Thursday, November 12, 2015

His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 3

Going beyond nowhere with Pastor Woogy and Scott wouldn't have been complete without a hike in God's beautiful creation. If you want to catch up on what we were doing beyond nowhere check out the previous two parts: Part 1--Introduction and First Visit and Part 2--The Vision Trip.

We arrived at the village at 4. After eating the meal that had been prepared for  us, we put on our hiking gear and headed to La Selle, the highest mountain chain in Haiti, raising to an altitude of 8,786 feet. Pastor Benose had told us that it would take us three hours to get to the top--two and a half for someone who is used to climbing it.  It took us three hours to get just about halfway to the peak of the mountain. It was already after dark when we finally made it to a church station where we pitched our tent on the rocky ground and spent the night.

We were drained and worn out from the beginning of the hike. Pastor Benose and many other locals joined
us.  Some of them even carried our bags for us. We had to load up on water because there was no way to find water that our stomachs would be able to handle, which made the hike a lot heavier for us. The fact that we were told it would be only three hours to get to the mountain but it took us three hours to make it half way after dark made us wonder if we would ever reach our goal, which was getting to the top of La Selle.

Many questions were going through our minds as we contemplated whether or not to continue. Not having soft ground to sleep on made us wonder if we got enough rest to continue the hike.  Were we going to have enough water?

We got up in the morning and saw that the peak of the mountain was right in front of us but but how we were going to get to it was little more challenging. We already felt like we were beyond nowhere so getting further past nowhere didn’t seem to be a good idea with limited supplies. Once again, we were surrounded by people like us, who breathe like us, who are married and have kids and strive to live on a daily basis like us and, moreover, many of them were Christ followers and we camped in front of the church where they worship. They build houses like we do but with materials that we could never fathom. All the houses are made of palm tree strips with windows and doors and special architectural designs and decor. 

Many of the locals suggested that we would not try to go any further and many of them, including Pastor Benose had only made it as far as where we were. After consulting with each other, taking into consideration the resources we had with us, we decided to go on as far as we could. So, off we went.

We hiked and hiked and hiked. We got to a point where most of us decided that we would not make it any further but after catching our breath, we decided to continue. On three occasions, we decided we were done, but since we could see the top of the mountain closer and closer, we decided to follow the trail to its end. We finally made it to the top in three hours. 

Scott is a big fan of hiking. He has hiked snowy mountains up to over 6,ooo feet but hiking the tropical La Selle was a whole new experience for him. It cooled down quite a bit as the breeze was getting stronger the higher we were getting but it was still a little warm for the Northerners. The other remarkable thing was that, even though we felt like we were getting beyond nowhere, we were still surrounded by people-and their cattle. What for us seemed to be the wildest life on earth is the daily routine for many. For kids, young people, and adults.

We walked on a trail on the mountain ridge, just about a foot wide and had to use both our hands and feet to go through some sections of the trail and had to avoid looking down to avoid dizziness. The locals who were with us were telling us how they named the cliffs because of how dangerous and steep they were--some as steep as 80% grade. One of the many names I can remember is “so kabrit” and the explanation of the name is the following: A lot of times, farmers have to chase their goats to catch them. In this area, the mountains are so steep that even the goats can not run from the farmers. If they did, they would roll off and die.

As we were hiking, our motto was “Do not get hurt” and that was simply because we would not be able to be rescued. Not even a helicopter could reach us because we were so high and the wind current was super strong. There is a myth that claims that air crafts can not fly over La Selle and as we were on site we could conclude that the main reason why air crafts can not fly over it is because of the strong wind current that they can be exposed to up there.

It was interesting to hear the locals, who were hiking with us, share the superstitions surrounded this
mountain and area. Some of them were saying that, you could never make it to the top of the mountain if you say out loud that you are going. They believe that you would get lost and would not be able to find the trail that leads to the mountain. We proved that wrong. They were also saying that there is a great cave in which secret creatures live. They also said that they hear people’s voice coming from the caves from time to time. We were not able to see the caves but could see the banks of the mountain where many rivers are breaking from the mountain. From up there, we could hear many sounds like the noise of water bubbling from a huge pipe, but not human voices.  Seeing the mountain range behind us is not something that words can describe and seeing a places that no human hands have touched since the earth was created was worth the trip. 

