Friday, August 31, 2018

Laughter is the same in any language

 If you had asked me prior to my first trip to Haiti what I expected of the week ahead, laughter likely wouldn’t have topped the list.  However humor has a way of catching us off guard, and sometimes arising in unexpected places and situations. . .

The mood felt quiet and somber as we entered the clean and cheerfully painted main room of a care facility for disabled young adults.  All of the children in the main room were bed-ridden, in approximately 40 beds arranged neatly along the walls.  Despite clearly being loved and well cared for by the staff, many children looked very uncomfortable, their tiny limbs often contorted beyond their control.  

Our team had the privilege of washing the children and clipping their fingernails and toenails alongside the loving Haitian staff.  I awkwardly pulled the nail clipper out of my pocket that the director had given me upon arrival.  My own children can’t stand when I trim their nails so I was on my best behavior – trimming gently and leaving “lots of white” (as my youngest son insists.)  The room felt uncomfortably quiet, so I started quietly singing “Amazing Grace” to the first child I was with.  That felt somehow too heavy, so upon noticing the beautiful sunny day outside and the laughter spilling in from the courtyard where some of the other residents were playing parachute games with the team, I switched to singing “On Top of Spaghetti” instead.  This led to an eclectic medley of all-time favorite kid songs and after a particularly non-sensical verse, I burst out laughing.  To my surprise, I looked down at the child whose nails I was clipping, certain she had been sound asleep, and saw her eyelids flutter open, a huge smile spread across her face, and she let out a great belly laugh herself.  I couldn’t speak any Creole, but it didn’t matter.  The silliness of the moment translated perfectly.

Later in the week we returned to Cite Soleil where we loved, held, and played with the children in the midst of the organized chaos of the daily water truck stop.  I was surprised to hear English as a young girl rushed up to me and asked emphatically, “Hey you - you from U.S.?  You on WhatsApp?”  Her English was crystal clear, but I had no idea what she was referring to until our Haitian friend and interpreter graciously explained that “WhatsApp” is a free international calling and texting app, and she was asking whether I use this app.  As a smartphone holdout and novice of all things tech-related, I had to laugh and explain that no, I had never heard of WhatsApp.  She cocked her head to one side and gave me a strange look (this, incidentally I am used to!) and happily bounded back towards the other kids playing in the modified splash pad behind the water truck.  I couldn’t help but think, “of all places . . . “  I said a little prayer that someday this bright, inquisitive girl will be writing code for the next generation of apps herself.

Even (or perhaps especially) when so much divides us (language, culture, life experiences), humor has a way of quickly generating true connection – a reminder of our shared human experience.  We share so much more in common that we often think.  Fortunately for all of us, laughter is the same in any language.

Colleen Diemer

Sunday, August 26, 2018


It's hard not to be myopic when my daughter is in Haiti. While doing my best to give equal attention to a team of 19 all week, now that we are all back in the US, I  allowing myself to be flooded with the amazing feeling of watching Clara grow in compassion, faith and love during her week in Haiti.
I learned the Creole words for "daughter" as soon as we arrived . Petit fille mwen. How fun to lavish all of my motherly attention on my middle child.  I love taking all ages and abilities to Haiti. It's especially rewarding to travel with youth and young adults. It's an experience that, I have no doubt, changes the course of young lives.

Big decisions happen, like choosing an area of study at university and whether or not to pursue mission work. And small shifts happen. Seeing the world from a different lens.  Planting a seed of compassion that will grow and blossom over a lifetime.  Seeing the power of God's love when our own strength fails.

Clara has always been a 'baby magnet' and it was no different in Haiti.  Children founds her arms everywhere we went. Haiti overwhelms the senses of anyone who is there for the first time. It can be hard to find moments to rest. How is life for the mama of the child Clara is holding in this photo?  Where does she find rest in densely populated Cite Soleil? Where did she give birth to this child? Where does she find clean water, food and health care? We pray and love on the child God puts in our arms that day as best we can.

The young people on our team helped us to remember to play and have fun! Ring around the Rosie, soccer, spontaneous dance parties, coloring, acting out Bible stories, singing goofy camp songs. We had fun with each other and our Haitian friends. (I still can't do the floss dance!)

The faith of everyone on my team was remarkable and beautiful. Singing worship songs with children and elderly touched hearts and drew us closer to God.  Our team members all had the beautiful opportunity to bathe special needs children and the feet of elderly.  What a remarkable way to imitate Jesus.

Mission work is all about relationships. We relate to our team members, to our gracious Haitian hosts and to our amazing God. What an incredible blessing Clara and I had on our relationship in Haiti. I never tire of watching my children (and team members) serve others and radiating Christ's love. Thank you too all who supported us on this journey.


