Monday, July 6, 2009

The End

Dearest Family and Friends,

I'm home. I'm really home.

After four planes, one missed flight, four checked bags and three carry-ons, two ginger ales, and too many people to count, Grace and I made it back to Bluffton on Saturday night. We were greeted by our family and the drizzling rain. My last week in Haiti was busy with good-byes, packing, helping the staff prepare for my departure, and cleaning up my room. But, when all was said and done, we made it safely home. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness.

Thank you. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, love, cards, uplifting words, and support. Thank you for the boxes of goodies, the smiles, the greetings, and the friendship. I will miss my friends in Haiti, but I'm so happy to be home. I hope you've enjoyed this little picture into my Haitian adventure. Thanks for reading this blog and staying connected to my life and the people, children, and missionaries of Haiti. It's been an experience!

God bless you.


Monday, June 29, 2009

My Last Post from Haiti

Dear Blog Readers,

This is my last official post from Haiti. I'll be writing one more entry next Sunday from the States. Can you believe that? Lord willing, I'll be home for the Bluffton fireworks on Saturday night, and I'm scheduled to help with lunch on Sunday. By Sunday evening, my blog and my Haitian adventure will be over.

This week, I tried to take pictures of my everyday life. I went to work everyday, shopped for butter and paint trays, conversed with my community, went to church, ate at a restaurant, babysat, swam, did housework, and generally lived as you all live...just in Haiti. Going to work involves riding my 4-wheeler instead of driving a car. Shopping in Les Cayes means dealing with beggars and bargaining with the vendors. Conversing with my community means Germans, Canadians, Haitians, and Americans. Going to church means packing a flashlight and toilet paper...just in case. Eating in a restaurant involves picking between the two that are safe and finding something on the menu that they actually have in stock. Babysitting includes looking for tarantulas and eating mangos for a snack. Swimming, thankfully, is just swimming - except you generally have an audience, and housework is universal - except I have to heat my water on the stove, line dry every piece of laundry, and sweep chewed up pieces of almond off my porch left by the rats. So much the same, yet so different.

But, one thing is for certain: God is the same here, there, and everywhere. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Spirit is ever present and ever moving. Praise God for His faithfulness!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Recreos and Waterfalls

Dear Blog Readers,

I've been telling Grace that Haiti is kind of...boring. When it gets dark, there is just not much to do. I tend to read and watch old episodes of the A-Team on Hulu, but I was worried that Grace would be bored in the evenings. Alas, she has assured me that Haiti is anything but boring. And I quote, "I climbed a waterfall, for goodness sake!" [Grace is awesome. She is full of incredible awesomeness. Awesomeness flows through her veins and makes up the majority of her aura. Her nickname down here has become "The Awesome One" and she has become an instant celebrity...mostly owing to the fact that she is awesome and little bit because she is white. The End. God Bless.] As I left for but a moment, Grace proceed to write the previous entry in my blog. I think I'll leave it...

In any case, this week started out with Grace feeling less than awesome. Being the poor guardian that I am, I wasn't paying too much attention to her eating and drinking habits. On Monday morning, I was eating my toast in the kitchen when I heard this little voice say, "Abby, I think I'm going to faint." Grace is on the floor, completely white and clammy with cold sweat. I got her back into bed, but every time she stood up, she felt nauseated and lost her color. As it turns out, she was dehydrated. Sometimes, I forget Haiti is hot. I stayed home with her Monday and forced her to drink water and Gatorade. (Grace is NOT an awesome patient. I had to nag her for hours to finish one glass of water. Ridiculous!) By Tuesday, she was feeling better. However, on Wednesday, we were both feeling a little sickish, so we stayed home from Bible study and listened to Bluffton service. Thursday, feeling much better and ready of an adventure, we followed Christophe to the waterfall. It was a really lovely day. I think Grace enjoyed the two hour 4-wheeler ride as much as climbing the waterfall itself.

