Aug 25, 2010

Haiti Trip: The Experience

So I've been back from Haiti for exactly a week now & I still feel like I haven't even begun to process everything. It was an amazing, intense, challenging, heartbreaking, encouraging, stretching, & overall CRAZY week. The Lord taught me so much, & as I said, I'm still sorting through a lot of things that I saw, experienced, & learned throughout the week. Instead of trying to cram everything into one post, I'm going to break it into at least...8? Haha! jk. But I am going to break it up: the first several posts will be about the actual experience. What we did, where we went, what we ate...etc =) The final post I am hoping to sum up & express what the Lord did in my heart over the course of the trip. First of all, I want to thank everybody for your prayers & encouragement; there were times that I was nervous, or just doubtful about my decision to go, & I'm so thankful for everybody that supported me. You guys are the best =)

Shall we start at the beginning? Lol. I say yes, so starting with Day 1: August 9th...

Started out dark, & insanely early with a 2 am wake up call & 2 1/2 hour drive to the airport in Minneapolis. My flight didn't leave until 6:45, so I took the extra time to do devotions. I was so encouraged as I read through Ephesians that morning sitting alone in the airport. I have to admit that though I was excited & I love to travel, I was definitely nervous about going to a 3rd world country with 11 other people I had never met, to live with missionaries I had also never met. The Lord just used that passage & his Holy Spirit to really calm me & reassure me that this trip was part of His plan for my summer. My flights went well, although no day of travel is complete without a nice sprint through the airport to catch a connecting flight. Lol! I made it to West Palm Beach, Florida around 2 o'clock & met Dave & Carol Jean, the couple who organized the whole trip. I had nothing to worry about because they are both incredibly sweet & fun people! Carol Jean is the sister of the missionaries that we went to help in Haiti. We met the rest of the group (all AWESOME people), grabbed food, made several Walmart trips (I forgot tennis shoes...dumb. Haha!), & finally got to bed in the hotel around 1 am. Long day...

Day 2:
Again, started out dark & early! Lol....noticing a pattern yet? =)
Our group met for breakfast at 5 am in the hotel lobby & then set off to Missionary Flights International in Fort Pierce. If you have never heard of MFI, I encourage you to check them out; they are awesome! So we weighed all of our luggage & set off on our adventure. Let me tell you, flying over the ocean at sunrise was one of the most incredibly beautiful things I have ever seen. I got some great pictures, but....well, I'll save that sad story for later. Lol. We made a short stop in the Bahamas to refuel after about 3 hours in the air & then landed in Haiti about 45 minutes later. We landed in Cap Haitian, which is the second largest city in Haiti with Port au Prince being the largest. The airport was...well, I'll just say the airport was an experience in & of itself. Haha! It was maybe the size of a large garage & about that nice....& dirty. We shipped over A TON of supplies: food, soccer uniforms, balls, school stuff, crafts for the girls, materials for soccer goals, & other various things that the Bowers needed. The Haitian customs system is very corrupt...well, let me just make it clear now that the whole country is extremely corrupt on every level. More about that & the reason for it later...back to the story! =) Tim Bower has to go into a small room & "negotiate" with the Haitian authorities in order to be able to take our luggage.In other words, it required a bribe. Then, the airport staff went through all of the boxes. Thankfully, they didn't take anything, but in the past they have taken things right in front of the owners. There's not really anything you can do if they decide they want to keep something they see. After waiting quite a while to get everything sorted out, we made our way out to the bus. There was a large group of Haitian men lined on both sides of the walkway outside of the airport. I guess they wait there almost every day hoping for some rich tourists to come through. My first couple of steps outside of the airport, I was grabbed  by a Haitian man waiting on the walkway. I don't know how serious he was, but I just jerked my arm away & thought "oh boy...this is going to be an adventure!" Lol. After we got the bus loaded, our next goal was to go to the market for rice, sugar, & a machete or two. For being the second largest city of the country, Cap Haitian is VERY poor.
The roads, although paved at one time, are now just chunks of cement among dirt  paths. I didn't see a single divider, traffic sign, or anything of the sort the entire time we were there. The river is a murky brown that is lined with garbage. If you have ever seen pictures of India, that would be the most similar place I could compare it to. As we drove through town, there were men emptying the sewage right onto the street. When we arrived in the market, it reminded me a lot of the open air market we visited in Peru, except it was crammed into a stuffy building with too many people trying to get where they needed to go. I was thankful that Dave had made us all wear tennis shoes that day because to use his words,  there were A LOT of puddles & none of it was water...ewwwwy! All of those people milling about & all of the booths spilling over with stuff created mass chaos. Our group of 14 plus Tim Bower & 2 of his kids got separated more than once. I had one guy in particular from our group that was doing his best to stick close & make sure nothing happened to me, but it was hard to stay together while there were people trying to get our attention & push their way through the market. It was about 3 pm, none of us had eaten since breakfast, but we soon lost our appetite as we passed through the meat section; goats meat was covered with flies & green spots; the fish was rotting; goat hooves littered the puddled ground. Small children ran around by themselves trying to sell small, dried fish. All of the sights, smells, & craziness was overwhelming. But the thing that really got to me was the look of hopelessness in the eyes of the Haitians. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, & there was just no hope. I don't know how else I can describe it, but it was heartbreaking. As we exited the building & entered a side street, our group got separated again. About 9 of them were 20 feet ahead of me, separated by a large group of Haitians. All of them trying to get our attention; they call white people "blancs" over there. Lol! I was trying to catch up with them & stay with my "body guard" Jon, but somehow he got stuck about 10 feet behind me for a few seconds & another Haitian man grabbed my wrist. I again jerked away & thankfully Jon caught up, but I was getting frustrated of having a big X on me just because I'm a white girl. Apparently in Haiti, the majority of guys have a fascination with white girls &...well I'm sure you can figure out the rest ;p

