Sunday, July 9, 2017

Kenya Travel Update

Praise be to God!

Our Kenyan Medical Team has returned home safely. The group has many stories to tell about their successful mission, but now all they wish is a shower and the assurance of sleeping in their own beds! Thanks to all Church of the Nativity parishioners, the mission home team, and family members who have kept our team in their daily prayers. God listened.

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord.
~ Jeremiah 30:17

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Haiti Travel Update

After a long day of travel, our Haiti missionaries are home! They arrived on schedule at BWI around 12:30 am and were welcomed by family and friends with lots of hugs. The team is weary, but full of joy as they look back on their amazing week. On Monday evening, the travelers will reunite with the Home Team for a mission debrief, and then later to celebrate all of the wonderful things God has done through them. We could not be more proud of this team, and their amazing work alongside our brothers and sisters in Monarch! 


Thank you for following their journey, for all of your love and prayers, and for your support of NativityMissions!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Haiti Travel Update

On Thursday, the team had their last day in Monarch. Once again, they started early and enthusiastically. When the afternoon came, and they had to say their goodbyes, there were many hugs and lots of tears. This was made more difficult because our current missionaries don't know yet when (or if) they will be able to return again. Monarch can be assured, though, that Nativity will be back in October with a whole new team of missionaries, and that our long-term partnership with them is strong.

After their final dinner in Bohoc, they had another night of reflection, with many emotions about their last day and their good-byes. Their 410 Bridge guide, Major, helped them to process their feelings.


Here is another wonderful reflection from Adeola:

Saturday, I felt a keen sense of disappointment. I had spent a whole day in Monarch, met amazing people, listened to a diverse leadership council, and observed children at play; all things that should have made me extremely happy and possibly excited, but instead I was deep - down borderline depressed and extremely disappointed. It has taken four long days for me to have a surface understanding of the source of these feelings, I realized that even though I had worked really hard to have no expectations except to witness love, I had somehow "drunk the koolaid". I had allowed the stories of hardship, struggle, need, destitution, sponsorship etc. to poison my thoughts and pervade my being, I came to Monarch consciously thinking "I will help them however they desire", but subconsciously thinking "I'm going to help them because they need me to help". The reality floored me. What a blow to my ego, when I discovered that they didn't need me, not even to help. I was witnessing a society flourishing on faith, hope and charity.
Faith that God will provide all their needs.
Hope that if it doesn't happen in their lifetimes, it will happen for their children.
And Love of a God who in turn loves them unconditionally and love of each other. 

It's funny (not ha ha), ALL of us missionaries have commented on at least one thing we love about Monarch and then compared it to the US using the statement, "that's not what happens in the US". I was so surprised by Monarch, and truthfully still in awe that I forgot for a moment that they were monetary poor, that healthcare (by American standards) is non existent, they lived in huts with dirt floors and often had to share the space with many people.
 
No one prepared me for children playing together, or families walking to the pump for water, or a praying and thankful community, or the amazing amount of love that could be shared between people. I knew I would learn a lot from the community of Monarch but I couldn't begin to imagine how much...

Monarch needs help because their goals for the village far exceed their resources. But rather than waiting for someone to do something, they pray and they work and they love. Monarch survives because no matter how little they have, they are always thankful. 

As I get ready to return to the US, I am thinking :

• The U.S. would probably benefit from some Haitian missionaries
• I probably need my whole summer break to process this trip
• What is one thing I've learned in Monarch that I can use now either in my personal or professional life?
---

The team hit the road at 9:00 this morning for the long drive back to Port-au-Prince to make their 3:48 pm flight. They will stop again in Atlanta, and then on to BWI, arriving at 12:31 am. Please pray for their long day of travel, and for Nativity's partnership with Monarch!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Haiti Travel Update

Our next reflection is from Sarah DeVan, one of our wonderful teachers who stepped out in faith to take this journey. Here are her thoughts on teaching the Haitian students during their language exchange lesson:

[Monday] we taught the Haitian children the English colors and numbers. It was an amazing experience to teach the more than 50 students we had gathered. Halfway through reviewing the colors, we noticed one diligent student in the back of the room who had brought his coloring page back from the day before, and he was resourcefully using the back to write down the names of the English colors we taught. His thirst for knowledge and perseverance was so admirable.

