Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Sad news on this Christmas Eve......Nicolas, one of the elders in the ElderCare program, passed away last night. He was a quiet man who was always surrounded by his loving family. Please pray for his family as they mourn his passing so close to Christmas and for our long term missionaries and employees who will be helping with funeral arrangements. What a gift for him though.....to spend Christmas in the arms of Christ!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Roof for Clelie

Clelie is one of the newest elders to our program and is the grandmother of two of the boys at Grace Village.  Her home was severely damaged from a house fire over a year ago, so she has been living with family in an already over crowded home.  This is her home, with layers of burnt tin, tarps, logs and concrete block as a roof to try to keep her belongings safe.
Recently, a team visited her and really wanted to do something to help her.....to give her the dignity of living in the home she owned.  This is always a sticky situation....we don't want to give handouts which can rob a person of dignity, create bad expectations of Americans and take away jobs from Haitians.  We also have to be careful of making improvements to rented homes, which could cause rent to be increased.  Luckily, Clelie owns this home.
Meanwhile, there is this amazing program going on at Grace Village for the older boys (one of Clelie's grandsons included) who are transitioning out of the orphanage.  They are learning skills to survive on their own and be contributors to their community.  One of the skills they wanted to learn was construction.  And what better way to learn, than to put a roof on the home of an elderly person in their community!
While there are challenges with putting a new roof on an old structure, with areas of crumbling and un-level walls, the boys were taught how to problem solve, work as a team, use their resources in the best way possible and how to give back to their community with their time and talents.  The investment from Americans was minimal, allowing Haitians to be the ones to give to each other.

Done in the right way, financial giving for something such as a roof, can provide the opportunity Haitians wouldn't otherwise have to help each other.  And the daily impact of an elderly woman being able to live in her own home is priceless.....


ElderCare Christmas Party

On December 6, the elders were invited to a Christmas Party at the Feeding Center.  Carolle had decorated with balloons, a traditional Haitian Christmas meal was being prepared and gifts were ready.
The beautiful elders all showed up in their finest clothes, excited for the day.

Our team was excited, too.  You see, we were a parent child trip and we were performing the Christmas Pageant for them.
And the wisemen followed the star......

Beautiful Marie with Grace.
Ofhane is one of the sweetest men I know.
Delicious Food!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Welcoming Vania to the ElderCare Team!

Hannah & Vania
Vania Pierre started employment with the ElderCare Artisian Program on Monday!  She will be working with our elders 4 hours per day in creating the Artisian pieces that are now being sold in the Guesthouse Giftshop and at events around the Twin Cities (see previous blog post).  This week, she is learning how to make each item, the participant names, where they each live and how to manage the program.
The first week of December, Vania will be working with Ross Safford to learn how to fire and maintain the bread ovens, help our elderly make bread to eat or sell, make bread for the Grace Village meals and much more.  This will utilize the other 4 hours per day so that she is employed full time.
You may recognize Vania, because she and her husband Emmanuel are devoted volunteers at Grace Church on Sundays.  She is always standing to one side of the church service as usher, donations collector, and much more.  We are so pleased to have such a wonderful Godly woman on the ElderCare team!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Update on ElderCare Artesian Program

It's been 2 months since I returned from Haiti when we started the ElderCare Artesian Program....teaching elders and their families how to make crafts that Americans will buy so that they can provide for themselves.  We have been learning an amazing amount and Hannah has continued to train the elders and adjust the program as necessary.  Here are some great statistics:

  • 13 Elders and 14 of their children participate in the program.
  • They have made 185 pieces of jewelry, notecards, bags, pillowcovers and more.
  • They have made $573 to help support themselves and their families.
  • Many of them have saved some or all of their money in lockboxes that we keep safe for them at Grace Village.
  • We have sold $711 worth of product to short term missionaries at the guesthouse and at the Healing Haiti golf outing.  Profits will be used to purchase more supplies and expand the program.
Here are some samples of the things they are making:

