Thursday, March 31, 2011

Class Photos

Someday I'll tell you the story of taking class photos in Gramothe. It was much more... intense than I expected. For today, here's a picture of my favorite high school class.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Illini Life Team

Last week my computer lab got a makeover by some amazing people from a church called Illini Life in, you guessed it, Illinois. They were a lot of fun but also got a lot accomplished!

Here's the short list of their accomplishments:

  • bought and carried in 14 laptops for the lab
  • built a cabinet for the laptops
  • bought the equipment to set up internet in the lab
  • established an internet connection, which was quite a big job
  • helped with the construction on the hospital
  • helped with some home construction in Gramothe
  • cleaned and organized the entire depot
  • gave my computer room a complete makeover
  • and five of them also helped in the clinic 
For more details, check out their blog!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Check it out

The MTM website recently got a makeover. Click this link and check out the new site. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thoughts on Staying in Haiti, Part 2

I’ve already established that it makes sense for me to return to the States, so what compelling reasons do I have to stay in Haiti? First and foremost is the fact that God has called me here. It’s hard to explain exactly how that happened. I didn’t hear an audible voice say, “Britney, stay in Haiti.” (Unless you count Willem, who consistently told people I was staying for the rest of my life before I had been here even a month!) I didn’t just wake up one morning knowing God wanted me to stay here. It was a process.

First I saw how well my personality and skills fit in at Mountain Top Ministries. I’m convinced that I was made for this job. It’s the perfect blend of teaching, mentoring, and administrative tasks. I’m able to use all of my spiritual gifts, as well as my professional training and natural talents. There’s something genuinely fulfilling about being exactly where God designed me to be. However, I’m human. I still have days where I doubt that I’ll be able to do what God has laid before me. But when I’m not wallowing in self doubt, I can see that God has given me exactly what I need to do his work here within MTM’s ministry.

Then there were the precious kids from Laboule Children’s Home. Officially I’m teaching them English after school two days a week, but my role in their lives runs deeper than just English tutor. These kids don’t have parents, so they need consistent adults in their lives that are willing to take the time to teach them important life lessons. We work on manners, showing kindness to others, and taking care of the resources we have. The kids may not be biologically related, but they are a family. By the grace of God they’ve opened their arms and included me in that family.

There are also these high school students who crawled into my heart and carved out a special place for themselves. They each have a story, and I’m slowly learning those stories. Jephte and his siblings travel close to two hours every morning just to get to school. Richmond’s mother was a prostitute in the slums of Port au Prince before she died. Ferdillia, and many other students like her, eats her one meal of the day at school. Samuel is homeless and lives with various families as they allow him to. Jean Peter and Watson sleep on the kitchen floor along with their 3 other siblings. With each new story that I learn my heart is bound even more deeply to these people and this place.

And I wouldn’t be telling you the whole story if I didn’t mention Arold. He worked hard to convince me he was interested in more than friendship, and then he patiently pursued me while I took my sweet time surrendering my fears to God. He’s funny, confident, and gentle. He’s committed to Christ and faithfully serves the Lord. He encourages me with scripture, listens better than most people I know, and finds ways to help in whatever situation he finds himself in.

I believe God used all of these factors to show me that this is where I belong, but ultimately it was his abiding peace that convinced me. I miss people who are in the United States, and some days I even miss the conveniences that come with living in there. But, I don’t have a desire to return to the life I had there, nor do I feel a pull on my heart indicating there’s something to go back for. Even when I consider potentially being away from my family during holidays or big life events (living in Haiti doesn’t mean I have to miss all those, by the way) there’s no panic or urgency to return. It will be hard to be away from them, but I have peace that God will help us all through those times.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's no wonder...

I like going to work. Look at that view!  
And the mountains in the background aren't bad either. ;-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Haitian Names 101

Names were (and still are to a certain extent) really difficult for me to get used to when I first came to Haiti. First there is the fact that French names are very different than English names. Then you have to take into account that all names, even ones I recognize on paper, are pronounced with a French accent. Names like Stephen and David are harder to recognize when they sound like Stef-on and Da-veed.

In the past 6 months I've noticed some interesting trends in Haitian names.

1. Absolute most common names in Haiti: for women Marie (sounds like my-ee)followed by any other name. For men Jean (sounds kinda like the end sound of garage) followed by any other name.