In the United States, students and teachers can sometimes take for granted the vast ability of resources and access to education. But, in Haiti, their quest for knowledge is so inspiring. I know I will be a better teacher in the United Stats for having experienced education in Haiti.

--

Returning Nativity missionary Kelsey Brown also has some words to share on why she keeps going back to Haiti - this is her third trip, and we are so blessed to have her strength and dedication on our team!

Kelsey says:

I keep returning to Haiti because I feel at home here. It is my happy place, my home away from home. When I rounded the corner and I saw that the new school had been built, it was unbelievable. I was filled with joy, amazement, and proud of the people of Monarch for having the perseverance to continue and see this project through to completion.

One of the things that I have appreciated most on this trip is their willingness to never give up when trying to share about their way of life. Yesterday, a few girls from the town taught me how to play their own version of a game. We didn't speak the same language, but we were still able to play and laugh, and the excitement on their faces as I caught on was priceless. Through coming to Haiti, I have learned so much about the universality of the human spirit.

--

Thank you for the wonderful reflections, ladies! Stay tuned for more!!

Haiti Travel Update

As our missionaries are wrapping up the week and processing everything they have seen and experienced, they have sent us some wonderful reflections of special moments they had during the week. We're happy to share them with all of you!

Our first two reflections highlight their Sunday Mass experience:

From Will Kelly:

I was really engaged in the whole mass, even though I didn't understand what was said. The passion of the people was very inspiring and moving. When we were able to sing and I played guitar, it was very special to see the smiles on their faces. The Pastor told Major that he would like for us to play another song, and the congregation all said "Again!" and wanted another song too.

I have led worship for the teens and congregation at Nativity, but now to have the same experience in Haiti was a dream come true. It was an intimate environment, and I was able to feel the passion of each individual person in the church.

Then I was blessed to be joined by two Haitian drummers, and that really showed how music is truly universal in that you don't have to speak the same language, yet there is a beat inside all of us.

This was a powerful experience, and one that our whole team will remember for a long time.


From Brian Phebus:


I really enjoyed being able to experience a Catholic service in another country. Due to limited resources, they were not able to have Eucharist, and it gave me a new appreciation, and I feel so grateful for the blessing to have Eucharist each week. The service was led by a Deacon, and that also made me realize how grateful I am to have a priest to lead mass each week at our church.












Check back throughout the day and evening for some more reflections from our fabulous team!

Kenya Travel Update

Today marked the final day for our medical team at the Kiu clinic. We’ve heard from Dr. Lynn Chincheck, D.D.S. who declared the mission a success. She and the rest of the team, ably assisted by some Kenyan doctors and nurses, treated a total of 517 people over three days. She said she loved “the docs and nurses and the amazing assistants on our team!”

Nurse Gina Knorr reported, “We were told for the size of our group, this was an impressive amount to treat. As we departed the village, emotions were high. We stood together hand-in-hand with the community leaders, pastors and other members of 410 Bridge. God was so present, it was palpable. As we left, we stopped by the water project the Church of the Nativity helped fund. It is on the grounds of a local school, and we were warmly welcomed by several students. We ended our day with a surprise campfire. This morning (Thursday) we prepare to depart for our next adventure with full hearts. We all look forward to seeing our loved ones soon.”

The hard-working group is now on its way to Amboseli National Park for some much-deserved rest and recreation. Amboseli is located in the southwest corner of Kenya near the border of Tanzania. Snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro towers above the park’s marshy swamps and dusty plains that are filled with an abundance of wildlife.

