|Haiti: June 2009|
Setting the stage
Since we were at the orphanage last summer, our Haitian family has gone through a lot. Hurricane Gustav passed directly over them in late August and shortly after that, Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike dumped rain on the already-saturated island. There was so much water, in fact, that the two lakes we could see in the valley from the orphanage were flooded and a new lake had formed! The storms damaged property, but even worse was that the standing water let mosquitoes multiply. Several people ended up sick, but the most devastating was when Mommy came down with Malaria. She was sick for a while and had to go the hospital. The scariest moment was when we received word that the doctors had given up and said she probably only had two days left to live. Immediately, we started organizing a huge prayer effort. Two weeks later, we received an update that Mommy had improved enough to be transferred to a hospital in the U.S. Shortly after that, she was healthy and released from the hospital. God answers prayer!
Even though everyone was physically healthy, they still faced major challenges. The bakery had to be repaired and get running again, transportation was difficult because of storm damage, and money was even tighter than usual because of all the emergencies that had to be taken care of. Every day at the orphanage they feed forty people! Day in and day out, those forty people are there and have to eat something...and the food necessary to accomplish that is getting harder to purchase. Even now, there's a lot of pressure.
The main thing
Our major goal this trip was to encourage our people...our family. In the past, the kids have told us that the best time of their year is when we visit them. This time, especially, we were able to bring some excitement and happiness to the orphanage for a couple of weeks. Some trips have been very outward-focused, but this time we focused inward. We played with the kids and talked with them. And it wasn't just the veterans. Even the new people dove right in and built relationships.
We did our usual fun activities like soccer with both the older kids and the younger kids, a trip to the beach, bingo night (don't worry...it was free to play and everyone left with a prize), movie night, playing a card game called Casino that all the Haitians know, playing dominoes where the loser's punishment was to drink a full glass of water (one of our team members drank 9 glasses in 30 minutes and the Haitians made him quit), and other random silliness. One night, we threw a party outside in the yard (so more people could come) that featured a limbo competition. Another night we had a pizza party that fed over forty people (some of them had never eaten pizza before)! A side note... Mommy is in charge of all the meals and everything she prepares is amazing, including the pizza.
I had a conversation with one of the new team members the first night. He saw that within the first few hours of our arrival at the orphanage, we had already brought encouragement, excitement and hope. He realized that even if that's all we accomplished, the whole trip was worth it. We didn't stop there, however...
Altogether, we had six church services and two special youth services. There were three salvations at our first church service in the church at the orphanage and one more the next day when teams went out witnessing. A total of four may not sound too impressive, but don't underestimate the importance of even one salvation. As far as ministering to the Body of Christ, this trip would easily rank as one of the best. Testimonies were strong and the times we spent praying for people were powerful. I'll share two highlights from the services.
One of the services at the orphanage church stands out in particular. Between worship and our normal program of testimonies and preaching, we took some time to pray for the church. As we stood in the front and faced the congregation, God's presence and anointing were obvious. This was intercession for restoration, healing, provision, blessing, anointing and power. Of course, we prayed in English and most of the church doesn't speak English, so when Clint got up to preach, he told them what we had been praying. That morning, God had given him a message to share at that service. It was a short, powerful message and led right into a powerful time praying for people at the altar. The Holy Spirit was present and I'm convinced that God moved to meet people's needs that night.
The other service that really stands out was the second youth service, where we gathered together just the older kids (upper teens and early twenties) who have been at the orphanage for years and we have built relationships with. We worshipped with them in Creole and in English and then gave them a chance to share. Pastor Winston asked them to tell us how they were doing spiritually and physically and what they needed. We heard a large range of needs, including encouragement, direction, fixed relationship with family, going to school and staying strong in faith. So much in their life centers around having the opportunity to get an education, but because it costs money, too often it's a privilege. At first we were only going to hear from a few, but then more wanted to share and by the end almost everyone did. A few of us shared some thoughts and encouragement and then we took time to pray for them. I believe we really ministered to them.
