Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Odd.

I found myself consumed with a strange, indescribable feeling today as I put life back in order from being gone the last week.

This Haiti trip was the last one scheduled on my calendar for the year...I know, most people only get to go once in a lifetime, but I find myself grieving a little bit and hoping for one to pop up.  In addition there aren't trips to Kenya planned as of yet, and the same deal there, I am hoping for one to pop up.

I had a physical today and Dr. Bloom asked if it felt strange to know that there aren't any plans for me to encounter the third world in the next several months...and my oh my it does.  Strange doesn't even begin to describe it.  I am not quite sure how I will deal.  

Thursday, April 09, 2009

North Carolina Bound...

We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.  We would appreciate any prayers as we make our journey towards Cary, NC.

Here is our plan:
5:30am breakfast
6:00 AM board bus for Port au Prince
12:00PM depart Port au Prince for Miami
3:15 PM arrive in Miami
9:00 PM depart Miami for Raleigh
11:00 PM arrive in Raleigh

We hate to leave Haiti, it seems like we just arrived, which, we sort of just did thanks to all of the chaos of trying to get here.  Pray for smooth transitions, both between buses and flights, and also for the transitions of our hearts.  We are about to be jolted back into the reality we left a week ago, and it is far different from the reality we have lived this week.


Thoughts on Unity...The Courtney's


Hi!  It’s the Courtneys’!!!! (Courtney squared)

It’s also Thursday and our week is coming to a close. It’s bittersweet because we’ve all fallen in love with Haiti and the wonderful people and relationships here. But, we are stoked to share all our experiences and the ways God has worked through us and taught us so much in these few short days.  Anyway, you may be wondering why we’re blogging together. Well, it has a purpose. It’s a metaphor for our unity as a team and body of Christ.

            When we first came together about six months ago, we were all pretty hesitant and unsure about all the differences between the people in our group…. So many different personality types…how in the world could we mesh?!??! Well, this week has disproved that theory. We are all such a huge family now. God couldn’t have planned a better team for this trip! We all encourage and build up everyone. It’s splendid because one of our goals was to work together as a team.

“As a prisoner for the lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4: 1-3).

            As you already know, we have had a lot of trouble getting here and we really felt Satan working against our plan and pushing us away from our destination.  However, we also could feel God working through it all and in the end, the enemy was defeated.  Without each other, our joy and our successes this week would not have been possible.

God has used our team’s unity this week to help us unite this culture in Jacmel, Haiti through a soccer camp. And hopefully, people here will continue to unite in Christ.

-Courtney Shepard and Courtney Stoner

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A part of me...Ken Marshall


As another day goes by, I find myself falling in love with this place more and more. The people, the culture, the food (which I love J) but there are these two things I can’t stop thinking about. Their names are Vania and Tina Pye; they are the kids of Danny and Leanne Pye. These two beautiful girls happen to be the kids my family sponsors from the Haitian Children’s Home. Back at home on my piano I have their pictures sitting on top of it with all their info, so every time I would go to play the piano I would see their faces and read about them. I never would have thought in my lifetime that I would be here in Haiti playing with these two young gals. I always looked at those pictures and wondered how they are doing and how I could always help, it never hit me when I signed up for this Haiti mission trip I would be seeing them and meeting them but as it got closer I realized that I would be seeing them. When I first got to see these two girls the first thing I did was show them the pictures I had of then, I don’t speak their language but I sure did know how to say “YOU”. Tina’s reaction was her hands going over her face and laughing, and then walking away. She probably was thinking “why does that “Haitian” have a picture of me.” Vania’s reaction happened to be the same. As my trip went on I got to spend more time with them I feel God had called me to meet these girls and make a little dent in their lives. I have only been here for three days and I feel like Tina, Vania and I have known each other forever. Today after we finished at the Soccer Outreach it was the Pye kids and our team cleaning up the fields. Tina, Vania and I decided that we wanted to play and not work, so we did. We ran and threw water on each other and it felt like it was just us. I mean  you couldn’t tell me anything, I felt God all around us watching over us and  it just felt  so right. Tina and Vania have been blessings in my life and have made a big impact  in my life. Just to see a picture become reality is a blessing in its self.

Living To Make Him Famous

-ken a. marshall

 

Learning to Trust...Kelsey Stoner


So our week in Haiti is coming to a close. Unfortunately, it has gone by way to fast. But it has been another eye-opening experience I will never forget. Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me the importance of trusting him fully with everything in my life and showing that He is the one that I need to rely on in any situation.

