6.26.2011

Remember that time we went to Haiti?

It’s been about a month and a half since we came back from Haiti and I am just now getting around to putting the video together. It has been a wild month and a half to say the least.

I also neglected to post a summary of our last day in Haiti (I have taken much grief for this). So we’ll start there with a quick recap of the last day.

As you may remember, we had just about run the island out of materials so our productivity dropped considerably. We were able to track down enough material to build a more permanent and more functional dining hall for Roody’s camp. He made a more long-term commitment while we were there and was really in need of a better dining arrangement for future groups. So, while half of us build that, the other half of the group decided they would go put the last 4 pieces of plywood up on a house that needed to be finished. Four hours later, they pull back into the camp and had to shake the sand out of their boots from their excursion to the beach that they decided was too tempting to pass up. Funny how that worked out so well for them. The afternoon was mostly just a time to tie up any loose ends and clean up the camp a little bit. We got the supply containers back in order and re-gathered all of the tools. That evening was the culmination of everything we had done that week.

We were told to be back down to the community around 5 (I think) to have a dedication service for the new community center. So we all got as dressed up as we could and headed down a little bit early- not an event that we could show up fashionably late for. At the start of the service, there were only about 25 people in the congregation. This was, needless to say, a little disappointing to me as I assumed the entire community would be there. Then, slowly but surely, more and more people began to trickle in. Admittedly, I was a little distracted for most of the service because my buddy Adlere showed up and came and sat in my lap the whole time. By the time everyone showed up, I would guess there were about 80 people there maybe. The music minister (I can only guess that is what he was really) led us in a few songs before Roody and dad shared a little word about the church and our group. Still as I sit here and think about the service, I get chills all over. It was a truly powerful experience and one that I will always cherish. After the service ended, we got a chance to just play with the kids and fellowship with everyone (there was no food involved so it wasn’t a true Baptist get together, though). It was fun to actually have some time to stop and interact with them and not have to worry about getting a house finished or anything.

The entire week was incredible and I don’t go a day without thinking about some part of it. Some of the memories bring a smile to my face while others bring a tear to my eye. I have often found myself wondering what, exactly, the trip meant to me or how it affected me. And the more I think about it, the more I can appreciate the week as a time of healing and renewed hope in my own life. Being my first overseas mission trip, it was more eye opening than I imagined it could be. The impact it made on me and my heart is absolutely unbelievable. The journey came at a time when I desperately needed it and there was no coincidence about it, I know. God had it laid out and planned out long before any of us knew that we would be making the trip together that week.

Since returning, God has not quit teaching and chipping away at my stubbornness. As a result of that trip, I have fully realized that running from God never works very well. Over the past month or so, I have been completing an application to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Through countless hours of prayer and many conversations with people far more educated and spiritual than myself, I truly feel like that is exactly where God wants me to be starting this August. At this point, I am just waiting to hear back from NOBTS to know for sure if I get in and ironing out any wrinkles that I may encounter along the way. I am more eager about this new adventure than any other event I can remember. I will be studying Missiology in hopes of continuing my overseas journeys. Any and all prayer support is definitely welcomed and I appreciate all that I have been receiving along the way already. This would not be as exciting if it weren’t for the support of my family and friends.

Ok, so now it is finally time to post the video. Hope you enjoy. Thanks from the whole team for being a part of this awesome journey. We could not have done it without everyone’s support back home.


video

5.11.2011

5/11/11- Day 6

Today was a fairly boring day. All we did was build a church. The whole church. But don’t call us Church in a Day.

That was not the original plan when we went to bed last night, but this is Haiti. We put the new one in the same spot as the old one so that required us to actually lift the old church and move it out of the way. Yes, lifting and moving a church by hand has officially been crossed off of all of our bucket lists. We had to wait for the material to be delivered so until about 9 we were sitting around twiddling our thumbs or playing with the neighborhood kids. Once it got there, the frame went up before lunch and the rest fell into place by about 5 o’clock when some Habitat for Humanity executives showed up. All 10 of us would like to extend a huge thank you to whoever prayed up the incredible cloud cover this afternoon. We literally didn’t see the sun after lunch when the roof was being put up. The time that we were all the most worried about wound up being the coolest temperatures we have seen all week. It’s almost as if God had this all planned out the whole time. Who would’ve thunk it?!

