Monday, May 31, 2010

Missions Support

About 5 weeks to Haiti...

This past week my preparations have been focused on building my support team. The support team includes people who are praying for me, people providing emotional or physical support in some way, and people supporting me financially. 

Saturday is my garage sale fundraiser. Memos have been put in both the church and school newsletter requesting donations for the sale, or help with the actual selling. I have to say, at first the goal was the end game: have enough stuff to sell to make some good money to go toward my trip expenses. But, there has been a second, very beneficial benefit. More on that in a minute...

Sunday was my first "ask" at church. I created a bulletin board with info about Jacmel, info about Forward Edge (my sending agency), info about what I'll be doing there, and prayer requests. I included some maps and pictures.  I also made a bookmark with a map, my picture and 4 or 5 prayer requests that anyone from my church could keep to help them know how they could pray for me and Haiti in regards to my trip. 

I spoke after both services. I was pretty nervous. I can talk to kids or teenagers without fear, but put me in front of adults and it is an entirely different story. I am not a gifted public speaker. I talk to fast and tend to end sentences in a giggle when I am nervous. It's trademark, but doesn't make for a clear oral presentation. 

I realized, as the time was drawing near for my first chance to speak at church about my trip, that a lot of my nervousness was coming from some really silly assumptions I was making about my audience. I was going into the situation with the mindset that people would be judging me - how I look, whether I sounded intelligent or "dumb", etc. This was unintentional on my part. I didn't really think I thought that (!!), but obviously deep down it was a fear. So I reminded myself: this is my church family. These people are just interested in putting my (fairly new to the church) face with the name and hearing about what I'm doing. They are curious and interested, not judgmental or harsh.

And I spoke. Thankfully, Eric made me a simple powerpoint to go with my talk, so that helped me stay focused. I didn't go much over my allotted "minute talk" time.  I said what I wanted to say.

After the services, I hung out at the back by my poster and answered questions about my trip. I gave out my bookmarks.  I manned my little donation basket. 

And so, like with the garage sale donations, I realized something very cool that doing this - putting myself "out there" in the church community - has brought about.  I am getting a chance to meet or get to know lots of new people at our church! We have been here almost a year, so I recognize a good number of the church members, and I know quite a few names, but matching names to faces is not something I'm great at. And most people I have met briefly or said "hi!" to, but haven't had lengthy conversations with. But now I am finding myself talking with new people and getting to know little things that people are sharing with me about their own lives.  I am enjoying and appreciating that aspect of this adventure more than I would have thought. (I guess that isn't that hard since I didn't really think about it before it happened!) This trip and my info sharing and fundraising have led to conversations and getting to know people in my own backyard.

Just another cool result in this still ongoing adventure!!


Side note:
Passport application is in processing and should be finished next week.
Appointment with Health Dept Travel Nurse in a week.
All paperwork and documentation turned in to FEI.
Flights to Miami and then on to Haiti have been purchased.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Haiti mission update

Progress has been made in the last week or so in terms of preparation for my mission trip to Haiti in July.  My passport application is being processed. My initial team fees have been sent to the sending agency. I've received my training packet (though I haven't had time to study the materials yet).

I have received additional information about the trip. I will be flying in to Haiti along with the rest of the team, made up of individuals like me and a few groups of 2-4 people from churches across the US. We will meet in Miami and fly together to Port-au-Prince on July 10th.  From there, we will travel by bus to Jacmel, Haiti.

Jacmel is approximately 25 miles from Port-au-Prince and the paperwork I've received has prepared me for a bus trip of 3-5 hours to get there. Needless to say, the bus trip is ranking right up there with diahrea as the things I'm least looking forward to about the trip. Jacmel suffered damage similar to that seen in Port-au-Prince but is receiving less aid since it is a smaller area and less vital to the day-to-day workings of the Haitian government.  Immediately post earthquake, the Canadian government essentially adopted Jacmel (apparently someone high up in the Canadian goverment was born in Jacmel) and there was a pretty substantial influx of aid for a short time. As of mid-March, the Canadian government has withdrawn their aid workers and now the city of Jacmel is on their own.  There are established missions groups working in Jacmel on rebuilding, but that is about it.

Jacmel is an old, coastal city that was as close to a "vacation destination" as Haiti has.  This reputation and the city's economy started declining a decade or two ago, leaving a large gap between very weathly landowners who have retired along the coastal areas of Jacmel, and the impoverished.  Structurally, Jacmel faired better than Port-au-Prince in that individual buildings were destroyed in spots throughout town, but there is not a section of entire blocks destroyed.  The buildings in Jacmel were originally built to withstand hurricanes and many have steel framing.  I'm told that New Orleans architecture borrows heavily from the architecture of Jacmel.