Years ago, a small group of the team went on a hike across the valley and climbed part of the way up the mountains on the other side. That hike was a real adventure and we were helped at the end by a church that gave us water. We were amazed to discover how much is going on in the valley that we can't see from the orphanage - people farming, animals grazing, streams, houses, fields...
This time, there were several outings to explore the surrounding area a little more. The first was a walk up the highway a short distance to where the flood waters had reached. Then Uwe led a tour up the hill behind the orphanage and we discovered some things we had never seen before. Another walk went into the valley and then east through the valley a while before crossing to the other side. That trip was cut short as we approached the other side because we had a service that evening and needed to get back. And finally the entire group went on a hike that took a more direct walk across the valley and climbed a little ways up the mountain. It was a great experience for everyone and gave the entire team a little better understanding of our surroundings. On this final hike, too, God had a plan.
As we were making our way back to the orphanage, we passed back by a tree where a few Haitians had been sitting in the shade earlier. They were still there and started to talk with our kids who were leading the hike. The story unfolded that they were Christians and had basically lost everything in the storms. They were out of food and were asking us for prayer and help. We took a small detour back to their house and prayed for the whole family. Pastor Winston told the mother to send one of the guys with us and promised that we would give him food to bring back. We ended up sending four bags of food to this family - truly a miracle for them!
Near the end of the trip, we learned that a man Poppy knew was having some pretty bad prostate issues. A small group of us headed to visit him while the rest of the team prepared for our service that evening. When we arrived, we found him lying on a mat. We learned that the man had been unable to urinate for a couple of days and on top of that was sick and light-headed. This was a Christian family and he had strong faith, so we prayed fervently for several minutes. He said he felt a little better, so we started praying fervently again. He said he felt better and started to stand up! One of the girls shared that she felt God saying that as he urinated, it would symbolize a complete cleaning work in the man's life. We prayed again. The man sat back down, but was obviously stronger than when we had arrived. We had to leave, but knew that God had definitely touched him and would continue the work. The next day part of our group went to visit him. They reported that he was doing well and had been able to urinate normally! [Update: A couple of weeks after the trip, we learned the sad news that this man had passed away. Of course I would have preferred to learn (and be able to pass along) that he was fully recovered, but I know that he now is fully experiencing the hope that his faith held onto when he was suffering. I like to think that his final days were more comfortable than what he had been facing prior to our visit.]
It's always hard to write a post-trip report, and this time it has seemed extra-difficult. This trip more than ever before, my thoughts and prayers remain focused on my Haitian family. They have a difficult road ahead of them. God is able to answer every need, but that doesn't mean the journey will be without pain.
Sixteen of us gathered for sixteen days, but now we have returned home...some to great blessings and some to great challenges. Though we went to touch lives, it's impossible to leave unchanged. Our lives were touched by the love of the Haitians and the love of our Father. Winston, Sara, Jessica, Uwe, Brian, Clint, Mitch, Angela, Adam, Flo, Elisha, Joy, Rusty, Vanesa, Alicia, and Rachelle... 10 veterans, 6 first-times; 14 from UCLA Chi Alpha, 2 from Kansas City (we had never actually met Alicia and Rachelle until about 4 hours before boarding the plane to Port-au-Prince while we were spending the night in the Miami airport - they immediately became friends and invaluable team members).
One last thing... I had a special project that started before the trip and continued throughout the entire time we were there. David is one of the older kids (or really, a young adult). Last year, Pastor Bob asked us to get a laptop for David. Matt, who was on the trip last year, had an old laptop that he donated. I worked on it in the week or so before we left to get it ready and then the day we arrived, we gave it to David. Throughout the two weeks we were in Haiti, I spent many hours with him teaching him how to use various programs, tweaking settings for things I hadn't anticipated and showing him resources on the Web like Wikipedia and Google's language translation page. In the midst of all of my "serious" endeavors, a few other of the team members made sure David got connected with everyone on Facebook and had a list of email addresses. He now has better access to both information and to people than ever before! It's an amazing opportunity for David, and he's also sharing it with a bunch of the other kids.