We arrived back in the US safely early Friday morning after delays in airports (and even having our plane turned around while in the air and having to land and switch to a different one because of maintenance issues!)! Even with the trip being a few days longer than in the past, it seems like our time in Haiti flew by! The VBS went well. We averaged around 130 kids per day. As some of you may remember, this is down significantly from past years, where we have had 200-220. The reason for this is most likely the move to the church's new property. The new property is close to the old, rental property, but is far enough away that many of the kids from that area who came in the past probably would not walk there on their own unless parents brought them. While there are certainly many kids around the church's new property, it may take the church a couple years to get established there and for these community kids to hear about the VBS and want to come. We were able to once again provide the kids with 2 meals during each day of VBS. We served a small breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches or crackers, on alternating days. Kids also received a cooked lunch of rice, spaghetti, or corn maize with various toppings at the end of VBS each day. While provided these meals to the kids is a big expense for the trip, we feel it is important, as we don't know how regular the kids are able to eat at home. We had four rotations again this year: class, crafts, music, and recreation. Classes focused on the greatest and second greatest commandments and covered a different person/people we should love each day (God, parents, brothers/sisters, friends, enemies, ourselves). One young man in the oldest class requested my notes from the day that we talked about how you can be forgiven and saved. I ended up giving him my notes from the rest of the week too. He can not read them in English, but said he could get someone to translate them for him. He also asked a lot of questions during the class! I pray that the church will continue to work with him and that the Holy Spirit will also continue to work on him!
The Saturday after the VBS, we held a pool party again this year for the VBS volunteers. This serves two purposes. It helps us to continue building relationships with the young adults of the church who we work with in the VBS. During the week, we are busy with the kids and don't have as much time to spend just getting to know the VBS volunteers better. This was especially important this year, as we had several new volunteers! Building and developing relationships with church members and volunteers is a primary goal of the mission trip. The pool party allowed us a relaxed atmosphere where we could get to know volunteers better and have fun together. The pool party also serves as a reward or thank-you for serving in the VBS. It is not just a thank-you from us, but we hope it encourages them to continue to be involved in serving the Lord through the New Christian Church of Tabarre's ministries.
On Monday, we took half of the girls from House of Joy, the girls' orphanage that Joy In Haiti and Pastor Brisenault manage, to a beach resort in Haiti called Kaliko Beach. A previous Joy In Haiti team had taken half the girls already and we were asked to take the other half during our trip. The girls enjoyed the trip. They were able to play in the ocean for a while, but quickly switched to the swimming pool. Haitians seem to not like salt water very well. Before leaving the beach, they also worked to partially bury Joseline, Pastor Brisenault's wife, with sand! They enjoyed the time in the pool and the food served at the resort as part of our admission.
On Tuesday we traveled about an hour and a half to a city in Haiti's interior called Mirabalais. It was a very scenic trip, with beautiful mountains, curvy roads, and a driver who drove very fast. I was quite concerned on the way, but by the time we came back wasn't worried about the driving as much anymore. On the north side of Mirabalais we saw one of the power plants that creates electric for Port-au-Prince and other cities of Haiti. It is positioned at a river dam which created a 14,000 acre lake. The plant was undergoing repairs to increase it's production, as it has only been operating at about 1/3 of its actually capacity for several years. Haiti's newly-elected president has promised the country that within 24 months the cities will have electric for 24 hours a day, and he is working toward that goal! We also drove past the University Hospital of Mirabalais, a very large hospital located in that city. We ate lunch at a small restaurant in Mirabalais and survived the ride back to Port-au-Prince on full stomachs! That night we enjoyed a meal of lobster at the guest house. For 3 out of 4 of us, it was our first time eating lobster. The cook had a good laugh out of watching us try to crack the shells open to get to the meat!
On Wednesday we went to the church to say our goodbyes to the Haitian volunteers. Pastor Brisenault and the youth committee had decided to extend the VBS for another week (it turns out they had been doing it for 2 weeks before we arrived, so that's a 4-week VBS!). Kids in Haiti don't have a lot to do in the summer and having the VBS for so long gave them something fun and positive to do! We stayed there with the kids and volunteers for a while before going out to eat. We went to one nice restaurant that didn't have anything we wanted (just because something is on the menu in Haiti, it doesn't mean they actually have it!). After several tries to get something, we left and went to a smaller restaurant, where we had duck for the first time!
