle of the mountains. So simple, yet so memorable. Thank you, Jesus, for delighting in giving us little things like that to enjoy. Overall, I am so so excited to watch how God chases after hearts and showers us in love the rest of the week and I appreciate all of the prayers! 
-- Erin

Hi everyone! It’s Claudia! This trip has been so amazing and it’s only day two! Yesterday we went to church, then came back and rested in God’s great ocean! The people and the ocean definitely made yesterday very beautiful! My heart was overwhelmed. Today was a day stuffed with blessings! We went to the school, Chardene, and had day camp with the kids, which consisted of crafts, games, soccer, Bible story skit time, and music! As we walked into the school, we saw these six kids playing soccer with a nut/small fruit.  Two of the boys were even wearing pink shoes. Wow. My thought was that we are so selfish. We think if we don’t have a “real” soccer ball that is blown up all the way, that we can’t even play a game, but they find a way! It truly inspires me! During camp, it’s amazing how much the kids love you, even though they just met you. They would want on your back, play some games, or even just a hug. They were so awesome and so beautiful! When camp was finished, we went to paint some chalkboards, then to play some “football” (soccer) against the Haitians! After we got creamed, the rain came down right after the final whistle.  Some of the team and I played some soccer in the rain and it was a blast! Definitely a moment I will never forget or even experience again! God is so good! I’m ready for the rest of the week and can’t wait to see what God has in store! -- Claud!

July 19, 2016

Today is our 4th day in Haiti and of course another beautiful day. We traveled to the school of Dupin. To get to the school we had to take about a 40-minute hike up mountains, past rivers, and through banana trees. Although very slippery and wet on the way there, it was one of the best hikes I have been on. Once at the school, we started our usual routine of day camp with the kids. Today I was assigned to be a leader of a group of about 15 kids. My group was very diverse in age from 1 year old to about 11 years old. The majority of my group was girls but included two guys.  As a group leader I was in charge of making sure the kids stuck together and got to visit each station. There were five stations each having a different activity. Activities included soccer, bible skit, crafts, music, and games. My kids had the most fun in the music station, which Drake and Chase did an awesome job with. Overall the camp was a great experience and opportunity to share the word of God with young children.  In the afternoon we traveled to the MPCA to paint their chalkboards new again. After painting we came back to the mission center and took a swim in the ocean.  So far this week has been a very eye opening experience. One of the things that really hit me was Sunday at church when offerings were collected.  It was awesome many people who struggle to get through with daily life are giving to the cause of God. Another thing is that the fact that we can’t use our phones on the trip-- it has been a really good thing when it comes to building relationships. On this trip I have had some of the deepest conversations, arguments, and most fun with a group of people than I ever have had. I have grown so close to these people and without distractions, people interact so much better. Hopefully the second half of the trip goes as well as the first half did.  God has blessed this mission team and continues to by giving us the chance to share His word. The people here have been very friendly and although I do not understand their language, it is fun to interact with them. 
-- Corey

It is nearly impossible to put into words the joy I am experiencing, and have been experiencing, here. I can honestly say I have never smiled as much as I have been smiling these past few days. My cheeks actually hurt, because of how much I have smiled. The kids are so amazing. The hardest part is leaving the schools each day and I am dreading leaving Haiti already. I feel so broken knowing how they have so little yet they are so, so happy. They are some of the best people I have ever met. I am so blessed to be able to come here and serve with the people on this team. I am already building so many great friendships. It is pretty funny because everyone on this team is mostly from Ohio and I am the only one from Minnesota. They tease me on how I have an accent and say things differently than they do. I don’t mind at all though, haha! I got involved in this trip from my cousin Erin. She asked me a while back if I would like to come. Of course I did not hesitate, and next thing you know, here I am having the time of my life serving God and others. It is absolutely the most rewarding feeling seeing the kids here smile and laugh. In my picture you will see a few of the girls I met today. They are such sweethearts and have the cutest smiles! I know little to none of their language, and same with them for English. But it is easier than I thought to communicate whether it is through words or actions of love and kindness. I am so in love with the people and this place. It just feels so right to be here with people who love Jesus and want to serve others as well as I do. I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and my dream has come true. Here in Haiti is my first mission trip and it is better than I ever imagined.
-       -- Mallory

