Friday, August 17, 2012


One night, back in early June, Megan and I were in our usual spot - sitting out on the porch where you can catch a breeze - playing cards (Skip-Do/Bo obviously). I took a sip of my chilled drink, bugs swarmed around our porch light lit up with electricity, and music from my computer softly cut through the night. We were talking as Megan dealt another hand. She looked up at me, looked around where we were sitting and said, “Think about where we were this time last year.” ...Oh wow. This time last year we were at the old house in the pitch dark, huddled up in bed under our mosquito net, sweating half to death because our battery-powered fans were constantly out of batteries. There was probably a crying child in our room and we probably had no idea what we were doing; but one thing could be counted on, at some point the next day we would have to eat raman, a cliff bar, or if it was a good day, fake cheese and macaroni shells because that is all we had. We reminisced about life back in that other house and laughed. 

The first piece of land purchased by Respire, taken last June.
This trip down memory lane was just another moment in a long line of moments that hit me periodically throughout the summer; moments where I realized how our God is a transformative God. Looking around Bellvue Mountain, at Respire, the streets we walk down everyday, the people with whom we interact, in our very selves, the transformative work of God is clear and it is absolutely astounding.

The people cooker.
I think back to last year when Megan and I would walk with visitors up the back trail to the mountain. We would walk over to the tree and she would excitedly tell whoever it was that this is the land we bought and the site where the school was going to go! At that time, there were 100 students in the school meeting in the one room church (or people cooker as it seems most days). It was a great start, but man was it chaotic trying to teach 100 kids all sorts of different things in ONE very hot, noisy, crowded room. But now there is a school - the 6 classroom building was opened in January and the new 4 classroom kindergarten will be all ready to go when school starts again in the fall. So many of these children are restaveks (child slaves), orphans, and/or are living in extreme poverty. So many are getting to go to school for the first time. This is really challenging. But it is really beautiful to see transformation happening in their lives through education and all the work that is being put in to ensure that their education is quality. 
The new kindergarten building during construction.

Ramase Lajan recycling center!
I think about what Respire was when it started. It was a girl who may or may not have been crazy, moving down to Haiti on total faith, to love on children. Then came a school. Then came a child feeding program. Then came more land, and a builder, and more plans, and then buildings, then partnerships, programs, progress. Now instead of just focusing on one or two aspects of life, Respire recognizes that you have to look at a child holistically. Simply offering a child an education is wonderful, but so many other things affect their ability to receive an education: what's going on at home? are they healthy? do they have basic needs met? and on and on. Respire is working to address all these things by reaching out to and educating parents, opening a clinic, providing jobs to help families sustain themselves, feeding kids physically and spiritually every weekend. People are constantly coming in and giving time to enrich kids lives through English classes, guitar lessons, sports camps, art, you name it. Children are not just being taught how to read and do math; they are being taught respect, tolerance, and other cornerstones of strong character, through the feeding program turned discipleship program. And now, thanks to some incredible partnerships, Respire is supporting artisans through Haiti's Jewels (which you really need to check out), raising food for the school through sustainable agriculture with Love Your Neighbor, and opening a recycling center (OH YEA!) through Ramase Lajan. I am so proud of those organizations and the people behind them, they are all truly incredible. (Click on all those links, its so worth it!)

Love Your Neighbor's garden on the side of Bellvue Mountain.
I look at my dear, dear friend Tachi and how much she has grown over the last year. She is one of the strongest women I know. She started off staying with Megan and I for a week last summer in between jobs and now runs our house like a machine. And her cooking is great; we would all die without her. Tachi is a leader in our house, a dedicated mother, and an example to the ladies that work with us. Ladies like Darlene, who has come to live with us, along with her son, Jezilo. Their story is an incredible one of transformation, read more about it here on Megan's blog. 

