Friday, February 7, 2014

Standing in Holy Places - Haiti

A mom from my son's class randomly sent me a text the other day.  She said she would be sharing at her church about Standing in Holy places and asked me if I wanted to share regarding Haiti.  If you know me, you know I never say no to sharing about Haiti!!!!  I wrote it for that purpose but wanted to share with my friends who love Haiti as much as I do too.  Many people are surprised that I go to Haiti as often as I do and are curious why and I always respond that there is nothing that could keep me away.  Haiti has become my heart and my family.  But, it is also a place where I feel so close to God, so comfortable and so full of joy that I literally cannot get enough.  Anyway here are my thoughts about Standing in a Holy Place...


I started traveling to Haiti over six years ago without many expectations.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect or how I would be impacted, but it has changed my life forever.  Having now traveled to Haiti somewhere around 25 times (I have lost count!), I can say that it is the place I feel closest to God.  In what is now considered the poorest country in the world, there are very few distractions for the people.  When they attend church, they are in no rush to leave.  They don’t have to be at a  soccer game or clean an enormous house, they have the time and desire to focus only on God and truly worship Him – sometimes for hours on end – and the result is incredible.  Yes there is a constant battle for survival for over 80% of the population, but that only drives the need to rely on God.  The faith of Christians in Haiti is strong, unlike  faith I have ever seen.  Worshipping in Haiti is truly standing in a Holy place.  You can feel God’s life and presence.  Of course, there is also a large part of the population that practices voodoo.  You can definitely feel that darkness at times.  But that makes God’s light even brighter.  People are not looking to their job or wealth or entertainment to be fulfilled or for security, they look to God.  Here we have a million things that lead us to take our eyes off God.  When stripped to nothingness like many Haitians are, the need for God’s presence is everything.  I look at them and think that I want to be like them, I want to worship like I have nowhere to be and give God the honor he deserves.  I have tried to follow that example every time I return, but honestly being in the midst of so many deeply rooted Christians cannot be compared to .  Love for Christ abounds in Haiti.  I have seen God work in ways that I almost cannot believe in Haiti.  I have seen God save and transform lives.  I have seen God provide in ways that are so amazing that they can only be credited to God.  I was quite na├»ve to think that I might be doing the good work in Haiti, for it is definitely God who led me there to do a work in me.  Our work in Haiti has given me examples of what true Christianity looks like and it has also forced me to trust completely in God.  The work we do in Haiti simply could not and cannot be accomplished by man alone.  I am so blessed to serve alongside some of the most God fearing and God loving people and to have had my eyes opened to the Greatness of my Creator and Savior.    


Saturday, December 29, 2012

JWAYE NWEL 2012

Dear Friends,

We recently returned from our annual Christmas trip to Haiti.  After five years of serving children in Haiti at Christmas, this program only gets better and better!  For those of you that donated gifts and funds for the program, we honestly can't thank you enough!  Putting together a program that brings gifts for hundreds of people is no small task.  We couldn't do it without your support and are grateful that we are able to do this along side you annually!

What a great joy to be able to travel with an awesome team to celebrate the birth of Christ in our favorite place in the world.  Thank you Brent, Hannah, Savannah, Megan, Alan, Alex, Linda, Mikki, Jane, Doug, Jude, Jacob, Addie and Ruthie for taking the time during a busy season to bless the kids and our friends in Haiti.  Truly this trip is a whirlwind and we sincerely appreciate your jumping in.

DAY ONE
We arrived in Haiti on a Friday morning and went straight to work.  We dropped our belongings and went to Zanfan Lakay to get to work!  Many of the kids were still at school so we were able to spend some quality and peaceful time with the little kids and those that aren't in school yet and begin preparations for the weekend.  Our first stop was a Haitian market to buy food for packing.  One of our favorite things to do is to distribute food packs to those who are hungry.  It is one way simple way to share love with those in need.  After that, we began packing hundreds of bags of rice and sorting spaghetti, oil, fish, and tomato sauce.  By the end we had put together a couple hundred bags and were ready to call it a day.  Sort of.  We headed back to Shama House and spent the next several hours sorting gifts and supplies from the 1,000 pounds of goods that we carried in for the festivities!