When we started our journey, there were so many roadblocks along the way that were keeping us from making our way to Jacmel. Our flight was delayed a whole day. Once we reached Miami, our flight to Haiti was delayed 3 hours. And when we got to Haiti, the roads were literally blocked to Jacmel (another night away from where we believed we were supposed to be). It was so hard for me at first to comprehend everything that was going on. Why was God keeping us from Jacmel? Why was Satin interfering with this great opportunity? It was frustrating. But I realized that in every situation we were put in, the only thing our team could do, at that time, was pray and trust that God had everything under control. His plan was not our plan and we had to understand that those are not always the same.

Every soccer season, each player on my team memorizes a verse that pertains to their life at the moment - a verse that demonstrates what God is teaching them. I chose Psalm 63. The beginning of it says, “God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water”. It goes on to talk about the rest of the body and that without God, it is like living without water: impossible.
So it was amazing to see how God was preparing me for my trip to Haiti. Nothing made sense at the beginning. But, I realized how trusting in God can be difficult, but rewarding at the same time. I have enjoyed coming back and spending another week in Haiti. Even though it was short, it has been a blast. I love the team I get to be apart of. And this trip has been another unforgettable experience that will always stick with me.
- Kelsey Stoner

***Editor's note: Kelsey wrote this on Wednesday but poor internet connection prevented us from uploading until today.  

Unexpected Birthday gifts...Breanna Rohde


            April 8th is not just another day in Haiti, but it also happens to be my birthday.  Before this trip I was kind of disappointed I wouldn’t be able to be at home with my friends and family and basically a day all about me.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but to be honest I had a very unexpected birthday. 

            This week has been amazing on so many different levels.  But I also think that since today was my birthday it made me think about things differently.  This whole week is about serving God and giving to the Haitian community.  Each day at the soccer outreach we serve the players and other community members a meal with juice.  Yesterday everyone sat down and somewhat waited patiently for their food.  Once they got it though they pretty much ate it soooo quickly.  Since today there was more people it made things a little bit more difficult.  I was on water duty today which meant when each game was over Valarie and I passed out the small water bags.  We were bombarded after each game.  It was amazing to see that almost half of the people would stand around and try and snag another one.  I got so frustrated because I couldn’t speak the language and couldn’t tell them to sit down and that they could only have one.  These people don’t get very much water throughout their everyday lives and when they get the opportunity to get free water they take advantage of that. 

            I didn’t really think about the fact that it was my birthday today.  The only times I actually remember thinking about it was when Stephen randomly came up. to me and would say “Happy Birthday!” I was simply too busy to think about myself and I think that’s what this week is about for me.  I consider myself a very selfish person and complain when I don’t get what I want.  Going back to when we gave out lunches, that’s when I realized how selfish I was.  After we gave out food many would continue to get closer and closer just to get more food.  I watched them somewhat beg and say they hadn’t already had food when they really did.  It kind of made me sad because we have it so good and pretty much get what we want when we want it, but this is sometimes the only meal of the day for the Haitians. 

Overall this week I think I have done pretty well on not complaining and being selfish.  I just realized that in this country it’s not all about you.  One last thing that struck me today was we went to the pool with the HCH kids.  At one point we had French fries and drinks.  We let the kids get what they wanted first before we ate.  Two of the girls got their food and still came over to me and another girl and offered us a fry before they even had one.  Just something about that made my heart jump even though I’m not quite sure what it is.  These kids are so loving and so caring for everyone but themselves.  It pretty much made my birthday and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week. :]

***Editor's note:  Breanna doesn't know it yet, but in a few hours she will celebrate her birthday Haitian Children's Home style with a cake made by Sandra and some cards from home!

Tuesday in pictures...

Can it be Wednesday already?

Tuesday was an awesome day!  It was in full Haiti fashion and very hot and humid day, but we had a blast.  The key events were feeding about 150 people from the community a hot lunch, registering the kids for the soccer outreach, and helping Dr. Teresa (who we stayed with sunday night) prepare for the medical clinic she will do while we are doing the soccer outreach.  And, there was a spur of the moment soccer game of the "whites" vs the Haitians in the afternoon. Let's just say we weren't as lucky as UNC...we lost miserably, but it was a lot of fun, and we are pretty sure the Haitians enjoyed it just as much if not more...

Lisa, Olivia and Magdalene helping prepare for lunch

Ken, Courtney, and Courtney getting the kids excited while they wait in line.


Kelsey and Nicole registering the kids.


