June 2015: Graduations in Haiti.

June has been filled with many great memories, but below are 2 specific moments that I will never forget.
I had the joy of going to 2 school graduations this month!

The first was the Leveque Kindergarten graduation, & it was extra special because Debus graduated! I could probably write about this for days, but I’ll keep it short: I am unbelievably proud of this kid & his family! It has been a joy to watch the Lord provide for him, & to see the community support him. I’m believing big things for this kid!

Kindergarten graduation is a HUGE celebration here in Haiti, & below are some fun photos from this joy-filled day!

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anxiously awaiting his turn!

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below: this kid is dressed like a carrot for a short play!

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Elizabeth & some friends!

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below: friends who attend graduation ceremonies stick together! ha.
Elizabeth with her sponsor child, Sonson & me with Debus. What a joy to sponsor these friends.

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Ozanna is proud of her boy. Look at that proud mama look!

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The second graduation was the High School Graduation at the School of Hope. 125 graduates walked the stage, & there was so much joy & excitement that filled the church. It was incredibly fun to see some of my friends included in those 125 faces. A local Village Champion, an employee’s daughter, friend’s nieces & nephews, & my beautiful friend Macline. Macline is no stranger to those of you who read my blog, & it was SO fun to celebrate this day with her. She is the first MOH orphanage child to graduate high school & she has dreams of becoming a lawyer to help the children of Haiti.

Below are some photos of this exciting time for these students & the Graduation Party for Macline!

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above: beautiful Macline
below: Rachel & Katie. These women have been constant in Macline’s life & you can see how they are so proud of her!

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above: Mackenlove loved the graduation cakes!
below: Mr. Marc encouraging Macline & making some jokes, too.

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above: a sweet time of prayer over Macline
below: lots of fun photos with friends!

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Thanks for reading!

glimpses of the past few months

Here are a few glimpses from the past few months of life & ministry in Haiti.

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Not a bad view.

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What a beautiful sight! I got to watch my friend Courtney sign for a sweet woman while her & her group watched the MOH Vision Video. Multiple times I was brought to tears as I was able to see the vision of life transformation through Jesus Christ clearly articulated in a way that specifically resonated with this woman.

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Chipotle in Haiti! It’s good to have connections on the outside (AKA Matt & Amanda) who got this to me all the way from Florida. Dream!

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Proud mama holding her beautiful 2-day-old baby at a recent Mobile Clinic.

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A recent restful day off filled with watercolors, yoga, & face-timing with friends. The earth is the Lord’s & everything in it. Psalm 24:1.

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“Let’s take a crazy photo, & then you can put it on Instagram.” – Jean Marc.

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Thankful for these sweet intern ladies that are full of laughter, love, & hard work! Girl’s Day was a success! Fortenak even joined in on a Girl’s Day photo!

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Tastes & colors of Haiti.

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Happy Birthday, Steeve!

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Baby Jorshky. Filled with smiles, flirting, & cheeks for days.

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Really love this family!

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glorious.

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The aftermath of an Easter egg hunt with 62 of the coolest kids.

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Day off at the beach!

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Madame Michel & I were matching with our braids! Love this sweet lady & the joy she brings to the office.

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morning necessities:

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Hanging gardens all along the streets of Port Au Prince.

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Grins, giggles, & smirks. These kids have got ’em all & I love it.

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A farmer in the field in Turpin.

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Those smiles & that light. Radiant.

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Little boys flirting with the little girls through the school house window. These boys have got game.

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Waterfall love.

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One evening, I walked outside of the kitchen to see 2 of our drivers talking, swinging, & laughing on the school playground. May your days be filled with finding joy in the little things.

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Someone brought strawberries & dipping chocolate! Bless. Their. Hearts.

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Holding beautiful baby Lidjina (my friend Constant’s new baby girl)!

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Amanda & Mydaline chatting in the prosthetics lab while Mydaline’s leg was being finished.

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laughter & pull-ups.

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Walkin’ hand in hand. Grace filled moments like these are something I never want to take for granted.

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Debus found a great hiding spot.

