Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Giving - Help Us Build A School

This Advent, we are offering you an opportunity to give to one of our International Missions partners.

Our partners at the Anawim Home Orphanage in Nigeria are rescuing, caring for and raising some of the most vulnerable children in their country. A critical part of taking responsibility for the love, care and growth of these children means removing all barriers to a quality education.

Currently, our partners have orphans graduating from primary school who cannot afford to attend secondary school. This need has created an opportunity! By raising funds to build a secondary school for the orphans at Anawim:

* Orphans will gain access to quality education free of charge

* Older students will board at the school, taking steps toward independence

* The school will increase sustainability, generating income for the orphanage

Join us at Nativity the weekend of December 12/13 to participate in this year’s Advent Giving Campaign!

If you can't make it in person, you can give online by clicking here.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Project Thanksgiving Reminder

We can't believe that Thanksgiving is next week! As we rush around making last minute travel arrangements and shopping lists, it’s important to be grateful for all the blessings God has given us. The best way to show our gratitude for these blessings is to serve and help others.

Have you gotten involved in Project Thanksgiving yet? All you need to do is serve and share. Think about whom God wants you to serve and give them a gift of service. Then, share your story of service with us.

John Comberiate, 2015 Haiti missionary team member, organized a canned food drive to be donated to hungry families in the inner city. He even promoted the food drive on his professional Facebook page to encourage others to donate.

Another parish member had tickets to an NFL football game. Instead of selling the tickets to the highest bidder, he donated them to a local veterans group. Four veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving our country got to enjoy a football game for the first time.

It’s not too late to get involved and become a part of the conspiracy. Head over to myconspiracy.tv to read more inspirational stories or to share your own. You can also share with us on Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to use #myconpiracy! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

World Kindness Day

Did you know that tomorrow is World Kindness Day? Celebration of World Kindness Day started in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement. The idea behind it was to inspire kind acts between individuals and to connect all countries to create a kinder world.

Kind acts don’t have to be grand, sweeping gestures. A simple smile or a helping hand can go a long way toward establishing a kinder society. Here are some ideas for celebrating World Kindness Day.

· Send flowers to a friend.

· Say good morning to the person next to you in the elevator.

· Leave a generous tip at a restaurant.

· Spread positive messages on social media.

· Visit a neighbor or relative who lives alone.

· Bake cookies and share them with your office.

· Pick up litter when you see it.

· Set an alarm to go off three times. When the alarm sounds, stop what you are doing and call, text, or email someone just to tell them how awesome they are.

All of these ideas are perfect for both World Kindness Day and Project Thanksgiving. Head over to myconspiracy.tv for more information about Thanksgiving Conspiracy. Please share your kind deeds with us on Facebook and Twitter using #myconspiracy.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Project Thanksgiving- Where to Start

Want to get involved in Project Thanksgiving but not sure where to start? Here are a couple questions that can help point you in the right direction.

What talents or skills do you have? God blessed each of us with unique gifts that we can use to help others. Assessing and identifying your strengths can help determine which form of service is right for you.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10


Who do you know that needs your help? Our mission field is all around us. Who in your sphere of influence could benefit from a helping hand? Or is there a group of people that you feel drawn to? Once you figure out who you can help, your path to service can become more clear.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Hebrews 6:10


Head over to myconspiracy.tv and get inspired to serve.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Join the Conspiracy

This week Nativity Missions is proud to kick off Project Thanksgiving! This is a perfect time of year to be grateful of all the gifts that God has given us. Project Thanksgiving challenges you to take the gifts you have and share them with others.

To participate in Project Thanksgiving, all it takes is two simple steps.

1. Serve
2. Share

That's it! Step one is "serve." Our mission field is all around us. Think about whom God wants you to help and give them a gift of service.

Then step two is "share." Share the story of your service on the Project Thanksgiving website. You can also share on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #myconspiracy. When we share stories of service, we can inspire others to do the same.

Imagine how many lives will be touched if we all conspire to serve this Thanksgiving. Join the conspiracy!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why Should I Say ‘Yes’

Last week we asked if God was calling you to missions and summarized a few of the reasons to say “yes” to a trip. As we approach the NativityMissions trips planned for 2016, we will take a deeper look at some of the very important reasons you should consider taking a leap of faith and applying to go on a trip. This week we will explore the topic of building relationships.

“It is not good that man should be alone.”
-Genesis 2:18

From the very beginning, God created us with a deep need for relationships. We were created to be in relationship with God, ourselves, one another, and the rest of creation. A mission trip provides a unique opportunity to explore each of these relationships without the distractions of our daily lives.

Once on your trip, you will meet dozens of people who have a completely different culture than you, but share the same burning faith and love for God. Our partners around the world love us as much as we love them and they can’t wait to meet us when we arrive! These connections are instant and they are made regardless of language barriers. You will make lifelong friends with the people you meet on your trip as well as your fellow travelers.

Stepping away from your normal, busy routine can also give you the chance to focus on your relationship with God. Getting away can give you some much needed quiet time to pray and talk to God in a way that you might not be able to at home. He will be with you every step of your journey. You will look to Him for comfort when things are difficult and thank and praise Him for the joyous moments of the trip.

Relationships are the foundation of being a missionary and the core of the work you will do on your trip. Click here to fill out an application for one of next year’s trips.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Is God Calling You to a Missions Trip?

Do you think God is calling you to a missions trip? If you ask anyone who has gone on a trip before, they will probably tell you that the decision was not an easy one. They will probably then tell you that it was a life-changing experience and they don’t regret going.

