Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nearing the End

  Hello all! Our trip has come to an end but we are all so full of joy as we reflect upon this past week. Today was a very restful day spent finishing construction jobs, walking around town, and squeezing in the most time we possibly can with the team members we will not get to see after the trip.
  Courtney, Molly, Hannah, Christina, Caitlin and I helped Gail and Virgil (Inches) wrap up child sponsorship by entering many new kids into the program and some of our team members even found a kid of their own to sponsor. The clinic saw more patients today and Trevor built a cane for a girl with scoliosis. The computer lab is off to a good start, with new laptops and white boards. After lunch we had some free time to visit the market, the bakery, a soccer game, and to just fellowship with each on our last day in Haiti.
  I (Abigail) loved this trip especially because I got to know the youth even more deeply. Each year, I learn so much from the people I encounter and it has what I look forward to the most. The Haitians teach me the true meaning of joy in everything, from dancing as they put their money into the offering plate at church to greeting us as we pass on the street. I have come to depend on the Haiti team so much throughout our time in Fort Liberte and I grow to love each person very much by the end of the week. I would like to thank you all again for supporting our trips back to Haiti monetarily, and even more so, emotionally. We would not have enjoyed a blessed week working with such a wonderful group of people without your support, time, and care.
    Please continue to pray for us as we make a difficult transition from an impoverished country to our fortunate lifestyles in America. Thank you again for your prayers and for investing so much of yourselves into our trip!

  Bon Nuit!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

God of Wonders

 Hello all! Today I (Abigail) accompanied the clinic team ­on a visit to an outpost church in Dumas, a few miles from the city, while a small group of about five or six ventured to Cap Haitien for some plumbing parts. As the clinic team and I drove out of the higher populated side of Fort Liberte, I was very glad to see how much improvement has been made just since my four years of coming back to Haiti. The roads have either been paved or smoothed out, there is so much more greenery everywhere around us, the whole country’s literacy rate as vastly risen over the years, and much to the clinic team’s excitement, the number of malnourished children with orange hair and swollen bellies has gone down greatly.
   One hundred ten people were squeezed into the small church and were treated today. Molly, Courtney, Christina, Jacob, Josh and I had an amazing time playing with the kids and holding babies as they waited to be seen. We played hot hands (a favorite of the kids here) in the pews and we learned new games that we cannot wait to pass along to you all back home! As we wrapped up and got ready to leave for lunch, I caught a quick glance of a little girl we treated for eye problems and malnutrition last year who is now a healthy, happy girl with a beautiful smile.
   The small group that went to Cap Haitien excitedly shared with us the growth they saw there as well. The roads, which were once fraught with trash, have been cleared and there are new buildings! The evidence of God’s hand in Fort Liberte is so overwhelming and it has been a joy to watch the first-timers experience Haiti’s beauties.
   As the 2015 Haiti trip comes to an end, I look back at our time here and I thank God for lavishing so many blessings upon us this week. Thank you all so much for being so supportive of our trip and for taking your time to be a part of our day!

Bon Nuit!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Outpost, Kids, and Child Sponsorship


Hello from Courtney!
            Today was the start of our last three work days left before we leave Haiti. Most of us went to the outpost in Bayaha, while a few of the men went into the city of Cap Haitien to buy supplies for the construction.

            When we first got to the outpost, Dale and Josh accompanied a few of us girls on a walk to see the houses and the people of Bayaha outside of the church where we were staying at that time. Many of the children there were nude or were wearing very little clothing. Some of them even had an orange tint to their hair from malnutrition. Glenn said there was a lot more green in the town then when he had last been there, but there was still quite a bit of brown too. We saw many houses made out of dirt and mud, or sticks weaved together. Most of the roofs were made of thatch, and the nicer ones had a layer of tin on top.
            Back inside the small church, we set up a clinic type area where the people could get meds and minor medical help. First, they went to Bonnie at the triage to get their pulse and blood pressure taken. Then, they moved on to Larry, Dave, Caitlin Moore, or Susan to examine them and diagnose their condition. Finally, John, Caitlin Wilson, and Tobey distributed the proper amount of pills or antibiotics for the patients to take there and then carry the rest home. As a team, we ended up looking at over 100 patients in only a few hours.
            Not only did we serve the people through medical care, but we saw and played with many of the children at the outpost as well. Glenn and Katie were the favorites in a lively game of duck, duck, goose, and Josh took tons of great pictures with the kids from all kinds of crazy angles, then showed them their own images in the camera, which they greatly enjoyed.