Ex: Marie Claire, Marie Ange, Marie Claude, Marie Rose
Ex: Jean Claude, Jean Robert, Jean Pierre, Jean Bertrand
2. E, M, P, and Y are very popular letters.
Male names:  Evens, Etienne, Erick, Exumene, Emmanuel, Michel, Marc, Mackenson, Pierre, Peterson, Peter, Paul, Patrick, Yves (sounds like Eve), Yvner

Female names: Esther, Edline, Emmanuela, Mirlande (sounds like Mirror-lahnd), Monique, Mimose, Patricia, Philomene, Yvonne, Yvette, Yvrose
3. Often there is a common base with various endings.
Rosena, Rosemene, Rosita, Rosina, Rosilien, Rosilia, Rosette, Rosemita, Rosemina, et.

Fred, Fredson, Fredo, Frednel, Frederick

Dieuseul, Dieuy, Dieumene, Dieumaitre, Dieujuste, Dieufort, Dieubon (this base means God)
4. Common female name endings:  -line (Ameline & Cloline), -lande (Mirlande & Nerlande), -ette (Rosette & Yvette)

5. Common male name endings: -son (Robenson & Davidson), -nel (Fritznel & Kesnel), -ner (Yvner & Fredner)

6. There seem to be some common names that are not originally French: Manouchka (Ma-noosh-ka), Shnider/Schneider, Natacha (Natasha), Nephtalie, Lovensky, Djoumy, Dieuseul

7. Names I think are tragic for little girls, but are very common here: Guerda/Guertrude, Bernadette, Bertha/Bertony, Fedna, Medjine

8. While not overly common, the use of the words "love" and "wood" in names still baffles me.
Ex: Ruth Love, Mylove, Michaelove, Woodson, Wood Kelly, Woodjerry

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on Staying in Haiti, Part 1

I’m not sure I can coherently and succinctly share about why I’m staying in Haiti. It really doesn’t make sense from a practical, logical viewpoint, but I think that’s part of the mysterious ways of God Almighty. He has this habit of doing things that aren't logical: he makes beauty from ashes, he uses the weak to lead the strong, he says the first will be last and the last will be first.

First there are all the reasons I shouldn’t stay in Haiti. There are a lot of them.

  • I can’t speak the language. Just this week I told someone I don’t have anything when I meant to say I don’t want anything. While only one word is different, they have very different meanings!  
  • My family, who I love very much, lives very far away from Haiti.
  • I’m currently too much of a scared-y cat to go to the market near my house by myself. For an entire week I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask one of my students to accompany me into the market as we walk home. Apparently I’m not desperate enough for vegetables yet.
  • I have a mortgage on a house in Indiana.
  • Things like electricity and running water are luxuries here. Read a few of my older posts about electricity if you haven’t already.
  • There’s a job (with a very healthy salary--and benefits) waiting for me in a school district I have loved working in for the past 6 years.
  • My church family at St. Mark Missionary Church is reason enough to never leave Mishawaka, IN!
That’s not an exhaustive list, but I think you get the point. It makes sense to return to Indiana. But following God rarely makes sense. Abraham sacrificing Isaac, Joshua walking circles around Jericho, David battling Goliath, Jesus calling common fishermen to be his disciples and hanging out with sinners. Where in the Bible do we see God making sense?

Even with that lengthy list of logical reasons to return to Indiana, I know that this is where I belong. I have such a strong sense of belonging at Mountain Top Ministries. It’s like I was made for this specific job! (Ephesians 2:10 and Psalm 139:16 have a little something to say about that.) My personality and talents are an exact fit with the other staff of MTM. More than that though, I have an overwhelming sense of peace about defying all logic to stay in Haiti.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Search & Rescue

When you live in the mountains and you like to play soccer, you sometimes have to send a Search & Rescue team out for your ball. 

Richard maintains his position to help Johnson back up the mountain.
 Johnson and the ball are somewhere down there.

 Team work is the key. Johnson passes the ball to Richard who will pass it to Dayley.

 Yay! We have the ball again!
So where did all this take place? Right there on the big curve where Johanna kicked the ball over the edge of the road.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Technology Update

Just a quick note to say that my frustrations with technology have been squelched for now.