We made it safely back to the bus. The Bowers live up in the mountains, about 27 miles outside of Cap Haitian. Because of how bad the roads are, that 27 mile drive takes 3 hours!! But the mountains are absolutely gorgeous! Once we were outside of the city, it changed into the most beautiful place I have ever been, but marred with poverty. The landscape is dotted by shacks & huts made out of scrap metal, or plants from the jungle. Small children wearing rags could be seen walking around by themselves. Women were out doing laundry in a small basin with a rock, or carrying a heavy load on top of their head. After an EXTREMELY bumpy ride, we finally arrived at the Bowers at around 9:30. Our first thought was--DINNER! We still hadn't eaten since breakfast, & the long trip up the mountain restored our appetites. After dinner we received some general guidelines & instructions from the Bowers, sorted out our luggage & sleeping arrangements, & then finally hit the hay around midnight...

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip =)

Aug 19, 2010

To Know You

To know You is never worry for my life, and 
To know You is to never to give in or compromise 
To know You is to want to tell the world about you 
Cause I can't live without You 

To know You is to hear your voice when you are calling 
To know You is to catch my brother when he is falling 
To know You is to feel the pain of the broken hearted 
Cause they can't live with out You. 

More than my next breath 
More than life or death 
All reaching for, I live my life to know You more 
I leave it all behind, You are all that satisfies 
To know You is to want to know You more 

To know You is to ache for more than ordinary 
To know You is to look beyond the temporary 
To know You is believing that you will be enough 
Cause there is no life without You 

All this life could offer me, could not compare to You 
Compare to You 
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing You 
Knowing You 

More than my next breath 
More than life or death 
All I'm reaching for, I live my life to know You more 
I leave it all behind, You are all that satisfies 
To know you is to want to know You more 
To know you is to want to know You more 

And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing You 
Knowing You 
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing You 
Knowing You 

~Casting Crowns

Philippians 3:7-11
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Aug 7, 2010

God's Amazing Provision

Over this summer I have seen some amazing things. God has been teaching me so much & one of those things is His incredible ability to provide in ways that I never expected. At the beginning of this summer, I was facing a college bill that I couldn't pay. I saw no way to come up with the money so the only option was to give it to God & trust Him completely. God delivered in a big way! Not only did He provide enough for me to go back to Northland this fall, but He moved the scholarship committee at school to pay the remainder of my school bill. So I now owe absolutely nothing for this entire year of schooling. Incredible, huh? God wasn't kidding in Ephesians 3:20 when He said  that He is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think!! It doesn't stop there. Back in January when the earthquake hit Haiti, I was heartbroken for the people. I prayed & told the Lord that I didn't have very much money that I could give, but I would give of myself & my time if he would provide the opportunity. Several months later, a notice in the campus announcements at Northland caught my attention: 

SUMMER MINISTRY: Interested in taking a trip to Haiti this summer? Work with Haitian teens at a summer camp in the hills of Haiti. Contact Denny Vauters if interested in this week long trip.

