In July of 2012, I travelled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with a small team of high school and college students from Northshore Community Church.Our initial goal was to partner with a small orphanage located in one of the most poor and dangerous city in the world.
On that twelve day trip, I met an amazing man named Windy Sauver. He had a passion for the children of Cite Soleil and a huge heart for Jesus.
He had an enormous impact on my outlook on life and my relationship with Jesus.
Windy is the most joyous person I’d ever met. His wide smile revealed pearly white teeth. When he thought no one was looking, I’d find him wearing his headphones and jamming to Imagine Me by Kirk Franklin.
At the time of our visit, Windy was also incredibly ill. Windy, unable to access reliable healthcare, was taken under the wing of Jeff and Terry Clark, our team leaders. The Clarks both work in the medical field in the United States. The Clarks, who worked alongside medical organizations in the states finally concluded that Windy’s illness was most likely Leukemia.
On December 8th, 2012, Windy was finally able to see the face of his sweet Jesus. All of his earthly pain and suffering was finally removed and his body fully restored. My heart aches because I selfishly wish that he never had to stop listening to his gospel music and writing his book. However, I also am comforted because I know that he found solace and strength.
As someone also living with a disabling condition, I found his endurance, faith, and hope absolutely incredible. Ever since I had been diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, I consistently failed to believe that anything positive could come from my situation. His testimony gave me hope.
I relayed briefly these anxieties to Windy who bluntly stated that I was lacking the faith I claimed to hold. It took some time, but I eventually realized that he was not reprimanding me for any doubt. I think doubt is inevitable. In my life, doubt has always motivated me to seek truth and reassurance.
Windy told me that all the time God is good. I began to take his words to heart.Joy remains within reach and fear should never dominate our lives, especially if we claim to be followers of Christ.
Today marks four years since a devastating earthquake demolished Haiti, a country already deep in poverty and full of economic woes. In the summer of 2012, this country taught me four lessons I will never forget.
Today I realized that actions speak louder than words. The language barrier must be broken down by finding new ways to communicate.
If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love I gain nothing.
1st Corinthians 13:1-3
Journal entry from July 25, 2012.
Every time I think of Windy, he reminds me to be thankful and value every single second of every minute, every hour, every morning, every evening, every night, seven days a week of every single month of the year.
I took away many things from Windy, but the most important thing I learned is to value life. To value every second of every day. I was convicted strongly when I thought of all the HOURS I’ve spent worrying and not doing. Even during this time of sickness he [Windy] refused to be anxious.
Journal entry from July 26, 2o12.
Faith & Trust
My friend, lets me tell you something, when you already say God has control, your bad situation gets worse or even you saw you are in front of death; you must say you are good in Jesus’ name. And God will say you have faith say you have faith in him. So my friend, I am very good in Jesus Christ.
Windy’s favorite bible verse was Exodus 14: 14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.Windy was a ddisciple, servant,pastor, teacher, friend, brother, son,student, Kirk Franklin fan, father to the fatherless, pastor, EMT, founder of the Jehovah Nissi school in Cite Soleil, dreamer.
Alex and I went on our first trip to Haiti together last summer in 2012. Deep down somehow I knew that first trip wouldn’t be her last. Your time, talent, and treasures will send give Alex and her multiple teams they need to make this world a better place, and what’s more, shine Jesus’s light in one of the world’s darkest places.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. by faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
A few years ago I was having a conversation with a friend when she asked me, “What kind of person do you want to be when you’re older?” and I surprised myself by answering with, “I just want to be someone in love with Jesus.” It’s a simple concept really, for me to be someone in love with the man who bled and died for me specifically, the man who in constantly seeking to spend time with me and loves me no matter how many times I fail Him. The tough part is trusting, trusting that He knows His plans for me and that I need not worry what tomorrow holds or where I will be in 10 years (or one to be completely honest here). We as a fallen people try so hard to hold on tightly to the control and direction of our lives…
In addition to supporting me prayerfully and financially, before leaving to Haiti, my Great Aunt Lela gave me one of the best gifts: a brown leather sketchbook/journal. On the very first page, she wrote these words: “Have a Great Trip–go safely– Kayla Koala
A place to record your fine history”
I feel as if my work in Haiti is not finished. I left the empty pages in hopes that through me, God will fill them with new adventures.