It is great to be back in Haiti training the Haitian teachers at their annual Teachers’ Seminar.  As the “grandma” of the group, I would like to take a moment to brag on my kids…and your kids.  Though I have not been with the youth during their morning sessions, I have been able to watch them work without complaining in the afternoon to paint chalkboards at the MPCA school.  I was so excited to know that our group would be painting the chalkboards, as it is a primary tool that the teachers use.  The typical classroom has a map and a chalkboard.  In one room I noticed that the map had been worn and torn and a resourceful Haitian mathematics teacher had used even that space to draw the graph of the algebraic equation of a hyperbole.   Isn’t Algebra difficult enough to learn and teach, let alone if you are limited on space, paper and chalk?
     It has also been a pleasure to see our teenagers independently studying the Word of God, journaling, praising and praying.  Many truly have a heart for service and I am praying that God will continue His good work in each one as most are at a time of their life when they are seeking God’s will in their education and subsequent careers. 

 -- Jeanette

July 20, 2016

Saturday night was my first night in Haiti.  I’ll admit my first impression wasn’t quite what I expected. It’s now Wednesday night, and I’ve completely fallen in love with this beautiful country and it’s kind, passionate people.  Vacation Bible School has been an amazing experience filled with incredible joy. The children are so ready to accept the love we offer and to learn more about their Father in heaven. As a complete stranger in this land, I have been continuously astounded by all of the welcoming smiles, hands to hold, and hugs to give wherever I am.  Today we took a bumpy ride to LaHatte… a very bumpy ride. We walked through the community in order to find enough children to have the Bible School session. The day was exhausting yet so rewarding. After the last session, a young girl grabbed my hand and we walked over to the water station. While waiting in line, I ended up asking her whether she knew of Jesus or not. (Yes, I have picked up a few Creole phrases… thank goodness.) And when she nodded yes, I bent down to eye level with her and told her that Jesus loves her and that I love her. She fell into my arms with a huge smile, and I praise God for my experience with this one little girl from the small community of LaHatte.  This is a wonderfully simple example of how God shows us that even when there is such great need, loving just one person is enough. 
-- Lauren

Today we traveled to LaHatte. The children in LaHatte are unlike any of the children we have had the opportunity to spread God’s love to. Many of these children were extremely malnourished and unwilling to participate because of it. This made everything more difficult and frustrating, which caused me to forget that I am not here for me and my wants and needs, but I am here for them. Today I was a leader at the station where we act out stories of the Bible with the kids. It was the last group to go through the station and we had gotten done with all of our skits early, so me and a 12-year-old girl were playing a hand shake game that they taught me. Unlike the other kids she was extremely willing to listen to everything I had to say and participate. After the station was over our group went back into the meeting area and on the way back we were holding hands and laughing and she said something to me, (but I couldn’t understand because it was in Creole) so I had a translator help me understand what she said. She said that she wants to be just like me, and this is not what I was expecting. I was shocked actually, I asked why and she said because she wants to have the opportunity to share God’s love with people everywhere just like I am. That conversation made me realize just how important what we are doing here in Haiti is. We are impacting and changing the lives of so many people around us. Her saying that made everything worth it, and made me understand just how happy and blessed I am to be here sharing God’s love within the Haitian communities. 

-- Eve

July 21, 2016

This morning part of our team did VBS with the kids at Degeance (and hiked up the mountain even further to see some incredible views!), while the other part of the team finished up their Teacher Seminar at MPCA!  Later this afternoon, we got the unique opportunity to get together with some Haitian young adults. We spent time eating popcorn, sharing testimonies and asking/answering questions that we had about each others' culture. Our team was totally surprised when we were each given a hand-made bracelet that had our name personalized on it! So thoughtful and kind!! We are constantly overwhelmed with the selflessness of the people here and the love that we are shown. Below, Griffin and Abbey shared about why this day in particular was extra special for them! Thank you for continuing to pray for our team; we can feel them all the way here in hot Haiti! :) 