Super Tachi and her daughter Esther.
Over everything, perhaps, I am most astounded by Megan and her family. Having been there when Micha first came to live with Megan, I don't even know how to describe the way this little girl has been completely transformed. I think back to the beginning - she was a poor, scared, erratic child. But she had such a magnificent and genuine smile despite it all. I can't imagine what she had been through and I can't imagine she thought, at first anyway, that this new found stability was going to last. I would sit with her and work with her on learning numbers and colors. She could not stinkin' remember pink (woz) or orange (jon abricot) and I thought to myself, "Man this is not good! Is she very smart?" And when I came back at Christmastime last year, I couldn't believe that thought ever crossed my mind. Micha is BRILLIANT. She knows English so well now that we can have conversations, and let me tell you, she is a neat kid. And she knows all her colors now :).
Micah, Jessica, and mangos as BIG as their heads!!

Had to include one of Jessi in the Pooh Suit
because it is my life's joy!
I remember when I first heard that Jessica, Micha's younger sister, would be coming to live with Megan as well. I was a little worried - she just became a mom and now was getting another kid. Jessica came on the exact day that I left last year and I didn't get to meet her, which I still think is funny. But seeing her from Christmas to June and June to August, she is growing beautifully as well. I am so thankful she is here. Jessica reminds me of my little sister in so many ways, she's totally got 'tude. I would probably call her a turd under my breath about 4 times a day, but oh my gosh, this child is so precious. And the more she is loved on, the better she gets. And the fact that she and Micha have each other has made such a noticeable difference in their lives. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about them together - playing, laughing, fighting, getting older - and knowing how much my sister has meant to me. Jessica and Micha both, day by day, are growing in the good, Spirit-filled, loving home that they are being raised in. 

Throwback: us in college.
See? Totally different :)
And at the head of that home is Megan, who is one of the great treasures in my life. I have loved seeing what the Lord has done transforming her into a mother. I can't really speak to the extent that it has been difficult for her, even having gone into the trenches with her as much as I can. And I don't know many people that could've done it, or would've been willing to make the sacrifices that she has. She stepped up. She was not a mother back in June of last year, but she said yes to taking in and loving these sweet girls with all her heart. God took that and transformed her into a mom, and a goshdarn good one at that. (I have a lot of bad to compare it to thanks to my last several psych/social work internships.) It is truly amazing and such a testament to the transformative power of God. 
Momma Megan

The craziest thing that has struck me in all this is that this thing didn't just start last year. It didn't start when that crazy girl decided to move down to Haiti. It started 14 years ago when Pastor Benito and his wife would go up Bellvue Mountain to pray every Sunday morning at 4am. Pray that God would do something, bring somebody, to transform that mountain from the dark, voodoo ceremony hotspot it was to a place that brought life and hope to the people of Gressier. And things fell into place over the years. Megan had experiences that shaped her and lead her to where she is now. Our paths crossed in college and I'm blessed to have been along for this ride. Bernard was learning English from New Yorkers and getting shaped into the genius he is today. Tachi was busy overcoming remarkable odds to get where she was when we met her. And so on with every person's story who has been a part of Respire Haiti. 

When the Benitos were with Megan signing papers for the purchase of the first piece of land, they cried and praised God for answering their prayers. After 14 long years, God answered, and in a HUGE way. It makes me wonder with much excitement what he has in the works right now, in all of our lives. What person might we meet tomorrow that points us down a certain path, what random inspring thing might we read, what nice looking rock or bit of glass (Sophie) might we see on the ground will God use to continue his transformative work in our lives? All praise and glory to him for his mighty works! And for another great summer in Haiti. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

DR Vacation!

At some point last month, I decided that I was going to take Megan on vacation - a REAL vacation. Actually get her away from the chaos of Haiti and the demands of work. And then I commenced the planning of this marvelous trip. We would take a much-needed, girl bonding time, beach, history, adventure, long-weekend in the Dominican Republic. At night, I would pour over Trip Advisor and other such travel sites trying to make this the BEST vacation ever. And finally, after much fretting over perfecting this trip on my part, we left for Santo Domingo last Thursday. Here we go.

Its sometime around 6:30 in the morning and I wake up to the sound of my alarm and practically shoot out of bed. VACATION IS HERE AT LAST! Megan is a little slower on the uptake. She finally gets out of bed after I’ve eaten breakfast and finished up the finer details of packing. We kiss the girls goodbye (which is dramatic) and then hop into the truck with Josh. We take off by 7:30 which gives us plenty of time to catch our 10 o’clock bus from PAP to SD. Josh remarks that I look like a kid on Christmas. I try to deny it, but my goofy grin and excessive early morning energy betray me. As we get into the city though, there is HORRIFIC traffic. At first I am unphased; we have plenty of time to get there right? But time keeps moving, the cars in front of us do not, and we start to get a little panicky. I try to call the bus station and ask if the bus is on time, but of course, we’re in Haiti and the phone number for the bus company doesn’t work… Megan and I are flipping. Will we make it!??!