I don’t bother going to bed earlier than usual the night before a trip. I figure I’ll either be too excited to sleep or I won’t sleep at all because of my sleep insomnia.
Thankfully, I slept last night. I am glad I didn’t try going to bed early. I wouldn’t have slept at all! I woke up at 7:30 am this morning–I set an alarm. I passed time doing as much as I could. I took a walk with mom, did my chores, took a shower, did random stuff in my room, ate lunch etc. Spent a lot of time on Facebook [what a time waster].
I really wanted to Skype with my best friend Ashlie before I left. At the time she was in Newcastle, Australia studying at the Creative DTS YWAM. YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission. However, when you’re roughly 7,686 miles apart, communication can be challenging. Facebook and Skype are convenient, but they don’t replace face-to-face interaction. We had previously appointed a time for this day to log onto Skype. Although she hadn’t answered my Facebook message, at the allotted time I logged onto Skype hoping she would be there. Instead of hearing her sweet voice, I wrote her an extended e-mail of a letter I could not figure out how to send.
I ate an early dinner with the twins. My brother and sister, Mason and Mackenzie were turning thirteen the next day (Sunday) and so we tried to arrange an early celebration.Mom wanted dinner to be ready by 4:30 pm, but dad put the Kabobs on the grill a little late. I had to leave the party a little early. I was nervous about arriving to the church on time. Thank-fully, we made it. (Somehow we always do).
I gave Terry my affidavit and then we prayed with Pastor Hilario and all the family members who came to say goodbye. Usually the trip to the airport takes forever, but this trip went by pretty fast. Dr. Bob was our shuttle driver. It was pretty convenient for him. His daughter Cassie was coming home from England later that evening after we took off so he was just gonna chill out.
I remember on the SERVE MEXICO trip to Tijuana, the airport was packed–we took a morning flight to LAX. Tonight, we checked our luggage and received our tickets pretty quickly. Thankfully, I didn’t have any trouble going through security. My VNS* is always a concern. The only thing they had to confiscate out of my bag was a Kirkland water bottle I forgot to drink it beforehand. They asked about my magnet, but as soon as I asked them what it was, they didn’t ask anymore questions.
We found our terminal and then went to go get food. I had already eaten dinner, but I caved and bought chocolate milk. It wasn’t long before loading time came around. After switching seats with Samuel, my original seat partner, I ended up squished against a window with a nice couple who brought their rat–sorry, dog– along with them. Not the greatest exchange, but I lived. Unfortunately, rather than packing Tylenol PM, I packed Melatonin. I was counting on the former to help knock me out.
Sleep wasn’t an option, I ended up watching most of the movie “A Thousand Words” starring Eddie Murphy. Had he not been the main character, the movie would have been a COMPLETE flop and not just a flop. I also took this sleepless time to read my bible and journal a little bit.
VNS- Vegas Nerve Stimulator, it’s like a pace maker for the brain.
Day 2–Sunday, July 22nd: Miami-Port-au-Prince
Well, we arrived in Miami on time. At least I think we did. I don’t have a watch–or a phone for that matter, so all I know that Florida is three hours ahead of Washington time and Haiti is only two hours ahead of Washington time<—I find this strange because when looking on a map, Haiti seems to be out past Florida a ways.
I spent $12.00 on a huge breakfast and I wasn’t even hungry! However, I knew I needed to fill up because we wouldn’t be eating anything on the plane from Miami to Port-au-Prince. We kind of just wandered around until boarding time. The layover didn’t seem very long. Alex almost lost her backpack. This was a major problem. Considering it contained her passport and money. She thought she had left it in the bathroom, where we had attempted to freshen up. Thankfully, I found it just under a seat where we were waiting at our terminal.
