Bondye Bon means “God is Good” in Haitian. Indeed He is. I just returned last night after an incredible week serving in Haiti with an amazing team from North Cobb Christian School as a part of Spring Term 2014. This is the longest post that I have ever put on this blog, but it is a compilation of 7 days worth of blog posts that I wrote for our school’s Spring Term blog about our trip. The posts are separated by the day and at the end of each post is a link to the Photostream of pictures for that day. I am posting this here so that I can have all the posts in one spot.
Haiti Day One-Friday, March 21, 2014
Our team arrived at school bright and early this morning. We started the trip by singing a rowdy Happy Birthday to Alexis Cornell. After the singing, we checked passports, prayed together, hugged each other’s parents and rolled to the airport just after 5:00am thanks to our awesome driver Coach Corbett.
Checkin at the Atlanta airport went great and we all grabbed a quick breakfast on the way to the gate. Our plane took off early and we were on our way. We landed in Miami without incident and got ready for our 4 hour layover. Everyone enjoyed stretching their legs a bit and we had plenty of time for lunch. As we waited at the gate, naps and cards were plentiful as were lots of laughs and easy conversation. We can tell already that this is going to be a great week with this team!
Our flight to Haiti went great. It’s always a blast watching a group try to figure out customs forms. Fortunately none of the group had to be detained. As we were landing in Haiti, the wow factor was pretty huge even just outside the plane windows. The poverty and destruction are very evident. It is also very evident that our amazing Creator designed Haiti as it is a beautiful place in the midst of the rubble left over from the earthquake in January 2010.
We landed and grabbed our luggage without incident. Apparently it is pretty common for luggage to get lost here, so we were pumped that all 23 of us got all of our bags with no problem. We loaded the Lifeline ministry bus and headed for the mission housing.
The ride took about 2 hours from Port-au-Prince. We saw some pretty amazing sights. Tons of happiness and smiles on the faces of the people as they walked miles along the roadside to take care of their daily responsibilities. Kids of all ages were walking up and down the highway that was packed with tons of vehicles.
As we got further out of the city, we headed into a more mountainous region for the last hour of our ride through some narrow, dusty roads. Again, this place is beautiful…simply breathtaking. The people in the community were going about their evening activities of preparing dinner, cleaning, and visiting with neighbors. We felt very welcomed because everyone waved at our bus as we passed by.
We arrived at Lifeline to a very warm welcome and quickly found our rooms. Dinner was prepared by some really sweet ladies and we enjoyed lasagna, green beans, and fruit. The crew was pretty quiet as we ate and everyone cleaned their plates.
Our music team cleaned the kitchen tonight while the rest of the team unloaded a cargo truck of food and other supplies that the US Air Force delivered today. We have had a great time so far and were glad to get to work!
Coach Bollinger led us in a devotions this evening asking the questions “What do you want to leave here with at the end of the week? What does God have in store for you?” We had a great time of worship and prayed together before lining out the agenda for tomorrow.
Morning devotions are at 7:30am. I feel confident this group is going to sleep pretty well tonight…especially after the rowdy games of Scrabble and Heads Up that went down in the community room this evening!
Thanks so much for your prayers. It is so evident already that God has prepared the way for us and that He has amazing things in store for us!
Megan Strange and the 2014 NCCS Haiti Spring Term Team
Haiti team day one Photostream
Haiti Day Two-Saturday, March 22, 2014
Just before bedtime last night, a cool rainstorm came through the area where we are staying. It brought a welcome breeze for sure! Everyone enjoyed falling asleep to the rain. It’s a good thing we headed to bed around 10pm, because the folks in this community get up early. There is a church next door to where we are staying on the Lifeline property. Apparently their drummer practices around 5:15am. He is quite good, but it is still an interesting thing to wake up to if you are not used to it! His drumming skills also woke up the roosters and several small kids who decided to play outside. Who needs alarm clocks with so much life going on around us?
It seems that everyone slept well as they were all in a great mood as we gathered for morning devotions. We went to “Prayer Rock” and prayed before heading out to our quiet times. This morning we studied Philippians 2:1-5 and the Attitude of the Servant. We talked a good bit about the part where Paul is encouraging us to look to the interests of others. That correlates so well with what we read in chapel the other day from Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is definitely a strand that we have seen come to fruition in our trip so far as the group is doing a great job of caring for one another.
The craft team was on kitchen duty today so they made breakfast while the rest of us took a short walk up to the top of a hill overlooking the Lifeline compound. There is a huge cross up there that looks out onto a breathtaking view of the island. When the cross was orginally put up there, it was painted with glow in the dark green paint and used as a landmark by many on the island…even the government. Mele and I decided that it would be pretty awesome to sing Hillsong’s “Lead Me to the Cross” up there for one of our times of worship. On our way down from the cross, we had a chance to visit with some of the neighbor kids. These kids are precious and so happy to have some big kids to play with!
