Wednesday, Sept. 28th, day – 11 (last day of travel/home)
Cuts, bruises, mosquito/bug bites, dirty clothes, smelly everything, bubble guts and exhaustion are just a few things that follow us to the states. We are on US soil and we are happy to be home. Out of habit, Conner and I both said “Merci” (thank you) and “Bonsoir” (hello or good evening) to strangers in the airport. I think it will take a bit of time to shake the dust off our feet and return to the American mindset.
We said our goodbyes to Rachel and the rest of the crew at the guesthouse and made our way to the airport. After the song and dance of making our way through the maze of people and into our seats on the plane, we settled in for our 7-hour journey home.
Our flight to Miami and our second flight to LAX were uneventful. We were greeted at the airport by loved ones and within an hour had all gone our separate ways to our individual beds. Although thrilled to be home, I will miss my comrades, Trevor, Ricky and Tim. Conner and I live together, so I will see him frequently, although not every moment of every day as it has been, so I guess I will miss him too as the next few days unfold.
I feel as though I am on emotion overload and am a bit numb. As my thoughts unravel and I receive clarity I will attempt to blog more, however it may be a few days or longer before the matrix of thoughts become clear.
I want to thank each one of your for your thoughts, prayers, for the countless emails I received on a daily basis and the encouraging words contained in them and for following us throughout this journey.
Filled with love, gratitude and joy to serve an amazing God,
PS – As you can imagine, the Internet in Haiti was fairly slow and we were unable to upload any shots. However, we will soon be posting photos on the website. The postproduction process of getting the video together will take weeks. Once it is completed I will get the word out.
Tuesday, Sept. 27th, day – 10
We have safely returned to Port Au Prince. It is raining very hard, flashes of lighting illuminate the sky and crashes of thunder rattle the little guesthouse. The team is experiencing a wide range of emotions, yet one held in common is the desire to return home. We have had great fun and gut laughed a thousand times, however we have witnessed tragedy, shed tears and had our hearts broken at deep levels. I think we all desire the stability and consistency of our lives in the States.
This morning we checked out of our hotel and traveled a short distance to Hands and Feet so we could settle our bill with them and to discuss a bit further how our two ministries may work hand in hand to meet the many needs in the Jacmel area. Mark Stuart, lead singer for Audio Adrenaline and founder of the Hands and Feet Project arrived in Jacmel late last night and upon our arrival to the property, he and Dr. Ken were in a meeting.
As we waited a young mother arrived at the complex with her twins, a boy and a girl. The pair was born 15 days ago, the girl weighed in at 2 pounds 8 ounces and the boy at 2 pounds 10 ounces. The mother told the staff they were born 6 weeks early and she had only been feeding them sugar water. The staff were so loving with the children and the mother. They spent a great deal of time doting over the children, cooing, gently touching and caressing them – it was a beautiful sight.
This land is filled with amazing stories of rescue, triumph and death. Each child at the hands and Feet Project has a story to tell. The orphanage currently has a baby girl who is now six months old and they have had her at the complex for a few weeks. Upon her arrival she was a mere 8 pounds – at six months old! The 14-year-old mother, not knowing how to care for a child had only fed her baby Cheetos, yes, I said Cheetos. She soaked them in water and put them in the child’s mouth. It’s a miracle the child survived long enough to make it to the loving care of Hands and Feet. The work this organization does, literally being the hands and feet of Jesus, has brought up emotions for me that cannot be defined. I am in absolute awe of these sacrificial men and women.
Our journey “home” to Port Au Prince was standard for Haiti – dozens and dozens of near accidents, bumpy roads, dodging giant pot holes and pedestrians, being told to close the windows because we were in a dangerous area only to find ourselves in sauna like conditions until we were in a better location and could reopen the windows for fresh air, etc., etc., etc.
Once in Port Au Prince, our driver, MasterP Cool wanted to take us through the neighborhood he grew up in. It is right behind the former (crumbled in the earthquake) Presidential Palace and is known as the worst ghetto in all of Port Au Prince. He made one phone call, stating it was necessary for our safety to let his people know we were coming. He stated if he was not with us and the phone call was not made, there would be no way we could sojourn into the “hood” and come out alive. He was serious and relayed story after story of violence he had witnessed, including the murder of his own mother nearly 10 years ago. Although we were a bit nervous, with his reassurance of our safety we entered the notorious 5-block area known as “Bel Aire.”
