Four Years Later

 

March will mark 14 years since our arrival in Haiti to start Mission of Hope International.  Lex felt God calling him here and our pastor (and many others) confirmed it.  We came with some previous experience in Haiti, lots of grandiose ideas and a few good friends’ support.  It’s never been easy, but it has been very rewarding.

From 2000 to 2010

From 2000 to 2010

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January 12, 2010 we saw the majority of the physical work we’d done destroyed.  At the time we were so grateful to be alive that the buildings didn’t really mean much.  Eventually the tremors stopped enough that we could start cleaning up, which meant demolishing what was left.  It was hard to watch buildings come down, knowing how hard we had worked on them and yet we were so grateful that no lives had been lost in them.

Pictures

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After the earthquake, we went in search of help for our communities.  We were introduced to the world of NGOs.  We began attending meetings to coordinate efforts.  Kevin Groder and Stuart Rankin stepped in to help with this new load of work, as we could have easily spent all of our time in meetings and never gotten anything else done!  Our time was consumed with consoling/encouraging others, responding to the deluge of emails, acquiring food and supplies for distribution and doing the actual distributions.  The US Navy and Marines pulled ashore by the missionary compound and we were able to set up our water tanks on the one building that wasn’t destroyed, so that the troops could bathe.

Community meeting 2010

Community meeting 2010

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We’ve grown as individuals, as well as as a mission, over the past four years.  One of our big lessons is that it’s okay to respond to a disaster with quick fixes, but that long term solutions must follow them.  We can’t, with a clear conscience, keep putting Band-Aids on festering wounds.  The wounds need to be cleaned out.  People need jobs.  They need education.  They need to have that self respect that comes from feeding, providing for and protecting their families.  They need to feel secure.  They need a home to live in.

Road project employed 3,000 people

Road project employed 3,000 people

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Over the past four years, MOHI has progressed from a Band-Aid ministry to a solution ministry.  No,we don’t have all the answers, but through God’s grace and wisdom, we do have some.  And through His goodness, the Lord has brought us some of the most incredible people who are working with us towards those solutions.

BBW Jan 2014This past week, a team from Bless Back Worldwide came to work with us.  There were many medical providers who ministered to our students and neighbors through medical and dental clinics.  Several of the providers taught in the nursing school in the next city (Petit-Goave).

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The youth on the team did fun activities with our high school students, to help them with their English and held story time with our little ones.  Others distributed home first-aid kits to the high school students, and the younger student’s parents.  They took a good while to instruct them, too: what’s in the kit, when to use it, how to use it, where to keep it…  Everyone seemed very grateful to have these kits to take home with them.

Training parents to use first aid kits

Training parents to use first aid kits

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Bless Back Worldwide also raised funds to build another home for a family in need of a secure house to call home.  They had a beautiful dedication ceremony, complete with lots of hugs.

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The team also held a mobile medical clinic in the Galet – the village just up from the missionary compound.  There was also face painting, soccer, and the distribution of dresses and dental supplies.  Many happy faces were witnessed!

Checking blood pressures, giving out dresses and face painting...each other?

Checking blood pressures, giving out dresses and face painting…each other?

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Melissa Roper, who led this team, always plans plenty of activities for her teams.  There was never a dull moment.  I’m relatively certain that the entire team is feeling a bit… EXHAUSTED today.

A little R & R

A little R & R

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We are expecting another big team from Mission USA and the Chapel in Akron on Tuesday.  We are eagerly awaiting their arrival for many reasons, not the least of them being the long awaited unpacking of the bus and the launch of the mobile medical clinic!!!  There will be plumbing, tiling, disability ministry, mobile clinics and more going on.  Sooooo, please keep us all in prayer, that we all may communicate, coordinate and cooperate well.

Mobile medical clinic donated by the Chapel (Akron, OH)

Mobile medical clinic donated by the Chapel (Akron, OH)

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This morning, we had somewhat of a memorial service – remembering what we went through four years ago and appreciating all the Lord brought us through.  We remembered how much we depended on Him during that time and determined not to turn back.  We remembered the people whose lives were cut short and prayed for their families whose hearts were heavy – especially today.

Children's ministry in Thozin

Children’s ministry in Thozin

worship service in Thozin

worship service in Thozin

Young people are learning to sow

Young people are learning to sow

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We also prayed for our friends Len and Cherylann Gengel, whose daughter Britney was one of those lost in the quake.  We thank God for their determination and desire to carry on with their daughter’s dream to help the children of Haiti.  In the past three years, they have built a 19,000 sq. ft. building that currently is home to 38 beautiful children.

Cherylann and Len speak about the friends and partners Pastor Lexidan and Renee Edme during the dedication ceremony in Grand Goave Haiti Saturday January 5, 2013. (RICK CINCLAIR / T&G Staff)

Cherylann and Len speak about the friends and partners Pastor Lexidan and Renee Edme during the dedication ceremony in Grand Goave Haiti Saturday January 5, 2013. (RICK CINCLAIR / T&G Staff)

Happy New Year!

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It was a beautiful holiday season for us here in Haiti.  I hope it was for you, as well.

The kids make Christmas dinner a very entertaining time

The kids make Christmas dinner a very entertaining time

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Christmas was so much fun with our long-term missionary friends and family.  Of course, it’s the kids that make the celebration so enjoyable.  Faith, Glory, Nathan, Ben and Caleb did just that.

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The kids enjoyed their own Christmas party at MOHI.  We also enjoyed stopping in at the Be Like Brit Christmas celebration, as well.  They had lots of skits and performances and of course the kids were all decked out for the occasion.

Christmas fun at BLB

Christmas fun at BLB

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Last week we took a short trip to Santo Domingo.  Our missionary friends, Bud and Karen Simon, were so kind and hospitable, opening their home to us.  With Bud’s help and connections, we finally located a car part we’ve been looking for for sooooo long.  Bud and Karen took us to a mall, a department/grocery store and the movies.