Eventually we make it to the bus station at 10:07 and FLY out of the car. The bus is still there! We make it on and settle into our seat giggling like kiddies. We’re going on vacation! The bus is actually super nice and pretty empty so Megs and I pig out on snacks that we packed in the special “bus snacks” bag before claiming our own rows of seats and passing out. In no time, we make it to the border.

Megan at the border
Ohhh the border. First of all, the traffic is so jammed up trying to get into the DR, we watch an ENTIRE movie before even getting to customs/immigration. When we finally get there, we are herded off the bus and into this nasty, hot, chaotic, outdoor office thing to get our passports stamped and all that. We change some money and go wait in line to pass. Well right in front of our faces, some Haitian guy pays a bribe to a border officer who promptly escorts him to the front of the line, which happens to be right in front of us. Megan does not accept this and begins yelling at both of them in Creole. I love when this happens. Everyone’s faces around us look all shocked and amazed that this white girl 1) speaks Creole 2) uses it to chew out grown men. Needless to say, he does not get his passport stamped before ours and a couple of people applaud when this happens. Then we make our way back to the bus as several small children hit us up for money or poke us, only stopping to buy several mini-bags of roasted peanuts. (Total time spent at border: ~THREE hours.)

The rest of the bus ride is pretty uneventful. We watch Downton Abby and then feel a little carsick and sleep. Finally about 11 hours later, we make it into SD! I am the HAPPIEST person when we get off the bus and immediately a cab driver out front yells, “Kat!” and waves at me. I was so worried about getting a ride from the bus station to our hotel that is actually outside of the city about 30 minutes in Boca Chica, a cute beach town. After trying to arrange something with our hotel and not working it out (as the bus is really inconsistent timewise), I figured we would just have to catch a random cab. But the same day we are on the bus, we find out Bernard has a driver he has used in the DR who speaks Creole. So Bernard called up Julio who met us at the bus station. When I hear Julio call my name, my anxiety gets put to rest and I know this is going to be a super vacation.

We make it to our hotel safe and sound. We then eat a delicious pizza and fall asleep in our own separate beds in an air-conditioned room. Ah, paradise.

The next day, I have a terrific day of sight-seeing in SD planned out for us. But first we sleep late, have a delicious complimentary breakfast at the hotel, and stroll/lay on the beach for a bit. Then in the afternoon, we catch a bus into the city. A real bus with seats and air-conditioning, like, not a tap-tap. Ah, paradise. The level of development on this side of the island blows our minds. Really I can, and probably should write a whole other post about how mind-blowingly different the two sides of this island are because its jarring. It gave me so much to think about. Sure they have their problems over in the DR, but they also have highways, tourism, real stores (like IKEA!), restaurants everywhere, running water, and the list goes onnnn. But anyway, the bus drops us off at the gates of the old city, in Independence Park.

Raphael & Meg at The First Hospital of America!
We walk around for a minute getting our bearings and admiring the park, when we are approached by a tour guide. Yes, we would like to take a tour. And sure I would like to feel out more tour guides and pick the best, but we’re overly excited and their doesn’t seem to be anyone else around. So Raphael, this short, kind of old dude in a camo hat is our guide for the next several hours. He takes us around the colonial zone, at a very rapid speed. I try to stop and take pictures and then look down the road and see that I am getting very left behind. He knows all the spots but that’s about it. So he walks us to whatever beautiful, cool, historic thing and says, “… The First ________ of America!” The blank was filled in with things like, “cobblestone street, hospital, town hall, cathedral” etc. And when would ask more questions about the first whatever of America we were looking at, he would kinda shrug, and then take off down the street again. So we saw many, many beautiful Firsts of America, but we couldn’t tell you much about them… Thanks Raphael. Oh my gosh, everything in the colonial zone is gorgeous though. We are loving SD!
The cathedral in Christopher Columbus Park