There are many reasons to say “yes” to a missions trip. While on your trip you’ll have the opportunity to build relationships not only with our international partners but with your fellow travelers. Going on a trip can also push you out of your comfort zone and give you a chance to grow your faith. Traveling to the ends of the earth to serve God’s people will surely draw you closer to Him.

It’s important to look to God to help you with these major decisions. Turning to Him in prayer can help to quiet the noise in our lives and allow us to listen for an answer. Here is a short prayer to get you started.

Lord, Almighty God,
     source of light, truth, and eternal goodness,
     transform this present moment
     into an hour of vision and inspiration.
Help me to find wisdom;
     shed light on my thoughts.
May my aspirations come true
     through righteous and good deeds.
Give me the strength to concentrate,
     to think objectively,
     and to see clearly.
Shed your light on me so that I may see
     which decision to make.
Help me, O my Eternal God,
     to avoid vanity and pride,
     and thus be able to make worthy decisions
     as a true child of yours.

Amen.

To learn more about our 2016 missions trips, click here

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Get to Know our Missions Partners

"Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much." Helen Keller

NativityMissions takes this principle to heart by strategically partnering with other groups and organizations to influence our world for Christ. Together with our local partners, we strive to make a strong impact on our surrounding community. Read below to learn a little bit more about our partnerships with Araminta Freedom Initiative, The Baltimore Station, Hope Springs, and My Sister's Place Women's Center.

Araminta Freedom Initiative exists to awaken, equip and mobilize the Church and our community to end human trafficking in the Baltimore area. Volunteers with Araminta engage in four areas: prevention of the sexual exploitation of minors, systemic economic deterrence of the business of human trafficking, intervention and rescue of those held against their will, and the provision of aftercare initiatives that provide healing and wholeness to victims. Their vision is to see every child free from human trafficking.

Over the past 25 years, The Baltimore Station has been turning lives around. They are an innovative, therapeutic residential treatment program supporting veterans and others who are transitioning through the cycle of poverty, addiction, and homelessness to self-sufficiency. They believe that recovery requires months of a highly structured, therapeutic environment to learn a new way of thinking and living. Their focus on long-term healing has resulted in real success — 68% of their residents complete the program and go on to lead productive lives.

The HopeSprings mission is to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, equip those God has called to serve in the epidemic regionally and nationally, and partner with community organizations providing avenues of engagement through service. One in 40 people in the city of Baltimore is HIV positive and in many zip codes the rate increases to 1 in 21 people. Responding to God’s call to unite the Church of Baltimore to respond to the epidemic by providing hope and healing through the eradication of HIV and AIDS and its stigma, HopeSprings was born. HopeSprings has trained hundreds of volunteers from 50+ local congregations to serve for this cause.

My Sister’s Place Women’s Center (MSPWC) is the combined home of four Catholic Charities programs. MSPWC provides: housing assistance, education, life skills training, benefits advice, case management, financial assistance, linkage to other community providers, financial literacy services, and personal services. MSPWC also provides three meals each day to women and children in need.

Want to volunteer with one of these amazing organizations? Click Here to find out more about service opportunities.

Don't forget to bring toiletries and gift cards to church this weekend to benefit our local partners! We will be collecting before and after all masses. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Missions Collection Weekend

Want to take your next step toward serving the local community? 

Nativity Missions invites you to help our local partners, The Baltimore Station, My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, Hope Springs, and Araminta Freedom Initiative. We are collecting travel-size toiletries for both men and women and $10 gift cards from Walmart and Walgreens. You may bring your donation items the weekend of September 26th- 27th. Missionaries will be out on the plaza before all masses. 

Click to learn more about our local partners and the amazing things they are doing in our community.

http://churchnativity.tv/#/missions/partnerships

Sunday, July 12, 2015

C2 - Haiti Travel Team

What a warm welcome! Our travel team was greeted at the BWI Airport last night by members of the home team, loved ones, and this phenomenal sign made by Kelsey's dad. We certainly missed our travelers and are glad to have them back home!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

C2 - Haiti Travel Update

Our travel team has landed safely at BWI Airport! They are being transported by members of the home team to meet their loves ones in the Nativity parking lot. It has been a long journey for our missionaries and we couldn't be prouder of their accomplishments. If you see them at church or around town, thank them for all the wonderful work they did at summer camp this week.

Lord, we thank you for another amazing missions trip to our sister parish, St. Anne's.

Is there anything you would like to say to Carol, Carly, John, Kelli, and Kelsey? Share in the comments!

C2 - Haiti Travel Update

Our travel team left Miami at 7:11pm and are on their way to BWI Airport. They are scheduled to arrive at 9:45pm.

Keep sending prayers for safe travel. Our team is almost home!

C2 - Haiti Travel Update

Our travel team has completed the long, bumpy drive from Labrande to Port-au-Prince. They are through security and are resting comfortably in the airport restaurant, enjoying the air conditioning until their flight takes off at 1:15 pm for Miami.

We pray that the rest of their trip goes just as smoothly.

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Our final home team reflection is from Erin Vernon:

As our travel team makes their way back home, my heart is overflowing just thinking about them. I have been following their journey on the blog and I can’t help but smile when I read about their experiences.

One of the things we discussed at the retreat before the team left was the concept of being present, of enjoying each moment. From reading their heartfelt reflections, I would say that every member of the team has really focused in on this goal and succeeded.
    
