Monday, July 7, 2014

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Our last Home Team reflection for this year's trip comes from JJ Beers:
How sweet it was for you to be in this beautiful place for our special American July 4th holiday. Thinking about this holiday and what we do to celebrate, I do see many similarities.  So, please indulge me here. 
Country Flag:  The Haitian flag colors are the same as our flag:  blue, red and a white middle panel with the Haitian coat of arms.  Looking closely at the coat of arms you can see a drum, cannons, bugles, long guns and ship anchors. There is also a palm tree topped by the cap of liberty and the motto of L’Union Fait La Force, which translates to “Unity Makes Strength.”  
Parades: In Haiti, I envision you parading with the children through the village, and greeting the people on your walk with a bonjour or bonswa, a wave, and a huge smile.  So much more meaningful, wouldn’t you say?  
Picnics and Barbeques:  I know you are feasting with Fr. Effener and enjoying the Haitian bounty.  The staff pays special attention to making delicious and beautifully presented meals. They also delight in our visits and love the company.  
Group Activities:  For the 4th many families engage in some type of sport activity, like baseball, soccer. I know you are also participating in many physical activities, (does dancing qualify?) and also crafts, sing-a-longs and totally enjoying the day…with giggles here and there!  
Reunions:  Large and small families plan special occasions around a holiday. I can say that we are blessed to have a very special bond with our St. Anne’s family. We may not see them often, but when we do, we give thanks and are grateful for our relationship and friendship.  
Concerts/music:  This is usually the grand finale of the day with fireworks.  I, like Erin, was very impressed with the beautiful voices raised up to heaven by all the people; from the little children and animators at camp, to the adult congregation and choir at mass.  It is such an exhilarating feeling that only you can relate to, and will remember forever.From past experience, I know that this is not the ending, but the beginning of a glorious journey spent with incredible, spirit filled people.  Embrace this time and memories. Peace to you all, and to everyone there.  Praying for you to have an uneventful and safe, journey home. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

C2 - Haiti trip update

The team has arrived safely back in Baltimore after their amazing week in Haiti.  They left the village around 5 AM to drive to the airport in Port-au-Prince.  Their flight was uneventful, and after a brief layover in Miami, flew to Washington National.  They arrived home around 7 PM, tired after a long day of travel, but happy from their amazing, rewarding week in Labrande.

Thank you for your prayers, comments and encouragement for Bruce, Connie, Carol, Jen and Erin. They have been wonderful representatives of Nativity, bringing the love from our community to St. Anne's, and continuing to build the relationships.  Be sure to tell them when you see them at church!

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

This reflection is from Travel Team member Carol Guarrieri:

We've spent an entire week dancing, singing, playing games and doing arts and crafts. We walked some of the children home, and met wonderful people in the village. We attended morning mass together and shared every meal. With the daily activity around St. Anne's, it's easy to get caught up in the commotion of camp and feel you could do so much more.   

But then one afternoon, after camp ends and you're taking time to reflect, something happens. You walk to the church steps to sit and journal across from a small group of children singing in a classroom. You start feeling a little discouraged by the things you've seen, and feel helpless that you're not devoting more to the people of this amazing country. And just then, as if God willed it to happen, ten children come running out of the room screaming your name. They run and hug you on the steps, practically knocking you over. They sit next to you and grab your arms and hold your hands and look up at you with these great big smiles. They touch your face and play with your hair and prompt you to get up and dance with them. The sound of their laughs echo over the grounds of St. Anne's and suddenly any thoughts you had are washed away. In that moment you know why you're here, and that you ARE helping. 

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Today's Home Team reflection is from Cindy Dohony: 
As I follow the mission’s blog I am in awe of the wonderful experiences you are having…The music and rich traditions of dance and celebration, the generosity and selflessness of the children, the pride in their families, church and culture. With what seems so little to us, we probably wonder how the parishioners of St. Anne and St. Joachim could live a life of such pure joy. There is no doubt with the history of Haiti, their government, extreme weather conditions, limited resources and educational system, how does this community of people persevere on a daily basis? The answer is so simple. It’s their deep faith in God, and in their family and community. They truly see the beauty in the every day, which I know most Americans wish they could understand. To me, it is what warms me the most. If any of you have children out there, you know that many times you learn more from your children then they learn from you. This is how can imagine it is with our travel team. Bruce, Connie, Erin, Jen and Carol will bring so much more home in their hearts than they ever thought imaginable. 

