Tag Archives: help

Haiti 2.0

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I returned from Haiti late Saturday evening and am still “recovering” from the trip. “Re-entry” is a funny thing, though I’m glad to be home in lovely Austin with my family, I ache to be in Haiti with the other side of my family as well. It’s more than a mission trip or learning journey now. It’s going home, seeing family, seeing how the kids have grown and changed, catching up on the past year’s events. Water to my soul.

We arrived Saturday afternoon after delays and barely catching flights. Brennon (who had been in Africa directly beforehand) & Dario (HELP staff in Haiti) met us at the airport to take us up the mountain to Pastor Jean Alix’s. The change in the airport alone is ridiculous. Last year we rode from the plane to the airport in a stuffy bus and went through a small, chaotic baggage claim/customs area. This year we walked from plane to customs in a nice air conditioned airport. Not nearly as chaotic as last year getting to the bus outside but there are still the guys that clamor to carry your bag to your transportation for a tip. We noticed on the trip up how so much more rebuilding has taken place as well. Amazing.

Our next day started bright and early with a church service at Yaveh Shamma. In the 4 walls of an actual church on the grounds! We walked in and I was in awe of all of the construction going on. Construction from The Legacy Project that raised funds for a proper school in place of tents is in full swing! We walked into the service and were able to sing along a bit while I tried to dry the tears. Some of the kids noticed us and kept peeking at as during the service while we marveled at how much they had grown. Right after, they started making their way over. Beautiful Kettlie remembered me immediately and came to give hugs. I didn’t see him coming, but I looked down and there was my Anchelo, pushing his way to me. Little love pushed his way through and jumped in my arms and gave me what might be the best hug of my life to date. He held on and I tried not to weep uncontrollably. (Sort of succeeded.) He ran off and made his rounds after that. I already loved this boys before that day, but goodness, if he didn’t enlarge & permanently seal his spot in my heart right then. My heart hurts a little writing about him and not being able to sit and play with him.

If this post had a moral to it and wasn’t just me rambling of my love for Haiti & the partnership of Help One Now, I think it’s this: Sponsor a child through Help One Now. (Not even mentioning James 1:27.) Even if you never get to meet them, even if you only ever get to send money & the occasional letter & photos. You will help change a life, a community, a future. You will have someone in another country that loves you and thanks God for you, someone who pours over your letters & photographs & passes them around for their friends to see. And if you do get to meet them, maybe you’ll get a hug that will threaten to bring you to your knees & they’ll hold your hand and cherish the time you have together. It’s beautiful and amazing to be part of someone’s life that’s so far away.

These pictures are from Monday when he got a good running start to jump to me all over again. Love that Andrea was right there to capture it.

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I’m going back to Haiti!!!

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Last year I went to Haiti on a mission trip learning journey/pilgrimage with New City and Help One Now. I was on board the first day I heard Jacob 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 I wanted to say “Hola” to everyone I saw. I’ve only ever been to Spanish-speaking countries before so I was even more out of my element than normal. This was a good thing, it allowed me to hang back and observe some, figure things out a little, before jumping in thinking I’ve got it.

We covered a lot while in Haiti…Finish reading here

I apparently only blog regularly when I am out of the country, so I will be posting what we are up to here!

Want to help me get there?

If you would like to make the check out to me, I have a friend that is able to match the funds dollar for dollar! Comment or find me here and I’ll send you my address! You can also give directly through PayPal here. (PayPal will take 2.9% + $0.30 of the donation.) Or you can also make out checks to HELP and send them to: PO Box 26716, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Want to go with me? Check out the info here!

It’s Generous Tuesday!

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Two highway exits from home Thanksgiving night and we see the long line of cars snaking around to get into the parking lots of the shopping center. Justin and I have a short discussion about the most we’ve ever spent on Christmas. I inwardly pondered when I stopped caring whether I received presents or not. For the past few years I remember telling Justin that I don’t care if he doesn’t get me anything for Christmas, birthdays, etc. 98% of the time he doesn’t listen to me. He loves to give me things and I appreciate the care he puts into finding me something useful and from the heart. If he wants to get me something, that’s up to him, it just doesn’t change how I feel for him if he doesn’t.

To be able to buy Christmas presents for friends and family is a blessing that I have not always had, so I love getting the opportunity. But I don’t hate remembering the times I couldn’t afford it. It taught me how much I valued things more than I should, how I was lost at the idea of walking into my parent’s house with nothing more than a tin of baked goods. It felt strange at first, but it was still a beautiful day, wonderful time spent with family and friends. So, I couldn’t buy gifts at Christmas and the world didn’t end. It’s silly how often I try to fill the longing inside with stuff and more stuff. We were created with a longing spirit, a longing only satisfied with God’s presence in our lives.
I’m not writing this to preach to anyone about consumerism or greed or my distaste for Black Friday. I’ve been on my fair share of Black Friday adventures. I simply had a moment on Thanksgiving night. Minutes after seeing the lines of cars, we pulled off onto our exit. Sitting at the red light, a man came over and started washing our windshield. I never seem to carry cash on me, but Justin, thankfully, had some on him. He dug in his pockets and gave me $2 to hand to the man. He gave us the hugest smile, “Thank you! That was just what I needed.” He pointed at Justin and smiled and thanked us again before he was finished. Now, living in Austin, seeing someone on the street corner is pretty common, but my reaction to this man was not common for me. I sat there fighting back the tears as the stark contrast of the shopping center and this street corner sank in. He was so genuinely happy for the few dollars we gave him while cash registers were being filled beyond capacity for gifts that, in great part, will statistically be returned to that very store on Dec. 26 or forgotten by February. Again, don’t get me wrong, I fully plan on Christmas shopping soon, I’m a consumer too. It was just this brief moment in time where it was so clear, the want vs. need. It was a personal reminder of the need to be more responsible and compassionate with my money. Like a friend of mine who is asking that in lieu of gifts, her friends and family give to HELP’s Legacy Project or Justin giving 20% of his etsy sales to Russell and Elora’s adoption. Meeting God in our giving, longing momentarily satisfied.
On a related note, today is Generous Tuesday, so head on over to Pure Charity, set up an account and give back with the money you were already planning on spending this Christmas season and find a few things to give to while you’re there.

Kristen Howerton‘s Occupy Christmas

Haiti: Day 7

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Day 7

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.

Haiti: Days 5 & 6-part 1

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Haiti: Days 5 & 6-part 1

Day 5

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.

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You can read Day 6 part 2 here because its a little out of order

Julia & Jean

Craft Time

Dario

Whislyn

Me & Naji

Nehemie, Me, Rosebeene, Anchelo

Brennon & Anchelo

Ge’thro

Haiti: Days 1 & 2

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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!