Three Weeks in Haiti

We spent our first two weeks in Haiti living upstairs at the orphanage. It was a great period of immersion- living in close quarters with all the children really helped us develop relationships. Sometimes it was difficult for us and our children, because there were always kids wanting to talk to and touch us. But, it was really worth the sacrifice of space and privacy in order to have that time at the orphanage. We were able to attend nightly chapel time as often as possible, and our big kids had many late nights staying up with the teenagers to chat and have impromptu Creole lessons.

Several days ago, we moved into a nice little house that we are renting until the future orphanage boys home (which will first be our home) is completely ready. The children at the orphanage were so sad when they first saw us load up our things in a car to bring to the house. They surrounded us, and kept wanting us to stay longer. We promised them that we were only moving down the street, and that we would be back every day to eat dinner and play with them. They couldn’t believe it – I think they just expected us to leave for good! Sometimes they still ask us, “Are you coming back tomorrow?” It is so beautiful to see the friendships that our kids are making here. Even the Haitian teenagers love my little children, and light up every time they see them.

The move to a house has helped our family to have a little bit of space and privacy – we can now have a quiet family prayer time at night and our kids can do their homeschool work at home before heading to the orphanage to play in the afternoon. The puppy loves having a yard to explore – she especially likes finding a fallen coconut to chew on. We are only a short walk from the orphanage, so the kids can walk back and forth and we still have plenty of time visiting there. We had to accept a lot of help in order to move – the teenage boys from the orphanage carried beds and mattresses, the cooking ladies supplied our home kitchen with simple foods, orphanage workers helped us find bleach and ant spray and other essentials. It has been humbling to accept so much help. We have been given such a warm welcome by the orphanage kids, the staff, and everywhere we have visited.

Now that we are becoming more settled, we are craving a bit of routine and a way to fit into life here. Soon, Ryan will begin working regularly at the clinic and helping with administrative work there. It has been difficult to begin much work yet, because a fever has been working its way through each member of our family. Also, the internet can be very intermittent, so communication is difficult. Routine is often a challenge here – often days are spent waiting… for the internet to work, for transportation, or supplies. It is a different pace of life, and it takes flexibility and patience!

JP playing in the orphanage playground

Eliana loves making Andre laugh

Olivia can always find a girl to play tea party with

 

Small sacrifices

We’ve made it through a whole week here in Haiti. We’ve had some fevers, homesickness, fighting and whining and general angst while getting used to living in a brand new culture, with 50 new people, and sleeping our whole family in one room.

I was worried that my kids would have terrible moments of hunger for familiar foods, and homesickness for friends and family. They have experienced that, but they have also been amazingly willing to make the small sacrifices required to live here for a while and invest in these people.

There are those moments when I really am proud of my kids for being willing to make sacrifices. The bucket showers are shockingly cold. There have been times when the meals are not quite what we expect, or aren’t available when we are hungry.

Sometimes, we wake up starving and wait until after morning prayers to eat, and then there is nothing except bread and peanut butter. We are far away from any stores out here in the mountains! Breakfast is bread, lunch is bread and pasta and potatoes (“pommes de terre” – translated as dirt apples!). Spam is a good little burst of protein! Homemade donuts, fried plantains (“bannam peze”)… carbs carbs carbs. All of a sudden, fruit began to appear yesterday – woo hoo! We always enjoy a big dinner with rice and beans (“diri ak pwa”) and fried chicken or fish!

Today, Luke got into serious trouble for being mean. I really think he is just confused and acting out. There are dozens of kids running up to him and touching him, so he sometimes gets annoyed and overwhelmed. When he was sitting in time out, he told me that he missed his living room with toys. He just blurted out, “I want a living room!” I totally understand how he feels!

It has been a bit of a challenge for the introverts in our family to get used to living at an orphanage with about 50 people. The Haitian children constantly want to play with and talk to our children. The Haitians especially love Olivia and John Paul. We can hear voices say their names over and over, everywhere we walk. The kids are starting to warm up to the people, saying “Bonjour”, “Mesi” for the food, and giving high fives. It makes someone’s day when John Paul is brave enough to wave at them, or give them a fist bump!