The poverty and despair was pervasive and the tension was thick. As we drove, he pointed out areas of interest – where he lived, a house he still owned, “body dump” locations and people who owed him money. Strangely we were the only car on the road. People who don’t live there don’t go there, it’s just too dangerous. We drove around for about 15 minutes and I must say I was glad when we left. I couldn’t help but wonder how a man who grew up in such conditions could be as successful, balanced and caring as MasterP Cool. I believe God has a mighty plan for his life.
As I prepare for my last night sleep in Haiti my mind races with various thoughts and emotions. My number one thought is that I am ready to go home.
Anxious to be stateside,
(Kelsie – I will see you Thursday afternoon – I am so excited to give you a giant hug!
Monday, Sept. 26th, day – 9
This morning I arose with the sun, had a cup of coffee while sitting on the front deck of the Hands and Feet projects guesthouse and read Isaiah 55. The chapter starts with “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost…” What a beautiful, eternal promise, where there will be no lack.
We adventured to a place called “Bassin Bleu”, which means “The blue basin/pools.” We rode for about an hour out of Jacmel into the mountains. We arrived, parked the car, hired a few locals as guides and began a 30-minute trek to the waterfalls. As we rounded the corner we saw a magnificent sight, a pool of water about 60 feet wide, being fed by a 6 foot wide and 80 foot tall waterfall. Absolutely breathtaking! The guides helped us climb up the side of the falls and demonstrated how and where to jump safely into the pool below. We all took turns jumping in from about 40 feet up. Not too many things scare me, but I must admit my knees were knocking a bit. We captured some fantastic video and still shots at Bassin Bleu and made memories with one another that will last a lifetime.
We made our way back to the hotel and booked an additional room, which allowed us to all stay together. While waiting for dinner, we counted the mosquito bites on our legs – only from the knee down. Ricky was the winner with 17! I am in the room now, exhausted and falling asleep as I write – it is only 6:30pm. Between the rough roads, long walks, heat and emotional toll I am DONE for the day.
Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement. We will be leaving Jacmel and heading back to Port Au Prince tomorrow.
Sleepy, yet grateful for an amazing day,
(Kelsie – I bought another small gift for you today, I think you will like it! I love you)
Sunday, Sept. 25th, day – 8
Ricky, Rachel and I stayed at the Hands and Feet Project last night while Conner, Trevor, Tim and MasterP Cool stayed at the Hotel. At 4:30am Rachel woke Ricky and I up with a blast from an air horn (thanks Rachel, I have decided you are no longer my friend). Dr. Ken wanted to get out early and hit some Haitian surf! We picked up the rest of our team at the hotel, drove about 5 minutes down the road and I saw a magnificent site – waves! Several points to surf from, rolling to the left and to the right – yehaw!!! The water was a perfect 80 degrees and we were in it as the sun was rising. After a bit in the water I caught my first wave (of course this after crashing a few times prior). While cruising down the face I was thinking, “this is paradise, I’m surfing in Haiti!”
After a few hours of surfing and enduring a painful cut to my hand from falling on a trail (Dr. Ken’s response to my injury: “It always stops bleeding eventually.” Nothing like the compassion of an ER doc!), we returned to Hands and Feet and joined up with Dr. Ken’s family and a few of his staff for “home church.” We had an amazing time of fellowship and sharing our hearts. Sundays are considered a day of rest for the staff, so we decided to take an easy day as well and merely relax by the pool, play in the ocean and simply hang out.