Be present, enjoy each moment, carpe diem. These phrases get thrown around quite a bit and often they are misinterpreted. People seem to spin these clichés into mantras and overnight solutions for how to live a happier life. I think there is more to it than that.

To truly be present is not just to enjoy and embrace the positive or fun moments in life. We also need to be present in the negative, not-so-fun, and even downright depressing moments that come along. Each one of our travelers expressed a challenge in their reflections. From nerves and anxieties to physically not adjusting well to Haiti’s climate, the trip has had its difficulties.

What I admire about this year’s missionaries is that they were truly present to this experience and by doing so, they were able to learn valuable lessons from each challenge that they faced. Kelsey’s uncertainty about the language barrier led her to bond with the children in other ways and pushed her outside her comfort zone. Carol’s anxieties about traveling to Labrande for a second time were all but erased when she felt the warm embraces of her friends from last year. And John’s literal puddle of sweat caused him to turn straight to God for help and God answered him right away. These are powerful lessons that allowed our team to persevere through challenges large and small.    

I am abundantly grateful to have been a member of this year’s home team. Traveling to Haiti last year was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I could not be more proud of the travelers this year. My job was to support them from home as they prepared for the trip, but I think I ended up learning more from them than they did from me. I am inspired just to know them and I am in awe of their faith, boldness, commitment, kindness, compassion, love, and strong desire to serve. I look forward to seeing Carol, Carly, Kelli, Kelsey, and John when they return. I can’t wait to hear all their stories in person and to continue the strong friendships we have built.

Friday, July 10, 2015

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Here is our final travel team reflection from team member Carly Ruder:

As a 7th grader in my first French I class, I never imagined myself 11 years later translating for a Haitian priest in a third world country. To say Ms. Grimm would be proud is an understatement. 

We arrived in Haiti to the sound of drums down a long hallway at the airport. The lack of air conditioning was immediately apparent as my nose adjusted to the various unfamiliar smells. Next to the nearest bathroom, a sign that read "out of service" and a stall with a pile of rocks inside; it was at that moment that I knew I would have to put my fear of foreign bathrooms aside-not only for the sake of my bladder, but the whole intention of this trip. My mind filled with thoughts from family members and friends prior to departure- Letting go, feeling vulnerable and being present (a.k.a. not wishing for a nice cold shower or ice cream), were at the basis of this trip. Again, in that moment, I started to take these people seriously. I could share a few more bathroom excursions with you involving a small hut and a long hike, but that's all irrelevant. What is relevant however is a verse that has stuck in my mind and challenged my thoughts and actions, not only in Haiti but at home as well. When confronted or asked to explain the phrase, "Jesus is the way the truth and the light", most American children are likely to shrug or throw out a basic "Jesus loves you" (learned while coloring pictures of Jesus and sheep at bible camp). I say this knowing that would have been my personal response. Being in Haiti has given this verse a new meaning; "raised the bar" so to speak.

That hike I previously mentioned, well it was a daily escapade for the children of Haiti- a two hour walk in the mountains just to get to church, or school in the midst of rough terrain, heat, and an abundance of wild animals. If that's not faith, then I don't know what is. With very little food, water, clothing, or a stable living environment, you'd think these people would question the presence of a providing God; but the Haitian people stand with a strong trust in God, knowing this is truly " the way". This is evident in mass while hearing the entire parish sing without holding back. It's evident during lunchtime, when a child passes over his spaghetti to a hungry friend. And it's in the day to day humbling interactions amongst one another- a simple "Bonjou" when passing a stranger; dusting off a chair for someone to sit comfortably, or pulling a friend to the side as a car passes. At such a young age, the children possess a love beyond what words can express. The church is not just an establishment to attend on Sunday's before Panera bread, or golfing. It is the center of life and heart of this society.

I return to the U.S. tomorrow, grateful and proud to have taken part in the marvels of Haiti- some incredible moments and smiles I will never forget. A product of our encounters and experiences, the love of Haiti is something I intend on spreading back at home. It is quite possible, too, that one of my own 7th grade students in Baltimore will have the opportunity to experience God's great love abroad, and I will certainly be proud. This could mean giving Ms. Grimm a phone call to share with her the doors she opened simply by repeating verbs and teaching me French songs. I, however, do not wish the bathroom hut experience on anyone.

C2 - Haiti Trip Update, Friday

The team celebrated their last evening in Labrande with an all-American dinner of hot dogs, hush puppies, French fries, and bread pudding. They are taking in as much of the mountain village and time with friends as they can on one of their final nights. There was also some time to journal and to snack on delicious Haitian chocolate cookies.

This morning, the team had a breakfast of hot crepes and fresh pineapple. Dressed in matching C2 Haiti t-shirts, they headed to the last day of summer camp. The missionaries enjoyed singing and dancing with the children through one last opening exercise. All the children, animators, teachers, and our team were so proud and excited to show Fr. Effener and the parents the finished crafts that represented a week of steady work and dedication. God was surely smiling as He looked down at this beautiful morning.


Everyone at camp gathered for noon Mass, not to celebrate the end of camp, but to thank God for such a wonderful partnership. Our team was asked to stand and be recognized for their loving presence and hard work while shining God's light upon the children at St. Anne’s. The day included lots of hugs, tears, and final goodbyes. This was undoubtedly an emotional day for our team.

Our travelers will set out at 6:30 am tomorrow morning for the drive through market day traffic and crowds into Port-au-Prince. They will board a 1:15 pm flight from Port-au-Prince to Miami.