In the words of Father Effner: “There is a spiritual an amicable link which unites Nativity and St. Anne/St. Joachim parishes as sister churches. This is an opportunity to grow together spiritually through prayer in order to continue our established relationship and solidarity”

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Today's Travel Team reflection is from Bruce McEntee:

On our drive into Labrande I prayed for God's presence at the summer camp, and that His Holy Spirit would provide much joy and blessings for the children.

Always at camp, God shows us His love at work in amazing little ways. Many small children are held by the hand and walked into camp by an older brother or sister and attended to until they are comfortable being left in their classroom. The same brother and sister may later on at breakfast and lunch share a spoon, cup, and bowl brought from home. Each will use it and wash it out for the other. So sweet, so nice, and so loving.

When I enter the little boys' classroom each morning they greet me by name (Buce!) and they immediately make room on their tiny bench for me. I have my pick of a dozen seats, with many little smiling faces. It makes one feel so welcomed and appreciated in a crowded classroom on a hot Haiti summer camp morning.

The families at St. Anne's are so proud of their children. Those of us who have spent time with them realize just how beautiful, polite, and gracious they are. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

C2 - Haiti Trip Update

The team has finished the last day of camp.  The closing Mass for the camp was an emotional experience for the team -- Bruce was again invited by Fr. Effener to address the congregation in English while Fr. Effener translated into Creole.  Bruce told them how much the team has loved every minute of their time at St. Anne's, and while it is time to return to family and friends, the team will always hold the people of  St. Anne's in their hearts.  The spontaneous applause from the congregation showed the team that they will be remembered with love.

Following Mass, the team said farewell to the children, and to the animators who are moving on to another parish in Gonaives for next week's camp.  The team has been journaling about their feelings: they had not anticipated the depth of the connections they would make with the children and adults, despite the dramatic differences in lifestyle and language.  As they have said in updates and reflections, they can appreciate more clearly than ever that we are all God's children, and are all members of his family.  We have far more in common with the people of this remote mountain village in rural Haiti than it would seem.

They will enjoy a final meal of roasted goat with rice and beans tonight before their long day of travel on Saturday.  They will leave Labrande at 5AM and plan to arrive at Washington-National Airport at 5:30 PM, and then home to Baltimore.  Please continue to pray for them as they travel home.

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Today's Home Team Reflection is from Kathleen Bruns:
It has been great reading the posts this week and hearing about your time at St. Anne's and your experiences with the children.  I am so grateful to be a part of the home team and thankful we spent so much time together as a team preparing for your journey this week.  Thanks to that time, it truly gives more meaning to me knowing the people behind the names in this blog and knowing what amazing individuals you all are.

During your time in Haiti having fellowship with the community,  crafting with the kids,  singing songs with them and playing volleyball creates experiences that will impact your life and make it a bit more beautiful.  Given the theme of the camp, "Helping children have a more beautiful life", what a wonderful exchange which is taking place in this giving and receiving.  It is a great reminder that with God and through God amazing things can happen.  There are countless ways to make our lives more beautiful and I pray you each add countless ways to your own lives this week. Enjoy the remainder of your time with the children and community of St. Anne's

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Today's Travel Team reflection is from Connie Thorn:

The road to Labrande was preparation for us to shift our thoughts from Nativity in U.S. to the world in Haiti as we drove on what seemed like a rocky dried up river bed.

I found the children that are coming to St. Anne's camp curious, energetic and helpful. Their loving expressions instantly capture your heart and reflect God's love in every smiling face. They are happy to welcome our attention and care. I doubt that they realize they are giving us so much more than we are giving them. Our walk through their village and homes was humbling. Families were welcoming and shared sincere greetings with us.

Think of the image of a very tiny child holding the hand of an even younger brother or sister, crisply dressed, walking through the big, blue gates after walking an hour to camp with excited expectations on their faces. They form the opening circle to sing and move to the drumming. They dropped hands and invited me to join them.

These precious little people, ages 18 months to teens, are helping me to speak Creole and want to learn English words as well.