At sunset, we ate dinner on the beach, in fact a lobster dinner. I bet most of you are thinking a nice restaurant, candles lit on the table, a waiter with a white towel draped over his forearm and a $45 price tag. Please allow me to clear that up right now. Imagine a busy market place, hundreds of people moving about, motorbikes zooming by, a plastic table and chairs on the sand and several locals almost violently scrambling to serve us. A young man brought a few spiny lobsters to our table for us to inspect- they had been cooked about 10 hours earlier. We were hesitant to eat them, not knowing if they had been kept cool throughout the day or if they sat in the sun. We took a semi-calculated risk, agreed that if we got sick, we would get sick together and ordered our $5 plates of lobster and fried bananas. Pitch black on the beach, the only light emanating from a flashlight that we had brought, we ate (very glad I couldn’t see the meal) while a musical group consisting of 5 men entertained us. They had a variety of instruments, including a banjo – yep, a banjo! Initially they refused to let us video tape them performing, however MasterP Cool received their consent after he began to sing along with them at the top of his lungs. It was a lot of fun and a crowd had gathered, all were now singing traditional Haitian songs. They are an amazing people.
Today has been refreshing. All of us needed to have our batteries recharged a bit in order for us to have energy for our last few days. I love this country, I love my team, I love Jacmel and I love our new friends at Hands and Feet.
Loving this life,
(Kelsie – I am so looking forward to giving you a giant hug in a few days. Daddy loves and misses you!)
Saturday, Sept. 24th, day – 7
We were up and out the door fairly early this morning to make our way to Jacmel, a 3-hour drive from Port Au Prince. It is only about 70 miles away, however the roads are horrible, making the drive wearisome. Our driver, or “fixer” will accompany us throughout our stay in Jacmel. I am growing fond of Alex, or “MasterP Cool” as he refers to himself. I have come to trust him not only as the master of all knowledge Haiti, but as a brother and trusted friend.
Upon our arrival to Jacmel we checked in at the Hands and Feet Project and met Dr. Ken Pierce, his family, staff and about 65+ orphans. It is an amazing set up and clearly the staff love and adore these children. My discussions with Dr. Ken unveiled a common vision between the two of us. He too wants to start a “beach church” in Jacmel and desires to touch the lives of the locals in tangible ways by creating jobs and offering fresh, clean water to the town. The doc and I hit it off immediately and I believe this is a man I want to work with and raise funds to help support.
His wife Dianne, took Ricky and I to see her 12 special children, all of which are under the age of 1 year old. Each has a special story of how God’s grace and mercy brought them to be a part of the Hands and Feet family. As she spoke about each one it was clear to me these 12 are more than mere orphans that she is compelled to care for, rather they are HER children and she loves each of them deeply. One in particular has her heart. This child came to the compound right after birth and weighed only two pounds. The child is healthy today. The love and devotion this family has for those they care for is immense.
Unfortunately there is not enough room at Hands and Feet to house us all, so 4 of the team will have to rough it at a local hotel – with air conditioning and a pool! Suffering for Jesus at it’s best!
As I prepare for bed my mind is swimming with all that has come together today. In October of 2008 the Lord told me to plant “beach” churches around the world. I had no idea why or how. He laid a similar vision on the heart of a faithful man who has lived in this country for over a year, Dr. Ken. He then brought the two of us face to face, quickly knit our hearts together as one and His plan is now in action. God is the master net worker, from the foundations of the world this day was on His radar and I know the angels gave each other “high fives” today.
I don’t want to be preachy, but in closing this day out I want to ask you a few questions. What has the Lord laid on your heart that seems impossible? What is your destiny? Does it seem to big for you to pull off? My hope is that you RUN to whatever that thing is and I pray it is much bigger than you. I pray that you have the courage to come out of the pews and into the trenches and live a life filled with adventure, tears and joy! Someday when you’re in the midst of the journey you will say “I serve a giant God who did this through me. I know that it was His plan because a mere human such as I could have never done these things.” On your life will be a big stamp, which reads, “Jesus certified, tried and true”
In awe of my Maker,
(Kelsie – I love you, daddy will be home soon!)
Friday, Sept. 23rd, day – 6
I awoke this morning to an eerie quiet. The streets, normally filled with the sounds of vehicles, children playing and adult conversations were nearly silent. In anticipation of the riots, the government had manipulated the power grid and virtually shut down the city. We were without power the entire night. Apparently this is a common tactic to quell upcoming unrest.