The beauty and fun of Santo Domingo

The beauty and fun of Santo Domingo

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Although we really enjoyed this “almost American” time, I do find it very disturbing to realize that Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince are so different from one another.  Santo Domingo has multiple lane, restricted access highways, beautiful views of the ocean right along major thoroughfares, modern buildings, shopping malls, an aquarium, a zoo, Pizza Hut and Payless Shoes!!!  Port-au-Prince … … … doesn’t.  We were asking Karen some questions and she responded, “well, it’s a poor country.”  I was reminded that it really is, but the average annual income is twice that of Haiti.  You can see it in the environment.

We don't see many buildings like these in Haiti

We don’t see many buildings like these in Haiti

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Pastor Gwyneth Arrison, along with her daughter Faith, arrived with donations for the clinic.  They worked on several projects while they were here.  We appreciate all their hard work.

Gwyneth and Faith Arrison

Pastor Gwyneth and Faith Arrison

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This week was incredible, as we held our annual Christian Leadership Academy.  We’ve had some really great preachers minister at this event over the years.  This year was in keeping with that tradition.  Pastor Gary Collette and Bro. Dan Kramer were our keynote speakers.  Pastor Kevin and Pastor Gwyneth Arrison ministered, as well.

pastors praying over cloths

pastors praying over cloths

Bro Dan, Pastor Gary, Pastor Kevin

Bro Dan, Pastor Gary, Pastor Kevin

Pastor Kevin Groder

Pastor Kevin Groder

 

workshops

workshops

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This morning 9 people walked to the beach to meet up with Pastor Gary, Brother Dan and Pastor Lex to be baptized.

 

Baptisms this morning

Baptisms this morning

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The meetings came to a close this morning, with Pastor Gary’s dramatized message from Mark, chapters 1 and 2.  There was a paralyzed man whose friends wanted to get him to Jesus so that he would be healed.  The house where Jesus was was packed, so they made a hole in the roof and let the man down through the hole.  Pastor Gary brought out four points about this man’s friends that enabled the man to be healed.  They were compassionate, convicted, creative and cooperative.  He had some young men come up and demonstrate how difficult it can be to accomplish their goal without having these qualities and then how great it is when you do possess these qualities.

compassion, conviction, creativity and cooperation

compassion, conviction, creativity and cooperation

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Earlier in the week we took some to give gifts out to some children and their care takers.

Bringing gifts to the kids at Pastor Enoch's orphanage

Bringing gifts to the kids at Pastor Enoch’s orphanage

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The latest team from Bless Back Worldwide has finally arrived.  Their flight yesterday was canceled.  We are so glad they were able to make it today, even though it didn’t look like it was going to happen.  We have an extremely busy week planned with them:  medical and dental clinics in both St Etienne and Thozin, distributing first aid kits to parents of our elementary students and to our high school students – along with training in how to use them, English classes, fun with kids, teaching at a nursing school…  I’m sure there won’t be a dull moment.  Having lost a day and running on only a couple hours of sleep, they worked hard today getting organized to start clinics tomorrow.  Your prayer support for this team is really appreciated.  Thank you!

Bless Back Worldwide's Team Extreme

Bless Back Worldwide’s Team Extreme

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A few more pics from this past week:

Jesus loves the little children

Jesus loves the little children

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Madame Pelio with their beautiful baby girl

Madame Pelio with their beautiful baby girl

Diery and Dieunison

Diery and Dieunison

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Thank you for your part in touching so many lives, here in Haiti, with God’s love in 2013.

We wish each of you a New Year filled with goodness!

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas…

It’s been a busy week with remodeling and construction.  It’s so exciting to see the progress being made.

A new septic tank was constructed this week.  Contrary to my belief, we were able to get it done in time for church this morning.  Once it has set, men will climb into the small openings to remove the wood framing and metal poles that are holding the forms in place.

Building a new septic system...

Building a new septic system…

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Rough plumbing is now in place inside the new medical and dental rooms.  Now we are running the outdoor pipes that will go into the new septic tank.

plumbing at the school and medical clinic

plumbing at the school and medical clinic

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Door and window fabrication and installation were finished up this week.

Working on the doors and windows in the new clinic rooms

Working on the doors and windows in the new clinic rooms

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We received barrels this week from World Wide Lighthouse Missions (Manchester, CT) and Nora Walker (who received the Girl Scout Gold Award for her work getting school supplies to us).  Renord, Marie Ange, Lex and I worked hard unpacking and organizing school, office and medical supplies, musical instruments, peanut butter and more, just in time for Christmas.  Thank you!!!

Donations from Nora Walker and the Clifton Lutheran Church

Donations from Nora Walker and the Clifton Lutheran Church

Donations from the World Wide Lighthouse Missions

Donations from the World Wide Lighthouse Missions

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It costs $150 to ship a barrel from Boston to Haiti and there is no weight limit.  If your church, business or other organization would like to collect needed supplies and send them to be utilized here in Haiti, please contact us for more details.

Pastor Kevin Groder shared a message of encouragement at this morning’s service at the church in Thozin.  Gama did a great job translating, too.

Church service in Thozin

Church service in Thozin

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Pastor Lex preached in St. Etienne.  I see that Marie Yves’ baby, Tabitha, caught his attention.

Church service in St Etienne

Church service in St Etienne

Pastor Lex and Tabitha

Pastor Lex and Tabitha

The view around the church in St Etienne

The view around the church in St Etienne

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Wednesday we will be sharing Christmas day with several other missionary families here at the missionary compound.  In preparation, our family took a trip into the capitol city of Port-au-Prince to go grocery shopping.  There were some neat things to see along the way and we appreciated the effort the store put into decorating for the holidays.

Port-au-Prince

Port-au-Prince

Thank you so much to all of you who are giving to the children of Haiti this Christmas!  

We wish you all a very merry Christmas!!!

Changing Perceptions of Christmas

I hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season, along with the weather I so associate with Christmas.  My phone has a weather app on it and everyday is identical:  Grand-Goave, mostly sunny, 81°.  It does get down to about 70° in the middle of the night.  I like that – nice and cool.

Preschool Mama

Doudley and Alexis are rather attached.  Doudley's mom is one of our teachers in Thozin.

Doudley and Alexis are rather attached. Doudley’s mom is one of our teachers in Thozin.

