Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brooks. Day 3.

Sunday morning started with a rousing church service at the school with the kids and staff of HATS along with several kids and adults from the neighborhood. Worship is so much fun, dancing and playing percussion instruments and laughing with the kids, and their singing is beautiful. I (Brooks) did a little visual demonstration with magic, about how God stays with us no matter where we go. Karen explained first that I was not involved in voodoo - that it was a comedy type of thing and not magic that they would think of. David brought the word with Karen translating. And our team all got to sing for the congregation. We sang and danced a rousing version of "I've got joy, down in my heart, deep deep down in my heart." Julie missed the rehearsal. Other than her, our performance was flawless.

Kids practicing with Mariah to sing in church

Sunday service

Sleeping beauties at Sunday service

After church, lunch, and a little rest, we finished up the kitchen and it looks quite wonderful, if I do say so myself (Photos of finished kitchen will come soon). Then I took off to spend the next 24 hours with at the Comfort House, where Ray and Trisha Comfort are caring for 13 children, most of whom have AIDS/HIV. I've spent time there before and wanted to spend time with the kids and bring them a few supplies. Stories about my adventures with the Comforts could fill pages. I'll just spare you the time and say it was a special time with one of the most unique families I'll ever meet.

The rest of the crew remained in the comparatively luxurious confines of HATS, where they no doubt feasted on crab legs and ice cream while soaking in hot tubs. They also spent the evening laughing and bonding at Seth and Jessie's place. I was hoping they'd grieve my absence and be bored silly. That didn't happen. They were joined by Mariah, Karen's granddaughter, who is spending a year away from college to help out, is fantastic, and I think she'll one day run the place. Getting to know her on this trip was a privilege. And so ends day 3.

Day 4.
While I continued my adventures at the Comfort House (start time: 6am), I assume the other team slept until 10 or so. Probably not, though, since they went next door to the school to see the morning's opening ceremonies and then played with all the kids at the school during recess. Rumor has it that Molly was drilled in the head with a soccer ball. After school let out, the crew finished up the Aqua Chintzizing of the new building. It looks fantastic. I made it home in time to miss out on cleaning up all the painting supplies, but right on time to one final round o play with the kids.

Team finishing the painting of school office

The Ritchie ladies got their hair braided. Lots of jumping rope was done (David's arm is still sore). Julie carried babies all over the place. Ryan and I played "washers" with a few of the boys. Then David joined us and the game was then called "Warshers." After a final soccer game, we went to enjoy a delicious meal from Jesse and Seth at Huber Manor. Seth makes some amazing bread. Soccer skills, handyman skills, baking skills - Seth is a Renaissance man in cut-off jean shorts. I love the guy. Between Seth and Missionary James (see day 2), we got to know some really awesome men of God with equally awesome beards.

More games were followed by the hardest part of this trip every year - saying good-bye to the beautiful children of HATS. It's so tough because each of them touched our hearts in a unique way. However, we can say our good-byes with peace, knowing they are so well cared for and deeply loved by an amazing staff. That didn't stop me from considering smuggling a kid or two out in my backpack, but still...

After a round of games, we headed up to the rooftop of Karen's place for an amazing time of prayer and encouragement with Karen, Mariah, and the Hubers. It was the perfect way to end an incredible time. We can't wait to return next year. We love HATS. We pray for Haiti. We know God is at work there, and are honored to play a small role in it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 2...

...was another fun and action-filled day for our team. We began the morning doing what we do best - painting. Or, in Ryan's case, eating pancakes. The bathrooms in Karen's house needed painting, and we had some touchups to do in the boys kitchen area. It's almost all finished now. Seth has rediscovered his carpentry skills, and things are going to be hugely improved by the time we're done in there. New serving tables are joining the fresh paint job to make the house mothers super happy.

Bathroom getting a facelift

Kitchen coming together nicely

In between playing with the kids and sweating in the sun, we made our way over to the school to begin work on the newest building, which houses the office and the library. We are painting the entire outside of the school Aqua Chintz, a color not to be confused with Aqua Sky or Tranquility or Passion Blue or any other of the finely named paints. My shoes and pants are now Aqua Chintz. I like that color a lot. We had to do a little scraping of concrete globs before painting. David and I are total experts at such a procedure now. I'm also good at scraping off wasps nests and running away quickly. I'd prefer to just paint around them and avoid the trouble, but apparently Karen cares about quality. Crazy, I know.