We enjoyed a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, cereal, and fruit. Everyone ate well and then we headed out for a tour of the property. We saw the school that Lifeline operates that includes a cafeteria. Between that cafeteria and trucks that go out into the village, Lifeline feeds over 8,000 children a day. That is roughly half the population of the city of Acworth that they feed every day. Simply amazing!
We finished touring the property and ended up at the warehouse where our group unloaded the supply truck last night. The warehouse is full of donations and the space needed to be organized. Without a moment’s hesitation, our crew jumped in and got to work. Trevor Hourigan quickly became the warehouse manager and we all started sorting. For any NCCS coaches reading this, we are calling this Culture of Strength: Haiti style. Awesome attitudes from everyone!
As the warehouse project finished up, some of the girls went outside to hang out with the neighbors kids to get to know them better. Our group has already fallen in love with a little 4 year old girl named Macarona. I’m pretty sure that Macy Murray is planning to bring Macarona home in her suitcase…but I’m not worried, Macy’s parents were probably thinking that might happen! There were lots of pictures and conversation about hair between the girls and all the kids.
We came back to the mission house and ate lunch. Some ate leftovers from dinner last night and others of us ate sandwiches. One interesting thing here, they don’t have turkey OR ham. The lunchmeat is simply labeled “Turkey Ham”. We spent a long time chatting about flying pigs and that sort of thing until most agreed that it really just tasted like ham. Everyone had plenty to eat and again enjoyed great conversation. The best part about the lack of stable internet here is that we have really enjoyed talking to each other. Each meal has brought up fun stories of elementary school adventures, college plans, old Spring Term adventures, and much, much more. We are grateful for the break from the internet and everyone seems to be doing well with that.
After lunch we had about 2 hours to wait for our host missionary (Robinson) to come back to take us to the orphanage for a visit. Several napped, some played games, and others just sat and talked. We had a few that enjoyed using their ENO hammocks once they put on plenty of sunscreen. We loaded up a few minutes before 3:00 and headed out for the orphanage and a market.
When we arrived at the orphanage, we were taken to a room about the size of one of the NCCS Annex classrooms that was full of kids. Our “big kids” jumped right in and I wish you could have seen them all with arms full of Haitian kids. The NCCS girls quickly got to work painting nails and doing hair. Nicole Lickman did such a great job painting nails that a little girl brought her Barbie doll back to the room and asked Nicole to paint the Barbie’s nails too! The boys were pretty busy talking soccer and playing with Chris Djomou Nana’s remote controlled helicopter. There were also a lot of coloring books and photo ops during the hour we spent at the orphanage.
From there we headed into a more urban area to go to the market. We definitely stood out as the Americans with our matching shirts wandering through. The market was basically a huge flea market with wall to wall stalls, people, and merchandise. Mr. Williams economic lessons were well-remembered as our students quickly diagnosed the market problem of way too much supply and way too little demand. It didn’t seem that anyone was selling anything. The market was an interesting mix of toiletries, clothes, food, and other random items. Our crew didn’t buy anything, but we definitely learned a lot from the experience.
After the market we returned to the mission house and were treated to an incredible dinner of homemade chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, fruit, spinach, corn, cole slaw, plantains, and fresh baked bread. The veggies were from the garden that is on the Lifeline campus. The food was excellent! While the craft team finished up their kitchen duty for the day, a soccer game broke out between the Haitians and some of our NCCS students. I’m proud to say that our Eagles did quite well out there and due to the play of Alexis Cornell, the Haitians have lot more respect for women’s soccer players.
The sun went down around 6:30, but the soccer game continued until there was absolutely no light left at all. Everyone headed in for showers, card games, and yet another round of Scrabble. The team gathered at 9:00 for devotions led by our games team: Coach Bollinger, Samantha, Isadora, Dominique, Harold, and Chaz. They shared from Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:40, and Matthew 6:19 reminding us to be strong and courageous, to focus on what God called us here for, and to make sure that we are storing up treasure in heaven.
Everyone seems to be doing well and having a great time. It is a blast to see the way that different groups of kids are interacting and enjoying each other’s company. We are headed to bed in just a bit so that we can be ready for breakfast at 7am and then church at 8am. Thank you so much for your prayers!
Megan Strange and the 2014 NCCS Haiti Team
Haiti day two Photostream
Haiti Day Three-Sunday, March 23, 2014
Everyone was up this morning around 7am to grab breakfast before church started at 8am. The games team is hosting the kitchen today and we had a great breakfast of cereal and fruit. Each ministry team, Games (Coach Bollinger), Crafts (Mrs. Carr), Bible Stories (Macy Murray), and Music (my team), works in a rotation to host the kitchen. We are prepping all of breakfast and lunch and then washing dishes and cleaning after all 3 meals each day. They are some really awesome ladies that make dinner for the team each night. So…basically, if you sent your child on this trip, they will return home with the capability to prepare food, wash dishes, and clean the kitchen. Everyone has a great attitude about it down here, so I’m sure they will be eager to put their skills into practice at home!
