Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Update, January 25th.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve all just come in from putting the finishing touches on our Friday! So much has been done in the last three days, it’s hard to decide where to begin.
The last three days have been full of hard work, improvisation, and love. Two tangible projects have seen major advancements come to light since our last update. Several men, along with a very enduring team of Haitians, have gotten our water project to a nearly complete state, and tomorrow will allow for many final steps to be taken to facilitate clean water for the village.
There are several points of interest on this project to note. As with any project, the unknown always has a way of making planning difficult. The right people are here, not only on our team, but with our partnership with Fountains of Hope, Lifeline, and the Haitian men putting many sweat hours into the project (some, voluntarily). This led the project planner and head of Fountains of Hope to say that the system we’re installing (of the hundreds he’s done) is one of the most intricate systems he’s ever done. It’s a very impressive feat and we are bubbling with excitement for what it means for the village. At a meeting tonight with several people in the community, the project was explained, and resulted in an ovation of sorts. It’s clear we’re not the only ones excited about it.
The solar lighting project is almost all complete now, and last night several of us went out in the evening to see what activity was resulting from the installation. Kids were out in swarms! Playing games, watching each other play, interacting, etc. We can only hope that in the future it will continue to grow into a gathering place for people to come together and extend their productivity and days.
The women had their final gathering together as a bible study yesterday to a full church crowd. There were project lessons, activities, songs, and the women who came seemed very grateful for their time together. At the end of their session, the ladies were presented with a gift of some things that helped us show them that we care about them and that they’re not forgotten, as many Haitian women can feel.
Many of us have had opportunities to go to at least one, if not more than one orphanage over the last couple of days. Living situations for children in these orphanage settings vary greatly, depending on where they are at. At some locations we visited, it was obvious the kids were cared for, loved, and looked forward to our presence. Unfortunately at one we visited yesterday, we had quite the opposite experience, a very stressful and difficult situation that left many of us feeling defeated, overwhelmed, upset, and frustrated. We have committed that location to much prayer, and specifically the man in charge of that location, that his heart may be convicted to take better care of the children he’s responsible for. Today he was brought to our group at lunch, to apologize for how our visit went. We continue to pray for him, and his ministry.
Today also provided us an opportunity to visit two additional orphanages, and distribute the wonderful KidsWorld Children's Ministry supplies that had been collected over the Christmas season. It’s hard to explain to you the pure joy that radiates from these children when they are given these “goodies.” Adorable voices saying “thank-you,” “I love you,” and “you are my friend” just melt your heart. They’re each so precious.
Many other projects have been accomplished too, from adding additional solar lighting to dark stairways, to fixing screens in windows, caulking gaps in the window frames, screening in one of the feeding centers, fixing computers, applying stucco to a new dormitory at an orphanage, and fixing the block making machine to get it back to a good working order. It is the end of our Friday, and a lot has been accomplished. Tomorrow we will put the finishing touches on many projects. Many team members will take tours of a local market, and of Port-Au-Prince, to witness what life there is like for many Haitians that aren’t touched by the hands of Lifeline. For those of us who went before, this is a touching excursion that really puts into perspective the extremes at which poverty in a third world countries exist.
Sunday we look forward to spending time together in worship at the church here at Lifeline, and then venturing off to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation after a week of hard work. That afternoon can tend to be a difficult one to let ourselves indulge in, but it remains a valuable part of the trip, to remind us that there are so many beautiful sides to this nation, past the hardships that are faced daily. And Monday we travel home, already!
I will hope to update at least once more before we depart. We continue to appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement. We pray you all remain well at home too.
-Tim, for the group.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Welcome (back) to Haiti