Getting ready to paint the school office

Thankfully Molly and JoJo came over to help with the painting and contribute their ability to paint the trims with their steady hands. Ryan painted the high portions and is now complaining of a sore neck. He's just weak, if you ask me. We should have the building looking completely Chintztastic by the time we leave.

Painting of school and my excited kids

After an intense soccer game in which Seth and I remained undefeated as teammates (one of us a former Division III soccer All-American, the other one of us was a phenomenal soccer player in 3rd grade but doesn't like to brag), we cleaned up and then went out on the town with our new friend Missionary James.

Soccer game fun

We brought along Jessie and Seth as well as Mariah, Karen's granddaughter. James is an awesome American missionary and extremely funny and unique guy who works as the tech guy at the hospital nearby during the day, and travels around showing Christian movies during the night and weekend. He dubs some into Creole and has also made his own right here in Haiti. They're really great and communicate the gospel in such a unique way. We went into the heart of Verrettes and set up his portable projection system and screen and showed the movie to whoever wanted to show up. And boy, did lots of people show up. It was an amazing time.

Heading to Verrettes with James for Christian movie night

James showed two movies, and between them announced that anyone who wanted to be prayed for could come visit with him and his "pale-faced friends." Did I mention James is an odd bird? But that was great. During the second movie, several kids and youth came up to us asking about how to have a relationship with the Lord. I think between us we led 8 young people to the Lord. Thankfully, we had Mariah and Jesse with us to translate and share as well. The night was great fun. No one asked for our autographs though, so I guess they didn't recognize our voices from the radio. So if we're going to achieve real fame in the country, we going to have to talk James into casting us in his next movie, "The Adventures of the Pale-faced Friends." Unfortunately, he doesn't like this idea as much as I do...

Jessie & Mariah praying with children at movie night

Julie & Sandra

In motion singing train

Brooks

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Amarillo, Texas team...

... is here and having a blast. We're made up of David Nance, Ryan Reneau, Molly and Joanna Ritchie, Julie Ratliff, and me, Brooks Boyett. Molly and Julie are the newbies, and they're adjusting quite nicely. Our blog post is delayed because we fired our team leader, David, from blogging duties. He did a fine job keeping everyone updated on our journeys here the past couple of years, but we decided it was time for a change. Plus, he's eating pancakes right now. So the duty has fallen on me..

Our day started Thursday morning at the Amarillo airport at 4:45, getting ready for our 6am flight, when the airlines informed us that Haiti was not allowing plastic crates into the country. This posed a problem, as we had 9 crates of supplies for the orphanage loaded up and ready to go. David showed his calm leadership abilities by quietly weeping in the fetal position for a couple of minutes. Not really. He instantly called Molly's husband Brian, who was in route with his girls, and asking him to stop by the Wal-mart not far from the airport. They ran in, bought 9 suitcases and rushed them to the airport. We unloaded the crates into the suitcases as quickly as possible, got them weighed and checked, rushed through security, and got on the plane with 10 minutes to spare. Brian Ritchie is a hero.

We arrived safely on Thursday afternoon. The best part of arriving is walking out of the airport to the welcoming hug of Karen. Whether its your first time to Haiti or your fourth or fifth, Karen makes you feel like an old friend. We were extremely excited that Seth and Jessie Huber have made their return to finish out their time here helping at HATS. They arrived here with us a year ago to spend a year with the orphanage. Their return to the States at Christmas was extended quite a bit due to Seth's tonsils not cooperating with him. He seems quite recovered now other than the fact that his handyman skills seem diminished. He built a wooden door frame yesterday that didn't quite fit the concrete opening intended for it. He blames the concrete workers for the poor measurements, but I'm pretty sure his tonsils contained all his handyman powers. We'll see in the coming weeks. Regardless, the kids were very excited to have them back.
Arrived safely.  Let's go to the mission.
Leader David is tired maybe or . . . 
After the long journey from the airport made quicker by our van driver speeding through the streets until Luckner, Karen's right hand man Mr. Everything here in Haiti (more on that later) told him to be careful and slowed down. Luckner was following in Karen's vehicle with our luggage. I think that's what he said - he pulled up next to him and yelled at him in Creole. We then slowed down after that. I also think we convinced Ryan that he and his fiancee Keelie should get married in Haiti and honeymoon here. The Obama Beach Hotel looks wonderful. Hopefully Ryan will have time to stop and make reservations for this August on the way back to the airport on Tuesday. We made it in Thursday night, hugged on the kids, then went to bed. It was a long day.
Molly with Jonathan & Ismyis
Friday, we started the day of in the best way possible - a devotional with all the kids and staff. If you want to see what the true joy of the Lord looks like, spend some time singing praises to Jesus with kids that know what it's truly like to be rescued from the pit and loved on by the Jesus who lives in the staff here. There's not a better thing in the world.