A few of us got up a little early and hiked up to the cross that overlooks the mission compound to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful! We already have a few more committed to joining us tomorrow morning. We all finished up breakfast and put on our church clothes to walk next door for the 8am worship. There was a large group of Haitians in the church and they were very passionate about their worship. The entire thing was in Creole and/or French or a mix of the two so most of us were pretty lost. The message was out of 2 Timothy 2:1-4. They thought they might have a translator for us today, but that didn’t pan out. No worries, our crew really enjoyed the experience. We had been told that church would last about 3 hours and were a bit surprised when it ended after only an hour and a half.
After church we hung out with some of the kids and took pictures. We had some time to go back to the mission house to relax before lunch. Since it is Sunday, there isn’t much going on in the town as most places in Haiti are closed for the Sabbath. It is awesome to see how our kids are still responding well to the downtime. Huge card games, coloring, fingernail painting, deep conversations, and much, more more are filling our free time. Several of us have even been able to grab a nap. The change of pace has been good for our group, but we are eager to get to work tomorrow morning.
We have learned a little more about the projects we will be doing. We will help serve food in the school between 10am-2pm. Tomorrow we will see how many kids that entails, but it is definitely a huge operation based on the setup we saw on our tour yesterday.Some will also help making cement blocks that are being used to build a new orphanage. Others will continue working in the warehouse to organize donations and some will visit schools in the community. These are all great opportunities and we look forward to serving…and being flexible for whatever other opportunities arise.
Lunch today was sandwiches, chips, and fruit. Most of us are all really enjoying the porch at mealtimes since there is a nice breeze out there. After lunch we were going to walk down the street and play with some kids, but our bus arrived early so we headed towards Port-au-Prince for a driving tour and a visit to the museum.
Driving into Port-au-Prince is really a remarkable experience in light of the devastation and poverty around. People are standing around selling food, drinks, clothing, and tons of other things. The traffic is terrible, but somewhat of an adventure. Our student drivers are learning a lot about how orderly our traffic is back home!
We stopped by the airport to pick up Coach Bollinger, Zach, Michael, and Payton who had ridden separately from us to pick up another person from the airport that will be working with us this week. They had a chance to visit a grocery store to pick up supplies for the week and learned a lot about Haiti and some of what has been going on since the earthquake. Many of you joined us at NCCS on February 27 as we drew a red X on our hands to raise awareness for the 27 million slaves around the world. The slave industry is huge here in Haiti mostly due to the extreme poverty and desparation. Hopefully that helps you understand why we are “in it to END it”. Our experiences this week so far have put faces on that statistic that make us very uncomfortable. I’m glad to be here with a group of revolutionaries who are part of the solution generation.
Our main stop in Haiti was a national museum. We received a tour and learned a lot about when and how Haiti was settled. The artwork was really interesting and you could see a lot about how the Catholic church was so pivotal in the early settling of Haiti. The tour also took us through a hall lined with all of the Haitian presidents and the different iterations of the Haitian flag. It was a powerful picture of the idealogies that have shaped this beautiful nation. There is a lot of heartache and struggle represented on those walls.
When we were leaving the museum, we took some pictures outside and then loaded the bus to head back. The trip back gave us another opportunity to see some of the tent cities that still remain from the earthquake. Even as we drove down the streets, there were people selling bottled water that would literally run after the cars to try and get people to buy from them.
We came back to the mission house around 5:30pm just in time for another awesome meal prepared by our sweet kitchen ladies. We had spaghetti, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, bread, and watermelon. Again, we probably ate too much, but it was awesome! The games team took care of the kitchen after dinner while the rest of us headed outside for the after dinner soccer games that are becoming a part of our evening routine.
Our American soccer players are really doing an awesome job of building relationships with the Haitians. In turn, the Haitians are helping our soccer players get better. Mt. Paran better be worried when them come to NCCS on April 10th…these sessions with the Haitians are bound to put us over the top!
The Bible Stories team: Macy, Alexis, Michael, Clare, and Jared, led our devotions this evening and pointed us to Matthew 6:25 and Matthew 6:34 reminding us that we don’t have anything to worry about when we place our trust in Jesus. We sang a couple of songs tonight including Hosanna. One of the lines in that song says “everything I am for your kingdom’s cause”. Macy shared with us how that phrase has been such an encouragement to her over the years and should really be our theme for this week…whatever it takes, everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause. With that mindset and commitment, we believe God has amazing things in store to work in us and through us.
The evening wrapped up with a quick review of our activities for tomorrow. We will be serving in a school and an orphanage tomorrow helping with the meal program and hanging out with kids. Tonight is a great opportunity to get some rest so that we have 100% to give. Our team devotions for this morning came from 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 where it talks about not only giving what we have to give…but also giving even more than we have to give. Jared referred to it tonight in our devotions as “immeasurably more”…and that’s just what we are all trusting God for this week. His will and His perfect plan for us.
