Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flick

We were something of shutter bugs our first 5 months in Haiti. We have shared many of them with you on this blog, but there were literally thousands more that we have. How can we share those with you? The beauty of Flickr.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/benandkatieinhaiti/

We have spent the day uploading our photos, over 350 from January alone! We will be adding our other months and we will also be uploading new pictures we take when we are back in Haiti in August. Hopefully this addition will help to continue to tell the story of our neighborhood in Port-au-Prince.

Please feel free to look at them and comment if you so desire.

-Ben

Monday, June 28, 2010

VBS

I'm sorry we haven't been more bloggy this week. We got a new camera, courtesy of our amazing generous friend Ryan, and it took us a little while to figure out how to get the photos onto our computer. Problem solved (thanks to Richard!). These are the last of the "old camera" photos- hopefully the new camera photos will be extra lovely.

Also, my brother (the Marine, who's been overseas for 2 years) has been home on leave. He left yesterday. Such sweet family time. So that's where I've been.

Well, that and I re-read Harry Potter 7.      :)
Vacation Bible School was just wonderful. We worked in the Missions area and had a delightful team of teenage helpers (in M&M costumes, no less). The kids were bringing change all week to sponsor Haitian childrens' education through TeacHaiti, and many were bringing change in M&M tubes (an M&M tube full of quarters adds up to $14).
Ivy was Team Missions' fearless leader.
Suprise! The Masked Rider (mascot of Texas Tech University, alma mater of dear Ben) made a suprise appearance at VBS. What does the Texas Tech mascot have to do with VBS? Well, there was a cowboy theme. But mostly, this year's Masked Rider, Christi, grew up in our church. And, let's be serious, having a giant beautiful horse ride around in your sanctuary is just good clean fun.
Ben was pretty excited.
Teaching preschoolers where Haiti is. Our friend Kim has a real passion for sharing about missions and loving the world's poor. She's is really great at communicating that message to kids in a tangible and appropriate way.
Showing the VBS preschoolers all the things TeacHaiti can buy with the money that is donated to sponsor a child.
Our dear friend Ivy. An amazing heart, a friend for life! She lead our missions team.
Worship with Mark and Anna. You may remember when Mark's daughter Olivia sent us sweet drawings and Anna visited Haiti (she was in town during the food drop).
Pouring the donated change from the VBS children into a giant container. It was so full by Thursday we had to push it around on a rolling office chair. That is awesome.
Counting counting counting. You can see some of the M&M containers that the kids brought quarters in. News flash- your hands smell really weird after counting coins for a half hour.
VBS Missions Team with all the collected change.

In total, through four different change drives in three different ministries, over $5,000 was raised for TeacHaiti. I cannot WAIT to see those sponsored kids' pictures and learn their names. I cannot WAIT to try to meet them in Haiti, to send photos of them at school, in clean uniforms, eating hot lunches, wearing shoes, back to the preschool, elementary, and teenage ministries at FBC Richardson who sponsored them.
 M&Ms in kids worship mode.
Joy.

For you pray-ers...
1. My Marine brother, driving to California and joining a new unit.
2. My good friends, leading high school kids this week at Young Life's Crooked Creek Ranch in CO.
3. 150 kids going to children's camp (with Ben and I) on Monday (including 40 inner-city kiddos).
4. Our students back in Haiti, or Miami, or Montreal, or wherever they are currently.

Katie

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pace

Often I write a blog and then let it sit for a few days to see if it makes any sense. Some times I delete everything and start over, sometimes I merely tweak. I wrote this on Tuesday and have been altering my opinions slightly. I wanted to post this and then how my opinions have changed (tomorrow) for a full view.

The pace is maddening here. I have no time to think. My calendar is absurd. Speaking, smiling, seeing, visiting- there is no time to hear anything.

People have asked if the adjustment has been hard. For the most part it hasn't- honestly, sometimes I wish being home bugged me more. But what gives me fits of anxiety and makes me want to run screaming to the nearest airport and hide in the cargo hold of the next plan to Port-au-Prince is how frantic life is lived in America. Honestly how does this country breathe?

Either out of necessity of furlough or inability to resist I find that Katie and I are racing through our time here like a top-fuel dragster goes through the quarter mile. Fast. And with lots of G-forces tearing at my body.

I fear that our time here will be spent without any quality conversations. But with plenty of 30-second updates that really don't communicate anything other than that I have a pulse.

I want to sit with my grandparents while they can still see me. I want to talk to my best friend before we both leave the lower 48. I want to know what God is doing in your life and to share with you what He is doing in mine. But before I do any of that, I need to sit still and figure it out.