I was expecting that the minute we arrived at Sea-Tac i would start getting the butterflies. I guess God answered my prayer for peace.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to sit alone. Oh, I kind of freaked out because the airline attendant forced me to check my bag. He said there was not anymore room in the overhead compartments, but that was a blatant lie. When we boarded there was plenty of room. As you can imagine, a plane to Haiti isn’t exactly one packed like sardines.
I sat in-between Luke and Jeff. For me, the plane ride was pretty reflective. I wasn’t sure what my reaction to landing would look like. Culture shock is unpredictable. The plane ride passed by fairly quickly. I didn’t have a window seat–we had the center three seats–but I went across the aisle to look out the window as we closed in on the islands.
There was a lot of turbulence on the plane. I almost became sick to my stomach.
At immigration (customs) we had a band welcoming us. I had my visa stamped for the first time 🙂The airport itself was COMPLETE MADNESS. I can’t quite explain it. Picture the baggage claim at Sea-Tac, without the baggage carousels. Imagine piles of luggage that all looks the same and attendants who don’t speak English.
I kind of had a minor panic attack when I didn’t find my checked bag. I didn’t know where else to look and I didn’t want to wander far from my team. On the other hand, I had ten days of clothing in one carry-on sized bag. Jeff and Terry told me to sit and drink water. The guys found my bag. We finally collected all of our luggage and walked outside to the crazy parking lot. We found the infamous Windy with a little truck. He’s so cool. While Jeff and Terry went to go get the rental car we waited with him. We stood around and he asked us all which languages we spoke. Man I wish I could speak French! That is the second best option to Creole.
We waited about an hour in the scorching hot sun for our rental. When it came at last we were finally on our way to Heartline Ministries. The boys drove in the back of the truck with our luggage. They were crammed!! Eleven girls crammed into a small SUV. The streets of Haiti are so crazy. All dirt roads, no lanes, a lot of honking and motor bikes weaving in and out of cars. I am glad we have awesome drivers who know their way around.
We had to stop at the Deli Mart to get water, Cokes, cheese, bread, peanut butter, and Jelly. The doors were armed with three guards with rifles. I was intimidated and very fearful. As you can imagine we stuck out like a sore thumb wherever we went. Most of the group stayed outside. No one with back packs were allowed in. Luke, Geoff, Jeff, Esther (a translator), and I went in.
(At this point I had been in much need of a restroom for about two hours).
Thanks to our skilled drivers we made it to Heartline Guest House. We were greeted first by “Larry” the huge saint Bernard/Mastiff dog. The place is very nice. The entrance contains a little gift shop and a small office with a phone available for us to use if we want to call home. From the office there is an open foyer with a kitchen off to the left and the dining room on the right. There are two rooms behind the kitchen and up the stairs is a sitting room, two bunk rooms, a bathroom, and a door that leads to the patio and roof. Each bunk room is named a Fruit of the Spirit. The girls bedroom is appropriately name ‘self-control.’
We dropped our stuff off in our rooms and then had a little snack of PB+J sandwiches on rolls. This was around 4:30 pm. Before dinner at 6:00 pm Melissa, one of the people who runs the house, gave us a little orientation. She gave us the whole shebang: Dinner at 6:00 pm, breakfast at 7:00 am, don’t leave the fans on when you are not in your room because electricity isn’t cheap. Feel free to use the phone, buy something in the gift shop, laundry can be done for $5 etc.
Dinner was amazing! Fettucini Alfredo, salad, bread, and ice-cold water!<–a special treat. I definitely have a new appreciation for ice. It is precious here. Heartline is pretty packed right now. there were forty people for dinner. Our group claimed the balcony/deck.
Oh! before dinner we went on the roof. Gorgeous view! Banana trees, sugar cane, and mountains/jungle for as far as the eye can see. We are already making plans to get up early one day and watch the sunrise.
We ate dinner and then had a meeting. We discussed exactly what supplies we will need at our first day of VBS tomorrows and practiced our Noah Skit, and worship.