As I was talking with Pastor Momplaisir--the partner pastor there--during our visit and a hike, I found out that he walks three hours every Sunday to lead the church service up on the mountain as opposed to having everyone come down to the main church station to worship. I started asking myself, who else do I know would walk six hours every Sunday, crossing river passes multiple times to lead a church service?

We met many school students hiking home from school and many of them were barefoot and some had rubber flip flops on. I started thinking that shoes were needed, so I asked the pastor if that was a great need in that community and he replied that the kids do have shoes but they only put them on when they arrive to school in order to make them last longer. "Well...that is a smart move," I thought to myself. Sometimes things we think are actually different than they seem.

After celebrating our arrival to the top, we realized that we had a six hour hike down in front of us and that did not sound fun at all. Pastor Momplaisir received an exciting call about his daughter having her baby. He was very excited to be a new grandpa and was cruising down the hills. We told him to go ahead as our knees started getting weaker and weaker. We were getting hungry as we ran out of cliff bars and were very low on water.
When we got halfway down, back to the church station we camped at, we inhaled some coffee, bananas, and bread that the pastor and the church members brought for us. Most of the church members were there and expected us to say something to them before we headed down to the main church. Scott and I shared some words with them and encouraged them to keep faith in the One who created that beauty that surrounded us and thanked them for their hospitality. 

 I remember asking Pastor Woogy after the trip if he sees any value in taking a team to the village and his response to me was a question: "Is there a church that has people there?" But yes, why would we not go since we are called to go to the corners of the earth to spread the good news of the Gospel. We are not the ones who are going to bring the gospel there because His love has already reached them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 2

Woogy still expressed the desire to go to the mountain community. I told him that unless he comes with me and sees it for himself, I would not feel comfortable to take a group there. After chatting with his senior pastor, Woogy scheduled to come on a scouting trip along with his friend Scott, on the 29 of September through October 3. (This is where we left off at the end of His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 1)

This time, I decided not to take the truck back up the mountain, so we rented a couple of four wheelers and used a motorcycle that is owned by my co-worker, Maico. We drove to Jacmel and picked up a four wheeler and a 125cc bike and started out to the village by 11:30 am. Pastor Benose and I were the ones who knew what to expect as we had been there before, but for the rest of our crew it was a whole new experience.  I could see the astonishment on their faces as we were driving--not on roads but on rocks and through deep river passes.

I was driving a four wheeler this time and I kept asking myself how in the world I drove my truck the whole
way. It must have gotten worse after the rainy season. It took us about three hours to get to the village from our starting point because our vehicles were not as tough as we thought they would be. On several occasions, the engines quit after going through some deep river passes.

We arrived at the church station safely, but later than we expected. The church has been in the community since 1986. The building itself looks like a little shack made out of palm tree strips and a tin roof. It's roughly a 20 by 15 foot building. Pastor Benose's heart is to restructure the building and make it a bigger more sturdy building because termites are attacking the current materials, which causes maintenance issues from time to time. The church has been growing over the years and there is not enough room to seat everybody. They have a conference every year and about six hundred people show up. 

I already told Woogy about the need but seeing it with his own eyes gave him a better grasp on the needs in the area and how his church could encourage Pastor Benose. We only spent about 40 minutes at the church after which we packed up to hike three hours up the mountain to a sister church. We spent the night up there and came back to the main church after our hike the next day. 

The evening we were supposed to head back to Jacmel, we were debating rather we should get back on our vehicles or stay at the church for the night. If we broke down in the dark, in the middle of a river it would not be a good thing. We all agreed to spend the night so we pitched our tent on a cement floor.