We can feel your prayers from Haiti!
The team from River Oaks Community Church, Goshen, IN, united at 1:30am EST Monday morning (Sunday night?) to do final suitcase arrangement and packing, and we were on the road by 2:00am, many of us not having slept a wink. Some were able to catch some shuteye in the van ride to O’Hare, but for almost all of us, the excitement kept us awake and energized until we arrived.
Check-in at the airport also went smoothly. Our team brought down 30 checked bags full of supplies and donated materials. Simply awesome! The downtime after check-in gave us yet another time to rest a little bit before we boarded. Our original flight schedule allowed us to have a perfect 2 hour layover in Fort Lauderdale, but that quickly dwindled down to a 15 minute crunch time after sitting at the gate in Chicago as the maintenance teams diagnosed our “engine failure.” Lucky for us, the good staff at American Airlines had us on their radar, and they held the plane when we landed and rushed to the gate next door for our second flight. Miraculously, the baggage handlers got all 30 of our less-than-light suitcases on the plane in that short amount of time as well. Praise the Lord!
Our first evening in Haiti got the team acquainted with the delicious dinners we are to be spoiled with all week long, and allowed many of us to finally get some quality sleep in. Many of us came armed with white noise and earplugs to drown out the friendly roosters and trusty (but loud) guard dogs.
Today began with a quick breakfast and tour of the grounds. For those of us who were here in November, it was rewarding to see what has changed and what progress has been made on projects we helped with last time. Some things we found quite surprising as well, such as the mostly dried up river (rainy season begins in a month or so), the impressive structure in place for the new orphanage, and a wonderful new detour on the way to Lifeline that shortened our airport trip by 20-30 minutes. Oh, and speaking of the airport, a brand new baggage return area and immigration center opened recently, making the airport experience a less scary environment to land in. I digress.
After lunch, the ladies had their first bible study session and were overly excited to see around ~40 Haitian women in attendance. They will continue their time with them on Thursday, and remain excited to continue spreading the word and showing their love with activities, songs, and crafts.
Many of the men started on several projects and planning for a run into Port-Au-Prince to buy the remaining supplies we need for our water project. The lighting system is mostly installed already, and the goal of fixing the concrete block making machinery saw some positive first steps taken as well.
Lets not forget the loving on children that has happened as well. For those of us who’ve returned, our hearts were filled to see familiar faces and hear our names belted from the gate. Several of us who have started sponsoring children eagerly dispersed gifts of clothing, food, and toys today. The glow on their faces was brighter than 5 Christmases combined.
Many who are making the trip for first time had children quickly take their hands, legs, shoulders and arm hairs, on our walk into the village and were already wondering how many of them they could sneak back with us. The first timers have also been making observations about the differences they are noticing since arriving here. Many of these are very familiar to those of us who are returning, and we enjoyed discussing some of these together during our meal and devotional times this evening.

I’ve written quite a bit, so I’ll leave you with Matthew 25:35-40, as shared to us tonight during our devotional time by Donald Curtis, the president of Children’s Lifeline, who is along on our trip.
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
We look forward to serving the least of these over the next week, and will continue to update you as we can. Many thanks for the prayers and messages of support. We feel so loved by you all.
Tim, for the team.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our Final Day

January 19, 2013

We have reached the end of our Haiti mission, and we finished it off in grand style. After an early morning devotion at the cross for some of our team members, we "experienced" the Haitian market.   Although we did not stop to patronize the locals, we did get an up close and personal view of an important facet of Haitian life. Following our walk through the market, we visited the "basket lady" and   bought some souvenirs to add a splash of Haitian to our living rooms and the homes of loved ones. We then headed back to the mission to barter with the extremely talented Haitian artisans. The craftsmanship on these pieces was outstanding (especially when you consider the primitive instruments  that many have to construct these works of art), and we enjoyed browsing through the various paintings and hand-crafted objects to again bring a bit of Haiti back to display in the states. We also had the opportunity to buy some items from some of the young men and women that we spent many hours this week. They had woven bracelets, small bags and purses, and various other collectables, and it was truly hard to say "no" to any of them after developing the relationships with them over the past nine days. Following a quick lunch, we headed to the beach for a little fun in the Caribbean and dinner at the resort restaurant. We had a great time snorkeling, lounging in the ocean and pool, and some just read quietly or dozed off as the waves broke at our feet. After working up an appetite, our dinner was dashed with some Haitian spice as we enjoyed entrees such as chicken, lobster, fish and shrimp. It was a great way to cap a memorable week as we talked with one another and sampled the Haitian cuisine. Next, we headed back to the mission and said some goodbyes to many of the young men that we have spent time with this week. These special children of God are bright and talented in various respects, and with the continued support of those who can contribute, these individuals will have an opportunity to have productive lives in a country that is in desperate need of community leadership. This is why it is so important that we continue to help individuals, who without the assistance of outside commitment, do not have the opportunity to help themselves. We have seen this first hand this week, and it makes you want to continue the work you started to provide the necessary components to equip these young people with the tools they need to care for their families. The work and the education that is being administered in Haiti is encouraging in some areas, but the efforts need to continue for days to come. The adversity faced by this group of individuals cannot be conquered in a short span, and must be aggressively dealt with on a daily basis. After all, Jesus reached out to those who were less fortunate in many Biblical examples, and it is our Christian duty to continue his work here on earth today. Overall, it was a great nine days and we can honestly say that we left Haiti better than we found it!        