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My friendship with the sweet Tiffany started here in Haiti in 2012 when we were both interns, & it was so encouraging to hang with her again for a week in Haiti this spring. From laughing at my ridiculous jokes, to coming over for coffee at 6am, to bringing Trader Joe’s treats, & praying over me at the perfect moment, this dear friend is intentional. So grateful for you, Tiff. Thanks for loving & encouraging well. You radiate joy & Jesus! Love you!

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Sunday strollin’ in Leveque.

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What a beautiful gift this life is.

Surprise: Happy Birthday, Mr. Marc!

Monday, April 20, I had one of my favorite Haiti mornings. Sunday, April 19, was Mr. Marc’s Birthday. Mr. Marc is our Haitian Executive Director (AKA: total boss) & Monday morning we had a surprise party for him in the office! Marana, Mr. Marc’s lovely assistant, had been planning it all weekend & getting everything ready. I got to the office Monday morning & everyone was buzzing around in hushed tones so Mr. Marc wouldn’t know what was going on. I walked into the cafeteria to find tons of “Happy Birthday” balloons & beautiful pastries & cakes on the table. We were ready for this party! Marana then told me that I was given the task of tricking Mr. Marc to come into the cafeteria “because there was a problem & I needed his help.” Mr. Wantously ran up to me full of laughter & high-fives & like an excited kid said, “YOU have the job of getting him into the cafeteria!”

I felt the pressure. “Don’t mess this up, Durban,” I thought to myself.

I lightly knocked on Mr. Marc’s door, while everyone else (except 2 “decoy” employees) ran to the cafeteria to hide.

“Good morning Mr. Marc,” I said as I walked in.
Mr. Marc greeted me, “Oh, good morning Rachelle (read, “Rah-shell”). Thank you so much for calling me yesterday & telling me Happy Birthday.”
“You are welcome, Mr. Marc! I know I usually call you when there is a problem, so I was prepared for you to think that something was wrong when I called you yesterday.”
Mr. Marc laughed & we chatted a little bit more.

It was time to get this man to his party, so I said, “Mr. Marc, you know how over the weekend, a lot of the problems sleep? No one wants to create problems over the weekend. Well, as you know, it is Monday & all of the problems are back & I really need your help. Do you mind coming outside with me?”
Mr. Marc jumped up & said, “There are a lot of problems outside?”
And here, my friends, I lied. I lied to that sweet man. I said, “Yes. There are a lot of problems & people outside & I really need your help.”

So, like the total boss he is, he jumped up & began to speed-walk outside. We were right outside the cafeteria & he started to leave the building & I said, “Actually, can you come in here before you go outside?” That was my brilliant response to him trying to exit the building…”uhhh, come to the cafeteria.” Ha! But it worked. Thankfully Mr. Marc walked into the cafeteria & he saw the entire office crammed into that little space, & he just started laughing! He then told them all about how I told him there were a lot of people & problems outside, & then to go into the cafeteria.

After the laughter died down, Mr. Marc thanked everyone & spoke about how honored he was to be celebrating his 73rd Birthday & that it is a blessing to live that many years & to be able to work hard.

Then, Mr. Lookens, Mr. Wantously, & Mr. Peniel gave speeches & they asked if anyone else had anything to say. There was a lot of Creole & I kept hearing “Rachelle” & then it was silent with everyone looking at me. Mr. Lookens said, “Rachelle, I think you have something to say.” I warned them that I would cry, even though that is not a very common response in Haiti & they gave me a napkin & said “no problem!” I spoke about how much I respect Mr. Marc & how much I have learned about leadership from Him & the deep love he has for the Lord & for the people of Haiti. Austin (another North American staff member) spoke about how Mr. Marc is like a father to so many people in Haiti, & how he is an incredible leader. The mark of a leader is the ability to duplicate oneself, & Mr. Marc has done a wonderful job leading up others & teaching them. Pastor Kenol prayed, & then it was time for cake!

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It had all the ingredients of a perfect Haitian party: Speeches were given, laughs were had, tears were shed, songs were sang, cake was eaten, & prayers were prayed.

I am thankful to call these people family. I am thankful for Mr. Marc & his leadership. He is a role model in his love for the Lord & his love for the people of Haiti. Happy Birthday Mr. Marc! Here’s to many, many more!

