Friday, June 28, 2013

Hero Adventure

This past Wednesday we had our 2nd Hero Adventure night.  Hero Adventure is an outreach we do specifically for moms and their young sons.  We wanted to provide an opportunity for moms to spend time with their sons in an environment that their sons would just love.  So, we designed a night full of stuff little boys love ... fire trucks, super heroes, bounce houses, a K9 policeman, target shooting, tractors, Legos, coloring and, of course, popcorn and lollipops.  We wanted to let "boys be boys" and also to help moms have an unforgettable night with their sons and to try our best to support our community in this way.

It was really a great night!  I love the fact that we had teenagers and adults serving at this event together.  Each of our volunteers did an amazing job being friendly and fun and just making the night a blast!  Our intern Josh, also did an amazing job lining up all of the firetrucks and policeman and just making sure everything was running smoothly.  He put a lot of time in to this event and it totally paid off!

It was also great to see God come through for us as well.  It was raining most of the day ... and not just a drizzle.  It was raining really hard.  It stopped for a bit in the afternoon but started back up again about 2 hours before the event.  If it was raining we would not have been able to have all of the firetrucks and ambulances and tractors because all of those things would have been outside.  But, the rain stopped about an hour before the event started and I'm incredibly grateful for God just showing us His favor in that way.  

My wife was able to bring our 6-year-old son to Hero Adventure and he just absolutely loved it!  Here's some of what we did below ... 

Nerf Gun Target Shooting ... we set up action figures and let the kids shoot 'em down.

We have 5 different inflatable games.  Below is a baseball game we had set up.  This was a lot of fun! 

As mentioned, we had 7 different fire stations bring equipment out to this event.  I'm so grateful for the fireman in our community and how they serve.  They're so willing to give back to the community and it was fun to watch them with all of the kids.  They let them climb all over the trucks, put on the equipment, honk the horns ... the kids loved it!

We also provided an opportunity for kids to "fight" Darth Vader.  This was a blast!  Our Darth did such a great job and the kids loved using light sabers to fight him.  And, total props to our Darth Vader.  That suit is really hot!  He was drenched in sweat by the end and pretty tired.  But, he never once complained and had a great attitude the entire time.  He made it so much fun for the kids to fight him.

We also had several of our volunteers roaming around doing some fun stuff.  This is Laramie with one of our bubble guns.  We also had volunteers roaming around greeting people, passing out lollipops and popcorn.  We also had a couple volunteers randomly passing out Target gift cards to moms.  One of our regular attendees talked to me and said that she invited one of her friends who does not have a relationship with Jesus to come.  She came for the last 20 minutes of Hero Adventure and during that time received a gift card.  She simply could not understand why we would give a gift card away but felt incredibly blessed because she received one.  That pretty much answers why we gave a few of them away.

We also had a Lego station set up and a coloring station set up.  Even with all of the very active things we had going on, these stations were very full most of the night.  

We wanted to give moms the opportunity to remember the night so we provided a photo booth for them to take pictures with their kids.  We had "super hero" stuff that they could wear, if they wanted, while they got their pictures taken.  Below is one of our volunteers, Hannah, helping a little boy in to a Super Man outfit.

 One of the 5 inflatable games we had during the night.

Kids love tractors.  We had some very generous people from our church bring their tractors in and allow kids to sit in them.  It was lots of fun.

I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity we had as a church to do Hero Adventure.  It really was a memorable night for moms and their sons.  Our volunteers did awesome and it was so fun watching them serve and have fun doing it!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Haiti Trip Day 5