Our big kids have been extraordinary. They have been playing with the kids here practically non-stop. They attend morning and evening prayers and Masses, always sitting on a bench surrounded by new friends. We have been teaching kids how to sew, crochet, and draw.

It has been difficult to get accustomed to the slower pace of life and the challenges of learning a language, but we are slowly but surely making relationships and settling into this season of life. Next week, we are scheduled to move into a rental house – that should be interesting and exciting!

Olivia learning to wash clothes
 

Arriving in Haiti

We arrived in Haiti, I was very surprised when we landed on the runway. It was bumpy – all the other runways I have ever been on were smooth. When I felt that, I knew that I was in a very new place.

Once we got off the airplane, we went to pay our customs. There was a huge line, but the people working there let my family go through a really short line. After that we went to baggage claim – it was really packed and loud. Lucky for me I only had to stand and watch our stuff while everyone else went and found the baggage. Once we had found all of our baggage we took a “bus” out side to the helicopter. We were short on space for the baggage, and had to put the rest of the baggage by people’s feet. We arrived at the helicopter and got instructions for boarding. I was able to Co-pilot the helicopter it was very fun, and the view was amazing.

Once we got to Haiti 180 I was very amazed to see all the kids standing waiting for us. They all were excited to have us there. All the kids helped with our baggage, even though it was quite heavy (some of the bags were almost 40 LBS or 20 LBS). The kids helped each other, and walked up the stairs to our room we would be staying. Our room is very big with a lot of bunk-beds. I choose to sleep on a bottom bunk. I did not really like the thin metal bars used for climbing up. Ellie choose to sleep above me… I do not know how she likes it up there. Then again I like weird things.

For any meal time, they ring a bell three times. The first time meaning “Come get food.” The second time means “Hurry up get your food” and the third time means “Okay, Okay, HURRY UP it’s time to eat.” Almost everyone eats at different times. I prefer to come at the second bell. I think its best not to eat before everyone else and not to eat after everyone else. I love their bread (I think they make it themselves). It is like no other bread that I have tasted. The bread is extremely smooth and soft and with peanut butter its amazing. The rice that they make is also amazing – I love rice! The chicken legs are amazing as well, the only thing I do not really like is the bean sauce. Everyone tells me that I need to try it. A sweet 4 year old girl named Sarah made me try it. I did not want to be rude and tried it, It’s the nice thing to do right?

Every night and very morning there is prayer time – everyone goes to the chapel and has prayer time. They do a different prayer every day because if they did not the kids probably would get bored. I find it hard to go because I do not know what they are saying. I normally do go every single day though, although (I will not lie) I have skipped morning prayer.

The kids here are amazing – they are so sweet and fun to be around. They also love to learn. Once, I was on one of the swings there and was doing a weird contortion thing on the swing while it was moving. Naica was swinging with me and said “Teach me.” I was kind of nervous to teach her how to do this weird thing I came up with… but I did. I showed her step by step, the first step was to but the swing seat on your back, second step was to run forward with the swing still on your back, third step was to bring your legs up to the chains and wrap your one foot around the swing so you will not fall, forth step is to let go of the chains with both hands, fifth step is to bring one leg down (the one not keeping you from falling) and then grab your foot with your hand and bring it all the way past your head. (This is all while moving.) Naica did okay she could not bring her foot past her head she did however bring her legs up which is good. Naica saw me doing handstands, front walkovers, back bend kick overs, and a few more gymnastic moves. She wanted me to teach her, sadly I taught her but she did not get the hang of it.

One thing I am very surprised about is the internet. I was told the internet would never work. It is pretty terrible, but it is still okay to do some things. I have been able to go onto YouTube and email people, call my grandma and grandpa, and do quite a bit more. I was even able to make a You Tube video.

Me and friends!
 

