Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

They're home! After a long journey back, our missionaries have landed at Dulles airport greeted by friends and family.

We are so proud of Brian, Dori, Frank, Jeff, Tim, Meghan, and Robyn and all that they did on their trip. We thank God for blessing their trip and their journey home. Welcome back!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

Our missionaries are making their long journey home today. They started with a six hour drive to the airport from Amboseli. They will then get on a five hour flight to Dubai and have a three and a half hour layover there. Then it's a fourteen and a half hour flight to Dulles.

Everyone is exhausted but in good spirits. The team was sad to say goodbye to Kiu as they passed them on the road. They were especially emotional bidding farewell to their host, Cate and driver, Bonita. Lots of hugs were exchanged at the airport.

We will update the blog as news comes available. Prayers and love for our team as they make their way back home to us. We are so proud of them and can't wait to have them home!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

Our missionaries got to enjoy a safari today! Here is what Frank had to say about the exciting day they had:

After a five hour drive from our hotel in Machakos, we arrived at Amboseli National Park that sits on the border of Tanzania and in the shadow of mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro. The highlight of our journey was seeing a tower of giraffes feeding on the broad plains that seemed to swallow up our little van. We also saw lots of zebras, deer, water buffaloes, and even some emus.

We finally arrived at the lovely Serena Hotel that is decorated in a Safari motif. During check-in we were cautioned to keep our cottage doors closed because of the large population of monkeys. Tim and Jeff went to their cottage but must not have heard the receptionist's warning and left their door ajar. While they were unpacking, Jeff turned around and spotted a monkey looking in the door. Instead of scaring him away, Jeff said, "Hi buddy!" Of course, the monkey took this as an invitation to quickly enter the room, snatch a packet of sugar on the opposite side, and scurry out. All of this happened in the blink of an eye, thus welcoming them to safari life!

After lunch, our first stop was a Masai village where we were greeted with dancing and singing by the brightly dressed women and blessed by the shaman. We were also given a fire starting demonstration, using two sticks, a pile of dry dung, and some grass. We went inside one of their mud huts and were then led to a display of their many crafts for sale. It was all fascinating, except for the extraordinary number of flies per square inch. Even as we drove away, we were still shooing them out our windows.

Our safari then began in earnest and we enjoyed photo ops with a herd of elephants, a huge flock of flamingos, some hippos, and loads of wildebeests and gazelles, as well as numerous colorful birds. The day ended with a glorious sunset over the broad plain.

After dinner, we held our nightly devotion during which we shared our reflections and praised God for the myriad wonders of His creation. Each morning and evening has started with such a prayer service, and they have been perfect bookends for the day. Tomorrow we are off to Nairobi and home.

Truly amazing! Thank you to our missionaries for sharing their journey with us. And thank you to everyone who has commented and followed along with the trip. We continue to pray for our team as they prepare to travel home. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

Today was our travelers' final day working in the community of Kiu. Frank was kind enough to send us today's reflection:

We returned to Kiu for this our final day of the mission. On the way we stopped at a health clinic in Ngaamba, built with the assistance of our mission partner, 410 Bridge. The clinic has proven to be a godsend to the locals because of its ability to handle non-life threatening injuries and baby deliveries and offer instruction regarding such topics as diabetes prevention and prenatal care.

When we finally reached Kiu, we were again given "rock star" treatment, as waves of uniform-clad, primary school students rushed our van. The first order of the day was a farewell ceremony that included warm testimonials, as well as singing and dancing by the leadership team, parents, and students. We were told more than once that we were no longer visitors here but friends, brothers, and sisters. We were also asked to take the villagers' love and prayers back to the parishioners of Nativity.

In return, we thanked everyone for their affection and generosity. Tim delivered a brief message with a David and Goliath theme to inspire the villagers to trust in God and believe in themselves to solve their water scarcity problem. We also thought that the mission team should reciprocate with some song and dancing of our own. Dori convinced four of the Kiu women to perform with us as we rendered, "We Are Singing for the Living God." We interpreted the hearty laughter this evoked as high approval, but could be wrong about that.