So…to bed we go with visions of smiling happy children in our minds. Thanks for your prayers! We will try and post some pictures tomorrow. The cell coverage and internet here are both really spotty, but we will post some as we are able.
Haiti day three Photostream
Haiti Day Four-Monday, March 24, 2014
Today was our first official hard work day. In fact, as I am typing this part of the blog around 4:20pm, most of the team is sound asleep catching a nap before dinner. We were pleasantly surprised to find that one of the missionaries had gotten up early to make breakfast for us. Especially the Bible stories crew since it is their kitchen day! After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, cereal, toast, and fruit, we headed up to “Prayer Rock” for our devotions about being a compassionate servant. We have really enjoyed our devotional time and the setting is simply amazing. The mountain overlooks the Lifeline ministry compound as well as the village where we have been serving…the home of the orphanages and schools. It is pretty amazing to sit up there to read God’s word and to pray over those that we will be serving and hoping to point to Jesus.
Once we finished up devotions, we loaded up for a 2 mile walk to the school we were going to be working at. Everyone had to pack lunch to take with them and that process went pretty smoothly…imagine 20 teenagers in your kitchen making peanut butter and jelly. We also reminded the team to bring plenty of water as we were going to be out all day. There has not been any problem at all having plenty of clean water. We have a cooler of water at all times in the kitchen for filling up bottles and cups to drink out of. The kids have been great about staying hydrated. When we go out, we always take our water bottles and the Lifeline folks always bring a cooler of water bags. It’s a strange concept, but it is a little bag of water that you drink. You pick it up by the corner of the bag, bite a hole in it, and then drink the water out of it. If you look back at our Day 1 blog, you’ll see a picture of Zach Englert demonstrating it for all of us on the bus. That’s why we elected him Student Body President at NCCS this year. He is a very skilled water bag drinker! He’s also the only one that would let me take his picture while we were all trying it out…definitely a good sport!
We walked 2 miles into a village called Barbacor. The village we are staying in is called Ladique and that is the home of Lifeline ministries. The larger region is called Arcahaie. To give you an idea of the length of our hike this morning, it would basically be like walking from North Cobb Christian School down to Swift Cantrell Park. But…throw in tons of rocks, mud, a river (fortunately very low due to the drought…not good for the Haitians…but good for the Americans walking across it!), goats and cows tied up on trees, and tons of kids from the village coming along to view the Americans in town.
When we arrived in Barbacor we were able to tour the school. Kids have to be sponsored in order to go to school here and that costs around $250-$300 per kid. The government only allows the kids to go to school 3 hours a day and the school year runs from October-July. At the end of 6th grade, there is a big national test that determines whether a child can move on or if they have to repeat the grade, go to trade school, or just drop out. College is very rare for the kids around here due to the high cost. The school in Barbacor has little kids from 9am-noon and then the older kids from 1pm-4pm. The teachers work both sessions everyday and are paid a grand total of $50 a month in most cases. A lot of the teachers barely have a high school degree themselves and only a few have college degrees.
The Barbacor kids were happy to see our kids…and our kids’ cameras! “Photo” is a one of the most common phrases we hear each day. In fact, one kid asked me today if I had an iPod. I told him no…and then he showed me his iPod. This is a kid that eats one meal a day, wasn’t wearing shoes, and lives in a shack. Pretty crazy stuff…but Apple’s marketing department would be proud. Our main job was to clean up the cafeteria to get it ready to serve lunch. All the NCCS lunch duty that our kids have done over the years is really paying off…they are champion sweepers!
Lifeline ministries feeds 8,000 kids a day. They do this through a variety of schools, orphanages, and their own Lifeline ministry compound. There is a group of ladies that start cooking beans and rice at 4am each day. Once it is all cooked, they plate it for several hundred kids at Lifeline. For the rest of the kids, the rice and beans is packed into 5 gallon buckets, stacked in the back of a pickup truck and delivered all around the area. We saw the operation unfold at Lifeline this morning before we headed out. At Barbacor, we were there when the pickup pulled up and we unloaded 10 5 gallon buckets of the rice and beans for that school.
The first group that we fed for lunch was made up of the little kids from the morning session of school. They are too precious in their khaki and green uniforms. Don’t worry…we have tons of pictures to share when we get home! The second shift was made up of the older kids that wear white and maroon uniforms. They were happy to see us too…but, let’s face it, they were teenagers like our group and they mostly just cared about the food! The last group we fed were all the other kids in the village that needed to eat, but aren’t sponsored to go to the school. All told, we fed over 700 people lunch today. It was quite an operation!
One thing that really stood out to us is the fact that these kids only get one meal a day. All of us brought more snacks for this one week than most of these kids eat for meals in an entire month…and we are still eating three pretty square meals a day on top of all those American snacks. Some of the kids that were coming into the cafeteria to eat brought in lunch boxes. We figured…oh, those kids must bring their lunch. I sat down next to a little boy who brought his lunch box after he picked up a plate of rice and beans. As he unzipped the lunch box, I figured he must be getting out his Capri Sun or something..you know, just like my 5 year old would be doing in the cafeteria. Out of his lunch box, he pulled out a little tupperware box and immediately put about 3/4ths of his rice and beans into it. The missionary explained to me that this little boy was taking food home for his parents and siblings and that they would all share his leftovers as their one meal a day. Talk about sobering. Our kids quickly grasped what was going on and really gave 100% to the Haitian kids today.
