Beyond the mountains are more mountains

Beyond the mountains are more mountains. This is an old saying in Haiti which simply means there’s more to Haiti than meets the eye, and WOW! did we ever learn that on our last day!  Pastor Joseph took our team up into the beautiful Haitian mountains to visit two small churches he supports.  One is nothing more than a tent on a hillside, but the people there are faithful believers. The land where the church sits was purchased by Pastor Joseph then given back to the church. About 50 children in the area attend school there, but without money to pay teachers the school is in jeopardy. One of the teachers/principal spoke with Pastor Joseph and our team about the urgent crisis facing their school.  Sponsorship would be a great blessing to this hillside church/school and perhaps might be coming in the future.

After our visit here we ventured another three hours winding up, down and around the mountains. The Haitian mountain people seem primitive at times walking, or riding mules or horses to get around, but at other times we’d stumble upon a fully modernized town with electricity, cars, motorcycles, even air-conditioning!  We were blessed to travel past a gorgeous lake which sat nestled in a valley of amazing mountains. It was nothing like the Haiti the team had been seeing for a week.

Finally we’d arrived at another mountain top church supported by Pastor Joseph. In order for him to support these churches, he insists that the pastor in charge agree to and sign a legal document which releases the land on which the church sits back to the church itself instead of being privately owned. He says he does this to ensure that the people will always have a place to worship for generations.

As we arrived at this One Family Church, we were struck by sheer number of children inside! They welcomed us with enthusiastic applause and joyful songs! The energy, love and faithfulness in our Lord was overwhelming and physically palpable in this small, one-room church.  After our visit we were treated to some Haitian hospitality in the form of delicious fried plantains and chicken!! The children in this remote area were so polite, beautiful and perhaps even a little awe-struck at seeing this group of “blans” (whites) that many of us didn’t want to leave! However, we knew it was time and after many “orevwa’s” we departed, taking with us a different picture of Haiti.

We left behind a Haiti much simpler, yet complex, than what is seen in Port-au-Prince and Grand Savann. A Haiti with needs as varying as those of any state in the US; a Haiti struggling to educate and provide for its future generations, yet determined to do so; a Haiti with faith so strong it replaces all the material things which our culture deems necessary. God is in Haiti because he is in the hearts of everyone we met this week.

While I don’t want to speak for the entire team, it safe to say that every team member grew as a result of our time in Haiti. For some of us relationships with the Haitian people grew, for others a new sense of purpose began to grow, from this trip new friendships have grown, and most importantly our love of the Lord, His kingdom and the people in it has definitely grown!  Never have we been more convinced of the purpose of our God and RCC “Love, Go, Serve, Grow.” It is true that when we love others as Christ did, and go forth to show and share that love by serving others we grow closer to God.

Thank you for reading, and Bonye beni ou!

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Pastor Joseph’s Orphanage

We made it safely to Pastor Joseph Kesnal’s orphanage in Croix des Bouquet.  As it is summer, not all the children were there. You see this orphanage is truly one of love and service.  Pastor Joseph Kesnal, after several visions from Christ, gave up a very wealthy and lucrative lifestyle in the US to return to his native Haiti and serve the children.  His orphanage provides housing, healthcare, education, and LOVE with an unwaivering Christian foundation. In the summer, children are allowed to return home to their families to visit thus not all of them were on hand for our visite.

Written on the outside of the children’s bunk house is “Jezi se repone” – Jesus is the answer and he truly believes that and lives that.  They children living in his orphanage have parents in and around Port-au-Prince who are unable to provide for their kids, so he does.  His school also educates another 50+ students who come and go each day.  Pastor Joseph also runs One Family Church which offers services to the public on Monday & Wednesday evenings, and several services throughout the day Sundays!

Pastor Joseph is a smart businessman who owns and runs multiple businesses- all of whose profits go to run the school, orphanage and church! He says all he does is for the children and that is all that matters! His wife, Yannick, and children also lend a hand at the school and orphanage. The Kesnal family and nearly 50 orphans are truly one BIG happy family!

Camerle was left at the orphanage weighing only 4 lbs- he's a healthy boy now!