Jacmel, pre earthquake

Jacmel, post earthquake

Our mission team will be staying at a small hotel in Jacmel. This will be a blessing, as the only information I had prior to committing to the trip was that some teams would be tent camping. Apparently the hotel has bottled water, private bathrooms and a meeting room for daily devotions and debriefings.  We will be partnering with a local church that has an ongoing relationship with FEI (the mission agency). 

The specific work we will be doing in Jacmel will depend on what needs to be done when we are there.  FEI has teams going weekly between now and the time I'm going, so as those teams make progress, our teams assignment will change. We will spend Sunday at the church meeting local people, sharing about our faith, doing some team building, and probably putting on skits and singing "Jesus songs" as part of the church service.

Monday - Friday we will be doing any or all of the following: rebuilding homes and businesses damaged during the earthquake (alongside Haitians and possibly other relief workers), working in the kitchen and distributing food through a local food bank (which feeds 100-150 children a day), running a vacation Bible school, visiting local schools and spending time with the students

Many people have asked me about the safety aspect of this journey. Here's what I can tell you. I am nervous about going because something *could* happen, but I believe that I'm being called to go and will be protected.  Jacmel has a reputation for being the safest city in Haiti in terms of crime.  Yes, there are still occasional aftershocks/minor earthquakes throughout Haiti. No, I won't be bringing anything with me that I wouldn't mind losing. Yes, I expect to have some intestinal issues during or after my trip.  Yes, I will be fully vaccinated based on current recommendations.

There are still spots available on my team! If you'd like more information about spending a week changing lives in Haiti and ministering to "the orphans and widows" (James 1:27), let me know and I'll tell you how to get started!

I am trying to raise $1875 to cover the cost of airfare and the mission team fees.  If you would like to donate money for my trip, I would be very grateful! My church - Bethlehem Lutheran Church - has set up an account for monetary donations I receive. If you would like to support me financially, you can send me (or the church) a check made out to BLC with my name and "Haiti" in the memo line. 

Donations can also be made online at Forward Edge International's donation link. Click "give now". On the pull down menu choose "Team Fees" (the last option). In the box for "Team number or comments" enter my name and TEAM 751

I will be holding a fundraising garage sale on June 5th from 8am-3pm.  Members of my church are donating items to be sold at the sale.  All proceeds will go towards the mission trip.  Please pray that this sale goes well!!

Last, there are some items I need to purchase prior to my trip and I have created a wish list on  You can also find my wish list by going to, clicking on "wish list" and typing in my name. 

Please continue to pray for me as I prepare for the trip.  There is much to do, but primarily I need to be spiritually prepared for what lies ahead. Please continue to pray for FEI as they send teams in to Haiti weekly. Please continue to pray for all of those in Haiti who are living life with very little and yet still have hope.   

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Foreign Language Acquisition... Fail!

I have never been much of a foreign language person. Something about my brain and learning style, I guess. In high school, I took German. This has served absolutely no purpose in my life, other than translating some scary music lyrics by a German heavy metal band. Even that was inexact: "I think they're saying something about blood, and then that word is 'hate'." Why did I spend 3 fruitful years of high school and one and a half of college "learning" German? Follow the high school logic here: everyone else I knew (except best friend, Andrea, who took French) was taking Spanish and lots of people knew Spanish, so I wasn't going to take Spanish. Therefore, German, because it seemed more obscure and alternative.

In college, I realized that the fact that everyone knows Spanish would make Spanish a desirable skill. Plus, I was majoring in sociology with the potential future career option of social work. So, I signed up for Spanish in my junior year of college. I made it 3 weeks before dropping. Why? I was in a Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8am Spanish class and I almost never made it to class on time. Hilarious looking back on it. It's not like I was staying up late studying or partying.

I managed to fake my way through college German - earning a whopping 1 semester of credit for my 3 years of high school German because of my poor performance on the German entrance exam. 

Now I understand the value of knowing other languages. My brain just isn't built that way.  I have a very poor recall for vocabulary.  I can read some German words and know what they mean, hear less German words and know what they mean, but remembering the words on my own to try to speak German. Nope.

(I actually have had much better recall with sign language, so any readers who know about multiple intelligences and brain workings may be able to give me some insight into myself upon hearing that.)