Two pieces of exciting news: 
We are working out the details to be able sell these items at the Feed My Starving Children Gala on November 8th.
We are hiring a Haitian woman to run the program in Haiti starting on November 1st, so that elders and their families will be able make more items and therefore make more money for their families!
We are already seeing an impact in the lives of the people that are participating in the program.  One woman, Leronide (the daughter of Elie) has saved every dollar she has made in the lockboxes we provide for them.  She told Hannah that she plans to save enough by December to buy everything she needs to open a store that sells food staples on non-market days in Titanyen.  I love that through us, God can inspire and provide the opportunity for entrepreneurship that this woman would not otherwise have!

Heart Connection - Moms of Special Needs Kids

This was written by Laura Fixsen, a team leader in Haiti this week:
My word for the day was Instruments. I love how with every team God brings different varieties of gifts and talents. It is an honor to watch when a team member is obedient and open to God's promptings and operates in their giftings. At times it may be simple and overlooked but it is beautiful regardless. Today was one of those days where God used a team member in a powerful way as His instrument a...nd it was beautiful.

My good friend Anne is here for the first time. She has five darling children. Three of those children have special needs. I have watched her through the years as she and her husband have lovingly and tirelessly navigated through the world of special needs.

Today we visited Jude Jean Paul who was a typical child until epilepsy rocked his world along with his mother's world. He is now 20 years old. He can not eat on his own, sit up on his own, or walk on his own. He can not speak. He wears diapers. He is confined to his bed. His mother tirelessly and lovingly tends to his very demanding needs every day. When you look into her eyes you see the weariness. What must it be like in a 3rd world country to care for a child like Jude? In Haiti, it is very common to abandon a child with special needs. Jude's mother acknowledges through her actions that all are created in the image of God. Jude is a child of God. She would not abandon him.

My dear friend Anne, tenderly stroked Jude's arms and face while our group sang worship songs. His mother who had distanced herself from us by escaping outdoors inched her way to stand in the doorway directly across from me as we were singing. Her eyes were closed and I could sense the heaviness of the burden she carries.

Anne and I stayed back with our translator to talk with Jude's mother. Anne shared about her own 3 children with special needs and how difficult it has been as a mother to care for their needs. She shared how tired she gets and the many sleepless nights that she has endured. She told her that she understands the difficult task that she was enduring. All the while Jude's mother listened intently as tears streamed down her face. She asked Anne questions. And they communicated with each other on a level that very few people could. All cultural barriers were torn down. In that moment Jude's mother was not alone. She had someone who understood her. A kindred spirit. Anne encouraged her and praised her for her commitment and loving care of Jude. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have witnessed.

God says that He will use every circumstance that we endure in our lives for good and for His purposes. This was beautifully displayed in living form today in a tiny house in Haiti. While a young boy lay paralyzed and mute, covered in bed sores, snapping his jaws to communicate his hunger, his exhausted, spent, and weary mother was receiving an embrace from her loving heavenly Father through my friend Anne. Anne has spent years enduring hardship and exhaustion of her own. No one else on our team could minister to this mother on the level that Anne could. Today God used her to be His instrument. To be a soothing ointment to a weary soul. Isn't our God amazing?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A New House for Izna and Camisane

I have been meaning to write one last blog about my recent trip to Haiti, but it's been a difficult story for me to process....especially after returning home to abundance.

A few months ago, I was made aware of some changes happening around Izna & Camisane's homes.  A big metal fence was being built around the area, people were being told that they need to move and houses were being demolished.  Izna and Camisane are two of our poorest elders.  Izna's son is an alcoholic so any money or things that could be used to support her family are spent on alcohol instead.  Camisane works so hard selling charcoal, but makes such a meager amount of money that she lived in a home made of sticks and tarps.
Camisane's old home
Izna's old "kitchen"

