Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Haiti day 5...bugs and rain

Bug bites and swollen ankles are the new accessories to shorts and the coolest tshirts we can find to wear. Benadryl, Immodium and gatorade powder are passed in the hallways and when I asked a small group who wants a diet coke over ice, I got the most enthusiastic response all week. Their hopes were clearly dashed when I replied "I know me too". I don't think they thought it one bit funny, but don't seem to be holding it against me.
We hit the ground running again today and Dann and I headed back with Rachel to the Depot to finish going through boxes and putting things away, then making a master list of what was on each shelf. Cloths closet group sorted through the last of the items there and the painting was finished at the boys house. The day care center with the youngest ones, mostly toddlers is at the same location as the depot and about late morning each day these darlings are given their baths outside in two wash tubs. We asked if we could do the bathing for the know to give them a break today. It was an easy sell and I do believe we had far more fun then the children! Nothing cuter than a 2 year old baby, than a soaped up soaking wet bronze skinned bundle of energy and smiles! I know...right?
After lunch we walked to the transition house, where the older kids are taught skills like sewing, carpentry, baking and screen printing. Just blocks away, we saw an entirely different kind of people. I could feel myself on high alert. The Deeds was with us and just beginning to feel the symptoms of some bug. He went to the community feeding program, but didn't stay long when his fever and aches developed. Dann and I stayed and the door was opened to let them in just as the sky opened with a moderate rain. The kids were not one bit deterred. They still played soccer on the concrete, jumprope and basketball. It was refreshing to us and again they were given a beaded project to complete and taught from the bible, sang some worship songs and had a meal. Dann was back at the guest house with Micah when Ashley the nurse asked if he could come to the clinic with her to stitch up the back of one of the boys heads. It has rained steadly the rest of the day and has cooled everything down a bit tonight. The Deeds is feeling better but he and I stayed back from the worship night to lay low and make sure. Dominoes, the Matching game and Go Fish seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. I am praying all the stomachs settle down by the morning as we might just venture out into greater Port Au Prince tomorrow or possibly do some painting at the new staff house. I do know we'll begin the day again, singing praises to the King of Kings everything after that is up for grabs. Makes for a great sense of adventure and I am always up for that. Sorry there aren't more pictures, I am the mercy of someone else lending me their camera and then downloading what I can. Until tomorrow!

Haiti Day 4

Yesterday began with Dann playing the guitar and leading our team in some worship music.  We are so grateful to be here, serve and see first hand the labor of love of those who now call Haiti their home in order to provide for the children of MDL.   After our holy huddle we split into several smaller groups to tackle some tasks.  The "Depot" an underground storage room at the girl's room is home to donated items from hygiene products, school supplies, craft items, sports equipment and some misc construction items.  We were asked to reorganize it and unpack and store the items we brought.  It has taken 3 full mornings with 3-5 people working to go through bins, suitcases and boxes and create a little more order.  Doing so will allow the staff here to more effectively update the website list of needs for future donations and make it much easier to find items that are needed.  But hot, humid and dusty, roaches and some rodent "souveneirs" provided us an opportunity for a mighty big dose of holy perspiration; probably not at all what our team mates called it over lunch.  Others from the team were next door sorting clothing and setting up a room as a closet that would be easily accessible and clearly marked and seperated by gender and size.  Still another group were doing some painting at the boys home.  Dann, Lynette and Kristen spent the afternoon at the clinic.
A doctor very recently joined Ashley the nurse who looks to be about 25 or so and arrived in Haiti just 2 weeks before the earthquake.  She alone, was the go to person when the boys home became a makeshift hospital. For seven days straight she "deputized" the older boys and other staff members as fellow nurses and treated people with whatever was available including at least one amputation.  Her nursing degree cannot come close to designating her skill, knowledge and all she has seen.  The rest of the women did some crafts with the older girls while they waited for their time with Alicia who would examine and purchase the necklaces and purses each had made for the "store" here at the guest house.  With the money they make, they are required to save 1/3, put aside 1/3 for more supplies and keep the last 1/3. 
All the in between time was spent talking to or holding and playing with any child we could get close to.  Darling little bundles of sweetness and amazingly bright smiles most often mask the history and brokenness of their young lives. 
Each has a story, not that they share with us, nor do we dare ask them to recount such things, but the staff is free to confidentially share some basics with us and the fact that they can smile and laugh, run and play is evidence of what Jesus does and the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the staff and those teams that have come to help.  There is just no more meaningful work if I can even call it that.  Thank you for praying and supporting us.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Haiti Day 3...the good stuff