            While most of us were helping the people and playing with adorable babies in Bayaha, one group of brave men journeyed to Cap Haitien to buy things for some construction that is to be done later. They said that the walls in the stores were stacked from ceiling to floor with random items, and that their sanity was put to the test. Luckily, I believe they came back with some good materials to use here in Ft. Liberte.

            After returning from our work sites and having a late lunch, some people stayed at the compound to rest (Glenn went to a soccer game), a group helped Gail and Virgil in Child Sponsorship, and another group went to visit the people at the welcome center.
            The welcome center is a home for about eight to ten older Haitian men and women who are unable to take care of themselves, or do not have any family members to take care of them. Here, the Haiti team members were able to give the folks some good medical care and medicines, similar to what was done at the outpost. They said that they had given one lady a walker who has had hip and back trouble since early October of last year, and once she got up on her feet, she took off sprinting! They said it was actually a very happy place and the people there really enjoyed the company from our Haiti team.

            I stayed back at the compound and continued helping with Child Sponsorship from Saturday with Gail, Virgil, Molly, Abigail, Hannah, and Caitlin Wilson. Today was less chaotic than Saturday and far less kids showed up, but we still worked hard and got a lot done.

            Once we all returned to the house, we had a couple of hours to rest and then headed downstairs to the kitchen for dinner and worship. To finish the day off, most everyone gathered on the roof together and looked at the stars. It was a perfect way to end a successful day.

I can’t believe there are only two more work days left until we return home. Thank you all again so much for your prayers! Tomorrow and Tuesday night you will be hearing from Abigail, but I have really enjoyed righting this blog! Thanks for listening to me!
                                                            With love,
                                                                        Courtney Powers

A Day of Rest and Children


Greetings from Courtney! Today Jacob is giving the blog a rest and decided to pass the baton to me for the next few days in hopes that you readers may experience our trip from a different point of view.

Today a handful of us woke up early to venture to the fort to see the beautiful sunrise. Five thirty came early, but we all determined that it was worth it when the sky slowly started to change from black to yellow to deep orange. Here, I was truly able to see God’s gorgeous creation and experience a glimpse of His glory.

After we returned to the compound at about seven thirty, we had just enough time to change into our church clothes and go down to breakfast. At ten we headed to the church for an hour and a half long service filled with worship and a passage from one of the pastors there. I had never heard anything as beautiful as the singing of the women in the choir. It dawned upon me while listening to them that it doesn’t matter whether we are from Haiti or the United States, we all praise and worship the same God who loves and knows us all individually. After worship, the pastor preached a message about 1 Kings 17:5-14. Even though the pastor spoke in Creole, it was still enjoyable to watch him be so passionate and confident about God’s Word.

When we had left church and took a group picture, we changed clothes, ate lunch, and split up to do different things. I went with Gail, Virgil, and some others to the church to distribute gifts from sponsors in America to their sponsor kids who live here. It was refreshing to see all the smiling faces when the children received the presents from people back in the states who care about them. Both the parents and children were so thankful. Those of us who were close to the sponsors of the children took pictures with them to show to their sponsors when we get back home. Josh had quite a crowd of kids around him, playing games with them and teaching them how to make paper airplanes. Cody had a group around him as well while he taught them how to speak a little English.

During this time, a group of the men took large pieces of plywood from the orphanage and sanded them down in the courtyard of our compound to be painted and used as whiteboards and chalkboards for the school.