On Thursday we got ready and went to the airport, where our flight was delayed. We then flew to Miami. At Miami, the flight was delayed an hour while mechanical problems with the plane were repaired. We then had to sit on the tarmac and run the engines for a while to burn some fuel, because we had too much fuel to take off. About a half hour after leaving Miami, when we were in the Orlando area, the mechanical problems popped up again, and the pilots were instructed to turn the plane around and go back to Miami. Once there, they weren't allowed to land, but had to fly in circles over Miami for an hour to burn fuel, because the plane weighed too much to land safely. It seems that all of this is calculated for normal flights, but because of our turn-around, we hadn't burnt enough fuel. When we finally landed, everyone was switched to a different plane. My sister called our parents, who were already at the Cincinnati airport, expecting us to be landing there at any time. We had no way to communicate to them from in the air to let them know what was happening. We finally boarded the second plane. After we were settled in, the pilot announced that we would be taking off shortly, but he had to do a lot of paperwork first! After a long time, he announced they were almost finished with the paperwork, and trust him, he wanted to be on the way as much as we did! Finally, we took off and made the flight with no further problems. We arrived in Cincinnati at 2:45 AM Friday morning. Our original arrival time was supposed to be 10:30 PM Thursday evening. We got home at around 4 AM.
I want to close this letter with a post I shared on Facebook on our last night in Haiti:
"It's our last night in Haiti for this trip! Despite being nearly two weeks instead of our normal 10 days, it seems like it has gone by fast! We have been blessed to see old friends and make some new ones! We've been blessed to help with a VBS that has been fun for community kids, taught them about the Lord, and helped connect them to the church since it's at a new location! We've been blessed to see the progress that has been made on the church, school, and orphanage buildings! God is blessing the growing congregation of the New Christian Church of Tabarre! We've been blessed to spend time with some of the House of Joy girls at the beach. We've been blessed to have some new experiences. Some of the team were blessed to see and learn about the water purification ministry JIH partners with. We were blessed to see a part of Haiti we haven't seen before, the Mirabalais area (And we were blessed that we didn't die on the winding mountain roads to get there and back!). Rebecca and Aubrey were blessed with the experience of finding a tarantula in their shower! We were blessed to try some new cuisine, lobster and duck! We were blessed with some gifts from Haitian friends!
We came to be a blessing to others by sharing God's love with kids in the VBS, working alongside volunteers from the church, showing them that we are their brothers and sisters in Christ, and by taking some of the orphanage girls to enjoy the beach. But as we worked to be a blessing to others, I feel that we have also been blessed beyond measure in return!"
Below is a link to my Haiti 2017 picture album on Facebook. You should be able to use the link to view the pictures in the album whether you have a Facebook account or not. Enjoy!
Thank you all for your prayers for the trip!
Let God take care of you!
Music at the New Christian School of Tabarre - October 2016
It all started at the teachers' meeting that we had in Haiti on our October 2015 trip. The teachers shared with us that they wanted to have a music program in their school. When the Joy in Haiti board met in the spring of 2016, we discussed some ideas and decided that it would be best to have the students learn how to play the recorder. Thirty five recorders were purchased (thanks to the generosity of a Joy in Haiti supporter) and several others were donated. This would be enough recorders for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. Also purchased was a recorder curriculum called Recorder Karate. The unknown was if any of the students had ever had any musical training or if there would be a teacher to continue working with the curriculum once I left. Before the trip, I spent a lot of time praying about how to introduce note reading, rhythms, and the recorders to the students. I decided to start with basic note values and I made posters with various rhythms. I also took rhythm sticks to use with the students. Upon our arrival in Haiti, we learned from Pastor and Joseline that they had just hired a music teacher for the school, and his first day was our first day at the school!! AMAZING!! God is SO good! I should never be surprised at how God works to carry out His plan! This was such an incredible blessing! The new music teacher, Emmanuel (seen in picture, above right), spent time his first day auditioning students for a school choir, and I didn't get to speak with him that day. When we went back to the school the next week, Emmanuel was teaching in the third grade class. I wanted to observe him before I spoke with him. When I walked into the classroom, he was teaching the students basic note values, which is something I had done the week before! I jumped right in and we taught together, even without the help of a translator! Music is a universal language ... no translation needed! We worked with the poster board rhythms and rhythm sticks and went from class to class. After doing this, we went back to the school office where I showed Emmanuel the recorders and recorder curriculum. He was so excited! He already knew how to play the recorder, and he was extremely thankful to have the books for the students to use. He shared with me that he teaches at 3 different schools, and this was now his favorite school because he had supplies to use with the children! He also said the next time I am in Haiti, he will have the students play a concert for me on their recorders!