In the afternoon, Meghan, Brian, and Dori had over 170 students make sunflowers, using a paper plate for the base and yellow and orange construction paper for the petals. Then the kids wrote things for which they were thankful to God on the flower's crown and petals. Seeing this many kids with scissors and glue sticks was a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, Jeff, Tim, Robyn, and Frank played with the kids outside, again using the variety of balls, Frisbees, and jump ropes they brought with them. Jeff and Frank also played "Ring Around the Rosey" with the kids and all became dizzy with delight.

By the end of our stay in Kiu, the language-challenged team had finally mastered saying, "Hello" in Swahili. Throughout the week, "jambo" was uttered as jumbo, jimbo, and even gumbo by our crack group of linguists, much to the confusion of our Kiu friends. However, we trust that what we lack in foreign language skills is surely compensated for by the love and caring we showed for all.

Our missionaries had an amazing journey in Kenya and it sounds like they made some new, lifelong friends. We will keep you updated as we hear travel updates on their trip back home. Thank you for your comments to our travelers! Keep the prayers coming!

Kenya Travel Update

Yesterday our travel team had limited internet access, so here is the summary of what they did, written by Jeff Eller:

Today was Family Day so we spent the day working and sharing a meal with a family at their Kenyan home. These are small farms which are remarkably self-sufficient and grow crops year round.

Our group split up to visit three different families. The teams were Robyn and Frank, Dori and Jeff, and Meghan, Brian, and Tim. Since we roughly did similar chores in each home, I will describe the jobs as one experience.

The first chore we started was shucking the corn cobs with our fingers. Mkamba corn kernels are drier and larger than our corn in US. We then went to mash the corn in a large mortar and pestle type instrument. This softened the corn before boiling with beans. After boiling, onions and seasoning are added to make the dish called "githeri," a staple of their diet.

Our group then had the honor of making rope with the family. We took leaves from a yucca-type plant and slid it through two large knife blades protruding from a tree. This shredded the leaves into strands of fiber which the family braids tightly to make clothesline and rope for tying animals. Like anything it takes practice to achieve good tight braids. All Mkambe children learn how to make rope, according to the family. They are remarkably responsible and eager to help out.

While we did these chores we noticed that everywhere we went there were little kids, hens, and chicks. The chicks would walk between our legs while we sat and worked. There was a kind of natural harmony between the adults, little ones, and chickens. The chickens even roost in the house at night, the family told us.

The team took a break to have lunch and then returned to make chai tea with milk. The milk had been taken from a cow that morning and boiled for purification. We also made chapati, the unleavened bread of Africa, cooked on a Kenyan charcoal grill. Then we went into the house and had fellowship, a worship service, and ate (again)! Some of the families had members who were sick, and our team prayed over them. Our group had an emotionally ill young woman who joined us. During the prayer service, we saw that she was noticeably moved. Afterwards, she was very joyful.

Being around the Kenyans with their beautiful singing and dancing makes us feel rather less talented in that aspect. Even though we listen to much music, we usually don't practice specific songs. We tried to learn the song "He Reigns," which is sung at Nativity, though we secretly hoped we wouldn't be called upon to sing. But God has a sense of humor, and one of our groups was asked to sing. We all looked at each other with our hearts dropping to our stomachs. Do we remember the words? Do we remember the tune? Finally we decided to do the chorus six times, with the song sounding progressively better with each chorus. Whew, let's hope we don't get asked again!

We are sure you all sounded wonderful! Please keep the prayers going for our amazing missionaries! Let them know we are thinking about them in the comments! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

It was another day filled with enriching experiences for our travel team. Let's hear what Frank had to say about their day:

We enjoyed the most event-filled leg of our trip today. We arrived at a primary school in Kwa Kaluli and were greeted by 130 children, grades 1 through 3, and their teachers. Back home our mission team had already divided itself into two groups. Dori, Meghan, and Brian were in charge of craft activities while Jeff, Tim, Robyn, and Frank took on games and sports. The students alternated visiting with each team.