Welcome to Haiti


After a long and exhausting journey we are finally here, in Haiti. After so many years of waiting for the right moment to return, and after months of planning, it feels very surreal to be here, and to see our kids in this place.

Haiti is a different world. The sights, sounds, smells, textures, everything seems filtered through a different light. It’s almost like experiencing everything through completely different eyes.

We left Austin on Monday the 4th of January. 
Luke, Olivia, and John Paul had their first plane ride, and their reactions were priceless. Luke was terrified, and wouldn’t let go of my arm at first. He squeezed so tight! He insisted on having his window shade down, and didn’t want to see what was outside his window. After I reassured him and promised that we would be safe he relaxed, and even allowed me to open his window. Then he realized that this was actually fun and amazing, and he loved watching the runway recede as the plane took off. John Paul laughed and laughed, and Olivia tried to get a view from the middle seat.

Finally we made it to Port au Prince, and although the baggage claim was the usual bedlam, it was not as bad as I’ve seen.


We made it through customs to the helicopter, and despite my doubts, the pilot was able to fit all of us and all our luggage. Emma got to fly in the copilot seat this time. I had John Paul on my lap, and after a little crying, he fell asleep mid-flight, poor guy. Luke and Olivia had the time of their lives, they have no idea how lucky they are.


When we landed at the field near the orphanage, there was a huge entourage to welcome us. Somebody grabbed each of the kids, and they were gone before I could look up. They were so excited to see our kids.


After supper they offered a special mass on our behalf, and it was so sweet. Sister Florence said some very kind words about missionary work, and how wonderful and special it is for our family to be able to serve the Lord and serve the poor in this way. After the mass there was a special presentation to welcome us, and then the orphanage kids danced for us, and they served cake, and partied late into the night.


Poor John Paul was a little shell shocked because everyone kept trying to pick him up. Luke just ran with the boys, and I kept seeing flashes of him at various times. Olivia is very popular with the girls, and just ran and played all evening. Selah drew a crowd with her balloon animals, and Eliana and Emma found many friends.

The house we are planning to live in is not ready yet, so we are staying upstairs at the orphanage. It is fun to live right at the orphanage with all the children, although it is a bit uncomfortable to be living out of suitcases.

We’re looking forward to getting to know all the people here, and to begin our work at the St. Mother Teresa Clinic, and to many adventures. Please don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and our email list for updates.

Emma got to ride in the copilot seat on the helicopter.
John Paul didn’t like the ear muffs, but he loved riding in the helicopter.
The children at Kay Mari were so eager to welcome our kids.
Olivia fit right in.
John Paul found a special friend.

 

“Are you ready?”

This is the question that we keep hearing, and the question that Ryan and I regularly ask each other and our children. In just two weeks, we are bringing our family of eight to Haiti. We wonder how each of the kids will react to the completely different way of life they are about to experience… Will the toddler and preschooler have a hard time sleeping in the new surroundings, heat, and mosquito net-covered beds? Will the older kids miss their grandparents and friends, as well as familiar foods and toys? Will they be able to really see the purpose and joy in serving the poor, and then make the small sacrifices of comfort and familiarity in order to serve faithfully? I wonder if we are ready to leave behind all of the things that make life so comfortable and easy in Texas in exchange for third world country challenges. It will be difficult… often the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We are in the fourth week of Advent, which is meant to be a time of penance and preparation. We pause, clean our homes and hearts, pray, and become more and more ready for the coming of our Savior. How often do we really feel ready for Christmas, let alone ready to allow God deep into our hearts, to bring new transformations? We may be ready to jump into the next season, into something new and big, but we are never fully prepared.

Imagine a young couple who is eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. They are so excited to meet this new little person, and to begin the adventure of life as a family. They make all of the preparations, and become as ready as possible. But, nothing can truly prepare them for the reality of parenting – the absolute joy and exhaustion they will experience, and the love and strength they will need in order to give so much of themselves to their child.