On Friday, we went to work in the morning and watched the Pfister kids in the afternoon while Rich and Amber attended a kindergarten graduation. Then, we had the pleasure of listening the the Bible School program. Saturday, I took Grace to Port Salut for the first time. We ate lobster on the beach and enjoyed the sun. Today, we went to Renault for the last time. Molly had left a box of toys and candy for distribution, so we took them to Renault for prizes today. If a child could say a memory verse or sing a Sunday school song, they got an extra treat from the goodie box. It was so much fun to watch the kids get bubbles or a jump rope, but more than that, it made me feel proud and grateful to have been a small part of teaching a child about Jesus, to have helped feed hungry bodies and souls. Renault has been a highlight in my Haitian adventure.

I'm going to be working hard this week at Child Care making sure Marie Lucie has everything she needs before I leave. I'll be copying files, writing requirements for the children for next year, working on time sheets and mileage accounts, instructing the Pastors on backups and backpay, and whatever else needs to be done.

I'm also on the Stateside job hunt for the next two weeks, and I need to get all my things around to distribute to the other missionaries. I'll be coming home with some clothes and....well, that's about it. It will be fun to give all my things new homes. All in all, this week will probably go fast!

Many blessings,


Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Family Visit

Dear Family and Friends,

We are now two full weeks into June, and I’m just getting my first blog of the month done. My Dad and two sisters were here from June 3 to June 8, and Grace is here until I leave on July 4th. Speaking of leaving....

My time in Haiti has been a blessing. I’ve learned so much about God, His plans, His timing, His ways. I’ve also learned a great deal about myself, how little I am, how much I’m blessed, how for granted I’ve taken my community and daily conveniences. It’s been a hard time, filled with loneliness and frustration, but it’s also been an amazing opportunity, overflowing with new experiences and new friends. I’m leaving in July and I won’t be coming back. As my time in Haiti draws to a close, I’m left feeling grateful for the time I’ve spent here and anxious to see my family and friends again, to hug my grandma and kiss my niece. Hopefully, I’ve been a good student of this experience and will take the life lessons I’ve been taught home with me. God is God. God is faithful. God is good.

When I compiled the pictures from the last two weeks, I had over 900! I’ve only uploaded 135, but I’ve captioned each one so you can follow the last 14 days of my journey.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has sent me an encouraging email, lifted up Haiti and the missionaries here in prayer, or followed my journey on this blog. I appreciate your support and ask that you continue to pray for the next stage of my life. I’m oddly nervous to return to the States but at the same time ready, relieved, and excited.

Much love,

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Whoo-hoo for Wednesday!!

Dear Blog Readers,

My family comes in three days. Whoo-hoo!!! I'm so excited. God knew that I would need my family, in the flesh, at just this time. He is so good to me.

I'm all in a tither. I've been baking and washing and cleaning and prepping and making all kinds of lists...which I'm sure will prove utterly pointless in the long run. Haiti has a fabulous way of ruining even the best laid plans. It helps to be extremely flexible because things never work out exactly the way you think they should. But, I did need more food. I don't think my family would appreciate eating peanut butter sandwiches for two meals a day and cinnamon/sugar bread for the other. Sometimes I eat eggs or oatmeal since they take me longer to eat than to make (my standard for how long a full meal prep should take), but I don't really keep excess groceries lying around. And, I needed to clean. We haven't had a cleaning lady for a while, and Haiti is very dusty and web friendly. It doesn't take long for the house to be truly dirty. The rats eat almonds out on the porch and make a big ol' mess at night, and the spiders are diligent in their quest to create a beautiful little death traps for all the insects that fly around our humble abode. In any case, we hired Jete, a very nice woman who works for the Gutweins on most days, to help us clean during the week. I think it will be an excellent arrangement.

Thanks to all of you who wrote me such nice notes and prayed for my healing. I am feeling better, but I still have this little phlegmy cough and my voice is not ready for Carnegie Hall. It's not even shower ready, but I'm feeling much better, and that's what counts. I spent the first part of the week resting. I went into work Monday and left at noon. I stayed home on Tuesday and tried again on Wednesday. I think I was driving them crazy with my barking cough followed by gagging phlegm. I was driving myself crazy! So, I rested Wednesday afternoon, but I wanted to go to Bible study that night. It was Tess' last night in Haiti, and I wanted to spend one more evening in worship with her. She flew back to the States on Thursday and promptly had a job interview on Friday. She's so talented, I know she'll do great and meaningful work wherever she ends up.