DAY TWO    
Decorating for the Party!
Gifts 
Enjoying new MP3 together
We woke up early and headed straight for Maison des Enfants de Dieu.  We arrived and began decorating the upper classroom area.  Lights, balloons and streamers were hung and the kids were invited to join.  We opened the party with music and a message by Doug letting the kids know that we were ready to PARTY in honor of Jesus' birthday!  The kids made paper chains and Merry Christmas banners to finish off the decorations and then Brent shared the Christmas message with the kids and reminded them that Jesus is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.  They decorated mini flashlights to bring this point home and then we sent them to the yard to play parachute games and get their wiggles out.   After playtime, we wrapped up the party by building candy towers as a reminder to let their lights shine.  Not a ton of building happened, but the kids enjoyed the candy treats.  While we waited for the food to finish cooking, we distributed gifts to all of the babies and toddlers.  We were also able to distribute tote bags fill of food to all of the 82 workers of Maison!  What a special opportunity to be able to bless the selfless caregivers at the orphanage who work day in and day out to care for the precious children.  Finally lunch was served and all enjoyed a delicious feast of beans and rice, fried chicken, fried plantains, french fries and other delicious Haitian specialties.  What a treat for us and the kids to enjoy!  We were able to serve the nannies their lunch too.  Now it was time to distribute gifts to the elders.  One by one the children were called to receive their gift packed especially for them!   Lots of anticipation and excitement followed by laughter and joy as they opened up their goodies!  they broke into small groups to examine, share and play with all of their treats.  But the party wasn't over yet...we still had to had have birthday cake!  We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, distributed cake and then said our goodbyes.  We still had to get over to Zanfan to start their party!

The team loaded into the van and went to Zanfan Lakay to begin their Christmas party.  Because it was late in the day and the kids needed time to study, Zanfan Lakay's Christmas party was going to be a two day event.  When we arrived we immediately began to decorate with the help of the kids.  Balloons, lights, banners, streamers and paper chains were added to the salon and dining area to kick off the party.  A few of us headed to MegaMart (Haitian Costco) to get the evening treat... peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies and juice.  This a favorite treat of the Zanfan kids and we try to serve it up every time we are there.  After making the sandwiches, we set up a projector for movie night.  It was supposed to be the Grinch but after some technical difficulties we had to settle on a Harry Potter screening.  All had a great time enjoying sandwiches and a fun movie before calling it a night!  Back to Shama House for the team to prepare gifts and supplies for Sunday!    

DAY THREE
NEW HATS FOR ALL!!!
Today several of us woke up with the roosters (literally) to go to 6:30 AM church at Church on the Rock.  It was a great service and an awesome time of worship to start our day.  After church we picked up the late risers and headed to Zanfan Lakay to start their party!  Again Doug opened us up with music and Brent introduced the Light of the World message to the kids.  The kids then decorated flashlights and made Christmas cards.  We circled back and split the group into teams to make the candy towers  as a reminder to shine our lights for Jesus (Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify Father in heaven.)  Thanks to some donations of awesome New Era hats, we were able to add a friendly competition to the Zanfan Lakay building time.  The teams with the highest tower and most decorative (as judged by Jimmy!) would all receive new hats.  Things got heated when the prizes were on the line and all of the teams worked together to build awesome towers!  Winners were chosen, hats distributed and it was a great time!  We took a break from the party at that time to get out and visit many of our friends on the street.
Time to eat the candy tower!

We loaded up the van, tap tap and Jimmy's truck with bags of food and toys and headed to the cemetery.  We have been visiting a group of ladies who live at the cemetery for a couple of years now.  They live in a tent city called Tenis right next to the cemetery and do all of their bathing, washing, etc in the tombs at the cemetery.  It is a very difficult visit every time. We have come to know the ladies and it is heartbreaking each time to see the desperation and extreme need.  But we were able to distribute bags of food and toys for the kids and send two of the women to the hospital who were quite sick.  It is not much, but at least it is something.  They know we care about them and that we always come back.  Though we cannot fix their situation, we are hopeful that at least they know that they are not forgotten.  We went on to the Cathedral area to continue distributing food and toys.  Again it is a very difficult visit, but bringing a small gift of food and a special toy for the children is meaningful.  We know that it is not much and our wish is that we could do more for these hurting people, but we do what we can and pray that a glimpse of Jesus is revealed and an understanding that their plight matters is left with them.