It is difficult for our travel team to leave. They have all fallen in love with the children of Labrande and the children love them right back. The team’s presence has made a lasting impression and their work has strengthened the bonds between St. Anne’s and Nativity.

We pray for a safe day of travel for our missionaries. Share your prayers for the team in the comments. They will be home tomorrow evening and can’t wait to hug their family and friends.

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Here's a travel team reflection from John Comberiate:

1 Kings 19:11


"Then a great and powerful breeze tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."

When you are lying in the heat in a puddle of your own sweat, you grow an all new appreciation for the power of a gentle whisper of a breeze. The first night here, I passed out hitting the bed, exhausted from our 16 hours of travel. I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, mouth and nose on fire. All I could think was, "what have I gotten myself into"? I thought about waking up Carol and saying "I need to tap out, this is just not going to happen". But instead, I prayed, "Lord, I am your servant, I put all my trust in you!" Opening my eyes, I saw a window in the room covered by a cloth. I moved back the cloth and a gentle breeze came through. After a few minutes, the whole room seemed 10 degrees cooler. God was with me, reminding me that my trust in Him is always well placed in any situation.

What strikes me the most being here is not the differences but the similarities. Sure there is more heat, yes there are less resources and infrastructure, but life is still the same. The young kids still look up to the older ones. The boys are still "too cool for school" and the high schoolers are definitely still high schoolers. We all still need to feel loved, appreciated and meaningful. Even if you don't know a word in common, the most available gift of all is still the most valuable; a smile.

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

A travel team reflection from Kelli DeWalt:

Those who know me, know my heart for children isn't huge but the children of Haiti have definitely expanded it. I've been blown away by how sweet, loving, and caring they are. I immediately made a few friends that stayed with me the entire week. From the moment I saw Dijan hiding in the bushes with a mischievous smile on his face during our walk through the village, I knew I liked him. I was ecstatic when during the first day of camp, he came right up to me and sat down next to me, inching closer and closer until he could grab my hand and put his head on my shoulder. From that day on he would find me every day. Usually he just liked to find a place to sit together and we would watch all the chaos of recess happening around us. The girls were just as sweet, helping to brush off my skirt when I got up from sitting on the dusty steps, or brush my hair from my face and tuck it behind my ears underneath my hat. My other little friend, Malaika even grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the way when there was a truck coming and my back was turned.

Not only are the kids sweet towards us but towards each other. If one falls down, they help each other up. If one can't finish their sandwich they give it to the next kid. The little ones share their cup and bowl with their older siblings and will eagerly find them to borrow it. If one is crying, they try to comfort them. If one is pumping water at the water pump, another is holding their bag for them. If you're looking for Christ in Haiti, you don't have to look far. He's in each of the little children. They're teaching me how to be more compassionate, selfless, loving and kind. They know how to just be present which is a concept a lot of Americans, especially adults have a hard time with. When I'm struggling to be more like Christ when I get back, all I'll have to do is look at pictures of Dijan, Malaika, Fernando, and Widjana for inspiration.

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Here's a travel team reflection from team leader, Carol Guarrieri:

It's a little surreal to be back in Haiti knowing I was here only a year ago making new friends at St. Anne's. Our preparation to get here has been a wonderful, in depth process, but when the actual day arrives it's definitely an overwhelming feeling, even for someone returning to the country. 

It's been exactly one year since I was last on the grounds and I was greeted like a family member being welcomed home. Hugs and well wishes were given to me as we arrived on Saturday evening and I was overcome with emotion to know that so many of the people here remembered me. I haven't spoken to them in a year or emailed, or even Facebook friended them, but it was as if I never left. The children jumped right in to dancing with me, playing games and now, greeting our new travel team members and building a friendship with them. The thing that strikes me the most about my experiences here is the acceptance from the children and parishioners of St. Anne's. We are complete strangers, we don't speak the language and yet we are given the red carpet. And when I say the people of this village don't even have a red carpet, I mean they don't even have the thread to make a red carpet. But they still provide whatever they have for our benefit and accommodate our every request.

We could all learn something from the practice of acceptance. Totally and completely allowing another person to come into your home and be whoever they are and welcome them as if they are family. Share our lives, our food, our resources and just enjoy the company. Isn't that what God is always trying to teach us? It seems like the people of LaBrande have heard him loud and clear.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

C2 - Haiti Trip Update, Thursday

Before we get into the update from the travelers today, there is a special message from one of our missionaries. John would like to wish his brother Dan a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

This morning everyone was up early and prepared to savor one of the final two days of camp. Before heading out they filled up on a breakfast of delicious soup, fresh hard cooked eggs, plantains, tropical juices and of course, Haitian coffee.

The morning was devoted to helping the children finish the broad variety of crafts to show off to parents and friends after the noon Mass on Friday. Much effort went into weaving bracelets, paper wall decorations, and cross-stitched cotton hand bags with "Maryland" embroidered on them.

Before setting out to walk some of the children home, our missionaries enjoyed a hearty noon dinner featuring roasted goat, soup, a beautifully arranged platter of corn, carrots, and snap peas and fresh mangoes for dessert. Fresh passion fruit juice was a cool, refreshing drink on another hot, Haiti day.

Mid-afternoon our team walked as many children home as possible along a local hilly country road, dropping them in their front yards. Our team waved goodbye to their young friends and shared warm smiles with their parents. Both the travelers and the students were thankful for another day of fun, laughter, and meaningful connections.

