Hello from Haiti!  We are limited to words…we wish we could share the sights, sounds, smells, feelings and emotions we have experienced. It is our goal to make our experience as real as we can for you.  The adjective that best describes everything about this week is INTENSE.  As we approached Haiti in the air, the beauty of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and the island were incredible.  A tropical paradise.  An unexpected sight.  This, was such a contrast to what we were about to experience once on the ground.  

To be honest, after 2 days, I felt a very strong urge to go home.  I knew Haiti was the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, but I didn’t know what that looked like.  I shared my feelings with our team, and one member suggested waiting a day to make my decision.  The next day we had the opportunity to attend a local Haitian church service.  On the way to church, I talked with God about needing to make my decision and for His help.  Reflecting back, God seemed to really be talking to us.  Any effort that is for His purpose, always bears fruit. You will never grow unless you step out and trust God.  That was it, I had my answer.  God wants me here and He has got us covered.  It’s not about us, but what our purpose is here.  I am a “safety susie.”  To be here in Haiti is not by my doing.  This is way out of my “box.”  

For me, Val, my specific role for this time in Haiti is to represent the Education committee for LTR.  Much of my time is being spent in the orphanage that LTR is connected with here in the heart of Port au Prince.  Again the word intense comes to mind.  As our team stepped through the metal gate to enter the orphanage we were greeted by Mama with such graciousness despite her compromised living conditions.  Mama is this incredible 70 something year old Haitian woman that radiates warmth and love.  Every day, 24/7, she cares for approximately 50 children in a tremendously challenging environment.  With the help of Mama’s immediate family, each of these beautiful children have a safe place to exist in the midst of such devastation.   Then there’s the children!  They are precious and beautiful, hungry for physical touch, hot and sticky from the Haiti heat, physically hungry with their distended tummies, and yet they are joyful and they are God’s children.  Some smile and some cannot.  Some have parents and some do not.  All the children have their own unique life story that we may never know.  For Monday, June 27th I made this journal entry, “The Bastien family (Mama’s family) is such a kind hearted family, so bright, so nice looking—Frantz and his sister’s speak some English.  I wonder what their true potential is and I wonder if they will every have a chance to reach it.  Their challenge is just everyday life.  Finding food, keeping the water coming in, finding a way to make money in a 90% unemployed city and staying safe.”  These same thoughts go with the children as well.  So many eager, enthusiastic children but their environment doesn’t allow the potential to come out.  

I was surprised by just how little space there was at the orphanage.  The first day we brought jump ropes along and realized it was very hard to find room to play.  However it did not seem to be a hindrance to the fun we had.  The floor is rugged, crumbled concrete.  The roof over the main activity area is simply a worn out tarp.  There are separate girls and boys sleeping rooms that do have a tin roof for protection.  The hardest thing to see is that, for safety reasons, the children don’t have the chance to run and play outside.   There are many encouraging aspects that have been evident.  Mama will start all the kids with a song for them to join in singing.  The joy that is shown is incredible.  We see some ‘spunky’ behavior such as Natacha, a sweet little preschool aged girl, leading the whole group of kids, singing, dancing, laughing.  Marie Clare, who has some sort of visual impairment, is extremely malnourished.  And then she brings this great surprise by counting past 200 and revealing her ability to identify color on the developmental assessment that was given to each child individually over the course of the days we have been here.  The children would crowd around us as we were doing each assessment with eagerness for their name to be called so they could ‘show their stuff’.  It is so evident that they crave individual attention.  One of the most rewarding things is that we have begun a relationship with the Bastien family.  Even with the language barrier that exists, we are able to have unbelievable communication with them, laugh with them, and let them know that their help was so valuable to us as we hope and pray that what we are doing is a benefit to them.   

How exciting it has been to see what God has brought for each day, new emotions, new anticipations, new people across our paths.  The bond our team has formed since arriving in Haiti has been icing on the cake for this experience.  

There are so many needs.  The task of prioritizing them is the next challenge. We realize that things don’t happen overnight, especially here in Haiti. The best approach will be to ask God to guide and direct the discussion and decisions that are to come.  We hope our efforts here are beneficial to the next team that travels to Haiti, to have a baseline of information and carry on from here.  God is good!

(As Barb says….Grateful!)
Val Silliman
and Christi too