Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God's Perfect Timing

So often, we want things to happen in our timing, according to our plan, as we think best.

Thankfully, this doesn't always happen!  We serve an infinite loving God who knows all things, whose plan is best.  His timing is perfect!  Even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.  I see evidence of this more and more in my own life and the lives of those around me every day!

One of my Haiti 6 team members, Noelle Gonzalez, stayed on in Haiti when we left.  She has been living at Jacob's Well and working in the village, helping to teach English at the school, providing necessary medical care as well as a host of other things!

She wrote a blog post called Beautiful in His Time at her blog noellefaith.blogspot.com that really set me to thinking about this subject!  God is at work in Haiti and His timing is perfect!

~ A Servant of the King

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Haiti 6 Log 4

Haiti 6 - Day 8 - January 12th - 6th day at Jacob's Well (Wednesday)

We had an awesome surprise awaiting us at breakfast this morning!  Jacob's Well coffee!  Pots of it... We all passed it around the table and spent the next few moments inhaling it before we did our devo!  It was wonderful and just thinking about it now makes me want some more! :)

It seems like the children were lining up at the gate even earlier today.  They had to show the bracelet we gave them yesterday in order to be admitted, and then they made their way through the hand washing stations and joined their counselors on the parking lot.
Kids lining up at the gate.
Trooping in!

They started off with singing and worship and then headed off to their first activity.  The first and second activities went great.  Out of all the cabins that came through to shoot, the littlest girl and boy cabins were the easiest.  They were the best about waiting for us to show them what to do and help them, and they were so adorable!  

We went up the hill for our last Bible Drama.  Today's dramas were the longest and most complicated out of the six we chose - Jesus raising Jairus' daughter and Lazarus from the dead - but they went really well!  Afterwards, Peter Mark talked about how Jesus has power over the dead and then tied this into the Gospel message.  
Peter Mark giving the Gospel message

Lunch flew by and so did third and fourth activity periods, then the whole camp trouped "Upstairs" to the campfire circle.  The counselors got the kids seated in a big circle around the fire to sing and then Peter Mark gave another Gospel message.  Then it was smore time!  The kids absolutely loved roasting their marshmallows and munching down the smores!  We only had enough for everyone to have one, but they would gladly have come back for some more!

Smores was our last camp activity.  Then we handed each of the campers and counselors a little gift bag and then they all trooped down the hill and off the campsite.  It was really sad to watch them go and to think that we won't get to do this again for another year.  

We didn't have much time to think about it though, because we instantly started taking everything down.  Tomorrow is our team day at the beach, so we have a lot of packing up and last minute projects to finish so that we can leave early Friday morning.  We had to take down all of the activity stations, pack away all the activity supplies for next year and generally clean up the campsite.  In addition, we had some work to do to finish bunk beds for some of the cabins, shelves for the office, and consolidate all the luggage that we're bringing home.  We broke for dinner about half way through and then got back to work.  

There's a group of 10 brave souls who want to get up really early tomorrow (around 4:00 am) to hike up Double Head Mountain!  It's a long hike but worth it because from the top you can see the Caribbean!  I really hope we can go.  Unfortunately, clouds started rising over the mountain this evening and that usually means that it's going to rain.  We've just finished work and are heading to bed since we'll be getting up so early tomorrow.  I hope it stays clear!


It's about 10 at night and it just started pouring!  We can hear the rain pounding against the metal roof.  Every once in a while it sounds like it's going to slacken off, but then it starts up again, louder than ever.  Natalyn just came and told me that Hans has called the hike off - even if it stops raining before morning, it'll be too slick and dangerous.  We're all kind of disappointed but we've decided that we'll just have to climb it when we come back next year!  

Haiti 6 - Day 9 - January 13th - 7th day at Jacob's Well (Thursday)

We got to work early so we could finish our last projects before we headed off for our team day at the beach.  Part of my job was counting and cataloging all the cups, plates, and spoons we had used for camp and then packing them away in a suitcase to be stored safely until next year.  

Then we all rushed into our swimsuits, packed lunch, and drove about 30 minutes to the beach.  On the way there, I tried tap-tap surfing - where you stand on the floor of the tap tap without holding on to anything and balance the whole way.  It was fun and slightly challenging when there were steep hilly curves or big potholes!  

