Thursday, May 2, 2013


Advocating for a cause can be so rewarding, yet exhausting. I have learned that advocating for the materially poor is one of the toughest jobs out there. The poor, especially children are the most vulnerable and at risk people in the world. They need advocates because most of the time they are voiceless and powerless. However, the spiritual warfare can be strong at times, making it very complicated and difficult to push through the barriers to reach the most vulnerable.

We partner with Kids Against Hunger (KAH). They provide all the food we need to feed 20 families in the area that we work. These families rely on us for food. Without it, some of these family members would be dead today from starvation! The Kids Against Hunger food is saving lives!

I should mention here too that we are not just giving out free food and walking away. We are well aware that feeding people does not resolve the problem. God has given us 20 families to feed and we are assessing each of these families one by one, building a relationship with them and searching for a better understanding of their needs and how we can come alongside them for the LONG haul. We have launched a program called our Strong Family Program. Each of the families in this program will be mentored and discipled. We will provide education for their children and literacy classes for the parents. In addition, we will offer vocational training and support for each family so that they may start their own business or find work that will place them on the path of becoming self sustaining.

We are doing all of this through the help of the local church and it's church members. Right now we have begun bringing 4 of these 20 families beyond feeding them. As God provides funds, we will continue to do more with each of the remaining 20 families.

I will write more about this program as it progresses, but just wanted clarify our goal here. We are not in Haiti to feed people or even to cure children of malnutrition. We are in Haiti to come along side the local church to disciple and share the Gospel. We are reaching them spiritually by intervening into their physical lives.

Now back to the KAH food and advocating:

Getting the KAH food to our ministry has been one of the toughest jobs for our team. We are grateful for our local community that comes together to package the food that will be set aside for our ministry. Packaging the food is the easiest part.

Getting it to our ministry is very complicated. Once the food is packaged, we need to take it to KAH warehouse where it is labeled for our ministry and then sent to a military base on the coast to be flown to Haiti. Once at the military base, it needs to pass an inspection first and then it will wait its turn to be loaded on an aircraft travelling to Haiti.

Once in Haiti, we have to line up an NGO to check it through customs and we need to rent a forklift to unload the pallets. We pay the NGO 10% of our boxes and the remaining boxes are ours!

Up until this point, there are a lot of email and phone call exchanges between all the parties involved to make sure we are still on track.

When our first shipment passed inspection, I was told that ours was the NEXT food that would travel to Haiti. This was great news until we learned that through a government budget cut, our food would  not leave the U.S. until the budget restraints were lifted. We rallied our followers and wrote to Senators and members of Congress.

Three weeks later, still no word and we begin to run out of food. We borrowed food from another ministry and agreed to pay them back when our food arrives in Haiti.

When Steve traveled to Haiti last week, they visited the ministry that checks our food in for us. Mickey asked me to check on our food because while visiting this ministry, they learned that ban had been lifted and the military is transporting food once again. This ministry had already received a shipment. Feeling bad that our food had not arrived yet, they loaned us enough to get us through another week.

Hmmm...I had a hunch that the food this ministry received was actually OUR food! Kind of comical to think that they were loaning us 'our' food! Mickey had no way of knowing at the time, so she didn't question anything.

I started making phone calls, shooting off emails, even writing FB messages to all involved in the U.S. side suggesting that this ministry unknowingly has our food!

I was told that it wasn't our food and that ours had not left the port yet. Yet, I knew deep down inside that this had to be our food because I was told that our food was the next in line to go just before the ban. I just had this gut feeling!

I pushed back! I sent a flurry of more emails and FB messages. We are once again running out of food!

Days went by and no one responded to me. I continued to not let this rest, making more phones calls and demanding a response.

Then someone finally responded stating that our food would most likely be on a flight May 18th! This was not going to work for us! That would mean another 3 weeks without food!

I suggested over and over again that maybe the food that our ministry partner received WAS our food. I asked them to please check again and confirm.

Then, earlier this week, I was copied on an email to the ministry from our contacts in the U.S. The email stated that after further investigation, indeed that is our food they have in their warehouse! They were asked to make arrangements to get us our food ASAP!