Urgent Need: Transition Home

Valued reader & friend, I wanted to share with you about an urgent need that we have here at Mission of Hope: Haiti. We have until the beginning of July to provide a solution for the Government of Haiti regarding the 21 orphans who are 18 years old and must legally age out of our orphanage. We have developed an initiative that will allow them to continue to go to high school and maintain our commitment to our family.

21 is not just a number. These are 21 people who we get the opportunity to SHOW them that we believe in them and their future and dreams. These are 21 friends who have personally impacted me and I am eager to see how the Lord uses them in this nation for His glory.

My prayer is that you might be able to support this initiative, or be willing to share it with someone who could.

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God has given Mission of Hope the opportunity to raise up a generation of young Haitian men and women to faithfully serve and follow the Lord, who will play a critical role in continuing to bring life transformation to this beautiful country.

According to Haitian law, no one over the age of 18 is allowed to reside in an orphanage. Sadly, there is no current system of support for those that are aging out of orphanages across the country, and most often these young men and women have to stop attending school because they no longer have a stable home and meal. We do not see this as an option for the kids in our family.

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There are currently 21 transition age kids living on campus.  The Haitian government has graciously given us an extension for those 21 young adults to stay until July 1, 2015.  Sending these kids out to the streets is simply not an option for us. We are committed to loving and supporting them through this new season of life, but also need to honor the Haitian law in the process.

We are working to raise $310,000 by May 1, 2015 so that we can start construction immediately to build a transition home for these 21 kids. We have a plan to build a place for them to call home while they complete their high school education, which includes supporting them with any continued education and continuing to invest in their spiritual formation as they learn advanced life skills needed to be a mature adult.

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These kids have dreams of leading this nation for Christ! Some dream of being business owners so that they can provide jobs for orphans. Others want to be lawyers to advocate for orphans, and some want to be pastors, worship leaders, doctors and so many other things. The common denominator is that they want to use their futures to change Haiti and to help other orphans and abandoned children like themselves.

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Please pray about partnering with us in this initiative, and let me know if there are any questions you have.

Click HERE to read a bit more about this project or click HERE for the direct link to donate to this transition home.

Shoes & Superglue

In Texas, March is the month where spring reintroduces itself to winter, warmer temperatures start to show themselves (sometimes in the middle of snowstorms, but we’ll take what we can get, am I right?), basketball – so much basketball, & if you’re really lucky, you’ll find a sno-cone stand that opened early.

In Haiti, March is a bit different. March is one of our busiest times of the year! It is filled with so much energy & there are so many moving parts. Anyone that has been here in March can testify that it is a unique time & really fun! This March, we had 817 serve at Mission of Hope. 8-1-7. That’s our MOH version of March Madness!

It was awesome. 817 said, “yes” to serving alongside the Haitian people, sweating, eating peanut butter & drinking more Gatorade than they ever have, & experiencing life in a different culture. 817 people chose to redefine their definition of “Spring Break” & give of their time, talents, & resources to help other people for the sake of the Gospel.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I work in logistics (AKA: details). D.E.T.A.I.L.S. Lots & lots of details. The amount of details with 817 people? LOTS. & honestly, it’s really easy for me to get caught up in the details that I miss the every day grace that the Lord is lavishing upon people all around. I really hate to say it, but I start thinking & believing the world revolves around me & all.the.details.that.must.be.planned. I’m thankful that when I’m knee deep in details with my head buried in excel documents & email threads, the Lord does not let me stay there for long. Instead, he gently shows me how all of this is about Him. He shows me that HE is in the details. He shows me that HE is orchestrating things far beyond my ability to comprehend & far beyond my ability to plan. I enjoy details & I enjoy planning for things to run smoothly, but I really love when the Lord shows me where He is in the details. He meets me where I’m at, shows me His faithfulness, & takes my eyes off of myself & onto Him. What a good, faithful, God.

I wanted to share one of my favorite “detail” moments from March.