We found a new home for both of them to live side by side in downtown Titanyen, only a block from where Camisane sells charcoal.  On Saturday afternoon, the team brought both taptaps to Izna's home to move her.  It took only a couple minutes for the team to load her things into the empty taptap.  I remember looking into the loaded taptap at a broken bedframe, pieces of cardboard and foam that were her bed, one suitcase of clothes, a couple stacks of dirty, dented buckets and a broom.  In the US, this looked like we were cleaning out the garage and this was the garbage that we needed to get rid of.  But these were the only possessions she had.  As I look around my home, thinking of all that I would have to pack, it disgusts me.  I would need at least 5 boxes for the food in my fridge and cupboards.  For Izna, we did not pack any food.....not even staples or salt and pepper, she had none. The pairs of shoes that my family owns would fill at least 3 boxes, Izna and her grandchildren had none.....they walked barefoot to their new home.  I have a closet in my hallway full of sheets and blankets.....she had none.  I can go through my entire home doing this and it brings me to tears. This world is so unfair.  And yet I seem stuck.  If I give these things to Izna, her son will just sell them off to buy alcohol.  But how can I keep living the way I do after seeing this?  Hasn't God shown me these things to change something in me....to change something in this world?

Izna packing her clothes and her grandchildren's clothes into a suitcase we gave her.

Walking Izna, her son and grandchildren to their new home behind a restaurant in downtown Titanyen.

Her new home is behind a metal door and concrete walls which will provide some security for her and her grandchildren.
Her new home wasn't quite ready as the landlord was doing a little concrete repair.
The team, moving her things to her new home.
We moved her things to a temporary space until her home was ready in an hour or so.  We came back the next day to check in and get her bed set up.
When we went to move Camisane, we found that her home had already been demolished.  Neighbors told us that she moved to Cabaret with her daughter but still sold charcoal in downtown Titanyen.  That means that she had to pay for a taptap ride from Cabaret to Titanyen every day, further reducing the amount of money she was making. We found her selling charcoal and walked with her the one block to show her the new home she would be living in.  She was overjoyed at having a home that would keep her safe, was close to her charcoal stand and because she was friends with the landlord.  She also knows Izna and I continue to pray that she will be able to help Izna with day to day tasks.

Camisane's new home was getting a little work done, too, so she moved in the following day with the help of her daughters.

 So what is the lesson in all of this?  What is God trying to teach me?  I'm not sure of those answers yet, but God has given me a holy discontent about this.  I am driven to continue finding ways that our elders can make an income and provide a better life for themselves.  I look forward to the day that each of our elders can live in a home that will protect them from the weather and theft.  I pray daily for them and ask you to join me.  Piti, piti n'ap rive....little by little we are arriving.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

All Dough Flies in Haiti

Although the team left yesterday, I've stayed on to concentrate on bread and the wonderful bread oven that we began to use this week at Grace Village.  It is hard to find words adequate to describe this experience. Serving here has been like nothing I have ever done. At the end of the day it seems to me that all our work and perhaps our whole life comes down to relationship.

First our relationship to God. The cross has two directions and the first I think is vertical. Perhaps we can think of it as up toward heaven or perhaps we think of it as that which is so fully grounded. God can. Time and time this week, things worked out that could not have if only facts were considered. Things worked out that should not have. We arrived at the oven to bake for the first time and it had not been lit. A team member used a hair dryer as a bellows and in 90 minutes the oven was 400F. Another day we made 80 pizzas with the children at Grace Village, enough communion bread for 300, and bread  to share with the other team and the long term missionaries; then left to go move elders into better, more stable housing. Yes, one day. We worked delivering water at two sites one day and at the second site the line was so long it seemed no one of us thought there could be enough water for everyone. There was enough. Time and time again it seemed surely we would run out or just get too tired. Time and time again God showed up in the form of a song or a smile or a hug.

It is all about relationship and our meeting the desperate poverty of "things" in Haiti with enough openness to see the vast "richness" of spirit and joy. It's all about relationship and digging in with people you didn't know who become friends and who become a family in an extraordinarily
short time. It's about relationship to the land of Haiti by seeing it's beauty through the veil of poverty. The land is beautiful and I wonder if Haiti is more broken than my own country or just broken differently?

