Sunday, November 30, 2008

Video Silliness

This video is meant to be silly and over the top ... and it *is* both of those things. But it is also a little snap shot of pretty much all of us - at one time or another. I have my days of being "all about me" - selfish days, self-important days ... I like to think it is infrequent, but someday I'll find out what God thinks! For those familiar with popular worship songs, you'll get a chuckle out of this spoof ...

Randy M. just left today. He was here for the weekend. We have SO much fun with the Mortensens. There is such an ease to our relationship. Thank you Randy for everything! We're anxious for you to both come back in January. Randy just rolls with it. Urine, snot, messed up plans ... none of it phases him. That is why he can be effective in Haiti. The urine and the snot part was more about our sick kids -- but the messed up plans part is just a symptom of the TIH conundrum.

I liked these thoughts on thankfulness. I love the girl who wrote them too!

I don't have a ton to say tonight. We had a great weekend of finding ways to celebrate the birthday girl. Paige was disappointed with her first Kids Club meeting. We're encouraging her to be obedient and trust God to work it out. Only one kid showed up today, which was not what she had planned. She did get to talk a lot with that little boy and asked him to come back next week. She'll try again next Sunday.


1994 (a few days old - floating near a tree)
We are so proud of you Paige.
We're touched by your heart and love for others
and enjoy your silly humor - we love you very much.
Happy 14th Birthday!

1994 (with Britt - first Christmas)
Summer 1996 with Britt

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Even though Thanksgiving is an American Holiday, we celebrate it in Haiti with our friends and missionary community here. We duplicate as much of the traditional meal as possible, turkey and other important items included. Thankfully, most of our friends have come to accept the fact that we don't cook. At all. They assigned us corn. No problem there! There are at least seven families attending the celebration tomorrow afternoon.

We have much to be thankful for, and we're reflecting on those things ...
  • Our children are all healthy and thriving in Haiti - a huge thing to us as parents
  • Our kids are going to a school with great teachers and staff that love them
  • Britt and Chris are doing SO well and preparing for their life together
  • We get to live an amazingly exciting life and see God at work
  • The Lord has protected us, our needs have always been met
  • We have the love and support and prayers of many friends
  • Our families in the States are doing well
Since last Thanksgiving many prayers were answered ... We returned from furlough and transitioned back into life here easily, Lydia came out of Meningitis with zero long-term damage, our house in MN sold, Paige and Isaac and Hope made a beautiful transition from homeschooling to traditional schooling, we found a great house to live in just in time, we feel safe and settled in Port au Prince -- all things we prayed about, all things that God answered!

When Lydie was so sick, so many people interceded on her behalf; on our behalf ... it puts a lump in my throat even now. The internet is a funny thing. It can be used for bad things; but it also has the power to connect a community of people together. We've felt connected to you through this blog and we've felt the covering of your prayers and concern for our family. We're humbled. We cannot thank you enough ... we can simply say that this Thanksgiving we are giving thanks for YOU.

We wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday; filled with His provision, peace, and protection.

With grateful hearts and much love from Ayiti,
Troy and Tara and Family

Kids Club Plan

By Paige

Hi everyone,

I am writing to fill you all in on my kids group.

A few weeks ago I went and talked to John McHoul about a Children’s club I wanted to start, talking to him really helped me. I feel like God has been prompting me to start this kids club. I am so excited.

On Saturday we (two other girls from church are going to help me) went out and asked around at a few houses if there kids would be interested in coming. There was one house that I have seen a little boy at before… he looked so sad and I wondered if he felt loved.

So I went to this house first looking for that little boy and there was no answer. After about 5 minutes of hitting their gate hard with a rock so they would hear we moved on down the street and went to Gorge's little shop (he’s the one with no eyes and not very many fingers) and I asked him if he had any kids and if they were interested in coming. He asked me to come back when his mom was home which would be the next day at 2. So we were heading on our way back home with no success.

That was really discouraging, but I felt like we should go back to the first house and just hit their gate really loud. We did, and this time a woman called down from her porch asking who it was - I didn’t know what to say; so I just said “some girls that want to talk to you” which I think made her interested enough to come and talk.

A teenage girl came and I started telling her a little about the club and she looked very un-interested. So she said “Just come in and talk to my mom.” Now, when she said this I was thinking like we would step in the drive way and she would call her mom for us. But no, she insisted that we followed her to her mother. We went ALL the way around the house, through a pile of dirty clothes that were being hand washed while we walked through; and up a flight of stairs, and finally in their living room. The girl told us to sit and wait on the couch.