I worked with the students and their recorders on 2 different days, and it was so much fun! They absolutely loved playing them! Some were catching on faster than others, but they all enjoyed the experience. I can't wait to find out how they're progressing.
The highlight of my trip in October was sharing my love of music with these precious students and meeting their new music teacher!! Music is an incredible gift from the Lord, and it's something that everyone can enjoy and benefit from learning.---Stefanie Liesman
I cannot even begin to say "It's funny", but it IS rather ironic that I would've been stuck on listening to the song "In the Eye of the Storm"-Ryan Stevenson, for two weeks prior to our trip, September 28, 2016....
Our small team of four, Don & Angela, my husband, Steve and myself embarked on what we hoped would be a productive, enlightening & fun-filled journey--after all, it was Don's first trip to Haiti (Angela's second),
the new school building was recently opened, children were already buzzing inside the classrooms and Pastor B. had a very looong "honey-do" list for us! We came equipped (we thought), we came with a plan (we prayed) and we had determination. And four days in country, Hurricane Matthew decided to invade the island. We planned to build up--it's plan was to tear down.
We intermittently reassured family and friends at home that we, the Brisenault family, the girls at HOJ and all of the friends that we all share there on the island of Hispanola were indeed safe from the storm's wrath--however, many of their family and friends were not as equally unscathed. The storm "took" just two days from our journey. It took so much more from so many others. Although we couldn't accomplish a thing on our lists during those two stormy days, we were blessed instead to trek through the muddy streets to a few of Pastor's congregation homes to be sure they were safe, to invite them to stay at the brand new school-where it was DRY (all thanks and praise to God above for His provisions)-we were shown first-hand at how resilient, brave and calm the Haitian people can be--in the eye of the storm. Many would not leave their homes, fear of what could be lost in their absence kept them close. They "battened down their hatches" and weathered the on-coming storm. "What else can we do? Where would we go?", we were told by friends. We had hours to just sit and chat with our friend, Pastor B....learn more about his vision, the future and how to pray for it all.
The storm came and it went--we would not know the aftermath until long after we were home--weather news was difficult to even find on the guesthouse TV (as opposed to the relentless news we are bombarded with here in the States)! But Wednesday morning came and our lists remained unfinished--so we rolled up our sleeves and with (a lot) of help from Patrick, Ferdinande and Remey--what was accomplished was more than we could've hoped for--we had had two really fun-filled days with the children at the school the previous week (before they were called off school for the entire week of the storm!), approximately 270 people were fitted with new reading glasses on a warm Saturday morning, sponsor letters and gifts were shared with the girls at HOJ, we even discussed some "girl stuff" and shared many laughs, just as typical girls will--even in the midst of the storm....
God's plans ARE better than our own--although there was an agenda, thankfully it was decided upon to begin painting early on--so it had time to dry before the rains came! The enormous gate, the I-don't-know-how-many-feet-of cinder block school walls were painted yellow, doors were varnished and weather sealed (high five!) and the entire principal's office was painted (Mesi anpil, anpil, anpil to Patrick for jumping in to paint the ceiling--that was a hot, tough job and he tackled it skillfully, neatly and patiently, God love him!).
Playground equipment was located in Delmas, purchased and delivered (this is always an adventure in Haiti to simply make a purchase--thank your local hardware store next time you're in for the convenience they lend to your life!).
God once again, through the storm, provided favor and protection by having the children off school--"Why would you say favor?!" you ask? Because pick axes were swinging, cement was mixed & poured, oil based paint was literally everywhere! To make a few adjustments to the new playground equipment, Pastor asked a local welder to come (along with his torch and flying sparks--can you imagine how many little retinas would've been burned that day had the children been present?!), new gutters, sheet metal, wire fencing and dangerous tools were abundant! --Yes, favor, we'd say!
.....Although we were missing seeing their sweet, smiling faces each day as well as hearing the cheers & shouts of JOY that were heard simply upon arrival on our second day (we hadn't even done anything yet!), we weren't realizing how very blessed we were on those student-less days--if the children had been in school, work would only have taken place from 1pm till 5pm--not much could've been accomplished with the remaining days...so although we missed seeing them--we know in our hearts that God gave us a mission, He provided the way to completion and although there were so many terrible stories from after the storm, ours, thankfully, was not a terrible story.