I am a baker. My hands have developed a relationship with the process of coaxing food from grain, water, salt and yeast. My familiarity with bread was changed through the Haitian climate and the ingredients and I am still learning.  There is a process in baking called a pre-ferment; a way to start a dough early and get it's flavor to be deep and rich. One such ferment is called a poolish and you can speed it up and create a "flying poolish"  (no kidding i'm not making this up)...but I found that with Haiti's heat and humidity, all of dough I've made have been "flying" :).  And so we start again developing a  relationship with what we thought we knew so well. We do not come to Haiti with answers.  We come to serve and to learn.

Strangely we come to Haiti for our own healing too or perhaps that just happens when we allow ourselves to be open and transparent. We find that when we strip away the ball games and malls and all our petty insecurities there is a Love that really does transcend all we can imagine. 

God bless,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Day I've Been Dreaming Of

Often when I’m in Haiti, I pray for the time in the day to be multiplied.  Especially on a day that required hundreds of volunteer hours, multiple training sessions and thousands of dollars in donations to pull off.  God delivered!
To back up a bit…..since my first trip to Haiti, my holy discontent has been that there are not enough opportunities for people to support themselves….to have the dignity of paying rent on time, having enough food each day or even paying for school for their children or grandchildren.  Then when I became ElderCare Advocate, I fell in love with each of the elders in our program.  So many of them are perfectly capable of working and every time I visited they asked for the only things they knew of….goats, chickens, candy to sell, etc.  Some of those things have been tried in the past, and I knew it wasn’t the answer.  Slowly, God provided the answer through people He put in my path, donations that came in and an amazing team that came together for our trip this week.
The day started with a talk about poverty….not just their poverty of material possession but that every person in the world has poverty of some kind.  My first trip revealed that I had poverty in my hunger and thirst for God….it was nothing compared to that of every Haitian I encountered.  So we talked about this verse:
"Know the hope to which God has called you....and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead."  Ephesians 1:18-20
We talked about how Gods power was in each of us to change poverty throughout the world.  That I could help them with their poverty as they have helped me with mine.  That God can move mountains and that we can overcome!  We talked about the crafts and bread that we were going to teach them how to make.  While they started out unsure that they would be able to make these items, Brunet convinced them that while it would be difficult at first, they needed to persevere and learn from all the “blans” that had come to teach them. 
And so away we went….each elder (and some of the daughters that live with them) picked which craft they wanted to learn and we got to work:
Laura teaching Lauramise how to make rings.
Here, Michaela and Amy (and Emmanuel) taught beading…..this was the most popular craft…..and they made some beautiful pieces!

Marcy and Pouchan teaching Camisane how to make baskets.

Amy teaching Elie's daughter how to make a crocheted tshirt bag.
An unexpected surprise that God provided was that some of the older children at Grace Village were amazingly good at creating these pieces.  They jumped in as translators and helpers to our elders.  We hope to continue this in the future as a way for the older kids at Grace to have a job and serve the members of Titanyen. Here, MarieTerez is learning how to make bottle caps (recycled from the guesthouse) into earrings and keychains.

MarieDeloude, who can only use one arm because of a stroke, was able to make stamped notecards.
Meanwhile, out at the pizza oven, Ross, Calvin & Tim were teaching Pierre & Ofhane how to make bread to sell at the market.  They were amazing students and each had at lease 2 dozen pieces to sell!  (although Ofhane was trying to give away some of his, we quickly taught him that he must charge money!)