We then went to work, painting and finishing up the remodeling of the kitchen area for the kids. The house mothers are very excited about us finishing it up. So we painted the walls, cabinets, shelves (which we'll hang Saturday), and Seth made a door frame that didn't fit. I'm sure it will be great today. We also got started on a portion of the new guard tower. I'm trying to talk Karen into letting us paint it camouflage, but she doesn't like that idea. It's all happy, bright pastels around here.
Carpenter Seth is back
Renovations of kitchen in Kay Margo
|I then got to do a little magic show for the kids and staff, which is always fun, but as a result, every time the kids see me, they ask me to make rocks disappear over and over again. We then went for a walk up and down the canal before dinner. We thought that ended our day. We were wrong.
Group watching Brooks do his tricks
Canal family walk
After dinner, we were thinking about bedtime, but Karen had plans to run down to see Lukner's radio station. Lukner is not only principal of the school here, a lawyer, and owner of a little store, he's also owner of a radio station that opened last August. He broadcasts Christian music and is impacting this region in phenomenal ways. It's hugely popular, at least with the Christian community. We loaded up and went to see the station. Lukner invited us on the air, and boy did the fun commence. People call in and request music, then Lukner plays it if he has it. If he doesn't have it, he and the guys at the studio just sing it acappella. He decided to play some English music for us to sing along to. We tried our best, but it was obscure country gospel music they we had never heard before. It was hilarious, because we tried our best. At least Seth, Ryan and I tried our best. The rest of the team allowed us to make fools of ourselves over the airwaves to thousands. We finally got to sing our own acappella version of "Amazing Grace." It sounded amazing - during the first verse. Seth got us going on the second verse. We started out with gusto. "Twas grace that..." until we realized no one really knew the right words to verse 2. We made some stuff up, then tried to finish off with a quality rendition of verse 4. It was equally terrible. We then sang along to a few worship songs we actually knew, including "I Can Only Imagine." I then got to talk to a caller who knew English. He wanted to meet up with me this weekend - since I'm American he was hoping I could give him money. I told him sorry, but I was busy.
Move over Luckner - Brooks is here
Team at Radio Creole
Mariah singing on the air at Radio Creole
Hopefully Lukner still has listeners. Really, it was a huge blast. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. And I can't state enough what kind of an impact the station is having on the community. Lives are being changed.

It was a long, wonderful first full day at HATS. We're so excited to be here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hello once again from Karen, Mariah, and kids.

We continue to be quite busy and as usual there is never ever a dull moment. Now we are preparing for the next team to arrive on Thursday, February 23rd. We are all looking forward to having David Nance come back to spend some time with us once again. Too, we are looking forward to having Jessie and Seth return at the same time as David's team. We thank God for Seth's recovery and that they are able to return for a few weeks. We have missed them. They will stay with us until March 15th, at which time they will leave HATS and return to the US. We will miss them again when they leave in March. We will be praying for God's will and his path for them for their future. They have been an asset and a blessing during their time with us.

February 14th, Mariah's prescolaire students were thrilled to be treated to chocolate cupcakes. Yesterday, 16th, our teacher for prescolaire 3 was away and Mariah handled both classes for the whole morning. Wow. My hat is off to her for being able to handle all those little children in the manner she did.

Mariah's class with chocolate cupcakes

Teacher Mariah, I worked hard this morning

Mariah with prescolaire 1 & 3

Our Vladimy continues to spend time at the radio station with Papa Luckner. He is growing into a fine young man and growing strong spiritually. People enjoy hearing Vladimy singing, talking and praying on the air.

Vladimy on the air at Radio Creole

Last weekend Mariah and I had a weiner and marshmallow roast with the children, complete with 'somemores', which both children and adults loved. They think this should be a weekend tradition and are disappointed that we are not willing to commit to that.