After the walk, everyone attended a 5:00 pm Mass followed by Adoration of the Holy Eucharist. Together with Fr. Effener they thanked God for his presence all week at St Anne's. They are extraordinarily grateful for the love that He placed in their hearts to give freely to all the children. Also, they all have a shared hope for happiness and good health for everyone in Labrande.

Our team is so strong and dedicated and they came to St. Anne's feeling very prepared. And just like previous travel teams, they have faced their share of challenges. God has given them the strength to win out over opposition and has reminded them of the power of five disciples instead of the vulnerability of one alone.

Share your love and support for our team in the comments. And check back tomorrow for more powerful reflections from our missionaries in the field!

C2 - Haiti Travel Team Reflection

Today we have the good fortune of hearing some words from one of our travel team members still on the ground in Haiti: Kelsey Brown. Kelsey truly shines God’s light on all who meet her, so it is no surprise that she is connecting so well with the young children in Lebrande. Kelsey is really enjoying her experience thus far at St. Anne's summer camp -- we'll let her share the rest:

Every night or day I have listened to inspirational songs. Specifically I have listened to "Go Light Your World" by Chris Rice. The lyrics "take your candle and go light up your world" has been my daily inspiration when coming in contact with the church. But specifically the lyric "cause we are a family whose hearts are blazing, so let's raise our candles and light up the sky" is what I hold deep down when thinking of the children at St. Anne's. As the days went on from our first day, travel day, my energy levels, excitement, happiness, and gratitude grew tremendously. Waking up on day 1 of camp, I felt like Santa had just visited. Butterflies filled my stomach walking into mass and I was more fidgety than the younger children. The unexpected had come as the 5 of us awkwardly sat staring at each other and the kids. Waiting for directions I decided to tickle the few children sitting next to me. Before I knew it, 30 plus children surrounded carol and I as they ran when we tried to catch them. The ice was now broken!

Walking into a classroom, 50 plus young girls and boys stood up and welcomed me. Those moments made my jaw drop as I was filled with just as much energy as them and I was able to communicate to the best of my ability. We have done multiple songs, dance moves, and activities to pull me out of my comfort zone. Without stepping out to do new cultural activities I would not have felt the connections with each and every child. There are many memories and stories I could share and will remember. Most importantly I will always remember and love the reaction of the kids when I turn as they call me "blan". This means white and although it could be offensive to some, this was their way they felt they could call me by name. Yes the language barrier is a difficult aspect of God's work, I still have been able to complete the obstacle given to me. I am going to finish the week out strong by fulfilling our work. We didn't come here to change their ways or tell them the "right way" of doing things, rather to grow in our relationship between the two churches. I am glad to have had the language barrier because it has made me think as them and to be a follower not an instructor. They cannot feel forced to change as they don't understand what we are saying. But I have fulfilled the bits and pieces of deepening our relationship. I have played hand games, tag, jump rope, songs, smiling, and laughing. I have been able to use universal signs to express love to those in Haiti. With the experiences I have encountered I have found the importance and meaning of friendships. I hope to continue to have these amazing moments throughout the week as I grow a new appreciation for everyone here. We are a family and will always stay together no matter the circumstances. We light up each others' worlds.

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Today's Home Team reflection is from Kathleen Bruns:

Hello Travel Team,

Carol, Carly, Kelsey, Kelli, and John, I have enjoyed reading the blog with the summaries of your week thus far. The photos and smiling faces have been great to see as well. It automatically makes me smile and makes my heart overflow with joy. What a blessing it is that God brought the 5 of you together at this moment in time. The beauty of this week and the experiences you will each have in mind, body, and spirit will be a lasting memory to cherish forever.

May each of you find strength and unity in the team. May journaling be a source of comfort and peace. May your “purple suitcases”, prepared by the home team, provide support, a smile and even a little laugh! We are so honored to be with you in this journey.

It has been a pleasure to be a part of the home team and to have the opportunity to get to know each of you. What an amazing blessing each of you are to Nativity and St. Anne’s. It is so awesome to witness each of you dare so greatly in your walk as a Christian. I look forward to reading about the rest of your week and even more so, to see you again once home, to hear firsthand about your week.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

C2 - Haiti Trip Update, Wednesday

Plaza of Independence, Gonaives
As promised, yesterday Fr. Effener gave our missionaries a special tour of the city of Gonaives. The team visited a hospital operated by the Sisters of Charity. One of the doctors walked them around the hospital where our travelers witnessed heartbreaking sights and struggles. Although difficult to see, they were uplifted to see the power of God’s healing and His love and mercy. The Sisters of Charity truly are doing God’s work and serving the poorest of the poor. They are a blessing and an inspiration.

The next stop on the tour was the University of Notre Dame where Fr. Effener teaches a course once a week. By happenstance, the group met the Bishop of Gonaives and enjoyed his company as they continued to tour the campus. The team then visited the Catholic Cathedral of Gonaives. They were encouraged to see various curb, sidewalk, and road improvements in progress throughout the city. The final stop of the evening was to have a dinner of pizza, steak sandwiches, and fries at a local restaurant.
Catholic Cathedral of Gonaives

This morning, the C2 team went to 6:30 am mass and had a breakfast of spaghetti, hard boiled eggs, bananas, peanut butter, and coffee. After breakfast, they jumped right into camp activity with energy and enthusiasm. 

John and Kelsey helped the older students make bracelets while Kelli and Carly helped the middle school children make lovely multi-colored paper ribbons that will be used for decorations eventually. Carly also helped the younger children color craft paper images of fruits and flowers. The whole gang participated in rousing games at recess including jump rope and jacks. John enjoyed playing soccer with the boys despite the grueling mid-day heat.