I forwarded the email to our team in Haiti and they attempted to make contact with the ministry, which is not always an easy task. Still unsuccessful with making contact, I woke up to an email yesterday morning that our food will be in PAP in one hour and we were suppose to come pick it up!

This is how things work in Haiti! I forwarded the email to Mickey who finally connected with this group. More than an hour had passed since I received the email, so there was no way we could rent a truck and be there within the time limit they gave us. Crazy! This is the kind of stuff we deal with all the time in Haiti!

We made other arrangements and we will have our food early next week.

My reason for sharing this story is not to complain about my work. But I share this story as an example of the extra miles you sometimes have to go in order to effectively advocate for something. Advocating is not as effective when you just simply share with others the cause and wait to see what happens. Advocating means to be actively working towards your goal.

Advocating takes perseverance, continuous follow up and no rest until the issue is resolved. In this case, it takes going with your gut and pushing through the barriers what ever it takes, even if it exhausts the heck out of you and makes you grow weary. Advocating sometimes makes you look like a crazy person.

But when it comes to a matter of life or death, you better believe that I will do whatever it takes to push through the spiritual warfare that could keep us from going forward with our work for His Kingdom.

So, when someone asks me, "What do you do for the ministry?" My answer most often is I advocate! I manage a lot of tasks and do a lot of busy work but overall my role is to Advocate for this ministry and the people in Haiti. It's the most rewarding, complicated and exhausting job, next to raising my four children, that I have every had in my life! I love my job!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Father to the fatherless

Steve is in Haiti this week on a vision planning trip with the president of our umbrella organization. This is an important trip for many reasons. They have important meetings this week with the pastor and leadership of the church in Haiti. We want the local church to own the work of the ministry in Haiti. So, it's crucial that we work in unity together.

As part of this vision planning trip, the team will be climbing the mountain to visit with and learn more about the needs of two families who are part of our Strong Families program. The mother serves as the head of at least one of these families. Most of our Medika Mamba families are missing a father figure. Most households are run by the mother.

I shared about our ministry at a local church's global missions meeting last night. One member on the board asked specifically about the fathers of these families. Having a discussion about the void of a father figure in the lives of these children, got me thinking about how this is an important void that our ministry can help fill.

Actually, this is why we are there - to share about Christ and to tell those who have not heard that there is a daddy who loves them and cares for them.

I can't help but think that God will use Steve and Tory today to show families a father's love. The fact that they care enough to travel all the way to Haiti and climb the mountain to understand their needs is enough for God to show these families how important they are to Him.

God is a father to the fatherless but only when we go there and share God's love through our love for these people, will they know the love of a father.

Then I was thinking about our sponsored child, Martial. He is a double orphan, loosing his mother most recently in the earthquake in 2010. This week, Steve has the opportunity to show the love of a father to Martial too.

Martial and I have had more time to build our relationship than him and Steve. He thinks of me as his mother because that is the kind of relationship that God has woven in our hearts. Here is what he wrote to me in a letter:

"I didn't think I would ever have a beautiful mom like you. I thank God because he gave you to me. I am not the same as others who don't have a mother because God gave me grace."

Here is a young teenage boy who has experienced the loss of both parents. He knows the pain and the void of these figures in his life. He has every right to think of himself as unlucky. But now that I am part of his life, he believes this sets him apart from others who don't have a mother.

My prayer this week is that Martial will feel the love of a father through his time with Steve. As much as it kills me not to be there with Steve this week, I know it's time for God to build their relationship now. I so wish we could be there 24/7 for this amazing boy who has changed our lives. But I believe, even with being several hundred miles apart, God can still use us to show the love of a parent in ways when we are not together.

I pray that God helps our ministry reach as many of the fatherless as possible, teaching them about a relationship they can have with a Father who loves them dearly.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I'm Back!

Oh my goodness! Have I neglected this blog or what?!

This is an attempt to get back on track and write more. If anyone is still or will continue to follow this blog, I promise to try harder to write.

Much has happened since I last wrote but I'll try to bring you up to speed in a nutshell.

It was one year ago January that we took a vision trip to Haiti, to meet with a pastor and his wife and to get a better understanding of their needs. They care for their 6 biological children and 14 more who were orphaned from the earthquake in January 2010. Since the earthquake, they have been living in their back yard at first in tents and now temporary shacks.