Ti Fi happily learning from Mariah

Sticky delicious

Great marshmallow roaster

Leica feeding Ti Luc and herself at same time

Every year I look forward to a break during the hottest and most humid months - July or August. It is a good time for me to take a break as school is closed. I usually get a couple of weeks away and do some speaking for the mission at the same time. This summer, however, I will not be able to get away as I have two of my housemothers pregnant and due around the same time. They will both be needing time off. I am trusting God to help me work things out so the children will continue to receive the same excellent daily care. I will stay here this summer and spend that important time with the children. I love being with my children and would like to catch up on some of my workload so I can have lots of time with them.

How much longer will I be able to carry them both

Papa Luckner with Anne and Sandra

Thank you for continuing to pray for us and sending encouragement with blog comments and emails.

I T I S, A N D A L W A Y S W I L L B E, A L L A B O U T T H E C H I L D R E N.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Life continues at HATS...

...but we are really missing Dickie, Sandra, Jim and Shondi.

Kids missing Sandra this week

Jim with Antoinette and Naomie

Now we are looking forward to David Nance arriving Feb 23rd with his team of six. For two of them it will be their first time at HATS. Team consists of Ryan Reneau (returning), Joanne Ritchie (returning), Molly Ritchie (first time), Brooks Boyette (returning), and Julie Rallift (first time). David comes from Texas yearly with a team and we always await their return.

When Dickie was here plumbing problems arose its ugly head again. (Seems like it always waits for when Dickie is here.) We had sewer and water problems once again at the bathhouse. That building has a bathroom and shower for two house mothers, one for the employees, and one for the boys. After the team left Luckner hired someone to clean the septic tank, someone to dig up the pipes from bathhouse to tank, and today someone to come with a pump to force water through one section to dislodge the sand buildup there. Luckner did everything he could for two days but it needed the help of a pump to complete the job. Both days Luckner was down in the trenches on his knees, up to his elbows in the dirt, working on the problem. It was funny to see him like that Friday in his dress clothes from school. The tank needed to be cleaned. Also, two water pipes had broken underground and they had slowly and steadily filled with sand. Today it is fixed, cleaned and running again. No one is happier than my boys, the employees, and the two housemothers who use that outside bathhouse. For a few days everybody had to use the bathroom in Kay Timbermart. We had shifts - one for the girls, one for the boys and one for the ladies.

plumbing problems

Luckner down in the trench working on sewer system problems

Plumbing sewer problems

Our security house is almost finished. It is being built to the plan we had 4-5 years ago. The security will now be able to see and control inside and outside the compound regularly.

Building for security

Security station

Next we will tackle two things that I see as very important in Kay Margo. I want the kitchen to be enlarged and a small depot made to store supplies that keep taking over the house mother's room. We are going to remove the wall of the kitchen and take some space from the huge room. I want them to have space in the kitchen for a table for placing the food into the children's dishes, and for some cupboards. We are also going to take some space from the large bedroom where Dieunel, Judel and Jofky sleep, put up a wall there, and add a door. Then we will put in lots of shelves to store supplies. It will be messy and uncomfortable there for a few days but so worth it in the end. The ladies who work there are quite excited about the changes/improvements I proposed.

Mariah continues to do well. She is doing a great job with her class at school. Too, she does a good job helping with my children. She plays with them but does not allow them to disobey. Luckner says what he sees impresses him and he can see she will someday make a good mother as well as a teacher if she chooses that path. She has 14 very active monkey doodles in her class and she is certainly kept on her toes all the time. Luckner and I figure she will do well at whatever she attempts in life.