The sky started to get really cloudy and we could hear thunder rolling over the mountains. We started being really skeptical about staying overnight because the rain could make the river rise so we couldn't cross to Jacmel in the morning. The locals were not so afraid of the rain because it was coming from the South-typically, the rains that come from the East are the ones that cause flooding. 

Early the next morning, we packed up for the adventure back through the rivers to Jacmel. It was a much more slippery ride out of the village due to the rainy night, but thanks to God we were able to do the river crossings without having to swim. We could tell that the river had risen about 20% but not enough for us to turn back. One of our motorcycles broke down completely a mile from the city and had to be towed the rest of the way, but the most important thing is that we made it back. That brought us peace.

I remember asking Pastor Woogy after the trip if he sees any value in taking a team to the village and his response to me was a question: "Is there a church that has people there?" But yes, why would we not go since we are called to go to the corners of the earth to spread the good news of the Gospel. We are not the ones who are going to bring the gospel there because His love has already reached them. We are planning to go back there in February of 2016--when we don't get much rain--to serve as a reminder to the church that the church of God is not the little shack they worship in every Sunday. It is people from all over the world who believe in the sacrifice of the Holy Lamb of God, who wash their robes in His blood. We hope to do some needed physical work on the church building as we build relationships with the church members.

Going beyond nowhere with Pastor Woogy and Scott wouldn't have been complete without a hike in God's beautiful creation. There is one more post coming! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 1

Pastor Woogy is one of the first pastors who led a missions trip to Haiti back in 2010. Even after Woogy moved to a different church, he still committed to continue bringing groups to Haiti. Different than many other pastors who have committed to come back to the same church every year, Pastor Woogy’s heart is to serve in as many different locations as possible and to reach those who have not yet been reached. 
Pastor Woogy

After his second trip to Jacmel in 2014, serving with a church near the city, Woogy expressed the desire to reach out to a different community and it was my responsibility as the Haiti Ministry Coordinator to find him a new location to serve in the summer of 2015. Pastor Benose, one of our contacts, told me about a sister church of his main church in Gressier that is located in a community near Jacmel called Mabiale. I gathered as much information as possible about the church and shared it with Woogy. Both Woogy and I were pumped to explore that new location. Part of my job is to visit any location where we want to bring a group with Praying Pelican Missions in order to provide an overview of the location and the church to the group prior to their trip. That provides peace of mind for me as a local leader and to the pastor who is bringing a group to Haiti. 

So, in April of this year, one month before my wife was due with our second child, I visited the community with the pastor.  I had to decide whether we would bring a group there in July or not. Pastor Woogy and I have built a brotherly relationship over the years, so as I got back from visiting with the pastor, this is what I wrote to him. 

Good morning brother,

 I don't know if you saw my Facebook post about my drive through a river... did you? I went to la Grosseline on Thursday to assess the area and was really surprised at how different it is from what I anticipated.
Do you see a road?
It took me 1:30 driving 23KM or about 15 Miles and the whole time through a rocky river. I crossed the same river 35 times . The pastor was my guide and I had to ask him to point to the road for me from time to time so I could find my way, because I could not see a road in front of me but rocks and a path that looks like a vehicle drove there the year before. I finally got there and I made it because I had the 4x4 option on my truck, otherwise, I would not have made it. The ministry opportunity up there is endless. It was refreshing for me to see and be reminded that the Gospel goes further than our imagination. 

With that being the one and only way to get there, I have some concerns that I honestly want to share with you and have your say. 

On said "road"
-The road is rougher than what any American can ever imagine. I never thought of it being so rough as a local.
-It would not be ideal to travel there after a long day traveling from the States.
-We would need a solid vehicle, not even my truck, to transport 10+ people plus luggage up there.
-We would have to have every single thing we need up there at once (water, food, snacks, medicines etc) because driving that road twice in a week would be hard on a driver and worse on a vehicle.
-If we have a medical emergency that needs immediate assistance, God alone would be the rescue. 
-If a hurricane breaks while we are up there, we would have to find our way across the mountains to get to the city and that would probably be 3-4 hours walk. 
-Pastor's priority is to rebuild the church and I am afraid that $300 will not be able to do much due to the hardship of getting anything up there.
-There would not be a working bathroom for us to us. We would have latrines. 
-We would have to swim in the river like the locals and call that our shower.
-We would have to sleep in tents. Camping style.