We rose early today to gather for a meeting this morning at 7am and one of the members talk to us about John 4 and the woman at the well.  Living water is the only thing that satisfies and makes any long term difference in a life.  We were in organized chaos this morning.  Unpacking all the 20 some bins and 23 suitcases here at the guest house, sorting and sending them to the storage room, transition training facility, the clinic and the two homes.  Some of the group went to the storage room and starting rearranging and organizing some of the many things that have been brought to the orphanage in past months and didn't necessarily find their final home.  Unpack, sort, pack, deliver, unpack.  There was so much and we were so grateful how our churches and friends helped resupply so many necessary things.  We got to witness the value and use of the gummy vitamins today at the feeding program that happens three days a week.  About 150 children from about 4 to 12 are identified and invited to the patio area at the boys home.  The boys at the home help set up, organize and host each of the 12 or so tables.  When the gate opens, these chosen children are welcomed in and go immediately to a table based on their age and gender.  They are so well behaved, probably out of gratitude for the meal ahead.  We positioned ourselves at the tables and helped them do a craft, a cross with beads that represented the gospel message.  Then they sang some great songs and they had a such a great time.  A bible story was told to them as a group, in Creole, so I'm not sure what it was but when quizzed about what they had learned, they answered and were thrilled to get a toothbrush and toothpaste as a different they are than American children. Then we prayed for the meal.  The kids never got up, cried, needed to use the bathroom or anything else.  They all had self control and just seemed to know the rules and the routine.  Then came the food, rice and beans with a small amount of meat.  Some knew they wouldn't eat all of the small portion and immediately poured 1/2 of theirs into someone elses plate or bowl.  No fighting for more or complaining.  Every plate was clean.  Nothing was wasted.  Water to drink and then they were free to play or go home.  We washed the dishes and played with any who lingered.  It was such a great afternoon and if we weren't in love with Haiti before today, our hearts were stolen today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Haiti...Day 2

After a great night's sleep and breakfast with the team, we were picked up in what was probably a flatbed pickup at one time.  Back inside the cage that protects us from the outside and thank goodness keeps us from falling out, we made our way to church.  It was full and by American standards over full as people packed in tight against each other for the service.  The youngest children from the boys and girls homes sat on the edge of the low stage and looked our direction as we watched them.  The worship time was great and the message about having an attitude that reflects God's promises and ability, was encouraging.  We had time to play with some children in the yard, pushing them on swings and playing hand games.  The language barrier gets to me.  I want to talk to them and hear from them.  A few speak English, but they are the minority.  We came back to the guest house for a quick refill of water bottles and change of clothes and left for the home of the family that had the vision to begin this program and orphanage.  We were served lunch and had time to connect with our team and make some plans for the week.  Then, it was off to the boys home to help them with a craft for their house mom as today is the Haitian Mother's day.  There were some basketball games, soccer games and some pretty crazy monkey bar tricks!  About 5 or so, the women headed back to cook dinner.  We wanted to give the staff the night off and all went well until we were told we had served some dessert bar that was intended for the boys home.  Question:   What could make a girl feel worse than to eat some dessert intended for boys who don't have a mother on Mother's Day?   Answer:  NOTHING.  Tonight we will be planning for tomorrow and what is needed.   I feel so much more prepared this trip.  The degree of poverty here is tragic but somehow I felt more prepared.  The children though, never prepared to see a child 1/2 naked or asking for food.  This morning after the church service Dann went back inside to talk to someone and a man brought in an 8 day old baby, just hoping someone could help him get medical attention.  Another man said his sister has a 4 month old baby girl that his sister couldn't take care of.  Its so much to think about and try to understand. 

