Thursday, December 6, 2012

fasting

Today, we're fasting for our partners in Nigeria. Over the past year or so there has been a significant increase in violence at the hands of Boko Haram, a radical, anti-government, anti-Christian group. Nativity, as a church community, fasted last summer for ten days, and we've since decided to keep up the practice, fasting on the first Thursday of each month. Aside from of course seeking God's peace for Nigeria and praying for our partners, it helps us connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Faith Alive and Anawim who are fasting at the same time as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

first podcast episode

The first edition of our new NativityMissions podcast is now available! We'll post each new episode here on the blog (you can listen on the media player below), on Church of the Nativity's website (here), and you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes (here).

In this first [trial] episode we'll look back to Nativity involvement in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Nativity sent over a dozen Missions teams to the Gulf Coast to do disaster relief and it was that work that laid the foundation for so much of what we're still doing, whether we knew it or not...

Join the conversation and leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

salt and light

A few weeks back at one of our Missions meetings we looked at the very familiar scripture in the Sermon on the Mount called the Similes of Salt and Light (Matthew 5:13-16).
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

failure



MLB.com

It has been so awesome to watch the Orioles postseason run this past week. I've been able to go to both ALDS games at Camden Yards, which were both absolutely amazing. (Talk about an irresistible environment!) Sunday night's energy at the ballpark was tremendous, especially all the build up during the rain delay -- the place was ready to erupt. But with an 'epic fail' ninth inning, the yards fell silent by the end of the night.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

podcast

In the coming weeks NativityMissions will be experimenting with creating a podcast. The goal of the podcast, right in line with the goal of this blog, is to give you an opportunity to share your thoughts on the work of NativityMissions. As this tribe grows, we want to hear what your experiences have taught you about Missions, what leadership skills are important to Missions, and what you think will help us to be more effective at restoring the Kingdom of God in our generation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

you vs. we

Ownership is something that definitely applies to us as leaders as well as to the people we're leading. One indicator I've heard before to gauge the level of ownership is in listening to whether others use "you" or" we" -- that is, your team is committed when they take first person ownership of their responsibility as opposed to dishing it off and using the second person. I hope this doesn't come across too negatively, but I do sense my face turning red sometimes when I hear people talk about Nativity or Missions as "that great stuff you guys are doing." I cringe when church members, ministers, and missionaries use the second person when referring to the work that we're all called to embrace.

Monday, September 10, 2012

say that again...

I just learned that GoDaddy.com, the host of Nativity's website, had been hacked and that as a result, our site, e-mail, and millions of other GoDaddy users are temporarily down. This is a big problem for all of their customers, and to my amazement @GoDaddy is regularly tweeting updates on their progress. They are reporting to all their followers up-to-the-second information as they work to remedy the problem. What a timely illustration for a discussion about communication in leadership...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

the most important blog post of the year

Dear Reader,

This year, NativityMissions is bringing some new direction and focus to our various methods of communication. There are some great ways for you to get connected to the world of NativityMissions through social media. So here's what you can expect from us in the coming year...

This Blog (http://nativitymissions.org) will have a new focus: leadership. Each week I will lay out something that's on my mind about leadership, a topic I'm reading about or struggling with, or maybe a concept we have or haven't learned in our efforts to mobilize the Nativity community to serve. (We're also going to experiment with doing a podcast.) The rest of the week will be a discussion -- that's where you come in. Post your comments on the blog, and be sure to see what others are saying as well.

Like us on our our Facebook page (Nativity Missions) and

Sunday, July 29, 2012

missionary reflection

Today's reflection is from Ellen Franklin...

I had been fortunate enough to go to Haiti in November 2011, and was very excited to be able to go back to visit the people in this country which has captured my heart.

I was thrilled that the teachers and many of the children remembered me.  The team had made a point of learning some basic Creole phrases, which helped everyone engage with us more easily.  Also, it was summer camp, not school, and so the kids were relaxed and happy like kids everywhere! 

We taught the kids how to sing “This Little Light of Mine” – all week long, different children came up to me, saying “chante anko” –Creole for “sing again”, and we would sing it again,  together. The teachers and camp animators were just as enthusiastic about this little song in English, and we heard it sung by different groups throughout the week.