I am not telling you to back  out from going to that community but If you feel like this set up doesn't fit you and your crew, I am more than willing to find you a different place that suits you better. 

Thanks Woogy! I look forward to chatting with you soon. Hangout calls work great and they are free :)

I literally could not believe that I drove my truck the whole way. On one of the crossings, I got stuck and I

was scared for my life, had I not had 4 wheel drive, I would have to be towed out. I personally did not feel comfortable taking a group to that place and did not give the pastor any hope that we would come back. But one thing that struck me is the fact that, in spite of the remoteness and the difficulty of getting there, there was a church and a people that is seeking the Lord there. Pastor introduced me to an elderly woman that has been serving the church since 1986. I would feel guilty to just tell pastor Woogy that we can not go there because of the logistics, so I let him to decide. I loved that he did not just back out, but told me that he would talk to his team about it and pray about it before making a final decision. 

One of our major concerns was flooding. The only way to get to the community was the river and during
hurricane season, when that river is raging, it is more than anyone can imagine. It gets as wide as 150 meters between the two mountains and people from one side of the mountain can spend over a month without being able to go to the other side. It brings to the ocean whatever it finds on its path. July is one of those months when we can get unexpected heavy rainfalls, so I would not take any chance unless it was 100% Woogy’s will to take a team there. 

In order to be prepared, I sent a plan B to Woogy to take the trip to a different location, still across that same river but a lot closer to the city of Jacmel and with the possibility of getting across the river by a brand new bridge that was being built around that same time. After considering the options in prayer, Woogy decided to go with the plan B. The team came in July and it was a great trip where many were blessed. 

Woogy still expressed the desire to go the community beyond nowhere. I told him that unless he comes with me and see if for himself, I would not feel comfortable to take a group there. After chatting with his senior pastor, Woogy planned to come on a scouting trip along with his friend Scott at the end of September.

Part 2 will be posted next week, but here is a little taste of what is to come:
I remember asking Pastor Woogy if he sees any value in taking a trip to the village and his response to me was a question: "Is there a church that has people there?" I asked him just to make sure that is comfortable making that trip back, not just himself and a Scott, but with a group of 15-20 people. But yes, why would we not go since we are called to go to the corners of the earth to spread the Good News of the Gospel. 

In the meantime, check out what Woogy's teams have done while serving the Lord here in Haiti with us in previous years.

College Crew Serving in 2015
Construction Crew in 2014
Students Serving in 2013
Sports Ministry Focus in 2012
Calvary's First Jacmel Trip in 2011

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Ultimate Missions Packing Guide--Family Pack

This is my family. We are missionaries in Haiti. If you are thinking about bringing your family to serve on a mission trip with my family, the task of packing for this God-glorifying and life-changing adventure may seem a little daunting to say the least. Let me tell you, sometimes, even for me--we go on mission trips together when my husband leads teams--it is. But it doesn't have to be! Although young children like mine are welcome on mission trips, most parents bringing their kids are not thinking about diapers and wipes and how to do bath time when sleeping in tents in a community, so I will skip over that stuff and jump right into what will help you.  

Think about what you want to bring back home and how you want it to get there. This will help you to pack things in a way that you won't have exploding bags and have to unpack and repack every day of the trip. For example, put all your bedding, towels, little fans, air mattresses, and maybe some toiletries in one bag, so when you arrive and set up "camp" for the week, you will already have a bag empty that you can use for collecting laundry all week long. At the end of the week, the bag(s) that had your clean clothes in it(them) will be available for you to pack up camp or for you to leave behind. 