The crowd was about what we expected with every single person who walked, rode, or drove by stopping to check out what the group of 10 white men were doing. Roody was completely taken aback when he pulled up with the Habitat people and couldn’t find the words to express his gratitude and amazement. It was quite the moving day for all of us. You could really tell how thrilled the community was to get an updated structure. It was something that they desperately needed and it is so rewarding to have been a part of an experience like this. We may never know or see the fruits of our labor but, rest assured, we will find out when we all get where we’re going.

The highlight of my day was the period of time while we were waiting for the material to show up. Rommie had a little buddy show up named Adlere. He is a 3 year old little boy but he would be small for a 2 year old. I’m pretty sure he is Cale’s Haitian twin and that may have had something to do with why I instantly was drawn to the kid. He came and sat in my lap and just talked and talked and talked and I, of course, had no idea what he was saying the whole time but I’d respond with some universal sound or gesture and he’d just smile and go right back to talking away. Occasionally, Rommie would inform me of what he was telling me but I pretty much just let him jabber away. He took my hat, told me to sit down (even sounded English), and refused to leave my side for the longest time. If I hadn’t signed that agreement and promised Bob Harper I wouldn’t bring a kid back, I would have been pretty tempted to sneak that one back with me.

The prayer concerns for tomorrow are that we can finish strong. We have some loose ends to tie up and maybe a couple more houses to throw up. We are running on E and we are losing Rommie tomorrow. He is the vice president of the English club and has to go teach tomorrow. It was such a joy to be around him all week and grow closer to him. We still have Alex so he will be in charge of all of the key/picture/Bible ceremonies tomorrow. It should be a relaxed day but the job is still not finished. We have to finish out what we have been doing all week. Strength is our biggest concern at this point.

Thank you for all you have done for us this week.

Until tomorrow…

5.10.2011

5/10/11- Day 5

Today was by far the best day of the trip so far. First off, it is Robert’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Robert! He had quite the celebration all day, too. As soon as we pulled up to our first house of the day, we told Rommie, one of our interpreters, that it was his birthday. Rommie’s eyes lit up and he ran over to Robert and gave him a huge hug and sang “Happy Birthday” to him! Rommie actually celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday so Robert told him all day it was his 25th birthday. There’s no fooling him, though. This is the Haitian who informed me today that his favorite group is the Backstreet Boys. He has really grown fond of us and all of us just love him. He really is a joy to be around all day.

Before we get to the serious matters, it seems necessary to touch on the excitement of the day. After Robert’s birthday hug from our new friend (“mawmee mwen” in Creole), he and Jerry had to go back and fix something for a lady that they built for yesterday. When they reached the house, they were greeted by a man yelling and hollering about something in Creole- something that posed a little issue given the 2 men involved. At some point in this barrage, the man began to pull his pants down. About that time, Rommie came strolling up and found out the man thought the 2 white men who walked up were a medical crew and he wanted them to check his hernia out. The fun was just beginning at that point. After lunch, our birthday boy had to drive because Gary stayed back. The roads are less than perfect around here, but he found a way to drive the Mitsubishi into a ditch while “trying to avoid a lady in the road.” There is no photo evidence of the event but the 4 of them claim that the back tire was off the ground and none of them are sure how it didn’t roll completely over. Luckily, he kicked it into 4 wheel drive and backed his way out. This was after a crowd of around 30 had gathered to watch the foreigners struggle in the ditch. Then, after work, Phil, dad, and I decided to take to the Haitian way of life fully: we rode in the back of the truck with all of our material. Much like when we are back home, all of the ladies were doing double takes when they caught a glance of us. We were the talk of the neighborhood the whole way home. Other events like Jerry stepping off into the 2 foot drainage ditch in front of the rooms and the strange cheese sandwiches that we ate for dinner made for the most entertaining day so far. But the good news is that we are only getting more tired and loopy as the week goes, so there is no telling what is to come….

