I was on board the first day I heard our pastor, Jacob Vanhorn of Soma Austin, mention the trip to Haiti! I was excited to get out of the country and get more involved with Help One Now. I didn’t know what to expect and when I arrived…
Sunday was a beautiful, windy day! We spent the morning in Spirit of Truth Church in Guibert. (Sounds like Gee-Bear) Pastor Jean-Alix Paul translated for our Pastor, Jacob Vanhorn, for a really good word on adoption, physical and spiritual. Before speaking they introduced each one us. We stood, took a little applause and sat. Except me, I stood, took a little applause, sat, was told to stand back up as I understood the words “pitit fi” and “CJ Rich.” He was saying I was CJ’s daughter-in-law. CJ worked for Hope for the Hungry and with Jean-Alix for years, and is the one who introduced HELP to Jean-Alix. There was much applause for that!
Before that though was a time worship. I found myself praying through the time as it was obviously in a foreign language and it was easy to let my mind wander since I could not understand anything. I found myself overwhelmed by God’s sweet presence and couldn’t do much but sink to my knees, pray, but mostly weep. I couldn’t – and still can’t – fully articulate what was happening at that time. I do know a big part of it was God doing some things in my heart I had been praying for. It felt almost as though he was freeing up some space in my heart for things He wanted to put there.
Let’s back up some. About a month or so before we left for Haiti, I woke up on a Sunday morning not feeling so hot, it was more emotional than physical, but I summed it up as, “I don’t feel well” and stayed home from church that day. I got up and thought I would get some cleaning done or anything that didn’t require thinking. I turned Spotify on and All Sons and Daughters’ “Reason to Sing” came on. Well, goodness. Here’s a little excerpt…
When I’m overcome by fear
And I hate everything I know
If this waiting lasts forever
I’m afraid I might let go
I’m afraid I might let go
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing
If there be a victory
Will you sing it over me now
Your peace is the melody
Will you sing it over me now
If there be a victory
Will you sing it over me now
Oh Lord, your peace is the melody
Will you sing it over me now
Well, not much cleaning got done that morning. I sat in front of my computer and played the song over and over until I knew all the words and was all stuffy from weeping through them. I’d like to say that I had been seeking God everyday and was waiting on Him for answers or something like that. Well, that’s just not the case. For as long as I can remember I’d been working under the ridiculous assumption that I could get where I am going on my own. Of course I’m thankful for the cross, but I viewed it as a jumping off point for me. No me and God, me and Jesus, me and community, just me. So, inevitably, I felt claustrophobic by the walls I put up around myself. I couldn’t see/hear/feel God, or maybe I just couldn’t recognize Him. I couldn’t see where I needed or even wanted to go from there. I felt alone and I’m the one who put myself there. I prayed and wept more and asked God to forgive me for being so silly and selfish.
I had the realization that I had crossed some things off my life list that I knew I could not accomplish by myself. Adopting was one of them. I hadn’t admitted that to anyone, not even fully to myself. I talked about it like it was happening, with no real driving force behind it to make it happen. So I was carrying around this pain of letting something go that didn’t even need to be. I never consciously thought, “I can only do this with God, so I won’t even try,” it just kind of slipped in and took hold. Adoption hurts, its long and drawn out and messy. I admitted just the night before how I don’t like to get into the mess of life. But, like I said the night before, that’s not where life happens, that’s not where true beauty is, where Jesus is. And come on, trying to stay out of the mess of life is not possible, by even trying you just create other messes.
After the weeping, there was some peace, some hope. Fast forward back to Haiti. I had been fighting to stay truly present as it is a defense mechanism of mine to hide and not let the pain in. By God’s grace, I stayed fully present and took it all in and was overwhelmed. But it was okay, because I wasn’t trying to deal with it on my own. I wasn’t trying to handle Jacky’s swollen belly, or the little baby turned away from the hospital to later die of dehydration. We’re not equipped to handle it all, we’re equipped to lean into a loving Heavenly Father for comfort, strength and grace. We’re equipped to work towards a solution for these things. We’re equipped to seek Him, follow Him, in whatever hard or easy situation He deems us worthy of.
Day 5 was another building day, sort of. Austin decided that we should take shifts since there wasn’t a lot for us to do without getting in the way at this point. So I took to the pick ax for a few minutes and then didn’t have anything else to do. So I found a spot in the shade and started some much needed journaling. After a while, Nelson made his way over. He was cutting some rebar for the house and struck up a conversation with us. He lived down the road and was helping out. He loves music and asked me if I knew a song and before I could answer asked me to sing it. I’m a little weird in that I don’t mind getting up in front of a crowd and singing loud into a mic, but ask me to sing out on the side of the road and I clam up. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I shifted the spotlight to Andrea and she gladly obliged. They were singing worship songs then Eagles, then Madonna. He asked if we knew a certain Celine Dion and we all drew a blank. He found it for me on his phone to educate me. It was a sweet time of just hanging out and chatting about random stuff.