The crafts team had their kids decorate a "Circle of Hope"- a 6" diameter tag board circle on which they wrote "hope" and then drew happy scenes, like animals, kids at play, the sun, and others that they colored. These will be laminated and given to women in the Towson Detention Center (TDC), local schools, and people in need in the community. In return, the kids were given their own "Circle of Hope" made by inmates at the TDC and others back home.

Meanwhile, the games and sports team opened a duffel bag and shared a collection of balls (soccer balls, volleyballs, footballs, beach balls, and tennis balls) with children whose only ball had been a knotted-up bunch of plastic bags. The funny thing was that regardless of the type of ball we gave them, the soccer-addicted kids put it on the ground and kicked it. The team also had jump ropes and Frisbees for other children to play with. Attempts were made to give some structure to the activities, but organized chaos proved to be the order of the day.

After lunch, we visited a well and water storage tank and a demonstration farm, both funded by our mission partner, 410 Bridge, for the people of North Ngaamba. The well ensures food security for the area by helping to irrigate crops, and the farm shows techniques for improving yield, like no-till farming and composting. The farm's vegetables (yams, corn, beans, onions, kale, etc.) are sold to support the maintenance of the water system. We also visited a homestead farm and a 2-man brick making operation for home builders.

One of the highlights of the day was when, with the homestead owner's permission, Tim was challenged to catch a chicken in the style of the "Rocky" and "Creed" movies. It is harder than you think.

Thank you God for blessing our team with such a wonderful trip so far. Please continue to open their hearts and build relationships with our new friends in Kenya. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

It was another great day for our missionaries! We are blessed again to have a reflection from the field written by Frank!

The day began with our attending a service at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Kwa Kaluli, a village a few miles distant from Kiu. I say a service because it was officiated by a catechist and not a priest and included all of the mass liturgy, minus the consecration and communion. We learned that a priest comes to this church only once a month to say mass.

Regardless, we witnessed a vibrant celebration driven by a choir with the sound of angels and a rhythm section (drums and other assorted percussion instruments) that made the church's stone walls vibrate. The choir's joyful noise also included dancing in the sanctuary, and Robyn, Tim, and Dori jumped up to join them. The highlight was a children's tambourine chorus whose dance moves would put any pop singer to shame. The service lasted a whopping 3 hours and 10 minutes.

After lunch, we stayed at the church to participate in a wide-ranging discussion with church and community leaders. It was held outdoors under a huge thorn tree and in a spectacular setting of sheep-filled pastures rimmed by mountains in the distance. Topics included the need for another secondary school, the lack of water (the nearest source is a few kilometers away and the task of transporting the vital liquid can take as long as 3 hours), how new church members are recruited (home visits and sports), and the typical length of our services. We all thought it funny that they had one Sunday church service that lasted 3 hours and we had 4 Sunday masses that lasted 1 hour each. It was also interesting to note that they used sports to attract the youth while we have lost youth members to Sunday sports.

Once we returned to the hotel, we held our daily debriefing- this time in the open air in a roof top space on the 8th floor. As we shared our thoughts on a day filled with prayer, the sun began to set and we heard the call to prayer coming from a nearby mosque. This proved without a doubt that God is everywhere, from Timonium, U.S.A. to Kwa Kaluli and Machakos, Kenya.

How interesting to learn how other churches and cultures operate. We pray that the rest of the trip proves to be just as enlightening and joyful. Thanks for following along and thank you for all the great comments! Keep showing our team the love by leaving them a message below.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

Our missionaries had an amazing first full day in Kenya! We are lucky to have a first-hand reflection from travel team member, Frank Batavick:

Primary school children at the welcome ceremony
As we were preparing for our mission, we were counseled that when we get to the village of Kiu, God would already have been there. That was an understatement. The people who turned out to greet us with handshakes, hugs, speeches, and songs were as fervent a group of believers as you can imagine.

The village is an almost two hour ride from Machakos, the town where our hotel is. Half of the driving was on the Mombasa Highway, busy with truck, bus, and motorcycle traffic. The other half was on a winding, washboard-like dirt road that offered more shakes and sways than an amusement park ride.

