Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was very strange to be celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign country today. Haiti does not celebrate Thanksgiving and so it felt like any other day - just a normal Thursday. However, I have been away from my family and friends for 3.5 months now and I was not going to let this Thanksgiving go by without some sort of celebration. It would just be too sad to not do something.

So about 3 days ago I asked Belorne if we could have a Thanksgiving feast for dinner today. She agreed. Then I asked if we could also invite the staff to partake in Thanksgiving dinner. Thankfully, she agreed to that, too. :)

Around 10 a.m. we set out for the grocery store to buy the necessary materials for an excellent Thanksgiving feast. On the menu was: turkey - fried (Haitian style) and roasted, sweet mashed potatoes, regular mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, rice, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, spice cake, and (most importantly) homemade applesauce. Also, we were going to make punch for our drink. Lots of stuff to buy!

It was a fairly normal shopping trip, except that most of the folks there were celebrating Thanksgiving, too. Everywhere we turned ex pats were saying to us, "Happy Thanksgiving." It felt good to be among fellow celebrators.

What was super hilarious, though, was that the store had stocked up on turkeys for Thanksgiving (as a big portion of their business is done with people who work for International NGOs.) However, these turkeys DEFINITELY had to be shipped in and so they were SUPER expensive. We bought a 20 lb turkey today for a little over $50. Crazy!

We arrived back at the GH and began preparations for the meal around 1 p.m. Most of the things we were making didn't take much prep work so that was good.

However, there was one dish that took quite a bit of work... the applesauce.

Now, some of you may think that applesauce is a strange dish to have at Thanksgiving. I found that out today. I mentioned that we were having applesauce to some of our guests and they said, "Oh, well...okay. I've never really thought of applesauce as a 'Thanksgiving dish.'" That's when I would say, "Well, then you've obviously never been to a Thanksgiving on Brucker Family Farm in Dahinda, IL!"

Yes, every year my Aunt Amy makes an AMAZING homemade applesauce for Thanksgiving. This year, as I would not be in Dahinda to celebrate the holiday, I e-mailed her for directions so I could make it myself. It's always my favorite dish at Thanksgiving.

But, I discovered that it takes quite a bit of work to make this one dish. We had to peel, core, and cut up around 40 apples for the amount of people we had to feed.

- Deanna and Belorne help me prepare the apples for the applesauce -

Then we had to put all of them in a pan over the stove with just a little bit of water added. After that I added sugar and cinnamon...

And it was PERFECT. Seriously, once it was done... it was worth all the hard work. Especially since I had some helpers along the way. :) In fact, one of the teams we had staying at the GH, without knowing which dishes we made, decided that the applesauce and the stuffing were the two best dishes of the night and demanded recipes. It felt good to be a chef!

It was also delightful to invite our Haitian family (the staff) to partake in Thanksgiving meal with us. For the blessing before the meal we ended up singing the Doxology and we all sang it in English while our Haitian brothers and sisters sang it in Creole.

It felt wonderful to spend that time with the people here I know and love even when I could not spend it with my family at home. It really made the experience that much brighter for me.

- Madame Claire and her mashed sweet potatoes masterpiece... yum! -

I am often in awe at how God has truly blessed me and when I take the time to think about it, I am reminded how it is my job to share my blessings and bless others. It truly was amazing to spend this Thanksgiving in Haiti - a 3rd world country, in the midst of some political turmoil and violent rioting, while also in the midst of a growing epidemic, while also in the midst of still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives that were destroyed/altered during the earthquake. Seriously, how blessed am I!?! How blessed are we!?!?

Today I am thankful for food. I am thankful that I have enough food to share.

I am thankful for family and friends. I am thankful to have a strong enough support system in my life to be of support to others.

I am thankful for health, for shelter, and for an (easily obtained) education.

Lastly, I am thankful for knowledge of this great, loving God. I am thankful for a family who taught me about this God. I am thankful for children's ministers, youth leaders, and other influential adults in my life who helped shaped this faith in God and taught me to listen to God's call. I am thankful that I get to wake up every day knowing I have a divine Creator who knows me and loves me in spite of all the stupid stuff I do. I am thankful for the hope that I have - for myself, for my friends, for my family, for Haiti - and I am thankful that I get the opportunity to be a small slice of that hope to others each and every day.

I have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving,

P.S. I will be posting all of my Thanksgiving photos to Facebook so check there soon to see them! :)

Edit: Click here to see my photos from my Haitian Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Long Overdue

Sometimes I forget that I'm living in a foreign country.

No, seriously. I feel like I've been here for so long now that sometimes I forget that my reality - all that I see and live within every day - is not the reality that most of you face every day. This is not a bad thing, it's just interesting. I truly do live in Haiti now. Crazy!

Now this is not to say that I still don't have times when I see something or learn about something and remember, "Whoa! I am not in the United States..." But it's becoming rarer. I think I'm definitely going to have some reverse culture shock when I return home in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how different it is coming home this time than it was coming home the first time.

It has been an interesting past couple of days, though.

The cholera issue seems to be getting worse. Granted, those of us with access to good drinking water and hand sanitizer are going to be just fine - but a large portion of Haitians are at serious risk. This causes for some panic, as you can imagine. Therefore, there have been several protests and riots across the country. Some more serious than others. Luckily, we've been able to avoid all of them, but we have had to change our plans for the day on a few occasions because of it.

Unfortunately, it seems like it's going to stay that way for a while until the new president is announced. After that, the protests/riots could die down, or they could get worse. Everyone is fairly unclear at this point. However, I believe that they'll die down. I'm not too worried about it beyond election day. (Which is Sunday.)