Jude and Tiga (new friend at Zakat)
Our next stop was Zakat, this is the area where the kids at Zanfan Lakay lived before coming to Zanfan Lakay, when they were street kids.  It is always especially meaningful to visit Zakat.  This is where I fist met Jimmy and many of the kids at Zanfan that I now count as my own family.  When I visit here, I am always reminded of how hard their lives were and how much pain and suffering they have endured through the years.  I can only imagine what they have seen and experienced.  And even though they are safely in Zanfan now, which is far from perfect, the repercussions of life on the street will affect them for so many years to come.  I thank God that he brought us to Zakat in 2009 and exposed us to these innocent lives who are carrying the weight of the world on their little shoulders.  Trying only to survive each and every day, doing whatever it takes to get through that day.  This is the reason that we always come back to Zakat, because so many kids are still on the street and fighting for survival every day.  We were able to see a lot of the kids and older boys that we have seen for several years now and serve around 500 meals, play some music and distribute toys, t-shirts and other Christmas gifts.  It was a very calm visit to Zakat and I left feeling blessed that God has allowed me to become a part of this world that only a few years ago I didn't even know.  So happy that my own kids are starting to understand the ministry of Grangou.

Fenickson receiving his gift!
We returned to Zanfan for the big finale.  The kids ate their special Christmas meal while we were out on the streets because we were simply running out of time.  We finally (after MUCH anticipation) were ready to distribute the gifts to our kids at Zanfan, but not before a dance party and performance of songs that they wrote themselves.  They are so talented and precious and I was so proud to see them sing their own songs for us. They had obviously been rehearsing.  JUST BEAUTIFUL!!!  We then got them all together and they waited patiently while we called each child up to receive their special gift, again specially selected just for them!  What a joy to watch each of them open up their gift and explore their goodies.  Beautiful little faces were lighting up all over the place as they found toys, MP3 players and other items that were theirs to keep, share and enjoy.  Our Zanfan staff all received a small monetary bonus and gifts of food bags.  It was special to treat them because they do work tirelessly caring for our kids with little reward.  We can never thank them enough!!!  We closed the night with cake and play and said our goodbyes as many of the kids would be at school when we had to catch our flight out the following day.

DAY FOUR
Jimmy and Kathia - Love you!!!
Part of our team had an early flight so we said goodbye and they headed out.  The rest of us spent the morning at Zanfan, playing with the kids who are schooled at Zanfan and enjoying some last minute time with Jimmy, Kathia, Bob, Nadia and Carmelo.  After all items were distributed and expenses were covered, we were able to also leave behind 80 bags of toys for Pierre to distribute at a Christmas day outreach to the neighborhood in his church and also leave behind some funds for Zanfan to have a special Christmas meal on Christmas day AND provide all the children with new crocs which they needed desperately.  And then we said goodbye and headed reluctantly to the airport.  It was a beautiful trip!


FINAL THOUGHTS
GRANDMA & Her Boys!
Once again, I cannot thank all of our supporters and contributors to this trip!  As you can see, your generosity touched hundreds of Haitians.  What an amazing gift!  We couldn't do any of what we do without you.  I am blown away that my family has the unique privilege to do this work and am so genuinely amazed that so many of you have come by our side. Obviously Christmas is not about the gifts, it is about Jesus, but the giving of gifts is a way to show his love.  His love is why we do all of this.  We believe it is what He would do.  And how blessed are we that God has allowed us to be a part of it and find a whole new family, so amazingly blessed.  From the bottom of our hearts...THANK YOU!

We wish you a joyous new year!
Carrie Gibson & Your Friends at GRANGOU


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Are you ready for some football?