After a warm welcoming ceremony filled with introductions and songs and dancing by the women and children, we met with the leadership team to discuss development issues facing Kiu. Throughout the day, praising God was an essential part of every moment. We finished our time there by attending a wedding in a local church. We even had our picture taken with the bride and groom. Love of God and neighbor suffused everything we experienced on this, our first full day.

Meghan and Dori with the children

Keep our missionaries in your prayers as they continue to do great work with our brothers and sisters in Kiu! Let them know you are praying for them in the comments!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

After a full day of flying, our travelers have made it safely to Nairobi! They will meet up with their driver and 410 Bridge staff member, Cate, who will escort them to a hotel in Machakos where they will be staying all week.

The team is tired but in very good spirits given their long day of travel! They are looking forward to getting some rest once they reach the hotel. Then they will head into the community for the first time tomorrow, refreshed and ready to go!

We pray for rest and relaxation for our missionaries so that they will be ready to greet the day tomorrow with big smiles and hearts full of love. We can't wait to hear about all the amazing work they will be doing this week. Subscribe to this blog to make sure the latest updates come right to your email! You can also follow us on Facebook for the latest.

And don't forget to post a message to our team in the comments. They are able to read what you write and love hearing support from friends and family at home!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kenya Travel Update

Our Kenya missionaries have begun their journey! They met this morning at 5:30am in the Nativity parking lot and left at 6:00am. The home team, family, and friends gathered for prayers and hugs to send our team off.

This morning they will fly from Dulles airport to Dubai and then from Dubai to Nairobi. Due to the 7 hour time difference, the team is expected to arrive on Friday afternoon.

Please pray for Brian, Dori, Frank, Jeff, Tim, Meghan, and Robyn as they make their way to our brothers and sisters in Kui, Kenya. Leave them a message of encouragement in the comments! Keep checking back for updates from the team.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Haiti Travel Update

Our missionaries have landed in DC! They will now make their way back to the Nativity parking lot where they will be greeted by family and friends. We are so proud of them and so happy to have them home! Thank you for following along and sharing your comments and words of encouragement!

Haiti Travel Update

Our missionaries are making their way back to us! After a breakfast of eggs and fruit, our travelers headed to the Port-au-Prince airport and made it through security. We will update you once they land for their connecting flight.

Lots of prayers for a safe trip home! We can't wait to see our team and hear all their stories!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Haiti Travel Update

Our travelers headed out early this morning to Monarch for a Jericho walk through the village. They walked through the village and joined in prayer with each other and with all they encountered along the way.

Then, they departed for Port-au-Prince around 10am. The team made it to Mon Chez Moi, where they will spend the night before heading home tomorrow. This evening, the team had dinner together and spent time reflecting about their trip by the pool, under the stars. What a week it has been for our team! They have gone out into the world to share their love and their gifts with our brothers and sisters. We couldn't be more proud of them or grateful for their blessed journey.

Tonight, we are also honored to have a special reflection from Dee, our amazing 410 Bridge leader:

Undeniable Tears

The tears are here…right up here.
Always so close these past days.
So close to spilling over.
And they have.
They have flowed.
They have comforted.
They have cleansed.
They have purified.
They have healed.
No strength to hold back.
No desire to wipe away.
No want to forget what these eyes have seen.
The eyes of this overflowing heart have been opened!
Opened to how the rest of the world lives!
Opened to what has never been imagined before.
Opened to God’s deep love for the poor, the meek, the humble.
Opened to an understanding that His grace is truly sufficient in hard places.
Opened to “see” through HIS perspective not my own!
Opened to witness that His love and grace, plus NOTHING else, are enough.
These opened eyes in refined hearts have also seen The FATHER!
For the Son chose to reveal Him!
(“No one knows the Father except the Son AND those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” - Jesus Matthew 11:27)
These opened eyes understand in a new and deeper way His love and desires for the CHURCH to be ONE…as the Father and Son are One!
(And the eyes in the heart of this Protestant leader, have been opened to a new sweet awareness in the POWER in REVERENCE!
They have been opened to a new, clearer understanding of the blessed, highly favored above all women Mother Mary and her deep love for her Son and Savior, OUR SAVIOR, through my connection to her as a mother and a “Mimi”, and I will never be the same!)
All eyes have seen the Heart of Their Father for the beautiful people He sent us to!
All have seen the Heart of Their Father for THEM!
For them as a TEAM, and for EACH of them personally.
They have allowed Their Father to pull them close…so close to “see” His ache for the world!
So close that His broken heart has broken theirs.
And they have not run from the ache, or stepped away from the “uncomfortable”.
They have embraced it!
They have obediently walked toward it!
In consequence, in JOY they serve Selflessly!
In His Grace they have practiced Humility!
In His Strength they have stepped out in Courage!
In His Mercy they have accepted Forgiveness!
In His Compassion they have welcomed Healing.
In His Peace as they have been given Hope.
In His Faithfulness they see clearer!
In TRUST they obey quicker!
“Rooted and established in Love, they Love deeper!"
Gifts unspeakable.
Treasures indescribable.
Tears undeniable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Haiti Travel Update

Our travelers had another amazing day! This evening, Fabnise, our 410 Bridge Haiti coordinator arranged for her father's choir to come in and perform for the group. They sang six worship songs including one in English, "When the Saints Go Marching In." Everyone loved it and had a blast singing along. Then they enjoyed pizza and sugar donuts for dinner. It was great!

The travel team leaders, Nancy, Bruce, Carol, and Chris were kind enough to share a reflection with us about the rest of the day today and the trip in general: 

Wow! We are speechless! Where do you begin to describe the week we have experienced so far? We woke up today and prayed the rosary and dedicated it to the children of Monarch. The rosary has been a central point of our prayer journey in our time here this week.

This morning, there was sense of excitement, but also hesitation to begin our day, knowing it was our last full day with the community. We packed up our belongings and made the long bumpy 30 minute drive to Monarch even though the river was still high from the rains the other day, but our awesome 410 drivers got us through without a problem. Along the road, every day we became more familiar with the neighbor's we passed; from the kids who struck karate poses, to the smiling members of the community on their way to market. When we arrived, as usual, we were greeted by Pastor Arias, and an energetic, enthusiastic community group, ready to lead us in the day's activities. Our 410 coordinator Fabnise arranged for several community members to bring crafts and works of art to provide a market for us to purchase local gifts to remember our trip.

Throughout this week, our purpose has been to build relationships and participate in the daily lives of the people of Monarch. As part of that, Pastor Arias, and other men of the Leadership council walked us through the corn fields and showed us how to plant papaya seedlings. Working together we dug holes, moved dirt and planted seeds to support the future growth of Monarch and contribute to their agriculture and overall economy.

After planting and a delicious lunch of fried chicken, rice and beans, plantains and coleslaw, we spent time with the children by dancing outside the church under the tree to "Wagon Wheel". Many members of the community had smiles on their faces and even the pastor got out there to show us his moves. We even played a quick game of limbo that had everyone laughing.  

Once we caught our breath and rehydrated ourselves, the children were brought into the church to participate in our bible story. Our team pulled from their time travelers skills at Nativity, and we presented the story of Nehemiah. We made sure to remind the children that even through trials, trusting in God will always win out. Shortly after we finished our story, we prayed over the community and especially the children. We gave hugs for a great afternoon and made our way back to Bohoc. The evening was spent relaxing with music, bible study and joyful laughter as we continued to build upon our team relationships on this amazing journey.

Tomorrow we head out early to monarch for our Jericho walk with the community and leadership council, and our eventual trip back to port au Prince. We are happy and excited to have our 410 leader, Dee share a reflection with all of you on our last day with Monarch. She has been a blessing for all of us on this trip and it would not have been complete without her. We would love to introduce you to a new member of our Haiti nativity family. Until then, love prayers and hugs.

Nancy, Bruce, Carol and....
The author of Rebuilding Youth Ministry, Christopher Wesley


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, we'll be posting reflections on the blog from members of the Haiti Home Team.