Mariah doing a good job with my kids too

Mariah is doing well in her personal life too and showing she is mature and sensible. She is not allowing herself to be sweet talked by the many males who would like to get close to her - for the obvious reasons, but also to try and get a visa for Canada. Everyone wants her phone number. Not a good thing to give someone here. A funny thing happened in St. Marc this week. Mariah, Herve (security) and I went to the bank and then to a small store. We were separated in the store so many people had no idea Mariah was with me. When looking for something I saw a man lean into Mariah to speak to her. I saw Mariah walk away saying "No, No." A little later I saw the same man speak to Herve and Herve seemed to not know what to say. The man then looked at me, obviously knowing who I was, and that I was with Herve, and asked it he could get a ride back to Chandale (just before Borel). He proceeded to tell me he knew Met Luckner and that he was a pastor. It was obvious he knew Luckner and I work together. Saying he knew Luckner meant nothing to me as Luckner is well known by everyone - good people and not so good people. Too, saying he was a pastor did not mean much to me. I asked my security, Herve, if he knew the man, to which Herve responded, yes. I said okay he could have a ride back with us. When leaving the store to head back to the truck Mariah said "Gramma, what are you doing?" I asked what she meant. She said, " why are you giving that man a ride with us?" Well he needed a ride, Herve knows him, and we have room. Mariah then told me that man had asked for her phone number and she had said no and walked away, Oh, so that is what was going on there. That pastor man was trying to pick up Mariah. Too funny. The man in question was walking ahead with Herve. When he saw Mariah and I coming and getting in the truck together, he was shocked and looking scared even. I started to laugh. The man sat in the back seat with Herve and said nothing. He was very subdued. On the drive home I often broke out in laughter at the idea of him being 'caught in the act'. I found it very amusing. When we dropped him off he said a quick and quiet thank you and he ran. I continued to laugh. Herve then told me he had heard him pray on Radio Creole in the past and that he was married. I laughed again as he really was caught red handed and he knew it. It continued to be funny when the next morning at school I filled Luckner in on what happened, and he then started to laugh. He said the 'pastor' had done some praying on the air at the radio station but he had not seen him or heard from him for quite some time. The same night, however, that he had been caught trying to pick up Mariah he had texted Luckner to greet him and to say he was planning to come by the radio station that night. He, however, did not show up. For some reason I still find it amusing.

I am proud of our Mariah girl as her head could easily be turned here. Lots of guys will want her but finding a sincere and honest one would be similar to finding a needle in a haystack.

Thanks for reading our blog stories. Thanks for your comments on the blog or by email. Thanks for everything you have done and do for HATS. Let's continue to work together for the children. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN.

Karen and gang

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bye for now and thank you.

Dickie, Sandra, Shondi and Jim, thank you very much for coming, for doing, for working, for repairing, for painting, for goat herding, for organizing, for cleaning, for playing jokes, for laughing, and for loving. It is all greatly appreciated .

Leaving the mission for the airport

Luckner stopped enroute to show them charcoal being made

Aren't sidewalks just extra lanes for traffic

Going through security to enter airport

You are greatly missed now by all of us.

Karen and gang

Monday, February 6, 2012

Goodbye

Sandra writing.

It is soooooo sad to say goodbye here. It has been an emotional day!

We all finished up our projects or new little jobs today, then went partying with Luckner, Rose Lore, Girlancia and all the students at the trade school who are studying English. We had cake, cold drinks and wished Mariah a Happy Birthday in 3 languages. Luckner went on the air wished her a Happy Birthday and played a song for her and some Newfie music for us. We had a great time.

Birthday girl  and massage parlour

Birthday girl with Baby Jonathan and opening gifts

Celebrating birthday at Luckner's

English class celebrating Mariah's birthday

We don't leave tomorrow morning until 7:30 AM so will say goodbye in the morning.....it will be hard! Many tears will be shed and wishes to return will be shared.

We will be travelling in the truck and there will be a fight for the back as it always is when we travel. I am sure we will share the fun.

That's our trip this time around...we have loved our time here and been loved by the kids, Karen, Mariah and staff.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sundays Blog

Sunday is one of my favorite days in Haiti. It is more relaxed with no projects planned and some of the crew sleeping in to past 6:30 while others enjoy the breaking dawn with a cup of coffee and a leisurely breakfast. Then we all go over to the school that has had a room rearranged for church. The membership consists mainly of local children and a few adults who gather for some lively singing, prayer and good teaching. It is a joy to listen to them, even though I don't understand many of the words the music is familiar and I can sometimes sing along in English. I had the honor this morning to play a small part in a skit with Karen, Antoinette and Naomie. Then Karen and Antoinette presented teaching based on two of the ten commandments, don't steal and don't lie. Then there was more singing by several small groups and a soloist.

Three young songsters

After church we enjoyed a rest period then joined the children and house mothers to celebrate Mariah's birthday, Now that was a high energy and high volume hour or so.

Bday girl with Jofky, Sandra & Jonathan

Enjoying the birthday bash

Jonathan sleeping with Sandra

After that we visited Project Help mission in Borel (where Karen lived for 9 years while renting one of their houses and started the orphanage in another house she rented there). While some watched the soccer game others took a tour and learned some of the mission and a lot about solar energy used for pumping water.

Project Help

On project Help

Solar powered well pump

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the children and the beautiful sunset. Each day leaves us more aware of the brief time we have left to enjoy the giggles and hugs of our small Haitian friends. We will miss them more than words can express and are already thinking ahead to next years trip.

Sunset