While I’m sure this can be said of virtually every country, Haiti is a very unique place. There is a blending of so many different cultures mixed with the constant tension of the poor trying to get out of their poverty and the rich and powerful constantly undermining their ability to do so. Practically every developed nation in the world has been trying to help Haiti get out of this seemingly endless cycle since the earthquake in 2010, and many for long before that. So what is the problem, what is the solution, and what gives us the audacity to think we have the ability to do anything significant in this process?
Well there are many problems, and therefore many solutions that will have to take place gradually, likely over many years. The one thing I’m pretty confident of is that the problems will not be solved or resolved by Americans or any other foreign person or organization. The answer lies within the Haitian people, and predominantly with the next generation. The hope for any nation is always in the next generation that will eventually ascend to the places of prominence and leadership. And so that is why we are here and why we think we can help make a difference in Haiti. That is the whole purpose and focus of Mission of Grace, to raise up leaders for the next generation that will lead with conviction and morals and love and compassion. We are honored to be able to play a small roll in that process.
Over this past month we have been very intentional in doing things that will help develop our young people into the leaders we hope and pray they will become. Sheena took the teen girls on a field trip to a museum not far from us that chronicles the origins and history of Haiti. While we knew a little bit about Haiti being a French slave colony and the war for their independence, there were quite a few details we didn’t know. The girls actually knew very little about their history as well and Sheena was very glad to be able to help expose them to that. Weekly yoga classes and teachings are continuing to go well, and Sheena has developed a sweet bond with many of the girls.
For Valentines' Day we gave them each a necklace and a love letter filled with Scripture verses of what their Heavenly Father has to say about them. We want them to know that they are deeply love, cherished, clothed in righteousness, and uniquely special.
February also brought our orphanage a few more children, which hasn't happened in quite some time. We do our very best to attempt to keep families together and help support them as they raise their children: not raise them for them. But one day after church, a man had come far down the mountain with his three children. He had been trying his best to take care of them ever since the mother passed away a few months ago, but the younger ones were getting more and more malnourished with each passing day. The father was also disabled. We could tell if we didn't take them these children would surely die. One of the babies, only 10 months old, weighs about 6 pounds. We got them settled and named them Lilly, Hope, and Grace.
Ellie and Lilah pretty much have a singular focus here and that is the babies house at the orphanage. While they have specifically gravitated towards 2 or 3 of the babies, we have encouraged them to be intentional in spending time with many or all of them (we have about 80 children in our direct care). It’s really amazing to watch them play with and love on these kids and see how the kids respond. Any time only one of our kids is at the orphanage all the babies are asking where the other one is. Ellie is teaching them English, which may seem like a small thing but could actually be one of the greatest gifts they could ever receive. The ability to speak english is highly valued in Haiti.
The chickenpox outbreak that has plagued the orphanage these last two months has finally started to dwindle down to just a few kids who are thankfully now recovering. While we do have a Haitian doctor, medical clinic, and American nurse with us, Sheena constantly finds herself being the one the people come to for their medical needs. Especially in the compound where we live (around 50-60 people at any given time), the people know that if they have an issue or ailment, Sheena will do her best to find them a remedy.
I have very much enjoyed being back in the role of working with the short term teams that come to serve here at Mission of Grace. It’s really fun getting to reconnect with people and teams that were here last year and building on the friendships that were started back then. I also really love when new people come to Mission of Grace for the first time. I love getting to share with them how the mission has grown over the past 6 years and what the vision is for the future. The work, the vision, and the excitement is contagious. It’s exciting to be a part of and even more exciting to see other people catch the vision and want to be more involved. If you have ever considered coming to serve in Haiti or want to see first hand what we are doing at Mission of Grace, please get in touch with me. I would love to bring you down here.
Teams play such a vital role in being able to continue to serve down here and in the growth of the Mission. Over the past couple of months our teams have helped in moving the soup kitchen and expanding it’s capacity to serve. We now feed on average 220 people a day, up from 100 just a month ago. We’ve had doctors and nurses come to lend their expertise on multiple medical cases and even helped deliver a baby. They’ve purchased and given out over 500 pounds of food to needy families in the community. And above all they have spent time and loved on our people in ways that our staff does not always have the time or ability to do. Teaching our teen girls how to sew, teaching our young men carpentry skills, giving massages to our elderly, little things to them but life changing things for our people.
It's been a great couple of months here so far. Next month, we will briefly return home for a family wedding. We plan to spend time with family and friends, finish up paperwork for our non profit status, and do a few side jobs to help get us back to Haiti in April. Once we return to Haiti, our hope is that we can remain here until the end of August.
While we are home, we will be collecting supplies to bring back. One practical need that we find over and over again is the need for working cell phones. If you go to buy a phone at a store here, there is no guarantee that it will work. As we are training up leaders and hiring more Haitian staff as the mission expands, the need for good working cell phones is huge. If any of you have previously used, but in good condition, cell phones that you are no longer using, we would be happy to take them off your hands. Androids seems to work best in this country (as long as they are unlocked). iPhones have a trickier time, but are not impossible. If you have any cell phones you would like to donate, please get in touch with either Sheena or myself. It would be a great blessing to be able to bring back 20-30 working cell phones.
Many of you have been such an important part of keeping us going on this journey. We would not be able to be here without your support, and many of the incredible things we have shared would not have happened if we had not been here. Not because we are anything special, but just because we are here. Thank you for giving to make a difference in the lives of the people of Haiti. It really is making a difference and we are so grateful for your support because it is impacting us and our children and our future as much as it is impacting the lives of those we are here to serve. And so from the bottom of our hearts we say thank you.