They do all their cooking outdoors on a 2 burner camp stove and eat as a family at a large picnic table, all on dirt floor.

I am so blessed to have met this family! They have become like family to me!

Since I last wrote an update, I traveled to Haiti for the third time last year as part of a medical team. We conducted a 3 day medical clinic out of the doors of the pastor's church. You can read about it here and here.

Have I mentioned the non-profit we created to come along side the pastor and his family? This time marks the one year anniversary of the creation of this ministry called Bread to the Nations. You can check out the website here. Go read about the opportunities God has put before us to minister to the people in Haiti.

Our medical clinic launched an on-going malnutrition treatment program. The program is called Medika Mamba, a peanut butter paste that is used to treat severe malnutrition in children up to age 5. It's called Plumpy Nut in Africa.

We have an American team serving on the ground and overseeing the ministry activities. They live in Haiti about 75% of the time and are committed to serving there long term.

Speaking of long term, when we entered into this work, we did it knowing that this could mean that we would be working there for many years.

Haiti hasn't always been where I envisioned God was going to use me. Serving in developing countries is messy and complicated. But serving in Haiti challenges of its own. When friends and family hear about our work in Haiti, they sometimes get skeptical and sometimes we are told to not go there or asked why there?

Well, it's because God has brought us there. We did not go searching for anything like this, God brought the need to us. After sponsoring the children in the pastor's home, God opened up ways from us to work in the  church community among the poorest of the poor. This area has been almost untouched by outside assistance. To not respond would be turning my back on God and turning my back on what we are all called to do.

If Bread to the Nations had not come alongside families in this church community, most likely many children and some mothers would be dead today from lack of food. In fact at least one mother informed us that she was dying of starvation until our team came along to support her with food. Several mothers that we support tried giving their children up to an orphanage but now can keep their children because they are receiving food from our ministry. In essence, he work of BttN has helped prevent orphans.

Our main purpose of serving there is to bring the Gospel to the people. We pray for people to be transformed and have new life in Christ through physical healing and Biblical teachings. We reach people for Christ through providing for their physical needs.

As a result, we have seen many miracles of lives bring transformed. We have had several mothers and older children come to know Christ through physical healing.

One of the greatest and most rewarding part of this work is to watch how God provides for all the ministry needs. If you would like to follow this journey, please join us on Facebook and/or leave me your email address (will not be published) and I will make sure to keep you in the loop.

At this time we are raising funds to build a home for the pastor, his wife and 20 children. We would really like to get them in the home before the rainy season, which is coming soon! Construction has begun for the first phase but we need more funds to complete this phase. You can follow the progress here.

Raising funds for our malnutrition treatment program is on-going. The more funds we raise, the more lives we can touch. Learn more about this program here. Right now we have a generous donor who will match up to $5,000 for donations towards this program. We only have a few days to raise this, so if you would like to double your tax free donation towards saving the life of a child, go to the BttN website and click on "support the ministry" located on he right sidebar.

I hope to write soon about the struggles and challenges yet rewards of serving in a developing country.

Thanks for reading this far!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm a mess...

The first time I traveled to Haiti in 2010, our group leader told us that his prayer was that God would mess us up. I just returned from my 3rd trip to Haiti. I left on short notice, with not much time to prepare mentally or physically. Something very unexpected happened to me - something I had not experienced before. I don't think any amount of preparation could have prepared me for this.

My first two trips, I came home physically exhausted, sleep deprived but after a few days, everything was back to normal. Not that I wasn't a changed person each time, because I did experience things that altered my perspective and shook me a little. But something happened this trip that completely wrecked me.

I went to Haiti to "help" my friend Mickey set up her house, to meet with a building contractor and hand out sponsor letters to the kids. The night we handed out the letters, one by one, we saw anxious faces turn to smiles as they learned more about their sponsored  families through a letter and a photo.

We brought hand made bracelets for each of the kids, so I was busy placing bracelets on each child and preparing them for a photo opportunity to bring back to their sponsors.