We had a team member, Freddy, who is an airplane engineer & is literally “Mr. Fix-It.” Just an example of how much of a “Mr. Fix-It” Freddy is, in the middle of his team’s Mission’s Launch on the guesthouse roof, the screen tore because of the wind & he pulled out a screwdriver & screw from his pocket & reattached the screen. So, needless to say, he is pretty awesome. One morning I had a team member randomly come up to me asking me if I had any way to fix his broken shoe; the sole had come unglued. I had no idea how to fix it & I didn’t have any glue. I knew the guy had another pair of shoes, so I honestly wasn’t too worried about it. Freddy overheard our conversation & said, “Oh, I have super glue & baking soda…that shoe will be good as new. This is glue they use on airplanes & the baking soda reinforces the bonding agent.” So, he fixed the shoe & I went on with my day thinking it was pretty cool that Freddy had the right stuff.

However, later that day, Freddy’s team was hosting a sports camp with a lot of kids from a local village (Leveque). My little friend, Debus, came up to me at the end of the camp right before they were loading up on the bus to show me that his shoe broke & the sole came unglued. Now, I know this kid & his family & I know that those shoes are some of the only shoes he has. I also know they are the shoes he wears to school with his uniform. Debus came up to me saying, “Rachel, look. My shoe broke.” I looked up & saw Freddy just a few feet away & showed him the broken shoe. He literally pulled out the glue right from his backpack & I watched Debus’ face as he realized that his shoe would be fixed. Sure, Debus’ shoe was repaired, but it was so much more than that for me. It was a reminder of God’s faithfulness & the fact that he sees the details & knows what we need exactly when we need it. To some, it might be a shoe & super glue, but to me, it was a reminder of so much more.

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Ears to Hear.

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I’ve been living in Haiti about 18 months now & I’m getting better at Creole, but I’m certainly nowhere near fluent. So many of my Creole conversations include hand gestures, me asking them to speak slower, a few English words thrown in, & lots of laughter.

In Haitian church services, it is very rare that I actually understand a Creole Prayer. Our pastors & staff are so passionate when they pray, that I cannot break apart the words, process them, & translate them in my head quickly enough.

However, a couple of weeks ago at a Tuesday night worship service, I had my head bowed, & I literally felt like I understood Jacques’ (a local Village Champion) Creole prayer as if it was being spoken in English. I looked around, making sure that he wasn’t speaking English. It was, in fact, Creole. I stood there intently listening; I heard everything.

I heard him pray for each & every department here at Mission of Hope. I heard him pray for his bosses, his co-workers, the pastors, the guesthouse staff, the maintenance & security team, the orphanage, etc. I heard him pray for our Executive staff & I heard him pray by name for so many people. I looked up again, to be extra SURE that he wasn’t speaking in English because I was so surprised I was still understanding. When I looked up the second time, I saw Jacques was on his knees, passionately praying for us all. My eyes quickly filled with tears as I 1) understood what he was praying, 2) saw the fervency with which Jacques was praying.

He was praying for unity, for passion, for protection, for courage, for strength, for health, & for love for His people. He was on his knees passionately praying for his country & for the Lord to work. This sweet man prays for these things, often.

The past few weeks, the Lord has reminded me of the incredible importance of prayer & the joy of praying. Praying is something we get to do. I absolutely believe the Lord has specifically placed people in my life so I can simply have the honor & responsibility of praying for them. Oh, that I would be fervent & steadfast to pray for the people the Lord has placed around me.

Also, for those of you who have recently reached out with encouragement & letting me know that you’ve prayed for me, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. The Lord has used so many of you recently to remind me of the Truth & the beauty of prayer. You are all a gift.

Brandi & Nick: Destination Wedding: Central Park

In December, I received the best email from my friend, Maisie, that read, We wanted to see if you would be interested in flying to NYC [in January] to be the wedding photographer & surprise Brandi.” My friends, Nick & Brandi were having a destination wedding in Central Park, & Brandi assumed the photographer her mom booked was a local NYC photographer. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t.

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It was such an honor to fly to NYC & surprise this dear friend (& former roommate) of mine! I left Port-Au-Prince in the morning & 6 hours later I was standing in the hotel lobby in Times Square surprising Brandi. It was an amazing [COLD] weekend filled with dear friends, sweet memories, & lots & lots of laughing. Here are some my favorite photos from the weekend celebrating Nick & Brandi’s love.

Nick & Brandi, this entire weekend was beautiful & I hope looking back on these pictures reminds you of the beauty of the covenant you’ve made! May your marriage be filled with wonderful moments that create a lifetime of memories to cherish.