A littler later, a small group of us took a trip to the orphanage to measure the kids there and get their information to be sponsored back home.

Overall, today was a day of rest and little work for our Haiti team. Saving our energy for the laborious days to come and focusing on worshiping our Lord was our main goal today. We appreciate you all praying for us and keeping us in your thoughts. To all the sponsors that are reading this, you are making a difference down here in these peoples’ lives, and please continue to send your money and gifts; it really helps!

With love,
Courtney Powers

First Day on the Job


I find it hard to keep my eyes awake tonight as I relish the feeling of clean skin and a peaceful heart. I will endeavor to remain lucid long enough to paint a picture of today’s happenings.

Today was our first day of “working in the fields of the Lord”, if you’ll allow the phrase. Prep was done, and so early this morning we opened up the doors of the school and clinic and let the Lord’s will rock and roll.

We opened the courtyard of the school fairly early for the sponsorship children and were instantly flooded. To combat the general chaos, several stations were set up. First, kids would go to several of the younger girls to get measured for clothing and shoes. Next, they took a moment to go up against the wall so that Virgil could take a picture of them to match a face with a name and sizes. They then headed to a little table where their clothing information was taken down, matched with a face, and duplicated so that the files in the state could be updated. They finally got with Gail at the end of the line (or rather, uneven spiral) and gave a bunch of general bio, like age, grade, and interests for the information packets. There was one other booth set up for pastor Andre as he made sure the sponsorship money got into the right hands.

Desiring to get a better look, I climbed to the top of the school and found a perch to settle on that gave me an excellent view of the structured anarchy below. It was just like back in the states- teeny tiny children wide-eyed with excitement clinging to siblings, elementary/middle-school aged kids running around laughing and squealing, teens trying their best to look cool (and failing, as teens often do). After a moment, a little kid, Galvar (I probably butchered that spelling), came up and started chatting away with me. Did we understand each other? Absolutely not, but that didn’t matter. I let him use the camera I had, taking pictures of him which made him giggle to no end.

I was having a wonderful time with Galvar and our small silver camera, and then reality hit. Looking down, I saw a kid walking awkwardly to the side where he was pushed into a seat. The cause of his walk was not an injury, at least that I could see, but simply malnutrition- his core was so small that I could probably wrap my hand around his thigh with room to spare. He was weak- barely strong enough to lift his head. My heart broke. Praise God for all the healthy children I saw, growing like weeds, but the hurt and the pain still remains in this land. This didn’t take away from my time and joy with Galvar, but it did cast somewhat of shadow on my heart as I continued playing with Galvar. Bidding him goodbye after a bit, I headed over to the clinic.

The clinic was, in stark contrast, tame today. I believe word about us being a “medical” group hadn’t quite gotten out yet, leading the numbers to be substantial, but not undoable. In fact, we were able to serve pretty much everyone who walked through the doors today. The team of doctors, nurses, and PA’s we brought over did an absolutely wonderful job treating everything thrown at them, but lack of resources and the absence of technology  able to properly diagnose forced us to primarily treat symptoms instead of the actual disease. Yet, even through these hardships, the medical team healed many a pained soul and I praise God for that.

Medicine wasn’t the only thing going on in the clinic, as a group of the guys tore down an old, rusted metal sink and started constructing a new one. This venture proved highly successful, and by the end of the day we had thrown up a great frame with plans on finishing it all off tomorrow morning. Trevor, glowing with accomplishment, commented that this sink was the “quickest, highest quality, and best Haiti construction job” the group has done in a while.