Friday, April 6, 2018

A visit to Leogane

Day 3--A visit to Leogane


We had a long day of travel today. Thankfully we made it back safely, thanks to our drivers and God’s grace! After surveying our wonderful Haitian sunrise (I know you’re jealous), we started off the day with a great breakfast like we always have from the staff here. Then we took off to Leogane, normally a drive of about an hour and thirty minutes. Encountering heavy traffic and taking detours took us an extra hour and thirty minutes around the city. After three hours, we arrived at the school. The children sang us welcome songs and greeted us with many warm smiles, the only thing missing was our song that we neglected to prepare (partly because of our  group’s musical inability!). Some of us played a game of improvised soccer with the schoolboys and the rest chatted with the Sisters in charge of running the school. The school had a wonderful arrangement and the young children all had smiles on their faces. God’s love shone through the Sisters and onto the children in the form of their smiles. They carried so much joy with them wherever they went and loved and appreciated even the simple things they with their whole hearts.

            Secondly, after finishing our intense game of soccer in which I somehow managed to score a goal, we headed to look at the Sisters’ farm. It was amazing to see the harvest God has supplied them with on their large farm. They are so at peace in their self-giving ministry that you can feel it emanating from them. We had to leave the farm for lack of time because of our long ride ahead of us. Before we did though, one of our drivers did his best peacock call and got in a response argument with one of their many peacocks on the property! Their farm really supplies much. They feed their schools, elderly, and staff with those fruits. They are a true blessing on the community around them.
            Finally, we headed to the Sister’s home for the elderly and brought them food that our fearless leader suggested we bring. The elderly enjoyed the juice and the cookies we brought then then a dance party broke out to worship songs played by Emmanuel, one of our drivers. A dance competition even broke out between two of the elderly residents! Let’s just say it was a tie, because they had to be separated when it got too intense. What a great experience. You can really feel God working through you when you are serving others and bringing them His love.

Jacob Masek

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Returning to Haiti

Day 1  - Returning to Haiti

Returning to Haiti after my first visit 7 years ago left me wondering what might be different. 

The airport -  Bigger, a bit more organized, entering directly into an air-conditioned building from the plane, not so big a crowd of men wishing to carry our luggage for a tip….but still all quite persistent!

The housing - there are no more tent cities but still those mysterious walls and my wondering what was behind each one and who lived there.  The guesthouse we stay at is bigger and has expanded to more than one building.

The roads - some more roads are paved, but still so many are complete rubble and have miscellaneous potholes to be dodged.  Still the same:  The same talented drivers who manage to get through the crowded, incomprehensible Port-au-Prince roads safely with no road signs or center lines-- just don’t look forward unless you love a thrill!

Cite Soleil – the same tough environment but a beautiful chapel and school built by Healing Haiti in the middle of the city – an oasis!  The same water truck delivery but the people really know how to work the system.  A missionary would be quickly claimed by a woman or child to help with all their buckets.  If I was holding a child, they would indicate I should put the child down and “come.”  A fight broke out at one stop because people kept trying to cut in instead of waiting in line.  We were told to get in the tap-tap and drove to a different delivery spot.  That group stayed in line!  The same reaction from the children who all want you to pick them up at once.  Look at me, touch me!  Lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.

Day 2 -  PUSH:  Pray Until Something Happens
Our second day brought us to two places that were new to me:

Missionaries of the Poor –  I had read about this order and its founder so I was intrigued.  A group of 7 Brothers, along with some hired Haitians, operate a home with 81 disabled Haitians.  Upon entering the walled compound, we saw well-kept expansive grounds.  Brother Simon, a man exuding peace, briefed us on their work with the poorest of the poor. Emmanuel, an adult resident, silently followed us on a tour so I held his hand.  We briefly spent time with those who are bedridden – many young children.  We played with other residents blowing bubbles, blowing up balloons, playing with playdoh and throwing bouncy balls. Since most of the residents lacked the ability to speak, few could communicate with us, but, as one of our missionaries related, it was almost easier to play with them as there was no language barrier like there was with those who had the ability to speak but only spoke Creole.  Brother Simon’s wonderful acronym will stay with me – PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens.

Metal art market – We saw the same beautiful work but I was overwhelmed by going into small shop after small shop.  Where had I seen the one that I now wanted to go back and purchase?!

Croatian orphanage – My two sons, Jacob and Sam, played basketball with our driver and the older boys at the home.  The rest of us colored, played playdoh and balloon volleyball.
We spent lots more time in traffic and uniquely Haitian traffic jams observing busy outdoor markets that we found puzzling.  How do people know where to buy what they want?  Haiti can be surprising, intriguing, puzzling and heartbreaking all at once!

Dana Masek

Friday, February 23, 2018

Another EXCELLENT day

Written Thursday, February 23, 2018

Today was another excellent day in Haiti. I’m always amazed at the incredible love that is universal in our small world. Today we visited a new orphanage (including an on-site school) near Port Au Prince. The orphanage is called No Place Like Home - Sweet Home (NPLH). It was founded by a couple of Americans after the 2010 earthquake. Many of the original children lost their parents  during the earthquake. Today, we played with the preschoolers & school age kids. Our team noticed that all the children were very well behaved and content. The teachers and staff greeted us with big smiles. It was such a good feeling to see such love and contentment.

When our team sees these great organizations working toward a better community, we have hope their future. At the end of the day, we can leave knowing that there are people taking care of these kids, giving them a chance to change a country.

So much history, hope, potential and joy in a complicated world. Sometime your have to go all in. That where the real change begins.

Jennifer L.