Eddie and Valerie helping sort medications for the clinic
Breanna and Rachel helping to sort medications for the clinic
Courtney, Ken and Kelsey helping with lunch prepration

Thanks so much for praying for us. Please continue to pray as we have another day at the open field.  The sun is hot, we aren't quite used to it, and it is also intense and a few of us are learning lessons in re-applying sunscreen!  Nobody got burnt badly yesterday but some of us definitely came back to the home a little pink.  Today is the first day of the soccer outreach, and we are looking into the possibility of treating the HCH kids to a dip in the pool, some fries and cokes at the end of the day.  Who would have known that serving and blessing could be so much fun!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Being a blessing...Stephen Smith

So, each day Pam has one of us led devotion, either in the morning or at night. This morning I was awarded the duty of leading. Honestly I had no idea what I was going to talk about or anything. I prayed for a while about it last night, and the only thing I kept thinking was about how blessed I am to be here. Seriously I had no idea how amazing this trip would be, and I feel extremely lucky to be here.

Not only am I blessed to be in a group like ours, but also just to be able to here at all. About two months before we left Eddie came to me and told me that I hadn’t raised enough money, as a matter of fact I wasn’t even close. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to come, and since I didn’t know what to do I turned to God and a few good friends of mine. 

That week I received multiple checks from friends, and even some anonymous checks. That was my first real feeling of blessing on this trip.

But, what does it mean to be blessed. According to my Bible, the definition of bless is when God makes things go well for a person. As you probably know things didn’t necessarily go well for our group at the beginning (or so we thought.) 

Throughout all the layovers and delays we had the opportunity to grow as a strong group, and we have agreeably been blessed with this time together. As God has blessed us, it is our duty to bless others, whether it is others in the group, our leaders, or the kids we are here to impact. While ‘researching’ last night for my devotion, I ran across Deuteronomy chapter 30. It says “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to posses.” (Verses 15-16)  That really motivated me to do whatever it takes to bless those around me. To help when asked, or not asked. And to be a blessing to the wonderful kids here. I didn’t know who or how to bless, but I found the answer in Romans 12: 14-21. It opened my eyes and encouraged me to be a blessing, while I am being blessed.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers as we travel further in our journey. Knowing that there are people supporting us back home helps us in more ways than you could imagine. Among all of the blessings God has given us, family and friends seems to be one of the greatest.

-Stephen

Sometimes seeing is believing...

We've told you everyone is healthy and strong and doing really well.  Here are some pictures to reassure you.  We are having a blast.  









Monday, April 06, 2009

Patience is key, Prayer is life... Rachel Brown

***You all get to hear plenty from me...so we thought this week we would let the students take over my blog.  I hope you enjoy hearing about our trip from their perspective... -Pam


These past few days have not only been long and stressful, but also enlightening. With all of our traveling issues and delays I was sure that we’d never arrive in Jacmel, but we did! Before this trip, I had never really considered praying a daily part of my routine. Sure, I prayed right

 before a big exam or when a family member was sick but it really wasn’t a big priority in my life. Not until this past weekend, that is. This is my first trip out of the United States, and I admit that I’ve been a little bit nervous and apprehensive. I’m not typically a shy person but for some reason I didn’t feel like I was myself. Today, when we went to Danny and Leanne’s place, the Haitian Children’s Home, I felt lost. There were so many kids and it was overwhelming! I couldn’t understand them because they all spoke Creole and even though many knew English they felt more comfortable in their own language. The language barrier really stressed me out and while I wanted to talk to those kids, I had a hard time picking up key words and phrases (I speak Spanish, not Creole!). For the first hour I meandered throughout the house trying to figure out what I should do. My other teammates were absorbed in hand clapping games and futbol (soccer), and I didn’t have a clue as to what I should have been doing. So I did what I had learned to do best during this trip: I prayed. I asked God to give me an overwhelming excitement for the kids in the Haitian

 Children’s Home, and I prayed that he would somehow use the language barrier for good. I spent 5 minutes asking God for guidance and afterwards I actually felt a lot better. 

After that it was as if God had transformed me into a completely different person. I was happy and even a little excited about getting to know these kids. While we were at the beach, without sharks of course, I even met a little girl who actually talked to me in English! Throughout these past few days I’ve learned that patience is key and prayer is life. If you don’t pray, you won’t go anywhere. If people hadn’t been praying for us last night it’s possible that we could have been stranded on the way to Jacmel still 3 hours out. Even though I’ve been frustrated and disappointed, I know that God always has a plan. We just have to know how to ask what it is.

-Rachel

The Long Story...

For those of you who have been praying...THANK YOU!  We have felt your prayers and been incredibly blessed by you.  When I shared with the students how many of you were praying, and that in service yesterday you took time out just to pray for us, a few of them were in shock, a few got teary, and all of us felt loved.

Here's the skinny...

Weather in New York grounded us in Raleigh for another 24 hours Saturday morning.  We made the best of it, and looking back, we are thankful for the extra time to bond as a team.