Martial, the boy our family chose to sponsor, was one of the last called to step forward for his letter. I didn't have any expectations on how he would react. I thought he probably would think it's cool that he knew his sponsor and that I was there at that moment to share the news with him. But I was too wrapped up in all the motions of presenting the letters to prepare for Martial's reaction. After he opened our letter, he did appear happy after he discovered that I was his sponsor. We took our picture together and made our way over to Firmin for translation of the letter.

While we waited our turn, I placed my arm around him, asked him if he was doing good and he instantly buried his head in my arms and began to cry. I was completely taken off guard by this reaction. It felt like something grabbed my heart with a firm grip and ripped it out at that moment. That's all I know how to describe how I felt. I was so touched by his response and the authenticity of the moment - feeling the joy of his heart being poured out through his tears and his emotions.

I was a wreck! I was also very upset with another young boy who happened to see our emotional moment together and decided to make fun of Martial for crying. Not good!

Martial let his guard down. He tried to hold back, especially after getting teased, but he could not contain the  joy and excitement he had knowing I was his sponsor. This boy had real genuine love for me and I fell in love with him. My heart fell for him the first time I heard his story but never did I expect this kind of instant bond between the two of us.

Martial lost his father when he was 3. He was with his mother during the earthquake when their house collapsed on the two of them. Martial and his mother were both buried in the rubble. They were found several hours later but his mother did not survive.

Martial is one of 14 children who has been taken into a home with already 6 kids. He lost everything he had the day of the earthquake. I can't even imagine the pain he has suffered through all of this and then to have to share a mother and father with 19 other sisters and brothers? I'm sure part of his response to me sponsoring him was an outlet for him to grieve his loss. I'm sure he felt safe letting his guard down, knowing there was a mother figure there to comfort him in his sorrow and to let him know it is OK to cry.

That night Mickey and I walked back to our house with our hearts bursting with emotions from the events that took place moments before. Our hearts were overflowing with joy and love for these kids. I shared through my own tears with Mickey how Martial cried. I also witnessed Mickey and her sponsored child's emotional moments together. We both held back tears, just talking about our evening.

I went to bed with my camera, flipping through the pictures from that evening and cried myself to sleep.

The rest of my time there, I spent as much quality time as I could with Martial. I was able to learn more about how he spends his time at the orphanage.

Let's just say, this young man really knows how to work hard! He cooks, cleans, hauls 5 gallon pails of water and does ALL of the ironing. He goes about his chores without complaining.

I recognize that if a child is going to be in an orphanage, this particular orphanage is about as good as an orphanage gets. The kids are well taken care of, they are fed, clothed and go to school. But what is lacking is one on one time with a parent. Pastor Firmin and his wife manage the household of 20 children well. However, they can't quite possibly give each child all they need emotionally.

I know that part of Martial's response to me was spurred on by his wanting a way to grieve his loss and his craving for a mother. So, I suppose you can say that he may have responded this way to just about anyone. However, as egocentric as this may sound, I believe that God sent ME to be the one for the very purpose of being there to comfort, bond with and grow my love for this young boy. Our family had chosen him but without him speaking the words to me, I know that based on the love he showed me, God had been preparing his heart for me. No doubt in my mind - God matched us together.

The day before I left, I was having a difficult time trying to figure out how I was going to tell this young man, that I shared so much with, that I was leaving the next day. On this day, he was a little guarded and slightly standoffish, so I suspected he already knew. Then Magalie asked me to go to market with her to buy chickens (live chickens!) and asked Martial to come with as well.

On our way to the market, I was fighting back tears thinking about how appreciative I was that Magalie asked Martial to join us. She did this for me. Once out the gate of the orphanage, Matial asked me through Magalie if I was ever going to be coming back to Haiti. My heart sunk. I can imagine this question took a lot for him to ask. Then he asked if I would come back in June with Mickey. Magalie shared with me that they had told him that I would be leaving the next day. I made a promise to him that I would be back but I didn't know when I would be back.

Then for the first time, we used Magalie to translate our feelings for each other back and forth. Through Magalie, he told me how he was very sad and that he would miss me very much. I told him the same and not to be too sad because I was going to come back. I was overwhelmed with emotions as we shared our feelings towards each other, both of us choking back tears. As hard as it was, however, I am grateful that we had this conversation together.