That would be Alexis.  She teaches the preschoolers in Sunday school and spends WAY too much time with them every morning in the school yard.

Morning Commute

Each morning (unless there’s been tropical weather) I drive through this river.  It’s mostly a dry river bed with a couple of streams running down it.  Can you imagine that there are times when it is actually full of water, from bank to bank?!!!  All those mountains in the background are great rain catchers and they send the water down hill very fast.  It’s very hard to imagine during dry seasons.  While it’s dry, however, it makes my ride much more scenic and keeps me off the main road – which I really like.

My morning commute to the office...

My morning commute to the office…

 

Clinic

This week Angela had her hands full with some challenging cases.  We are thankful to our Sri Lankan friends from the UN Camp for sending us doctors to help with the load of caring for the sick.  We are looking forward to Bless Back Worldwide sending in a medical team at the beginning of the new year and Leah Fuller, RN will be returning to work full time in the clinics.  Later in January, our friends from Mission USA and the Chapel will be with us to unload and reconstruct the mobile medical clinic that they sent for us recently.  At that time we will get it stocked and organized, and begin using it.  That will be a monumental day, for sure!

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Nine of our students received dental care at the UN Camp in Leogane this week.

Nine of our students received dental care at the UN Camp in Leogane this week.

Christmas Gifts

chickensThis week is our last opportunity to purchase gifts in time for Christmas through MOHI’s online gift shop.  Chickens, goats, donkeys, cows, beds, class parties, fruit trees and more can be purchased on behalf of a friend or loved one and given to children in the Thozin and St Etienne neighborhoods where we work.  Click here to see how you can bless a child and a loved one with just one gift.

We have been blessed by the donations to build several homes this year for families that are still without a permanent home to live in after the earthquake.  Thanks to teams from Mission USA and Bless Back Worldwide, two more homes will be built in January.  If you would like to be a part of rebuilding our communities here in Grand-Goave and St Etienne, please contact us today.

The Michel family are enjoying the home provided for them by Bless Back Worldwide.

The Michel family is enjoying the home provided for them by Bless Back Worldwide.

Love Our Church Family

For me, church is all about the people.  I so enjoy the opportunity to love on everyone and worship together.  Here are some pictures from this morning’s service in Thozin:

Children's Ministry this morning in Thozin...

Children’s Ministry this morning in Thozin…

My favorite part of the Sunday morning worship service.  Lex learned this from Pastor Kerry Twing, "get out of your seat, find someone and tell them you're glad to see them this morning!"

One of my favorite parts of the Sunday morning worship service. Lex learned this from Pastor Kerry Twing, “get out of your seat, find someone, give them a hug and tell them you’re glad to see them this morning!”

Sweet times of worship in Thozin this morning

Sweet times of worship in Thozin this morning

Renee’s Christmas Journey

Being raised in a Jewish home, I didn’t grow up with any Christmas traditions. We celebrated Hanukkah. We lit the menorah each night for eight nights and, when I was little, my parents would give me a gift each day for eight days. I remember bragging to my friends that they only got Christmas gifts one day, but that I got Hanukkah gifts for eight days in a row. It wasn’t until I was invited to my friend, Lisa Jones’ home one Christmas morning, that I realized they got more presents in one day than I got in a whole year! I didn’t much mind, though, because I got to enjoy playing with Lisa and her siblings’ toys and I really just enjoyed being with them, mostly.

At the age of 18, I became a Christian – in my case, a Messianic Jew – a Jew who believes that the Messiah has already come. At this point in my life I came to learn that Christmas wasn’t about the gifts at all, but about the BEST Gift ever given – God’s Son Jesus, who was given to mankind. He was born of a virgin and lived as a human boy. He became a man and, at the age of thirty, was filled with the Holy Spirit and began performing miracles. Those who listened to Him learned to repent of their sin and follow Him. Upon His death on a cross and His resurrection from the dead, He provided eternal redemption for everyone who would believe in Him. This is what Christmas was really about. I never knew.

As a young adult, I learned from my pastor’s wife, Bev Long, that making Christmas cookies and a birthday cake for Jesus were some of her family’s Christmas traditions. I enjoyed taking part in this tradition with Bev, Patty, Debbie and Dee. We ate a lot of cookie dough and made a huge mess. It was tons of fun.

After Alexis was born, I read an article about the importance of establishing family traditions. So, I decided I would adopt Bev’s family traditions. This meant that I made cookies and let Alexis (as a 1 year old) play in the flour and dough. She was covered, head to toe. It was fun for her and I took great pleasure in that. The following year, I was VERY pregnant and on bed rest, so our developing traditions had to be put on hold for a bit. The following year, we moved to Haiti.

Lex was never much into holidays and once we moved to Haiti, I had already adapted to that way of thinking. I don’t recall ever being upset with him for not wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day or forgetting our wedding anniversary. They simply were never a part of our consciousness. We did, however, always made a big deal for our kids’ birthdays. We still do, but it’s mostly because THEY do and we know it’s important to THEM.

What about Christmas? This Christmas will, I believe, be our 14th Christmas in Haiti. Here, we have church activities on Christmas Eve. Sometimes it’s like a big talent show put on by the youth group. Other times, we have a night of prayer. Always, at midnight, we thank Jesus for His life and sacrifice for all mankind. Often times we have a meal together and get home very late…or early, as the case may be, on Christmas day.

In our home, no one wakes up early Christmas morning to open presents. On the contrary, we may take the opportunity to sleep in and may even take the day off. When the kids were little, I remember making a birthday cake for Jesus, asking Lex to tell the Christmas story, and sharing little packages of cookies with Alexis, A. Jay and a few of their special friends. As they got older, that tradition fell by the wayside. The celebration of Christmas was at the church on Christmas Eve and the kids enjoyed being a part of that – especially staying up until after midnight!

In Haiti, Christmas day is often spent visiting friends and relatives. Moms will often make an extra special meal, which means there is meat for everyone. Kids often go in search of their god parents, hoping to get a little gift or a couple of Haitian dollars from them, but in general, most kids do not view Christmas as a time to rake in the toys.