Today's Home Team reflection is from team leader, Cindy Dohony:
As my fourth year on the home team, I am amazed how each year we grow and change as group. Traditionally in the past we have had 4-5 travelers, but this year we jumped to 17 adding the wonderful teens and their fearless leader. Working, praying and preparing with such a diverse group of individuals in age, background, experiences, and faith journeys, it has been a blessing to be a part of this process. In our preparation throughout the past four months, I have seen relationships among the travelers build and grow strong. The most unlikely people to ever form a friendship were doing so under the watchful eye of our Lord with his love radiating down on them. He knew long before we did that these amazing 17 travelers would be together this week working with the people of Monarch and 410 Bridge. They are making a difference together as a team and as individuals as they grow in their love and spirit representing Nativity. I am truly blessed to have a front row seat witnessing this transformation. In this unpredictable world we now live in, it just demonstrates that God's good work is at hand.

Lord, may your calming hand, gentle whisper and loving arms lift up the travelers and protect them each day. Give them the strength to focus on You and Your love for them. We know it was in Your plan that this Haiti Team be together right now fulfilling your work. Grant them the courage to walk side by side with this remarkable community of Mondach. Let them take heart that the truth is in Christ and they are your able missionaries.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Haiti Travel Update

Today, the sun was shining in Bohoc! The rain was surely a welcome blessing but brought with it an adjustment to the itinerary. The river was so high that our team was unable to cross the river into Monarch in the morning. Our missionaries proved to be quite adaptable and went with the new plan of going with Fabnise to Pignon to visit a Catholic Church there. The team also had time for quiet reflection and prayer this morning before starting the day.

In the afternoon, the team was able to make it into Monarch and finish the work they started on the child sponsorship program.

Dinner consisted of spaghetti, garlic bread, beets, and coleslaw. The juice they had this evening was delicious!

After dinner, the team had a tough but incredible reflection time. Lots of members opened up and trusted the group enough to share their thoughts and feelings about the journey so far. Team leader Carol is blown away by the awesome bond this group has with one another. All the missionaries prayed hard for the whole team and thanked God for the amazing ways in
which they have grown.

We are so thankful for our missionaries and thank God that he has brought them so close as a group. We pray that He continues to show them amazing things and open their hearts even more.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Haiti Travel Update

Tonight, we have a reflection from some more of our missionaries:

When we first heard the story of our new partner community in Monarch, we learned about the road that leads in to their community. For a long time there was no road and many people died because they were unable to leave Monarch for medical treatments that could have saved their lives. So the people of Monarch came together with machetes, pick axes and hoes to build their own road. Today we received the incredible blessing of being able to work along side them to repair the holes in the dirt road. The road itself is only about two miles long, but it takes 40 minutes to travel because of the deep holes and gaps in the dirt.

Repairing a road in Monarch is truly a community event. Hugo, Bruce, Chris, and Kevin took up machetes and pick axes to loosen the sod on the side of the road with the other men of the village- including Pastor Arias, who we recognized as part of the crew, barefoot and all!

Nancy, Jen, Kayla, and women of the village took the loosened dirt and filled in the gaps. This wasn't mindless work, it was a truly joyful experience. The men sang songs as they worked , tapping out the beats with rocks against their machetes and hoes. The women and children who weren't working were there too, joining in the singing and dancing, helping the crew to keep going in the blazing 100 degree heat by showing their love and support.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to start registering the children for the child sponsorship program. Paula, Devon, and Jen interviewed 20 children with the help of our wonderful translators.

After a long day in Monarch, we returned to our guesthouse and the sky opened up, pouring out the rain that was so desperately needed and prayed so hard for. The epic thunderstorm lasted two hours and was a true blessing from God, the first significant rainfall this area has seen in a month. We all shouted with joy "God is good"!

