Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Check it out!

Look at all those students on computers! Thank you Illini Life Christian Fellowship and all the others who helped support the expansion of the computer lab. SOOOOOO exciting for our students.

yo kraze kay la

I hesitate to share this because it has nothing to do with our family, and it doesn't exactly paint a pleasant picture of our "zone," as the Haitians call it. BUT, I've decided to share about what's happening because it does effect some of my students. 

*yo kraze kay la means they break the house

There has been a land dispute in our neighborhood (not near our house) recently. It's escalating into quite the feud. There's a gwo machine (back ho) tearing down houses on the land in question as I type this. And, twice this week there have been guns fired (no one has been shot, they just shoot to make noise and show their frustration). We are not in danger of any kind.

That brings us to today. The gwo machine was busy breaking houses, so the kids were at the top of the road when I arrived in Gramothe, just watching. I tried to get them to show me what they were looking at, but they weren't much help. It took me a long time to pinpoint the location of all the drama. I didn't understand why they were so interested in what was happening, so I just went to my classes. In class today, I was teaching my students the English words for "I'll Fly Away." At the end of our singing, someone popped in and said something to a boy who bolted out of the room. After most of the other students left, Kenson told me that the boy who left was running out because he had just heard his house had been broken. (I know most English speakers would say "torn down" but sometimes I get sucked into the non-native way of saying things.)

Until that point in time, the land dispute was just something to talk about for me. It didn't effect my life or family, so I didn't think much of it. All that changed as I left school today. Suddenly it is real to me. I know the people who are losing their homes. I know the faces of the ones who don't have beds to sleep in tonight. As I walked home, I could see the walls of those houses being pushed down. I could see the hopes and dreams of the men who built those walls come crashing down. My heart aches for the families who used to live between those walls, the families who now find themselves homeless and at the mercy of relatives or friends that might be able to take them in.

Please pray for my students and the families who have lost their homes this week. And pray for peace in Thomassin. Only Jesus can bring healing to this mess.

UPDATE/EDIT 2-28-13: My husband wants me to clarify that the buildings that were destroyed were only partial buildings. (But when they talk about them they use the word kay, which means house. How am I supposed to know they weren't completed houses?) Also, the people tearing down the houses had the right to do so. They even had support from the police in the form of road blockades to protect them while they worked. The people who built the homes don't own that land and were given the opportunity to make the situation right. Arold says no one is homeless because of the gwo machine.

Prayers for the Week

Here's what we're praying about this week.

  • We are at the tail end of the dry season (I hope), and it is really, really dry. Please pray that we get some rain soon.
  • I'm teaching my students the English words to a hymn we often sing in Creole, I'll Fly Away. Monday was ah-maze-ing! Praise God for students who enjoy singing praises to him.
  • Pray for our health. I've been having problems with my back, and both of my boys have been sneezing. Pray that our bodies would fight sickness and that the Lord would protect us.
  • Last week the Indiana-Iowa clinic team saw 886 patients in 4.5 days. They were AWESOME. Praise God for the health care they provide to residents of this area.
  • The students have just two weeks before they start exams for this trimester. Pray that they would finish well.
  • Please continue to pray for our safety and God's protection as we live and serve in Haiti. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

5 whole months

Can you believe my little boy turned 5 months old on Sunday? I can't. It seems impossible that he's has been out of the womb for 5 whole months. (Maybe because I only get about half the amount of sleep I got before he arrived... )

Anyway, the little turkey is about 18.5 pounds now. He is not interested in rolling either direction, but I think he could do it if he got motivated. He's been doing a lot of crunches lately because he loves sitting up. He can sit up on his own (though it only lasts for a very short time) and stands pretty well, with assistance of course. He figured out the Johnny Jump Up last week and has started reaching for us when he wants us to hold him.

He is working on getting his first tooth, so he's drooling and gnawing on things like crazy. He has become quite adept at getting his toys in his mouth and can even get his pacifier in his mouth sometimes! He is quite the little chatterbox. Several times in the last week he's woken up around 5 to eat and then stayed awake to talk to us. He's so loud in the evenings that we can't watch TV shows when he's all wound up.

We love Isaac more than we can say.

Parc Historique de la Canne a Sucre

After visiting the Embassy on Valentine's Day (and being approved for Arold's visa!) we drove around the corner and visited the Sugar Cane Historic Park. (please pardon the picture placement in this post. It looks good when I'm editing it, but the pictures move whenever I hit "post.")