Over the last few days we had been working out a deal with a local aviation company to barter a bit for services. A promotional video for them and a flight for us. The ride would have provided us with a wonderful photo and film opportunity also it would have been our transportation to Jacmel. We waited and waited and then waited some more for their final decision. Finally after several phone calls we were told they wanted the video for free and us to pay for the flight ($750 per hour). Understandably we rejected this offer, however by this time it was nearly 3pm and our day was pretty much shot. We regrouped and made plans to travel tomorrow.
The “manifestations” (protests) did not materialize today. We heard nothing on the streets about any trouble in the city, nor did we see smoke rising to the sky, as is common when riots break out and tires are burned in protest. I was told it is not uncommon for such events to brew for a few days prior to problems or for them to completely go away without any demonstrations. For now, we apparently are safe and we will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
Late in the afternoon Shane told me his wife had been robbed a few blocks away from the guesthouse. Upon her return she told the story. She was walking into a local market with a few local friends when a man came up behind her, grabbed her purse and ran off with it. Her first response was to yell “Vole” which means thief in Creole. Under normal circumstances this elicits a response from the locals to grab the bad guy and retrieve the property. Often times this leads to a good old fashion beat down for the crook – street justice if you will. However, when Kristie yelled it out, no one responded. She then took off after the man herself. Courage or stupidity, I am not certain which it was, but she subsequently found her purse and the police caught the suspect. She was a bit shaken but was grateful to have her belongings back. We videotaped the story. At the end she said “Merci Jezi” which means “Thank you Jesus” in Creole.
It is time for bed and again I am thankful for a day that had its fair share of disappointment yet ended in victory. Up early in the morning and we will be in route to Jacmel.
Grateful for His grace,
(Kelsie – I will be home in less than a week – daddy loves you!)
Thursday, Sept. 22nd, day – 5
Today started off by sharing 3 bathrooms with approximately 12 strangers that were not part of our team. A guesthouse in Haiti would be more commonly known as a hostel in other regions. Although nice to have a toilet to use, there was no running water therefore a bucket of water had to be used to send things on their way. We have only been here 5 days and yet strangely I am getting used to this kind of life and appreciate the little things.
By 9:00am we were out the door and on our journey home to Port Au Prince. We would arrive just before 5:00pm. The long, bumpy ride was again filled with adventure. This time, I actually mustered the courage to hang off the back of the truck by the rope and stood up much of the way home. We stopped at the market (the same market we ate the chicken at on the way up) and picked up a young man by the name of Dieuxbon. Our host Shane told me the story of how Dieuxbon came into their lives.
Just over 6 months ago Shane was returning from Thiotte and stopped in the same market. As Shane began to drive away he drove past Dieuxbon and felt the Spirit of the Lord tell him to stop and take the boy home. Shane made arrangements with the family and brought him to Port Au Prince to live with their family. Dieuxbon is a special young man. He was born with a major handicap and has been picked on by not only his peers but his family as well for most of his life. Both of his legs bow in so severely that even with the help of a cane, he can barely walk. He is also very slow in speech and appears to be operating at the level of a 5 year old. No one knows how old Dieuxbon is, not even his family – Shane thinks he is between 17-22 years old. He was put on the street to beg as a small child and has never been to school. Although some would take compassion upon him, others would merely mock and hit him as they walked by. He will not look you in the eye, I assume because he has never felt as though he had value. Although it looks like he is in constant pain from his undiagnosed disorder (he has never seen a doctor) he is continuously smiling and ear-to-ear, toothless grin. The world saw a throw away life, Shane and his family saw Dieuxbon through the eyes of Jesus – a child of the King.
I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I write. I am reminded that this is the reason I have come to Haiti. To be His hands and feet, to help Him bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free, to love the “unlovable” and give value to those who feel no worth. I am humbled to be in the presence of people like Shane and Kristie and I am honored to call them friends.
Weary from our travels, we made it safely back to our guesthouse in PAP. After settling in we were told the news of possible civil unrest planned for the following day. Apparently some UN soldiers had raped a Haitian, video taped it and someone posted it on youtube. We were told it may turn out to be nothing or it could turn into large scale riots throughout the streets. The original 5 (Trevor, Conner, Ricky, Tim and myself) along with our newest member Rachel took time to discuss our plans for the following day and to pray. We prayed for safety, wisdom, discernment and peace. Corporately we have decided to go on with our original plans and travel to Jacmel.