We had lots of opportunity to fix hair, play games, and just hang out. Trevor Hourigan and Zach Englert were the only two guys back at the school with us as the other guys went with Coach Bollinger to help with a concrete job at the orphanage. Trevor and Zach did a great job of becoming a human jungle gym for all the kids that wanted to play with them! Our girls did a masterful job of making all the little girls feel beautiful and loved. Such a proud moment to see our kids in action!
We arrived at the school around 10:30am and left there around 2:30pm once the lunch operation was over. As the team left Barbacor, we had a big group of new Haitian friends following us down the trail. At a certain point, they all said goodbye and headed home as we walked the last mile back. We stopped at the Lifeline orphanage to check on Coach Bollinger, Payton Ward, Chaz Post, Jared Miller, Harold Xu, Michael Gold, and Chris Djomou Nana. They had been working all afternoon carrying buckets of concrete to help pour stairs. It was really hard work, but it was pretty obvious that the Haitian day laborers were grateful for their help…and they got a ton of work done on the stairs for the orphanage.
The team came back to the mission house to clean up and relax a bit before dinner. After several hours in the sun and heat, we needed the time to recharge. The team has been doing a great job of reminding everyone to drink water and to reapply sunscreen and bug spray. The crew came alive in time for a wonderful dinner of rice, beans, carrots, fruit, and sweet bread. Everyone ate a good bit and then our awesome Bible stories team cleaned the kitchen. After dinner several sat around and enjoyed good conversation while others played soccer, 4 square, basketball, and cards. This group is awesome at making the down time really fun!
Our devotion tonight was brought by our Crafts team: Mrs. Carr, Hannah Smothers, Paige Davies, Meliah Powell, Payton Ward, and Trevor Hourigan. They each shared their favorite Bible verse and how the Lord had used that verse to encourage them this week. We also took time to share some stories in the group about the experiences that everyone had over the course of the day. It is so exciting to see how in tune our team is with the way that the Lord is moving. They are eager to get started again tomorrow!
Still no luck with posting pictures as the wifi hasn’t worked at all since we arrived and the cell service is pretty weak here. If we get a strong signal, we will send pics for the past few days. For now…just imagine pictures of your kids smiling and having a blast serving the Haitian people. Thanks for your prayers!
Megan Strange and the 2014 NCCS Haiti Team
Haiti Day four Photostream
Haiti Day Five-Tuesday, March 25, 2014
We had a good group that woke up early to walk up to the cross to watch the sunrise. This is my second time to make the hike and it has been beautiful both times! It is really cool to stand up there and look out over the whole village. God created this place..and He created us to be there this week to serve Him and to serve these people. Great dose of perspective up by the cross on the mountain!
Our team gathered at 7:30am at the “Prayer Rock” (think Rock at NCCS..but not painted for birthdays or sports victories) for our team devotions. Today we were studying the Beatitudes out of Matthew 5 in the first part of our reading on the Character of a Servant. After devotions we walked down for breakfast. We had an awesome treat this morning thanks to Chris Djomou Nana. He is from France and wanted to bless the team by preparing crepes for breakfast. They were awesome! Just about everyone got back in line for seconds. It was great to see Chris having such a great time serving the team! My music crew, Zach Englert, Laura Johnson, Nicole Lickman, Mele Girma, Chris Djomou Nana, and me, are in charge of the kitchen. We had a great time cleaning up breakfast and talking about our trip so far.
After breakfast we all walked down to the orphanage where the guys were pouring concrete yesterday. They started back on their concrete project while the girls worked on cleaning the inside of the orphanage. After the inside was done, the girls walked back to the mission compound and broke up into two groups. Mrs. Carr’s group helped feed lunch to a few hundred kids in the cafeteria of the school here on the campus. Today’s lunch was some type of grain, noodles, and sauce. Lots of good conversations in the cafeteria!
My group got to participate in Lifeline’s Widow’s Mite ministry. Widow’s from all around…some from as far away as a 2 hour hike down the mountain…come to Lifeline on Tuesdays to get bags of food. We filled up about 50 pillowcases each with 14 packages of dry rice and beans. When the widows arrive, they bring them into the compound and have a short time of devotion with them. Our group got to share with them and then we prayed for the ladies individually and their families that were with them. One blind man was here and he was wearing a shirt that said “I was Hungry and You Gave me Food.” Powerful testimony of why we are here! After the prayer time, the widows came up one at a time and we gave them a bag of food, we exchanged hugs, and then they went on their way. Really awesome to see how Lifeline’s ministry is serving people of all ages!
