Heartfelt highlights in Haiti....
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!