Or should I say foutbol?  Nothing makes the kids at Zanfan Lakay more excited than a little soccer, so I was excited that one of the donations I found that Kids Around the World sent (with the playground) was soccer equipment!  Now ZL has two soccer goals, cleats, jersey, shorts and new balls!  As we started passing out stuff, smiles were ear to ear, even on the reserved Martial and Reginald.  There were enough sizes that big to small found themselves on a team and legit soccer went down (Kingston Pride vs. Fordians)...totally fun...until Jimmy said it was homework time.   Oh well, a demen! We were able to take some balls down to the kids on the streets too and even the big boys were begging for them.  Soccer might be a little escape from some of the heaviness.  Makes me even more excited for our future site where we will have our own field and be able to serve the community with a little fun and a little break from reality.  Kids being kids, gotta love it! 






Friday, November 25, 2011

MESI ANPIL HAITI!!!!!!!!

On Thanksgiving we are reminded to be thankful for the many blessing in our lives.  I am so very thankful for numerous things, but one of the greatest joys and blessings in my life is the ability to work in Haiti.  It has changed my heart forever and I can't even imagine my life without my Haitian firends and family.  Truly blessed!

* I am thankful that over 4 years ago God led me (and my husband) to Haiti and began a work that has changed my life forever.  I am nobody and HE has given me everything!
* I am thankful for Pierre Alexis who is our amazing partner in Haiti, but more importantly has become  my friend and family.  He is unshakeable, unwaivering and one of the most special people I have ever had the pleasure to know.
* I am thankful for my Haitian "son" and "daughter", Jimmy and Katia, who sacrifice more than I can ever imagine to care for the 60 kids at Zanfan Lakay day in and day out as if they were there own.
* I am thankful that 60 beautiful children in Haiti call me Mother, a title I do not deserve but cherish more than words can say.
* I am thankful for Angie Koch who serves tirelessly in Haiti but always does so with a smile.  She is a warrior!
* I am thankful that we have new land and a plan to build a new home for some of the sweetest, most gentle hearts I have ever had the chance to meet.  
* I am thankful that 15 and 16 year old boys are experiencing a childhood that they never were able to have on the streets, soaking up activities such as reading simple chapter books aloud and coloring projects.
* I am thankful that 30 children are in school this year and are getting an education that will surely impact their futures and the future of Haiti in incredible ways.
* I am thankful that the Lord has led friends and family and others to join us in this work.  We couldn't do any of this without HIM or YOU!
* I am thankful my finger has been held by the cutest 6 fingered hand ...


* I am thankful for the Maison orphanage, who cared for my son and daughter with so much love, and have cared for hundreds of orphans over the last many years.
* I am thankful for ZANFAN LAKAY!  There is hardly a place in the world that is better than this place. My whole heart and soul has been captured by my "House Kids." I LOVE YOU:  Emma, Timothee, Steeve, Guerwinsky, Patrick, Samuel, Reginald, HB, Badaud, Ti Manmi, Aly, Ti Blanc, Kakabendja, Africa, Isaac, Fenickson, Junior, Ti Potay, Jacky, Emerson, Clivens, Ridje, Emmanuel, Ti Ge, Guy Marie, Steissie, Pierre, Steven, Sebastien, Salo, Steven L, Mustafa, Boul Tet, Mardi, SonSon, Boul Natet, SonSon Jr., Mazorat, Ti Toutou, Jackensia, Gigi, Kervens, Isaac, Jackenlove, Jodaline, Ti Radi, Noukwe, Yvnet, Koukou, Baby Kervens, Peter, Saviana, Mickense, Peter, Baby, Peguy, Nickenson, Moise and Jinksy.
* I am thankful that I am in no way equipped or worthy to do this work, yet God provides everything needed to do it.  His provision is unfailing and His love overwhelming. Mesi! Mesi! Mesi!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FRIENDS!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

JWAYE NWEL!