After lunch we decided to go find this waterfall our fearless Dario told us about. All us poor little white girls trying to walk down the side of this mountain was pretty funny looking. But we made it without incident! We hung out, some fell in, Jay Louis caught a crab, fun was had by all! My favorite part was meeting Whislyn. (I’m 100% guessing at the spelling, it sounds like Whistlin’.) She was washing her clothes when we arrived and when she was finishing up, I was walking by and gave a polite “Bonswa.” She immediately started talking to me, and since I know very very limited Kreyol, I had to ask Sylvestre to come over. She was shy and didn’t really want to talk to him. So I just tried to act like he wasn’t there and the translation was coming out of the air. I found out that she is 10 years old and lived up and over the hill, so she had to take her laundry back on her head over that hill. She was beautiful and strong and so very sweet.
We started our way back up and unlike some people, I took my dear sweet time. I might have been pretending to take in the scenery while I was really just catching my breath. Pretty sure it was obvious what I was doing. But hey, I made it back up. I was exhausted by the end of it all, but it was fun and beautiful scenery for sure.
Later that night, after cleaning up, we were just sitting around hanging out. Julia found the Sarah McLachlan song, In the Arms on the Angel, and started playing it. We immediately started talking about the overly sad ASPCA commercials and how unbearable they are. That got us to talking about the “fly in the eye” child support commercials that are as equally unbearable to watch. If you don’t know, I have nothing against supporting children and feeding the hungry, I do have some issue with the, as Jonathan Olinger calls it, “development pornography” that they pass off as innocent footage. Anywho! Austin, in his best sympathetic commercial voice, started talking…”Angelo just wants to dance, but he can’t because he’s malnourished, but there you go eating your dinner in front of the tv, piggie, and Angelo still can’t dance. 1-800-AngeloWantstoDance.” Oh. My. Lord. As slap happy as we were, I lost my mind for a minute. (Not Brennon, he was contemplating stepping away before the lightning struck. haha)
I think this was the night that Brennon taught us a new card game. He proceeded to slaughte…wait, I don’t want to talk about this anymore. 😉
Day 6 – Part 1
Saturday was my most anticipated day of the trip! We were scheduled to do crafts and play with the children of Yaveh Shamma, Pastor Gaetan’s school and orphanage. On the way there, we stopped off to pick up some supplies. We ended up with construction paper, colored cardstock, coloring sheets, crayons, markers, colored pencils, water color paints, and glitter glue! I kept seeing things I wanted to get and take with us. The kids went through all of the papers before we left, they had a blast. We had a great time too. After being there for a little while, being clung to by sweet little arms, I asked one little boys his name. “”Mwen rele Anchelo.” I think I let out a little over excited “Hi!!!” He was excited too! I had to make sure everyone knew his name. It was too sweet and he clung to me and a few others over the course of the day. (Not gonna lie, we even got him to dance, after Austin danced first!) Nehemie, Rosebeene and Anchelo were my little tagalongs for a good part of the day and it was too much fun. I really truly tried to soak every minute of it up. Pretty sure I got annoying with all the picture taking, but oh well!
We also had an incredible meal there that day. Crazy good chicken and man that sauce over the rice. God is good. Amen.
The lot of us that were joking about the commercials did decide this was too good of an opportunity and we now sponsor Anchelo through HELP. You should check out the page. All of HELP’s sponsorships are through trustworthy sources.
You can read Day 6 part 2 here because its a little out of order
Wednesday was a lighter day as we went to the art market and heard a lot of “Come and see, you buy, for you a sweet bargain.” I bought a really beautiful black and white painting for a man who kept saying, “I don’t want to suck your blood, I give you a good price.” He made me laugh and won my business. I spent a fair amount of time down at the lookout in part because it was beautiful, also in part to get away from the nagging to buy things. It was quite interesting to see how close we really were to the airport though it takes so long to get there because of the terrible roads and tons of people on them.