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and love! We miss you!
-Hugo, Paula, Kathy and Jen

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Haiti Travel Update

Tonight, we are so blessed to have another reflection directly from our missionaries. Our college students, Sarah, Kelsey, Kalie, and Kevin collaborated to share these beautiful words with us:

Sitting in the gazebo in our backyard, a clap of thunder boomed overhead, winds are picking up and clouds are covering. We’ve never been so grateful to hear thunder. To explain, we’ll go to the beginning of the day. For many members of the team our day started sometime before 6am and we met together outside to pray a rosary to our beautiful Mother Mary with the intention of rain in Monarch. Yesterday members of the community told us about their corn crop being in dire need of water. The people of Monarch depend on the corn for food and for their economy. Let it rain, Lord, let it rain. Our rosary was also offered for all of you at home. Know that you are on our hearts and we love you and are praying for you.

Starting our day in prayer, our souls were infused with a peace that can only come from God. After the rosary we transitioned into a breakfast of eggs (sorry Jacque), bananas, bread, jam, and mango juice. Bellies and hearts full, we bug-sprayed, applied sunscreen, and prepared to head out for the day. After some card games, we prayed and piled into the cars and were off down the beautiful, bumpy road to praise and give thanks to our God with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our group of seventeen turned into nineteen when we got to Port-au-Prince with Fabnise, our fabulous translator and coordinator, and Dee, our amazing 410 Bridge leader. We didn’t know it until two days ago, but God had a 19-piece puzzle for each of us to fill. We are so awed at the awesomeness of how God loves us and how he knows our hearts far deeper and better than we do. God’s grace is abundant here and we are sinking so deep in gratitude that God has already been here preparing our hearts and preparing our way. We have a team whose hearts are open and whose members have deep capacities to love - we are learning so much from one another. So much about trusting deeper and loving fuller and we will wake up tomorrow, aware that God has prepared our way and will bless us every step.

"And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder...” Those words are from “This is Amazing Grace” by Phill Wickham. They represent how we feel as we embark on this journey and sink deep in gratitude for our God who takes our breath away time and time again. Our travel team sang this song during a baptist church service this morning. During the service, our team felt connected through the praise and worship of God. The joy, happiness, and love of the parishioners was so contagious. The people here embody Christ’s vision of an open-door church. We were immediately welcomed and asked to individually introduce ourselves to the congregation. God showed us how our prayers have been answered - we are an answered prayer for them as they were for us. There is so much beauty in reciprocal answered prayers. We engaged in hand holding and lots of loving in the dirt lot overlooking mountains and rivers as far as our eyes can see. Kelsey in particular played a hand game she played last year with the Haitian children and wanted help with explaining the rules to the children. Five seconds later a translator came over to her and a young boy to show him how to play. In that moment, Kelsey truly felt God’s presence as she understood how she can’t do everything alone in life.

After a hearty lunch consisting of beef macaroni and cheese, fried fish, and plantains, we prepared for afternoon bible study activities. Kevin and Bruce starred in their breakout roles as Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes, and the Haitian children learned about the importance of keeping joy alive, trusting God, and allowing Him to give us strength. Being able to make the children laugh at the cost of being silly took us out of our comfort zones, but somehow put us in our element. Being an important bible character, or acting like a silly monkey brought the children joy, but also brought joy to us.

Before the bible story, we sang “This little light of Mine” in English and then Fabnise led the children singing “This little light of Mine” in Creole. After the bible story, the team leaders handed out coloring pages based on the story of Nehemiah. When the children started coloring, many of the adults wanted to join in on this rare opportunity. While some of the travelers were helping the younger kids color, Sarah had an opportunity to sit with a mother and a baby. The baby’s name was Jebson and was 5 months old. It was a blessing to have this mother hand over her newborn. Sarah felt an overwhelming amount of love and trust and joy. It was very difficult to take back the crayons at the end of the day. We all gathered together to take a picture with the people of the community before saying goodbye for the day. The team is now resting and reflecting before they turn in for the night. We ask for prayers of good health for the travel team and rain for the crops in Monarch.

In Christ and with so much love,
Sarah, Kelsey, Kalie, and Kevin

A huge THANK YOU to our travelers for continuing to include us in their special journey. We are praying for them every day! Leave your prayers in the comments.