It is only November, but our annual Christmas drive for Zanfan Lakay, Maison des Efants de Dieu and Brilliant Side Baptist Church is well underway.  It is one of our favorite programs and last year we were able to deliver over 250 gifts to kids in Haiti.  No building walls or painting for this trip!  It is all about the kids and celebrating!  Christmas in Haiti is as fun as it gets.  The kids are full of joy, not only about the gifts (of course they love them), but they love to celebrate.  Singing, dancing and laughter is plentiful.  How amazing it is to stand in a crowd of children dancing, singing, shouting and celebrating in honor of the Good News of the birth of Jesus.  This is the day we don't cry or talk about how hard life in Haiti is, we just jump in and celebrate.  The kids can just be kids - pizza, cake, gifts, crafts, stories and so on.  It is party time!  We walk away more blessed just for being a part of an innocent and true JOY!  If you have been to Haiti, you know with some things it is GO BIG OR HOME!  If you have prayed Haitian style, you know what I mean :)   Christmas in Haiti is one of those times and we can all learn from this:  Celebrate what you have, not what you don't!  The greatest gift is Jesus and that should bring you so much joy that you break out in song, dance and more!  Treasure every moment!  Yep, Christmas in Haiti seriously rocks. Don't miss your chance to be part of it.  We still have a few kids that need to be sponsored and we could use your help!  Email carrie@grangou.org to find out how.  It couldn't be easier... You get a super cute picture of the child you sponsor, a Ziploc bag and directions.  You shop for this specific child (no more than a Ziploc bag full), throw in a few dollars to help with shipping and party costs and in a few weeks you get an update with pics and drawings from the kids.  JOIN US!!!!!


 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kiki

Last week we lost a dear friend and amazing servant for orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti. Jean Kuislin "Kiki" Alexis died unexpectedly on Thursday, leaving countless friends and family heartbroken.  He worked every day to help orphaned children unite with their adoptive families (including our own twins) and quietly served in many other ways in his country. 

Today we would like to honor Kiki for his kind and generous heart; for his unwavering commitment and dedication to Maison and children in need; for being a witness to many people and for being a friend.  Thank you Kiki.  We love you and you will be missed!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Zanfan Lakay - One Year Later

A little over one year ago, Grangou (along with our partner Mosaic) opened a home for street kids in Port au Prince, Haiti.  We didn't really know what would happen or how it would go, but we felt these kids deserved a life better than living minute by minute on the streets.  We originally thought we would have about 20 kids and two house parents.  Today we have 63 children.  We could have hundreds more, but we simply don't have the resources or space.  We have to focus on these 63 kids and help them recover from years of heartache and hard living.  We want to help them get an education, build meaningful relationships and learn how to love and be loved.  It is not always easy and we had no idea what this first year would bring.  We have traveled back and forth several times over the last year and seen tremendous growth, but our most recent trip revealed a new hope and growth far beyond what we imagined could be accomplished in such a short period of time.

When we first started visiting the children (when they were all living on the streets), they were a little distant and skeptical of us.  Not really surprising.  We would bring food or shoes or other supplies, just hoping to start a relationship.  We would't stay too long or push anything on them.  We would talk with them and ask them things like, "What do you want for your future?" just so we could begin to understand them.  The typical answer was to go to school or have a house, but the dreams were not really big.  The future was beyond them at that time because they were jusy trying to survive that day.

Today, many of the children go out to school and the others have teachers who come and teach them at the house so they will soon be prepared to transition to school.  Many of the children are learning English (yay - becasue our creole is pa bon) and doing exceptionally well at their studies.  When we ask them what they want for their future now, we hear answers like "I want to be President of Haiti", "I want to be a pastor", "I want to change my country" and so on.  The change is incredible.  They have a new hope and it is so awesome to be a part of.

Another noticeable change is how Zanfan Lakay has become a family.  When the kids first moved in, they were very rebellious.  It seemed like someone was acting out at every moment and Jimmy was having to discipline constantly.  Moving from life on the streets to a structured environment with rules and restrictions was not easy.  But now most of them embrace this structure.  They are eager to help out, they work hard and they support one another.  It is so great to see the older kids loving and guiding the younger kids.  Jimmy and Kathia Bonhomme (our truly amazing house parents) are Manmi and Papi to these kids.  Zanfan Lakay is a HOME and we all are now FAMILY. 

Obviously Zanfan Lakay is far from perfect.  We take a few steps forward and then take a step back.  We still have rebellious kids and troubles on a daily basis.  But we also have growth and hope and transformation.  And that is what this is about. 

We hope you will follow us on this awesome ride that is Zanfan Lakay and working in Haiti.  God has provided in so many ways and we are excited to share the adventures of our ministry with you.  We have been changed and touched in so many ways and are so thankful to be a part of it.