For missionaries on the foreign field, Christmas can often be a sentimental and somewhat difficult time, as families and traditions from home are missed. This year, our missionary compound will be open to missionaries serving in and around Grand-Goave. For those who miss baking, they can come join us Christmas morning, making all those special cookies they’ve made with their families over the years. We’ll also make a special dinner, although it’s not likely to be “traditional.” Perhaps we’ll make some new “Missionary” traditions, like swimming on Christmas day and always having BBQ ribs and grilled lobster for Christmas dinner.

Clinic and Church

This week we hosted a team from Clinicians of the World, founded by Dr. Rowlens Melduni. This organization is based in Rochester, Minnesota, but the team had people from may States (NC, GA, CT, MS, NY, CO). The team consisted of 13 medical personnel (MDs, PAs, RNs) and 7 others to support them. They worked in several of the remote areas of Grand-Goave, as well as seeing some patients in our clinic. Dr. Melduni is a Haitian-American cardiologist who has a heart for the people of Grand-Goave. We were blessed to be able to provide logistical support for his team. Angela and Tammy worked hard this week, inventorying our medical supplies.  We also had extra help this week from the UN medical staff that came to consult patients. Our compact camera died this week, so I have very few pictures to share with you. Unfortunately I have not found any pictures posted by the Clinicians of the World team yet that I could share with you either. I was able to get some pictures from this morning from Davidson. Pastor Edon had a fervent message for the church in Thozin this morning. Can people tell you’re a Christian by the way you behave? Christianity is more than going to church and saying you’re a Christian. As Mother Theresa once said, “Preach the Gospel everywhere you go. Use words when you have to.”

Worship Service in Thozin

Worship Service in Thozin

Children's Ministry

Children’s Ministry

Little friends from Be Like Brit

Little friends from Be Like Brit

We had a fun afternoon at the missionary compound. With no teams in right now, it was very quiet – for a while. THEN the fun began! It was so nice to have the children from Be Like Brit spend a couple of hours with us. I believe I was the blessed recipient of at least FORTY kisses – one from each of the kids and six from Fafane! Once the kisses were done, the kids got down to serious business. They hoola hooped, played with Saphira (the cat), punched and kicked Kevin’s punching bag, played a little soccer, played “school,” danced, chatted and explored. Chrislove and Mackenlove, who are both very accomplished hoola hoopers, were obviously excited to show off their skills to the other kids.

Lots of activities took place at the missionary compound today!

Lots of activities took place at the missionary compound today!

Christy is incredibly CUTE!

Christy is incredibly CUTE!

I hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season where you are. It looks like many of you have had some cold weather and frozen precipitation. We’ve had some cool evenings. It was 71 degrees when we came over the mountains from Jacmel earlier in the week. That area gets down into the 60s overnight at this time of year. No matter the weather, let’s all keep Jesus as the center of lives and celebrations. Merry Christmas!

71 degrees in the mountains on the way to Jacmel - 87 degrees in Jacmel - elevation makes a difference!

71 degrees in the mountains on the way to Jacmel – 87 degrees in Jacmel – elevation makes a difference!

A Bless Back Thanksgiving

This is our second year of celebrating Thanksgiving with a team from Bless Back Worldwide.  Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, we still worked during the day on Thursday, but we had a wonderful feast and time of giving thanks in the evening with the team and some of our fellow missionaries from Grand-Goâve.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Throughout the week, the team kept us busy with medical and dental clinics, dental training in the school and teaching at the nursing school in Petit-Goâve.  It was wonderful to be a part of touching so many lives throughout the week.  The week ended with a food distribution in a very impoverished area of Grand-Goâve.  The people were so grateful for the food and enjoyed spending some special moments with the team.

Teaching at the nursing school in Petit-Goâve with Bless Back Worldwide

Teaching at the nursing school in Petit-Goâve with Bless Back Worldwide

Food Distribution in the Galèt

Food Distribution in the Galèt

Dental Clinic with Bless Back Worldwide at the St. Etienne Campus

Dental Clinic with Bless Back Worldwide at the St. Etienne Campus

Little Ones

Little Ones

The Blessed Back Worldwide Dental Training Team

The Blessed Back Worldwide Dental Training Team

Medical clinic with Blessed Back Worldwide

Medical clinic with Blessed Back Worldwide

A blessed week with the team from Bless Back Worldwide

A blessed week with the team from Bless Back Worldwide

Angela held her first seminar this week for the children’s ministry teachers.  They went over the lessons they will be teaching for the month and prepared the craft items together.

Children's Ministry Teacher Seminar

Children’s Ministry Teacher Seminar

As we said goodbye to the Bless Back Worldwide team yesterday, we said hello to another team.  Clinicians of the World will be staying with us for a week, while they conduct medical clinics in the mountain areas and with local orphans.  Friday they will work with us in the Thozin medical clinic.

Clinicians of the World packaging medicine for the mountain people

Clinicians of the World packaging medicine for the mountain people

Today we had another wonderful time of fellowship, worship and preaching here in Thozin.  Pastor Kevin Groder shared from the book of Matthew, the story of the master who went on a trip and entrusted his servants with his wealth.  He encouraged us to use whatever talents God has given us – don’t just leave them on the shelf, they are to be used for God’s glory.

Children's Ministry

Children’s Ministry

Sunday Morning at the Thozin Campus

Sunday Morning at the Thozin Campus

Ah, The Children

Sunday morning worship service in Thozin

Sunday morning worship service in Thozin

Sundays are really the highlight of the week for me.  I enjoy church, hearing the Word of God preached, worshiping in song and praying with my brothers and sisters.  I think my very favorite part though, is seeing the children.  In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about children and tells us that we should become like them.  As I observe the children, I realize how much joy they bring to me.  I pray that I bring joy to my Heavenly Father, too.

Cuties

Cuties

 

This morning several of the children were wearing tiaras and little Christy was dressed like royalty for her birthday – she’s two years old, now.  Renord borrowed one of the tiaras while he was doing some silly acting during children’s ministry this morning.  It was great fun!