I had hoped to be able to reconnect with people I had met in November.  It was wonderful seeing Odilene –13 years old, and very shy, it had taken a week for her to finally tell me her name on my first visit.  This time, she responded immediately to me, and even helped me organize younger kids for pictures.
Judith, one of the teachers, had been pretty reserved with us in the fall.  Now, she joined in the singing of “Little Light”, and, using our phrasebook, told me how happy she was that I had come back to visit.

There is so much obvious need in this rugged, impoverished country. But there is also hope: the warm, gracious welcome we received in Labrande; the high energy of the marketplaces; the fact that the people in the tent cities near the airport have been moved to permanent housing.  While driving south through the country back to Port-au-Prince, I happened to look up and saw a plain white cross near the top of a mountain.   In that moment, it was clear to me that while this country may be forgotten by much of the world, God is there, and "with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). 
 
The lunch program is crucial to the health of these children. But, just being with the people of Labrande, and taking another small step in the growing relationship between our two parishes, is also vitally important.  As we pray to discern our next steps in this friendship,  I know that God is the one who has brought our two communities together.  Fr. Wilner told me many times before and during our trip how important our presence is to him and his parish.  When I got home, I received an email from him that said, “I will never forget your visit.  With your visit we built our relationship forever and ever.  Thank you to God."  And to that I say “Amen.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

missionary reflection

Today's reflection is from Jeanette Coury.

...

Do you love Jesus? Do you love my country? These two questions were asked of me over and over by the young Haitian camp counselors and seminarians who I worked alongside last week. I went to Haiti feeling pretty good about what our parish had accomplished in the short time we've been partnered with St. Anne's Church in Labrande. After all, building a cafeteria and funding a hot lunch program for a full school year for elementary preschoolers to 6th graders is no small feat. I think I was there 36 hours when I realized there was oh so much more to do!

Of Haiti's 8.7 million people, almost half are illiterate.  This falls well below the 90% average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean countries. About 90% of Haiti's primary schools are non-public. Secondary schools enroll only 20% of eligible-aged children! There is no secondary school in Labrande. The closest school is in Gonaives -- 14 miles away. It is impossible to commute back and forth daily because there is no road for most of this trip and it's necessary to drive through the Labranade riverbed. Only the children who are fortunate enough to have relatives who are willing to support a child can go. Tuition, books, uniforms food and shelter must be provided. Today there are only a select few from St. Anne's who go onto secondary school.

After completing the 6th grade, life then for most teens in St. Anne's revolves around helping the family survive. It's common for 5 or 6 persons to share a one room dwelling. A few families own a small piece of land and cultivate corn, bananas, watermelon, peppers, squash and mangoes. Others work on these farms. This time of year, you'd find teens walking to and from market once a week (a 28 miles journey in one day).

So to Anne Carine, Genci, Donald, Roman and Edsy: Yes, I love Jesus and I do so love the people of Haiti.

My prayer: Lord, you have brought our mission in Haiti this far.  Help us to discern how best to improve the lives of the children in St. Anne's Church. 

"Only when we cross the road and look in one another's eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family." (Henry J. M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)

Monday, July 16, 2012

missionary reflection

Today's reflection is from JJ Beers.

...

Hard to believe that just last week the Missions team was in Labrande, Haiti.  During this week back, I was thinking about the past week of experiences and the impact it has had on me, personally, and what it may mean moving forward.  I was not shocked or surprised with what I saw: poverty, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, unemployment, lack of infrastructure, etc. But, I was surprised to see the children, and the Haitian people, being genuinely joyful, happy, prayerful, accepting, appreciative, and humble.  Despite their "lack of things" I found them to be more thankful than we are! 

The next surprise was the enthusiasm by the young, mostly male, animators. They go to different camps in Haiti to "jazz" things up.  They are the catalyst for a successful camp experience. The camp begins with the acappella, scherzando music for over 30 minutes. You see the hands clapping, the arms waving; the feet tapping.  The children were having so much fun.  One song highlighted our names which the children sang to us.  How awesome is that! Very inspiring, very motivating, very emotional for us to witness.  It is too bad that the camp could not continue  for the remaining weeks of the summer.  It is too expensive for the church to support.  How sad ; - (  

The food program that Nativity provides is a big nutrition and energy boost for the children. This camp gave the children another week of nourishment outside of the regular school year program. It is a meager portion but there are no complaints and not a morsel left.  My question is: could this be the beginning to a ripple effect into the community?  In the future could we provide food and hydration for the older generation, who are depleted, so that they can be physically strengthened?  This can lead to other improved areas in their lives that we cannot even imagine.