We finished up our last day in Haiti today.  What an incredible blessing to be here.  I have been so impressed with our team and the team at CPR-3.  It's been great serving with them.  Our team from Grace has just been amazing!  I have loved watching our teenagers and adults serve side by side.  I think it's so valuable to have adults and teenagers serving together and learning from each other.  I have watched our teenagers this week and have been challenged by them and have learned so much from them.  It's been great to see them just jump in to things.  They have showed such compassion toward everyone here.  Clothing, much of the time, is optional in Haiti.  It's nothing to see naked kids ... and sometimes naked adults ... walking around.  But, our kids have thought nothing of picking up tiny kids with no pants and just holding them and loving on them.  One of our girls was pee'd on and just brushed it off like it happens all the time.  They have given stuff away, given more hugs than I can count, had kids all over them all week, and have worked so incredibly hard with various projects.  I have loved watching them serve.  And, our adults have done the very same thing.  They have used their gifts in so many different ways and have given so much.  Our adults are here on their own time.  They have taken their own vacations to spend a week serving in Haiti.  That inspires me so very much and, even though I knew each of them reasonably well, there's nothing like spending a week in a 3rd world country that will help you get to know people even more!  I have loved watching them work hard and love on kids and just be as flexible as anybody could be.  Didn't matter what they were asked to do ... they did it with all their heart!  I have learned so much from the people on our team!

Some of us spent our morning in a town called "Laberdee" ... not really sure how to spell it, so I spelled it "fo-netically."  :) While there we played with kids, walked around and tried to talk with families, and just had so much fun being there.  Others stayed behind and worked at the CPR-3 site.  The picture above is of a little boy I just grew to adore.  He was so cute and so gentle.  He would just reach out and grab my hand in the sweetest way.  I loved it!  

The picture below is of Ryan getting his hair done by some of the kids.  As you can tell, he loved every minute of it!  

On our walk back to CPR-3, we stopped to say "hi" to some people and I saw the little girl above.  She was playing with a water jug.  It's really amazing how kids can entertain themselves and how they can use their imagination with anything.  It was fun watching her play.

The picture below is of a girl who came out to walk with us.  Yesterday, I gave her one of the My Little Ponies my 4-year-old daughter donated from the trip.  She was still holding it and playing with it.  That really did my heart good!

During the afternoon, we actually had some time off, so our team was able to go to a local beach and spend some time in the Caribbean.  Wow, it was beautiful!  Very relaxing.  We wrapped up our time at the beach in a circle encouraging each other and praying for each other.  I'm looking forward to how God is going to use this trip in each of our lives and how He will continue to break our hearts for people.  For those of you that have prayed for us ... thank you so much.  We'd appreciate you prayers tomorrow as we make the trip home.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Haiti Trip Day 4

We're wrapping up Day 4 in Haiti.  It started pretty early for us.  We were off and running at 6:45am.  We climbed the mountain that we had hiked 2 days ago and started digging the foundation for a prayer "shelter" that will be built there.  I seriously have a new hatred for the "curse" in Genesis 3 and a new understanding of Genesis 3:17 - 18 which says "Cursed is the ground because of you ... It will produce thorns and thistles for you ..."  The ground certainly felt cursed because it was full of rocks!  Big rocks, small rocks, huge rocks!  With every shovel dig, you'd hit a rock.  You'd dig it out and feel a great sense of accomplishment.  Then, you'd repeat the process all over ... every ... single ... time!  We dug a 20 X 15 "U" shaped ditch that was a foot and a half deep.  Lots of work.  And, I also got to experience one of the "thorns" mentioned in Genesis 3:18 because it got stuck in my thumb!

But, even though it was really difficult work, it was really cool to dig a foundation for something that is the spiritual foundation for all that happens ... prayer.  That mountain is a beautiful place to pray.  In fact, when we got up there this morning, there were two ladies already there praying and singing hymns in Creole.  It was very special listening to them and watching them worship.  I loved the opportunity to work hard and, in particular, to work hard for something that makes the follower of Jesus powerfully effective .... prayer.

The picture above is of the team digging and the picture below is us standing in the ditch.

We came back, had lunch, and then headed to a local school to do some painting.  The picture below is of one of the school rooms.  There are over 600 kids that attend the school and I think there are only a few rooms the size of the one you see below.  I have no idea how they fit all of the kids in there, but they some how do.  