I have a new cell phone. The school secretary, who also happens to be my Most Amazing Boyfriend, went to the city on Friday afternoon to run some errands for school, so he picked out a new phone for me while he was there. He delivered it on Saturday morning after his choir practice at church. It's a black, mini candy bar style phone with a hot pink band around the edge. While it's missing some important features like speed dial and English T9, it does have FM radio and the capability to put two SIM cards in it. So if I was so important that I needed two phone numbers, I could just use one phone. BUT most importantly, it works! I am a happy camper.

Also, after 8 days with no electricity I returned to my apartment yesterday after church to find that my inverter was no longer buzzing the critical warning sound. It took me a while to realize that the buzz-buzz was missing. When I looked at my inverter I saw that it was being charged by EDH. Wowzas! Public electricity for the first time in more than a week. My little refrigerator, now empty of everything except chocolate bars that were in the freezer and warm butter, was happy to be plugged in again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

God Will Make A Way

One of the first songs my students asked me about was "God Will Make a Way." It's one  of a handful of songs they know in English, so they wondered if I knew it. I had heard it before, but I didn't know the song. They sang it for me, in English and Creole. Since then I've heard it quite a few times in the last 6 months.

The other day I was walking to the guest house when a man walking somewhere behind me busted out singing, "God will make a way, when there seems to be no way..." As I heard him sing, I had an epiphany. This song should be the national anthem of Haiti.

  • When an earthquake destroys homes and businesses, God will make a way.
  • When the baby is sick and there's no money to go to the hospital, God will make a way.
  • When parents don't know how they'll pay for their children's education, God will make a way.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not to be whiner...

But I am beyond frustrated with technology this week.

The public electricity, called EDH, came on for about an hour each night last Thursday and Friday. Generally it's on for anywhere between 6-12 hours, which is sufficient to charge my inverter. The inverter gives me power when the EDH is not on, but since it wasn't charged long enough I ran out of power Friday night and Saturday during the day. There are varying degrees of being out of power. First there's the "Uh-oh, the inverter is low. I'll unplug the fridge." Next I trade lights for candles and unplug anything that's charging (phone or computer). When the inverter is at a critical stage it flashes a red light and makes an annoying buzzing sound. It's not so loud that I can hear it through my bedroom door, but if I'm in the living room/kitchen it's quite annoying.

I've been at the buzzing stage since Sunday afternoon. Apparently my street does not have EDH right now. There is a problem I'm told, but Carneval was this week so no one has been out to fix it yet. My neighbors and I are quite annoyed.

Then there is the case of my cell phone. I use my cell phone everyday, all day. It's my clock in the classroom. It keeps me in contact with the other MTM staff. But my cell phone is also my means of communication with my boyfriend. This weekend my phone decided not to charge anymore. I can plug it in to any electrical plug (at the guest house, where they still have electricity) and nothing happens. It won't recognize that it's plugged into the charger.

Yesterday my phone finally died. It won't charge, so I have no way to contact anyone. Should I fall and break my leg on the way to school, I have no way to call anyone to come and help me. I also can't call or text my boyfriend.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I love technology.

I appreciate the ease technology brings to my life.

I enjoy technology and it's entertainment possibilities.

Yet, I also loathe technology.

Monday, March 7, 2011


In April I committed to teaching English in Gramothe, Haiti, for the 2010-2011 school year. On September 9th I arrived in Haiti, and by the end of the first week I knew I didn't want to leave. There is, of course, a lot more to the story than that. I hope I'm able to get more of my thoughts on paper this week. But for now I just want to say this:

I am staying in Haiti! 

Officially, I have made a three year commitment to Mountain Top Ministries, but I think I'll be in Haiti a lot longer than that. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment. I'll try hard to get the answers to you soon. :)

Jeremiah 29:11-13

This is my Rheto class (well, the kids that were in class that day--there was a problem with the lunch schedule) at Mountain Top Ministries' Gramothe school. These students are the equivalent of 11th grade students in the US.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Today is March 1st.

That's crazy. Just crazy.

In just one week I will have lived in Haiti for 6 whole months. (minus the two weeks I spent in the States for the holidays)

That's crazy too.

That's all I have to say this morning... More posts to come this week.