Friday, January 18, 2013


It is night number three for our Haiti blog, and we experienced another epic day on our last work shifts of the week. The medic crew were in heaven on earth today as they spent the morning in the OB Clinic  with forty-eight pregnant mommies (*unfortunately they did not get their wish of delivering a baby yet, but four mommies could deliver very soon and they could be called out this evening or tomorrow), while the guys were either working in Barbencourt on the orphanage dorms, or doing projects around the mission. The morning was also blessed again with the visit of six of Mary Jane and Randy's sponsor children. Each of these occasions have been special moments this week and we look forward to the final visits tomorrow morning. In the afternoon we experienced a first for all of the mission team members as we traveled through the village on foot and shared in prayer with many of the Haitians who live close to the mission. This was a special way to end our work week as we cared for those who were injured and provided food for those in need. The most remarkable part of the journey was the way that many of the Haitians wanted us to continue to pray for our own well-being and the safety of others who may be able to extend their hearts by sending love offerings to this adversity filled country where Christianity is on the rise. We ended our venture by sharing some treats with the group of children who followed us during the entire trek through the village. This affection shown by the children was always a highlight of each day and we never were tired of feeling the warmth and compassion that the children showed us. Following a wonderful dinner, we spent time at the "Cross on the Hill" in evening devotion  and put a cap on the work week by sharing some of favorite moments from the day. It has been an awesome week and we look forward to some rest and relaxation at the beach tomorrow. Thank you for all those who have followed and prayed for our trip this week, and although we will miss our experiences in Haiti, I know I can speak for everyone and say that we are excited about being reunited with our loved ones on Sunday. I would especially like to take this time to thank my wife, Jennifer, who is responsible for me being a part of this mission team. This was truly a dream come true and I would like to thank my beautiful wife from the bottom of my heart!

Michael, Randy, Mary Jane, Shelby, Jayme, Coty, Jill, Morgan, Kurt, Miranda, MaKenna, Jim, Katrina, Kyle

Thursday, January 17, 2013

everyone needs a little soul!

January 17, 2013

On the heels of our first blog last evening, we had another great experience today as we visited two orphanages in the morning and then headed to a school in the afternoon to spend some time with two more of our sponsored children (one of Randy and Mary Jane's and one of Michael' kids). At the first stop, we witnessed some great work being done by the teachers at a small orphanage of 18 students. The kids were in pretty good health and the small teacher to student ratio was very noticeable in the kids' smiles and their willingness to interact with us in song and dance. Our second stop saw a much different scene as approximately 45 kids and staff members were a little less well off, but the kids truly enjoyed the time that we spent with them playing soccer, jumping rope, and passing tennis ball following their checkups. Our final stop of the day was highlighted by meeting our sponsor children and spending time with the entire school of faculty and students. We were also blessed by the presence of a neighborhood lady who came in and added a little soul to our Bible School songs with the children. We danced, clapped, and sang with emotion and we all left feeling the presence of God in our hearts.  We finished the day with dinner and evening devotion and completed another productive day in Haiti. ***We were also very blessed to have the opportunity to give a love offering to a Haitian mother who did not have the money to bury her baby son. With the money we collected, she was able to give him to our Lord in a proper and respectful manner. Please continue to keep the Haitian community and our group in your thoughts and prayers, and we hope all of you are doing well at home. God Bless.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Message from Haiti 1/16/2013

The team has been in Haiti for 6 days now, and in that amount of days so much has happened.  Many of us have been here multiple times and others it is their first, and the 14 members of this group couldn't have been a better group of people.