There seemed to be an abundance of royalty present this morning in Thozin

There seemed to be an abundance of royalty present this morning in Thozin

In America we do a great job of teaching our children ownership and responsibility.  Here in Haiti, parents do a great job of teaching their children to share.  This is something that I see in my husband.  I don’t know that he knows how to finish a plate of food on his own.  No matter how hungry he is when he starts eating, if anyone else is around they are likely to eat some of it, as well.

Share...this is what we do

Share…this is what we do

Lex’s dad raised crops in huge gardens.  Lex told me how his dad came home one night with 8 small watermelons.  He put them out on the table.  All the children knew that he’d brought one for each of them and were eager to receive theirs.  However, he started cutting the watermelons and passing the pieces around to the children.  He told them that whatever they have to never keep it all for themselves.  Whatever God gives you is meant to be shared.  This is one of the many fundamental differences in our cultures that Lex and I have had to face.  To this day, he is MUCH better at sharing than I am.  For me, I give because I choose to (out of the “goodness” of my heart – ouch!).  For Lex, he gives because that’s what we do when we receive from the Lord.

Children's Ministry

Children’s Ministry

We’re excited to have another team from Bless Back Worldwide serving with us here in Haiti this week.  They arrived last night.  Tomorrow they begin medical and dental clinics.  Please pray for God’s wisdom and knowledge to be imparted to the care givers.  We’re grateful for God’s amazing provision!!!

The team from Bless Back Worldwide

The team from Bless Back Worldwide

Remodeling has begun to make room for two new rooms, one medical and one dental.  We have been digging to bring water into these rooms.  We’re doing the concrete finish on the ceiling and finishing the window frames.  One of the rooms used to be the director’s office.  We had to take down all the shelving and relocate the library books, too.

Let the work begin! - dental and medical rooms in Thozin

Let the work begin! – dental and medical rooms in Thozin

Tammy and Pelio pack the library books

Tammy and Pelio pack the library books

It’s so cool to see the growth in the medical ministry here at MOHI.  We miss Leah, but Angela has still had lots of others working with her.  This week several UN Peacekeepers assisted, as well as Kristin who was here for three weeks at the Be Like Brit orphanage.  We are grateful for all the team work!!!

20131121 mohi renord

An old friend is back.  Colonel Nandana was here in Haiti with the third Sri Lankan contingent in 2009.  Now, he has returned as the commanding officer for all the Sri Lankan Peacekeepers in Haiti.  We were honored to give him a tour of the new school and show him a bit of the medical ministry.  The school kids loved seeing his men up close.

Colonel Nandana, commander of the UN Peacekeepers from Sri Lanka

Colonel Nandana, commander of the UN Peacekeepers from Sri Lanka

The Thozin School

The Thozin School

Pastor Kevin and Tammy Groder are back from their quick trip to the States.  Kevin was able to have some medical tests done, which showed that he has a herniated and bulging disc in his back – the source of the pain he’s been experiencing for about 9 months now.  While it’s very painfully, it doesn’t look like it requires surgery.  Please join us in praying for healing and relief from the pain.  Thank you.

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Overflowing Thankfulness

I’d like to start out today with pictures of this week’s cuties.  They are the ones who help us to get up every morning and face hardships without wavering!

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God has blessed us with so many wonderful friends and partners over the years.  I am so grateful for each and every one of them.  Mission of Hope International would never be making the impact it is today, if God hadn’t brought us all together.  How cool is this?!!!!

 

As we approach the American Thanksgiving holiday, I have been praying for you all and thanking the Lord for you.  Individuals who believed in the vision from the very beginning committed to pray and give regular donations to help get this work on its feet.  I think of the people the Lord used as His mouthpiece to advise us along the way.  When the right decisions to make seemed contrary to what we’d always known, there were words of confirmation coming at us at every turn and so we stepped out into unfamiliar territory time and time again.

All the times that I needed a friend, I found one.

 

I remember how Lennie and Amy Engman opened their homes and their lives to us.  We’d gone to church together for years, but we didn’t know each other, at all.  How many times we have called on them over the years!  They were grandparents for our children and counsellors for Lex and I.  Amy provided so much motherly wisdom to me, as I endeavored to raise children in two different cultures.  To this day we can call on them, day or night, and KNOW that they will do everything they can to help us.  God has provided for us in incredible ways!!!

 

In the early days in Haiti, we really had nothing.  Every time we returned to the States, David and Jane Case (another couple who didn’t know us from a hole in the wall!) would buy us all new underwear, shoes, clothing, soap, shampoo – all the basics that we needed, but had no money to purchase.  Again, that was God’s provision for us, but it took willing souls to make it happen.

Hundreds have supported this mission with financial gifts.  Some, I have never even met, but the Lord knows each and every one of you.  I pray that His blessings overtake you!

 

Over the years the Lord has brought people of kindred spirit to encourage us and work alongside us.  Many have put their hands to work, constructing the school, restaurant, transitional houses and permanent homes.  Others have worked with our school teachers, students, pastors, nurses, mechanics, carpenters, masons, administrators, etc – sharing their knowledge to help our friends to learn even more.

 

I think of our amazing board members, Gloria Harvell, Carlos Pereira and Gama Parayson, who use their skills to help run this ministry.  They all work full time and have responsibilities at home and in church and yet they all put in extra effort to ensure MOHI is running smoothly.  Thank you JESUS for these special people!

I am blessed with an amazing husband, Alexis, A. Jay, Gama, Angela and Nathan, who are all missionaries at heart.  I thank God that He has brought along our dear friends Kevin and Tammy Groder and our new friend, Leah Fuller, to join in serving Him full time in this place that we all love so much.

 

Many organizations have partnered with us over the years, too.  Some have partnered for specific projects and others in a long-term relationship.  All are so valued!

 

Today I want to share with you a little about our partnership with Bless Back Worldwide (BBW).  BBW has been sending teams to us for just over a year now.  They focus on medical missions, but also do quite a bit of teaching, children’s ministry and soccer clinics.  They have been helping to build homes for families in need (remember, about 70% of the buildings in Grand-Goâve were destroyed in the earthquake!) and paying for surgeries and other medical needs.