The story of Mary during the Annunciation is such a beautiful example of this. Mary was created in a special way, to fulfill this incredible purpose of carrying the Son of God on earth. She was ready to do this job, and ready to answer, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” Yet, nothing could really have prepared her for the intensity of that moment – being surprised by an angel and given a message that was difficult to understand. She was “greatly troubled” at what was said. It took a great amount of faith and grace to accept the role she was given at that moment.

How appropriate that we are in the final stretch of preparation for our family mission during this season of Advent. It’s a time of waiting. We pray, we talk about some of of the experiences we will have in Haiti. We practice fun little Creole phrases with the kids. We tell them things they will love (playing soccer and doing crafts with the Haitian kids), and things they will probably not love (the humidity and bucket baths). Most of all, we ask God for patience, flexibility, and grace to follow where He has called us, and to take a leap of faith.

 

Heneise Update: We’re Still Stateside 🇺🇸

Though we planned to arrive in Haiti 🇭🇹 November 7, our plans have changed a bit.

What happened? We planned to arrive in Port au Prince and then take a helicopter to the Haiti180 mission, which is located in a very remote part of southern Haiti. Taking the helicopter avoids having to drive through Port au Prince, which is not known to be the safest of cities. Unfortunately our helicopter pilot couldn’t obtain a certain required certification in time, and we decided that it would be better to postpone our trip rather than risk having to drive through PauP. 

So here we are, still stateside, and trying to be patient while we wait on things that are outside our control.

Special thanks to everyone who has offered prayers for us and for our mission! And special thanks to everyone who has supported our mission financially. If you’d like to support our mission, please go to https://memberdrive.org/haiti180/heneise-family.

Find out more about our mission, Haiti180, at https://haiti180.com.

 

Everything you wanted to know about our mission to Haiti

What’s the name of our mission?

Our mission is called Haiti180.

“At our core, the mission of Haiti180 is to create the opportunity to form well educated leaders of faith for the future of Haiti and to make sure every child in our care has a childhood that is filled with love and joy. With your love, support, and prayer, we have been blessed with the opportunity to broaden our focus, reaching out to the poorest of the poor from the young to the old professing God’s love through our developments in education, medical care, housing, and so much more for the kind and loving people of Haiti. We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ and together, we can turn it around.

What does the mission do?

Haiti180 runs an orphanage for about 40 children, a school for about 400, a home for the elderly, and a medical clinic. You can find out more about Haiti180 at https://haiti180.com/what-we-do/

What’s our mission affiliation?

Haiti180 is a Catholic lay apostolate. Though there is no official affiliation with the Catholic Church, the mission does work closely with Catholic priests and religious.

Where is our mission located?

Haiti180 is located in the southern peninsula of Haiti, near the villages of Duverger and Danndan approximately 80 miles west of Port au Prince. It’s a very remote area. The people who live in the mountains there have little access to health care, and the closest hospital is a long, uncomfortable distance over bumpy roads by motorcycle or car. 

Does the orphanage do adoption?

The orphanage does not do international adoption. Kay Mari (Mary’s House) provides a stable, loving, permanent home for children who have lost both their parents and have no known relatives.

When are we going?

Our trip starts November 7, 2020. We’ll be staying in Haiti until December 20, and then we’ll come back to Texas for Christmas. If all goes well, then we’ll be returning to Haiti in January.

UPDATE (Nov 5, 2020): our trip has been postponed for a few weeks. Our plan is to fly into Port au Prince and then take a helicopter from the PAP airport to the Haiti180 mission, which is very remote. Unfortunately our helicopter pilot wasn’t able to get a certification that is required to fly, and so we have to wait until he gets that certification. We are very disappointed, but we’re trusting God that everything will work out in the end for his glory. Thanks again to everyone who has kept us in your prayers.

What will we be doing?

Our goal is to serve the poor and demonstrate Christ’s love to people in Haiti through Christian service. Bethany has a passion for working with women and children, so she’ll be conducting health classes and training women in fertility awareness and women’s health. Ryan will be translating for Bethany and helping with administration at the clinic.