There was a group of white people in the village where we stopped at the beach - the first white people we'd seen since we left the main roads.  So after we parked the tap tap, we went over and talked to them.  It was a group of doctors from a variety of different places - a few Americans, an British doctor from Bermuda, and several others.  From what we gathered, there's a constant rotation of doctors who come from all over to work at the clinic.  They stay a week or two and then head home, and the next group comes out.  They've treated a lot of cholera in the area, and had 14 patients in the clinic when we were there.  But the doctor we were talking to said that as a doctor, cholera is nice to treat - not because it's a pleasant illness or anything, because it's not.  But because it's an easy thing to treat if the people just get to the clinic on time!  It was really interesting talking to them.   

Two boats took us out to the island
Then we crowded into two handmade wooden boats (10 of us in each in addition to the rowers) and were rowed out to a little island.  We had a great time on the island - the water was beautiful and we also spent some time hiking and exploring!  It was just a great day together as a team before we have to head home and go our separate ways!

On our way home from the beach, we stopped and drank fresh coconut milk straight from the coconut.

When we got back to the campsite, we ate dinner and then set to work.  We'd promised to finish the office shelves and the bunk beds before we left, and since we're leaving early tomorrow, we had to finish tonight!  I was a part of the shelving crew along with Hans, Hudson, Gabe and Konrad.  The guys did all the hard work - my job mainly consisted of marking and measuring boards to be cut and holding the flashlight (a lot of times, if we had power tools running, the lights would fade... so we needed the flashlight to see what we were doing).  It took a while, but the shelves looked great!  The other team was busy building bunks and stringing the rope webbing for the bunk beds.  It was pretty late when we finished and we were only to happy to tumble into bed.  

The plan is to be on the road by 8:30 tomorrow for the 6 hour drive back to Port-Au-Prince.  This trip has gone by so fast!  I can't believe it's almost time to leave.  And it will be so sad to leave Jacob's Well behind.  

Haiti 6 - Day 10 - January 14th - Trip back to Port-Au-Prince

The sad day has come!  It's time to leave the camp.  We loaded up all our stuff before breakfast, working to consolidate luggage, and make sure that we're bringing home everything we need to.  

Last meal on the camp - delicious as usual!  Then we loaded up on the tap-tap around 8:45 (only 15 minutes late!) and bounced away over the mountain roads.  

We had lots of fun the first part of the trip - laughing and joking as usual.  And the mountain roads, though rough and at times frightening, are beautiful!  By noon though, we were all pretty quiet.  Everyone was starting to feel the effects of the long drive in the hot sun... I forgot to fill up my water bottle before we left, so I know that I was pretty thirsty and I imagine the others were too.  

We stopped for lunch a little before 1:00 pm at a resort of all places.  The Valcins know the manager (knowing people is everything in Haiti!) and so he let us come in and wash up and eat the sandwiches we'd brought with us.  We all trooped into the bathrooms to wash our hands, but there wasn't any water.  In Haiti there's times when you have power, but the water's out... and then there's time when you have water, but the power's out... and then there's times when you have both or neither!  There's no telling.  

We all laughed a lot when we saw ourselves in the mirror!  Our hair was crazy because of the windy ride, and our sunburned faces were literally streaked with black from all the dirt.  There was a beautiful pool behind the building and our table was outside near the pool.  We were all so hot and tired and dirty that we literally charged the pool, knelt down on the side, and washed our face and hands in the water.  And actually, it was probably safer water to use than the resort water would have been, since the pool had chlorine in it.  It probably looked really funny to see a bunch of Americans kneeling next to the pool splashing water on their heads (a bunch of the guys even dunked their heads in) but we didn't really care!  

We got back on the road a little while later.  The stop really refreshed everyone and we were talking and joking again the rest of the way into Port-au-Prince.  We're spending the night at the Valcin's house again... and tomorrow we head home!  I'm excited to see my family again, but I'm going to miss Haiti!

More to come later...

~ A Servant of the King

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Haiti 6 Log 3

Haiti 6 - Day 6 - January 10th - 4th day at Jacob's Well  (Monday)

The rifle range.
At breakfast, we all picked the activities that we'll be teaching when camp starts tomorrow!  I'll be teaching riflery with one of the other team members, Gabe.  I can't believe that we're really getting down to it - everything we've been working for, all that we've done over the past few days, will bear fruit tomorrow when the children walk through the gate!