The Haitian people want to be connected.  Each team member was asked, at different times and independently, if we love Haiti.  There is this other hunger and that is to be loved.  Does this sound like John 21:15-19?  Are we being called to take care of the "sheep", and to care for the people of God?  

 
Father Wilner, seminarian Donald, and the staff could not have been more gracious, friendly, and accommodating.  We ate well, actually to the point of feeling guilty because we were given too much!  Which leads me to the next reflection.  "To whom much is given, much is expected" and this is not all about money.  It is about giving willingly and freely our talents, gifts and abilities to those in need. 
 

My takeaway is that building relationships is imperative.  Trusting in God that the much needed work to be done, with our new found friends, will happen. And, pray for them, and for us, to persevere and be strong in our future pursuits, whatever they may be and wherever God is leading us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

missionary reflection

Over the next few weeks our C2 - Haiti missionaries will be sharing their own stories and reflections from their short-term trip. Today Mitch Crook is sharing his thoughts and takeaways.

... 

Having spent an incredible week in Labrande, Haiti with three amazing parishioners helping Fr. Wilner with his first summer camp he has been able to hold in four years, here are the major things that I took away:

1.  The school lunch program that Nativity is providing for the 450 children at St. Anne’s Church school is vital to their health and education.  If we were not there, many children would be enlisted by their parents to help with farming or other work.  Many of those that would go to school would be tired and maintaining any meaningful level of attention to schoolwork would be difficult.  We heard this from the teachers over and over again.  They are grateful that we are feeding the children, as is Fr. Wilner, as are the children.

2.  You have to be tough to be a Haitian.  Life is difficult, what work can be found is arduous and most people in the Labrande area seem to just be existing by farming a small piece of land.  Ending the day just as you started is a good day.  Progress and growth do not appear to be in their vocabulary.

3.  Education beyond primary school is far from guaranteed.  There are some public schools (none in Labrande – the closest is in Gonaïves which is not close enough to commute) but they do fill up.  Many, many Haitians do not earn enough to send a child to secondary school much less all of their children.  Without an educated population, they seem doomed to repeat the past – at least for now.

4. While the difference in skin color was pretty stark on the first day of the summer camp, within a couple of hours, they were all just children.  They could have been our children – laughing, singing, running around, playing soccer, jump rope, playing with a few simple Frisbees.  They could be us.  We could be them.  We are all just people.  It is an accident of birth.

5.  Haitians are rich in ways that we are not.  They are not concerned with a lot of things that just seem to get in the way of our having solid relationships with one another.  No concerns about having the latest this or that or the latest fashions.  They appear to be a community that has no serious crime or violence.  They help each other out – as an example, it is not at all uncommon to see a motorcycle with four Haitians on it.  The driver is just driving along and he picks up people along the way.  And they are a faith-filled people, lingering after Mass on Sunday for long periods and singing so loudly and beautifully that we four just closed our eyes and felt lifted up.

My final takeaway is self-incriminating: before I went, I was satisfied with Nativity’s school lunch program.  Now that I see all of the deficits that this community faces, I hope that this is just a start and that we can grow and grow the program so that years from now, our beginning will seem most humble.  My dream is that Nativity parishioners will one day ask “When we started out in Haiti by just feeding kids school lunches, was everybody happy that that is all that they did?” I can now say that the answer is “no."

Monday, July 9, 2012

thank you

Our team has arrived safely back home. They had an amazing week at St. Anne's Church thanks to all your prayers and support.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will be posting more pictures and videos of their time in Labrande. The Travel Team will also be sharing more about their own personal experiences and telling their stories. So be sure to stay tuned to the blog to hear more.