How can you support our work?

The most important way you can help is through your prayers. Please let us know if you pray a rosary for our family or for the mission. It would encourage us so much. You can also financially support Haiti180’s mission by joining Team180 on MemberDrive: https://MemberDrive.org/haiti180/ryan-and-bethany-heneise.

Other ways you can help

Can you visit us?

Yes! Haiti180 welcomes short-term missionaries. If you’d like to visit us, it might be possible to tag along with another mission team. Find out more at https://haiti180.com/go/.

Is it safe?

The city of Port au Prince is not a safe place. We will avoid the city entirely by boarding a helicopter directly from the Port au Prince airport. The helicopter will fly us directly to the Haiti180 mission, preventing us from having to travel by car through Port au Prince and the surrounding areas.

How can we keep in touch?

Haiti does not have a functioning postal service, so unfortunately there’s no mail. Fortunately we do have pretty good internet, so the easiest way to get in touch with us is via email. You can email us at our first names at Heneise.com.

You can also subscribe to our blog, follow us on Facebook, and message us through Facebook Messenger.

 

My First Trip to Haiti

I first arrived in Haiti on December 13th, with a week-long mission group. We landed at the Port-au-Prince airport, then took a helicopter into the mountains. Looking at Haiti from the helicopter was wonderful and sad at the same time. Haiti has stunningly green, tall mountains, rivers, trees, and everything that makes a place beautiful.

However, this beauty was far away from the cities and from Port-au-Prince. These places were different. Some houses, the size of a small car, were so crowded together that you could lean out your window and reach into someone else’s. That was very saddening, especially remembering all the comforts of our home.

The helicopter landed a short walk from the orphanage. All the kids from the orphanage (and some that weren’t) were there, watching. It was pretty funny- a few kids were filming us landing with iPads! Our baggage was unloaded, and then within a minute, the Haitian kids had picked it all up, and were off to the orphanage. We followed them. We went through someone’s backyard! They were preparing their food. We said “Bonjour” and waved. They didn’t seem to mind us going through their yard! 

I remember feeling so excited when I first saw the orphanage! We were shown upstairs to the missionaries’ rooms, and then given a tour. The kids and I were a little shy at first, but when I brought out some yarn, they all jumped on it. They showed me how to make all different kinds of braids out of it. I showed some of the older girls how to crochet a little, and they had fun laughing at their attempts to make stitches.

I made so many new friends, and I can’t wait to go back and meet them again! The kids just love having someone their own age to play with. My fondest memories are our tickle wars, with me against everyone else, playing tag, them teaching me cartwheels, and them doing my hair. They made me countless bracelets out of the yarn I gave them! 

We also went on multiple home visits in the mountains. Some of the people were better off than others, but they all make me sad to think of. I still pray for them whenever I think of them. They certainly do need prayer! But it is amazing how happy you can make them with a few games, gifts, and some time. A little boy, maybe eight years old, wanted me to dance with him when some members of the team were playing some music. I think that dance made his month. You should have seen the smile on his face!

I hope this story has given you a new love for all the people who need us! Please help us support them with your prayers. Thank all of you so much!

 

The Call

It all started in 1947. That’s the year my grandparents arrived in Cap Haitian on a banana boat. A real banana boat, via Havana from Miami. The several days’ ocean journey must have given my grandmother plenty of time to think about the baby growing inside her. To what sort of future had they committed their young family? One of uncertainty and difficulty, to be sure, and also to one of faith, and trust, and reliance on God’s providence.

In those days there were no direct flights from Miami to Cap Haitian. There were no flights at all. No, the only way to get to Haiti was by boat. The fledgling missionaries were met in the Cap Haitian Harbor by the three resident pioneer Baptist missionaries, all dressed in starched white suits, who paddled out to the ship to meet them in a rowboat.