Ben

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Get Silly

Reasons I know I am smack dab in the eye of the hurricane that is a children's ministry summer:

1) From 11:15 - 11:45 this morning I danced the Macarena, the Cupid Shuffle, and the Hoedown Throwdown with over 100 8-and 9-year-olds, plus the senior citizens who were serving them Rice Crispy Treats. It was absolutely hysterical. In a Fellowship Hall, for heaven's sake- such naughty Baptists we are :) It was a real bliss moment.
2) I am now officially the recipient of my first Silly Band. It glows in the dark and is in the shape of a turtle. Pretty much every kid at Vacation Bible School has 20, 50, 100 of these things on (which is probably why schools are banning them as a distraction).

Another $600 something came in today at the VBS change drive for TeacHaiti. We're up to over $1,900 now- that's over 5 kids fully sponsored for a year. Amazing. One more day!

Katie

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer of Love

This week has been amazing. We're working Vacation Bible School, and the entire missions projects of the preschool, children's and youth ministries have been focused on helping Haiti.

In May, the children's and youth groups raised over $700 each for TeacHaiti. Since $350 sponsors a child for a whole year to go to school, that's 4 kids right there. Changed lives.

Then this week, the 1st-6th graders at VBS are having a change drive. The total, after just two days, is over $1,200. At $350 each, there's another 3 kids' futures totally transformed. By little kids armed with Ziploc baggies. And we've got two more days of collecting to go!

We've loved all the fun. We're dancing around in M&M Halloween costumes, counting pennies til our fingers perma-smell like copper, and sharing about life in Haiti during "Q & A with B & K" time.

Some of the questions the kids have asked are stumping me. Why is the Haitian money worth so much less than the US dollar? Why can't Haitians move to America? If the Haitian constitution guarantees public school for all children, why isn't that happening?

Good question, kid.

This weekend we're speaking at the church we grew up in, met Jesus in, and met each other in. We'll have 7 minutes at the end of both the 9:15 (traditional) and 10:50 (contemporary) services. 7 minutes. We've been working and working to try to figure out how to put into 7 minutes the decision to move to Haiti, moving, the earthquake, the earthquake aftermath, starting to teach again, the unique and amazing students we've met and loved, and everything else. Oh, and the rat story. Everybody's favorite post is the one with the leaping rat.

I realize I haven't mentioned a big project for this summer. The aforementioned church we grew up in asked for some help in planning Children's Camp, so B and I are volunteering almost every day working to prepare for camp. Then the week after Children's Camp, we're headed to a week of Youth Camp with the same church. Not a lot of physical resting going on, but a huge heaping pile of love pours on us every day there.

Katie

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Celebrating Sarah

Tomorrow morning Ben and I will start Vacation Bible School. We're working in the kids missions area, and the whole missions project this year is about Haiti. Did you know that if you fill one of those M&M Mini's tubes with quarters, you will get $14? That's what all the kids are invited to do this week, with all the money going to TeacHaiti to send poor kids to school.
Tomorrow we'll be sharing about what life is like for many Haitian kids, and we'll be talking about Sarah in particular. Here's a little collection of pics we are showing, plus our favorite Sarah shots. Let's all take a minute to pray for her.

Sweet Sarah helps me explain how TeacHaiti sponsors Haitian kids to go to school.



Katie

Graduation and Feasting

Quisqueya graduated ten kids on May 29.
They moved over their tassels, they received diplomas, they made speeches.

A handful of the places they will be studying next year: Brown University, Indiana University, McGill University, Florida International University, Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Virginia Tech.
They presented roses to their families, they hugged mamas, they took family photos.
Sophomores and juniors came, too, and we hugged everybody. These are three really bright stars of our school, with good 'ol Mr. Kilpatrick.
Us with some Good People. These are the (should be famous) Ackermans, who I want to be like, and who wear really awesome tuxedo tshirts, and who know where to find nativity sets made of coconuts, and who cook a mean pizza casserole.
Sassy, fabulous Haitian women. I love Danielle and Miquette, who were 2 of my roommates during this post-quake time.
I got to thinking about our grads. The graduation address was given by Mr. Clay, the teacher who shepherded the seniors through their remaining English and Bible studies this semester. He also invested heavily in them in a more mentor-type way, teaching them extras like preparing international cuisine and even some "how to use a power tool" lessons. At one point in his speech he said something to the effect of "if you don't all come back after college and help Haiti, I will find you and beat you up", and everybody laughed.