Monday evening after our arrival we were treated to a delicious dinner and Pastor Joseph shared his testimony with us. It was quite a story of success, mistakes, joy, sorrow, pain and redemption! I hope that one day he is able to visit RCC and share with our church family personally! He is an inspiration and example of serving others!

Last post til state side

This is just a quick update that we are headed to Croix des Bouquet to Pastor Joseph’s and there is no internet 😦 So, please know all is well, we are well, and God is good! Pray for our travels and the remainder of our trip, and that we serve God in a pleasing way!

Check back Wednesday afternoon for highlights from today and tomorrow! I’ll update this from the Miami airport when I have service again!

Thanks and Bondye beni ou! (God Bless you!)

Final day with GSCC

 

I need to start this blog with a confession: this RCC Haiti team is have way TOO much FUN!!  The fellowship and relationships among the 8 of us has just been a gift from God! What a harmonious blend of personalities, strengths and gifts! They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so I’ll let you choose them!

Today was our final day with GSCC. We were up and ready to head to church at 6:30 (AM!)  Of course Haitian time is a little different, so we didn’t really get there until 7:30 (wait, maybe that is a little like Rochester time – just kidding 😉  The work team finished putting fresh concrete on all the walls and installed 3 doors during the 4 days we have been here! It looked great, and the congregation was pleased. So pleased, in fact, that after giving the Glory to God, they gave our team and RCC a standing ovation of gratitude. During the 2:45 (that’s hours and minutes, not minutes and seconds!) we had a lesson on Zacchaeus, sang songs in Creole, sang “I will rise” for them, listened to Pastor Benito’s message on Peter’s denial of Christ and Christ still embracing Peter, enjoyed a wonderful presentation of the kids being sponsored by RCC and a beautiful song for us, we then watched a VBS video we made, and David’s message to GSCC.  We also have a surprise to bring back to RCC (don’t worry it’s not a tarantula or one of the lizards Anne caught!) If you want to get a true feel of a church family, attend a Haitian church! It’s amazing to see little ones sit quietly and patiently through a 2+ church service, to see babies just handed off to whomever adult or child in the church, to see middle school age kids and younger taking care of toddlers, it’s just amazing!

After church we had lunch with 2 other mission teams who arrived at Christianville. One group is here to do teacher training for the Christianville teachers, the other is the president of the Christianville Board, Jim. His team is heading a slight way up into the mountains to start processing children in some mountain schools so they can receive sponsorship. It’s wonderful to know and really feel that even though we are leaving the work of God continues; to know and feel that there are wonderful people from all over the US who care for the people of Haiti! Please pray for their missions and work!

The afternoon took us back to GSCC to visit with some of the sponsored children who met back at the church to write letters to you! We also visited the nurses clinic in Grand Savann. It’s a small building but they are very proud of it and fortunate to have two trained nurses assigned to it.  The people of Grand Savann are warm and welcoming. They honored us by asking and allowing us to visit some of their homes.  Every faced we passed to and from the church offered a smile and Bon Jou or a Bonswa (good day, good evening). The children are especially welcoming- offering hugs, holding our hands, our wrists, our arms, basically touching any appropriate part of our bodies they could! Now that’s feelin’ the love!! Their beautiful eyes and loving smiles are forever embedded on our hearts!

A lovely wind blew this evening, the first time in 6 days! It was FANtastic! A few of us have had some tummy rumbles, but nothing serious thus far. Please pray it stays that way!! There was a rumor that Denver Bronco, Tim Tebow, might be coming in today, but the team that was due to arrive is stuck in Miami due to bad weather. Sadly we leave tomorrow, so we may never know if our passed crossed his, but even thinking it might had Brett and Sam on cloud 9!!!

Tomorrow will be spent loving on some orphans at Global Orphan Village, the traveling to Croix des Bouquet to Pastor Joseph Kesnal’s orphanage. Please pray for God to shine while we’re at the orphanages, and for our safe travels.

VBS – A Success!

VBS has come to an end, but boy, was it FUN!! Over 150 kids came through at one point or another, or all three days! Today was by far the best day! The typical chaos seemed to be diminished and laughter replaced it!