Cap Haitian looked like a painting. “Pastel stucco houses with red roofs and a silver-domed cathedral against a green mountain backdrop topped with a blue, blue sky”, she wrote in her first letter to her mother.

Cap Haitian was indeed the Pearl of the Antilles, for a while. During the colonial period sugar, tobacco, indigo, molasses, coffee, and cotton were produced and exported in massive quantities to America and Europe. Slavery was the cornerstone and foundation of the French colonial economy, of which Cap Français, later Cap Haïtien, was the chief treasure. If an Englishman took sugar in his tea, it had likely been produced using slave labor in Hispaniola.

Haiti carries her head high as the first nation to successfully throw off the bonds of slavery and establish a lasting nation. Nevertheless, by the time my grandparents arrived in 1947 crippling debt, political corruption, and foreign occupation had taken their toll on the Haitian economy. It never regained its footing, and remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

But that day Cap Haïtien shone like a pearl. For my grandparents, Ayiti, “the mountainous land”, would be their home for the next forty years.

In December of the same year my dad was born in Hôpital Universitaire Justinien in Cap Haitian. My dad, along with his brother and two sisters, grew up in Haiti. Not exactly Haitian, they weren’t entirely American either. Missionary kids occupy an awkward middle position, able to be at home everywhere, but never fully fitting in anywhere.

My grandparents’ work was evangelical. Harold, my grandfather, was an ordained Baptist minister. Grammy Ivah was no mere missionary’s wife. A woman of formidable will, it was she who organized the mission projects while Harold crafted his sermons. Together they founded Haiti’s first Baptist theological seminary. When people began coming with various maladies, Grammy would treat them as well as she could under the nearby mango tree. The Good Samaritan mango tree grew into a clinic, then the Hôpital Bon Samaritain, at one time one of the most respected medical institutions in Haiti.

The little seminary took root like the hospital, and before long it was turning out Baptist ministers, who went out to evangelize the countryside. Eventually the seminary was expanded into a full university, with courses in economics, administration, fine arts, and theology.

My father also felt the call to Haiti. After graduating from California Polytechnic College, he came back to volunteer at the Haitian Baptist Convention’s new agricultural school at Quartier Morin, not far from the seminary, outside Cap Haïtien. After he married my mom, the two of them moved there and made it their home. Centre Agricole—the Agricultural Center—blossomed into a full research farm, boasting a variety of field crops and animals. Maybe a bit unconventional in the evangelistic missionary world, the farm employed hundreds of people and became the focal point of the local economy.

Around the time that I was born, my parents took a break to pursue their graduate studies in agriculture at the University of Idaho. Though I was born in Idaho while they were finishing their theses, before long I was toddling along on the hard clay of Centre Agricole.

I grew up there, on the farm, surrounded by my Haitian friends. Like my father and his siblings, I had a foot planted lightly in each world. But Haiti was home.


Political violence is a normal fact of life in Haiti, so when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed in 1991, it seemed par for the course. But anger boiled over, and threats against foreigners had to be taken seriously. Eventually the US Embassy in Port au Prince urged all Americans to leave. We were given 24 hours to decide: stay and take our chances, or leave on the last plane out of Cap Haitian. We chose to leave.

I was thirteen when we left Haiti. During the sporadic course of my college career I went back to Haiti several times for extended periods. I stayed with my aunt Laurie and my wonderful cousins Tony and Laura, and volunteered at the university. Tony was an avid mountain biker, and we explored the countryside on our bikes.

One summer Bethany came to Haiti on a mission trip. She was finishing her nursing degree, and as destiny would have it, had signed up for a nursing mission trip led by my aunt Pam, who was a nursing instructor at her school. We discovered that we shared a love of Haiti and a calling to mission.

After we got married we kept making plans to go back to Haiti together, but each time something would came up—usually children. We both wanted to go back, but as the saying goes, one does not simply walk into Haiti. It’s a challenging place to visit, let alone to live, let alone with children. And yet, that calling was still there, in the back of both of our minds, waiting, tugging.