Sunday morning we take off on the 6am flight to New York (JFK.)  We arrive and we are stoked!  We are going to Haiti!!!  About half an our after arriving at JFK, our gate changes and we notice our departure time had changed too.  What was a 2 hour layover ended up being about 5.  We were originally flying on a 767, but due to equipment failure our plane was not an option.  Kudos to American Airlines for not canceling the flight but instead finding another plane.  The delay came in that the replacement plane was larger, and required different certification, thus we had to wait for different flight crew.  Eventually, after our crew arrived, and after a mix-up with the in flight meals not being delivered, we were able to board, and we were on our way.

Due to our late departure we were unable to catch our charter flight from Port au Prince to Jacmel.  The latest a charter flight can take off is 4:30pm.  We landed at 4:15, and by the time we had our bags and had made it through customs flying to Jacmel was not an option.  This meant a last minute rental of a charter bus.  Danny Pye was able to get one, and a driver to meet us at the airport.  

Then we arrived in Laogane.  Jonathan emailed the parents and leadership team but the short story is there was a party with parading in Laogane, and well, road passage was NOT an option. After making multiple attempts to pass through the town via different roads we concluded that the best/safest/wisest decision was to stay with some other missionary friends in Christianville.  So we turned around, made a quick 10 minute drive to Christianville and after some time of prayer and quick devotions our heads hit the pillows.  

At 4:45 this morning we woke our students, and by 5am we were again on the road, and we had shouts of celebrations as we passed through Laogane without any "parades" and then 2 hours later some more shouts as we passed over the bridge into Jacmel.  We finally arrived, at around 7:30am Haiti time...50 hours later than our original scheduled departure from Raleigh.

NEVER have I heard of a team having SO MUCH trouble getting into Jacmel.  Danny himself commented on how crazy it was, and we are all thinking that God must have some amazing things planned for the community of Jacmel and for our team.  We are thrilled to be a part of it and can't wait to get started.

Since our arrival, we settled into our rooms, ate an awesome breakfast and have started preparing the packets for the soccer outreach that begins tomorrow.  The students, they are astounding.  It is a rare thing to have 10 teens so eager to go with the flow, so quick to be patient, so determined to trust their leaders and God.  They have made the last 48 hours of hurdles easy to wade through.

The rest of the day will be doing the work that was planned for Saturday night, yesterday and today...after all we did come here for a Soccer Outreach that starts tomorrow!  The students are cranking through it now with amazing speed.  Our thoughts are that they are working so fast they will get three days' work done in 3 hours, we will then head out for prayer on the site of the Soccer Outreach, come back to the mission house for lunch, then spend the afternoon playing with the kids of the Haitian Children's Home and touring the land that was purchased last summer.

Thanks for praying, please keep it up.  We have made it to Jacmel, but our journey is far from over.  Pray for hearts that were discouraged, hearts that are overwhelmed with what they have seen, heard and smelled.  


We made it!


It has been a long long long journey, but we finally made it to Jacmel this morning.  Will share the long version later, but for now, here's a picture of the team, thrilled to be in Jacmel, Haiti!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

So far so good...

Well we all fell into our beds at an insanely early hour last night, but seeing as most of us had slept less than 3 hours in a 36 hour period...that's not too hard to explain.

My phone just rang, American Airlines confirming that we are flying at 6am this morning.  So far things are looking good.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

In a New York Minute...

Everything can change.

We all went to bed last night planning to wake up and meet up at church at 3am for our carpool to the airport.  Our plans were to depart Raleigh Durham Airport at 6am this morning, head to New York City JFK then on to Port au Prince.

That is, until my phone rang at midnight, with the lovely sound of the automated system letting us know that our 6am flight was delayed and would now take off at 10:30am, an hour after our connection in NYC.  

For a bit, we thought our trip was toast, I was agonizing over having to tell these awesome students that our trip was cancelled, cause you know it is Spring Break, getting 13 seats on a plane is IMPOSSIBLE.

But nothing is impossible with God.  

After many phone calls, and an awesome customer service representative, after being told there was no way we could get our entire team there before Thursday, we somehow managed to be in a position where we could 10 there sunday and 3 monday, and then, out of the blue we had 13 seats on Sunday!  Even the service representative said it was a miracle.

So our team was a little bummed this morning when we met at the church and I informed them of our 24 hour layover in Raleigh, but we are making the best of it.  We are sticking together as a team, and will have some adventures around town, and try again tomorrow morning.

Thanks for praying, keep it up.  

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

2 days...and counting

Our trip to Haiti is fast approaching!  Myself, Eddie Mullins, Lisa Smith and 10 students from Crosspointe Church will head to Haitian Children's Home in Jacmel, Haiti on Saturday!  As long as the internet is functioning, we will share stories and prayer requests here during our trip.  In the meantime, you can be praying for our hearts to be ready, travel safety, the Holy Spirit to lead and guide, and for good health.