Carol, Kelsey, and one of the animators did blackboard exercises with some of the older students where they wrote words and common phrases in English and Creole side by side. The days at camp are not only filled with fun and laughter, but helpful lessons for our young students. It’s the connections between our travel team and the camp that strengthen the foundation of our church to church partnership.

Lunch was a nice break for the team featuring roasted goat, fries, rice, and a rich sauce. They also sampled a special fruit drink with pieces of grape, mango, melon, and pineapple. Word on the street is the fruit juice was a bit more popular than the goat.

The team has encountered a few challenges including dealing with the heat and minor aches and pains from the journey. Carol cannot brag enough about the team’s spirit, positive attitude, and willingness to engage. As a team they are having fun and shining God’s light onto the children of St. Anne’s.

Our missionaries are more than halfway through their trip. We are so thankful that God has blessed their journey so far with so many great experiences. We pray that he continues to bless their remaining days at camp. Share your prayers for the team in the comments.

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection


Today's Home Team reflection is from Elizabeth Laffey

Thankfully, our team has arrived safely and are experiencing God's plan this week. As part of the home team for the first time, I've been able to share in the preparation process.  We came together several months ago with different backgrounds, jobs, lifestyles, passions, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses.  We were able to work together well with a common goal in mind, to hear God's word and act. I believe this was the first step in preparing them to strengthen and nurture Nativity's relationship with St. Anne's.  The two churches have different backgrounds, purposes, methods, strengths, and weakness but will work together for a common goal of love. I pray that their time together this week will strengthen their love for God, themselves, and others.

I am very proud of Carol, Kelli, Kelsey, Carly, and John for faithfully stepping outside of their comfort zones, facing opposition, and following the calling God intends for them.  I look forward to learning more about their experiences and the ways their hearts were touched.  God bless, Elizabeth

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

C2 - Haiti Trip Update, Tuesday

Last night, our travel team feasted on delicious Haitian macaroni and cheese. For dessert, a baked apricot tart that looked almost as good as it tasted!

After dinner, Carol and Kelsey represented Nativity in a spirited game of Frisbee with five of the camp animators. Carly used her French language skills to discuss concepts of Haitian culture and customs and how much they differ from what we are accustomed to here in the U.S. The night ended with a game of cards on the front porch where everyone enjoyed each other’s company as well as a warm breeze.

The team awoke at 6:20 am to the sound of church bells. They were pretty tired this morning after a long day at camp yesterday in the Haitian heat. After 6:30 am mass, the group had a breakfast of potato and spinach soup, plantains, peanut butter, bread, and coffee.

Camp started bright and early at 8:30 am and began with Fr. Effener explaining the focus and theme of this year’s camp, “The Importance of Respect and Responsibility.” This year, camp will focus on respect and responsibility toward each other and toward their beautiful land. Fr. Effener especially emphasized the importance of values, morality, and the impact of their behavior. After Father’s lesson, our team and the animators worked together to lead the students in various traditional song and dance routines. The morning singing and dancing really energizes both the children and the instructors and gives everyone the opportunity to laugh and have fun with friends new and old.

As camp moved on, our team was able to assist with hand games, jump rope, and blackboard exercises describing letters and numbers in several languages. Carly, Kelsey, and Carol taught the little ones games and songs including “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” John and Kelli had the opportunity to spend some time with other groups of students so that no one was left out of the fun.

This evening, Fr. Effener is planning to take our team on a trip to Gonaives where they will visit a hospital operated by the Sisters of Charity serving the poorest of the poor, the University of Notre Dame, and the Catholic Cathedral. They will dine in a local restaurant before returning to St. Anne’s for a well-deserved night of rest.

Please post thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement for our travelers in the comments. Check back tomorrow for another update!

C2 - Haiti Home Team Reflection

Today's Home Team reflection is from Home Team Leader, Cindy Dohony:

As the home team leader this year, it has been a privilege to get to know these amazing five travelers, Carol (the team leader), Kelli, Kelsey, Carly, and John. What strikes me about this group is that they are so youthful and vibrant yet also very mellow. They are the essence of calmness and truly are a breath of fresh air. I have no doubts that the closeness and bonding they have been experiencing here through Nativity will spill over to St. Anne’s Parish and its children. Nativity started their journey with this parish in Haiti in 2010 and the members and relationships keep growing.

It is so important that we have this continued association with Fr. Effener, whether it’s the July mission trip or the year-round lunch program sponsored by Nativity, to show our commitment between the two parishes. In Father Effener’s words “Our lunch program plays a fundamental role in getting kids to school. In Haiti we have the expression ‘A hungry belly has no ears’. Without the lunch program, we could not have school in Haiti. The students and parents thank The Church of the Nativity for your generosity and support.” Couple this with our yearly summer visit, this truly is a match made in Heaven. “Our students, teachers and parents are all impatiently waiting for the summer camp in July. They have already begun plans and are grateful to be able to continue this program with Nativity”

I would be honored to share with you some excerpts from the send-off prayer we said for the travel team before they left for the airport to head to Haiti on July 4th:

Heavenly Father,

We pray for your help and blessings for this travel team on their mission trip to Haiti. We thank you that each person here is taking time out of their busy lives to serve You by serving others and to continue to build our relationship between Nativity and St Anne’s church.

Thank you Lord for speaking to their hearts and we pray that this trip will be successful in strengthening the faith of every team member. As they see and experience different ways of life, give them new perspective on their lives and about the things that really matter most. Give them the joy of service and relationships made during this trip.