And again, thank you for following the progress of their trip and for all your encouragement. Our strategic partnership in Haiti is growing stronger and stronger -- we can't wait to see what's ahead!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

trip update - homeward bound

After one last meal in Labrande this morning the team said their goodbyes and packed up for the first leg of their trip home. On the drive to the airport, they stopped in Saint Marc, a coastal city in between Gonaives and Port-au-Prince, to see the Les Bons Samaritans School. The team is now at the airport in Port-au-Prince waiting for a 3:30 departure to Miami. They are scheduled to arrive at BWI a little after midnight tonight.

reflection - sharon

Today's Home Team reflection is from Sharon Crook:
I have been reading all of the messages and reflections with great care this week. The travel team certainly has been very busy. I have especially enjoyed the pictures showing Mitch, Ellen, Jeannette and JJ interacting with the members of St. Anne’s Church. It is amazing seeing all the similarities and differences in our lives. Last week Church of Nativity hosted Vacation Bible School, singing and dancing to music, just like the children of Labrande. At Nativity's VBS, the crews talked each day about the children in our partner community in Haiti and how far they had to walk to school. Unlike the students in Haiti, most Nativity campers admitted that they crossed only one or two streets to go to school. Despite their hardships, the children of Labrande seem to be filled with the joy of the Lord!
The Church of the Nativity is a movement of growing disciples of Jesus Christ committed to loving God, loving others, and making disciples. This team, by their actions, are spreading this message. By flying to St. Anne’s Church and spending a week in Haiti, they are loving God. By singing songs with the children and hanging out with the older boys, they are loving others. And in all of this, they are truly being disciples of the Lord.

Friday, July 6, 2012

trip update - friday


Today was the last day of the summer camp at St. Anne's Church. The day started with a talent show; many of the kids and teens performed different songs and skits. The last talent group sang "This Little Light of Mine" -- one of the songs our missionaries taught to the campers. They also sang a song that goes something like, "Fr. Wilner loves all the children, and all the children love Fr. Wilner." They added verses for JJ, Jeanette, Ellen and Mitch too!


The camp ended with a beautiful closing Mass. The teachers presented our team with friendship bracelets (pictured) and the kids made signs out of glitter to hang in the principal's office of our team's names.


Here is Ellen pictured with Anne Carine and Donald, they exchanged contact information with our team today so they can keep in touch. And JJ is pictured here with one of the youngest kids at the camp.

The team drive with Fr. Wilner down from Labrande to see the city of Gonaives this afternoon -- about a 45 minute drive from St. Anne's Church.

trip update - jeanette

Here are some words from Jeanette after yesterday's day in Haiti...
I think some people believe that Haiti can't move forward because in the rural areas they haven't solved for the basics: electricity, water and infrastructure. That may be true but today this thought came to me: Don't we do the same thing when we measure spirituality? Can we assume that parishes with the biggest church or the largest crowds are the most blessed by God? After spending a week in Labrande I know better! The spiritual condition here is overwhelmingly uplifting. Ephesians 4:2 calls us to "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." I see the parishioners of St. Anne's as long suffering, but extremely kind and hopeful. We just returned from the most beautiful Mass and Adoration ceremony. The church was filled with the voices of strong, resilient women who love the Lord and are joyful each and every day. It just brought us to tears!

reflection - bruce

Today's reflection is from Home Team leader Bruce McEntee:

Praying this week for our travel team at St. Anne's Church helps bring me back to the vision that Church does matter and God is alive and at work in this world. Ellen, Mitch, JJ, and Jeanette are proving that our local church can make a difference and accomplish amazing things.

In the early spring, when we envisioned this trip, none of us, Home team nor Travel team, could yet comprehend the good works and relationships that God planned for us at St. Anne's Church. In John 15:16 it is said, "You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last." The team's many blogs and stories describe the lasting friendships, Mass celebrations, shared meals, and dances of joy that will bind our communities together forever.

They travel home this Sunday; a small group that has witnessed God at work. I am praying that their many friends, co-workers, and small group and ministry members will shower them with love, gratitude, and admiration for being such dedicated disciples. This can be our moment, each of us, to join in and do God's work outside the walls of Nativity and Timonium.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

trip update - thursday

Today was another great day at summer camp. The camp's counselors are called animators; the young men who are animating the St. Anne's Church camp are part of a program where young adults go around to different parts of Haiti running summer camps for parish schools, teaching catechism classes, leading them in songs and dances, and encouraging the young children. The counselors have been amazing and the team is really bonding with them. Jeanette spoke with Anne Carine, one of the counselors, and Donald, the seminarian, this afternoon sharing some of the Christian music she has on her phone. She explained that the songs were some of the ones that we sing at Mass at Nativity -- they thought the contemporary music as great and wrote down the names of the songs.