The day I left, I just happened to remember that Martial was making a bead necklace earlier in the week. It was the only one I remember him making. I pointed to my neck hoping he would understand. He instantly ran off and within seconds he came back with the necklace and placed it on my neck. We cried together at that moment and had one last picture taken together. The last good-bye, before I left the orphanage for the last time, was painful!

More than a week later, I am still a mess - painfully missing my "son" in Haiti, feeling full yet empty at the same time.

My friend Mickey stayed in Haiti for a few more days. She reported to me that Martial missed me a lot! I told her that I have been a mess since I have been back. Mickey understands - she was there and she knows all about how God can mess a person up.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five remain!

It's been a very long time since I've written an update about anything. We have been overwhelmed with working through details to come along side one family in Haiti. I wrote about this family a couple blog posts ago, right after returning from our vision trip to Haiti. Fast forward to today and families from our community have joined efforts and set up a ministry to help support a vision that God is showing us.

Our ministry is called Bread to the Nations. For several weeks after returning from our trip to Haiti, we wavered back and forth about whether we should set up a non profit or not. Then out of the blue, the chairman of a local non profit called and invited us to share with their board about our ministry to see if it makes sense for us to become a ministry under their umbrella. Ultimately, the board approved us becoming a ministry under them, allowing us to use their 501c3 status and offer our donors tax exemption. We had a little paper work to fill out with the state and within a week, we were officially a new ministry.

Our first step to starting the ministry was to set up a sponsorship program. The purpose of the sponsorship program is not only to satisfy their basic needs but also to give families an opportunity to begin relationships with the kids through letter exchanging.

We kicked off our program and launched our new ministry at an event last Saturday. We now have 15 of the 20 kids sponsored with 5 waiting to be sponsored. $120 per month will fully sponsor one child. This amount covers food, water, school tuition, uniforms and supplies and clothes. You may also partially sponsor a child for $30 or $60 per month.

Two of the five children remaining are sisters. They lost their mother in the earthquake. While she was feeding her daughters, an iron fence fell and killed her. They are the sweetest little girls and it just kills me to know that they both are still waiting. Two children are the pastor's kids, his beautiful daughter who is gifted in music and loves to lead worship at church and his youngest son who is outgoing, cheerful and very active. The fifth child who waits is a precious young boy who has a sister in the orphanage as well. The two of them are now in their 4th orphanage and hopefully their last.

We are looking for those who are willing to take a leap of faith, join us in our ministry and make a difference in the life of one child for as little as $30 per month. If you think you may be that person, please leave your email in a comment (I will not publish any of these comments!) and I will email you more of the details.

Please consider this opportunity! We would really like to see all the kids find sponsors soon so we can move  onto the next phase, which is rebuilding their home.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Next Steps

We went to Haiti to learn more about an "orphanage". But when we got there, we soon discovered that it was not an orphanage but a very large family. Pastor F and his wife had 6 biological kids and have become a family of 22 since the earthquake after taking in 14 more children. I don't believe they had plans to run an orphanage or to grow their family before the earthquake. They were praying about coming along side kids in their neighborhood, but they didn't know the earthquake was going to happen, so they didn't plan for their life to be changed in this way.

However, right after the earthquake that left thousands of children without parents, they saw the need and they responded.

Not only have they taken in 14 extra children since the quake, but they have been living in temporary shelter, first in tents in their back yard and now in plywood structured, tarp covered, dirt floor rooms.Their home is not livable.

It felt a lot like camping to me. This style of living would make me very uncomfortable. I probably wouldn't last too long but this family of 22 has been living with their circumstances for 2 years!

The reason we called this a vision trip is because there was a strong possibility, after we learned more about this orphanage that we would, at the minimum, make some short term commitments to come along side them. Yes - it requires more accountability but it also serves a purpose that I can justify.

After returning to the U.S., I have been asked several times, "What did they have you do there?"

But our purpose for being there was not to "do" things for them. The purpose wasn't even for us to tell them what we think they need. The purpose of the trip was to first hear their dreams and vision for the kids, their orphanage and church. Then, decide how we can work together to help them achieve their vision.

We left telling them in the end that we would like to begin with helping them rebuild their home. There is an urgency to this - they run the risk of being shut down because of their dirt floors. We would also like to help them not ever run out of food again.