Lunch was by far the most interesting meal of the trip, including Jacob making the whole fish dance a little and talk to us on the plate. 🙂 We went to Epidor, an “American” type restaurant. I got a chicken nuggets combo, only to bite into it and hope to God that I was only eating goat. I dunked it in the BBQ sauce and ketchup and just didn’t look at it. 🙂
We went from there to the Baptist Haiti Mission where I bought some Mountain Maid “very gourmet” vanilla. Yeah, put a little of that in your Rebo (Haitian coffee) and you’ll be in Heaven. The BHM is helping families from having to move to the city to make a living. There was also a Tea Terrace where you could eat and lookout over the mountains. Just gorgeous.
We visited one our translators orphanages. Rodney was an orphan that is grown and wants to take in orphans. The sweet children sang for us. I was too slow with the camera to get the Kreyol singing, but I did get the other songs at least!
We finished the night out with a little Phase 10 that erupted into Austin and Brennon vowing to never play again. Brennon may have some deep seeded wounds that will take time and prayer to heal. Allison schooled us all and it was hilariously frustrating! This night solidified my growing affection for Austin, Julia, Brennon and Allison. They are hilarious, passionate and just plain fun to be around.
We made our way down the rocky “road” to help build a house for a family that lost theirs in the earthquake. We were to do the manual labor and let the paid workers do the skilled labor. So we filled buckets with water, broke down the mound of rock and sand to shovel and sift it so they could make concrete. It was some serious work but it was crazy fun. I kinda loved taking the pick ax to the hill. I was stress free after that! Marlow warned us that Evins, one of our translators, didn’t like watching girls work so he would try to do it for us the whole time. He wasn’t kidding! Evins was so sweet, he kept telling us that we could take a break and he would do it. I learned to just go up, give him a little hug and a big smile and say it was my turn. He obliged and I learned that I have muscles in my shoulders that I’m not sure ever get worked. I ended the day by chilling out with the neighbor’s little girl. She came to where I was sitting and we quietly played for over half an hour. It was a great day!
Yeah, I went from days 1 & 2 to Day 6, pt. 2, and I’ll go back and fill in the rest later, but I had to get this out of me first.
We just returned from visiting the God’s Littlest Angels orphanages. I. Just. I just am not sure what to say.
Let me just stop right here to say that I am in awe of the owner, Dixie. She runs GLA and is just amazing. More on that later!
First we went to the toddler house that received most of the new children. My, oh my, were there a lot of kids there! They were not accepting more children before this, but opened their doors for this tragic situation. We were greeted by Joyce, one of the women that moved here when she was 20 and has been here for the past 10 years. She gave us some pointers and let us hang out with the kids while they played. We immediately had little hands grabbing at us to hold them but most of the new kids were sitting to the side, unwilling to play or have anything to do with us. Jacky, pictured below, was a different case; he grabbed me right away. There are few things more gut wrenching than picking up a sweet little boy and having his swollen belly meet you first. He laid his head down on my shoulder and I was done for. I held him the entire time we were there. I tried to put him down for a minute but he begged to be picked back up, so I held him until it was time to go. I spent a few minutes sitting on the ground with him until I was getting my hair pulled by all the kids playing with it. I put him down to go inside and get my things and he followed by holding my shirt tail until he hit the off limits area and waited until I came back. I picked him one more time to give him a hug and a kiss and say “orevwa.” His smile was infectious and beautiful, and I will not likely forget it.
We then took a little drive to the infant house where they are equipped to medically care for the babies. The drive itself was an adventure as the roads were too rough for the van. Some of us got into the GLA car and rode there while a few stayed in the van and Jacob and iron-woman Jamie walked/ran. We arrived to little cuties in their pajamas and met Dixie. What a woman. She spoke the truth of where the children came from and of some of the rumors she had heard but spoke it in love. Dixie told us that she wants to find the families that she can after making sure they are all healthy. Since the children are being sponsored she would offer to pay for school if that would get the children back to their families. Beautiful. She then took us upstairs to see the rooms and some of the many babies. (We asked one of the workers how many, she just smiled and said “a lot.”) Then we met Daubens, pictured below, who is said to be 6 months old, but they think is older and was the size of an infant. He is pictured below but he already looks a little better than in his picture just after a week. He was being held the whole time we were there, which is just as important to these babies who were so neglected for so long. We saw some of the other rooms and were again begged to hold sweet little cuddlers. Which, of course, I couldn’t refuse and that became a problem when we needed to go as she threw an all out fit and hung on to my leg for dear life. Yeah, I wanted to just keep her.
The one thing that stood out to me was the way Dixie was more than willing to get down in the mess of life to pull these kids out of a tragic situation and give them a future. If that’s not the gospel, I don’t know what is. It also shed light on my own unwillingness to do the same. I would sooner try and stay out of the mess, but that’s not where life happens, thats not where true beauty is, where Jesus is.