But he was serious. We all are. I mean it. Those of us who come to Haiti to teach at an American-style private school don't do it so that we can facilitate a Brain Drain of Haiti's best and brightest young people. I, too, hope they come back to Haiti. I dream of Kreyol-speaking, Jesus-loving, college-educated young people back here, starting businesses and pastoring churches and running dental clinics and getting elected Senator and figuring out how to export Haitian mangos to Texas and planting 17 million trees. Helping.

But will they come back? Why should they?

Why won't they?

The same reason I'm home right now, spending my summer break from teaching in Dallas instead of in Port-au-Prince.

It's really, really nice here in the States.

It's really, really comfortable in Dallas. And Plano, and Portland, Garland, Milpitas, Alameda, Oklahoma City, Rutherford, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, Waco, Harrisburg, Norman, Chicago, Houston, Bulverde, Ingleside, Mc Neil, Springfield, Humble, Webster, Brentwood, Palmer, Del Rio, Kenosha, East Peoria, Seattle, Lacey, New York, Toronto, Goderich, London, Rainhill, Queretaro, Freiburg Im Breisgau, Nice, Austin, Tyler, and all the other places Google Analytics tells me you are reading from (hello!).

We have Targets here. We have an app for that. We have school bus systems, school lunch menus, and no police man has ever asked me for a bribe. We have entire aisles of soap. I have had electricity 100% of the time since I've been in America.

I went to the dentist today for a teeth cleaning. There was a television, with satellite service, mounted to the ceiling for me to watch during my 15-minute cleaning. The dentist's gloves were mint-flavored. The gloves were flavored.

Last night I Google Maps'ed "pizza places near (name of my church)". The search found 26 places within 10 miles.

I went to get a bowl of cereal for breakfast this morning. In my mother's pantry there are 13 boxes of cereal. In my mother's fridge there are 3 different kinds of milk.

Why would any of those graduates not just stay in the States and start feasting (literally and figuratively).

One word and one word, over and over, flopping in my brain this last week in America- feasting.

Our life is a feast.

It's fun in the feast-land. It is so comfortable here, I am loving every minute. And it's not just a feast of physical comforts, but of love and encouragement and social occasions. It's a sweet, sweet, stuffed-full life. So why will our seniors leave the feast and go back to Haiti after college? There are very few earthly reasons to do so. It will have to be the Lord, I think.



Katie

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ryan Tells the Story

I went to high school with a guy named Ryan who is a really, really talented videographer. You may remember him from our food drop and other adventures back with Anna and Adam in March. He has left Haiti, where he was working with Living Water International, and is now on a year-plus-long African adventure. He's spent a lot of time in Rwanda and Sierra Leone so far.

While in Port-au-Prince he lived for about 10 days in a tent city not far from Quisqueya. He lived with a family and interviewed one of its ladies. Here is her story.

182 from Five One Films on Vimeo.

Before meeting up with Ben and I in Port-au-Prince, Ryan was in another part of town. He spent some time with fishermen there and filmed this incredible piece.

Cabaret from Five One Films on Vimeo.

I mean, wow. If you click the "Five One Films" link above you can see more of his work, including more recent videos from Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

While Ryan was in Haiti I once offhandedly mentioned that Ben and I have an old camera and that one day we hoped to upgrade. This generous friend mentioned that he had upgraded as his photography/videography business has matured, and would we like his old camera? I picked it up today from his dad and was totally blown away. It is incredible. I am afraid to touch it. I can only hope it will help us tell the story of Haiti better, and that will help everybody who is not there to keep Haiti fresh in their thoughts and prayers. But first I'll have to figure out how to turn it on.

Thank you, Ryan, for telling the story, and for being a very generous friend.


Katie

Monday, June 7, 2010

Conversations I Have Had Lately

We have been home for a week. It, like every thing else we have experienced in the past 5 months, was a whirlwind. Sorry there have not been more frequent posts. We needed time to unscramble our minds and emotions.

I don't know if anything could prepare us for what coming back home would be like. Surprisingly, once the shock of how different, neat, clean, orderly, beautiful, green, affluent, well-manicured, surgically-enhanced and Botoxed Dallas is wore off, the hardest thing has been talking.

I never have enough time to tell someone about how I am doing or to tell them about Haiti. It is a conversation best had over a long meal. Or drinks. Or drinks and a long meal, with coffee afterward.