The storm was, for our team, God's intercession of grace to be able to bring just a bit of JOY to the kids at New Christian School of Tabarre------for on their arrival back to school Monday, October 10--the "blancs"-(that's us)-had already gone home, and the storm was a long way away from their island---but left in the place of the large void of area that was once their play space--was now a real playground for them to enjoy. ---"It looks like a school, not just a building!", Pastor Brisenault commented.
Our small team was not able to see or hear the shouts of excitement or surprised look on faces that Monday morning, nor the havoc it surely wrecked on Madame Alloud's kindergarten class...but instead we were left with a sweet sense of JOY at accomplishing exactly what God set us out to do for this mission trip--only to have it reinforced in our team's hearts upon arrival home with a sermon stating that "recognition of ones self and works" should only be sought in the eyes of our Great God!
See newly added pictures on the New Christian School of Tabarre tab of the website.
Although this was a fast trip, a lot of in-depth recon was gathered! Regarding the new school buildings, Charlie expresses that "although the pictures are incredible, standing within its walls and seeing the students and teachers in their classes was truly amazing.We can all praise God for allowing us to be a part of this project." he adds that "this location is quiet, low traffic means low dust. The whole atmosphere of the place is different in a way I cannot explain.Pastor cannot contain his excitement.The local community and the church are excited. Watching the teachers and the children interact was a JOY...." "...I think we have a good bunch of teachers. The new office and utility building are under construction. The utility houses the well and pump for clean water. Pastor is sharing water with the community and building goodwill in the area."
"Something new for next year is a plan for night school. Many adults would like to learn how to read. Pastor envisions sessions from 4-8pm."
Lots of building going on in Tabarre, in the hearts of God's disciples and in fresh minds wanting a Christian education. We are all so blessed to be a small part of this ministry. Thank God for His goodness!
A team of young women stayed at the House of Joy in January 2016 (and a few of them came back for a three week stay in June/July 2016!)...teaching English, tutoring, doing arts and crafts, playing games and sharing God's love with the girls, the elderly and surrounding villages. As their faith matured, so did their hearts for Haiti and its people.
Be prepared to have your heart melt as you read below what each of the young ladies hope to share with you--their sincerity of their faith and the love for the mission is evident. We are so thankful for these young ladies and their hearts and in their being part of the girls lives at HOJ.
Brooke E.: Many people are confused when we tell them where we are going for a week. They question the safety and the risks. But what they don't consider is the life changing experience that Haiti brings. Yes, it can be dangerous. But light is made to invade darkness. Haiti brings me so much joy and the impact made on the team and on the people reached is incredible. Haiti is my second home and my heart aches to be with my second family.
Eden B: It seems like the world is quieter in Haiti. You can actually hear God teaching you and see the joy of the Haitian people! We were even able to see God do miracles in our group and see His hand in everything that happened on that trip. I can't wait to go back!
Paige S: A lot of events happened in Haiti, but nothing compares to hearing God loud and clear, telling you exactly what He's called you to: to shine His light. God was definitely working through this amazing experience. I must remember that the mission doesn't stop when we land in Springfield- Haiti was just the training ground.
Hannah H: When I used to hear about people who would drop their whole lives and move to a foreign country to be missionaries, I was always a little confused as to why. Why would they give up their lives in America to go to a dirty unknown place? But after going to Haiti this Christmas break I totally got it. I would go back in a heartbeat and stay forever if I could. Haiti stole my heart.
Julianna F: The best experience in Haiti was really just being there. Every day was perfect; everyday we served. It's not just the orphaned girls or the desperate people in Turbe - not even the elderly in the nursing home that make me want to go back so badly. It's the fact that it was real living - God showed me day by day what life, our purpose on earth, is truly about.
According to Todd S., first time mission-tripper to Haiti---"I feel like we made a big difference with the help we provided in the short time we were there. There is however a lot more to be done. With God's guidance, progress is inevitable. How quickly is another story. The trip was enlightening and heartfelt."
Steve M. expressed gratitude to Pastor B. for inviting the team of men to participate in the build of the New Christian Church of Tabarre's property. "I am forever thankful to God for putting the country of Haiti on my heart as well as for giving me the health and stamina to withstand some tough conditions". He feels a sense of accomplishment and pride in the effort put forth by his team members as well as in working alongside the hard-working men of Haiti. "The everyday weather conditions make work in Haiti TOUGH to put it lightly. This was no easy task and I am grateful to have participated in the project. I am humbled by the generosity of those that opened their hearts to help finance this wall. So much more is left to do and God-willing, it will be done in His name. I recommend anyone even considering mission trips to trust God and make the move."