Today was a good day. We are tired but happy, excited for the Church service tomorrow morning. The Lord did a lot of work through us today, but it only served as a reminder that we walk a dangerous line between treating the symptoms and curing the disease. Like Christ, we should strive to fill the physical needs first (as Christ did by feeding the 5000 and healing the sick before proclaiming the kingdom of God), but all the bread and medicine in the world won’t save a soul if Christ is not proclaimed. So often, we as Christians measure our success by tangible things (money given, time devoted, stuff donated) but fail to realize that the most important battle lines are with the people themselves. Sitting back today, thinking on the day, my highest moment spiritually, the time I felt like I served God the most, was not when I helped build the new sink or separated medicine at the clinic, but that brief, maybe 5 minutes I spent Galvar, and I think that all the team will agree with me that the actual physical work we do pales to the importance of just building relationships. This isn’t a “missionary” thing- this is for all of us Sons and Daughters of God. Yes, Christ does call us to give our time, our talents, and our treasures, but above all- He calls us to give our hearts. He calls us to care for the brokenhearted, the teary-eyed, the widows and orphans. This absolutely means striving to meet their physical needs, but the soul longs for companionship in the Lord more than the stomach for bread or the throat for water. This is yet another blessing God gives us, allowing us to serve him anywhere we are, for we will always be surrounded by people who need the Grace of God and the love from our hears, even if we don’t have two quarters to rub together or a talent we find particularly useful. Once again, God grants strength to our weakness, striving to conquer the cancer instead of just the cough.

We are incredibly grateful for the prayers you all offer for us, and we ask that you continue pray for the continuation of Gods will, not just in the lives of the mission group, but in the lives of all who call upon the Lord. This will be my last blog, so you will have the pleasure of reading the words of Courtney Powers and Abigail Harman in the days to come. Thanks for reading!

                                                                                                In Christ, Jacob Eastman            

P.S. I apologize once again for the late posting. We've been having major wifi problems. Thank you for your patience! - Josh)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Steep Hike


Today was dominated by one reality- miles of uneven road, spiraling upward, leading to the dilapidated  Citadel above us. Our destination was once a mighty deterrent, providing a formidable defense against french forces intent on taking back the newly christened Haitian nation, and it's ruins stand as a testament to the power of newly found conviction. The conviction for us, however, was less of the "New Nation" type and more of the "Keep walking and pray that we don't collapse" type. 

It was indeed a worthy climb, and after what seemed like an eternity of steps, one after another, and roads sloped steeper than most staircases, we all arrived safe and sound (and tired as crap) at the top. Our reward? A breeze unlike any other, whispering comfort to us as we caught our breath. Cases of cool water (that disappeared all too quickly if you ask me.) And the castle itself? Nothing short of breathtaking. Powerful. Striking. Enduring. Built with sugar cane, cow hide, and cow blood. Impressive, I know.

It did feel a little strange lounging on fallen cannons that are literally older than our nation is, but that's how history works sometimes. The tour was enjoyable, but the best part was standing at the top of the Citadel, perhaps the highest point in Haiti, and looking out at the lands beyond us. To me, a newbie, the beauty of the green fields stretching in all directions was just that- beauty. To members of the group who have come before, however, the fields were breathtaking for a different reason- they are evidence that Haiti itself is finally starting to heal from the European raping of the land. Years ago, those green fields and forests were been brown and dusty, but as the land enjoyed its Sabbath, the rest given it has turned to healing. Soon, very soon, Haiti can finally start to grow, not survive. Thrive, not scavenge. 

After the climb back down (much more agreeable to the body), we had the wondrous adventure of driving in a tiny bus on a tiny path inches away from a massive drop, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, bikes, other vehicles, and the more than occasional goat. 

We stopped for a brief lunch outside an old Castle and got our first real experience with a strong portion of Haitian economy- tourism. As soon as they noticed our food disappearing, vendors started appearing out of thin air, a grin on their face and a dozen bracelets on their arm. The next half hour was a blur as hundreds of identical hats, bracelets, trinkets, and doohickeys were passed before us. Prices that once began at “20” and “30” eventually were negotiated to much more reasonable, believable prices (though I myself found myself less than a stellar negotiator, buying a toy for 8 bucks which was later sold for 2).  Overall, it was an exciting (if somewhat nerve wracking) experience, and we all look forward to heading down to a real market later on in the week.