Her mom came out and was SUCH a sweet woman… for some reason it was this house that I felt super nervous about but she came out and was so sweet. I started talking to her about the club a little and she said she had one son, she said that she would be interested in letting him come, so that was exciting.

But I had to ask her if there was another little boy - that maybe worked for her or something (because her son was not the same boy I saw before). She said no and that he was her only son. I was bummed about not having the first little boy that I had seen but maybe God will open another door in the future for me to see that other little boy and he can also come.

I then went back to Gorge's house on Sunday and talked to his mom. She said that there are five children she was able to send but she made a comment about how one of the girls that worked for her was young, stupid, and dirty. This made me feel so sad. I desperately wanted to tell the woman that she was so wrong about this girl! I told her that I WANTED that girl to come. I am really excited to meet her because it's these kind of kids that I wonder if they ever feel loved. My goal is to show them that I love them - but not only me -- Jesus loves them even more.

It starts this Sunday the 30th (My birthday!) at 3pm with 6 kids coming. Please keep this in your prayers that it will go well! We plan to meet each Sunday from 3-5 pm for games, snacks and story time. Some of the kids coming are kids that work for families in our neighborhood (restaveks) and are in need of love.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A day in the life

We got up early. The EDH was on but the house kept losing power, over and over. One pot of coffee was restarted 8 times.

Tina and I went for a quick walk, got ready and headed to the airport. After the airport Troy and I headed up to Hope's class Thanksgiving party. The photo proves Troy had a great time. ;)After the party I had a spitting headache and Troy had work to do. I went to bed, he went to the office. The babies were all sleeping. That left Noah and Hope to play nicely and quietly. That plan worked for one of the two... Not hard to guess which one played quietly.

We heard a large crash and the breaking of glass. Then the sound of water rushing ... Then the sound of a screaming boy. We all ran toward the sound from our separate locations.

Noah bypassed the full length mirror outside of Paige's bathroom. He wanted to see himself in his Batman mask. He climbed up into the sink. The sink came off the wall and crashing to the floor with Noah in it. The water pipe broke. Noah laid in the center of broken pieces of porcelain with water squirting out of the wall onto him. It was hard to tell which cuts were bad and which were just surface cuts because of the hysteria and blood. He was screaming that he wished he "waaaassss noootttt a kiddd annnymmmmorre". He blamed the entire incident on being a kid. (I am pretty sure it had more to do with being a ding-bat.)

We could not get him to stop screaming enough to ask which cuts hurt the worst. He had six on his hands/arms and two on his legs. After lots of pleading and begging we cleaned him up enough to learn that the hand cuts were not very deep and only one cut on his leg was bad.

Had Jen or Britt been here, they would have forced stitches on him, but the thought of bringing him to a Haitian clinic and having that trauma/drama and screaming seemed like a bad idea. We did our best to close it up and wrap it up. Tomorrow when we clean it there will be much drama again I am sure. I will get a photo for you Jen/Britt ... but you're kind of far away to be much good to us. ;)

Example of sink attached to wall ... not exactly something you'd necessarily want to climb up on to see a mirror. Especially not when you walked by one on the way to the sink.
Sink & Wall after ...

The boy with no common sense...He is pretty sure he needs to "start out" in our bed tonight due to this injury. He is milking it for all it is worth. We're very thankful that the sink was hurt much worse than the boy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday to Annie Grace

Birthday Girl ...

Baptist Haiti Mission on Saturday ... Growing TONS of Poinsettias ...

Real- Quick-like Post

  • Tina heads home to cold, cold MN tomorrow. Her visit went by too quickly.
  • We are having a1st Birthday party for Annie-Annie-Bananie tonight. Photos later.
  • It feels nothing like Thanksgiving week here, but we're thankful and ready to be with our friends on Thursday afternoon for a big celebration.
  • Tess the LARD is not coming down here anymore. We're sad. (love you lard)
  • Paige is going to write a blog this week to share her cool ministry plans that she started this weekend.
  • Tomorrow Hope is having a class party, Troy and I get to be her guests. :)
  • We went up to the Baptist Mission over the weekend and got a very cool back of the house type tour from our friends the Schlorfs.
  • Less than six weeks until the wedding and Isaac is counting it down. America, America, America ... he has a one track mind and cannot wait to get there. The wedding is truly secondary for him.
  • Lastly, advice from the Floridians needed - If you were stuck in Miami (layover) in mid-January (with a friend) for 24 hours, what would you do with your time?

