Tuesday, April 30, 2013

shut up and listen

Yesterday, Hallie and I were doing an art project with some of the kids. You put crayon shavings on wax paper in the design that you want to make, and then fold the wax paper over the design and iron it together. It melts the crayons and looks really awesome. Every time a child came for their turn, we explained what they were supposed to do, and then said, "do NOT touch that (the iron). It is very hot and can hurt you." The kids were busy being artistic, but one girl, Wilda ran up to the table, and touched the iron handle repeatedly and turned around and laughed. As I walked her back to her room, I explained how important it was that she needed to listen. I said that I wanted her to be safe, and that because she had not listened, she did not get the opportunity to finish her art project. As we talked, I realized how often I am like Wilda. 

I don't listen to what God says to me. Just as I want what is best for Wilda, for her to not get burned and to enjoy her time to be creative, God has my best interests in mind and often has opportunities for me to see how sovereign and how powerful He is, but I often miss them. Now, I'm not saying God's not in charge, but I am saying that I believe He calls us to live a life of obedience, and sometimes that obedience looks like choosing to listen to Him. You never know what opportunities He has in store for you. This past weekend was one of those times:

I was on the island of La Gonave, and on the way to La Source, by motorcycle, with my friend Donald. About 45 minutes into the moto ride, Donald stopped the bike. We had just been through a little town called Cetwa. This is remote Haiti- no grocery stores, no gas stations, just little houses, little churches, maybe a school, and a little stand with an air pump and a couple gallons of gas for people who come through. So, we are about a half mile outside this town. Donald said, "we have a flat tire, don't we?" Sure enough, I looked at the back tire, and it was flat. I said, "how did you know that?" and he said, "God told me to check it." Donald told me this next part after everything was over, but in his head, he was saying, "what am I going to do with her? I don't have a pump here, and the moto can't hold both of us with this tire. What do I do with this white girl?" As he is thinking this, and not saying anything verbally, I see an elderly woman stand up on her porch. She said, "just leave the white girl here, she can stay with me." The gate to her house, (a piece of tin) was blocking the bike, so she didn't even know what was wrong. All she could see was our faces. We both looked at each other and I said, I'll just walk back with you." And all of a sudden God said, "turn around and go inside." So without hesitating, I said, "nevermind, I'll stay here," and turned and walked toward the gate. Donald rode back to get the tire patched up, and I walked inside the house. Now you may be thinking, you didn't hesitate at all? And honestly, no I didn't. I realized that I was the only American within 30 miles of this place, and didn't even have my knife with me. But that voice was so loud to me that I didn't even question the idea. I just went in. I was thinking, "okay, I speak a little Creole, we'll see how this goes. I don't even know anyone in this whole town." Or so I thought. 

I sat down on the porch with this sweet woman, and we started talking. All of a sudden, I see a face peer around the corner. I gasped and said, "I KNOW YOU!" and he said, "Yes LaLa, I know you too." He said, "Mackabi"and I just squealed and hugged him. Mackabi and his twin brother LoLo used to live in La Source. The last time I was there, I kept looking for them, but someone said that they had moved away. The boys had moved to Cetwa to live with their grandparents because their parents are dead. When LoLo came home from getting the family water at the well, we spent the hour catching up. They asked about everyone that they remembered, and we talked about why I was going to La Source for the day. The boys are 13, going to school and church, and eating every day. At the end of the hour, Donald came back on the bike, we said our goodbyes, and then we continued on to La Source. What would have happened if I had not gone into that house and had walked with Donald? We would have fixed the bike and then gone on our way. But the encouragement that I received from that family as we talked and were able to catch up was amazing. And it was because I listened to what God was telling me to do. Donald listened too. He stopped in front of that house and checked the tire. Right then. 

Wilda did get to finish her art project. And it is beautiful. But she also learned not to touch the iron. And she is learning how important it is to listen when someone who cares about her says something. I am learning too. I'm learning that sometimes God sets up divine appointments. And listening to Him can lead to great blessings. My time in La Source that day was great, and I am so thankful for it. But the encouragement I felt when I spent time with Mackabi and LoLo on the way there was my favorite part of the whole weekend. Sometimes all you need to do is listen. 