Unbelievably, since my first trip to this beautiful country last July/August, I am now on my 4th trip here.  The amount of opportunity that God has provided me in past year in regards to opening doors and affirming His plan are truly, and denotatively, awesome. I’ve been blessed with a future career path that fits both my passion for missions, and my desire to create. The most miraculous of these opportunities has been my involvement with the upcoming change occurring with the school in Degeance. Although I have only had one year of architecture schooling, I was handed the responsibility of designing a new school compound for this community. Considering the current school we visited today is high up a mountain, and consists of banana leaf huts, being able to be apart of the process of giving these kids and staff a new, expansive facility to work with brings me overwhelming joy. Additionally, this trip in particular has allowed me to notice how much spiritual growth I have developed in just the better part of a year. I have been able to have theological discussions, and advise people on many varying topics, things that I could not have previously done.  In closing, I love this country and I love this team. God’s will is, at this very moment, being done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.
-- Griffin

Bonjour Mama! (oh yeah, look at me using some Creole).  Nothing that I write will do this day justice, but I’ll give it a shot! Today we hiked up to Deagance, my favorite school in all of Haiti.  The school is in the middle of the trees, on a mountain, in the middle of nearly nowhere.  The kids traveled from all over the hills in order to come to VBS, walking up with nothing but a smile on their face, ready to learn about Jesus. 
                               I’m so in love with the fact that I can be sitting next to a Haitian child, nearly completely incapable of engaging in an actual conversation with them, and yet am able to smile, giggle, and play together! In January when I came to Haiti, I met a little boy at this school that I fell head over heals in love with. Coming into this trip, I wasn’t expecting to see the little guy because I had heard he was really sick. To the delight of my heart, he was there! I got to take pictures with him, and run with him as we played ring around the rosy. I was so incredibly happy to simply see my little boy. This week, we’ve taught the kids that we are all children of the one true King, making us all siblings in Christ. I feel so loved knowing that I get to have these kids as my brothers in sisters. Being a hand for God to love and encourage them to grow closer to Him is the best thing I’ve ever been able to do. 
                               I’ve learned that when we are truly serving Jesus, it often won’t make much sense to the rest of the world. Does it make sense that a group of young adults would give up a week of their summer to come to Haiti, willingly, in order to work? Does it make sense that young kids will let a stranger pick them up, or will sing and dance with no limitations together? Furthermore, does it make sense that when I expected to be serving God beyond the point of exhaustion, I actually feel more alive for God, and exceptionally loved by Him this week? He provides for us; He loves us; He delights in our hearts.  The idea of taking a missions trip, and coming home feeling like you received more from God than you were able to give to Him, is not something you’d expect. Glory to God, because without Him, I would not have been able to stand in the middle of the forest, on the top of a mountain, holding the same little boy I met months ago, spreading the love of Jesus!

-- Abbey

July 22, 2016

Today was our last full day in Haiti, and boy was it a good one!! We did our final VBS camp at Saint Marc and had a great turnout from the kids! One of the best things about this group was watching how well everyone worked together. The morning was a little bit different than the other VBS camps have been and we had to figure out details at the last minute, but our team rolled with it and was super flexible! We finished up painting chalkboards at MPCA this afternoon and then had some free time to swim and just be together. We even had a special event later on in the afternoon! Our teacher group also had a good day, joining us at Saint Marc for a while in the morning and then visiting a few other schools!

Tonight as we gathered for devos one final time, some of us took turns sharing where we have seen God working throughout the week. It was neat to hear different things that we'd experienced, conversations that we'd had, and areas that we've seen ourselves be stretched. Thank you for covering us in prayer this week; we all look forward to sharing stories once we get home! :)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

DR - June 15-23, 2016 (Gateway Youth)

June 16, 2016

Today we were up at 7am for devotional readings, breakfast and last preparations for the kids.  Camp started at 9am.  Kids were at the door at 8am, waiting with GREAT ENTHUSIASM.

The kids were exposed to soccer, volleyball, basketball and art.  Some of the campers showed up in their school gym uniforms (long pants & collared tshirts) and it was HOT today!  Full sun and heat!  Luckily the courtyard had some shade!  The kids were excited about each station they played at and so were the leaders. 

Art camp was quite an adventure! Campers learned that art is a display of God’s beauty in this world. The high school students had to help the art teacher interpret Spanish and give directions; thank goodness for our patient high school volunteers! The campers worked creatively on coil pots, pinch pots, and stamping while the high school helpers distributed supplies and collected projects. Everyone did an excellent job! We are truly blessed by young adults willing to serve God and one another!

Carrie hard at work with one of her many students
Jennia giving great encouragement, a student making a pinch pot and Ty playing soccer with the girls.

1, 2, 3 Jesus at the end of David's station.  Why not get excited about Jesus?