We learned that the site was once a big sugar cane plantation and the Frenchman who owned it was named Chateaubland. He was very successful because he exported the sugar and sugar cane products (like rum) to France. The French apparently really liked the cane syrup and rum.

He would ring the bell in the morning to tell the slaves it was time to come to work. Later in the day the ringing of the bell signified when they could eat and when they could go "home" for the day.

Next we saw a big water wheel that was fed from an aqueduct, a very good use of resources for the time period.

Then we went under a little tunnel where the slaves would carry the cane to the "crusher." (the tour was in Creole and my husband translated for me, but since he doesn't like translating I didn't get the specifics.) The crusher was powered by cows harnessed to big poles connected to the metal things. The cows walked in a circle and made the metal things crush the cane. (Such a great description, I know.)

From there the sugar cane pulp was taken to these cauldrons and boiled and boiled and boiled some more. When it reached it's final sticky semi solid state it was transferred to big funnels sitting on top of clay pots. It took a month for the syrup to drain into the pot, while the crystalized sugar remained in the funnel.

Next we visited the distillery where we learned that rum can be made from the syrup in about 24 hours. But then it has to sit in barrels for years so that it ages and tastes better.

After the revolution and exit of the French plantation owner, Haiti wasn't exporting sugar cane products or rum to France anymore. (Something about the US still having slaves and being able to produce it for less money than the free Haitians wanted to be paid.) But with the industrial age, came a faster and less labor intensive process for refining the sugar cane. We saw a set up for how it's processed now and it included a steam powered crusher and steam powered boiler pots, and a very tidy looking set up.

Overall, we learned a lot about Haiti's history with sugar cane and the process for refining it. And we got a lot of pictures of a really old steam engine. I think my husband thought the train was the coolest part.

Canne a Sucre is now an historical site and also used for concerts and big events. I often see signs for concerts happening there, and after visiting I can see why it's such a great place for entertainment. (The events are generally above our price range, and Johane tells me that it's very difficult to find parking when you go there for an event.) All that to say, there's a big stage and a bunch of tent pavilions set up with tables and chairs for the events among all the old artifacts. So as we were walking from one sugar cane piece of history to the next, we would our way through the tables and chairs set up for fancy concerts. You can check out the website, but be warned it's in French.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Crochet Class Pictures

Friday, February 22, 2013


Recently I read this awesome article on short term mission trips from Bob Lupton, the author of Toxic Charity. Now I really want to read his book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Prayers this week

Here's what we're praying about this week:

  • Praise God for Arold's visa approval. We are sooooooooooooo thankful he has the visa and will be able to travel to the US this summer after graduation. 
  • A clinic team is here this week. I think they'll have 4 days of clinic this week. Pray that God will give them wisdom as they serve the patients that come to the clinic.
  • We were able to visit some friends in Fonds Parisien last Tuesday because of the holiday and break from school. Very exciting to see a new part of Haiti and also to fellowship with friends.
  • We're so thankful for God's protection as we traveled to Fonds Parisien and the US Embassy last week.
  • Continue to pray for the musicians' Sunday school class to grow closer to Christ. 
  • Pray for our students as they get ready to finish this trimester and get ready for exams in about a month.
  • The Illini Life Christian Fellowship delegation is here to work in the computer lab this week. Praise God for their commitment to our students and also for their donations to the MTM computer lab. Pray that they will be able to accomplish all they set out to do in the time they are here. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tout Bagay Anfom

Arold's visa interview was on Valentine's Day. We got to the Embassy quite early, but there was still a really, really large group of people waiting to get in before 7am. Seriously, it was twice the number of people we've ever seen at the Embassy before! I was a little nervous about getting in there in a decent amount of time, but having a baby is like a free pass to the front of the line in Haiti. We didn't have to wait in line and were some of the first people inside. Awesome!

The interview was scheduled for 7am, but we knew from experience that we would initially only be called to the window to give them our papers and then have to wait a while for the actual interview. I thought we would have to go into the little room for our interview, but when the time came we just stepped up to the window. Our interviewer was really nice. She asked some very basic questions (where did you meet, do you have kids, what kind of a job does your wife have, where did you get married). They were so easy we thought it was a trick! Then she said,

"Tout bagay anfom. Congratulations! 
Your visa will be ready in about a week."

We are so happy that the next time we travel it will be as a family. Praise the Lord! Thank you, Jesus!

*the title "Tout Bagay Anfom" is a Creole saying that means "It's all good."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Theme for 2013: Rejoice

Oops. This post got stuck in draft mode for quite a while. This was written several weeks ago.