Tomorrow we head to the transition program building to paint, organize and build some shelves, then at 2pm we'll head to the boys house for the community feeding program.  Off to the shower and then headed for bed, night all.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Haiti...just say "No, Merci"

We left the house in Ventura about 5:30 and reached LAX in great time, despite the holiday weekend, boarded the plane and left LAX at 11pm.  After a few hours of layover in Miami, some bad coffee and meeting up the the rest of the team, we left for Port A Prince.  Haiti greeted us with a blast of heat and humidity and we boarded the shuttle to the terminal.  The smallest blonde member of our team, the Deeds, was immediately under the watchful eyes of just about all of us.  His mama, had such a tight grip on him, I'm surprised we didn't hear him squeel.  We were given and had read over and over in the airport procedures not to give anything to anyone and say "No Merci" to anyone asking to help us.  From the lines were ushered into, each took his/her turn infront of the immigration desk officer.  Their presentation behind the glass must be intended to break us down and show us right from the start that we are guests and can be removed from the country at the hint of a problem.  I admit I am always intimidated as they look at the visa paperwork, look at me, look at the passport, back at me, back at the passport and then slam the stamp of approval allowing us to move about 10 feet to the baggage claim area  A uniformed guy approached us asking how many carts we needed and though we remembered to say "No, Merci" it came out 4, 4 please!  Dang! That lapse in memory cost us the first $20.00.    In our defense, the US has effectively taught its citizens that when a uniformed anybody in the airport asks a question, we answer. Period.  No hesitation, no questions.   No body wants to be "that guy", the one who shuts down the airport for some security situation because he hesitated in answering the "uniform guy's" question.  So we did.  After all 23 checked bags, with nearly 1200 lbs of supplies and 12 carryons, we headed out.  Uniform Guy asked for our gate passes and our luggage claim tickets.  I'm pretty sure the correct answer was "No, Merci" but instead we each handed over the small claim tickets because "Yes we want to take our bags with us and your uniform has "obey me or go home in a box" written all over it, so here".  It took all of 20 minutes for the real baggage guy to find Uniform Guy and give him another $20.00 to buy back those baggage claim tickets.  We Americans are sharp like a tack we are!  "Big" wearing a hat that said "Jesus is the Boss" picked us up, and all 25 of us piled into the back of a caged truck bed with benches on each side and 2500+ lbs of luggage piled on top.  A bumpy potholed road lead us to the guest house and we listened to some information about the area, tent cities etc... while said Americans sweat the equivalent of a small swimming pool...and oh how I was wishing for one earlier today.  We were given an orientation, introduced to staff and then taken on a tour of the boys' home, girls home and sports center.  An afternoon full of darlings whose smiles could light up the darkest night. The Deeds and some of the young boys traded water bottle sprays and touching each other's hair.  Back to the guest house for dinner and some cause conversation explaining the history of the Manesstero family story of coming to Haiti.  Tomorrow, church then lunch and planning for the week.  Its been great so far.  We are all exhausted and as I finished this up at 9:30, I am pretty sure I am the last one standing and that is just about to end.  Thanks for praying.  I'll try to get on tomorrow.Sorry, no camera is having Err 99 issues.  Pretty sure a local repair shop would have a guy wearing some sort of uniform that I am helpless to stand up to.  We'll see what a good overnight charging for the camera and recharging for us brings..Night all.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 9 & 10

We arrived in League City late Tuesday night to the arms and bright eyes of my Mother-in-law's sister and her husband, the colonel.  That's the official connection but the real connection is true-blue family and a love and devotion to us that will send us out the door today wanting to bring 'em home to California. 