Day 3 Monday, July 23rd: First Day of Vacation Bible School
Even if there were one-hundred fans in our room. I don’t think it could get down to [a bearable] room temperature. I am sleeping on the top of one of the bunk beds. I should have claimed a bottom bunk. I forgot that heat rises. Heat, flannel sheets, and a stuffy room make for a hot sticky, and uncomfortable night. The way my fan is positioned, whenever it is on and I am laying down, my mosquito net blows over me. I didn’t sleep at all, even with the sleeping aid.
I am really enjoying the food. Breakfast tasted AMAZING! Pineapple, PB+J, oatmeal, and mango juice. Even though I don’t normally, I went for it at Luke’s suggestion. It tasted soo good! We had to hurry up and eat because our drivers came to pick us up around 7:20 am. Luke, Emily, Samuel, Jeff Clark, and I rode in the back of the truck with our supplies. Windy was right. Sunday the Haitians are not out much, but Monday, wow! The streets are crazy! Horns honking, colorful tap-taps pack streets to the max and motorcycles weaving in and out everywhere. Every street corner sidewalk is full of stands selling everything from motor parts to bananas.
Arriving at the orphanage was pretty orphanage was pretty awesome. I knew it would be. But I didn’t know what to expect. The place is small, but the hearts of everyone there are huge. We unloaded our stuff and the truck drivers went off to pick up the kids from Cite Soleil.
The first thing we did was pass out the yellow, green, and purple visors. We chose different colors so that we could [attempt to] separate them by age groups, but once the city kids arrived it became [even more] hectic. Everyone was handed whatever color was available.
I helped draw a rainbow and rain clouds to help illustrate the story of Noah for the drama. I grabbed a translator to help me write forty days and forty nights in Creole.
A little bit after 8:15 am Emily, Samuel and I started worship. It went really well. We did every song twice. Once in English and once in Creole. Then, when the kids from Cite Soleil arrived, we sang again. After worship was finished, we began skits. These went OK. Rachel played Noah, Luke played God, CLaire, Kaki, Alex and Kenzie played the sinful people. Luke also chose eight kids from the audience to wear foam animal masks and go ‘on’ the boat. (Our large drawing of the ark.
After our drama we ate a late breakfast/snack with the kids. Their snacks and breakfast treats are interesting. We ate noodles for our “snack.” For lunch we ate a full plate of spaghetti noodles with onions and a little bit of what I imagined to be tomato paste–this is also known as ‘Haitian Spaghetti.’ The Clarks are paying for all the food for the three days we are doing VBS at the orphanage in Port-au-Prince: Orphelinat de l’Organisation d’Aide aux Enfants en Difficulte en Haiti(ORORAEDH). It is so sad to know that normally they may not even have one meal a day.
When you see those big eyes and those skinny limbs, your heart wrenches and you never quite see things the same. You think twice about pouring water down the drain and throwing away food because you’re SO full. “Starving” is a word thrown around way too loosely. Starving is not knowing where your next meal is coming from–or if there is one coming at all. You become grateful for basic needs being met. You feel guilty when worrying over things that really don’t matter in the big picture. After returning home, one thing I struggled to learn–and am still learning–is that, God doesn’t want us to feel guilty about pleasures– big or small. Instead, we should count them as blessings.
“[Gratitude] turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
No one proved this quote to be more true than the Haitians.
Random dance parties were always a hit. I’m so glad we allowed room in our agenda for things to go haywire. The kids taught us more than we ever planned to teach them.
Sometime during the day we did our crafts. Because we decided not to do rotations and the amount of kids we only did one of the three animal crafts we had prepared for today. It was pretty chaotic. We ran out of paper plates for the lions and so I had to cut out circles from the big roll of paper in place of paper plates. It was really fun for the kids even if it was a little stressful for us.
The kids colored animals they thought should be on the ark. The beach balls Luke and Kenzie brought were fun, but they didn’t last long. A couple of kids from Cite Soleil deflated them and tried to put them under their clothes to steal away from the other kids. Pastor Silar intervened and we received them back.