JD and Carter with Jennia and Grace instruct some students on the finer points of ball handling.

Madi and Gabbi working hard to scrape the inside of the church. 

June 17, 2016

2nd day of camp: This morning was a crazy one. The guys were all up on time today, and all of them actually got breakfast. Today was lots of work, including painting the church, clay projects in art, and lots and lots of basketball and soccer.  The kids were thrilled every time they got to a new station, and participated in most activities with joy.  I had a great time getting to know the kids, and even participated in a pickup game of basketball with some of the older boys.  After camp, we followed up with some more painting in the church, some more basketball and a LOT of cards.  Overall, we’re tired, but have had a great day.

- Zachary Seitz

Zachary working hard as we paint the sanctuary at Ebenezer Church

Everyone loves volleyball!!

Hello all, or should I say Hola todos! We ended our 2nd full day here in the Dominican Republic and let me tell ya it was a blast. I helped translate in a station where the kids chose whether they wanted to play soccer; I mean futbol, or basketball. Most of the kids chose basketball, which surprised me, but turns out there are a lot of LeBron fans here. Most of the girls, however, wanted to play volleyball. For lunch we had a scrumptious meal of rice and chicken with beans. It reminded me a bit of my mom’s cooking so my tummy was happy. Although, I was not in the art room, after lunch I took a peek at the kids’ creations and man oh man are they great. One child even made a Mickey Mouse (a universal character)! After camp ended the group went to the church and practiced a song that we’re singing at church on Sunday. Dare I say we sounded great! And for dinner we had some wonderful tacos and tortilla chips. So all in all I would say our 2nd day went swimmingly.
- Dorie Pierre  

Dorie and Mackenzie having a blast translating at camp!!
Some of today's artwork

Two days down here in Barahona, and they have been two very busy days that have been both very revitalizing and very exhausting.  Today I was in charge of the soccer station with Griffin and Sophie and it was so fun to interact with the kids and watch their skills improve.  My favorite part was when a kid wasn’t participating or wasn’t too confident and I was able to go up to the child and work with them. The one on one attention and encouraging words (tu puedes.. you can do it!) went a long way. It was awesome to see a confidence and a sense of accomplishment in their eyes, smile, and actions.  I am feeling extremely grateful for the opportunity to spend a week with these children and see the excitement and joy in each and every person. I hope we can bless these kids, but I know they have already blessed us in more ways than one. I know I have learned more from them than I, by myself, could ever teach them. As fun as it is to teach and play with these kids, it is also very exhausting. By the end of the day, I am ready for a nap, some food, and a shower. The best part of the day, in my opinion, is still to come. At night we all gather for a good game, good conversations, worship, and devotionals. The time to be up on the roof, feeling the breeze, and just being with our team is awesome. This trip is an amazing time for growth in many ways and an awesome time to escape the worries of this world and focus on people besides ourselves, and most importantly, our wonderful Creator.
- Lisa Simmons        

Griffin, Sophie, and Lisa with a group at their soccer station

 June 18, 2016

Today, I was a group leader. Since we had five group leaders and only four groups in the first half of the day, I got to sand the church wall with a rock because we are repainting it. I’m more than positive that the rock didn’t do anything, but they told me to keep going. The second half of the day, I got to lead a group of older girls. They were so fun to talk to and get to know! I had to play every sport with them just so they would play. I think I ran out of air in my lungs on the second station (I had three more stations to go). Let me tell ya, those girls were in shape and might I add feisty. The second group I got to lead was my all time favorite. Three years ago when I came here for the first time, there was a girl in my group named Rosa. She was eight while I was 14 years old. We were best friends from the first day of that week. The year after when I came back to the D.R., I asked the girls where Rosa was. They told me that she went to a different school. I got so sad because I thought I would never see her again. Yesterday, I saw a girl that looked just like her! I asked the girl if she remembered me…her face lite up, and she replied saying, “Gabby.” I gave her the biggest hug possible! This trip, so far, has been amazing! But I cannot wait to go home to share the love of Christ just like the people have shared with me here.