Cousins and their grown children have hurried home from their jobs each evening and the 3 of us have been trying to be ever so charming so that they might just decide to pack up and follow us home.  We have shared great food and such fun conversation.  We heard some Roger & Betty stories, visited the park and the Space Center and were reminded of the joy of a stolen cookie in the middle of the night.

Seaborough Lane has some territorial issues we learned last night.  The Deeds might have been crawling on the floor right along with the herd of Dachsunds, when he got a little reminder that he is not actually a dog.  The morning has brought a near complete recovery of the reminder and a good story to take back to California.

League City...thank you for everything.  We could move here, no doubt, with the feeling of home that we experienced over these 2 1/2 days.  Let us return the favor as soon as you are able, we'd love to have you, all at once would be a dream!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Road Trip Day 7 & 8

Shawnee Oklahoma…Can I just say that nothing you read on the blog about this part of our trip can come close to describing all that has taken place in 2 ½ days.  We ate and walked and watched movies… there were a few wrestling matches, some shopping and cooking and a field of dreams for one little man.  A little bit of girl talk, a bit of mother-son time, some sibling laughs, some dreaming and planning, not quite enough hugging, but that just leaves us anxious for this couple of college kids to return home in a few weeks. 

We leave today after a few errands and a quick lunch and head out to Keller Texas.  We’ll stop there to see one more cousin and her amazing and big family in their new house.  Then on to Houston to see the Taylors, we think of them as "Plum" good relatives.  Micah has talked about seeing cowboys on horses, complete with holsters for their guns since before we left on the trip.  I realized yesterday that his expectations will be pretty high when we hit the state line, so I have tried to warn him by telling him that cowboys drive trucks now except when they are on their ranches, so we might not see any horse riding-gun slinging men in boots tomorrow…”that’s just terrible” was his response.  I just love him!  If I could wrestle me up some rodeo men to hang around the neighborhood while we’re visiting, I think I’d sell my left hand…I need my right one to hold on to his as we drive off into the sunset tomorrow, leaving my own boy behind here in Oklahoma. 

Get ready Texas…there’s a curly headed cowpoke and his mama and DD about to see Texas!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 5 & 6

Humboldt Iowa…We spent the day meeting more Nelsons and Johnsons and visiting different places that I remembered from my last visit in 1983…(way too long ago).  We went to the cemetery where my dad is buried and I surprised my own self by getting emotional.  I don’t know why it hit me that way.  It’s been almost 40 years and I know its only his body buried there, but just seeing and tracing his name on the headstone made  me wonder again, “what if?” We left there and went to see some property that my cousin had purchased to build a new home on.  It will be so nice for them, plenty of trees and lots of space…no fences between houses allowing neighbors to be neighborly.  One cousin, Susie and her family lived in Humboldt until 2 weeks before we arrived, when all 14 of them moved to Texas.  But, we got to see the house and hear the stories of where their home schooling was done and the music was rehearsed and many cars have been worked on.  A home rich in memories, tell-tale charts still on the wall detailing meals etc…  My cousin Rick and his wife Connie share our empty nest woes, but recently purchased a house and had it MOVED to the property where my grandparents farmed and raised their boys.  “How on earth do you move a house across town?”  “On a truck”…well ok then.  I have seen modular homes moved in sections, but a regular ol’ house?  Micah loved the daughter’s racecar in the garage and thought it was pretty cool that the house had theme rooms.  Aunt Bev stole Micah’s heart and devotion with an extra special piece of apple pie with plenty of vanilla ice cream.  She stocked us up on GORP for the road and we had a great dinner with the whole gang followed by a trip to the park to see the train Uncle Howard built.  Chambry, Chase and Micah could have stayed and played all night, but we ended the evening with sparklers at the park and said goodbye to Steve.  Saturday, we left the hotel and spent a little more time at Uncle Howards before heading out on the 10 hour drive to Oklahoma.  Humboldt represents the only place I know where my Dad is somebody.  Somebody with a history, with a childhood, with people that really knew him and remember him as a person, not just a position in a family.  God knows what he is doing and he always has.  I do wonder how life would have been different had he lived a long life, but I do not doubt that God can bring beauty from ashes and replace mourning with gladness, Isaiah 61:1-4  It is His way.  I love what He has brought to my life and for the family in Iowa who honor my dad. 