We came back up to the mission house for lunch. Everyone enjoyed leftovers from dinner or sandwiches. We are all still drinking a lot of water and a few folks snuck in a quick nap before we headed out to two orphanages for the afternoon. The plan was to leave for the orphanages around 1pm. We have learned that Haitian time runs a bit differently than American time and all plans are just estimates or speculation until they actually take place. We actually loaded up and left at 2pm and drove towards Port-au-Prince to serve in 2 orphanages. The team divided into two groups and we were eager to paint and to hang out with kids.
It took a while to get to Port-au-Prince and by the time we arrived at the first orphanage, we realized that we wouldn’t make it to the second orphanage today. Our crew, as they have done all week, happily adjusted and jumped right in. Coach Bollinger and I took a crew inside to paint a room in the orphanage where all of the kids’ beds were. This orphanage was really run down and depressing, if this was in America, the building definitely would have been condemned. However, the little kids were so happy to see us. They greeted us right when we hopped off the bus and never left our sides. We decided that we would treat their bedroom area as if it were our own and painted it really carefully doing our very best work. The bright green really brought some happiness to the place and the kids really seemed to like it. I don’t know how many of you have had the pleasure of washing out paint rollers and paint pans, but you haven’t really lived until you have done that in a well while Haitian children are trying to show off their strength by pumping water for you to wash the items. Teamwork makes the dream work!
We left the orphanage around 4:30 and headed back to camp. The evenings here are welcome as the sun starts to drop and the temperature moves from baking back to a more tolerable stifling. Again, the crew is doing a great job of drinking water, eating enough, and getting a lot of rest. The drive back to camp took about an hour and a half and it was great to see even more of this beautiful nation driving between Port-au-Prince and the camp in LaDigue.
Our sweet kitchen ladies had a wonderful dinner prepared for us made up of Haitian pizza, green beans, tons of fruit, bread that had been baked in the sun oven, and some type of apple cinnamon bread for dessert. Again…we eat like kings here! These ladies are so precious and our group has really enjoyed getting to know them.
After dinner my music crew cleaned up the kitchen to the tune of Zach Englert’s playlist. He’s doing his best to expose us all to good new music. As we were cleaning, Kathy (a missionary here) was telling us a ton of stories about the history of this place and other places that she has served in missions. Really a fascinating lady! The boys in the village also stopped by to sell us some of the bracelets and other trinkets that they make. Our kids have become friends with these boys and were happy to purchase a few items to help these guys out. A few of our team members also availed themselves of the hair braiding and manicures/pedicures that they could purchase from some of the village teenage girls. Our crew is looking even better than ever!
The music crew led devotions tonight and we each shared a favorite worship song and why it is our favorite. Everyone did a great job of connecting with our experiences in Haiti and how the Lord is using the truth of His word and the words of some of these songs to help us see where He is at work in us as well as in the lives of the people we are serving this week.
The team all shared stories from the day and we prayed together as a team. Be sure to ask Michael Gold about his awesome mango and coconut connection today! Laura Johnson and Meliah Powell also had some great stories to share about how the Lord has moved in their hearts this week. We feel confident that God is moving and we want to be faithful to share that story.
As the evening wraps up, a few kids are playing cards while others are showering and organizing their stuff for tomorrow. We are starting early with the craft team hosting breakfast at 7:30am followed by team devotions and our day’s work…which we will find out about in the morning. All we know for sure is that we will be given something to do at a certain time…and then four versions later, we will be off to work about an hour later than originally predicted. Haitian time and planning has been an adventure for sure…but it has led to some great teachable moments for our crew. Each time we have to wait, it really has led to something cool.
It’s been another awesome day here in Haiti. Thank you for your prayers..have a GREAT night!
Megan Strange and the 2014 NCCS Haiti Team
Haiti day 5 Photostream
Haiti Day Six-Wednesday, March 26, 2014
We had an interesting start to our day here in Haiti. We woke up to no water at all in the mission house. There was plenty of bottled drinking water, but no water for showers, sinks, etc. Fortunately, that was rectified pretty quickly and we were able to take care of our morning details. The water for the camp comes from a well and from a rainwater collection tank. It turns out that one of the tanks ran out and we just had to switch over to the other one. Let’s remember that this is a group of city folks that don’t normally have to deal with stuff like that. Fortunately, just a very small bump in the road.
The craft crew is on kitchen duty today and they blessed us with an awesome breakfast of pancakes, cereal, and fruit. We let the crew sleep in a few minutes later today and did devotions after breakfast. Our devotions today came from Matthew 5:7-12 as we continue to study the Beatitudes as we look for key qualities in the Character of a leader. As we were spread out around “Prayer Rock”, we heard a flapping sound in the distance. The sound got louder and we quickly realized it was a helicopter. We were all looking up and checking it out…of course thinking of all the action adventure movies that start with a helicopter flying in. As we looked around, all of the Haitian folks were looking up also letting us know that this was not a common occurrence out here in Ladigue.