Pierre with some of his finished loaves.
At the end of the day, the elders who made crafts were paid for the pieces they made.  (And the pieces are now for sale in the new gift shop at the guesthouse!)  Some were speechless and almost in tears.  Others, like MarieDeloude, who has not been able to send her girls to school…..can now do so!  We even provided them lockboxes that will be kept safe at Grace Village, so that they can safely save their money for school or rent.  Some chose to save it all, some saved a little and some needed it right away.  The only thing we didn’t pay for was the bread, which the elders took to sell at market today.  I haven’t heard the outcome yet, but am excited to see if they sold everything!
We had time at the end of the day to deliver one more income producing item to Lindor, a man who had shined shoes in his younger days.  We brought him a brand new shoe shine kit with polishes, brushes and rags.  He was speechless and had tears in his eyes.  It melted my heart.  He invited us into his home where we got to see his old shoeshine box that he could no longer use.  What a heart melting moment.
We had heard that Marie was worried about the cracks in her home and that snakes would come in.  We brought spray foam insulation and sealed up the cracks.  Calvin even saw a baby snake in one of the cracks!
Theft has been a big problem for our elders.  Tim on our team is an industrial designer and designed a lock for their talking bibles.  He used a cable to attach Marie’s bible to the metal frame of her bed.  All the custom brackets and cables (over $1000 value) were donated by a company he works with!  Praise God for brilliant designs and generous donors!!!

And lastly, we were able to bring a wheelchair (big thank you to Ross for getting it through the airports!) to Haiti for Meme, a man who is blind and who is having more and more difficulties getting around.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Update & Prayer Request

Bonjou ElderCare Followers!  I have to first start with an apology for not blogging for so long…..life has been a bit crazy lately as I prepared for a very exciting trip to Haiti, but it has all been worth it.  I am now sitting on the front porch of the guesthouse, hearing the roosters crow, the generator buzz and the occasional dog bark.  In the distance, I can hear the singing from tent church.  I love Haiti!

 There have been a couple big happenings with ElderCare that I should have shared long ago.  First, our beloved Angeline passed away because of heart failure.  One of the last times I saw her, she had been getting some physical therapy and told me that one day she would again walk around Titanyen telling everyone about Jesus.  But God had even better plans for her.  She now gets to walk around heaven, not telling people about Jesus, but actually being WITH Jesus.  How great that her suffering is gone and she can walk and dance!

 Second, a new long term missionary, Hannah Romanik, has joined the staff at Grace Village to help with ElderCare.  Hannah is a nurse and an amazing young woman of God.  She is quickly learning the program, meeting all of the elders, and ensuring that they receive the best care possible.  I am excited to see the improvements over the next year with her oversight!

While in Haiti this week, we will be launching a new program for the elders that has been in the works for almost a year.  Tomorrow, this amazing team I am with will be teaching the elders how to make crafts that will be sold as souvenirs to the 800 or so short term missionaries that come to Haiti through Healing Haiti each year.  They will be learning how to make beautiful bags out of old tshirts, jewelry with photos of Haiti, earring and keychains from old bottle caps, notecards, baskets and more.  We also have a master breadmaker on our team who will be using the pizza oven at Grace Village to teach elders how to make bread that they will be able to sell at the market.  All of this is in the hope that we can allow these elders to have the opportunity and dignity to provide for themselves and even help other in their family or community.

If you would, please join me in praying for our team tomorrow.  Please pray for each elders gifts to be utilized in the right craft, that our team would be able to teach well, that the elders would have the dexterity and comprehension to learn quickly, that they will feel hope for their future and dignity in producing something beautiful.  Thank you so much for your prayers!  I will post pictures late tomorrow or Friday!!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Adult Literacy has begun!

Last night was the first adult literacy class!  Sponsors paid a onetime fee of $12 to provide 24 students with the instruction booklet you see below as well as a second booklet when they are ready.  We also have 1.5 months of the teacher's salary covered.  If you feel led to cover more of the teacher's salary, please see an earlier post for donation instructions.  What a gift it is to be able to provide this basic dignity to these beautiful elders!
Pictured here from left to right are Antchola, Antoinette, Felicie, Pierre and Dieufort.
(Dieufort is still in need of a $40 monthly sponsor....he is such a wonderful man!)