We arrived in Shawnee Ok about 2am and Dot scooped a sleeping Deeds up from his carseat without a peep…until he say Uncle Ryan when he opened the door.  Remember when our babies stretched their arms out to be picked up or handed over to someone else?  That was the Deeds…without a word, just a sleepy smile, he stretched from Dot’s arms to Uncle Ryan and melted against him.  I don’t know who looked more content…Uncle Ryan or the Deeds…or me, but the middle of the night has never felt so good.

Quote of the day –running into the restaurant… ”I can’t wait to order what they have!”

Sunday morning came early for Dot and me…the deeds woke up pretty early and his mom pulled a trick out of her bag by sending him into Uncle Ryan’s room to negotiate a breakfast date at the donut shop.  Sarah came over and we headed to Ok City to the fireman’s museum…advertised as open on Sunday, but alas, not this Sunday. Thankfully the zoo was right next door and we saw all the best the zoo had to offer including an ape that found Micah so intriguing, he nodded to him, then sauntered over to be nose to nose with him at the window of the exhibit!  Micah thought it was probably that the ape thought he was also an Ape…  ”since he didn’t have his shirt on”.  We had a great day, got some laundry done and are settling in for a movie tonight. 

Quote of the day “Mom, when I grow up will I grow hair all over my face?”  answer “Yes”… “ok then I’m going to shave in the afternoon and the nighttime cause I don’t think I want to grow that.”

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Road Trip Day 3 & 4

We left Rawlins Wyoming about 10:30 Wednesday morning and headed to Cheyenne about 2 hours away Can I just say that if you are Terry Bison Ranch and you spend some time and money creating a great website full of intrigue and adventure...please be prepared to deliver on your tease.  We arrived to...well no one.  The alpaca's, horses and ponies were accessible, so we parked and walked the cat walk overhead and then took an apple from the car and fed the ponies small bites on small gloved hands, stretched out flat preserving fingers.  Of course, the Deeds insisted on wearing his cowboy hat and I thought a car and three Californians might have raised some interest and a greeting or at least a scolding for feeding their animals, but no one...was around.  There was country music playing from speakers around the different buildings...but without any humans in sight, the thought crossed my mind that we could have just walked in on some major crime scene and the barn might contain more than some tack and baby kittens...perhaps I watch too much CSI.  We seized the opportunity for some good photo ops and finally found the guy that gives the train rides who was more than nice, but seemed a little tired from the three rides he had given earlier that morning.  After the animals, we were anxious to visit and fish from the stocked pond, except that I guess we were supposed to bring our own poles and string and whatever else fisher guys use.  I told them how far we had traveled hoping they would find a loaner in the back somewhere...but alas my charm and sympathy seeking techniques failed miserably.  Dot and I were sorely disappointed...the Deeds seemed just as happy to stand in a mud puddle and pretend to fish with a stick.  My lingers. 

Fireworks are legal in Wyoming and I am hoping Nebraska and Iowa because we stopped to purchase some sparklers to light up a parking lot in the next few days.  Memories...we're making a few.

Dot looked up a great Rodeo Museum and we stopped there for an hour or so and the sweetest grandma in Wyoming sold us tickets and made me want to bring her home with us.  Frontier Days...not this week, but worth planning a trip around in the years to come. 