Cool hats, colder margaritas :)
After the tour we are approached by a random new friend of ours who changed money for us earlier so Megan can buy a sweet new fedora. We’re hungry so he tells us how to get to a good restaurant before asking us if we like to dance and inviting us to go salsa with him at the disco. If I had a peso for every time someone asked me to so salsa with them at the disco over the course of this trip, I would have SO MANY pesos. These people love their dancing. And bringing new friends dancing. Anyway, we go have a cheese platter and delicious Italian meal. Man, it is such a sight to see us trying to get around speaking Spanish. My Spanish is extremely limited and Megan’s is completely non-existent, so basically we end up pointing at things and laughing with people who are laughing at us… After mid-afternoon meal,  we browse some shops and meet a friend for happy hour drinks. Post-happy hour we end up at this super fun Mexican restaurant, ah paradise! Then we dance the night away – salsa, bachatta, meringue, excellent freestyling. And not at obnoxious discos, but little hole-in-the-wall legit places. Like old people are dancing there too. In fact, we dance with several cute old men who smell like aftershave and teach us new steps. It is precious, and SO much fun! I am in love with the city, it is so charming and beautiful.

The next morning we sleep in again, fabulous, and then take a beach day. Our hotel is on a gorgeous beach and has a nice private area where we can totally relax and avoid all the people running around trying to sell you annoying stuff. We get massages on the beach, which is 2 parts excellent, 1 part awkward. I conclude that massages probably shouldn’t be given in public. And after spending the day chilling, we go out to a Swiss restaurant in Boca Chica. Yes, Swiss. I LOVE it. We get a bottle of wine, salads, a meat plate, and (drum roll please) cheese fondue!!
Boca Chica
We are scheduled to catch the bus bright and early the next morning, but soon realize that it would be so cruel to make ourselves get up early and then sit on a bus for 10 hours when we just got here and still have so much more fun/relaxation to do! I’m really proud of us for making the choice to stay one more night, aren’t we spontaneous? We make the necessary arrangements and then spend one more day on the beach – sunning, swimming, playing cards, eating cheeseburgers – and at last feel good and ready to head home.

I had SUCH a good time in the DR. And after getting back home, I had a very productive week. Although the power has been out since we returned... irritating. Kyle has finally made it back, which has been super helpful. We also went and played basketball for the first time on a pretty nice court at the soccer stadium in Gressier. I have to mention that because it was a total blast and something we’re definitely going to start doing regularly. I say that, and then remember that I’m only here about two more weeks. I can’t believe that. Time is precious. And vacation was excellent. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peaceful Pacing

Megan and I are leaving for a little weekend trip to the DR tomorrow – SO excited – so I thought I’d squeeze in a post before taking off on what will presumably be an epic adventure.

Except for a misadventure here or there, things have been pretty calm around here. I’ve been reflecting on the pace of my life here over the last week; it has been nearly perfect. I’ve gotten to wake up slow in the mornings and take time to study the Bible or play with the girls. My work has been enjoyable – talking with groups, helping to teach English class, brainstorming new directions for programming. I get to enjoy delicious meals with my friends each night. I have space (ok not really, I share the top floor of this house with 7 people), I have time to breathe, I have time to listen to the Lord.

I was walking back through the garden that connects our house to the intern house last night with my American cell phone in hand. It struck me that the only reason I had it was to light up my path. I couldn’t get texts or emails, check my facebook, or tweet about rice and beans or something. I’m not constantly tethered to my phone, checking it every five minutes for hardly any reason at all. Wherever I am, I am present. Whoever I am with, that is who I am with in that moment. It is freeing.

At one point, the flashlight went out for a moment as the phone went to sleep. A glimmer caught my eye. I looked up and saw the most intensely dazzling night sky. It forced me to stop, lay down on the pavement in our front yard, and just marvel at the hugeness of God. I am being so richly blessed with rest right now.  I am taking so much joy in the current pace of life and in the obvious ways God is working around me everywhere.