 

We spent time with most of the leadership and board members of BBW while we were in Charlotte this September.  Talk about people of “like precious faith!”  I must say, we were exhausted from all the questions when we left Charlotte, but we were also very encouraged to be partnering with an organization that desires to learn and adapt to a culture that they admittedly do not know.  (FYI, they are quick learners and know an awful lot about Haitian culture already!)

A recent team from Bless Back Worldwide

A recent team from Bless Back Worldwide

 

I remember one of the board members asking us, “What is priority for you right now.”  Knowing that they focus mostly on medical missions, I so wanted to respond with something medical in nature, but that really wasn’t the case.   Lex and I knew very well that our priority was to finish the new school in Thozin, so that’s what we told them.

 

I will never forget Jane Case telling Lex, “You have not because you ask not!”  She was referring to James 4:2.  Without preaching a whole message, (which I could so do right now!) maybe we all should consider what she said.  No, we shouldn’t go around asking people for their stuff, but I know most people would love to bless someone with something they need – they just need to know that it’s needed!  Sharing this need with BBW enabled them to consider the need and decide if/how they wanted to help.

 

The “fear” I felt, sharing our real priority with them, was that they might feel that we didn’t appreciate the medical missions that they focus on.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Lives are regularly being saved and changed through medical missions.  It has been a part of our vision since the beginning.

 

God is so good to us!  Our friends at BBW have decided to partner with us in completing the basics of the first phase of the school, as well as transforming a couple of our other rooms into medical and dental patient facilities.  Praise God!  We are so excited and thankful!

 

20131117 mohi thozin clinic plans

 

The timing worked out such that Paul Fallon (yes, architect extraordinaire!) was here with the last BBW team and he was able to hear from them what they were looking for in this facility.  Paul has been such an amazing help to us since the earthquake.  He has designed buildings and done estimates and overseen work for the past three years.  We are so grateful for his continued role in the construction projects.  Alan Roseberry, who put in all the rough plumbing in the school, plans to be here to do the finish plumbing, as well as the plumbing for the medical/dental rooms.  Yay!

 

We are currently planning to fabricate a septic system in the driveway of the Thozin campus (see picture below).  This will require that we block off the front entrance area, so no one gets hurt.  This week we built stairs to the back door, which is never used, but will be now!  We will begin some demolishing (just unfinished floors) to accommodate bringing water into the medical/dental rooms this week.  Electrical conduit continues to be installed and benches continue to be built.

 

Here are some more pictures of this week’s activities…

 

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20131117 mohi church th1

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As most of you know, my husband believes in being grateful.  He often speaks of the woman from Michigan who sponsored him in school when he was growing up.  He would love to know who she is so he can give her a hug and say “thank you” for giving him an education.  There was a couple from his little village in la Gonave, Maleguy, which also played a major role in his childhood.  They pastored the local church and made sure the kids were in school and eating.  The pastor passed away several years ago, but the wife, Madame Pastor Boulou just passed on a couple of weeks ago.  Lex and some others left by boat yesterday to be a part of the funeral today.

 

I found it interesting that as Lex spoke of her, he did not show any sadness at her death.  There’s a general understanding among all “her kids” (Lex included) that she lived a full life in service to Jesus, completed it well and has now gone home.  It’s a joyous occasion!  They are happy for her!

 

Would you join me in praying for our friends at Mission E4 today.  Several of them were involved in an automobile accident in Marlborough, MA yesterday.  Two remained hospitalized.   I pray the Lord touch them and bring healing to both their minds and bodies.

Welcome Back to Ed

It’s great to see our friend Ed Locket back in Haiti. He spent a long time away and returned this week with a group from Rock Bridge Community Church (GA). This group has obviously been well trained by Ed in the arts of playing, singing, dancing and snuggling. The volume they were able to get out of our preschool classes was just amazing. They blessed many of the older elementary students with notebooks and also gave a donation for the school in St. Etienne. Thank you!!!

Ed Locket and guests descended on the Thozin campus with song and fun!

Ed Locket and guests descended on the Thozin campus with song and fun!

Now that we have supplies available (thank you to all the donors and teams that have carried them in!) the children are able to have a craft time during Children’s Ministry Sunday mornings.

Craft Time

Craft Time

In the new school building, the kids can gather all together in the activity for a time of prayer and worship, before going to individual classrooms, divided by age.

Prayer and worship in the children's ministry this morning.

Prayer and worship in the children’s ministry this morning.

The arrival of the new mobile medical clinic means many supplies have arrived, as well. The items for MOHI will be unpacked in January when our friends from the Chapel (OH) arrive. However, we were able to unload some special items for our friends from Archaie already.

Joe, from the COBBA orphanage in Archaie came to pick up goodies that were sent in the mobile medical clinic last week.

Joe, from the COBBA orphanage in Archaie came to pick up goodies that were sent in the mobile medical clinic last week.

Besides school happening daily, there’s always some other kind of work going on in the yard.  This week we had a lot of bench building going on.  We’re so grateful for all of you who have given towards the church benches.  We also needed more school benches.

More benches built this week!

More benches built this week!

Well, I guess it’s payback time.  Kevin, Tammy and Leah held down the fort while we strolled around America.  Now they are in the States while we and Angela stay on the front lines.  I suppose it’s fair enough, but I do miss them being here to toss ideas around with and be silly.

Oh how I would have loved to have had them here 13 years ago, when we were brand new to Grand-Goâve.  There were many times that I felt there was no one who understood what I was going through.  When I think about those times, verses from the book of James come to mind: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NLT)  Well, I’m still far from perfect, but I can honestly say that I am approaching that “needing nothing” stage.  I’m amazed at how content I have become.  The Lord is truly my everything.

This theme has been reverberating in our church in Thozin since last Sunday night, when we broke out in a spontaneous song, singing “Be my everything!”  Again this morning, the church lifted their voices in worship, acknowledging that He is our everything.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT)

Here are some pics from this morning.  Soooo good!

The after church crowd!

The after church crowd!

Prayer and worship in the general assembly this morning.

Prayer and worship in the general assembly this morning.