As I prepare for sleep, my mind is racing with the memories of today and the thoughts about tomorrow. Despite the potential issues that may arise, I know my God is good and will protect my team and I from any harm.
Wanting Jesus to break my heart with what breaks His,
(Kelsie – You are my beautiful little girl and daddy is so proud of you. I love you so very much!)
Wednesday, Sept. 21st, day – 4
I awoke at 1:00am to a rooster crowing who apparently did not know how to tell time. He sounded off again at 3:10am, 4:30am and at 5:00am at which time I finally gave in and crawled out of my dew soaked blanket to start the day. Collectively I think the team got about 2 hours of sleep in 5-10 minute intervals. During the night we heard things, including people, rustling in the brush, fought off mosquitoes/giant spiders and moisture.
As the sun arose above the horizon, our host showed us where to use the bathroom – a stone hut sporting a large rock with a hole carved out in the center. Only one of our team was brave enough to give it a go – I won’t tell you who, but surprisingly it wasn’t me! I have discovered Haiti has restrooms everywhere, well, any tree, wall, bush or street will do. They really don’t care who is around or if people are standing right beside them. I must admit, it takes some time to get used too, but it has given us some great entertainment.
Mid morning we traveled from the village to the actual town of Thiotte. About 3,000 call Thiotte home and it has a rural, country feel, however has many nice amenities, including electricity. We visited the coffee co-operative and took a tour of the facility. We watched green coffee beans get roasted, ground and then made into a hot cup-o-joe! Truly the best cup of coffee I have ever had! While we waited for Rob (Uncommon Connection) to finish a meeting, the newest member of our film team, Rachel Snyder found a large tarantella and picked it up with her bare hand! (Rachel replaces Wanda on the team due to some unexpected circumstances for Wanda, which made her unable to travel). We immediately knew she would be a great asset to the team!
After many hours at the coffee co-operative we went back into town and grabbed a meal at the only restaurant for miles. We waited nearly two hours for our chicken dinner. I am fairly certain our long wait was in part because they had to catch and kill the chickens. We were the only customers. After our fresh chicken dinner we checked into our guesthouse and took cold “showers” out of buckets.
Despite the accommodations, we had a great evening of laughter, sharing God’s Word and discussing our varying views of faith. All of us were grateful not only for the day but that we had a comfortable bed and clean sheets to sleep in.
Grateful for my bed at home,
(Kelsie – I miss you more and more each day! I love you sweetie and bought a little something for you today.)
Tuesday, Sept 20th, day – 3
I am writing this while sitting in the back of a parked truck – a hollowed out bobtail with holes cut in the side panels for ventilation. It will also serve as our accommodations for the night – a simple mattress and a sheet as a bed, nestled comfortably on the floor, head to toe with 8 other people. We are in Thiotte where there is no electricity, no bathrooms and only light from flashlights and candles.
What was supposed to be a 3-4 hour drive turned out to be a 6-7 hour journey through amazing, beautiful countryside and mountainous terrain. We had to stop several times in order to navigate the rough roads and had an unexpected delay to change a blown out tire. The entire trip was spent bouncing about the bed of the truck, with the exception of Trevor and Conner who wanted to hang off the back! Crazy!
Along the way, we stopped at an outdoor market, which had a thousand or more locals milling about, selling their goods. At Shane’s encouragement, we ate fried chicken and bananas from one of the vendors – no one has gotten ill yet – praise God!
Upon our arrival to our destination, a small mountain village, the vice president of the largest cooperative in the region met us. He is a very influential man in the area and carries much clout with the local community. Our first contact with him was very interesting. As dusk fell, he asked us to sit around a table, welcomed us and laid down the ground rules for our stay. He was very gracious, yet very firm with his requests. He insisted that we respect everyone, let our yes’ be yes and our no’s be no and no cussing. He reassured us that we were safe and stated we were “Brothers and Sisters” because he was a Christian and his village would treat us like family. He then requested we all introduce ourselves. One by one we stated our names and where we were from. I felt as though I had entered another world and another century.