- Gabby Lyon

The first few days here were great. When camp starts everyday, the kids are so excited to see us. They are all smiles; it makes my day every time. Most of the kids seem to understand me. Luckily, when they don’t there is usually a kid near by who does, and they explain what I can’t. Although it is hot, it isn’t hard to stay hydrated here; I always have my water bottle near me. I am having a lot of fun here.
– Kaylee Puthoff

I wasn't very confident in my Spanish prior to the trip. But, with experience I have become very confident in my Spanish.  Having to speak only Spanish in my AP Spanish class was awful at the time, but it made me very prepared for translating. I have made really good friends with some people my age.  It’s been really cool.  I also sat in on the Dominican church worship team’s practice. It was unreal. Just during practice I felt God’s presence and  it was awesome.  And, my birthday was great! Tonight after dinner they brought out a cake for me with a flare on top of it that said “Felicidades”. Didn't get the experience that most people get when they turn 18, but I think mine was much better. This trip has done nothing but help the fact that I want to live on this island one day.
- Drake Heidepriem

After practicing for our song we will sing Sunday morning, some of the team decided to try and rap

Campers showing off their masterpieces

Our room full of their beautiful creations

June 20, 2016

The kids are super friendly and very interested in “Americanos.” The culture is a lot different. From the roof of our place, you can see many one room shacks as houses, and everyone is always out and about on the streets, basically spending the whole day outside. The view from the roof is spectacular, seeing the crystal clear water with the mountains in the background is just breathtaking. I’m pleasantly surprised that I am able to communicate with the kids fairly easily, and when I don’t know a word I can just point and they pick up on it. The church service was very vibrant and full of energy, and it was a great experience. Sharing the gospel while serving is a humbling and amazing experience, and I’m glad to be here.

- Carter Brand

Carter helping at art camp

The incredible revival we got to be a part of

Carter accompanying our team as we sang at the revival
Hola everyone! Today was eventful for me. We played some pretty fun basketball, volleyball, and soccer games. To motivate the girls that were playing, I told each one (individually) that they were the best ones on the team- believe it or not, it worked. Also, after translating a Bible story about Daniel and the lions’ den, I called on someone to pray out loud. Unfortunately, the person I called upon was mute. I have to hand it to her. She prayed her little heart out. And danced for us as well. I couldn’t decide whether to cry because it was so adorable and innocent, or feel bad because I called on her to talk out loud in front of a group of people. Everyone was wonderful and fun today, and we were all pretty tired at the end of the day. My heart is happy and full.
- Mackenzie
Mackenzie and her team of "all stars"

Mackenzie showing them how to play defense

The Dominicans have been so kind despite the fact that every time I try to talk to them, I completely butcher their language… (I guess 3 years of Spanish hasn't been enough).  I worked with soccer skills on Saturday and I think I’ve broken the limit of number of times anyone should say “Muy bien” in 3 hours. The breeze has been a blessing today; Sunday was quite the scorcher.
- Katie
Katie and JD working hard painting the inside of the church

Katie showing her soccer skills
Keaton and his basketball studs!

Sweet girls with Tracy at Art Camp

Sharing Jesus with the group at the end of camp

Everyone loved volleyball today

June 21, 2016

This trip has truly been one of the most heart-moving trips. From seeing the sweet and beautiful faces of the kiddos, to looking at all of what God has created. My heart is so much more appreciative of what I have now, after seeing how minimal others live. A storm occurred last night and the only things on my mind were the families that have cracks in their roof or unstable walls. It broke my heart to think how wet and cold they must be. My mission is to come back here multiple times because this is a country that is dear to my heart and I want to help it.  People say that we will change the kids’ lives, but they truly are changing ours.
– Love, Claudia

It is unbelievable the things you realize on a mission trip. No matter how many times you go on one, even if it is to the same place and you are doing the same service, you always end up learning something different every time. This time, God has chosen to show me how important of a virtue joy is in this world. He has taught me exactly how much a simple smile or “Hola” can make someone happy for even just a few seconds. You never know exactly how much those few seconds can mean to someone. For example, on this trip, I met a girl who did not remember me at all from when I came two years ago. But today, she whispered in my ear the words, “I love you” in English. I will never forget that moment for as long as I live, because it showed me that I was helping spread God’s love in an indescribable way. I want all who read this to remember how important joy is. Go out there and give someone a smile, or give someone a compliment. It will amaze you with how good it will make the both of you feel.

~Grace Dickmann

Bus ride to the beach

Claudia and her sweet group of girls

Grace and her friend, Francheska

The girls were especially competitive

The whole group at the Olympic Village