The night I found out that Tony had died, I couldn’t sleep. He was too young, how could this be?

I lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, wondering why I hadn’t been there for him. Why had I turned my back on Haiti all these years. There just didn’t seem to be a way back. That moment is etched in my memory. I said to God “look, I’m ready to go, but I can’t see the way. If you want me to go, you’re going to have to show me how”.

[UPDATE: Bethany reminded me that I had specifically said to God that if this is what he wanted us to do, not only did he need to show me the way, he would need to show Bethany the way too. I pledged to keep it to myself, but the next morning she said to me “maybe we should go back to Haiti”.]

Turns out, when you say things like that, God treats it like an invitation.

About a year ago, a friend introduced us to a television show called Real Life Catholic. They had aired two episodes featuring a mission in Haiti called Haiti180. With an orphanage, a school, a home for the elderly, and a medical clinic, it is a whole-life mission. But best of all, it is Catholic. It was place where we could see ourselves serving, living for a while, maybe a long while.

Here we are, today, at the end of September 2020, finally preparing to go, for real this time. It all starts this Fall, when we’ll spend two months at the Haiti180 mission. Bethany will work with the clinic as a nurse, and I’ll help out with administration as much as I can. If all goes well, we’ll return after the new year for an extended assignment.

Callings don’t always work out the way you imagine. For us, I imagined we’d have been in Haiti all this time. But here we are, finally making it happen. And maybe the timing is just perfect.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:22–28, RSV-CE)

 

Trust Without Borders

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Whenever you would call me, Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.” Oceans by Hillsong United

My heart for missions began long ago, when I was just ten years old and a missionary from Africa came to speak to my class in church. I saw God’s heart for the poor of the world, and I just knew that I would also become a missionary someday. God’s plans are even bigger and better than we could imagine, because that missionary soon married my mother and became my step-father! He shared with me about his life in Kenya and increased my love for God’s children everywhere and especially for the poorest people in the world.

Several years later, while I was in nursing school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti with my nursing professor. She was born in Haiti to a missionary family, and she led us through the countryside of North Haiti to visit villages and bring medical care to the extremely poor people there.  While on that trip, I was introduced to her extended family, and met my husband, Ryan! We have been married for 16 years now, and have six amazing children. Our family has kept our heart for missions alive through prayer and financially supporting organizations in Haiti, as well as being involved in foster care and adoption here in the States. Still, we always hoped to return to Haiti with our family.

So many times over the years, Ryan and I would start the process of traveling to Haiti, and then something would happen and we would end our plans. Last year, we were introduced to the directors of Haiti 180, a mission organization located in the remote mountains of Southern Haiti. Very soon after meeting the directors, Ryan and I knew that this was a clear answer to a calling we have been discerning for such a long time. It truly is a calling. Many times, it seems overwhelming and just impossible to bring a family of eight people all the way to the rural mountains of Haiti to serve the poor. Traveling anywhere with young children is difficult. Yet, we are answering this call, and we are ready to begin walking down this path.

I have been brushing off my nursing skills by taking online certification courses, with a focus on women’s health and tropical medicine. I am passionate about helping women during pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work part-time as a nurse in the Haiti 180 clinic. I also plan to begin a training class with the local nurses and young women in the village to encourage healthy families and natural family planning. 

This year has been full of waiting. The global pandemic has changed so many things, and travel has become a challenge. Although it has been frustrating, this time of waiting has been extremely fruitful. Our three oldest children have been homeschooling since mid-summer, in anticipation of our first trip this Fall. Each of my girls are busy learning new crafts and gathering supplies to bring and to teach to the older children at the orphanage – crochet bags, cross-stitched saints, and handmade rosaries! We will spend six weeks in November and December getting to know life at the mission in Haiti 180 – loving on the children at the Kay Mari children’s home, visiting with the lovely people at the elderly home, and serving at the Saint Mother Theresa Medical Clinic. I can’t wait to share updates on this blog, and especially to include blog posts written by my children sharing their experiences!

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