I loved the kids clinging to me all day. They are so precious. all the Haitians that I have met so far have such a sense of community and passion for their people. I wish the U.S was more like that.
Around 2:00ish we ate lunch. I wasn’t super hungry. However, I felt like it was rude to refuse Windy and Pastor Silar’s offer. After Madame Silar had been slaving in the kitchen to prepare a meal for well over 100 people, it was impossible to decline such delicious food. Luke and I split a delicious plate of rice, beans, and chicken. As a special treat they went out and bought several flats of soda. Luke said it tasted like cough syrup.
It is really weird, even though on this trip we have gone long periods of time in between meals, hardly once have I felt super hungry. I wish there was a way to provide plenty of food daily for everyone. The children’s arms and legs are so thin and knobby. Some are bloated. Terry said some of them surely have worms.
After arriving back to Heartline back from the orphanage, we changed clothes, rested, ate dinner, and debriefed after dinner.
Day 4-Tuesday, July 24th 2013
I am guessing I only received 1-2 hours of sleep during the night. It stinks, but somehow I made it through the day, just like I did Sunday and Monday.
Ti Papi, our driver, (related in some way to Windy) was delayed because his alarm didn’t go off. He came up to Mr. Clark apparently and apologized. Music+Laughter+closeness= many fun car rides. I am enjoying living on the edge. It is funny how we’ve had really close shaves with other drivers on the road, but have yet to witness an accident. The Haitians sure love to use their car horns.
Once again when we arrived at Pastor Silar’s orphanage we were greeted by all 60+ kids at once. I was greeted by Clifford in an interesting way. He came up to me, placed his hand over my face and held it there for a few seconds and let a smile spread across his face. Clifford is sixteen years old, loves to dance, sing, and take pictures with his pals and all of the girls on the team. He is learning English and French in school and it was nice being able to chat with him. He knew just enough that we could ask each other more than ‘what is your name?’
Emily, Samuel and I didn’t do worship today. The kids sang a little bit with Pastor Silar. We went to a “soccer field” A.K.A an empty lot down the street and handed out some cleats and equipment to the older kids. All of them play like pros. Except the girls and some of the younger children. I am so glad we were able to give them soccer balls to keep. Some kids who weren’t from the orphanage wandered in off the street as well. They wanted to play Haitians vs. Americans, and with only seven or so people on each team.I side-swiped someone and took a nasty tumble. I scraped up my knee pretty bad. Well, just enough that it bled a little. The kids acted extremely concerned about it and Terry cleaned it up for me immediately. Infections are always a risk, no matter how small the cut.
Another long day finished. The day doesn’t end after VBS.
Day 5 Wednesday, July 25th- Final Day of VBS at ORORAEDH
I now love passion fruit juice, oatmeal, and fresh mango.
The game was long. It might have lasted even longer. However, some random guy on a motorcycle rode onto the field pretty fast and within a split second everyone involved in the soccer game began yelling. David, one of our translators took control and said we need to get everyone off the field now. Nobody questioned him. I took hold of the little girls huddled around me and we shuffled off the field. Before everything was interrupted, the girls on our team were painted fingernails. I think they were more delighted with the opportunity to paint OURS. I had braced myself for nail polish to be chaotic. For the most part, it went pretty smoothly.
We walked back to the orphanage and began what we’d been doing the past two days: sing songs until the Cite Soleil kids arrived with Windy, Wendell, on of the drivers, and the new school teacher.
Near the end of our time, Cliff and Peter decided to put on a hilarious skit for us all. Peter came out in an awesome costume consisting of face paint, a straw hat, shorts, and a checkered shirt. he started talking in Creole and French. Clifford Joined him later. They soon had everyone laughing hysterically. I never really figured out what they were saying, but the way they played their characters made it very funny.
We came home, showered, sprawled out all over, ate dinner, debriefed, hung out more, and then went to bed.
Today I realized that actions speak louder than words. The language barrier must be broken down by finding new ways to communicate.
If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol, If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain NOTHING.
1st Corinthians 13: 1-3
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?