Arriving back, there was a general state of collapsed exhaustion as beds fulfilled their purposes and many a Coca-Cola bottle lost it’s head.  After a brief respite, we once again split up as one group headed to the clinic for some last minute prep (counting out pills, organizing and inventorying supplies, laying out general plans for tomorrow) and the other, to a delightful little bakery (which happens to be the only place in Fort Liberte other than the Mission Compound we are allowed to eat at). I hope to give a more accurate picture to you all once I myself go!

Returning to the compound for a lovely dinner of boiled potatoes and BBQ chicken, we allowed the relaxed attitude of Haiti to seep into us as we prepare ourselves for work to begin tomorrow. Our conversations are light and casual, Sting playing on the roof, the smellier members of our group scrubbing off… our days of preparation are at a close. Tomorrow, we start. Tomorrow, the strong backs head off for construction, the sharp minds attend to the needs of the clinic, and the warm hearts stay back to attend to the orphans and sponsorship children. Our burns are beginning to appear, the bug bites are beginning to itch, and the heat is beginning to return, but we’re ready. We are thankful. God is good.

In many ways, preparing our hearts and minds the work is just as important as the work itself- they are inseparable really. Why do we serve? How do we serve? Do we serve in Joy? Missions go two ways- for us and for them. When we serve, when we love, we as missionaries, and Christians, gain something. Do not think that the work God has called all of us into is pro-bono work- 1 Corinthians 13:3 tells us as much.

“If I give away all I have, and if I give up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

In love, we gain

We are selfish creatures, motivated by our own desires, and God knows that. However, instead of commanding us to a life of joyless, dry duty, God has decided to take a selfish desire twisted by sin and use it for his glory- by giving us gain when we do the works of the Lord. The gains that Paul writes of are not monetary or earthly, easily destroyed by rust or moths, but simple, beautiful fruits- love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Self Control. God eagerly takes pleasure in us, and allows us to take pleasure in Him. What joy! What wonder that we have a savior willing to give himself to us for our own pleasure! Yes, these trips and our Christian Witness back home is immensely beneficial for those on the receiving ends of things, but don’t resist the joy God gives in return. Take pleasure in the Lord and His work! If you do such things in love, what else on this planet is truly better?

It grows late, and I smell awful, so this marks the end of the second blog. Pray for God’s will in our lives. Pray for God’s will in our brother’s and sisters in Christ’s lives. Pray for God’s will in your own life. Take pleasure in the Father, Take joy in the Son, and though the journey is long and oftentimes our steps are uneven, don’t resist the refreshing comfort of the Holy Spirit as we continue on.

                                                                                                In Christ,
                                                                                                            Jacob Eastman. 

First Impressions

(apologies for the late post. wifi was sketchy yesterday. We solved the problem with a personal hotspot, compliments of Virgil Kelly) - Josh Eastman


Greetings from Fort Liberte! As of now, half our group is lounging downstairs in the living and dining rooms, slowly digesting our hearty dinner of rice, beans, chicken, and an AMAZING red sauce which, I believe, is an old recipe passed down from Mary mother of Jesus (it’s that good). The other half, where I am at the moment, are reclining in the cool of the night on the roof, gazing at the stars above and listening to the soft sounds of the ocean waves blending melodiously with the sharp chirps of the crickets. The breeze carries a light scent of charcoal, and I can still taste the sweetness of the Haitian Cocacola mixing with the darkness of the beans on my tongue.

The first day here in Haiti (or half day, if we are to be honest) was uneventful, quiet, and beautiful. Expecting intense heat, we were instead met with an overcast sky and a soothing breeze as we got off the old WW2 DC-3 (featuring the most comfortable airplane chairs in the entire world) that brought us to this small island nation. In fact, the cool weather has followed us all day, providing a very thankful respite from the heat Florida offered yesterday.
Going through security was a chaotic breeze, featuring lots of yelling and bag tossing and general controlled confusion as we entered Haiti in the brand new visitors center. We immediately got loaded in the stuffy busses and after picking up a couple members of the trip from Chicago (Larry and Christina), we made the long drive to Fort Liberte.