Think about where you will be sleeping. If guys will be with guys and girls with girls, make sure you pack all the guy stuff in one bag and all your girl stuff in the other bag. If you have more of one gender than the other, offset the unbalanced suitcase with shoes, toiletries, or things that are easily transferred to the other gender. 

Think about what you want to leave behind. Having kids on a mission trip isn't always easy, but one thing I have found that will help is having things that you will leave behind for your kids to play with with the kids in the community or with the rest of your team. These things may be jump ropes, bubbles, frisbees, balls, crayons and paper, or chalk. The ideas really are endless. You won't want your child to bring his or her favorite toy with and leave it behind, so get some new things. Your child will love it and so will the kids in the community. Keep in mind to tell your child before you arrive that they will have to give the toys to the pastor in the community, not the kids they will be playing with so the pastor can bring them out for all the kids to share when there are events at the church for kids.

Think about the weight of it all. Most airlines allow (when you are traveling internationally) 1 free checked bag that weighs 50 pounds or less and a carry on plus a personal item (such as a backpack) per person.  This means that you have some weight to work with, but not a ton!  My advice is check as much as you can without being charged extra.  When you are traveling with a family, the less you have to juggle, the better. We try to get away with no carry on bags if possible and then just backpacks.  If you have too much to fit in just your first checked bag per person, use the carry on allowances before paying for that second checked bag. 

Think about sharing things to cut back on weight and space used. Shoes, jeans, toiletries, and air mattresses can get pretty heavy, so think about ways you can cut down on the heavy things. Obviously, you will need the air mattresses, but you can cut down on some of the other things. Shoes are a tough one as each person will likely have to have 3 pairs of shoes: work shoes, church shoes, and sandals or flip flops. When you are traveling, wear the heaviest/bulkiest pair of shoes you have to save on space and weight. If you have space and weight to spare, wear flip flops--it makes going through security so much easier. Toiletries can be shared, so for your family I would recommend bringing generic shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste that you all can use.  This little tip saves so much space!

Think about what you will be doing and how much you should bring. For me and my family, I know that when we go on a mission trip together, we will be getting dirty, we will be playing hard/working hard, we will have to represent Christ well with whatever we are wearing. For example, if you have a day planned where you will have school ministry right away in the morning, construction until around 2, kids ministry from 3-5, and a prayer service that night, I would make sure that each member of my family has 3 outfits for the day: 1 for school ministry and kids ministry, one for construction, and one for the church service. (The goal here is to make sure to change the little ones quickly after the school ministry time so they don't get the outfit dirty for kids ministry.)  

Typically, for a week long trip when you don't have access to laundry, I would recommend bringing at least 2.5 sets of clothing per day that you will be serving.  That goes for mom and dad too!  One thing that would help to stay organized and think through your packing process is separate the clothes into labeled with name and day of the week gallon sized zip lock bags or the roll out packing or storage bags. Each person would then, on the Monday of the trip, select their Monday baggie with the appropriate clothing. Pack an extra "emergency" baggie of clothing just in case. If the day-by-day method is too much, do it by ministry type such as "construction," "kids," "church," etc.  If you are planning to be serving for a longer period of time, the most I would pack per person is enough for 1.5 to 2 weeks as you will likely have a chance to do laundry from time to time.

Think about the airport and travelling with your family. I was really worried the first time we traveled internationally with two kids instead of just one, but I found that giving Bityah something useful to do--like pushing the empty stroller or rolling her own carry on bag--made it much easier. She is a runner, so these things slowed her down and helped her wear off the excess energy she had from sitting in the plane for so long. In the plane, she had books and snacks and I downloaded one movie for her to watch. She is two now, but she felt that she was responsible for making sure everyone was buckled up around her. Keeping kids busy while traveling is tough, but can be done. I highly recommend giving them as much time to walk as possible when they are not on the plane to get them tired out so they won't be as antsy. Things like books, paint with water, magic markers and activity sets, and the always popular tablet are available everywhere and don't take much space.