Our new friends are farmers, primarily of coffee. The goal in this region is to develop working relationships with the leaders of the community and build their trust. This in hopes, through fair trade, to help them develop an income by exporting their coffee worldwide. It is a lofty goal, however Rob and Shane have been working on this project for some time and things seem to be coming together perfectly. What is our (The Isaiah Foundation) roll in this? Outside of shooting the promotional video, I am not certain what, if any part we will play, however I have come to truly appreciate those in charge of this project and the friendships I believe that will last a lifetime.
Night has fallen and the stars are breathtaking! Only the sounds of distant conversations, bugs of some sort, the occasional buzzing of my ear by a mosquito and barking dogs in the distance can be heard. It is a simple place, with shanty style homes/huts, no electricity and no running water, yet my heart is warmed by the lives of the people. Strangely I feel at home…
Prayers for safety, success in the relationship building process and for the community would be appreciated. I want to thank everyone who has been commenting on facebook or to my email (email@example.com), the words of encouragement have meant the world to me!
Tired yet running to the call,
(Kelsie – I love you so very much and miss ya tons!)
Monday, Sept 19th, day – 2
Night has fallen on PAP and tonight’s thunderstorms are rolling in. I am outside watching the lightning flash in the distance – no rain yet…
Today we went to CHI and helped out at the feeding program. Three times a week the organization serves about 120 meals to local “street” kids who live in a tent city. This gave the two newbies to Haiti, Ricky and Tim, a real opportunity to get close to the local community. I watched Ricky hold a little girl, maybe a year old, in his arms for 45 minutes. Giant drops of sweat rolled down Ricky’s face as the little girl rested quietly in his arms. Tim on the other hand took time to show some of the boys his camera – that is until they wanted to touch everything and he had to gently tell them to stop – of course, they did not stop at first so he had to be a little more persuasive. Enough said about that. Conner, the “veterano” picked up right where he left off last year, playing basketball with many of the boys and helping with set up and clean up. Trevor was able to meet up with his mom, have a chat and hang out with the kids. This time at CHI consumed much of the day and we got a lot of great video, including a dynamic interview with Scotti Robbins who shared some of his experiences and his heart for Haiti.
Tomorrow we are up early – 4:30am and out the door to the mountain town of Thiotte. We will be traveling with Rob Lehnert from a budding coffee company called Uncommon Connection – www.connexionrare.com We will be shooting a promotional video for their company and we are excited to work collectively on a project that will create long-term income for the local community.
Please continue to keep us in prayer for unity, creativity, safety and opportunities to bless those we come into contact with.
In His service,
PS – The rain has come and plenty of it! Wow, what an amazing display of lightning and thunder!
(Hello Kelsie – Daddy loves you and misses you!)
Sunday, Sept 18th, day – 1
We arrived in Port Au Prince (PAP) Sunday morning, Sept 18th and the adventure began. After leaving the airport and taking a crazy, scenic drive through the streets of PAP, we arrived at what will be our home for the next week. We met our new hosts, Shane and Kristie Mattenley and their three children who live in PAP with them (one currently lives stateside). The house is constantly a-buzz with a gamut of activities and many of the neighborhood families come by to visit and help with the various needs of the household. From first glance it truly appears the Mattenley’s have fostered “covenant” relationships with those they serve.
Late in the afternoon, we took a 45-minute walk through some interesting areas of PAP, enduring the glares of many who don’t seem to like our filming. We ended our walk at Child Hope International (CHI). We met up with some friends we made last summer and met a few new ones that are now working at CHI.
We awoke this morning to the smell of coffee, sounds of roosters crowing and children playing. Thus far, our journey has been amazing, and along the way we have made a few wonderful new friends and allies. (Including, Michelle who works for American Airlines and hooked us up at the airport – thanks Michelle). We have some great photos – taken by the Magnificent Tim Nelson and we reviewed some of the awesome film shot by Ricky Nelson. Everything is falling into place and we continue to see the Lord’s favor and blessings.
Please pray for continued favor, safety and opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus to all we encounter. Don’t forget to find us on Facebook and follow us on twitter – @IF_Project