We started the day with a video we made during VBS so the kids really enjoyed seeing themselves on the “big screen”!! Then after singing and prayer, the message was taught. Today’s message was that of Jesus washing the disciples feet from John 13: 1-17. Then the children memorized, “Lord, show me your ways, teach me how to follow you.” Psalm 25:4. They did a an amazing job with all three of the weeks’ memory verses!

We even broke out the bounce house Curtis Batchelder left down here in March!! The children loved it- to say the least! What a special treat for them on their final day!  During craft time, Anne Jakaitis felt moved to really try and connect with some of the teenage girls who seemed hesitant to open up to us by washing their feet and rubbing them with lotion! What a servants heart she has!

We served 200 plates of food each day of VBS and we never ran out of food! God clearly provided for us and moved through us.  Our urgent prayer for the day was to feel stressed and anxious that the message of love we hoped to share was truly being received and remembered by the kids of Grand Savann.  I’d say Mission Accomplished!!

Tomorrow we’ll enjoy a full morning of worship from 7:00 a.m. to around noon! We’ll be showing another video we made, as well as singing a song and sharing the video message from David and the RCC family! In the afternoon we’ll visit the homes of some of our Vision Trust sponsored children.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog- and if you’ve left comments– THANKS!! We love reading them and feeling connected to you back home while we’re so far away serving our great God!! We don’t need great faith in God, we need faith in a great God!!

Day 2- HOT and Happy!

Another joyful day of VBS was had by all who attended, despite the 114 degree heat index and high humidity!  We danced, we sang, we learned about Zacchaeus and the children are doing an amazing job memorizing verse! Today was an abbreviated version of 1 John 4:19 – We love because God loved us first.

The highlights of the day involved chaos in the game area (run by Brett Eandi and Sam Jakaitis). The kids took over and fun was had by all! Soccer, jump rope and face painting started, but by the end ropes were hung in the tree and kids were swinging wildly!  Sam even ended up with babies being thrust into his arms because the Haitians believe that if an American holds a baby he/she will speak English!! Sam, Sam the baby man! Of course the shoe shine man showed up and set up right in the middle of their activity station, and one soccer game got so crazy a large pig became victim to a wild kick!!

We had spaghetti for lunch and then took a respite. Some of the team then did a little souvenir shopping and took some gifts to Pastor Evans Sanon’s family.  A quiet afternoon was had by all, which was good given the heat and high humidity! One of our friends from last summer, Egens Badette, a young 20 year old who said he has been called by God to become a pastor, spent the day with us. He showed up our young studs by climbing a coconut tree with hands and bare feet and knocked down 2 coconuts!! He then found a machete and cut them open for us! Haitian coconuts are green and the inner liquid is clear like water. Renee, Sam and Brett took sips, and then they all tasted the coconut flesh inside!

Our lesson from today is that God is the small moments! It’s riding in the back of the truck and seeing the beautiful mountains, experiencing a fresh coconut, learning a new phrase in Creole, sitting quietly under a mango tree reading the bible, seeing the smile on a child’s face because you’ve taken the time to learn his name.  God is good all the time, all the time God is Good!

Bondye beni u! (God Bless you!)

VBS Kick-Off a Success!

What an amazing day! Glory to God! We started our 2011 GSCC VBS and it was great! The day began with a devotional and the loading of supplies for day 1 of VBS.  We then loaded into the truck and Larry drove us to GSCC.  Upon our arrival the construction team was hard at work, the cooks had started working on lunch (which involves 3 large pots each carefully balanced on 3 cinder blocks with an open fire underneath) and the GSCC team was ready to go!

After setting up our equipment we started with a video clip from Ice Age (the movie). The kids watched, a little unsure, but seemed to enjoy it none-the-less! The children then sang several songs and the lesson for the day (Mark 10:13-16) was taught. After the main lesson Pastor Benito reviewed it with them and they introduced the construction team who received great applause for their hard work on the church!

Roughly 120 kids were divided into four groups which then moved through a series of four stations where the Mark 10:14 verse was reviewed and memorized, then the kids got to learn songs, do a craft, color a story book of Mark 10:13-16, and play relay races and jump rope! Once the chaos settled, lunch was served! Of course, like kids anywhere, when food is served kids come out of the woodwork, or in this case, JUNGLE!! Over 150 plates of rice and beans with a fish stock gravy were served with a glass of Tampico. Once the food was gone . . .  so were the children, but they’ll be back tomorrow!