After breakfast, we jumped into another full day of staff training and last minute camp preparation.  Everyone was really busy!  Teams were working all over the camp.  I was part of a dish washing crew of 4 other team members - we worked in the outdoor kitchen counting and washing 200+ metal plates, cups, and spoons so they'll be ready for the campers tomorrow!  It took several hours to finish and we halted half way through for lunch.  Everyone's starting to get really excited about camp - you can feel the excitement in the air!  And you could hear it as we sang old campfire songs while washing the dishes!

Figuring out the best way to do Bible Drama has been difficult - mainly because  we don't speak Kreyol.  Yesterday, we tried several different practice methods.  First we tried to time how long it took to read the story in Kreyol and then act it out while trying to keep track of the time - that didn't work so well.  Then we tried to pick key words in the Kreyol text to listen for so that we could know where we were in the story - for example "danje" for "danger" in the calming of the storm.  Unfortunately, that didn't really work either.  We couldn't focus enough on acting while we were listening for Kreyol cue words at the same time...  Finally, one of the drama team members suggested just having someone read the story in English behind us while Peter Mark read it out front.
Drama team in Bible costumes - minus
me of course, I'm taking the picture! :)

I sat down with Greta (one of the 3 advance team members) last night and we worked through the stories with a Kreyol and English Bible, marking down all of the cues directly on the pages.  "Jesus sleeps" "Big storms hits" etc.  Since she's been here longer and has also studied on her own, Greta speaks more Kreyol than the rest of us, so she offered to follow along in her Kreyol Bible and then give us the cues as we need them.  Today, after staff training, we went up on the Drama hill with Peter Mark to try it out.  It worked really well and the drama team did a great job!

There's a group of kids who always watch us practice Bible drama  from the other side of the bushes.  They know that they're not supposed to come on camp property, but they always try to.  Today, a bunch of kids came over while Peter Mark was with us and we tried to tell them - in our broken Kreyol - that they had to leave.  At last Peter Mark turned to look at them and said something that we didn't understand.  The kids instantly scattered.  When we asked Peter Mark what he had said, he smiled.  "I said, My friends, get out of here!"

Camp starts tomorrow!  We're getting up extra early so we can have our devo and prepare before camp starts.  Early to bed tonight and praying for good weather tomorrow.

Haiti 6 - Day 7 - January 11th - 5th day at Jacob's Well  (Tuesday)

First day of camp!

Lining up for camp!  Everyone's excited!
The camp gates were scheduled to open at 8:45 - 9:00.  Campers started lining up around 8 while we bustled around doing all the last minute things that needed to be done.  We set up a hand washing station, a wrist bracelet station (each of the campers received a wrist bracelet that will be their "ticket" into camp tomorrow) and a cabin assigning station while the Haitian counselors all waited on the parking lot with their cabin signs to welcome the campers.

Assigning cabins
We let the campers in around 8:45 and they all trooped in excitedly, hardly listening as we tried to tell them to get in a straight line.  Greta (one of the advance team members) was in charge of cabin assignments.  She asked the kids how old they were and then put them in cabin groups by age.  We had children ranging in age from 5 years old all the way up to 15-16.  There were about 140 children total!   

After the campers were assigned to their "cabin groups," Peter Mark led orientation, explaining camp rules and the order of events.  Then the cabins split off to go to their activities!  There are 7 cabins and 7 activities (riflery, archery, steal the bacon, camp games, Jacob's Well 4-ball-Baseball, crafts, & Bible memory games).  The cabins rotated through all the activities - we had 3 activity periods today and we'll have four tomorrow.  

Adorable little girl enjoying her first
time shooting!
The first activity period was a new experience for me!  Since we didn't know enough Kreyol to really explain how to shoot a gun (or how to be safe with one), Gabe and I relied on demonstrating!  We knew the Kreyol words for "load" and "fire" and "do you need help?" as well as a few other helpful phrases.  And we also knew how to tell them they'd done a good job shooting!

The kids loved it.  Except for those in the oldest boy and girl cabins, most of them needed our help loading the lever action BB guns.  Some of the kids, however, didn't like waiting for us and tried to do it on their own.  I saw some of the most interesting methods of reloading I've ever seen in my life.  Lots of the kids tried to set the barrel down on the ground and then yank the lever down that way.  Others tried putting the barrel between their knees to hold it steady... the downside was that it was pointing at the kids behind them!  Needless to say, we quickly put a stop to that!