Wish us luck on our little DR excursion (and send us prayers)! Can’t wait to tell you about it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Adventures in School Mapping

The first week I was in Gressier, Megan and I discussed a project that she wanted me to take on this summer; a school mapping project. The idea being to map out all of the schools in town and find out some basic information about them in order to have an idea of the education situation in Gressier. I thought this sounded great as I’m prohibited from working on my research project and set to work finding a decent map of Gressier.

Turns out Google maps has a pretty good street map of town. Google blows my mind. They know EVERYTHING about EVERYWHERE, right down to mapping out the streets of some random town in Haiti. I wonder who got the job of making the Gressier map... Anyway, so I sent the map to a friend in the States who would be coming down with the team from BR who blew it up at Kinko’s and brought it to me (shoutout Holly!).

Once I got the map, I had to hit the ground running fast as there was only one official week of school left in the year. So hit the ground running I did. Each morning, I would put on my village explorer outfit (pale orange fishing shirt and khaki shorts) and a lot of sunscreen, grab some gourde for water bags and head out with Sophi to look for schools. Sophi has been an incredible translator and fellow village explorer with me. We’ve had some pretty excellent adventures and found some Gressier hotspots. We now know where the chicken-fighting arena is, all the great river laundry/bathing hotspots, found a well-stocked mini-mart by our old house, checked out the new Gressier community center, and happened upon a great little soccer field right next to the sea amongst other things.
Sophie at the new community center on the other side of town.

And, in addition to the bonus of getting to know our community a little better, we of course found schools. LOTS of schools. We visited an average of 4 per day by just happening upon them, asking people on the streets if schools were nearby, or just following kids in uniforms (not in a creepy way of course :). In a little over a week, we were able to cover most of the map. We found 21 schools and counted over 4,000 students! We also have a pretty good idea of what the average price is to go to school in the area. That is one thing that kept weighing on my mind as we visited schools – every kid in school pays to be there. Pays a considerably high price that bars many children from going. We are SO fortunate to have FREE public education in America. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a flawed system (I could expound upon that for days), but its existence is a huge feat. I’m so thankful for the ministry of Respire Haiti and Respire Haiti Christian School reaching out to children who can’t afford to go to school otherwise with a free education.

And on top of that, Respire offers a free education from solid teachers in appropriate sized classes. The variation in school conditions that we saw in Gressier was interesting. Some schools were in small, one-room churches with kids packed onto worn looking benches. Some schools had pretty nice facilities. My favorite school had classrooms built out of containers that were painted bright colors built by the Digicel Foundation. Some teachers and administrators seemed very engaged and bright, we saw others that I couldn’t help but wonder what they were even doing in a school…
Super School Mappers!
The connections that we made in the community were a great first step in getting to know the culture of education here in Gressier. We’re also hoping in the future to use this information and these connections to bring together educators in the area and facilitate their communication and learning together. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I’m drifting in and out of consciousness this morning as the pig family grunts next door when I realize that something is not quite right. I feel a little nauseous, but I can’t really tell whether its real or if I’m dreaming. A few minutes later I decide I should probably fully wake up and determine which is the case. Upon doing so, I realize that I really need to barf, in real life. I go into our bathroom and, ya know, but then feel a gurgle in my stomach and remember we don’t have toilet paper up here… so in search of paper and a little more privacy I race downstairs into our old bathroom. I would be ok with going into detail with what happens next but I’m not entirely sure of who you are and your comfort level with this so we’ll just suffice it to say that while on the potty I have to reach for the shower bucket to catch what is coming from my face. Wow, a bonafide double whammy. What the heck did I eat?!

So anyway, I slept a lot today and ate some crackers. Its evening and I’m feeling a lot better now. I just tried some carrots and fruit snacks with no negative results, so that’s optimistic. But I’m still sitting around the house and am bored. I figure it’s a great time for a blog post.