Renee Fletcher (nursing student) and Brett Eandi (pre-med major) had the opportunity to work in the medical clinic at Christianville this afternoon.  They were both thrown into the trenches as Haitian qualifications for help aren’t quite as stringent as in the US! Both were doing blood draws, running hematacrits, urinalyses, weighing patients, doing obstetric exams and (much to Brett’s dismay) a lot podiatric evaluations!!

The highlight of our evening was going tarantula hunting with our flashlights in the dark! We found one and, well, let’s just say Anne Jakaitis has a new title “Queen Anne the Tarantual Toucher!!”

We are grateful to God for His glory, His people, His opportunities to serve! It was a GLORIOUS day!!

Tarantula’s?!!

Did that grab your attention? Yeah, ours too! Especially as it crawled out near our luggage! A Haitian brown was hanging around, and Sam Jakaitis was the first to see it. We all gathered quickly as the Haitian woman who works at the bunk house beat it to death with her broom! After that we were brave enough to take pictures!!

Once that excitement passed we loaded up into a little pick-up truck, with six of us riding in the truck bed! We felt like kids again! Our arrival at Grand Savann revealed much progress! There is a new walkway up to the front of the church, and the walls were being stuccoed.  Grand Savann Christian Church now also has a beautiful new stage at the front of the building. Last summer is was nothing but dirt and rubble with about a 1 foot drop. To see this beautiful stage at the front has us excited to be a part of the Sunday services and anniversary celebration!

While at the church we met with our Haitian VBS teachers and hammered out a plan so things run smoothly. We are expecting about 200+/- children! Pray for God’s word to be heard and His world expanded! Of course we got things started by meeting and playing with some kids who were hanging out at the church. Anne Jakaitis already pumped the hype for VBS by gathering the kids and doing a VBS chant, followed by a chant and cheer for “Jezi” (Jesus)!

After lunch we several of us took a much needed rest to catch up after a long day of travel yesterday.  It is very hot and humid here with no breeze which wears us out a bit faster than if we could revive with some A/C, but it’s an experience that will humble us and give us a greater respect and understanding for the daily lives of the Haitians.

We spent the late afternoon sorting and re-organizing our supplies to distribute to Pastor Benito, Pastor Joseph and to the medical clinic at Christianville.  Tomorrow after VBS and lunch we will take the medical supplies to clinic and spend the afternoon lending a hand.

We’ve had some time today to spend in fellowship with one another which has been fun. It is helping us bond as a team and just make some new friends!

Please pray that the VBS runs smoothly, that the tarantulas stay away and that our efforts here are pleasing to God!

We’ve Arrived!

Greetings from Christianville! After a very long day of travel we arrived to a very generous Haitian dinner of rice & beans, chicken, fried plantains, salad, slaw, fresh mango and chocolate cake!! (They know the way to a hungry travelers heart, alright!)

Having been here last summer with the mission team, I was pleased at the progress I saw in and around Port au Prince. It is by no means back to pre-earthquake living, but much of the debris and rubble is being cleared. Some roads are under construction and we learned that new roads into the mountains were complete and quite nice.  Of course the poverty is still evident as we see too many tent villages still in existence.  Too many people are still living in shanty’s, and there is still much filth in the heavily populated areas.

Haiti is still hurting– please send your prayers for their new president, for their government and for the people.  God hasn’t given them much in the way of material things, but he certainly has blessed them with resiliency and hope! Please pray for our team and the Grand Savann team as we spread God’s word and build His Kingdom!

Tomorrow is an organization, planning and review day. Please pray all runs smoothly.  And throw in a prayer that tropical storm Emily diminishes, or better yet, disappears!

Halfway There!

Greetings from Ft. Lauderdale! The RCC Haiti Mission team is halfway there! Our flight departs in 3 hours. Please pray for safe travels to Haiti and then on to Christianville.  We hear that Tropical Storm Emily is due to hit Haiti tomorrow (Wed.) so please say some fervent prayers for the weather!

Continue to check in daily! Our hope is to update the blog each evening to report what we have experienced! Haiti, ironically, is on central time, so evening for us is also evening for you!