Prenatal Class

We rotate the women, every four weeks they are measured and have a more in-depth check up. Every week we take blood pressure, pulse, and record their weight. Beth and Lisa are pictured above. Beth just got back from delivering babies for two weeks in the D.R.

Classroom Teaching ...
Last week we taught on the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy and avoiding all alcohol and cigarettes. Troy stopped in to take photos at the exact time that I was up in front of the room with a fake pregnant belly, a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of Rum in the other. He made some smart remark like, "just like at home".

Sheila and I did a role play skit where I was a smoking, drinking pregnant lady and she was a friend trying to tell me why that was so terrible for my unborn baby. After our skit/role-play we had a couple ladies come up and practice what they had learned by doing their own role play.

In the photo below the lady in the yellow is telling the lady in the black to put down the rum if she wants to have a healthy baby. We had fun getting the message across while being silly.
Three of the gals in the program, all expecting in 2009...
This class takes place once a week. Please pray for these beautiful women. Their lives are incredibly challenging.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A GREAT Christmas Plan

Let it be so. (Amen!)

After the rain has fallen

Things aren't always what they seem, and things don't always go as planned. We live by and accept those truths as part of life in Haiti. God's ways are higher than our ways - to be sure - and here it seems like our ways just never get us anywhere. It's kind of nice, actually, to live in a place where we see God working almost all the time. If He wasn't - well, I'm pretty sure nothing would get done around here.

I recently drove north to visit an orphanage and make arrangements for relief supplies to be sent to some areas affected by the hurricanes and flooding. I thought I was going to deliver food, package relief supplies, and arrange for and oversee vehicle transfers. Exactly zero of those things happened. One delay led to another and another and many T.I.H. moments ensued throughout the morning. Eventually we decided it would have to happen another day.

I was all set to turn around and head home, when I overheard a conversation with the woman pictured on the left. She had been living at the orphanage ever since the flooding made her family leave their home in the city of Gonaives. She had planned on returning there to see her home and try to reunite with other family members that day. She was supposed to ride on one of the trucks that never showed up.

I had been upset about my plans falling apart before, but that seemed so petty after seeing and hearing how this woman had been suffering. She was in tears over the news that she could not get back to what was left of her home and family as she had planned. I looked at her packed bags on the ground, prayed, and called Tara to cancel our dinner plans.

I thought I knew why I was there that day, but God had other things in mind.

Madame Bernard Exantus is 68 years old, and was widowed on April 20th of this year. She is the mother of seven children and grandmother of twelve. Her family was supported by land they owned and farmed - about nine acres. Shortly after the death of her husband the government diverted an irrigation canal that served their property in order to build a road. She said the ground is now only covered in thorns.

They were having a hard year already - then the storms came. When the walls surrounding their yard caved in from the flooding they escaped by boat before having to move onto the roof. The family was separated and only Mme. Exantus and one daughter were staying at the orphanage where I met her.

Her daughter's name is Ysena Exantus and is 29 years old. She had been preparing for her wedding in December for the last six years. She told me through tears that now 'everything was lost.' I didn't press her to find out more.

I witnessed a difficult exchange before we left to drive them back to Gonaives - they were being counseled and prepared by others - others hoping to help them realize that their home and family might be totally gone.

After a long and rough and long and rough ride, we found their home still standing - a little worse for wear - but mainly intact. The water marks on the walls (the ones that were still standing) from the flooding were five feet off the ground - the ground was now a few feet higher as well from all the mud that was left behind. Garbage and even sewage seemed to be everywhere - but it was a beautiful sight when this grandmother saw her two grandsons playing in the yard as if nothing had happened. They embraced her when we got out of the truck.

Everything in the home had been completely enveloped in mud - the cleaning process had been underway for days. The house was being emptied of every item and scrubbed. I saw one door that will have to be removed and cut shorter to account for the new level of the ground where all the mud was left behind.

None of that seemed to matter one bit though as I witnessed the joy of this family being reunited. Everyone had survived, and as expected in Haiti - these amazing and resilient people were ready to pick up where they left off - praising God for their lives and health - and move on.