Focus on the mission. A lot goes into a mission trip. So much good comes out! Packing may be crazy, but while you are organizing and shuffling things around and going through the checklist of things to bring one last time take a minute and pray over the stuff. Pray over the lives that will be touched by your children while they are wearing those clothes. Pray over the feet that will be in those shoes as they are walking into the church. Pray over fans and air mattresses that will give your family rest so they can continue serving the next day. Pray over it. Pray while you pack. Once you are done, you will have a great mission trip serving the Lord with your family.

Praying Pelican Missions' staff members are giving away lots of packing tips for people serving on mission trips. You can find out What Not to Pack and what to wear when you are on a mission trip in The Good Ole USA. There will be more to come in the coming weeks and you should also check out The Ultimate Mission Trip Style Guide. Hope you find some of these helpful!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Through the Eyes of a Child

With teams coming and going fairly often around here, Bityah and Oved have joined us on semi-regular airport runs. Yesterday, we spent the day out bringing a small team who has been visiting their partnership church in southern Haiti from our house to the airport with some stops on the way there and on the way back.  Every couple of hours throughout the day, I took a picture of either what Bityah was doing or what she was seeing, so you could see what her day looks like today. Remember, this isn't our normal routine, but it was our day yesterday.

Bityah woke up as normal and got to choose from two outfits to wear. This is the one she chose because she absolutely loves Minnie Mouse! After a little play time, it was time to hit the road with the team. Typically, B would enjoy a yogurt while breakfast is being prepared and then eat with the rest of the family, but this time, we went to a local cafe!  Apple sauce, egg wrap, and a yummy MangoLime smoothie from Haiti Made Cafe.  Such a great breakfast at a sweet little cafe.  (For more information on Haiti Made, click HERE)   Bityah played "naps" while the rest of us took some time to visit with the Haiti Made crew and each other.

We were back on the road and, this time, we were heading to Carrefour to pay a visit to Sister Mona at Good Shepherd Orphanage. She calls the kiddos Baby B and Baby O. As we arrived, "Nona?" could be heard from the back seat. Just like that, B was ready to get out and run! And she did.

We didn't have much time at Good Shepherd as the team had to get to the airport, but it was good to get out and run. Then, it was more road time!  Let's be honest, sometimes the road is packed with cars and it is a "stop-and-go" situation, or there is plenty of room. Going through downtown Port-au-Prince (unless it is VERY early or VERY late), it is more often than not the "stop-and-go" situation. So, this is what we saw yesterday.


Bityah loved this little mustang!
Post-Mustang face
 After dropping the team off at the airport, we stopped to have lunch at a nearby hotel. Bityah had tomatoes, cucumbers, and french fries.  Since we don't get across town all that often, we decided to make the most out of our trip and go shopping for some supplies. We stopped at a brand new store and were surprised at the variety inside and the reasonable prices. B found this car and really wanted to take it home with her. It was tough to leave the store without it. Two more stops before we could head home: the hardware store and the grocery store. Three stores and three different carts, one was a car cart. We visit that store more often than the others so B knew as we were pulling into the parking lot that she was going to get to ride in the car cart.  "Beep! Beep!" she yelled over and over.  So exciting to get to ride in the car cart for a while--made her forget the little red mustang in the other store that she wanted so badly.
Bityah is pointing out the "M" for me at the hardware store.

Next thing you know, it is 5:00 and we still have a long drive ahead of us. A snack of yogurt in the truck and then it was nap time. Nap time until we got to Carrefour and had to pick up a fridge for one of our neighbors. Then it was time to patiently wait and sit until we got home. It is tough to sit and wait so long--especially when you are 2!

It was dark when we got home, but B was ready to play and run. I think she thought she could go all night, but she was all tired out in 30 minutes and ready for bed.

Here are some other things Bityah experienced or saw throughout the day:
Taking care of little brother.
Fun with Sister Mona
Daddy tying wood to the the top of the truck.
Colorful Taptaps are "Pretty"