The last couple of days have been real treats. The big team from BR left early early Tuesday morning so we decide that Tuesday and Wednesday shall be our weekend as we worked straight through the real one. Megan, Josh, Wesley, and I go into town for the day for a bit of a staycation. Its only been, oh like 3 and a half weeks since we’ve gone to the grocery store as Josh has been away. Wesley takes us to this restaurant called Magdoo’s. I am skeptical of this place because of the name that I find to be a funny combination of Skip-Do (Megan and mine’s fave card game) and McDonalds. Turns out Magdoo’s is fabulous. So fabulous that I would like it in America. Then we go to a grocery store that I have never been to before – Giant. Or BigGigantic as I like to call it. They have a stinkin’ car garage and deli at BG! I get a quarter pound of deli-sliced turkey as I have been dreaming about turkey sandwiches on and off since arriving here. Yum. After the turkey victory, I spend most of my time trying not to cry about the prices. A box of Life costs something like $8, wahhh. So I settle for some very, very off brand honey nut O’s. I also buy a can of green beans, skim milk, and some cheese. Pretty exciting stuff there. Following BG, we head to this place called the View. It has a great view (go figure) of PAP, Petionville and nearby towns surrounding the bay. And, more importantly, it has sushi. Yep, I totally forgot where I was for awhile. Magnificent.

The car trip home is fun thanks to listening to “Call Me Maybe” for the 50th time on this cool CD I made for us and two anonymous people in the car both having ridiculous gas. I spend half the time with my head out the window because the stench of Haiti smells better than what is going on in our car. There must have been a secret ingredient of beans or something in the sushi. Good times J

Yesterday, the whole team took a trip to Taino beach (the pretty, fantastic, totes beautiful beach that I went to over Christmas). It was magic, as usual. God truly gave me a day of rest. At one point, the combination of watching Megan journal, Wesley read Rohr, the jam box playing Radiohead, and the fantastic palm canopy above me sent me deep into a moment of introspection and reflection. It is the first time in a very long time I can actually remember truly relaxing and mediating on my own thoughts.

Then I decided to go for a snorkel. I have yet to snorkel in Haiti because I’m a bit of a snorkeling snob and didn’t think Haiti would have much to offer. However, right off the beach at Taino there is a 20-30 ft high reef with gorgeous fish! I felt like I was swimming in God’s aquarium and he was right there with me, happy to be with his kid enjoying his creation.

I spend a lot of time in the tension between recognizing and being sensitive to the suffering and hardship around me versus enjoying the good and beautiful things around me. It’s a delicate balance for me, especially in Haiti. There is suffering absolutely everywhere and its easy to get caught up in it and feel overwhelmed. But then sometimes, I numb myself to the jarring stuff and focus solely on the good. It is difficult to sit with two and balance them. Lately, I have been caught up in the dark, bad, and difficult. So I was very thankful for a day to truly relax and just be with the Lord, who is so good, in his beautiful creation.

So now I just have to finish kicking this stomach bug and it’ll be back to work tomorrow!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Where there is darkness...

Haiti is hard. I’ve known that. Everyone knows that the minute they step off of the plane in PAP and drive through the streets filled with chaos, burning trash, starving dogs, and sick children. The poverty and filth that you see and smell and hear are gripping. It is shocking and unreal. But since I got here about three weeks ago, the Lord has been opening my eyes to difficulty and poverty that you don’t see, smell, or hear. He has been revealing to me the dark spiritual oppression gripping this place.

Even having been here all of last summer and again in December, it wasn’t something I recognized, or was forced to recognize, all that often. But this year, it has been around every corner. My Haitian friends have been talking to me more and more about voodoo. I was making some joke about the “zombie apocalypse” happening in the States the other day and one of my friends got very serious and told me about how zombies are a big part of voodoo. Her own mother was killed because of some voodoo rite that I don’t understand. Voodoo ceremonies combine all sorts of elements of spirit worship, dark magic, possession, and sacrificing. And the religion is so blended with Christianity here, its just confusing. In this darkness, confusion and fear reign.

I had no idea just how many people practice voodoo. The CIA estimates that at least 50% of the population practices, but my friends tell me it is much more of the country. Coming from New Orleans where voodoo amounts to a kitschy way to make money off of tourists and an arena football team, I had no idea how real it is here. How very real the power is that it has over people’s lives. The stories my friends tell me of the evil they’ve personally witnessed because of voodoo are saddening and distressing. The darkness is so deep.

But it doesn’t just stop at stories; the team has personally been confronted with the ugly grip of voodoo several times recently. The man that I wrote about last week in "This is Haiti" was one stark example of the havoc generational bondage to spirit worship and oppression wreak on life.