After the first activity period, we all trooped up to the drama hill.  I quickly got into costume with the rest of the drama team while one of the Haitian counselors led the kids in singing.  Then it was drama time.  Greta sat under a coconut tree behind the "stage" and read the cues aloud to us while Peter Mark narrated.  I was kind of nervous to see how it would work out, but it went really well!  I think the kids really liked watching us act the stories out.  Peter Mark also gave a little teaching before and after the Bible drama stories.

Peter Mark teaching the kids at Bible Drama time.
We'd planned to have lunch right after the first Bible drama, but it wasn't ready yet, so we headed off to second activity and then came back for lunch.  After lunch we had our third activity period and then Bible Drama 2 and then camp was over for the day around 4:00-4:30!  All in all it was a great day!

Preparing coffee from Jacob's Well
coffee beans!
We'd just about finished cleaning up after camp and getting the site ready for tomorrow, when we first smelled it... wonderful deliciousness coming from the direction of the kitchen!  We all migrated over and discovered the Haitians preparing coffee by hand from coffee beans harvested at Jacob's Well!  They roasted the beans over coals, then ground them up in a hollowed out log, and then sifted the grounds to remove any coarse chunks.  It smelled amazing and I can't wait to taste the first coffee made from Jacob's Well coffee beans!

After a meeting to talk about the day, a group of us decided to race up to the top of the attic to watch the sunset.  We didn't have much time, so instead of following the usual roundabout path up past the drama hill and the campfire circle, we raced straight up the steep hillside!  There was still a decent amount of light when we reached the attic, so we decided to go hiking a little ways further up towards the mountain (Double Head Mountain).  It felt like a scene from Braveheart as we ran along the narrow mountain path on top of the steep hills... the ground just falls away on either side and you can see so far in every direction!  It was amazing and an awesome finish to a great day!  We raced down the hillside again just in time for dinner.

Everyone's worn out after today so we're heading to bed early.  I can't wait to start it all over again tomorrow!

More to come later...

~ A Servant of the King

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Haiti 6 Log 2

Haiti 6 - Day 3 - January 7th - 1st day at Jacob's Well (Friday)

I woke up early this morning and stepped out of the cabin, ready to take in my first glimpse of Jacob's Well in the daylight.  It was amazing.  I hadn't formed any definite ideas of what to expect because I knew that the campsite had changed drastically since the last trip in March, none the less, I certainly wasn't prepared for what I saw!

View of the five cabins from the pathway
between the parking lot and the kitchen
The girl's cabin (Naphtali - the cabins are named after the twelve tribes of Israel) was one of five little white cabins with red roofs lining a curving rock pathway on the side of a hill.  Several more unfinished cabins stood above Naphtali on the hillside, completing the circle.  Below, our tap tap and the Valcin's truck sat in the parking lot.  And to the right of the parking lot stood the large outdoor kitchen, bathhouse, old bathhouse, and dining hall.  When the Haiti 5 team left last year, they had just finished work on the slab for the outdoor kitchen.  Aside from that, the only other permanent building on the whole campsite was the old bathhouse (it's now a camper bathhouse/storage facility).  The Haitians were already up and working - a construction crew was mixing cement in the parking lot and carrying it in 5 gallon buckets up the hill.  I learned later that they were working on building a cistern.

We ate a delicious breakfast of pancakes, grapefruit juice and Haitian coffee.  One of the team members took to calling the grapefruit juice "magic juice," it was so good.  By the end of the trip, the name had stuck!  Then, we got to work!

I was assigned to an unpacking and organizing team and set to work with several others on unloading and relocating everything we had brought.  It took a while but at last all 1,500 lbs of luggage (construction tools, school supplies, camp activity supplies ranging from BB guns to craft kits, etc.) had been stowed safely away and scattered across the camp site!  After lunch (Haitian sandwiches), I was reassigned to another team entrusted with the task of setting up a canopy for the archery activity and mowing the archery range to limit the number of missing arrows.

So, we four intrepid volunteers - we later became known as the mowing team - set out armed with machetes and sticks to mow Haitian style.  My "twin" Natalyn and I were some of the first girls who were allowed to mow in Haiti.  It was quite a fun experience - hard work and tougher than it sounds, but it was fun.  Basically, you get down on your knees, holding a stick in your left hand to push the grass over to expose the stem and then swipe the machete across the grass, and keep moving on in a straight line, "rolling the grass back" ahead of you.  It's difficult to explain.  :)

After mowing, we headed down to the village to have a play day with the village children.  The field where we play is actually a part of the camp's land, but you have to go through the village to get to it (the village school and church are also located on the field).  Some of the team had gone over earlier and were already "talking" and playing with the kids when we arrived.  I only knew a few basic words in Kreyol (Hello, What is your name?  My name is... etc) so conversation was a little difficult, but the kids didn't seem to mind.  They kept chattering away and loved to hold our hands!  They couldn't quite get my name right, so eventually I gave up on trying to get them to say "Gillian" and told them it was "Julie" instead.  