I left feeling a greater appreciation for the school my 6-year-old son attends and just very grateful for teachers who invest in kids all over the world.  

One of the things we did at the school was paint the chalk boards with chalk board paint.  Here's part of the team sanding down one of the chalk boards.  They turned out really nice when we were done.

Several kids were at the school "helping" us.  I think they enjoyed painting us more than anything, but it was fun to work beside them.  The little boy with Leah is named "Lavinsky." He's quite the dancer and is just a fun boy to be around.

Above is one of the classrooms before we painted it.  Below is what it looked like when we were finished.  Not too shabby for a bunch of "blancs" ... that's what they call "white" people here in Haiti.  

We have a few people on our team who are sick, so we'd definitely appreciate your prayers.  The heat is, well, incredibly hot!  Combine that with a change in diet and it sometimes effects stomachs pretty badly.  Please pray that all the stomach issues get resolved quickly.

The trip has been very challenging so far and each of us are learning so much.  It's been awesome to see our team journaling about their experiences, reaching out to so many people, working so incredibly hard, and just having absolutely great attitudes through it all!  I'm so proud of them.  Some of our girls are also breaking the hearts of some of the Haitian boys as well.  For some reason the boys just don't understand why the girls won't move to Haiti.  :)  I'm glad we just went through our "dating" series at axis to help give the girls wisdom.  (haha)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Haiti Trip Day 3

We made it through day 3 in Haiti.  Hard to believe we've been here 3 days already.  We are certainly learning a lot about Haiti and about ourselves.  It's been a great experience.  I know my prayer has been that God will continue to work in my heart. The Bible has so much to say about our hearts.  If my treasure is where my heart is (Matthew 6:21) ... if every word that I say flows from my heart (Luke 6:45) ... if I am to guard my heart above all else because it determines the course of my life (Proverbs 4:23) ... since the Bible says all of those things, I have been asking God to use this time to continue to soften my often hardened heart ... to take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).  Coming to Haiti has certainly helped soften my heart.  I long to have a soft heart no matter where I am ... in Haiti, in Nicaragua, in the States ... doesn't matter.  If my heart is soft, I will notice the needs around me no matter where I am.  That has been a consistent prayer of mine.

We started our day in the CPR-3 Moringa fields.  They have an entire field of Moringa trees which they have a vision to use to "eradicate malnutrition" in Haiti.  It's great to hear their vision for what they want to see happen and to see all of the hard work that is going in to making it happen.  Moringa has so many incredible benefits and, when their vision becomes a reality, it really can help eradicate malnutrition in Haiti.  Anyway, today, we cut off limbs and strips the leaves off the limbs and then took them to their "processing plant" where they will be dried and crushed in to a powder to be freely distributed.  Fun times.  But, we felt like a bunch of middle schoolers giggling every time someone said "I'll strip!"  (Referring to the leaves).  You can take the boy out of middle school but not the middle schooler out of the boy.  :)

We also went back to the same community we were yesterday and were able to help the family who had a fire.  We prayed with them and spent some time at their home.  It was nice to be there again and also to play with many of the kids again.  The picture at the very top is of a boy that latched on to me the entire time we were there.  Piggy-back rides are universally loved by children.  :)

After getting back, we spent some time in the community and also went out to dinner at a Haitian place called Yolty's.  Mrs Yolty was incredibly kind to us and it was a very nice experience ... chicken, rice, beans, plantains and Coke in a glass bottle.  Man, on a hot day that really hit the spot!

Again, our team is incredibly thankful for all the prayers.  We are certainly feeling them and love that we are being covered in prayer.  Thanks!