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.
~ Jeremiah 33:6


Please pray for the missionaries to have a fun and relaxing day today!







Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Haiti Travel Update



Today we have a belated Independence Day greeting from the Haiti Team! Here is how they spent July 4:


Live from Haiti...

Cockle - doodle - do

Cockle - doodle - do

Have you ever been awaken by a rooster? Today he seemed very insistent that we got up right away, and so we rolled out of bed excited to start a new day but exhausted from all we had done before. Breakfast was pancakes and syrup and fruit. It wasn't IHOP but people seemed to enjoy it. We wonder what we're having tomorrow... hmm?!?

BRACE YOURSELVES!!!

Our 410 drivers are amazing, the road is also amazing, our translator calls it bumpy. He has a great sense of humor.

Monarch relies on farming and today we had a first hand look (we also got down and dirty) at the beginning stages of planting papaya. The soil had to be prepared; soil was dug from the sugar cane "field" and transported by wheelbarrow over to a covered work area and mixed with dried manure. Mixing was initially done using the rake and then hands (to break up large chunks of soil and manure). This fertilized soil was then put into small bags and the bags were lined up next to each other in rows.

A little farming 101: the soil in the bags will be watered later. Then, papaya seeds will be planted and left to germinate in the bag of soil, the little seedlings will be planted, to ultimately grow into papaya trees.

Hot, sweaty and being chased by bugs, we weary travelers went back to the village to rest, nap, eat and prepare for later in the day when we would share the improved version of the story of Jonah and the Whale (the Haitians say, Jonas and the Big Fish - no, we don't know how to write it in Creole!).

What a story! What a telling! Jonas gets swallowed by the Big Fish and spit out on dry land. Moral: You can't hide from God. God puts you exactly where he wants you. After the dramatic (somewhat) retelling, the children colored, we think we noticed a few Picassos among the crowd. After cleanup, a few hundred photos, high fives, and hugs we slowly (we would have hurried but we were super hot, and sweaty and tired) packed up our belongings and climbed into the air - conditioned comfort of the truck, and was whisked, shaken and maybe even stirred (we're not kidding) all the way back to the guest house.

Happy Independence Day Nativity Family and all our family and friends!!!

---

Please continue your prayers for our wonderful team, and the community of Monarch! 

Home Team Update

For every mission team that Nativity sends out, there is another, equally important team known as the Home Team. From kick-off to celebration, Home Team members are with our missionaries every step of the way through prayerful and emotional support. They attend all preparation meetings and assist with airport transportation, and anything else the traveling team needs. It's a wonderful way to support NativityMissions without having to leave home!

This evening, members of the Kenya and Haiti Home Teams, along with family and friends, came together at Nativity for daily Rosary at 5:00 and Mass at 5:30 to pray for our teams on the ground. Team members who were unable to make it to Nativity took time at 5:00 to say their own Rosaries and other prayers to join from afar. We truly felt God's presence with us this evening, and we know He is with our teams and guiding them in their work this week. As we all came together, we marveled over the amazing stories we are hearing from our missionaries, and talked about how we couldn't be more proud of their strength, courage, and faith.



Please take a moment to include our missionaries, their families, and the Home Teams in your prayers. Feel free to share your prayers and thoughts in the comments. 


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Haiti Travel Update

The team had yet another wonderful day in Monarch, nurturing their new relationships with community members of all ages.

Today we are blessed to have a reflection from one of our missionaries currently on the ground, Adeola Williams:


LOVE
Do you know what love is?
Love is:
Letting your sister rest her head in your lap and not moving even though you so badly want to play with the other children.
Holding your brother's hand as you walk across the river to go to church.
Taking turns and making sure everyone has a chance to play jump rope.
These are just a few instances of love among children that I have witnessed since I've arrived at Haiti. As I observe familial and inter-village interactions I wonder, "Can this love be taught? And if so, how do I teach my 4th graders about this love?"