Just So Much

Food Security…and the Lack Thereof

     Crazy Prices

Something happened to prices in the open market while we were in America.  Plastic cups, which sold for seven Haitian dollars per sleeve now sell for twelve.  Eggs, which sold for about $30 Ht now sell for $45.  So it is for most everything that we buy locally.  While most food prices have increased by 50%+ wages have not.  It is times like this that often lead to uprisings in such a poor economy.  Please pray for the people of Haiti who struggle day in and day out to put food on their tables.

I remember when A. Jay was a colicky baby.  At about 4pm each day he would start screaming and crying.  It’s just heart-wrenching for a mom to deal with an inconsolable baby.  It lasted only a couple of months, but I worked hard every one of those nights to try to comfort and calm him.  I found that if I stood in front of the dishwasher, with it running, and rocked him in my arms, that he would calm down.  I would put a blanket on the floor and put him down once I felt he was sleeping soundly.  Lord help me when the dish washer came to the end of the cycle.  I had the cleanest dishes in Gardner during that time.  I would make sure the dish washer ran until at least midnight every night.  I would do anything in my power to keep him from waking and screaming again.

I often think of that time when I consider the mothers in this country who are so challenged to feed their families.  A hungry baby cries and cries.  A hungry child whines and cries and pulls on mom’s skirt and it never stops…until food is given.  A. Jay was only colicky for a couple of months.  There are children whose lifestyle is to be hungry.  How do these moms cope?  Why do they have to?  It’s one of the injustices in this world, for sure.

     Feeding Programs

IMG_1643School feeding programs are one of the best ways to ensure that children are eating regularly.  When we first started the mission, we didn’t have food for the students.  What a difference when we started feeding the kids.  So often the kids would fall asleep during class.  After we started feeding them, they were lively and rambunctious.   Their grades improved.  Their faces changed.  Everything about them seemed to improve.  I was seeing with my own eyes what I had learned in school, that it matters what we eat.  For some of our students, if they didn’t eat at school, they would likely not eat every day.

It costs a lot of money to feed school children everyday.  We have over eight hundred children in school.  Over the years we have received some of the school food from the World Food Program.  We actually were distributing food (rice, beans, oil and salt) to 30 schools in partnership with them.  Now, for reasons beyond my comprehension, no food is being given by them for any of these schools.  We are grateful that when we really needed it, Food for the Poor and Kids Against Hunger came through with food for us.  Food for the Poor gives a portion of the food we need.  Kids Against Hunger has sent us two containers of rice and soy meals.  This food helps to feed our school kids, but we also distribute it to others in need, such as orphanages and families in crisis.

Sharing food with the COBBA orphanage (Archaie, Haiti)

Sharing food with the COBBA orphanage (Archaie, Haiti)

While we were in the States, we had the privilege of participating in a food packaging event at The Chapel.  As a result, there are cases of food that will be available to us in January to help continue feeding these and other children.

It can be a bit nerve wracking to not know where the food is coming from for the school.  But I always remember the verse from the Bible that says, I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. (Psalm 37:25 KJV) and I am confident that the Lord will always provide food for these youngsters  (aka “my babies”).

     Peanut Butter

Amazing!  Five Fire Departments from rural Massachusetts have donated over a ton of peanut butter to Mission of Hope International!  We are so grateful to Cheryl “Chel” Finn, who caught the vision and ran with it.  Now it’s no longer hers alone.

Last Fall, we asked friends and partners to collect peanut butter for us so that we could ship it to Haiti.  Everywhere we went people were bringing us peanut butter.  It was great.  Chel, who teaches and works with many firefighters in Massachusetts, spread the word among her friends and co-workers.  Well, that spark caused a fire and there developed a competition between several departments to see who would donate the most peanut butter.  Chel’s husband, Charles, crafted the Great Peanut Butter Challenge trophy, which went to the Douglas Fire Department, with over 200 jars of peanut butter donated.

This Fall, we didn’t ask for peanut butter donations, but the fire that started last year, rekindled.  Now we are no longer counting jars, but rather by pounds.  Here are the resulting donations:  1st place East Brookfield 732.05 lbs  …  2nd place Rutland 491.625 lbs  …  3rd Douglas 369.125 lbs  …  4th Mendon 287.359375 lbs  …  Honorable mention Uxbridge 186.6875 lbs …  All together these five fire stations donated just over 2,066 pounds of peanut butter.

The Great Peanut Butter Challenge

The Great Peanut Butter Challenge

It’s fun to see the competition and enjoyment caused by the Great Peanut Butter Challenge, but it’s rather sobering to realize that this peanut butter will impact the lives of hundreds of children living at risk.  According to figures from the CIA World Factbook, the infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births) in Haiti is 50.92.  18.9% of children under the age of 5 (when they are most at risk of death) are underweight.  We are talking not only about quality of life, but life and death.  We are so grateful for the efforts of so many to send peanut butter to Haiti.  The peanut butter has been donated, now we need to ship it to Haiti.  Because of the overwhelming response, we are in need of about $2,000 more this year than last.  Please consider donating to get this peanut butter to where it will make a real difference in the lives of children.

Healthcare

     Leah

We have been so blessed to have Leah Fuller with us for three months, working in the Thozin medical clinic.  I have enjoyed the “deep” conversations we have had over patient issues, general injustices and cute babies.  Leah spent 6 months with our fellow missionary friend, Ed Locket, prior to coming to MOHI.  She adopted many of his skills for loving on kids, remembering names, interrupting adult conversation to pay attention to them, etc.  I have had so much fun walking between the office and the missionary compound with her.  All the little ones call out to her along the way.  It’s precious.

Leah will be returning to MOHI in January to serve full time – for a “to be determined by God” length of time.  Together with Angela, we will continue providing the much needed services and medicines to the people of our communities and the students at MOHI.

Clinic Happenings

Clinic Happenings

     Prevention

I remember hearing my mom/grandmother saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of medicine.”  It’s so exciting to me that MOHI is becoming more and more proactive in prevention.  All of our students receive medicine to help them not contract worms and they are being taught good sanitation practice.  The community and our staff are also learning the importance of good sanitation, as Pastor Kevin has been sharing educational videos (in Kreyol) in the clinic waiting area.  This week he also held a class for our workers at the missionary compound about food safety and hand washing.