JJ jumped right into a team-version of a game of "rock paper scissor." She's pictured here consulting with her teammates, trying to come up with a strategic next move. Also pictured is Mitch with Jean Rouvens, one of the older boys who has been coming to camp and hanging out with our team in the afternoons -- he also helps out a lot around the church. They're standing in front of a sign that says "Saint Michael" -- each of the groups of campers are named after a saint. Mitch has also been playing soccer with the boys all week. English and Creole lessons have taken up a big part of the team's afternoons, sharing and learning one another's language goes a long way in forming a strong connection between our two church communities.
 
In the afternoon today, our team walked with some of the campers on the road back to their homes. The path winds back and forth through the valley (pictured) that Labrande sits in -- some kids walk three and four hours to and from school each day. The walk is incredibly challenging and it's very moving to see the kids making this trek everyday.

The team went to Mass tonight at 5pm (different from the usual 6:30am Mass) and are resting before dinner. It's amazing that tomorrow is the last day of camp and that their trip is almost over. An on going thanks to all of you for following their progress and keeping them in your prayers. I know we're all looking forward to seeing all the pictures and hearing all the stories.

reflection - chris and evie wright


Today's Home Team reflection is from Chris and Evie Wright -- Chris traveled with our team last November and they have both served on the home team for this trip...
When storms like those we had last Friday occur, it makes you realize how little control we have over many aspects of our lives, and who is really in charge. Like so many others, we lost our electricity and have been without AC. However, our neighbor, Dave, who lives across the street where they have power, came over our house on Sunday with his generator and hooked it up so we at least have some electricity to power our refrigerator. It is acts like these that show us the scripture in action.

Like Dave, our Missions team is in Labrande this week to assist our new friends. As they work with Fr. Wilner, the teachers, community leaders, and students on their summer camp, we as a church community take the next step in our call to Haiti. As we heard in the second reading from 2 Corinthians 8 this past Sunday, "Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less." With this in mind, we move forward in our relationship with the local Haitian community in Labrande.

We know that Ellen, JJ, Jeanette, and Mitch are feeling the heat of a Haitian summer as they serve. Maybe our power outage and the little bit of discomfort from the heat is simply a message intended to bring us closer to our team this week.  Thank you for keeping them and the folks of St. Anne’s Church in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

trip update - jeanette

The feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim is coming up at the end of July -- Fr. Wilner and his parishioners are planning for the big celebration. Our team listened to the choir practice yesterday afternoon for a while. Ellen's message said, "It was so beautiful to hear, no instruments yet so much energy. We all said later it sounded like angels and could have listened all day."

All the campers now know our team's names since they've learned to say "my name is" in Haitian Creole, and they are inviting them by name to come hang out in each one's classroom. After During the camp's recess, some little kids followed Ellen around asking her to sing "Let it shine" -- so they were singing that all day.

This morning at Mass, Fr. Wilner prayed for all of the team members, Church of the Nativity, and all Americans for Independence Day. Fr. Wilner also sent me a very nice e-mail praying for us, wishing us the best, and saying that the team would celebrate the holiday with some champagne at lunch... must be nice! On a more serious note, the team was very touched that they would be receiving prayers thanking God for their independence and freedom in a remote village in Haiti.

One custom in Haiti is that all the different ages and classes line up for attendance in the morning (pictured). At the camp, they sing songs together as a group in the morning. Today, all the camp sang Happy Birthday in English, French and Spanish to celebrate Independence Day. Then they all sang "This Little Light of Mine" together -- the clear favorite of all the campers and counselors.

Here's a message from Haiti travel team member Jeanette Coury:

This visit to Labrande has been filled with many contrasts to daily life as I know it in Towson. However, today I realized there are many similarities as well. At Mass this morning, I saw a mother fussing with her daughter's hair. Yesterday we saw some women scurrying to get home before the rain started. One huge difference I have observed is the male involvement in the summer camp's leadership. Here I am in awe of the camp counselors. They are four university students in their early twenties. These men are amazing role models to the children of St. Anne's Church. They teach catechism with such passion and lead songs and dance with no abandon (they do the chicken dance!). I had the opportunity to speak at length with one of the counselors named Roman yesterday who knows a little bit of English. Here's what I took away from that conversation: he loves Jesus, he believes it's his job to spread the Gospel and there's no other place he'd rather be than in the midst of these children witnessing for the Lord. So I traveled to this developing country and learned that I need to work harder on Nativity's Student Impact team (program that gets our students involved in Ministry and Missions) to develop our young boys into men that can measure up to these beautiful, God-loving, Haitian university students.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

trip update - tuesday

Today was another great day at camp for our C2 - Haiti missionaries. The children and teens at the camp are getting very comfortable around the team -- Ellen is pictured here with one of the older girls, Otalynn, whom she met back in November. Frisnell Denis, the teacher Chris Wright so strongly connected with on that same November trip gave the team a letter today to take back to Chris. The exchange was emotional for both Ellen and Frisnell. (It's so great to see the relationships and connections being formed and growing between our two communities!)