Heavy and Real

Associated Press Article from 11/20.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nou La (We're Here)

  • The last 30 hours have been much cooler. Noah is wearing long sleeves today. When it dips down to 83 degrees we must bundle up.
  • Tina got here safely on Tuesday, we have been having a lot of fun together. We ran a few miles both mornings and did errands and Women's Program today. Annie and Tina are getting reacquainted.
  • Today I went to the Embassy to get more pages put in my Passport. I have been in and out of Haiti 24 times in the last seven years and I did not have any pages to use to go to an important wedding in January. Note this: It takes 95 minutes to get pages put into a passport.
While I was at the Embassy Troy took our girls to go visit their birth mother. (November is Adoption Month!) They called and asked to see the girls and we were happy to set up a reunion.

Troy spent a lot of time explaining to Hope that they would probably be very happy to see her and would want to love on her and maybe hold her. She really seems to get it this time around. She has not seen them for more than a year.

Troy said they had food and beverage prepared and were all ready and excited for them to visit. The house they are living in is one that another family (who adopted one of Hope's older sisters) and our family helped them rent. It is much nicer than their previous homes. Both of our girls were born in Cite Soleil. We're so thankful they are not living there anymore.

When I asked Hope about it she said it was fun and that the only weird thing is that, "My Haitian sister has kids!!!"

Below are photos from their visit today. The first photo is Hope's first Mom and older sister. The second photo is Hope and Phoebe with their niece and nephew. Hope loved learning that she is "Auntie Hope" to a girl the same age as her.

Phoebe was Phoebe and had no idea what was going on but loved the Coke she got to drink. The last photo is Phoebe and Hope with their birth mom.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Adventures in Running

I remember vividly the first time I met Beth McHoul. There were two things that shocked and amazed me. First, her dog - I had never seen a larger animal outside of a zoo in my entire life. McGuire, a 230 pound Mastiff, is not something you'll easily forget. Second, as we talked about running she announced that she runs alone almost every day ... in Port au Prince. At the time I was totally freaked out by Port au Prince and almost nervous just walking from the car to a place of business ... I was still very fearful.

Knowing I was a runner, she asked me to join her the next morning. I did not want to appear as weak/chicken as I was feeling at that moment - so I was all, "oh sure Beth - um-hummm - sounds like a great idea!"

We went to bed and because John and Beth live in a horrifically stifling hellishly hot house I was able to lay awake all night thinking about how scary it would be to run on crazy PAP roads. I imagined many scenarios of kidnapping and attack. I wondered if my kids would miss having a mother.The next morning we were up and on the road by 6:30. I kept wishing my sister (who I ran with a lot the year before we moved) was there to see it. The insanity of it was being wasted - I needed someone who I ran with regularly to SEE it. I asked Beth about all the comments and things being yelled at us. She told me she "did not hear it" - I wondered when she had suffered such substantial hearing loss.

At the end of the short run I felt like I had accomplished much more than any race or long training run ever. I left Beth's house that afternoon feeling like I had a new claim to fame. The "I run in an insane city in the western hemisphere club" or something.

Beth told me to get some pepper-spray and move down to Haiti ready to meet up for training runs as often as we could. I got my pepper spray, but I lived 90 minutes away so it happened only 6 times in two+ years. Instead, I spent an inordinate amount of time on a treadmill staring at a purple cement wall.

Since we moved to the city in August I have forced myself to act brave like Beth - if she can ignore the surroundings, the elements, the insanity ... why can't I!?!?!? I have even forced myself to run alone. I not exactly sure why a 53 year old grandmother makes me feel protected -- but she does! The last two weeks Beth has been gone to the D.R. I have ventured out on my own and lived to tell about it. The only way to do running in PAP is to focus in - shut out- and go. Like Beth taught me, I hear nothing, I see almost nothing and I go. *That* is the way you run through the streets of Tabarre/Port au Prince.

Next week Tuesday my former running partner (and sister) will arrive in Haiti with running gear in tow. I am anxious to share with her the ins and outs of PAP running.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gangs, Cell Phones & Dancing

A few odd parts of our celebrate the decade date last night:
  • A huge (maybe 50 bikes) motorcycle gang was parked in front of the hotel. There are motorcycle gangs in Haiti!?!?!? Harleys and everything. There were motorcyclish looking guys everywhere.