I took this picture while we were mowing
a space for the Bible Drama - you can see the piles
of mown grass. This is aview of the upstairs
(straight back) and then a little to the right
is the attic! 
We played games for a while, sang songs (I know now the words to This is the Day that the Lord has made in Kreyol!) and then around 4:30 headed back to camp.  Finishing up the last of our work projects for the night, we hiked up past the drama hill, to the upstairs (the  hill where we have campfire) and then on to the attic (a tall hill point that overlooks the camp) to watch the sunset.  Some of the village children were wandering around and came running when they saw us up there.  They sat with us for a little while we stared at the beautiful countryside and watched the sun go down behind the mountains.  Then we were raced down the hill, arriving just in time for dinner.

After a Haitian meal of rice and beans with chicken meat sauce, we discussed the day and talked about work projects for the next day.  We then had time to sit around and talk for a little bit (discussed shower taking... we have running water but it's not always reliable, sometimes it's there and sometime's it's not.  We designated specific girl/guy shower nights to make sure that there was enough water to go around.)  The plan is to head to bed early tonight... another long day of work projects tomorrow.  There's quite a lot to do to get the campsite and all the activities ready for day camp!

Haiti 6 - Day 4 - January 8th - 2nd day at Jacob's Well (Saturday)

Another early morning.  The sun always wakes me up - even at home - so when the sun starts coming up in Haiti, and the roosters start crowing, and the rest of the village is springing to life, I just naturally woke up around 5:30 (that's 4:30 back home) and then lay on my bunk until about 6:15 or so.  We've been doing devos every morning over Haitian coffee and "magic juice," continuing our study of Jesus' last week.  It's been really interesting to look at the story more in-depth, comparing the four different gospel accounts to get the best idea we can of the chronology, discussing why different events happened the way they did.  I've really enjoyed it so far and look forward to studying more throughout the rest of the time we're here.

Adorable little boys - the ones in the
back were trying to jump into the picture.
They loved having their picture taken!
We had more work projects planned for today - more Haitian mowing and preparing the site for day camp.  Before we got started on our regular projects though, we were each supposed to carry several 40-pound cinder blocks (one at a time of course) from the parking lot up the hill to where the workers are building the cistern.  After that we all split for our individual projects throughout the morning and then after lunch went back to play with the children in the village!

I tried to learn more Kreyol today in the village but I wasn't very good at it.  I did learn to say "I don't understand, I'm sorry," which helped a lot!  After this trip is over, I know that I'll want to come back, so I'd like to try and get some kind of Kreyol dictionary!

After a great lasagna dinner - Haitian style with Louisiana hot sauce in the tomato - we climbed up to the campfire ring and built a fire.  We looked out over the surrounding countryside and saw total blackness - not a single light showing.  Then we turned around and looked down at the campsite behind us, and there was a light on... it was kind of neat to think about - that one little light in the midst of the darkness.  The Gospel has come to Jacob's Well Camp in the little village and it is a light in the darkness... but that light will spread!

Double Head Mountain - behind the camp.
You can see a little bit of the outdoor
kitchen roof through the trees.  That's where
the rest of the camp is located.  
Hudson, one of the team members, played the guitar for us as we sat around the campfire and we sang songs for a good hour and a half - if not two!  It was so wonderful to be sitting there on a mountainside in Haiti, singing worship songs to the Creator of the Universe!  I wanted it to go on forever!  Still, eventually we had to come down and head to bed.  We'll be going to church in the village tomorrow - it'll be really neat to see what  a Haitian church service is like.  

Haiti 6 - Day 5 - January 9th - 3rd day at Jacob's Well - Sunday

Gathering together our bibles and a bunch of folding chairs, we all tramped down the camp road in our Sunday best, through the village, and up the little dirt path to the church.  The church is built on the camp playing field, but we have to walk through the village to get to it.  It's basically a bamboo hut with long wooden benches, and the Haitians all get dressed up in their Sunday best and assemble inside.  We all crowded in and the service started.  They sang several songs in Kreyol and it was really neat to hear them sing.  They sing so much louder than we do - I think we're a little too self conscious about things like that in America.  There everyone sang loudly and it sounded great!  No one seemed the least bit worried about what his/her neighbor might be thinking.