Things here have been good, otherwise. We've been taking a few trips out to work sites recently to get an update on work being done there. It's really fun to go from site to site and see the progress. Also cool is that we've had the opportunity to go to these places during school hours and (almost) all of them have schools on the grounds we're working on. The kids are so stinkin cute in their uniforms and big smiles as they proudly show off what little English they know. Too much fun. I have some new pictures from those visits that I'll have to post soon.

I also have an update on Robenson. The best lead that I had for a place for him to stay ended up not working out. Apparently, that place can not take children older than 7. Big bummer. Very, very sad as it would have been a great place for him.

After that I looked at another place that's run by a friend of a friend. Turns out, though, that this place only does adoptions - it's not a Children's Home. Now, it is possible for Robenson's mother to forgo her parental rights and put Robenson up for adoption. However, who knows if that would actually be the best option for that family. We haven't even told his mother that U.S. adoption is an option and I can't quite decide if it's a good idea or not to tell her. I'll be seeking out more advice in the next few days and so prayers for discernment would be good. Beyond that, if we do end up telling her, prayers for her discernment would also be appreciated. Discernment for everyone!

So yeah! That's been a bit of the craziness here. I'm starting to really look forward to my visit home, though. I'll arrive in KC on the 13th of December and stay until I fly out early on January 2nd. I hope to see a good portion of you while I'm in town. :)

Lastly, I should mention that the mission fund is running low again and I'm getting more requests for scholarship money now that payment is due again for most schools. Please prayerfully consider, as you're planning your holiday giving, contributing to our mission fund. I have already seen your financial resources do so much and there is still so much more to do. Thank you for even considering. If you'd like more information on the mission fund or are interested in contributing, please e-mail me at Mesi anpil!

And on that note, I'm off to get ready for bed. Sending love your way!


Sunday, November 7, 2010


I didn't update during the whole hurricane ordeal. I'm sorry. Very sorry. However, as you can imagine, life was crazy during that experience and the last thing I wanted to do at the end of each day was write on this. I hope most of you kept up with me via Facebook, though, and weren't too concerned as to if I was okay.

It all began Sunday when I started to have concerned teams talk to me about what our plan was if the storm moved our way. I made a few calls home (mostly to consult with my dad, my own personal semi weather expert) and at that time it was determined that we didn't know enough about the storm to know if it was going to hit Haiti or not so teams shouldn't feel concerned about coming.

About Wednesday, though, it became apparent that the hurricane was going to hit Haiti. It was unknown if it would be a direct hit or not, but people were beginning to prepare for the worst. On that day, we had Mike and Bryan's going away party on the Ola Esmeralda - a "floating hotel" in an old cruise ship. (Previously used to house UN officials.) It was a wonderful lunch in a neat setting. However, it was basically empty. We found out that even they were preparing for the storm and were actually going to set sail early the next morning to leave port.

That afternoon, we wrote up a plan. At that time we decided it would be best to bring all of our teams from the field back to the Guest House. We also had to buy extra food, gas (for the generator,) and a ton of extra water.

Once Thursday came, we picked up two teams from the airport and decided to keep one our teams out in the field. By Thursday at noon, it seemed as if the storm would not really affect that work site and so we figured it would be best to have the team stay there. Thursday night, we had a FULL house and lots of anxious people curious to see what the storm would bring.

The actual storm was rather anti-climatic, though. Port-au-Prince received some light rain, but that was about it. We did have one heavy rain storm on Thursday night, but seriously - nothing major. The biggest deal, honestly, was that it affected communities that our teams were supposed to work in - or affected towns on the way to communities our teams were supposed to work in. Therefore, we had two teams hanging around the Guest House for two days waiting to get to their work site. One of the two teams actually had to change work site plans because their project would be unreachable for about a week. Crazy, eh? Lots of organizing to do. Luckily, both of those teams are at their work sites now and all is well.

Now for the sad stuff. First of all: Robenson.

So on Wednesday, in the midst of the hurricane craziness, a woman who lived near Robenson and his mother came with Robenson to talk to us on Wednesday afternoon. We took a break from planning and talked to them. In this conversation we learned that apparently Robenson's mother had been beating him a lot. The woman was quite concerned for Robenson and told us that she did not think that staying with his mother was a good idea.

We went into a bit of a panic - trying to figure out how to help Robenson - MY Robenson. Eventually, Robenson's mother came to talk to us. She explained that Robenson was acting out a bit (as any 12 year old (yes he turned 12 yesterday) would do) and she didn't know how to deal with it any more. In Haiti, the way to correct poor behavior is to beat a child. The beatings weren't working on Robenson and she had reached the end of her rope. After dealing with losing her husband, house, and income, and surviving in a tent for the past 10-11 months while trying to support 3 kids including one baby... a child going through normal pre-teen stuff was the last thing she wanted to deal with. That night she said to us, "I don't want him to live with me anymore."

So now we're trying to find a place for him to stay. A good, healthy, loving place for him to stay. We have a few leads but prayers would be much appreciated as we move forward. Mesi anpil.

Lastly, Mike and Bryan left today. It looks like Bryan will be back to help out in January, but it will be a while before Mike comes back. Mike may come back for a few days in February, but that's about it. He may come back for a more extended time in June, though.

Needless to say, it was very difficult saying goodbye to them. Both for different reasons, but I'm going to miss them both quite a bit. They had become my family here and so it already feels lonelier without them. Luckily, though, there was enough to do today to keep me busy so I didn't dwell on it too much. Also, Tom is here and moved in and Susan Meister (our calendaring coordinator based in the States) arrived today to get a better feel for what goes on here. I know that there will be a lot to do to keep me busy during these next few days. It's still going to be tough, though, adjusting to not having Bryan and Mike around. Very, very tough.

Anyway, I'm off to bed. Sorry for the super long update - just had lots of stuff to share! Lastly, I'll leave you with this: It's official!


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