I cannot speak for those who have already made the trip, but I, a Haiti newbie, couldn’t keep my eyes off the surrounding country.  It was a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells, blending and swirling to make my eyes widen around every turn. Shacks next to cell-phone billboards, crying children and American hip-hop blaring, the scent of roasting meat mixing with the sour stink of sewage caused a rather discontenting assault on the senses, a bitter mix of contradictions wrapped up in poverty delivered in faded colors. A light rain followed us the whole busride up, slacking off as we finally reached the dark green compound.

The next several hours were split between unpacking and sightseeing as the medicine was unloaded and divided. There were several moments of panic when some of the soap and, horrifically, Nutella went missing, but after a frantic search of the bags the lifesaving hazelnut spread (and the soap I guess) were found. As the box work slacked off, a large portion of us broke off the visit the clinic and the orphanage. The whole time, we were followed by a group of beginning children, some begging for money or objects, some begging for attention (we strove to give overwhelming amounts of the second one). Those of us who have friends here were greeted warmly and with much hugging and back slapping, laughter accenting the day with its bright shine.

After dropping the medicine off at the clinic, the group, once again, broke off into two groups. The first one, most of the old-hands, stayed at the clinic to put away and organize the medication. For the clinic group, the work was preparing medicine packs for the days to come, working swiftly and efficiently with much joy and fellowship.

The other half of us, the group I was in, were led by Glenn (who proved to be an excellent guide regardless of his ridiculous hairstyle) to the Fort that provides the namesake of the town. We didn’t get to go into the old Fort (a squatter has created barriers of thorns and sticks in the doorways) but we did get to climb to the top, enjoying a fantastic view of the waters around us. Walking back, we briefly popped our head into an old Catholic Church and made our way back home.

Now, we rest, both our bodies and our souls. Once again, as a newbie, I can’t speak for the older hands (or even the other fresh arrivals), but time to sit and reflect on all that I’ve seen and heard is something I am actively pursuing. Though I have been out of the country several times in my life, I have never been (at least since I can remember) in a country quite like this. Poverty isn’t a problem- it’s a reality. It’s hard for me to put into words what it’s like to be here in a third world country where most people adhere to the vile practice of voodoo. Imagine living in a forest your entire life, the trees peaceful and the sunlight, though sometimes waning, constant. Now imagine waking up to that same forest, but after a strong storm. The bark, once shiny and strong, have been stripped clean to reveal deep rot penetrating the core of the roots. That’s what it was like to land here.

There are no new sins or virtues here in Haiti. Human nature is the same, our depravity and God’s love is no different, but things are different. In America, we are whitewashed tombs rotting from the inside, content to retire to a life of football and buffets, content in our condition. Yet here, the rot is more honest. Money is an excellent perfume to cover up the stench of our sin, a perfume the Haitian people simply don’t have. Here in Haiti, sin, and its brutal realities, are seen simply, not hidden by large houses or shiny cars. It’s more real here, more true.

So far, I have learned that foreign mission trips aren’t to places more “sinful” or more “in need” of Christ than our own nation- mission “fields” are places where the devils dark decay is more evident. We, Christians, are all called to missions- the scent of sewage is just easier to spot here. I urge you to look into yourself, into those around you, and see what ALL of us truly are- sinners, tombs, rotting souls, in DESPERETE need of a Saviors Love, a God’s Grace.

Tonight, I ask for your prayers. Pray for our safety. Pray for the effectiveness of our mission here. Pray for the power of God’s Word to be revealed. Above all, though, pray for God’s Will to be done. Not just here, but back in the states as well. Everywhere, in fact. Pray for the healing and witness of ALL people.

Well, the battery is nearly dead, so this marks the end of the first blog! Live in prayer, meditate on Scripture, pursue God’s will. We in Haiti are deeply thankful for your prayers and already miss our church family back home.
                                                                                                In Christ,
                                                                                                            Jacob Eastman.