Now on to the serious business. We totally tore through two houses, finishing them by 10 o’clock. Then we finished numbers 3 and 4 by 12:30. We had 4 houses finished before we ate lunch! Did you catch that? 4 houses. Done. We then ran in to a couple of issues because we had just about used up every bit of the materials and we were not totally sure that we could finish 2 more houses. Needless to say, we took a little bit of an extended lunch this afternoon in hopes of avoiding that awful time of day that we all dread. Somewhere around 2 we headed back out and, by no coincidence, were able to finish 2 more houses (the old fellas lack a couple of sheets of plywood on theirs but that’s it). Our total is now up to 16. At least 16 families now have a roof over their head and walls to support it. In 3 and a half days, these 10 rednecks from Arkansas have provided shelter for 16 families. PRAISE THE LORD!! There, literally, is no other explanation for these events. There has been much made of the talent and skill level of the 10 individuals that make up this group, but that is absolutely meaningless. There are too many variables to count that we have no control of whatsoever. And make no mistake, satan has been trying to screw this up since the time this crew was set. It is 15 degrees hotter than it normally is this time of year. Terry was sick one day and Gary had to stay back at the camp this afternoon due to exhaustion. Roody had to take our truck to Port Au Prince this morning and didn’t get back until dinner time so all 10 of us only had 1 vehicle. The generator has been out of commission for all but one night. The list could go on and on. But time after time, God has taken care of us and just absolutely floored us with His power. Once or twice, we have caught ourselves saying something about a coincidence only to realize the complete lack of randomness involved in the events. Even this group of rough and tough construction workers has made mention about how amazing our God is.

Gary is feeling better now and is itching to get back out with us and we are off to start building a church for the community we have been in all week. The supplies are supposed to be delivered tomorrow and we will most likely spend the last two mornings all working on the church. It is something that they desperately desperately need. But it is in an area that has absolutely no possibility for shade. Please make it a point to say an extra prayer for extra cloud cover the next two days. We will definitely need it since we are wearing out and the sun is getting hotter. Also, we got 4 boxes of Creole Bibles- that you all raised money for- delivered to us yesterday and you could not imagine the excitement on the people’s faces when we hand it over to them. Again, it is a desperate need in the area.

Please continue to pray for our health and cooler weather/places to hide from the sun. Again, we all thank you for the updates from home and words of encouragement that we have been receiving. Just know that you are never far from our hearts and minds.

Until tomorrow night…

5.09.2011

5/9/11- Day 4

Today was remarkably productive and we made it back to camp in time for half of us to shower before the dinner bell rang.

We had breakfast in our bellies and the translators on site by 7 o’clock. We set out with the plan to take the old man crew to a set of houses that were separate but connected. At some point in the last week or two, the lady who was to live in one of them passed away and the neighbor became the caretaker for her children and family. So, the two houses became one but still counted as two in our grand countdown. However, when we pulled up, someone decided that it would be best for us all to stay there and tackle the whole thing rather than for us to split. The 10 of us got both of them finished and were back at the compound by 11 o’clock this morning. You would have thought we’d been doing this together for years. Everything but the generator operated like a well-oiled machine (we made do). Thankfully, it was in the ideal location. Tucked back in a corner past a few houses and the local cinema was the mostly shady little nook. We whipped through the both of them in right at 3 and a half hours. We had two separate key/picture ceremonies, packed our things, and were on our way.

After lunch, we actually went back to the splitting idea and both groups went back to the same “neighborhood” that we have been all week. First off, the young guns had to go finish up a couple of key/picture ceremonies that we missed out on yesterday before we could continue on to the next one. We aren’t sure if the fact that it is Monday made the difference but both crews had way way way more company today. The other crew was tucked away in a tiny little hole and claim they had a classroom full of pre-teens running around while they were working. Our area was actually a large plot of land on a big slab with just enough shade to tease us most of the afternoon. But both crews were able to plow through those houses, perform the ceremonies (with no interpreter, have you) , and get on our way. I will admit that the old dogs beat us young guns again this afternoon and had to come help us (or at least supervise) finish off the porch. We have now been sitting around the camp for 3 hours enjoying the now perfect conditions.

Highlight of the day: Lunch and dinner were just terrific today- for a number of reasons. At lunch, the preacher who we are doing all of the work for, insisted to Roody that we take some of the fish that they caught yesterday and let the cooks fix it for us. I don’t like fish. I’ll admit that from the get-go. This meal still had scales and fins when it was served to us. It was absolutely delicious! We were all just floored by how amazing it was! That may have had something to do with our exhaustion level but it was easily the best thing we have had the whole trip. We thought temporarily that we would get to witness a modern-day feeding of the multitude. Only, instead of 4,000 it was 10 hungry men. And instead of a few fish and a few loaves of bread, it was 9 chunks of fish and some homemade potato chips. The fish did manage to make it all the way around the table but there definitely was not 7 baskets leftover (maybe we ate all 7 of those too). Then dinner rolled around and we had the infamous “octo-dogs.” They really are kind of a nifty idea but they just slice a regular hot dog into a few slivers but leave it whole on one end. When they are fried, they curl up and look like octopuses (or octopi). They didn’t taste quite like a regular hot dog but, then again, nothing around here tastes quite the same as back home.