The interesting part is that Pastor F told us not to set a timeline on raising funds for a rebuilding project but to work with God's timing. He said that timelines are man's creation.

Since home, we have been in the process of having conversations and sharing their story with others. Soon we will be laying out a fundraising plan. Stay tuned!!

This is all very exciting stuff!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day Trip

Our first full day in Haiti, we took a one hour tap tap ride to a near by city. Our fearless leading and American pastor, Dan drove. The tap tap was owned by the Haitian pastor. Just before taking off, our team was briefed on the shape of the tap tap.

What we learned before we loaded into the back of this very sketchy form of transportation, is that when you let up on the gas, it dies. Also, there is no radiator cap and at least one of the wheels had only 3 lug nuts. Oh - I guess I didn't know about the lack of nuts on the wheels until we arrived safely back home that day - one of several times God spared my anxiety.

We had plans to use the tap tap more throughout our time there but after our Friday day trip, the tap tap no longer started for us. We found out, however that the day after our team left, it miraculously did start. I believe God's hand of protection was on us.

The purpose of our one day trip was to spend time with a friend who runs an HIV clinic. Our team arrived at her gates at the same time as two young men arrived asking to be tested. She has these simple tests that work much like a pregnancy test. She takes a small sample of the patient's blood, puts it on a strip where we watch the line disappear if it is negative for HIV. Very interesting stuff.

After she took care of her two patients, we walked down the street with her to purchase a few eggs from a small store. Then we returned to her home for a spaghetti lunch and learned more about her ministry and the surrounding area.

Next, she walked us to a nearby orphanage where dear friends of ours are adopting 2 girls. Our team was able to spend some time loving on the children and bringing gifts from their adoptive families. Most of the children in this orphanage, all but 3 (I believe) will be joining their forever families very soon. I can't wait to see them thrive and grow once home.

From there, we traveled to another orphanage run by an American couple. They had 56 children, some of which were available for adoption as well. Our team was very impressed by the set up and management of this orphanage. The American couple felt the Lord's prompting to sell everything, move to Haiti and take in kids. They arrived 4 years ago with just a few bags and very little funds, living in very primitive conditions, trying to navigate their way into the Haitian culture.Hearing their story and the obstacles they had to overcome to get them this far, made my jaw drop a few times. Truly a great example of living by faith.

We had plans to visit one more orphanage but we didn't have enough time. Pastor Dan decided that it would be best that we get back before the sun sets. Sounded like a good plan to me given the shape of our transportation. We did make it back safely to the orphanage and guest house that evening. PTL!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The orphanage

Our main reason for our vision trip to Haiti was to focus on an orphanage that our family has been advocating for a few months. We first learned about this orphanage through a connection I have in Haiti. Steve and I eventually came to the realization that if we were going to continue a relationship with this orphanage, we would need to plan a trip to visit the orphanage.

Fast forward and now we are home from one of the most amazing and challenging experiences of my life. I'll attempt to describe some of our experiences. However, I remember riding down the mountain in the tap tap on the edge of a ravine when one team member said to me, "There is really no way to describe this, is there?" It's true that you almost need to be there to really understand and appreciate the complexity of it all.

Our first day began at 3:00 a.m., when our team members woke up to prepare for our flight to Miami and then onto PAP, Haiti. By the time we landed in PAP at 4:00 p.m., we were exhausted. At the PAP airport, we were mobbed by the official men helping with luggage.We tried our best to pile our bags in one area and guard them. It took all the strength we could muster to load our luggage onto 4 carts, push our way through the crowd and head out the door.

We were followed by the men in red shirts who insisted on helping us. I had two men with both sets of hands on my luggage even though I really didn't need their help. It was overwhelming to say the least.

I was relieved to see 3 men, Pastor Dan, our interpreter Pierre and Pastor F. waiting for us at the end of our road. After a quick greeting, they guided us to the rented tap tap and Trooper that was brought to transfer our team and our luggage.

We continued to be overwhelmed by the men with the red shirts, who were forcing us to allow them to "help". But through the confusion, we all managed to get the luggage and ourselves loaded into the two vehicles. The men from our team road in the back of the tap tap with Pierre and our luggage and the women road with the pastor in his vehicle. I must say I was very anxious about being separated by my husband and each time I lost sight of their tap tap, I grew even more anxious. We traveled through rush hour traffic for a little over one hour before we arrived safely to the gate of the orphanage.