Life goes on. On Friday, I took my afternoon to shop in town and get the aforementioned food. I tried to find the yummy things, but the choices are always limited. I love to look at cookbooks (which is baffling since I have very little intention of ever really cooking, but they are creative and useful, two qualities which I deeply admire). As I look, I have to keep in mind the ingredients that are available to me. We don't have the "regular" fruit here, so pies are pretty much out. You can't find brown sugar, which by the way, is what makes cookies soft. Yeah, I learned that little fact when I exchanged brown sugar in an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe for white sugar, since that was all I had, and ended up with oatmeal crisps. Like crunchy cookies with raisin accents. Very poorly done. It's a big treat to find cream cheese and meat is questionable. I have a hard time distinguishing between spam and ham when it's in the fridge wrapped in paper, so I generally pass. But, it is amazing what you can find in town considering it's all shipped in from around the globe.

Friday evening, Sheila and I went to a single ladies waffle night at Beth and Suzanne's house. Suzanne made pudding, the kind you have to cook. I always thought pudding came in those little pudding cups or was whipped together out of a box with cups of cold milk. It was delicious! When I put that thick, vanilla pudding on my waffle, it was just like eating one of those donuts filled with Bavarian cream. Mmmm....donuts....

Anyway, Saturday was a baking day. I made peanut butter cookies (executed poorly), soft chocolate chip cookies (executed brilliantly), muffins (bag mix-add water), and a chicken casserole in which I took great liberties with the ingredients and amounts (we'll see). Saturday was also Tim's birthday and Andrew's last free day in Haiti, so we went to Pan Dora. It's a little restaurant in Cayes that serves hamburgers and pizza. I think I embarrassed Tim when I whipped out a cupcake and candle while we forced him to endure "Happy Birthday." The restaurant staff caught on and starting pumping their version of the song through the speakers. A good time was had by all... (That's kind of an inside joke in our family. At the Fiechter reunion, someone always reads the minutes from the last year and ends with "A good time was had by all." Did anyone else ever notice that?)

Today, the gathering at Renault was the biggest I've ever seen there. It was a special day because the Wray's were distributing bags of rice pilaf and cans of turkey to celebrate Mother's Day here in Haiti. There was easily 1000 children there. I tried to count children on benches and multiply that by the number of benches, but it was simply too overwhelming. All in all, it went very well inside the gate. It got a little physical outside the gate. It's difficult for the children to get home with their treasures because the older children or adults outside the gate will push them down and take their food. Rod and some of the older teens created a human gauntlet of sorts that allowed the children safe passage through the crowd. Upon receiving their bags of rice, the smart kids immediately stuffed it into their pants or under their shirts for safety. And, the Wray's started using hard plastic plates today and real spoons! It's more economical...and more colorful (!)...and creates less waste now that the kids are trained to return their utensils. It was a very satisfying way to spend a Sunday morning.

I'm so excited to show my family all the things and people and places that I've been talking about for the last 10 months. Now, when I say I'm going into Cayes or stopping at Madam Util's or heading to Rainbow beach or Port Salut, they'll know what or where it is. I'm just so thankful to see them again.

Lots of love,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just Plain Sick

Dear Blog Readers,

I'm sick. I have this gaggy, hacking, body-racking cough. My lungs ache, and I've lost most of my voice. Interestingly enough, I've found that when you whisper at people, they tend to whisper back at you. It makes for many quiet exchanges. I'm chugging tea and colloidal silver and chewing as many vitamin C's as I can. It's been a wretched week.

All that rain I mentioned last Monday just kept on coming. By Tuesday morning, Cayes was flooded and the river came over the bridge. The UN helped the situation by directing traffic and maintaining order, but the flooding devastated houses and gardens. It was still raining on Wednesday, but the flood waters had receded somewhat. We had so much lightening that I was concerned about our computer equipment at the office, and when I went to check on it Tuesday morning, there was standing water in the reception area. Apparently, the outer doors and window slats are no match for driving rain. After church Wednesday night, I began to feel this tightness in my chest. I wasn't feeling the greatest on Thursday (in spirit or in body), but we had an evaluation team visiting Child Care in the morning, so I made my appearance for the meeting and left quickly afterwards. I stayed home from work on Friday and tried to doctor myself while getting my laundry done. It was the first truly dry day for a week, so I had to take advantage of it.