Strengthen their faith and reliance on You. May each team member strongly feel Your Holy Spirit at work in them and through them. Keep them strong mentally, physically and spiritually. Give them safe travels, energy, enthusiasm, and an ability to be flexible if met by opposition. May they be true ambassadors for Christ through their actions both with those they serve and with their fellow team members.

Amen

Monday, July 6, 2015

C2 - Haiti Trip Update, Monday



Yesterday evening the team did get to go on a walk around the village of Labrande. Fr. Effener took the team for a 2 hour tour that had the team traveling all over the village and even a little beyond. The travelers were in total awe of what they were seeing and grateful that Fr. Effener took the time to show them the village that he loves so much.



After returning from the walk, the group gathered for a dinner of fried chicken, French fries, and fried plantains. Needless to say, this dinner was a crowd favorite!

Before tucking in for a great night of sleep, the team waited until dark to do some stargazing. The village is very dark at night and the crystal clear sky lights up with the glow of stars, uninhibited by any other lighting. A beautiful and peaceful sight to behold.

The team was up bright and early for mass at 6:30 am. Breakfast was a delicious meal of spaghetti, hard boiled eggs, passion fruit juice, coffee, and hot chocolate. The travel team LOVED the hot chocolate. Over all they are enjoying the food much more than they anticipated!

After breakfast, the team walked down to greet the children for the first day of summer camp. They were overwhelmed to see all the excited faces smiling back at them and running forward to meet them. The camp leaders, called animators, had the children organized by size and lead them in many different songs and dances. Our team was invited to step forward and lead the group in singing “This Little Light of Mine.” The 2012 missionary team taught the song in English and it has become a camp favorite. After each verse in English, the animators taught the children how to sing it in Creole. Some of the animators are returning from last year including Jimmy, Daniel, Eric, Ramon, and Jimmy’s brother, Eddie. The animators remembered Carol from last year and asked about the other members of last year’s travel team. They also remembered fondly how Carol taught them how to do the Charleston at last year’s camp.





The children had cheese sandwiches on freshly baked bread for breakfast. During camp, John spent time with the middle school boys and Kelli was with the middle school girls. Kelsey found herself helping out with a large classroom of the youngest boys and girls while Carly was with mixed classes of 1st-3rd graders. Before lunch, all the children at camp started working on crafts. The middle school boys were making macramé bracelets while the girls were making bracelets using colored rubber bands. The children enjoyed large bowls of rice and beans for lunch.





Our travelers took a break from camp for lunch which consisted of rice with a Haitian sauce, plantains, and crab meat in a green sauce.

This afternoon, the church grounds were filled with the angelic sounds of the choir practicing songs that they will sing for the upcoming feast day of St. Anne celebration. Fr. Effener is planning to take the team into Gonaives tomorrow for a tour and restaurant dinner.

Please continue to keep Carol, John, Kelli, Kelsey, and Carly in your prayers as well as Fr. Effener and the children, teachers and animators at the camp. Also, feel free to post encouragement to the team in the comments section.

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 Jen Ayres


“Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.”

These lyrics clearly define how I feel about our missions work in Labrande. Last year, I heard Him calling, and I allowed Him to lead me to St. Anne’s. I now hold His people there in my heart every day. By the end of the week, I’m sure this team will feel the same.

By now the team has settled in, and hopefully gotten some rest. They are enjoying Father Effener’s generous hospitality, and Evette’s delicious cooking. They have experienced Sunday mass with the people of Labrande, in Creole, with beautiful music and song. Perhaps their hearts have already been broken, seeing those in the village come up for offertory during mass empty-handed and miming the action of placing money in the collection box. In our busy and rich culture, we might not understand that. We might wonder why someone would pretend to give instead of actually giving, and wonder why they wouldn’t just stay quietly in their seats until the collection is over. At St. Anne’s, it means so much more than just tallying up the funds. It is a symbol of their deep faith. In that action, they are giving back to God everything He has blessed them with and thanking Him for their many blessings. They are showing that if they had money to give, they would give it. And when God does bless them with money, they will come forward again in gratitude, freely offering what they have been blessed with, in full faith that God will continue to provide. This is just one small example of the deep faith our sister parish has, a faith that we can learn so much from just by being present with them and allowing their passion and love for the Lord touch us.

It has been a true blessing to be part of the 2015 home team! It has been amazing to see God’s love bring the travelers together, from that first quietly nervous meeting to last week’s cookout full of noisy and enthusiastic fun, and big hugs all around as we sent them off before the sun came up on Saturday morning. Carly, Kelsey, Kelli, and John are perfect additions to our amazing C2 Haiti family, and Carol is a natural leader whose strength and faith brings people together beautifully. God has called each one of them to meet our friends in Labrande, and carved out a space for His people in each one of their hearts. I am so proud of this team for stepping out in faith, for answering His call and trusting that He will lead them safely to where they need to be. I pray that they continue to be open and present as camp gets underway this week. They will experience love like they have never seen before in the eyes of the beautiful children, in their hugs, laughter, and song. I pray that they can find God’s love and blessings when things become difficult, and remember why they are there – to be with our friends – and how truly important those relationships are in being disciples of Christ.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

C2 - Haiti Trip Update, Sunday

John, Kelsey, Kelli, and Carly
After a well-deserved night of rest, our missionaries woke up early to prepare for breakfast and Sunday mass with the community. Most of the team rested well but some found it difficult to fall asleep quickly after the long day of travel they had yesterday. 