As the helicopter got closer, we could see that it was white with the letters “UN” painted on the bottom and “United Nations” painted on the tail. Seemed pretty cool to us. It circled around the valley several times and that made us wonder if something was going on. When we all walked back to the compound, we found out some exciting news. There are some new homes that were built near the compound in a joint relationship between Haiti and the nation of Trinidad. It turns out that tomorrow we will be having some special visitors at camp. In order to keep things safe for all of us, I’ll report more on this after the fact. We are pretty excited and feel that our team will win the award for coolest blog post ever once tomorrow unfolds!
The original plan for today was for the guys to return to the concrete project and the girls to work in the garden. As time ticked by, it seemed that our plans were starting to unravel. Fortunately, another great plan came together quickly! The guys returned to the concrete project. The girls broke into two groups. One group helped sort donated clothes to take to the orphanage this afternoon while the other group hiked the two miles back to Barbacor. Once we arrived in Barbacor, we painted the outside and inside of the cafeteria that we served in the other day. We finished that project just in the nick of time as we had just finished painting and putting the cafeteria benches back in place when the first group of kids arrived. It was so fun to see how much they loved the new paint! We can all agree that a fresh coat of paint definitely livens things up. We were also glad to get to meet the principal of the Barbacor school and to learn more about what they are doing with their students.
The whole team reconvened at Lifeline for lunch and enjoyed a variety of leftovers and sandwiches. Meliah Powell actually ate a whole plate of green beans. They are pretty tasty since they are fresh from the garden. Lunch turned into great conversations that led into playing cards and naps before our afternoon project. Haitians tend to take a long break at lunch to avoid the heat of the day. Around 3pm we left to head over to an orphanage that Robinson (our missionary host) had not ever been to before.
When we got to the orphanage (Garden of Hope), we found 15 boys and girls ages 5-15 sitting around tables coloring and writing. They were really well behaved! Garden of Hope was much cleaner and newer than the orphanage we went to yesterday, but it was still really small for all those kids. You could tell that they took a lot of pride in keeping things neat and clean. Our team had a chance to do crafts, tell Bible stories, and sing with the kids.
Hannah Smothers, through a Haitian translator, walked the kids through making the beaded salvation bracelets. After the explanation, she quizzed the kids to review what each bead meant…and they remembered. Really awesome gospel presentation! After that, Macy Murray and her Bible stories team acted out two Bible stories. We did David and Goliath starring Michael Gold and Chaz Post. I’ll let you figure out who was who. After that, we did a medley of Jesus’s miracles including the healing of the blind man played by Harold Xu and the healing of a crippled beggar played by Clare Tompkins. We have some serious acting chops in this group and they got a thunderous round of applause after both stories. Mele Girma, Nicole Lickman, and others led the group in “Jesus Loves Me” to round out our time at Garden of Hope.
We rode the bus back to camp and arrived around 6pm just in time for a dinner of creole chicken, veggies, and fruit. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of kids that ate the beet salad. Perhaps they didn’t know what it was…but I was still so proud of them for honoring the kitchen ladies by always trying everything. There was a really hard rainstorm around dinner time that helped cool things off a bit. As usual, dinner led to long leisurely conversations around the table, and for the first time tonight…a rowdy game of Twister. Jared Miller proclaimed Twister to be such a fun group game that he is going to buy his own Twister game and put it in his car to be ready at all times.
Devotions tonight were led by Mrs. Carr and she challenged us to remember the “least of these” out of Matthew 25. We have certainly been confronted with those in need of water, food, clothes, and hope this week. When we return home, our prayer is that our vision is sharper than ever to see the needs right where
we live and within our own circles of influence.
We shared stories of the day as we wrapped up the evening and worked out our agenda for tomorrow. We are looking forward to a short day of work tomorrow and then a really fun afternoon at the beach to celebrate a great week!
As we head to bed tonight, we are praying for all of the other Spring Term teams and look forward to hearing their stories as well. Sorry again for the lack of pictures. If the beach club has wifi tomorrow, I’ll upload a bunch while we are there.
Have a GREAT night!
Megan Strange and the 2014 NCCS Haiti Team
Haiti Day 6 Photostream
Haiti Day Seven-Thursday, March 27, 2014
We woke up to yet another beautiful morning here in Haiti. The mornings here start around 4:30am with the baby goats yelling in the hills surrounding Lifeline and the noise of the pots and pans for the ladies that start cooking in the cafeteria of the school. It is a really cool way to wake up. The goats have taken some getting used to. One upside of the goats…our students have really developed some remarkable goat imitations. Please be sure to ask your child to do theirs for you. Harold Xu, Zach Englert, and Nicole Lickman are the three best so far.