Haiti Trip Day 2

We finished up day 2 in Haiti a pretty tired group, but feeling very full of joy.  Our day started by going to a Haitian church.  This was a very special experience for me.  I couldn't understand a word that was said, but I left feeling very joyful.  On Sundays, when I'm heading to church, I pray for our church services specifically.  Then I typically pray for church services across Elkhart County, in the United States, and then I pray for churches meeting around the world.  I ask God to inspire believers and that His name would be honored and lifted up.  Well, it was so cool to actually be a part of one of those churches "around the world."  That prayer of mine will never be the same.

There was lots of singing.  Lots of praying.  And, something that was very special was we were greeted with a "holy kiss" by everyone from the church.  Again, I left feeling very filled with joy.

The little girl above is a girl I met at the church.  My 4-year-old daughter Mercy wanted donate some of her My Little Ponies for the trip.  It was so special to be able to give this girl one of Mercy's ponies.

After the service we walked around the community and played with kids.  Lots of fun!  But, we also met a lady from the church who just had a house fire the day before.  She lost much of what little she had.  Today, we get to go back and help her and provide some mattresses and other things for her.  This lady also has a 17 year old daughter who lost all of her clothes in the fire. The girls on our team are going to donate their clothes to this girl.  That does my heart good!

We spent the afternoon moving rock.  It was incredibly hot, but again, good to work hard.  Afterwards, we took a walk up a mountain.  I love to hike and so this was very fun for me.  The above pic is of me at the top of the mountain we hiked.  The pic below is of our team in the "Tap Tap" that drove us to the bottom of the mountain.  You haven't fully experienced life until you ride in the back of a Tap Tap.  :)

Thanks for your continued prayers for our team.  We're all doing well so far and excited to be here.  We are learning so much and being challenged.  The CPR-3 team is very dedicated to what they are doing and fun to work with.  Again, thanks for your prayers!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Haiti Day # 1

We made it to Haiti last night and, even while waiting on the plane in Miami for two hours, we saw God come through for us.  We had no problems from Chicago to Miami, but once in Miami the weather started to turn.  Our flight was delayed about 30 minutes.  No big deal.  But, once we boarded the plane, we had to wait on the plane for 2 hours before we could take off because of the weather.  When we finally took off, our flight was the last flight to leave before the shut down flights for awhile because of the weather.  If we would not have been able to take off, we would have had to spend the night in Miami and miss an entire day of our trip.  Praise God He allowed us to take off ... and also see quite a storm.

We landed in Haiti and were able to meet Jordan and Amanda and the rest of the CPR-3 team.  It was great to meet them and to ride in a "Tap Tap" ... basically the back of a pick-up truck ... through Port Au Prince and to the CPR-3 home.

After getting oriented and having some dinner we called it a night and got some sleep so we could be ready for the next day.

It's certainly hot!  My 4 and 2 year old daughters think I'm going to "Hades" for my trip.  They continually ask me "Dad, can we go to Hades with you?"  Well, it's not quite Hades hot, but certainly toasty.  Our team has worked so hard and we "sweatin' and lovin' it."

Most of our morning was spent doing some work projects.  CPR-3 is in the process of building new facilities.  Wow, everything looks great and it's awesome to be a part of what they're doing.  Here's Leah and Morgan cleaning off the "barred windows" and getting them ready to paint.  We painted the bars and around the floors.  Everything looks great!  We also spent some time cleaning up locks of rocks and cinder blocks that were piled up due to construction.  It was hard work and great to do.

Neil was able to use his "tech" gifts to set up wireless internet in the new building.  He's been working hard getting all of that set up for the team.

In the afternoon we spent a couple of hours walking around the community and praying for people.  It was great to be invited in to homes, talk with families and also talk to them about Jesus.  It was such a blessing to be able to pray with so many people and to meet so many people.  There are a lot of kids around and it was fun to play with them.  The little dude above loved being able to take a "selfie" with me.  

Here's Ryan playing with some kids.  He was giving them stickers and puzzles.  They loved it1

There is a beach about a 20 minute walk away from where we are staying, so we took a walk to the beach.  I was able to play American football with some kids and had lots of fun showing them how to throw.  Steph is talking to one of the kids that hung out

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