My goal for being in Haiti was to witness love in action, not a love that comes from an obligation, but a genuine, automatic, unselfish love and it only took two days of being in Haiti to find evidence of that.

I'm looking forward to the next two days, I want to observe more and engage in the experience of love. I'm also somewhat anxious to go home and share what I have learned and experienced with others, especially the children at my school.

What an amazing world it would be if we could open our hearts and love each other, just the same way these Haitians love each other because it truly embodies God's love.

---

Please continue to pray for good health, strength, and continued blessings for our missionaries and all those in the Monarch community! Show the team your love in the comments!


Kenya Travel Update

Here is today’s report from Gina:

Our team woke up early and joined together to say the rosary. When we reached the village, we began with an opening prayer and singing. We then divided and conquered at the clinic. Anne Marie, a medical professional from 410 Bridge in Georgia, and Maddi were in the triage area where they both did a great job identifying and assigning degrees of urgency to illnesses to help us decide the order of treatment for patients.

Paula organized the list (approximately 200 people came to see us). Hugo, Liz, Jackie, and Gina were in the clinic working with Kenyan doctors, nurses, and translators.
Lynn, Lisa, and Mia worked with a Kenyan dentist in the dental clinic...they were incredibly busy, seeing 25 people for the extraction of teeth. The dental staff also gave a great educational session outside the clinic about good dental hygiene. They had enough toothbrushes for everyone in the crowd (similar to the loaves and fishes).

Mark worked with the community pastors praying with the patients. All told, the staff saw a total of 162 patients today.

Yesterday the Kenyan nurses helped deliver a baby, assisted by our staff. Births in Kenya are very different. The woman came in at 11:30, delivered, and was going home by 3:00 pm. "Baby Hugo" is a healthy little boy! We even found time for a home visit today.

Loving the beautiful people in Kiu. Each of us contributed to the day in our own way. At the end, we were all very drained—emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. 
~ Proverbs 16:24

Our missionaries are feeling the fatigue of the trip in many ways. Please continue to pray for them and comment below with words of encouragement to keep them going!




Kenya Travel Update

There were many people lined up to visit the clinic when our medical team arrived for work Monday morning. The big and blessed news is that they helped to deliver a baby! We hope that mom and infant are resting comfortably.

The team has only intermittent Wi-Fi access, so we have not been able to receive many timely reports. However, we did get the following account from Kenya team member, Gina Knorr describing the group’s activities on Sunday:

This morning we started by going to church. We broke into three separate groups, each with a dedicated community leader, and all of us had different yet impactful experiences. The first group hopped off the bus to go to the Salvation Army church. Little did they know that their experience would be an open air ceremony! They hiked down a ravine and paraded through the town, ending up in the market where they prayed, sang, and spread the love of God. It was an event full of emotion.

Another group stopped at the AIC, a church that had the largest Mass attendance in the whole community. Team members were embraced by parishioners when they stood before them and gave their testimony. After Mass, the group was invited to have lunch with the local pastor where they shared a warm meal and lots of prayers.

The third group attended Gospel Tabernacle, a church full of energy, and loud and vibrant. One woman sang for 45 minutes straight and never took a break!

After lunch, we separated into two groups and conducted home visits. One group visited with Agnes, a widowed mother of seven adopted children. She adopted each child after he or she lost their parents. Her home was simple, but easily met the needs of her family. Agnes had a gorgeous garden filled with bright and colorful flowers, plants, fruits and vegetables. Our group was able to play with her children and make awesome relationships. The warm embraces and open love touched everyone's heart.

The second group met with Nicholas, an elderly man who suffered a stroke a few years ago. He has made much improvement and is able to walk and speak, but there are still some residual effects. In fact, his symptoms have worsened because he has not had access to the necessary medication. We prayed with him and for him and encouraged him to visit us at the medical clinic tomorrow. His heart was filled with joy as we prayed over him and read a scripture passage that spoke to him. As evening approached, we had a long but beautiful ride back to our guest house where we enjoyed a warm African meal— a great end to a day of amazing events.

Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary. 
~ St. Francis of Assisi





Monday, July 3, 2017

Haiti Travel Update

Our team rose early again this morning for breakfast, prayer, and journey to Monarch. Today was a wonderful day full of work, learning, and fun! In the morning, our missionaries helped the community with building a bench for their new school. The work was very physical, but spirited, as they carried buckets of water up from the river for mixing cement - three times!
Nativity Missionary Adeola, helping to mix cement

The team carrying water up from the river
In the afternoon they taught a two-hour language lesson to the children using flashcards. The students learned English words for different colors, and other simple objects like "hand," "pencil," and "food." We have some fantastic educational professionals on this trip, and we know these children are learning a lot this week!

Throughout the day there were opportunities for breaks, and the chance to play with the children outside. They organized a soccer kick-off , where Casey showed his excellent goalkeeping skills!

Once again, the team found that their day in Monarch was ending too soon, and they had to head back to Bohoc. After a hearty dinner of beef stew with rice, beans, and spicy coleslaw, the team came together again for their daily debriefing and reflection time. They continue to be in awe of the beautiful things that God is showing them this week.

Tomorrow brings another day in the village, and more fellowship with their new friends. We know the team is exhausted, and we pray that they are getting good rest each night so they can continue to give Monarch everything they have this week. We are so proud of all they have done so far, and we know there are more great things to come!



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Haiti Travel Update


It was another beautiful day in Monarch! While we were celebrating Sunday Mass here at Nativity, the team celebrated Mass with our friends in Haiti. Our very own Will Kelly jumped in with his guitar to join in leading worship with the Haitian drummers!

Of the two churches in Monarch, the Catholic church is the most difficult to get to by the route our missionaries have to use to come into the village. The trek includes crossing through a river on foot, and then a fairly steep hike up the hillside. Sometimes the river is too high for our teams to cross, but today they were blessed with excellent conditions.

Since they had made it across the river, they were able to go further into the community and visit with families in their homes. The team joined together in prayer with each family they met, and made true spiritual connections with the community and with each other.

After lunch, they made their way back across the river to spend the afternoon teaching the children about Jonah and the Whale. The team acted out the story while their wonderful translators provided narration for all to understand. Then they spent time coloring with the children, and generally having fun with community members of all ages.


Our missionaries were having so much fun and forming such strong relationships that they didn't want to leave the village today, though tired and fighting the heat. We pray that they have restful sleep again tonight so they can be ready to get back to their friends in the morning!




Kenya Travel Update

2017 Mission Trip
On Sunday, our team split into three groups to visit three separate churches. When they arrived, anxious and welcoming adults and children were awaiting them outside. Services are a jubilant occasion in Kiu and marked by scriptural readings, testimonials from congregants about the role Jesus plays in their lives, a sermon, requests for prayers, status reports on the sick and dying, community news, dancing, full-throated singing and, of course, the passing of a collection basket. Like much music in Africa, the style of song is “call and response,” thus making it easy for our team members to join in. As for musical accompaniment, look no further than the young man or woman rhythmically beating on drums.

At Nativity, we have four Masses on a Sunday and each is timed carefully to fill an hour. That is not the case in Kiu. Churches have only one service on a Sunday, but it is “over when it’s over.” Last year the mission team attended St. Benedict Catholic Church. Since a priest is only able to visit the village once a month, a catechist is in charge on the other three Sundays. That was the case when our team visited. Although there could be no Eucharistic celebration, the service still took three hours and ten minutes! The walls shook with all of the fervid singing and dancing, and our team members easily joined in this joyful noise in praise of the one, true God we all have in common.

There is one lesson that all mission members quickly learn. You don’t have to worry about taking God to Kenya. He is already there.