Once inside, our tired bodies were greeted by several smiling faces, hugs and kisses. The warm welcome made me feel instantly at home and for the first time comfortable since we landed in Haiti.

The pastor's wife brought a meal of spaghetti to a picnic table. We each served ourselves spaghetti and sauce from large sized pencil containers used for the serving bowls. I thought to myself, what a very practical use of a pencil case. The food was yummy, seasoned with Haitian spices.

The pastor was aware of our team's concern about food safety, so before we began to eat, he told us not to worry about the food and that being there is doing God's will and when we do God's will, God will protect us.    He assured us that we would not get sick. Somehow I knew that through his confidence and assurance, that the Lord was speaking these words of protection through the pastor. He prayed a blessing over the food and we all ate. Other than some minor tummy issues that were quickly cured with pepto, non of the team members had any digestive problems. Based on the courses we ate, there is non doubt that God's protection was covering our health. More about the food in another post =)

First of all, our team quickly learned that this was not an orphanage at all. It was a family - a very large family! - a mother and a father with 19 children, with the addition of 1 to make it 20 on the day we left.

We could not tell the difference between the kids in the "orphanage" and the pastor's biological children. All were equally cared for, loved for and treated like family.

This is the same orphanage that I wrote about several months ago that has gone on several occasions without food for days at a time. They live in temporary shelters on dirt floor. They have a two burner stove that runs on propane. There was a makeshift bathroom in the back of the compound and a rooster roaming the grounds. It felt like camping to me.

All the kids except the pastor's children were orphaned due to the earthquake. The pastor's family grew by 13 children after the quake. Some children lost both parents, some lost one parent but the living parent is not able to provide financially because of the devastating affects of the earthquake. Despite their living conditions and their tragedies, they are all happy! It's evident that they have the joy of Christ reigning in their hearts.

On Saturday night, we threw a party for the kids. The pastor's wife made a big feast. There was popcorn, ice cream, soda and trail mix. We brought each of the kids a gift from the U.S. The youth from our church raised $400 to purchase these gifts and other items needed by the orphanage. They also wrote cards with their pictures attached. The night of the party, the pastor read the cards to the kids as they sat attentive around the picnic table excited to meet new friends from the U.S. through a picture and a card.

The next day when we were looking over the cards with the kids, they remembered the ages and names of their new friends from afar. It was the beginnings of new relationships forming.

On Monday we got the pleasure of visiting the kids' school. It was a school with 400 children. The classrooms were divided by half walls. We followed the principal from one classroom to the next, seeing familiar faces. Each time we visited a classroom with the pastor's kids, each of the kids stood up and waved. In two separate classrooms, the pastor had 5 kids!

After our tour, the principal brought us to his office. This was a very special moment for our team to witness and one I will never forget.

In Haiti there are only private schools. There are registration fees and monthly tuition expenses. Despite not having the funds to enroll the kids in school this school year, the principal gave the pastor grace and allowed the kids to begin school with the expectation that the pastor would pay sometime during the school year.

Having any kind of debt weighs heavy on the pastor because the Bible discourages debt. But when you experience times when you are unable to feed a family, there certainly isn't money available for school tuition fees.

Hearing of this need, friends of ours gave us the cash that would cover the total school fees outstanding for this school year.

So in the principals office, our team was able to look on as the pastor paid off his debt to the school. We saw the records of the loans and amounts he still owed. Then we witnessed the principal cancel all the outstanding debt on paper. It was truly a monumental moment.

This experience was among many that our team was able to witness first hand the pastor giving us a reason to trust him.

There is so much corruption in Haiti. Many people are hesitant to help financially because they are fearful of whether the money would be used for the right reasons. But this orphanage was different. Our instincts told us that this is a pastor we could partner with and trust. He was the real deal!

We have an opportunity here to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of those who are the future of Haiti. What a blessing to be able to partner with a Godly family with the right motives and the best interest of the children in mind.

I will write again about the next steps that we are pursuing with our new friends. It's exciting! God is good all the time!