I also find myself lecturing and monologue-ing. About the time I am 10 minutes into a soliloquy about Haiti, usually around the point I find myself recalling a dead body or a truck bed full of paralyzed quake victims, I become really self-aware. Like, why the hell am I telling this story?

This happened today when I realized Katie and I were telling these stories to 5 youth over pizza. Poor kids. They had know idea that when they asked, "Where were you during it", that they were going to get a full frontal assault of death.

However, that was the reality of Port-au-Prince. Death touched everyone. We saw it.

One thing that humbles me is when total strangers introduce themselves and tell me they are praying for us. I never say what I want to. I always mutter something awkward and shuffle on quickly. But what I want to do is just grab their hand, maybe even hug them, and say how their prayers sustained me while I was in Haiti. I want them to know I felt their prayers on me like a blanket and they are just as responsible for me continuing on in Haiti as anything else.

So to all the people I have mumbled awkward answers to in the last 6 days: I know you are reading. Let me apologize for having the social skills of a slug and tell you thank you so much. And please do not stop.

 Ben

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Magic Kingdom

We are home. The closest thing I can say to explain the experience is that it is very similar to the days right before my wedding- I am way too busy, completely overwhelmed, everyone keeps asking me how I feel, and I feel about 10 things at once (some of which I cannot name, even to myself).

I have brushed my teeth with water straight out of the tap.
I have used the ladies' room and flushed my toilet paper.
I have eaten an apple, without soaking it in bleach first.
I have slept all night without awakening to a single rooster crowing or car backfiring.
I have had stomach problems after eating things like spinach, which I think my stomach forgot all about in the last semester.

I went into a Walgreens to buy mascara. There were probably over 50 different kinds. I found the one I like. There were four- four- varieties of black. "Glam black", classic black, black-brown, very black.

I thought there was just one kind of black.

We have completely over-scheduled ourselves. I drove over 110 miles between today and yesterday, just running around within town. I hate driving around. It is soul-sucking to me. One of my favorite parts of my life in Haiti is my pedestrian, non-commuting lifestyle. I need to actively pursue peace and rest.

Everything we have done so far we chose to do, and wanted to do. Some things were urgent, like speaking to a 3rd grade class today (it was the last day of school) and seeing one of our earliest spiritual mentors (he was only in Texas for a day or two more). But I have not even unpacked yet. Have not even (on my third night here) taken a shower in the US yet (hot showers!!!).

I feel like I am seeing the US for the first time. My overriding emotion (though certainly not the only one) has been surprise. I have walked around in a daze, in a constant state of feeling like I am seeing the most beautiful and organized place on earth. My parents' house is like a mansion. The TV is like a movie theater. The restaurants are like palaces. They treat you like royalty- service at the speed of light, hardly a sip of water taken before someone is refilling. This place is Disney.

To contrast: We went to the cell phone store yesterday to try and replace Ben's phone that was stolen last week. In brief, we needed to have a family member call AT&T customer service, add our names to the account, authorize us to get a new SIM card on the account, wait for the customer service agent to log this in the computer, then the agent in the store needed to check and see if we were due for an upgrade, sell us the (free with contract extension) phone, install the SIM card, activate the phone, log all of this in the computer, and sign the contract extension. ALL of this happened within 20 minutes.

Which is approximately 2 and a half hours LESS time than it took for us to go through security at the Port-au-Prince airport two days ago.

This place is Disney.

I am so grateful for one big answered prayer. I was very afraid that my heart would be full of judgment toward my hometown and my home culture. I thought I would walk around filtering my mouth, but with a heart secretly full of judgment and condemnation, thinking everybody around me are a bunch of Paris Hiltons. This has not been the case. This is due, I know for a fact, to the Holy Spirit alone.

Instead I just feel awe, largely... awe at the beauty of our strip mall classical architecture...awe at the orderliness of our Tolltag-linked airport parking system. I was moved by the beauty of the pink-and-purple-striped flower beds in roadside public landscaping, shocked by the efficiency of the visitor security check-in procedures at a suburban public elementary school (front desk volunteer uses a machine that scans your drivers license, then prints a time-and-date-stamped visitor sticker with your drivers license photo on it).

Disney.

Wow.

Katie

Hot Links

Just a quick update to let you know that we are in Texas despite American Airlines' best efforts to not let us fly. I am going to let Katie tell the story of our travel day later.

I wanted to share these two links with you.
First, our friend, Ryan, shot this video while he was in Haiti. Very powerful and moving. You might remember Ryan from this entry.

Last, for your consideration, this article from the Washington Post about the U.S. Military involvement in Haiti.

Ben

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