The prayer concerns remain the same. They are obviously paying off so far as none of us have given out at any point. If we can just survive along and coast through the 1-3:30 hours, the rest of the day is pretty tolerable- being that we are used to unusually hot and humid conditions. The shade spots have been perfectly placed so far, so we thank you for continuing to pray for us in that. God has been so gracious to us as we all knew He would be. We have a special project in mind for Thursday that we are not totally sure about just yet. There are things in motion right now but we’ll save the details for later on as they come out.

We are all dropping like flies around here already and it is only 8:30. We should be plenty rested by the morning.

5.08.2011

5/8/11- Day 3

Before I forget….Happy Mother’s Day. I think everyone at camp has successfully called home and spoken to the mother(s) in their lives so we should all be welcomed back home when we hit the airport Friday evening.

Now that the official business is out of the way…today was church day (details later) and since none of had any clue what time we were leaving this morning, we were up at the now standard 6 AM. After church we had our lunch (honestly have no memory of what it was at this point) and headed out to the houses we left unfinished last night. It was roughly 150 degrees in the shade this afternoon and our first house has no idea what shade is. Both groups knocked out the remainder of those houses in no time- admittedly, the crew of “old guys” beat us and they were further behind at the start. We weren’t proud of that on the “not-quite-so-old-thanks-to-me-and-ted” crew. At this point, the temperature had dropped to a reasonable 99 degrees and both crews actually finished another house well before dark (we young fellas redeemed ourselves on that house though…not that anyone was keeping track or anything, of course).

We now have our bellies stuffed full of some kind of turkey, rice/beans, slaw, and a macaroni-like dish. Most of us are showered and all of us are exhausted. The generator has been hit or miss since we got here and the A/C units in the rooms are currently out of commission so we are looking forward to a sweaty night of sleep.

Highlight of the day: The service this morning. Granted in was in a language that none of us understood, but that was the least of our concerns. We showed up during the Sunday School hour and made our way to some seats in the back. We were just under the cover of the roof overhead. Let me tell ya, we were eternally thankful for that mango tree that acted as our roof this morning. Dad managed to disrupt the children’s Sunday School class (some of you are not surprised by that even a little bit) and wound up providing a Q&A session via Roody’s father who was the fill-in interpreter. Once the service started, Roody found a seat right behind a few of us (thank goodness) and provided random interpretations of what was going on in the service. Somehow, Robert wound up on the second row and dad found his way to the front row with his new friends from Sunday School. There were a couple of songs that they sang as a congregation that our entire groups swears we know the tune to but, unfortunately, this IS a group of men so none of us could recall the English names of either of them. They then had a scripture reading of Psalm 136 according to Roody. The preacher would call the first line of text and the congregation would recite the second line. In unison, the congregation of about 40 gathered under this tree, quoted in an excited fashion “His steadfast love endures forever” 28 times culminating with an amen that Paul would even be proud of- that is the same no matter what language you speak. At the conclusion of the whole service, every single one of the congregation members rushed to shake our hands and a couple even gave warm God bless you’s. It was another instance that made me see that these people have clung to hope through all they have been through.

It was an encouraging day all the way around. We are still figuring out the intricacies of the craftsmanship that we are dealing with so each house is getting quicker and quicker. 6 down, 18 to go. Since we have been in the same village both days, some of the locals are beginning to recognize us and enjoy the show we put on for them. Robert and Phil have both entertained the kids with their antics and have become quite popular. And all of them will yell “HEY YOU!!” every time that any of us go walking or driving by and they absolutely love it when we holler it back at them. They just love the attention no matter how small it may be.

It is supposed to get hotter with each passing day. That is kind of the opposite that we were hoping for but we are not doubting God. Continue to pray for shade, energy, and health for the 10 of us. We were incident free today which was definitely a blessing. That is all we can hope for the rest of the week and continue to trust that God is going to get us through this and provide for our needs as we provide for some of the needs of the community. We have at least 6 more houses in the same area (which is about 2 miles or 20 minutes from our compound) so travel has been far easier than expect/feared. Just another answered prayer.

We love you all and have continued to keep all of you in our daily thoughts and prayers. Thanks to everyone for the updates that some have received over email cause it has definitely taken some of the worry out of our days.

Time to pass the computer.