Several years ago I read an article online about having a one word theme for the year. You can read the entire thing here. My paraphrased version is this: Pray and ask God to show you what one word/concept he wants you to focus on for the year. Once you know what it is, you focus on growing in that area all year long. You can do a word study in the Bible, look for ways to worship/serve/grow closer to God through that word, and let it affect you relationally, emotionally, at work, at home, in all areas of your life.

For example, in 2009 my theme was humility. Not my choice, but I learned a lot about being humble and having humility before God and man. Incidentally that year I learned that I have a lot of pride. The next year I focused on wisdom and seeking God's wisdom for all areas of my life. For 2011, my theme was patience. A very good theme to have the year I planned my wedding and was away from Arold for 5 months! Last year, 2012, was focused on God's faithfulness. (So much freaking out about finances, support, having a baby, my house in Mishawaka, etc. etc. etc., but so many opportunities to see God's faithfulness to us!).

After some prayer and some frustrations about life, I realized my theme for this year is rejoice. As in...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, REJOICE! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. --Philippians 4:4-7

and my all time favorite verse...

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. --Romans 15:13

Now that I know I will be rejoicing in the Lord this year, I see things all around me that pointed to this theme. We often sing "This is the day" to Isaac. Nearly every day one of us sings the line, "I will rejoice and be glad in it." It's a good lesson for all of us. And my friend Alison gave me this awesome magnet for Christmas that simply says "JOY". How's that for a reminder to rejoice in the Lord every time I'm in the kitchen. And the calendar my grandma gave me had "live joyously" as the text for January.

2013: the year of rejoicing

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Sorta Update

So much to say and so little time to write! I hope this weekend to get caught up on some posts I want to write, but I make no guarantees. Here's the quick version to tide you over until more pictures and stories can be shared.

  • We went to Fonds Parisien on Tuesday to visit some friends who work out there. The town is on a big lake that sits on the DR border. It was dry and dusty out there, and definitely warmer than the mountain. But it was really fun to explore a new part of Haiti with my husband (and one of his brothers too). 
  • Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which means lots of Haitians were celebrating Kanaval (translated Carnival, means extended Mardi Gras celebration) over the weekend and Monday and Tuesday. It was pretty quiet in our neighborhood, so that was nice. It was also really nice to have three days off of work! (Mon-Wed were all national holidays)
  • Arold's final visa interview was today, so we woke up at 4:30 to head to the US Embassy. It was the busiest I had ever seen the embassy, but we were one of the first interviews (scheduled for 7am, actual interview around 8am). The interview was so easy we thought it was a trick, but he was approved after a very short conversation with the nicest lady we've talked to yet. We were in our car by 8:30 and on our way to celebrate. His visa will be ready in about a week. PRAISE THE LORD!!!
  • After the Embassy I made my husband take me to Handal Maison, the Haitian Wal-mart. It wasn't open yet, so we stopped for some juice at a nice cafe. Then we went shopping (only bought teething gel, so disappointing).
  • After that we took a tour of the Historic Sugar Cane Park. It was pretty cool and will hopefully have it's own post some day soon. Isaac was impressed, and Mom and Dad learned a lot about Haiti's history.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Prayers

Here's what we're praying about this week.

  • Isaac is sick today. Please pray that he would feel better soon.
  • Arold's visa interview is in 10 days. So excited, but nervous too. Pray for us. Pray for the interviewer and decision makers. Pray that we will get this visa!
  • Praise the Lord for the team that is currently here. There are quite a few familiar faces, and it's encouraging to see the same people return to invest in our Haitian friends.
  • I've experienced some discouraging things recently. Pray that I will rejoice in the Lord always--especially when I don't feel like it.
  • Carnival season is coming. Learn more about Haitian Carnival here. I like having time off of school (3 days), but we're not really fond of the holiday itself. Pray that the light of Christ will shine on this nation.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Haitian Vegetables

Haiti has a lot of fruits and vegetables. When I moved here, I loved learning about the different things I had never eaten before. After 2.5 years, I'm pretty accustomed to my new cuisine. However, there are a few things that still make me chuckle.

Take for example, The World's Smallest Celery. It tastes exactly the same as big celery and it even has the same shape. It appears that it was just zapped by the shrink ray gun from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

bottle cap and cutco knife to show size
There's also sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have PURPLE skins in Haiti and are gray on the inside when cooked. For the first year I lived here, I asked what they were every time I saw them at the guest house. This isn't my picture, but it's exactly how sweet potatoes look in Haiti. It must be a South American variety.