While up on the mountain this week, on the land Respire is preparing to buy, we started to notice evidence of voodoo ceremonies – certain drawings etched into the ground, stones arranged in circles, burn marks on trees. Two nights ago, Josh drove us and the interns up to the land to pray over it. As we got out of the truck and began to walk, a man came up to us wearing a traditional African-looking robe. He spoke in Creole, then began speaking in English saying, “We are busy. You need to leave. We are busy.” Megan said something along the lines of, “Oh… Ok?” Then he told us we could come back in 30 minutes. Instead of picking a fight with a voodoo priest whose ceremony we just interrupted, the group walked the short distance to our land. As we turned to walk, I heard the sharp, unmistakable cry of an animal dying; a sacrifice.

We spent a good time after that praying over the land together, singing songs, and worshipping God - the sovereign Lord who already owns that land and is gracious enough to let us and anybody else stand upon it. The Lord who casts out all fear, dispels lies, speaks clarity into confusion, and overcomes all darkness with his light. In the presence of his Spirit on that mountain, I could rest and rejoice knowing that he is already victorious over whatever evil was happening next to us. And we were humbled by the knowledge that God loves even people calling upon other names and spirits as much as he loves us who call upon his name. And he calls us to love them as well. There is no greater weapon to wield against the enemy than Love.

Tonight, we went back to the land to pray along with the 19-person team in from Baton Rouge. Shortly after we got to the top and began to worship, people arrived to begin another voodoo ceremony. Wadley spoke with them to find out a little more about what they are up to and share with them why we were there. One of the men asked to meet with Wadley again to talk more. I’m eager for this opportunity for Wadley to speak truth and love to him.

Typically, ceremonies such as these are carried out only every so often; not as frequently as what has been going on atop Bellevue Mountain. My very dear friend Wadley, a translator for Respire and probably one of the greatest men I know, explained that the reason they are having to come back over and over again is because what they are trying to do is not working. And we do not have to be scared of them, or what they are trying to accomplish, or of any of the dark powers in this world; because, as John writes, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).

I grieve the spiritual oppression of these people and the darkness in this land. The same darkness that covers any place in this world where people worship and run after things that are not God and not of God, whatever that looks like - spirits, power, wealth (cough, America), romance, anything. It only ends in emptiness and destruction. But praise God that no one is too far away, too far gone, to ever turn and receive redemption!

Where dark forces are at work, God is even more so, redeeming and reclaiming his people. Where sin increased, Grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20). This is the story of Respire Haiti. This is the story of God, in his great power, entering into the bleakest situations and bringing together some unlikely characters to bring forth hope, freedom, and LIFE. This is the story of the kingdom of God.

Please join us in praying against the strongholds of the enemy and for true FREEDOM for the people of Haiti. 

“The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Accidents and Adventures with Auntie Katine

Josh came back from the states this morning, YAY! Everyone at the house is very excited to see him. But just as soon as he gets in, he and Megan, with Jessica and Esther in tow, have to turn around and go back into PAP to meet the giaganto team that is coming in today. I graciously (sarcasm) offer to stay behind and get Michaelle from school. I need go up the mountain anyway and check on some construction stuff for Megan and Kyle. (Oh and I don't want the black boogers that always follow my trips into town...) We’re about halfway through Kyle’s month long trip back to the states and just wish he would come back already because Megan and I are not exactly…er… construction experts. So they take off and I try to get a little work done. Instead of working however, I go over to the intern house and goof around for half an hour or so before going up the mountain with Wesley. Random side note, I saw a snake slither across the road on the way up, ew.

I check out the construction situation and pick up Micha. Then we start back towards the house flanked by two other boys from the school. Micha runs down the mountain, the boys with her, and I think its cute how they’re playing together. That child is so fast she can outrun the boys. She is SUCH an athlete, we’re marveling about it all the time. Megan wants to start a Respire softball team so Micha can put that incredible arm to use. I, of course, want a basketball team though so she can be the star point guard.