I cannot compare our lives in Baltimore with those in Haiti, but realize we are all human souls with the same needs. Being here has shown me that this experience will give us understanding that will prepare us for work we may attempt, with God's help in the future with love not fear.

Bruce, Erin, Jen, and Carol have been supportive and loving team members. Father Effener has taken excellent care to make us feel welcome and comfortable. Looking forward to our remaining days here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

C2 - Haiti Trip Update

The Travel Team has settled in comfortably to the daily routine of the summer camp.  Despite the language differences, they have bonded well with the children, teachers and animators.  They have helped the older children make woven mats and embroidered cloths, and enjoy coloring with the little campers.  Teaching each other Creole and English phrases has also become a favorite part of camp for everyone.

After camp on Wednesday, they accompanied the children on their walk by the river and through the rugged mountains to their homes.  The weather is around 90 degrees with high humidity -- knowing that many of the children walk about 2 hours each way is difficult to comprehend.

After returning to St. Anne's, they relaxed on the porch with Fr. Effener and 2 of the animators, Eric and Daniel.  A highlight of the day was when Carol and  Erin taught them the Cupid Shuffle dance, and later the whole group sang the song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.  It was a sweet experience that they will always remember.

The team got to sleep in on Thursday until 7 AM, since Mass was at 5 PM, followed by adoration.  Afterward, Daniel presented them with friendship bracelets with their names spelled out in beads.

The team is beginning to feel the sadness of realizing that Friday is their last full day in Labrande.  They have connected with the people of St. Anne's far more deeply than they had imagined, and have shared wonderful times with the children and adults.  The language and cultural differences have enriched these relationships, rather than being a barrier.  They are more aware than ever that we are all God's children, and what we have in common is much deeper than any differences.

Please continue to keep Bruce, Erin, Jen, Connie and Carol in your prayers, along with Fr. Effener, the children and the animators.

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Today's Travel Team reflection is from Erin Vernon:
There are many things I would love to share with my family, friends and fellow parishioners about my experience in Haiti. For the sake of brevity, I'll focus on just one thing that has surprised me so far.  
I was not expecting how strong of an impact music has on the culture here. The Haitians are a musical people and it is a vital part of everyday life. Even as I write this I can hear the angelic voices of the choir in the church practicing for feast day. Everyone here loves to sing, dance and celebrate. Even sitting around playing cards can lead to an impromptu sing-a-long. And you never know when the teacher will bring the bongos into the classroom to liven up the lesson.  
I will never forget the beautiful music of the Haitian people and will return home with their songs in my heart. 
I look forward to sharing much more when I return.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Today's Home Team reflection is from Mitch Crook, a member of the 2012 Haiti Travel Team:

Hello from Baltimore!!! We are following your progress on the blog (checking throughout the day) and reliving our experiences through you. We are so happy that you are there, representing Church of the Nativity. Say hello to Jean Rouvens and the older group of boys for me!!!
By traveling to Labrande two years ago, I could see, hear about, and almost feel the importance of the Nativity lunch program to St. Anne’s. The teachers volunteered that many of the children would not be sent to school if they were not fed. They would stay home and help with chores, with raising younger siblings or help with whatever business activity generated at least some family income. The teachers also said that many of the children who did come to school before Nativity’s lunch program started were worn out from the traveling to school, fell asleep in class or just had no energy for studying. The program has made a major, positive impact on the students and their families.  
I was amazed, as I am sure that you have witnessed, how the children tap excess food from their bowls into the younger children’s bowls and share water from their cups also. The older children are also looking out for the younger ones – subtly sometimes, but always aware. This community, though poorer than you, the travel team probably expected, is rich in so many ways.
We indeed have a lot to learn, and cherish, from them.

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Today we're fortunate to be able to share a reflection from one of our travel team members still on the ground in Haiti: Jen Ayres. Jen's sense of calling to this year's team was apparent from the start, and the perseverance she exhibited despite many obstacles leading up to the trip demonstrated incredible strength and faith. Jen is having a great experience thus far at St. Anne's summer camp -- we'll let her share the rest:

Before coming here, I had thought that I would be drawn to the middle school age kids because of my love for our Resurrection students at Nativity, but God has called me to work with the youngest campers this week! 
On the first day of camp, I made a special friend named Wedjana. That morning, as the children came close to me to touch my skin and hair, Wedjana pulled a little white rag out of her pocket and wiped my shoes with it. I was instantly reminded of our Missions kickoff meeting in April, when Brian read John 13 to us -- Jesus washing the disciples feet. Jesus was working through this beautiful little girl to humble me and cleanse me, so that I would be ready to give these kids my all while I am here. I knew I was in the right place. 
The other small children are beautiful and amazing, too. Little Eduardo brought me a flower, and about six others followed suit. They like to play a game with me, where they point at the ceiling or wall behind me, and then laugh hysterically when I turn to see what they are pointing at -- a silly little game of "Made you look!" Wedjana is almost always by my side, along with her two friends Waldgena and Bissaydine. 
This whole experience has been truly amazing so far, much more than I ever could have imagined or hoped for. I feel so blessed to be here. 
Peace & Love 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

C2 - Haiti Trip Update

The team has settled in and become a vital part of the summer camp in Labrande.  During the opening songs and cheers this morning, Fr. Effener and Carol entertained everyone by dancing the Charleston!  Kiki, another graduate of St. Anne's who is home for the summer from secondary school in Gonaives, also joined in the dance. Bruce remembered from previous trips how shy Kiki had been, so it was great to see him dancing with the team and the animators.

The Bible lesson today was on the topic of wisdom - how making good decisions now prevents sorrow and regret later.  The team was impressed that this lesson was given to the children by a young animator named Odana,  who is only a teenager herself.  After the Bible lesson, the team settled in with the kids doing crafts: Erin worked with the older kids as they learned how to make macrame bracelets.  Connie, Carol and Bruce helped make lanterns out of tissue paper, while Jen played games with the youngest children.  The highlight of the camp day was when four little girls approached the team to sing a welcome song in French.

After camp, Fr. Effener took the team into Gonaives, the city of approximately 300,00 people which is about 45 minutes south of Labrande.  The road between Labrande and Gonaives is not paved and is very rocky, so it seems like a much longer ride! The team first visited a clinic/orphanage run by the Missionaries of Mercy.  They were were deeply affected by the rows of cribs of sick children, but also moved by the loving care given to the patients by the sisters.  

Their next stop was a tour of the cathedral of Gonaives, St. Charles Borromeo, and a visit to the bishop's residence next door.  Fr. Effener then took them to meet his parents, who live in Gonaives.  After such a full day of camp and touring the city, the team had a quick meal of hot dogs and french fries before the bumpy ride back to Labrande.

Bruce, Carol, Erin, Jen and Connie are completely engaged with the children, teachers and animators, and the children are thrilled to have them there to enhance the camp experience.  The relationship between St. Anne's and Nativity that was begun by previous Nativity C2- Haiti teams continues to grow with this team.  Please continue to pray for them, and to post comments and encouragement.

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

For each NativityMissions team that travels abroad to one of our partner communities, there are also folks serving from home, helping to invest in and support those traveling. Serving on the 'Home Team' is a great way to serve in Missions without going anywhere... While our Haiti Travel Team is on the ground this week at St. Anne's Church, we'll be posting reflections on the blog from members of the Haiti Home Team.

Today's Home Team reflection is from Nancy Galligan:

I find it hard to believe that the C2 - Haiti Missions Team only met for the first time in mid April. As a team, we have come such a long ways since then. Many of us have had personal challenges that have tried us yet we have supported each other and continued to persevere through it all. I think the struggles have also brought us closer to each other, helped us to rely on one another, and become a better team. 
Our travelers, Carol, Connie, Erin and Jen along with trip leader Bruce, have really become great team. Their hearts are so open to the people and children of St. Anne’s. This week, they are the “real presence” of our Nativity community to the St. Anne’s community of Labrande. I am excited for them to meet old friends that ask about former travelers and to make new friends among the community. I am sure Bruce will be playing games, especially with the boys in the afternoon. Connie will be pouring her teacher’s heart out to every child she meets. Jen will bring her incredible energy to every activity and be follow by teen girls. Erin will enliven all she meets with her joyful spirit and probably be covered in glitter. Carol will be focusing on each child letting them know they have her full attention and affection. 
I am proud to have them representing NativityMissions and our whole Nativity community. Each is such a blessing and complements the team as a whole. I am praying that this experience will be a blessing to them as I have been blessed by getting to know each of them.