     The Mobile Medical Clinic Arrives

We have been talking about the mobile medical clinic.  We have walked through it.  We have helped pack food to put in it.  We have been a part of the packing.  We have dreamed of its arrival in Haiti.  Now, we have seen it arrived here.  I can’t even describe to you the excitement I felt upon seeing the bus drive into our Thozin campus Thursday night.  I told our staff that was there for the arrival, “it’s 38 feet long!”  Pastor Hakine said, “Oh no, it’s much longer than that.”  I took the tape measure out and we measured it – 38 feet.  The point is, it’s sooooo long!  That means there’s plenty of room for holding everything we need to drive to a remote location and hold a medical clinic.

The mobile medical clinic has arrived!

The mobile medical clinic has arrived!

Leah shared a story with me recently, that just reaffirmed in me the need for this bus.  She told me of a woman who lives in a remote area where there is no healthcare available.  She had high blood pressure, but could not afford to get herself to the next city, be consulted by a doctor and purchase bp medicine.  The woman eventually had a stroke and is suffering from the damage now.  A mobile medical clinic visiting her village monthly would have made a world of difference for her.  High blood pressure and diabetes are both situations that need to be treated continuously.  I believe that the Lord will utilize this bus to save many, many lives in many remote areas of Haiti.  Please keep the medical ministry here in prayer, trusting the Lord to grow it and sustain it, according to His will.

     Vision

Paul Fallon’s time here also overlapped with the Bless Back Worldwide team.  (You remember Paul Fallon, architect extraordinaire!!!)  It was great that Melissa, who is our point person for BBW, was actually on this team and got to share some ideas with Paul.  We had a great meeting where we developed more of a plan for the medical clinic, the addition of dental and a new position for the school science lab.  The recent BBW teams have included dental professionals and they have barely been able to scratch the surface of the need we’re seeing here.  It’s wonderful that BBW is interested in long-term solutions for our students and communities.

Church

     Thozin

We were blessed this morning by a timely message (for me, at least) from Pastor Kevin.  I was encouraged to stretch my faith.  I shouldn’t depend on what I know I can or cannot do, but I should expect God to do amazing things, just as we see recorded in the book of Acts.

Pastor Kevin and Tammy will be leaving this week for a quick trip back to the States.  We pray they are able to accomplish everything they’re setting out to do and return to us encouraged and just RARIN’ to go.

Church Service in Thozin

Church Service in Thozin

     Sunday School

We’re implementing some changes in our Children’s Sunday School program.  Honestly, it’s pretty exciting!  Lex sat down our leaders and laid out some of his goals for the program.  Angela is now adding her experience to that of our other Sunday School leaders (Alexis, Carline and Luc Sony).  We’ve also added a budget, to enable a snack and drink for the kids.  This morning was a great start, but it seems that we will need to increase our staff pretty much…immediately, as we had 148 children in three classrooms.  Nevertheless, it was a very encouraging start.  There are lots of great things in store for these kids!

Sunday School for Cuties only!

Sunday School for Cuties only!

     Incredible Worship

There’s an incredible worship service happening right now as I am trying to finish up this post.  Wow!!!   Alexis is translating for Pastor Kevin and the music’s going and they’re singing in the spirit about Jesus coming back.  I just had to go join in for a bit.  Wish you all could have been here with us for this one.  So glad, too, that Ed Locket is back!

English Worship Service Tonight in Thozin

English Worship Service Tonight in Thozin

Electrical

We are grateful to Ted Bronson for his generosity.  Ted not only donated and shipped his van, filled with electrical supplies to Haiti, but he also came himself to get things started.  This week Ted worked hand in hand with our crew to get the cables run from the electric pole to the electric room, underground to the school.  They installed all the breaker panels and went over details with us.  Now we will be working on the inside wiring.

Electrical system for the Thozin campus

Electrical system for the Thozin campus

Library and Computer Lab

Having architect Paul Fallon back in Haiti for a bit was just awesome.  He got the roof and stairs built in the new electrical building and did some estimates (to complete the school, to make an awesome library and to improve our medical/dental facilities).  We also got to go over some changes coming up in the school and he advised us on how to adjust the use of the building to accommodate those changes.  One change is that the science lab will now become the computer lab, next to the library.  The science lab will join the medical/dental clinic area.

Kindle readers from Books for Haiti

Kindle readers from Books for Haiti

Carpeting has now been purchased for both the library and computer rooms (thanks to a generous donor!) and should be shipping down here in a few weeks.  Robert Ende and Cynthia Reid brought us forty new Kindle readers last week to add to our collection of books.  Each Kindle can hold well over a thousand books.  Many classics are available, free of charge.  Others will need to be purchased.  An Amazon gift card would be a great Christmas gift for our classes – just in case you were looking for a unique giving opportunity. (*smile*)

Hard working boys

Hard working boys

We had a couple of our high school graduates join Tammy this week, learning how to use the Kindles.  We are hoping to bring them on as part time librarians in December or January.  Even though the library room itself will not yet be ready, we are eager to begin using the Kindles and physical books that we have stored right now.  Perhaps when the rooms are ready, our staff will all be ready, too.

School

It’s wild to be in the school yard and feel like it’s still vacation time.  The students are in classrooms once again.  Yay!  There’s such a sense of pride all around.  We are so blessed to have a school building that is solid and provides space for each classroom to work independently.

Who misses Leah the most?

Who misses Leah the most?

Every morning when I arrive, however, I am VERY aware that school is going on.  All the preschool classes start out their day with singing and dancing in the yard.  It’s so much fun to watch them.  Of course they do tend to wander away and come over to grab onto the missionaries a little bit, too.

Missionaries

We are so blessed to have several full time missionaries working and/or living with us now.  Besides the four Edmés, Angela Parayson, Kevin & Tammy Groder and Leah Fuller now call MOHI home.  I am incredibly grateful that God has brought people that I can get along with.  (I know, you all thought that was an easy thing, but they all know better!)  I feel like we’re all family and I love it!

Missionaries, visitors, staff - we all enjoy each other!

Missionaries, visitors, staff – we all enjoy each other!