Interested?! This was what I had prayed for! But then,, not reality, rather doubt set in. The reality was that God could provide, but my doubts reminded me of the amount of money I still owed on my school bill. (This was obviously before I learned of the scholarship.) I didn't really think it was possible, so I just tried to forget about it. The Lord wouldn't let me though. I went through all of my classes, practiced piano, & was about 2 miles into a run when I just stopped the treadmill & turned to my friend who was exercising with me. "Did you see the campus announcements today?" I asked her. "I don't know how in the world it's going to happen, but I think that God wants me to go on that missions trip to Haiti." We talked a little bit more & we both agreed that I needed to trust in the Lord's ability to provide & act in faith. We stopped our work out & prayed about it together. From there I contacted the man in charge of the trip & started getting more info. Fast forward to this week & it's amazing to see God's hand in this trip so far. He provided for every bit of the original amount I thought I needed to raise, & then He even provided for extra expenses that I didn't plan for. One of my favorite instances of this happened just this week. When I got the necessary shots at the hospital, the doctor also gave me a list of things that I would definitely want to have while in Haiti. She was a Christian who had been to Haiti every year for the past 5 years, including shortly after the earthquake hit. She told me that it would be "beastly hot" & that I  would be wise to buy a battery operated camping fan with an led light on top. (We will only have electricity for about 3 hours a day, so anything needed longer than that will have to be battery operated.) The fan sounded like a great idea, but I couldn't find one anywhere! Finally, I did find one in a sporting goods store, but it was $25. Not that expensive, but still, plus tax & batteries, it was more than I really felt okay about spending on something that I would likely only be using for a week. So I didn't buy it that day, but I did pray about it. I told the Lord that I really thought I would be fine without the fan, but the doctor had said that it would be a real blessing to have. So asked that if He would like me to buy the fan, that He would provide the money to purchase it in a very clear way. Otherwise, I don't mind going a week without the fan =) Well, that was Wednesday, & that very same night, I went to church & checked our communication file in the foyer. There was an envelope labeled "Alicia Ball" & what do you think was inside? A check for $25!! The exact amount that I needed! Isn't God good? It get's even better; when my mom went back to buy the fan the next day, she found a better one (moms have a way of doing that) & it was only $8! Awesome =) I was just so touched by that display of love from my Heavenly Father. I am so excited to see how He will work during this trip. 

Monday, I will fly from Minneapolis to West Palm Beach Florida & meet the other 13 that are also going on the trip. We will spend the night at a local church & then fly out Tuesday morning with Missionary Flights International. Once we reach Cap-Haïtien, it will be another 2-3 hour bus ride to St. Raphael which is where we will be staying with the Bower family. They are the missionaries who are heading up the youth camp. There will be 5 groups of teens from the surrounding area attending, so please pray that there lives will be transformed by the gospel. Also pray that our group would be unified with the goal of glorifying God & being a blessing to the people we will be ministering to. I'll be back in Florida on the 17th & returning home the 18th, so I look forward to sharing all about the trip very soon. Thank you all for your prayers!! Here are some pictures of where we will be going:
Cap-Haïtien: Where we will be flying into, it is the 2nd largest city in Haiti.
The local Walmart =)

The Bower's home (& where we will be laying our heads at night.)

One of the buildings on the camp site.

Please pray that I would be completely unselfish during my time in Haiti & truly reflect the love & humility of Christ. Thanks again for stopping in to see what's up =) Have a great weekend!!

"And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:35-40

Aug 3, 2010

Tatym Renee

Guess who finally decided to grace us with her presence?  Tatym Renee was born July 31st at 11:00 pm after waiting two weeks past her original due date. 
My mom, oldest sister, & I were able to spend all day Sunday at the hospital with Ben, Becca, & Tatym. We had a great time; here are a few pictures from the day =)