Coach Bollinger, Mrs. Carr, and I made breakfast for the troops this morning. We had beans and rice, scrambled eggs, cereal, and fruit. We started breakfast at 7am and then did team devotions at 8am. We were planning to work from 8:30-10:30am today in preparation for our special guests at 11am. The guys went and worked on concrete at the orphanage and then the girls went up to work in the garden where they grow all the vegetables we have enjoyed this week. No one in the garden group had much experience…but we became expert “rock picker uppers”. In fact, we did so well with picking up all the rocks that they asked us to design a rock path through the garden that turned out pretty awesome. So…your kids are coming home with some amazing skills that I hope you will be able to put into practice in your homes. Definitely one of the side benefits of Spring Term!
Well…the special guest awesome surprise didn’t end up working out. We were told that a UN helicopter would be landing on the soccer field at Lifeline at 11am that held the Chief UN Official here in Haiti and the ambassador of Trinidad. They were coming to dedicate the new government housing near our camp. All of our crew was pretty jazzed about the idea of a selfie with a UN helicopter. Unfortunately it didn’t end up happening. For some reason the helicopter didn’t come…they drove up in a car, snapped a few pictures, and were out of here before anyone even knew they were here. So…we were so close, but it was still a really fun morning finishing up our work around here.
The team ate lunch here at the compound. Once again, lunch was sandwiches or leftovers. Everyone has done great with making lunch this week and seems to be enjoying the food. We played games, talked, and napped before it was time to pack up for our beach afternoon. Our destination was the Wahoo Bay Beach Club and it was really nice! 15 of our 20 students took advantage of the snorkeling excursion. They headed out in a row boat for an hour and a half and were able to see some of the marine life here in Haiti. The other 5 paddle boarded and hung out at the pool.
The crew spent the afternoon swimming, resting, playing a few matches of beach volleyball, and just enjoying the downtime after a great week of serving. Dinner was a really special treat as we ate in an open air dining room overlooking the ocean. The kids had several things to choose from and the most popular selections were: lobster, fish, goat (yeah…goat), chicken, and pork. The food was amazing! After dinner we looked at some souvenirs and then walked back to the beach to take more pictures. Due to the presence of wifi, you’ve probably already seen a good many of those pictures. It was great to have internet for the afternoon. The kids feel a little more caught up on what their friends on other Spring Term teams have been up to this week.
We arrived back at camp around 7:45 to a special treat of ice cream…which of course led to another rowdy game of Twister on the porch. Since it was our last night at camp, several folks went up to the cross to look at the stars for one last look over the community we have been serving in Haiti. Just as everyone was heading back in, a total downpour came out of nowhere. It was pretty easy to tell who was in the last group coming down from the cross. Some of our guys were pretty resourceful and threw on their bathing suits and grabbed some soap and showered outside in the rain. It was such a blast to see our kids playing in the rain.
Our final night of devotions started with worship as it has each night. This group has enjoyed singing together and tonight we sang “We are Here for You”, “Blessed Be the Name”, “Heart of Worship”, and “Holy Spirit”. These songs remind us of why we came to Haiti and just how big our God is. I gave the devotion tonight out of Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 1:22-27. The theme was to remember that we have been saved by grace through faith…our works in Haiti don’t save us or earn us anything in God’s eyes. However, we have been called to serve others out of obedience to what Christ has done for us…to be not only hearers of the word, but also to be doers. We closed out our time talking about some intentional things that we want to do when we get home to remind ourselves to look to the interests of others above ourselves and to be sensitive to those that God has placed in our paths.
We closed the night by sharing our prayer partners that we have been praying for the past few weeks. We shared one by one who we have been praying for this week and talked about something specific we noticed about our prayer partner. This was a very affirming time and a chance to “fill the cups” of our teammates after we have poured out so much into others. We committed to continuing to pray for one another and the work that we saw here in this beautiful Haitian community.
When we wake up in the morning, we will have a late breakfast here at camp followed by a group picture at the cross and our last morning devotions at Prayer Rock. We will eat lunch here at camp and then head for the airport in Port-au-Prince. Our flight will land in Atlanta at 11:40pm and we will head up to the American Airlines baggage claim in the North Terminal at the domestic arrivals area. Thank you for praying for safe travels tomorrow. We will grab dinner during our layover in Miami.
Once everyone gets home, I am sure that they will be ready for a long shower, some clean clothes, and some sleep. This has been an amazing week and Coach Bollinger, Mrs. Carr, and I consider it a huge privilege to have had this chance to serve with your kids. We have really loved this team and loved the way that this team has demonstrated the love of Christ and love for others.
Megan Strange and the 2014 NCCS Haiti Team
I was able to post some pics from the Beach club this afternoon and have included the links below. Some of them may have to finish loading when we arrive in Miami tomorrow, but there are enough pictures loaded to give you an idea of what an awesome week we have had! Thank you for sharing your kids with us for this amazing adventure!
NCCS Spring Term 2014 Haiti Photostreams
Day 1: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A1Grq0zwGOHEzZ
Day 2: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A15n8hH4TszhF
Day 3: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A1GI9HKKGPEJQD
Day 4: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A159UlCq1r3gN
Day 5: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A1J0DiRHJuxmwk
Day 6: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A15ON9t3uJBc1
Day 7: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A1GqkRUiGF8vEk