Pastor Brisenault stated that the men working on the land the following week requested the team back--
a Haitian proverb says "Men anpil chay pa lou."...... Many hands make the load lighter!
The men took time to partake in a party for the girls at HOJ celebrating their summer months birthday days!
So much more is to be done, and very hot, hard work! Still needed as of today, the gate for the entry, a transformer for electric--and yes, believe it or not--more rock--but in gravel form! If you're invested in this project, look for details to come in your email!
Above: Cathy & Hugh, celebrating the 6th grade Graduation of Daphca!
Right: Pastor's Wives Ministry Conference
Below: Cathy and Daphca sharing special moments.
Most usually, Hugh travels with the Strategic Water Team, installing water purification systems around the country of Haiti--this was a change in itinerary, but it sounds as though the time spent was a blessing. And, a blessing two-fold--his wife Cathy accompanied him for the first time! They, together with JIH president Cindy and sewing cafe coordinator Jennie, accomplished so much in God's name in a short span of time.
A few words from Hugh;
"My agenda for the trip was threefold:
2.Train pastor and 12 of his congregants in Stephen Ministry
3.Work on the wall on the new property
Daphca's graduation on Saturday was truly a blessing. She even made some prepared remarks. Pictures were posted on Facebook. Party followed on Sunday for her and Eddyana at the orphanage. It's amazing to see what God has done in Dacha's life over the last three years. She knows a lot of English words but not yet able to put them in sentences. Also a blessing to see how she cares for and sets a positive example for the younger girls at the orphanage.
Cathy and I met with pastor and 12 of the church members for three afternoons to train them in the first three (of 25 modules) for Stephen Ministry which is one on one Christ based care giving for people going through some type of personal crisis. Cathy and I are trained leaders in this ministry at DPC. Pastor was introduced to this ministry when he visited last year and thought this would be beneficial in his church and community. I had sent all of the training materials in the last container load. Hopefully he will follow the manual and continue the training on the remaining modules. Hope to commission his trainees when I return in January.
I helped work on the wall for four days along with Casey and Jackson (Springfield). We obtained wheelbarrows and hand tools for digging and moving rock. Also moved rocks from the front of the property to the back for use in building the foundation for the wall.
Quite a lot accomplished in six days. Blessed to be a blessing."
Jennie, Cindy and Cathy assisted Joseline with a Women's Conference for Pastor's Wives, while Hugh worked on the new land with Casey & Jackson, the ladies on the team spent lots of time with the girls from HOJ--beading, sewing, swimming, celebrating God and His Word in their lives and being thankful for the sponsors that support their every need. At the school, they took spring student pictures, shared treasured moments with words from sponsors with the respective students and celebrated the end of the school year with the Fresco man and a graduation ceremony!
While Pastor B is in town, the St. Louis area teams met with him to discuss needs for the new land, the construction of the buildings and what it takes to get it all started.
In Haiti--properties owned by caring and concerned citizens MUST have a high wall constructed around it for protection of contents inside. Walls are sometimes made of cactus in the countryside, or sheets of corrugated metal when nothing else is available, however a truly strong wall meant for serious protection for its contents, families and children at play would be a 12' high wall, made of metal reinforcing bar and cement--possible even with barbed wire rolled along the top edge. THIS is the type of wall we intend to build around the new land that will be home to the New Christian Church & School of Tabarre.
Our teams were brainstorming on how to get everyone involved in a fun way! It is estimated that this wall around the large parcel of land may cost upwards of $17,500. What we'd like to do is separate the wall into 5-foot sections, piecing it out to be purchased by friends and family of Joy in Haiti! Measurements and exact figures to come....but, by walking alongside us, your family will be a significant part of the starting phase for this church & school building project.
Watch for the figures---updates to come SOON! ---Have some ideas for raising funding? Let us know!!
Please be praying about the children, the church congregation, this mission and how YOU can be the (building) hands of Jesus to our friends in Haiti!
The Springfield team spent their week serving alongside Pastor B and the New Christian Church of Tabarre. They were there to pray for and with the people at the nursing home while distributing hygiene kits. In the village of Turbe, 200 bags of food were a blessing to many families, and the group provided funds to help build a house for a widow and her 5 children that attend Pastor B's church. Of course they spent time with the girls at House of Joy; doing crafts, hosting a birthday party, and even an added trip to the grocery store! The team was able to help on the property and provide the money for the rock and gravel. The week was encouraging to see how God is at work in Haiti!