Then we hit the road and headed for Lincoln Nebraska...7 hours in the car and we were pushing the limit on exhaustion.  Nothing though that can't be cured by an awesome hotel room and a good night's sleep won't cure.  The Deeds celebrates each time we get to go to the breakfast where "you can get whatever you want and you don't have to pay."  That way we can save our money, he tells us, which I believe illustrates he knows our LOVE LANGUAGE.    A morning swim, showers and we were off to the Lincoln Children's Museum...just google "Heaven on Earth for Kids"  it was awesome!  Anyone of the play areas would have entertained our early childhood traveler for hours...he was like a ping pong ball with so many options.  If I won the lottery, I would build one at great.

We hit the place next door for our first restaurant meal and had the best macaroni and cheese since ever to ever. Amen.  Then hit the road cause we thought we had about 2 1/2 hours or driving to Humboldt Iowa.  Except that it was really 4 hours+ but worth every last minute.  This is the place my dad was born and raised and his family is wonderful.  Makes me so wish we had stayed more connected with them after the death of my father and so glad we still have now.  So genuine, kind, unpretentious and loving and a sense of humor that feels familiar.    I am looking forward to a tour of the town tomorrow.  Perhaps I am trying to recreate days long gone and the history of my Dad, but there is a little feeling of home in my heart tonight. 

Until next time..

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Road Trip Day 1 & 2

I woke up early this morning in our hotel room, dark from the black out drapes, (if I were going to have an would be with black out drapes...they complete me:)  I think it was a headache that woke me up and after making a hot pack (hot towel in a plastic bag from subway, genius!) I climbed back into bed and laid away thinking and pouring out my heart to God, thanking him for our family.  I'm sure it has more to do with the fact that they are ours and no one elses, so I have a front row seat to their dreams, hopes, laughter and see first hand how they live out their priorities with such conviction.  Today I was especially focused on the courage they display.  The character stuff, that is was gets me, what tenders me towards them and makes me so grateful.
Each one in their own way, and on their own path have and continue to face challenges that require an extra measure of fortitude, and they keep walking.  Sometimes the call is to make the right decision and sometimes, to make their decisions right.  It isn't unlike what their parents have also experienced and the grandparents before that...its just different to watch it in your children, and its hard in the dark and the quiet, not to soak a pillow with early morning tears of gratitude and love.

2011 will be marked as a year of great adventure and new things, and the grace and manna God has stored up to serve us each day is more than sufficient!

This road trip adventure began with a marathon of driving and we tried to figure it out last night, but I was way too tired to calculate the number of hours we had driven in the last 24 or ratio of sleep to awake considering time zones and trip odometers and gas stops.... this would I think require something above Mr. Rigsby's Algebra 2 class in 1978!  I do know we recorded 1000 miles and 4 states, 2 sandwiches, 2 salads, way too much coffee and gas prices ranging from $4.99 a gallon to $3.67.  We played the guess who game, the matching eye spy game of sorts, watch Franklin videos, heard hours of legos going on in the back seat, road an Alpine roller coaster...twice and opened a couple of items from the prize box as the eye spy points accumulated.  A 4 year old is good for me.  Who else, but a grandchild could make be go from Jacuzzi to pool at 8 oclock at night, performing a dive move from the 70's? 

Today we are headed to Cheyenne.  Can I just say God and I had a moment yesterday driving through Wyoming...I'm not sure what he was intending for this flat, brown state, uninhabited for miles and miles... no animals, no homes, no plants really...except perhaps he wanted to keep some land for himself, as though he is perhaps some sort of "green" wanting to preserve some creation from the development of an industrial people.  Mission accomplished, Lord, what you claim for yourself is yours to admire, though I have to say it reminds me of the Israelites desert and makes me want to stay on course, lest I be sent to Wyoming for 40 years to wander!

We woke to a car covered with about 2-3 inches of snow, the roads look clear, but we are hoping the Ranch in Cheyenne full of the promise of animals, a train and a pond stocked with fishing success, is open and waiting to greet us.

Until next time...