The little children kept stealing my attention.  I learned that a lot of them come by themselves without their families.  A Haitian woman armed with a little switch sat among them to keep them in order.  They were so cute.

During the sermon, Peter Mark (a Haitian who works with the Valcins in Port-au-Prince and our Program Director for the camp) was asked by the pastor of the village church to translate for us.  So, we were able to listen to a church service in Haiti in English.  They also sang several worship songs for us in English so that we could sing along.  When they sing in English, they slur the words together because they're imitating the sounds rather than understanding the words, so it sounded different.  I'm sure it sounds the same way when we try to sing in Kreyol.

After the service had ended, we followed Hans around behind the church to view the well that the camp is named after.  Jacob's Well is an old Spanish well dating back from the Spanish colonial period in the 1500-1600's.  It's fairly large - about ten feet in diameter - and is now just a hole in the ground, lined with stones, and filled with dirty brown water and trash.  Most of the stones that were above ground have been taken away over the years and used for other buildings.  Hans talked to us for a while about the history of the well and where it's name (and the name of the camp) came from.  It's named after the well where Jesus met the Samaritan Woman in John chapter 4.  This, Hans explained, is a great example of cross cultural ministry which is what Jacob's Well camp is about!

We finished off the rest of the day with staff training!  Villagers came from the church to be trained as counselors for the two days of camp that we will be running.  Peter Mark, along with Hans and several other team members, led the training.  The rest of the team did other work projects.  I was busy, along with Natalyn, heading up the Bible drama team.

Village children watching us practice
the Bible Drama from over the hedge.
I think they got a kick out of it...
In the past, the Haitians have always done the Bible Drama - acting, narrating, everything.  This time however, we'll be doing it.  The drama theme is Jesus' Miracles, and we picked 6 stories to use over 3 drama periods: Jesus calming the storm, Jesus feeding the 5,000, Jesus healing the blind man, Jesus healing the leper, Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from the dead, and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  After picking out the dramas, we worked out a big idea and application for each one for Peter Mark to explain to the kids and then we sat down to work out the logistics.  We eventually settled on having Peter Mark narrate straight from the Bible in Kreyol while we act out behind him.  We'll have to see how that will work eventually since none of us speak Kreyol - perhaps we can memorize the major cue words that will tell us what we need to be doing next - for now, we're simply acting out the stories with the English Bible and memorizing the order of events!

It was a good day today!  We delayed going to bed for a little while and sat around on the porches playing a card game by the light of a flashlight.  It was fun, but it's getting easier and easier to laugh at nothing so I think we're all getting a little tired!  Looking forward to another full day tomorrow!

More to come later...

~ A Servant of the King

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Haiti 6 Log

Haiti 6 - Preparation Day - January 4th, 2011

I spent the past few days packing.  This morning, I got up at 4:30 am, loaded the car up, said goodbye, and drove the four hour drive down to Frontier Camp in the wee hours of the morning.  The rest of the day was spent repacking, loading, driving the rest of the distance to Houston, finishing with a major packing party with the whole team that evening.  Aside from our own personal belongings, we brought down food for the camp, medical supplies, school supplies, camp supplies, construction supplies, tools, a canopy, and a bunch of other miscellaneous paraphernalia necessary to running a camp! We ended up with 44 bags (checked and carry-on) and the grand total of 1,500 pounds of luggage!

Having established a buddy-system and assigned luggage, we headed to bed.  2:30 am comes early...  I can't believe that I'll be in Haiti tomorrow.

Haiti 6 - Day One - January 5th, 2011 - Travel Day 1

We woke up at 2:30 this morning, hastily gathered and loaded our luggage into a horse trailer (best available method for getting 44 bags to the airport in a rainstorm), piled into three vehicles, and set off for the airport at 3:30.  Each member of the team had a prepackaged breakfast and lunch to make for easy travel.  Most of us ate our breakfasts during the drive - although none of us were very hungry that early in the morning.  We reached the airport at 4:30 and unloaded all our bags from the horse trailer - I'm sure this made an amusing sight!