Anyway, we soon catch back up to the kiddos and I can tell this isn’t so much a playful/fun interaction anymore. They shove each other a little bit and I yell at them to stop. The boys keep talking in Creole in a tone I don’t like. But I’m paralyzed to do anything about it because I don’t know what they’re saying. It gives me such a sinking, awful feeling. All I can do is tell Micha I’m sorry that I don’t know how to defend her in Creole, sandwich myself between her and the boys, and just keep walking. We get to the highway and she grabs my hand to cross. I squeeze it tight. When we make it back onto our street, I can tell she’s crestfallen. I try to talk to her about lunch, but her little voice is shakey and sad and I can’t help but pick her up and carry her the rest of the way home because it makes me want to cry. We talk about what just happened and I tell her not to worry. We can go home and get lunch and play or rest or whatever she wants to do. And that’s exactly what we do.

Once home, we lay on the bed and wipe down our faces with some excellent “Say Yes to Cucumbers” wipes that someone left behind. Micha then lets me know that she would like cornflakes for lunch. Ew. But alright, cornflakes it is! She says she can make it herself so I let her go right ahead. She puts the cereal in a bowl, dumps milk powder on it, and THEN pumps water into the bowl. Not the traditional order, but hey… We manage to get it to a decent-ish consistency and she finishes the whole bowl just as I find leftover rice and beans in the fridge. I know what I’m having for lunch! She of course wants some too, so I heat it up and make plates for her, me, and Baby J. OMG I think this is my first mention of Baby J. His actual name is Jesulo and he is the COOLEST baby. Megan took in he and his mother, Darleen about a month ago. He was extremely sick and malnourished and they had nowhere else to go. But now he is healthy and beautiful and SUCH a happy little toddler. I love this kid.
Baby J and I playing pretty princesses!
So the three of us go out to the front balcony to have lunch. Micha and I spend half of our lunch trying to coax Baby J into sitting down and eating his r&b, but he is just interested in doing so many other things. Finally, he squats into a little perch (which is totally a normal way for a kid to sit here) and looks like he’s about to eat. Oh, but instead of eating, he just takes a big tinkle right there on the balcony!! “Katine! BABY J IS PEE-PEEING!” Yells Micha. I freak out and then we both erupt in laughter. Micha runs to the sliding door and closes it to quarantine the little stinker outside while I pull off his pee-pee undies. (I neglected to mention that this is the SECOND time he peed on the floor today. Earlier he took a tinkle in Megan’s room right next to the bed…) I throw down his wet britches and run inside to grab Wet-Ones and start wiping him down. Then I grab his undies and run out to the back balcony where Darleen is doing laundry in the yard. Micha yells down to her that Baby J just peed and needs his britches cleaned. So Darleen strolls over and I toss them down to her. She casually catches his pee-pee britches in her hand like it ain’t no thing and brings them over to wash. I try not to die laughing so I can grab the necessary supplies to clean up the puddle. Micha, the other half of operation clean-the-pee-pee takes Baby J downstairs while I soak up his pee in some napkins, half laughing and half gagging. This is so gross; ugh, children. A Clorox wipe finishes the job and Micha and I get back to our nice r&b lunch.
Michaelle and I at the zoo party. 
I really enjoy spending time with Micha. Her English is so good now that we can actually TALK to each other. Like really talk. After lunch we do some coloring and she teaches me the names of fruit in Creole. Then, unfortunately, I have to tear myself away and actually get some work done. I almost completely finish the revisions to my proposal, but we haven’t had power in 2 days so my computer dies. (Luckily power finally came on later in the evening.) I really enjoyed my afternoon with Micha though. She is a special kid and I am very proud to be her (pseudo) aunt.

The other HUGE event of the day was that the piece of wood that has been stuck inside my toe since my December trip (see blog entitled “Well That was Fast”) and has been slowly surfacing ever since finally came out this evening!! We were up worshipping on the mountain with the team when I got a little distracted for a moment picking at my toe... and, low and behold, it spit out this huge splinter! Man, that sucker took its dear sweet time exiting my body. I put it into a necklace that Sophie’s artisans made so that I can keep it forever. I just feel it’s a sentimental piece of memorabilia - a little piece of Haiti I carried around with me in Austin that just couldn’t come out until I made it back to the island. Special, no?
My Special Splinter displayed on this love necklace by Haiti's Jewels.
(Good press, eh Sophie?)