In the afternoon, the campers did crafts. The older girls embroidered a flower, the little ones colored, sharing colored pencils and crayons, and the boys made envelops out of paper. God was at work again through our team's preparation. One of the counselors showed Jeanette a song out of an English songbook that he hoped our team could lead for the camp... It was "Lean on Me," one of the songs they already knew and had practiced hand motions to.

Thanks again for all your support and prayers for the team. You are invited to leave comments below (just click 'comments') to leave some encouragement -- they have been able to read the blog from Haiti and are receiving your notes.

trip update - text from mitch

Just got this text message from Mitch Crook, one of our travel team members.
All is well here. Goat at every meal. All four of us have a tiny stomach thing going on and we are all blaming different foods (ice, juice, a milky dessert, veggies) so we don't know what to avoid. Children are beautiful and really like that we are here. Three guys hang out with us every afternoon. They are learning some English and we are learning some Creole, which is similar to French. It is hot as Haiti here (new joke). Sleeping is difficult due to the heat but we are taking short naps. Everyone's spirits are high and we are having a memorable trip -- really enjoying each other's company -- great esprit de corps. We wish we could do more for the people of Haiti -- poor on the outside, beautiful on the inside.

reflection - nancy galligan

The team had a restful night last night after their first day of summer camp. They spent some time together talking through their experience, really trying to process all that they have been a part of thus far, especially seeing all the strengths and assets present in the St. Anne's community as well as all the needs. It's extremely difficult to travel to a community for only one week knowing that you could stay for a lifetime, so thank you for continuing to pray for both the people of Labrande and our missionaries, specifically that through God's grace and our strategic partnership hope and restoration will be brought to both of our communities. There is certainly much evidence that relationships are growing stronger and God is at work!

Today's reflection is from Home Team member Nancy Galligan:
As I look back over the time the C2 - Haiti Missions Team has spent preparing for this week's trip, I remember talking about this being focused on learning and developing relationships with the people of St. Anne's Church. I read a book once that said Jesus studied the language, culture, and the lifestyle of his people for thirty years before he began his ministry. He understood their family lives and problems. I think our team in Haiti is using the same approach. As I have come to know each of them, I see them following the example of Jesus and stepping out into a new culture to learn and understand. I think we can get so caught up in wanting to help that we forget to take the time to do this. Our team, Ellen, JJ, Mitch, and Jeanette, have approached this trip so humbly and so openly. They amaze me in their ability to put aside an agenda and instead be open to truly being present in the lives of virtual strangers.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, "Imitate God, therefore, in everything  you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ." I feel our team is doing this in Haiti. I pray they can keep their hearts and minds open like a child's to learn and understand all they can during this time. I know these weeks of preparation have been amazing for me and I will forever treasure the relationships that have grown from it. I look forward to hearing each of their stories when they return.

Monday, July 2, 2012

trip update - monday

After Mass yesterday afternoon, the team walked through Labrande (pictured) with Donal and Jean Marx. The townspeople were very friendly and on their way back, the team stopped to chat with the teachers preparing for the camp to begin the next day. Walking through the town was challenging for the team as they were exposed to such poverty and apparent lack of resources. The challenges farmers face in Labrande is largely due to a lack of topsoil. One of the large hurricanes in the early 2000s washed away much of the mountainside's fertile soil. The "mud," which all collected in the city of Gonaives, was dumped into the sea rather than trucked back up the mountain. Farming has been less productive ever since. After the walk, they enjoyed a nice dinner (mac and cheese and goat) and actually practiced some of the songs and hand motions at the dinner table with Fr. Wilner -- they all shared some laughs over that production.