Saturday, I spent a lot of time on the couch, but I was able to babysit the Pfister kids last night. We played Chutes and Ladders and Uno. Today, I've barely moved from my reclined position. I have precisely six movies and three books on the table in front of me, in addition to a cup of tea, a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of vitamin C's, my glasses, and a pair of earphones. I listened to the services from Bluffton North and watched to two Jane Austen films while drinking numerous cups of a chamomile concoction.

Truthfully, I'm not looking forward to next week. My spirits are low, my throat is raw, my nose is peeling, and Tess is leaving for the States. As down as I am now, I'm sure my spirits will be much improved by the following week. My Dad and two sisters are coming for a visit! I've been looking forward to this since March. Grace is planning on staying for the month of June, and I'm traveling back with her in July. I must say, I'm very excited to have them here! It gets lonely.

I'm making myself another cup of tea. I'm going to float to my bed tonight, but if my throat feels better by morning, it will all be worth it. Thanks for the prayers. It's been a rough week.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Highlights

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s raining. Really raining. Sheets of rain. It’s actually Monday morning here, but I’m going to date this blog for Sunday night because I enjoy continuity and because I can.

It’s been raining off and on for two days. I’m feeling permanently damp. The concrete floors seem to have a continuous sheen of moisture and the rugs feel clammy. I ran my finger over my computer this morning leaving a little line in the dampness. Thank goodness, I don’t have to go to work. It’s Flag Day in Haiti, and all the MEBSH offices and banks are closed. It would be a very unpleasant walk up the hill to the office; I haven’t quite learned to walk in mud yet without wearing some of it all day.

The highlights from last week:

Visiting Tess in the hospital after she and Jan went down on his motorcycle. Thankfully, nothing was broken, but according to the pictures Val took, knee stitches do NOT look fun. They were maybe four hours away from the clinic, but Tess insists that her knee went numb after a while and she didn’t have much pain on the way back. Unfortunately, she can’t say the same thing about being numbed up for the stitches. Check out that needle in the pictures and you’ll see what I mean. OUCH!! The gash was deep enough to need inside stitches and outside ones, too. I told Evil Knievel to keep the high flying entertainment to a minimum this week.

Hosting a movie/dance night with Tess, Alisha, and Kara where we forced Andrew to practice the samba with us (being the only boy in the group) and did the electric slide around the living room. The night evolved into Indian leg wrestling followed by the limbo. We ended the night just chatting and eating pretzels.

Unpacking the container and receiving 500+ school and health kits for Child Care, as well as our new motorcycle for the Child Care school inspector. I got three amazing boxes from my family and my cousins, Leah and Liz. Plus, I am now sitting on our new couch from my sister, Molly. Previously, we were couch sitting for the Reinhards until their new house was done and ready for furniture. I’m so thankful for it as I very often spill out into the living room to work, read, or chat. My room just doesn’t have the airflow to stay cool during the evening hours. So, I really appreciate a good couch, and I’m loving this one. Thanks, Molly!

Learning to drive the old Toyota and making my first solo drive on the main road into Cayes. My uncle, Ted Habegger, taught me to drive a stick shift in the States in March. Nick and Leah graciously let me borrow their car to practice with for a week, but I haven’t had any practice since. On Saturday, Jan took me out to practice with the old Toyota. Then, he let me drive Andrew to Azile Dorcus as he rode along. Finally, when Andrew was done, he let me pick him up all by myself. Yes, I killed it three times sitting in the Gutwein’s yard until I realized the emergency break was on just doing its job, but other than that, no problems.

Enjoying the fellowship and support team that came in Saturday and having a singing with them on the Gutwein porch Sunday night. We visited Azile Dorcus after church and were stuck there for an hour as sheets of rain poured down from the sky. We couldn’t even sing because the noise was so tremendous on the tin roof.

If you have a weak stomach, don’t look at Tess’ stitching pictures. Yikes! And, a big Happy Birthday to my brother, Joe, one of my best friends, Stefanie Kipfer, and my Dad. I love you!

A bushel and a peck and a squeeze around the neck,