And now, preparing for Haiti, I find myself in a position where learning basic French expressions and some important phrases would be extremely beneficial.  I have no understanding at all of the French alphabet. How, for example, does Carrefour (which in my mind is pronouced "Car-4") come out as "Kah-foo"? Baffled.

I checked out a 3 CD set of basic French from the library, which also includes a little textbook. Let me tell you, the only thing more difficult than trying to learn a language is trying to learn a language by listening to a CD while also listening to the angelic sounds of two toddlers fighting over yogurt.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

FEI Haiti, Step 1

Paperwork and FEI team fee put in the mail today! It's official.

I've learned since my last post that our group will NOT be assigned to Port-au-Prince but one of two outlying areas (Jacmel or Carrefour).

To Do:

Pray for financial support for my trip
Talk to church missions board members
Talk to Traci Blank about her experience last year preparing for Uganda
Write about trip for weekly church bulletin and monthly church newsletter
Prepare my presentation for church (May 30)
June garage sale - proceeds to go towards mission expenses
Plan additional fund raising, if necessary

Pray for organization and timeliness in completing what needs to be done before the trip
Purchase airplane tickets and travel insurance (ASAP)
Submit final missions fee (mid-June)
Submit documentation for passport (ASAP)
Make hotel reservation for overnight in Miami the night before leaving for Haiti

Pray that I will be as prepared as possible when I leave for this trip
Read preparatory materials sent by FEI
Obtain needed supplies for trip
Appointment with doctor for necessary immunizations and possible preventative meds
Appointment with attorney to finalize will
Listen to introductory French lessons on CD from library

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Preparing to prepare for Haiti

I have been researching opportunities to go on a short term missions trip to Haiti this summer pretty much since the devastating earthquake struck there in January.

This is a fairly recent photo of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Permanent housing is still not being built by the Haitian government in the earthquake damaged areas.  Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in "tent cities". 

Did you know the unemployment rate in Haiti before the earthquake was around 80%?

People in Haiti are living right now in dangerous conditions, with no homes, no income and no hope. 

I have been in contact with Forward Edge International about participating in a one week mission to Haiti from July 10-17th.  Team 751 is intended to be a group of individuals, "ordinary Christians", who will arrive in Port-au-Prince and help Haitian work crews with clean up and construction of shelters, disperse tarps, food and supplies, and minister to children in a local girls' orphanage.  The group will attend church in Port-au-Prince on our first full day there, and will spend our time with Haitians who are working to rebuild their own country. 

This is exactly the kind of opportunity I have felt called to, and have been praying about regularly for almost a year now.  I will be submitting my paperwork to FEI within the next few days.  This will be real.

I have to admit, I am scared. I have never been overseas.  I have never been on a "real" missions trip.  I have never left my toddlers for more than 48 hours in a row.  I have never had to stand up before others, as I will do twice at church on May 30th, and ask them to support me financially.  Eric and I rely on God's provision daily - without it, I would not be able to be home full time with the kids - but this is a different kind of reliance, and it is scary to me.  I wonder if I am strong enough to withstand a trip like this, mentally and physically. Prone to anxiety and a lifelong sensitive stomach, it is not a given. Again, God's provision.

I met with our church pastor yesterday to get the ok to speak to the missions committee about my trip and share about it at church in a few weeks.  I came home realizing that within a few more small steps, the decision will be made and my commitment to go will be just that, a commitment. Scary.

I was talking to a few friends yesterday who have been encouraging me to go and are praying for me, and I told them that I feel like the stretching and growing, refining, by God is already happening, NOW!, before I have even submitted my paperwork and made it official.  I am thinking about my fears and praying for peace and strength.  I pray that I will not be afraid.

I am planning to continue updating on my progress in this adventure as things happen.  As of today, I need to raise $1875 for the trip and I need continued prayer that preparations will continue to move forward. Preparations will include: submitting my final paperwork, obtaining my plane tickets, getting some immunizations and my doctor's clearance to go, getting my passport, obtaining travellers insurance, preparing for my short talk at church at the end of the month and studying the fairly thick booklet of information I will receive upon submitting my paperwork. 

Please keep me in your prayers! Pray that I will listen to God's calling and do what He's asking without fear.  Pray that He will be glorified, not only in the work that is done in Haiti by this FEI group, but also in the time leading up to and following the trip.  And please pray about whether you might be able to support me financially for my trip.  I will be sharing more detailed information about that piece of the puzzle in the next week or two.