Camp began at 8am this morning with opening songs (pictured) and prayers. The theme for the week is taken from scripture, John 14:6 -- "I am the way and the truth and the life." Our mission team, thanks to their great song arsenal taught to them by Lisa Scata and Kelly Polk from Nativity's Children's Ministry, jumped right in. They taught "This Little Light of Mine" with hand motions and all! The camp is being run by teachers from St. Anne's parochial school, Christ the King, and some camp counselors from outside the community. They are teaching catechism lessons, doing activities and games, and singing songs in both English and Creole. Jeanette is learning the Haitian Creole version of "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" (pictured). Mitch played some soccer in the afternoon with some of the older boys.


It was another great day for our team in Labrande -- please share your words of encouragement with the team, just click 'comments' below.

reflection - susan smith

In preparation for NativityMissions international short-term trips, our missionaries meet weekly in the months leading up to their departure. The Home Team is a group of folks who serve from Timonium, helping with logistical prep, team building, discussions, and many other facets of the preparation process. Their focus is to serve the Travel Team, ensuring that they're each equipped and ready to engage from the start. This week the C2 - Haiti Home Team members will be sharing reflections on their end of experience. Today's reflection is from Susan Smith:

As I reflect this week on what it has meant to me to be a part of the Haiti Home Team here at Nativity, one word comes to mind.......BLESSED!  We have worked together for the last fourteen weeks to prepare for the first mission trip to St. Anne's Church in Haiti.  During this time together, we have prayed, worshiped, laughed and cried, but the most important thing that happened was the relationships that developed within our team. Those friendships will be treasured in my heart forever!

We are told in Ephesians 2:10 that, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This partnership with St. Anne's was prepared for Nativity long ago and now is the time to see what God has planned for this trip. Mother Teresa once said, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."  As our team Ellen, Mitch, J.J., and Jeanette are in Haiti with Fr. Wilner and the parishioners of St. Anne's Church, I pray for the relationships that they are building there.  I am grateful for their hearts and for their willingness to be "the pencils." I can't wait to hear the story that was written when they return.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

trip update - sunday

Today's activities started with Sunday Mass at St. Anne's (inside of the church pictured, left). Ellen noted how welcoming the congregation was and that the team felt right at home when Fr. Wilner prayed for Nativity during the liturgy. The Mass was packed and lasted about an hour and a half. The music was beautiful and featured a guitar, keyboard, saxophone and flute. Fr. Wilner preached about the universality of the Church and the common teaching of Jesus that the Church shares.


After Mass at St. Anne's, Fr. Wilner and the team traveled down the road about twenty minutes to Dubedou. St. Anne's has three mission chapels affiliated with the main parish. Congregations meet in strategic locations all across Haiti called chapels, and each chapel is assigned to a main parish. Fr. Wilner, because Dubedou is so close, often visits there to celebrate Mass. The other two mission chapels are very far away and are only accessible on foot. They did not have instruments at this Mass, but the singing was beautiful. After Mass, everyone sat down and talked with the lay leaders at Dubedou (Mitch pictured with Fr. Wilner and Dubedou leaders).

Ellen is really enjoying seeing people from her trip last November. Otalynn, one girl that she became friends with, greeted her in English! Also pictured here are Mitch and JJ having an impromptu English lesson earlier this afternoon with some of the teens.

trip update - off to a great start

The team settled in nicely at St. Anne's last night. They were greeted by Donal, a seminarian from Gonaives, upon arriving at the rectory. He is staying with Fr. Wilner for a few months. They enjoyed a delicious and relaxing dinner (that's a quote) last night, and took a walk with Donal through Labrande after the meal. The team also brought some gifts for Fr. Wilner for the church: some vestments, altar linens, and an incense thurible. He's pictured here holding his new goodies and sporting his brand new NativityMissions tee!

Everyone slept well despite the heat and humidity, and all were up early, 5:30am!, this morning getting ready for Mass. JJ Beers (pictured) has been interacting a lot with the community, especially those working and living at the rectory. JJ and some other team members have been taking Creole lessons over the past few weeks in preparation for the trip -- Haitian Creole and French are the national languages of Haiti. Their Creole phrases are going a long way with the community and helping them to make connections. Right now they're praying and worshiping at Sunday Mass at St. Anne's -- Mass is at 8am on Sunday morning, the other chapels at St. Anne's have a Communion Service led by volunteers when Fr. Wilner does not travel to their community... Their celebration will probably last about two-hours though!

Thanks for following the blog and the progress of their trip. Feel free to leave comments below if you want to send some encouragement and support to our missionaries. More to come soon!