Getting 16 people (with 44 bags) through check-in is always an interesting experience :) but we got through at last and disposed of our checked baggage.  Now, burdened only with our carry-ons (which carried almost all of our personal belongings for the entire 10 day period), we made it through security without any issues and settled down to wait for our plane.

View of Haiti from the air
We flew from Houston to Miami, Florida and from Miami to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The flights were smooth and uneventful, and for the most part we were seated together as a team.

Arrival in Port-au-Prince Haiti:

We arrived in Port-au-Prince and disembarked in the airport.  The immigration and customs lines seemed about a mile long, but at length we managed to get through, gather all our luggage, and exit the airport.  We were instantly swarmed by Haitians trying to carry our luggage for us.  We managed to navigate our way out at last and after a short wait in the Haitian sun (it felt so good after winter in the U.S), we met Gersan and Betty Valcin (the Haitian missionaries that we work with at the camp) and drove to their house.  We had kabrit for dinner tonight (that's goat in kreyol) after which we had our first team devo.  We will be doing an in-depth study on the last week of Jesus' life - I'm looking forward to it!  We're heading off to bed early now because we'll have a long day of travel again tomorrow.   

Haiti 6 - Day Two - January 6th, 2011 - Travel Day 2 "Tap-Tap Ride"

I slept so well last night after the little sleep we got yesterday!  A rooster started crowing about 4:30 am and kept it up until the six of us girls sharing the room got up around 6:00.  We were so excited about being in Haiti at last that we didn't really mind.  The plan for today is to get an early start since we are driving all the way from Port-Au-Prince in the south of Haiti to Limbe near the northern coast.  In the past, the teams have generally flown - we'll be the first team to experience the 6 hour trip in a tap-tap!  Hans, our team leader and summer camp director at Frontier Camp, warned us that we'll probably enjoy about the first 3 hours of the trip (the part with the smooth roads)... and then we'll be ready for it to stop.  Still, I'm looking forward to it.

Tap Tap Travel:

The tap-tap is basically a big open flat-bed truck with walls.  There are wooden benches lining the sides, but we spent most of the 6 hour the trip standing up.  In addition to our mountain of luggage piled in the middle of the floor, we were also transporting several large barrels of diesel (some of the diesel splashed out into the floor of the tap tap and the Haitians poured water on it to clean it up - it made for a slick loading of the tap tap and a messy few hours of travel until it dried up).
This is a distant view of a tent-city outside
of Port-Au-Prince. The tent-cities in the
actual city itself were much more crowded. 

It took about 45 minutes to get out of Port-Au-Prince and into the countryside.  We drove past several huge tent cities - results of the earthquake.  Hans said that many of the people living the tent cities still have standing houses, they're just too afraid to go home.  I can't adequately describe the living conditions in the tent cities - rows upon rows of tents piled almost on top of each other, piles of trash rotting in the streets or being burned (this is a common sight throughout all of Haiti), canals of filthy water piled high with trash and children wading through - it is not surprising that cholera has become such a huge issue.  

Haitian countryside - the picture's not
very clear because the road was just
a little bumpy! :)
Well slathered with sunscreen and with nalgene bottles full of clean water, we set out around 10:30 (a little later than we'd intended, but you get used to being flexible in Haiti).  We drove for several hours along the east coast on one of the best roads in Haiti and made fairly decent time.  Everyone laughed and joked and enjoyed the rushing wind and the beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea.  Soon however, we turned away from the coast and began the long part of our trip through the mountains.  The roads quickly deteriorated and became narrow, curving, and filled with pot-holes.  The countryside through the mountains, however, was beautiful and made up for all the jolting!  

It's hard to describe Haitian driving to someone who has not experienced it.  Drivers attempt to avoid pot holes at all costs, even if it means going into the other lane while cars are approaching... Many of the mountain roads take hair pin turns around the mountain sides and horn blaring is necessary here to make sure that there is not a car coming the other way.  Several times we rounded a mountain curve right as a huge truck was coming around the other side and both vehicles had to brake hard and then inch past each other.  We saw only one metal guard rail on our trip.  The rest, where there were any, were made out of bamboo!
Our tap-tap

It was an exciting trip to say the least and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  I think everyone started to get a little tired towards the end - 6 hours is a long time to be standing in the back of a truck bouncing over mountain roads, but it was really neat to see how the team bonded and worked together without complaining!