This situation is tragic and beautiful, devestating yet hopeful. Through many generous people & Jen Hatmaker and HELP tweeting and sharing on Facebook, the last I heard, over $10,000 was raised and almost all of the kids are triple sponsored! (Who says social media’s silly?) If you would like to sponsor any of these beautiful children, go here. You won’t regret it.
We arrived in Haiti yesterday after a long day of travel. (I’m having trouble remembering that was only yesterday.) We were greeted with a band playing as we walked to customs and as we walked back outside, I was greeted by a man who wanted to help me carry my rolling bag, so he thought he’d hold the bag with me for a second. 🙂 We arrived to a friend of my Father in Law’s, Jean Alix Paul, in Kenscoff after a nice long ride up the mountain. What a sweet family and what great food!
Tuesday was a packed day of meeting people that Help One Now and Soma work with here in Haiti. Pastor Gaetan’s school was the first stop. Some of the children were on recess when we arrived and they immediately came to say hi and giggle and play until the bell rang. We were allowed some time with Pastor Gaetan to hear his heart and vision and ask some questions of him. He started by thanking us for giving time and money to his school. A man who has 30 children in his care full time and almost 200 being taught and fed was thanking us for all we do. I donated to Help’s fundraiser for a playground there and was excited to see the plot of land where the new playground is going to go.
Pastor Gaetan has such a heart for these kids and a vision and faith that is so humbling and encouraging in my own life. Before we left he prayed for us and let us pray for him. It was a truly sweet exchange.
We had lunch with Junior Bataille, a very smart, passionate man with a heart to see Haiti restored. He shared a lot about helping and hurting that missionaries do. It was good conversation, a lot to process, too much for this blog post. 🙂 We are not here to show the Haitians how to do things, but to learn, assist and support their growth and renewal.
After that we went to the International Lifeline Federation’s headquarters here in Haiti. ILF makes and sells fuel effecient stoves. 1 stove can save 6 trees and $234 dollars a year in cooking costs. My Pastor, Jacob, wants to be more I evolved in this for upcoming projects.
We then visited with Pastor St Cyr who pastors a church in the largest tent city in Haiti, it still holds 22,000 people now. He told us of his vision for his people, how God wanted his people to know that he did not send the earthquake for judgment on them. We were greeted with differing emotions driving through the tent city, understandably some people are just tired of seeing white folks driving through looking at their misfortune. Others, however were more than sweet and happy to see us. We had church right there in the tent city. We had some hoppin worship and the Pastor, Jacob and Barclay (one of our team members) shared and we were able to mingle a little with the church members who were so sweet. I forgot that I was standing in the middle of the tent city for a few minutes. It was crazy to see the tents up close, but it was great to have chruch with some Haitian family.
We finished the night out with more good food and a little slap happy Phase 10 where I learned the following things: that Jacob and Austin are more hilarious to be around than I even originally thought, I heart Julia, Brennan totally digs my playlist and though there are many things he doesn’t do doesn’t do, he will let dinosaur moths in the house to look at them closer and Laura totally gets the concept of Phase 10. 🙂
2 days in and already a great trip. Looking forward to the rest!
I’m going on a trip that I’ve wanted to take for a long time. Lord willing, on June 4th I will board a plane and be on my way to Haiti!
I will be going with Help One Now, formerly Help End Local Poverty, and other members of Soma Austin Community Church. I am so excited as we will be helping to build a house, get information on new children for the Help One Now child sponsorships, visiting the largest Tent City and more! (I am also totally looking forward to the food and coffee!)
I am asking any and all to pray for all of us going on the trip, that we would bring in all necessary funds to go, that God will prepare our hearts to serve and love, and that we would be a blessing to those we come into contact with.
(Wait, did this blog post just turn into a support letter? Why yes, yes it did.)
I am also asking you to prayerfully consider donating to this trip to make going a real possibility. The total cost of the trip itself is $2100.
$800 of it is due this month and I cant do this on my own. (Update: I need about $700 more to meet my goal!) Its pretty great that we’re not really called to do much on our own though.
If you would like to donate right this second, you can! Click here to make a donation through Paypal. (Please note that Paypal charges 3%, so add 3% if you are looking to donate a specific amount.) Or you can send checks to Help End Local Poverty at
Help End Local Poverty
PO Box 26716
Raleigh, NC 27611
Thank you for taking the time to read this, pray and give.
I will more than likely post a few blog posts on this trip after I return. So be on the lookout for them!