On the morning of January 15, there was a little 20 month old baby boy, Woodson, that was in desperate need of medical attention. The baby was brought to the Lifeline clinic by his 17 year old mother and all our team members wanted to reach out and help instantly. At 7:30 in the morning our team ran to the clinic to do everything we could possibly do to save this baby. It's extremely difficult to put into words how our hearts just ached seeing the baby in a terrible medical state, but our minds went into medical mode and we did what we needed to do. The baby had kwashiorkor, which is a protein deficiency causing extreme dehydration. The baby was lethargic and could barely move for us. We provided care and oral fluids and were trying to find a way to start an IV on this baby (he was very dehydrated and we could not find a vein).  At that moment we began praying for God to move and show us what to do next. About 2 minutes after our short prayers, they were answered.  The doctor that runs the clinic arrived and made the decision to send the baby to a nearby hospital. When our team left the baby we knew that we had done everything we could do.  Unfortunately about an hour and a half after the baby arrived at the hospital, he passed away.  During this difficult time, our team was there for each other and there was so much support and love among the members.

The baby that passed away was very close in age to my first child. Carter will be 2 in February and this baby was 20 months. When I heard that the baby had passed away I was heartbroken and a little mad. All I could think about was "What if we had done this or what if we had done that" and I was then reminded that God had a plan for that child's life and the plan was fulfilled. I think that it is so hard for us as Americans to accept this because we have gotten in the mindset that we are the ones that are in control, when in reality we are not. I believe that there was a reason that Woodson was brought to us- for me at least, it was to break my heart so that I would never forget this experience. So that I would not forget that God's people are everywhere- not just in America. God tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us and will walk with us daily and I find comfort in that in times like this. Maybe people think that coming to Haiti will change the people of Haiti and to a certain degree, that is true. But, for me coming to Haiti has changed me. I see these people that have nothing and they are thankful to God. They praise His name and thank Him and give Him all the glory. This is how I will live my life now- I believe that we all have something to learn from the people that live in Haiti and I am eager to continue learning from these people and to see what else God has in store for us this week. My heart has been set on fire and I know that without a shadow of a doubt- I will be back to this country. - Shelby Bond

As I entered the country of Haiti, I had heard many stories about a group of people who fight through adversity on a daily basis to try and provide a living for their families. I can honestly say, after being here for the last five days, these stories were not exaggerated. But the point I want to emphasize the most in regard to this situation is the humility and positive outlook that they show on a daily basis despite their insurmountable odds. The kids that we have seen in the mission, outside in the orphanages, and even in the hospital, have a light in them that shines right through their smiling faces. You cannot help from being touched by their loving personalities as you hold and spend time with them.

On the other hand, it is very difficult to think that many of these young children are going to be hard pressed to achieve a normal lifestyle in the coming days, but you wake up each day and go give them your heart and know that they are better off after the time you spend with them. I also want to point out the remarkable group that I am sharing these experiences with. These individuals have a genuine love for people and dedicate their lives to serving others. The time we share in the mission field and back at the house in the evening is truly special and the memories will remain with me for many days to come. So after caring for the kids and their families, playing with them in various settings, and spending time with my mission team, this experience has truly been rewarding and I look forward to seeing how the rest of the trip will unfold. By the way, meeting one of my adopted Haitian children was awesome this morning. Guelson's smile lit up the front porch, and it is memories like this that show me I am in the right place and that the Lord is good and has his plan for us in Haiti! God Bless! - Michael Estep

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11.

Randy, Mary Jane, Miranda, MaKenna, Katrina, Jim, Michael, Kyle, Coty, Jayme, Shelby, Jill, Morgan, and Kurt