We arrived at the Jacob's Well campsite after dark and were greeted by the three members of the advance team!  It was so good to see them again!  After unloading and organizing our luggage, we enjoyed our first dinner at the campsite and headed to the cabins to enjoy the brand new bunks that the advance team built for us.  I've never been to the camp before, but from what I've seen in pictures, it looks nothing like it did only a year ago!  I can't wait to see what the camp site looks like in the daylight!  Tomorrow, we'll start work projects.

More to come later...

~ A Servant of the King

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Cookies for Haiti

Well, the Haiti trip is rapidly drawing closer.  Less than a month away now!  I've been working on fundraising, and the Lord has truly blessed me!

Psalms 27:13-14 "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

This is fast becoming one of my favorite verses!  I read it over and over again whenever things seem difficult.  When I read the second part of the verse, I picture a beleaguered company fighting against overwhelming odds, battered, bruised and sinking to their knees on the brink of collapse.  Suddenly a messenger arrives with the news that help is coming, reinforcements are on the way, if the company can only hold out a little while longer.  "Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Well, I'm not really sure what that has to do with my fundraising for Haiti, except that the Lord truly has been good to me!  I've been making and selling Christmas cookies in order to raise support, and the amount of support and gifts I have received is overwhelming.  I am truly grateful to the Lord and to all those who have given!  Two weeks, 28+ dozen cookies, countless hours in the kitchen listening to Christmas music, and I am quite a bit closer to going to Haiti!

Your prayers are still appreciated.  The advance team of 3 is leaving tomorrow for Haiti.  Please pray for them as they travel and during their stay in Haiti.  And please keep praying for the nation of Haiti.  The people are still suffering beneath the cholera outbreak - so very many have died!  My heart breaks for them.  Please Father, heal the people of Haiti!

Pray for the rest of the team as we travel down in January - that each and everyone of us would go there to serve and to love.  That we would would be attentive to the Lord's leading and not bound to our own plans for the trip.  That we would truly display the love of Christ to all we meet.

~ A Servant of the King

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Operation Jacob's Well, Limbé, Haiti

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been given the opportunity to travel to Haiti this coming January.  I am so very excited about this trip - I've been wanting to go for the past four years - and now at last I can!  

I am traveling down with a group of 21 from Frontier Camp (a Christian youth camp in East Texas).  For the past four years, Frontier Camp has been partnering with a Haitian paster, Gersan Valcin, to start the first Christian youth camp in Haiti, Jacob's Well.  (Click Here - Jacob's Well to read more about the camp)  In a country where 40% of the population is under the age of 14, a Christian youth camp can have a great impact.  So, over the past 4 years, Frontier Camp has been sending down teams to get Jacob's Well up and running, and to train the Haitian leaders to conduct camping ministry.  

Needless to say, I can't wait for my trip!  I will be in Haiti for 10 days, during which time we will run day camps for the Haitian children as well as a few overnight camps, and continue on construction projects on the campsite.  

After the earthquake, the northern rural portion of Haiti (where Jacob's Well is located) absorbed a large number of refugees which the already-poverty stricken area was and is ill-equipped to support.  So, the focus of this trip is to further the development of the camp infrastructure needed to provide long-term development opportunities for the local village and its people. We believe that God wants to use Jacob’s Well and its ministry to kids to continue to change the nation of Haiti with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There have been a great many changes in Haiti over the past year due to the earthquake, recent cholera outbreak, and now the hurricane!  Praise the Lord that the hurricane veered away from Haiti so that the island was not hit with the full impact.  However, the heavy rains caused by the hurricane may help spread the cholera, so Haiti is definitely still in need of our prayers.

Come January, I will be on a plane flying down to Haiti!  I am excited and can't wait to see what the Lord will do during our time there.  I know that at the very least I will come back changed, having drawn closer to my Savior.  

Would you like to help?  Would you pray for the trip and for Haiti?

The team of Haiti 6 would appreciate your prayers for:

~ Haiti - that the people's eyes would be opened and they would turn to the Lord in the midst of these disasters.  

~ Cholera - that the outbreak would be stopped.  The disease has already claimed hundreds of lives.  Pray for relief for the people of Haiti, for clean water, and knowledge to stop the spread of the cholera.

~ Team - a safe trip down and health in Haiti.  That we would be willing servants of the Lord, bold to proclaim His name, humble to serve, loving all we meet with the love of Christ.  

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again;  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." John 4:13-14  

~ A Servant of the King
To the praise of His glory.