  • There was a "women's fair" being held in the banquet area of the hotel. It was for women to sell and display their art. There were lots of beautiful handmade items. Somewhere along the way DIGICEL became art. They had an impressive booth with the art of cellular technology available for all to buy. Digicel continues to pull off amazing marketing in a somewhat saturated market.

  • After a fabulous glass of wine and a delicious dinner we went for a walk around the beautiful grounds of the hotel. We heard music so we stopped and danced in the dark on a walking path. We traded sweet words for a moment ... and then we stopped talking and realized the song we were dancing to: Little Drummer Boy - Baby Jesus, pa-romp-pa-pom-pom, I am a poor boy too, pa-romp-pa-pom-pom, I have no gift to bring, pa-romp-pa-pom-pom , romp pa pom pom romp pa pomp pommmmmmm - Slow dancing to Christmas music on a dark sidewalk in 80 degree temps in mid-November ... I think I can safely say, *that* has never happened before... But I highly recommend it. :)

In conclusion: Just your average night out. ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008

3,650 Days Ago ...

... (11/14/1998)
... These two started something together and allowed God into it ... and once they did that, they took off on the most exciting and unpredictable ten years imaginable.

The excitement never seemed to end ... it included:
the usual purchasing of houses and cars and an occasional vacation. It meant making friends and finding a church and raising tw0 marvelous little girls named Britt and Paige and all that goes along with that ... they were truly blessed.

But then it got really exciting when in the 4th year they met this joy-filled guy-And at that same time, this gorgeous girl ...And a little later this cool guy came on the scene in the sixth year ...
and they moved to a place where they would learn about themselves, their great and powerful God, and each other ... and the blessings that would come from that move would make them shake their heads in amazement and sometimes disbelief ...
And not so long after that this little girl made her way into their hearts ...
And not so many months later this crazy surprise happened ...
...And as they entered their 11th year they wondered how in the world God did all of that?!

And they looked to Him and thanked Him for all of it. And they said, "Bring on the next ten years!"

Show Business

I've heard that it's not about what you know, but who you know.

In Haiti, it's actually more about what you can act like you know and who you know you can intimidate.

In Haiti, just because you own a house doesn't make it yours - apparently someone else can move into it and pay a judge to file papers declaring them as the owners...then you have to fight that to get your own house back. There is no official process or system within which to fight such injustices, however. It's all about who you know.

We have a friend named R. who we know from PAP Fellowship. She plays saxophone on the worship team with me and also happens to be a police officer working in the National Palace. I've always thought she was a pretty big deal, and it is pretty impressive to see her decked out in uniform and packing heat.

Her family owns a home in the Artibonite valley, near the center of Haiti. Squatters have moved in and filed papers claiming ownership and have a crooked judge in the area backing them up. This has been difficult for R. to deal with on her own.

In order to fix this problem, we (friends from the Heartline family) have been trying to help her navigate (or invent) the process of restitution. I wouldn't think a police officer from the National Palace would need a lot of help solving an issue like this - but T.I.H. We usually travel as
a herd with as many as possible in order to look very intimidating and official. Haiti is all about posturing.

So far that has included a trip to the UN Headquarters, meeting with a human rights lawyer, filing papers at various government offices, meeting with another lawyer in the proper jurisdiction, visiting multiple courthouses and tribunals, meeting with the police in the city where the house is located, taking lots of pictures and video and other posturing - all leading up to the final act yesterday: the visit to the crooked judge who filed the false document.

We call it show business, and it was quite a show, I'll tell you. It included the following techniques - a motley crew standing in the doorways of the courthouse looking on disapprovingly...the taking of notes and a great deal of the shaking of heads...obvious attention paid to the names of court officials posted on the doors...throwing up of hands into the air and more shaking of the heads...a walk through the courthouse and the taking of pictures and generally looking disgusted... talking amongst ourselves and then more with the shaking of the heads. ( I specialized in the taking of the pictures and the shaking of my head.) In the end, the posturing and showbiz appeared to make a difference, resulting in a rattled judge and apparently an expectation of a reversal to the previous decisions.

I know it sounds ridiculous, and it is. This was the 'official' way to get this problem solved in this country. This was the recommended course of action by the lawyers and higher-ups involved in the case. This is why I'm amazed that any thing ever gets done in this country and why I'm not amazed at the lack of progress sometimes. The shaking of the head part comes easy for me - we do a lot of it here. TIH.