Tomorrow work begins in earnest at the medical clinic. Please continue to pray for the safety and success of this most worthy mission.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.
~ Jeremiah 17:14

2016 Mission Trip 
2016 Mission Trip

Kenya Travel Update

On Saturday, our Kenya missionaries enjoyed an amazing welcome ceremony in Kiu with students, teachers, parents, pastors, and the leadership council. They also took a tour of the village, met with the leadership council, and had a strategic planning session at the clinic.

Now for some background. “Kiu” means “thirsty” in Swahili, and the town derives its name from the semi-arid climate and geography. The people are members of the Kamba tribe, the fifth largest in Kenya, and by adulthood, many can speak Kamba, Swahili, and English, the latter because Kenya was once a British colony. The village doesn’t show up on most maps, but if you consider Nairobi’s location as “12” on a clock, then Kiu is roughly at the “5” mark. Kiu is 59 miles from downtown Nairobi, though our crew is staying just thirteen miles from the village in the ACK Guest House, run by the Anglican Church.

410 Bridge, the sponsoring organization for our mission, first dug a bore hole or well for Kiu to give the community a source of clean water. Nativity complemented this by funding another well, a water tank for storage, and a water distribution system that our team visited on Saturday after meeting with the leadership council. Then in 2011, 410 Bridge built the medical clinic we will be temporarily staffing with our team.

In the hilly outskirts of Kiu, there is a significant Maasai tribe presence. Traditionally, the Maasai are nomadic herders, and church leaders have been attempting to unite the community by reaching out to them.

The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed; in his illness, You restore him to health.
~ Psalm 41:3
Comment below with prayers for our team as they do amazing things with the community of Kiu! Head over to our Facebook page to see a a video clip from the welcome ceremony. 
















Saturday, July 1, 2017

Haiti Travel Update

The team was up bright and early this morning at 7am for a breakfast of eggs, toast, mangoes, and bananas, and they got on the road to Monarch. While the guest house is just a few miles away, the trip is a 30-40 minute bumpy ride on a road made by the Monarch community members themselves just a few years ago.

As they approached the village, they got a surprise - a procession of community members had come out to lead them into Monarch! They entered the community to the sounds of trumpets, trombones, and drums. What an amazing welcome! 

The Leadership Council welcomed them into their new school building that Nativity was able to help with through the generosity of our parishioners. They prayed together, made introductions, and provided an update on how their community has grown since our last visit. They said over and over again how grateful they are for the new school building. Aside from providing a wonderful space for their regular students, it has excited other members of the community and encouraged more students to attend school regularly. We are so happy to hear that the school is already changing lives!

After a light lunch in the village, the team got a tour of the community. They closed the day with some time playing with the children, and getting to know some of the adults. They headed back to the guest house in the afternoon, tired from their exciting day and from the Haitian summer heat. After a dinner of chicken with rice and beans, they spent some time together sharing their impressions of the day. Tomorrow they will join the community at a church service in the morning, and then teach the children a Bible story in the afternoon.

Please keep the team in your prayers as they continue their mission! 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Kenya Travel Update

Our Kenya mission medical team arrived safely in Nairobi and was taken to 67 Hotel where members will catch-up on their sleep after being in the air over 16 hours, plus a nearly four hour lay-over in Frankfurt. Thanks for your many prayers!

After a team breakfast and morning devotion, they will depart for Kiu. There they can expect a warm welcoming ceremony filled with prayer, songs, and dancing. They will then be introduced to the community coordinator, leadership council, local pastors, and community members at Kiu Primary School. After lunch, the team will tour the village to learn more about its people and needs. Before leaving for the guest house where they will be staying each night, the group will set-up the medical clinic at AIC Kiu Dispensary. Sunday is devoted to worship and fellowship, and work begins in earnest on Monday. Stay tuned.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
~ Isaiah 58:8