Breakfast turned out to be quite the feast including a variety of juices, robust, Haitian coffee, peanut butter, pineapple jam, bread, bananas fresh from the village, and a special “Independence Soup.” The soup contained beef, noodles, potatoes, and other Haitian vegetables. It was a soup once reserved for people from France, but now enjoyed as a Sunday custom by people who are of means and can afford to procure the ingredients.

Morning mass was a 2½ hour celebration where the full congregation witnessed 15 confirmation candidates in white robes place their hand on a Bible and pledge a promise to God. This group will be confirmed later this year. As always, the band and full choir filled the Church of St. Anne’s with beautiful music rich in French, Caribbean, and Creole sounds. Team leader, Carol was asked to address the congregation. She expressed that our team brought warm greetings from the Church of the Nativity as well as much appreciation for being asked to assist in conducting a summer camp for the students. Carol and the full team were met with smiles and loud applause from everyone in the church. Mass ended with a “Happy Birthday Sunday” tradition where eight people celebrating birthdays this week were called to the front of the altar while the full congregation sang Happy Birthday to them.

After mass, all of our travelers were greeted in person by many parents, students, and well-wishers, always grateful for our presence.

The afternoon brought a lunch of rice and beans and another rich soup. The group also had some time to relax, unwind, and gather their thoughts from the rich cultural experience that they had during their first 24 hours in Haiti. Team members spent time on the cool, shaded rectory porch teaching some new friends a card game and English, perfecting their Creole phrases, and trying to put thought to paper in their journals. 

Kelsey teaching Kiki English
Fr. Effener plans to escort the team on an early evening walk through the village where they will witness Haitian life as it happens, meet many families, and enjoy life in the mountain village called home by so many of our brothers and sisters at St. Anne’s.

Tomorrow brings the first day of summer camp with hundreds of excited children walking miles along rough dirt roads and paths to arrive by 8 am. The week ahead will bring a mix of hard work and rewarding experiences for Carol, Kelli, Kelsey, John, and Carly. Please continue to pray for our amazing travel team. Share your prayers with them in the comments.

Carol & Evette

Saturday, July 4, 2015

C2 - Haiti Travel Update

The travelers have arrived in Labrande! After landing in Port-au-Prince the team stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant called LaMaison, just outside the airport. Some team members had American hamburgers while others tried Haitian barbecued chicken with friend plantains.

Fr. Effener made rest and shopping stops in St. Marc and took the team to meet his parents at their home in Gonaives.

Everyone enjoyed the daylight drive through the many small towns on market day and were a little awestruck as they entered the gates of St. Anne's.

Evette, the same cook that prepared meals for last year's travel team, greeted them as she was busy making a light supper for everyone.

It's a gorgeous breezy evening and the church grounds are brightly lit. Fr. Effener is already busy hearing confessions as the community prepares for tomorrow's 8 am Sunday mass.

After warm greetings by so many of our friends from prior years, our travelers are walking the beautiful grounds feeling happy but very tired. Tomorrow they will attend 8 am Sunday mass and begin to meet parents, teachers, and many of the eager students.

They deserve lots of rest tonight as their 8 pm arrival at St. Anne's was a 16 hour journey from Nativity's parking lot at 4 am this morning.

We pray that the travel team gets a good night of sleep to help prepare them for the important work they will do this week.

C2 - Haiti Trip Update

Our C2 Travel Team and Home Team along with family members and friends gathered before sunrise this morning to share in prayers of love and support before our travel team departed at 4:00 am for BWI airport.

Cindy Dohony, this year's Home team leader, led the group in a prayer for travel safety, spiritual strength, and joy and blessing for God's work that awaits them at summer camp. Home Team members drove our travelers to the airport, and with warm hugs and lasting words of support, the team was off on a 6:00 am flight to Miami.

As they landed in Miami, the travelers were treated to the sight of a beautiful rainbow from the window of the plane. The first of many amazing gifts that God has in store for our missionaries!

The team arrived ahead of schedule in Miami. After a slight delay leaving the Miami airport, they arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, at 1:00 pm. They were greeted at the airport by Father Effener and his friends. Now in the loving arms of good friends from our sister parish, the team is prepared to embark on the 4½ hour drive from Port-au-Prince to the country village of Labrande. 

The travel team is relieved and energized to be on the ground in Haiti. We expect them to arrive in Labrande this evening.  At this point the team has been on the road and in the air for a total of nine hours out of a travel day that will total 14-15 hours. 

We will be sure to post updates here once we have them. Let us continue to pray for our travelers, Kelli, Kelsey, Carly, John, and team leader Carol. May God bless them with the strength and energy to continue their travels and may He bless the trip and its purpose.

Post your prayers for our missionaries in the comments.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Haiti Team Retreat

Last Saturday, both the Haiti travel and home teams gathered together for a retreat in Deale, MD. The teams experienced a day filled with everything from quiet reflection and prayer to partner exercises and fun icebreakers. Members of the home team offered support and words of encouragement for the travelers. The travel team worked on calming their worries and opening their hearts to all that God has in store for them on the journey ahead.

Despite the cool, rainy weather, the retreat lifted everyone’s spirits and strengthened the bonds of camaraderie between team members. The rain even stopped just long enough to take a group photo! The travel team is ready to be present on their trip and to give all the love they have to the children and summer camp at St. Anne’s parish.

Check back here for updates about the trip and please leave your words of love and encouragement in the comments!