Living in Haiti is hard. We knew that going in, and we have experienced a variety of ups and downs but overall it’s hard. The thing that keeps us going every day is knowing that for now, this is where we are supposed to be. We don’t know where we will be next year, or even really what is next after we finish our term here in June. The need is so overwhelming, and the solutions seem so limited. As cliche as it sounds, the best we can do is take it one day at a time and look for one place to make a difference for that day.
One of the bright spots for us as parents has been watching Ellie’s heart grow for the kids in the orphanage. She loves to go as often as she can to love on and hold the babies and young kids, and they all love her. At eight years old she wants to adopt half of them, and she is doing really well at speaking Creole. The kids in the community love her too and every time we walk through the mission they flock to be near her. They flock to Lilah too, but she is not quite as happy to see them. She gets overwhelmed more easily and so she tends to keep to herself.
March was a crazy and interesting month to say the least. We started the month somewhat normal with teams here to serve in the Mission. A mixed team of medical workers and handymen came to serve in Plasaince and in Carries. They saw hundreds of cases over the 4 days of serving in our medical clinics, ranging from illness and infections, to a little girl that had 3rd degree burns over 45% of her body from spilling oil on herself as she was lighting a lamp. Sheena was able to spend one of the days shadowing a man who has been a paramedic for over 30 years, including time as a medic in the military. She learned a great deal about field medicine from a man who has likely seen and done it all.
A week later Sheena had some extreme pain right above her stomach, similar to the pain she had felt which led to her gall bladder being removed. She tried to tough it out but the pain only increased. Ms Lynn and Miss Kim felt the best course of action would be for her to go to a hospital in Florida. Ms Lynn accompanied her on a flight the next day, and after some time in the ER it was determined Sheena had a stomach ulcer. The girls and I flew to Florida the next day to be with her, and we spent a few days there before flying home to California for a 10 day stay that we had already planned.
As with every step of our journey, the timing of things and how everything has lined up is so perfect that only God could arrange it. We very much needed the two weeks of rest and refreshing we got in Florida and California, and it was so good to spend time with friends and family. Thanks to many of you we were also able to take some much needed supplies and items back with us to Haiti to help further the ministry and bless some people in the mission.
Since being back in Haiti we have hit the ground running. A few days after our return a team from our home church, The Rock of Roseville, came for a week. They did such an amazing job of encouraging our long term missions team and they had a great experience working in the community. It was really hard saying goodbye to them at the end of the week.
Also during this week we received God’s gift of mercy in the form of Mercy. About six weeks in to our time here, Sheena was sharing and crying with Ms Lynn about how difficult and time consuming it has been homeschooling the girls. After spending a morning with them she has very little energy and drive to go out in the heat and serve in the mission. Miss Lynn said she would pray and ask others to pray for God to send someone to come to Mission of Grace for the sole purpose of teaching our kids. Two days later we were told a young girl who had just completed her first mission trip to Haiti, heard of our need and committed to come. Her name is Mercy and she arrived a week after we retuned at the beginning of April.
As I said before, the timing of things has been so perfect in this journey. God knew we would need the encouragement of The Rock team before the next team came in. This team from Jacksonville, Florida is known as Team Haiti, and they come to serve with Mission of Grace 3-4 times a year. When they come it is a whirlwind of activity. On day one we held a mass wedding in the community where 19 couples got married. Team Haiti brings wedding dresses for the women to wear, and gives the men suits that they can keep after the wedding. They also provide rings, food, and gifts for each couple.
After church on Sunday, day two, the team started cleaning and decorating our new elderly home. This home has been under construction since November, and it is the crown jewel of our mission. It is by far the nicest building in Carries and will rival, and probably surpass, many elderly care homes in the US. In a day and a half the team built 15 beds, sewed and hung curtains, made pillows, scrubbed floors, washed windows, and I mounted a flat screen TV in the common area.
On Wednesday February 20, we had a grand parade as we moved our 8 Home of Grace residents, plus 7 new ones from within the community, from the old house to the new house. They were all filled with such joy and excitement upon moving in, and that has only continued to grow over the two weeks they have been home. Many of them have gone from sitting in silence day in and day out, to chatting non-stop with their roommates and friends. They are filled with a new life and vibrancy that most of them have likely not had in years, if ever.
On Friday we had a quick turnaround as Team Haiti left, and two other teams came in. One was a group of 16 from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) that came down after spending two weeks in Plasiance with our sister ministry Foundation Guillaume. One of their main projects in Plasiance was building a rain catchment system that works off of a series of building gutters and stores the drinkable water in a cement tank. Upon hearing about how much we spend for drinking water in our mission, they chose to build us a tank as well. It took nearly every minute of their time with us during the week, but they got it done and we know it will make a huge impact on our community.
The other group that came in is a team of dentists from Medical Response International (MRI) who are working in three different locations in Haiti, including Plasiance. Over the course of two weeks they have been providing free dental care ranging from cleanings and checkups, to extractions, fillings, and restorations.
Intermixed with the busyness of teams and the targeted ministry that takes place, we have experienced a myriad of heart warming, and heart breaking stories. On a Monday morning in early April we had a young girl come in to our clinic whose entire hand was charred with third degree burns. She said that two days prior she had taken a drink of her father’s juice without asking, and in his anger he stuck her hand in a fire and held it there. She has been in the hospital ever since, nearly a month, as the doctors have battled to save her hand from amputation at the request of her mother.
However, a little later that same day, a mother went in to labor in our clinic. When Sheena heard about it she rushed up the hill to assist, but missed the delivery by only a few minutes. He was only the second baby to be born in our clinic and after Sheena helped get mom and baby cleaned up, the mom asked her to name him. She named him Lucas, which means bright and shining. Not every day is as extreme as that one was, but every day carries with it some good and some bad.
On the same day we moved our people in to the new Home of Grace, we launched our long awaited young men’s ministry. We’re starting with 5 teenage boys from the community, and a young man of 22 that has been on staff in the mission for a couple of years as their overseer. Some of these young men have been waiting for almost two years for this program to start and the sense of purpose and hope they now have is amazing to see.
A couple of weeks ago after church, on her birthday, Ms Lynn had three nursing mothers come up to her and asked her to take their babies. They were homeless and jobless and could not afford to feed themselves and their children. Our two room single mom’s house is full with two moms and 4 kids, (we took in the mother of the girl with the burnt hand and her other 3 children) but we happened to have the former elderly home available. We quickly moved these three families in (a total of 8 children) and are still in the process of figuring out how to feed and care for them as we do not currently have room in our budget for this expanded need. Many people have been moved to give to help cover some of the initial costs, but the need to feed these and other helpless families that come our way is ever present. I have added a donate button if you would like to help provide food and other necessities for these new families we have taken in. Clicking the button will take you to a donation page for Mission of Grace.