LoLo & Mackabi:

 Mackabi and his grandma that invited me in:

 thankful for these boys: 

Monday, April 15, 2013

let's build a house

For the past 4 years, I have been involved in trips to La Source, Haiti. On my first trip my senior year of high school, I fell in love with a 3 year old boy named Pootchy. This kid melted my heart with his dance moves and cheesy smile. We spent that first week together, and I knew that I would be back to see him again. For the next 3 years, I skipped a week of college classes every April and joined the team from Augusta Christian in La Source again for a week of medical clinics and relational ministry. I always brought Pootchy a few toys and some clothes, and started to bring his sisters a dress or two as well. Two years ago, his mom asked me to be his godmother. She said, “I see how you care for him, and I see the bond that the 2 of you have. I know that you cannot take him to America with you, but I want you to pray for him, and please continue to bless him.” I can say, that as this boy’s godmother, his family has in turn blessed me and my family more than they know. 

right when I became Pootchy's godmother:

Pootchy lives with his mom and 2 sisters. He has 5 other older siblings who have moved to other cities to find work. Pootchy’s mom works odd jobs in order to feed her family. For the past few years, she has helped cook the mission teams' meals and washed our clothes in camp. I have come to love not only Pootchy, but his mom and sisters as well. This past January, our families got to meet through a mission trip with Life Ministries International and some college kids from Georgia Southern. My family sponsors him for school each month, which means that he gets a full meal every day at school, and all of his books and uniforms are paid for. I am so thankful for our families’ friendships. Right when I get off the boat, I know that I will be greeted by a sweet boy calling “LaLa!” Through notes and conversation, both families know that we pray for each other and can encourage each other, even from 1,000 miles away. 

Pootchy in his school uniform:

I recently became aware of a huge need for this family. Their house has a concrete foundation, but the walls are made out of wood and the roof is made out of palm branches. When I called a friend in La Source a month ago to ask how Pootchy’s family was, he told me that none of the family is sleeping well.  When it rains, the water leaks through the roof. I know that even living in a different city than he is, it rains hard here many nights. It breaks my heart to know that if it’s raining outside my window here, his family could be awake all night getting soaked in the storm, both through the walls and through the roof. Since I am living in Haiti this semester, I was able to join this year’s April team to La Source. I met with my friend Josh and a contractor to discuss the cost of rebuilding the house. The entire project will cost about $1,500. This will employ the head construction manager and a few other Haitian workers for a week to build this house with concrete walls and a tin roof. When I met with Pootchy’s mom, Roselene, I told her that I did not have $1,000, but that I know that God will provide this money, because he has provided the money for her family to live, and has also provided the funds every year for me to be able to minister in La Source. I told her that her job was to take care of her family, and to start collecting large rocks. The builders will use these rocks as the walls, and will pour concrete around them to build the walls. I told Roselene that I trust that God will provide this $1,000, because there are many, many families and individuals in the States praying for her and her family. She told me how thankful she is for her brothers and sisters all over the world who pray for her.

surveying the house for an estimate:

how the walls and roof connect:

this is the neighbor's house- similar materials will be used on Pootchy's house:

front door entrance:

My family loves Roselene, Pootchy, and their family. When I give Pootchy a pack of crackers, a plate of food, or a bottle of Coke, he runs to each of his friends to make sure they have enough to eat. He has a servant's heart, and is being taught daily by his mama how to live for Christ and be a blessing to others. Through them we have come to experience God’s love amid cultural, language, and geographic barriers. But we cannot build this house alone. Please pray for this project, that this family would be encouraged and blessed by their brothers and sisters who may not live anywhere near them. If you or someone you know would like to partner with us in this project, please Facebook message me or email me at laurenegilpin@gmail.com. Donations of $25, $50, or $100 can help make this possible!

"I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" 
Philippians 1:3-5

Friday, April 5, 2013

waffles babies and tap taps

The past few weeks since the last time I blogged have been crazy. I could blog pages and pages of things- like the time our car got 2 flat tires at once, spending a week with 4 Belgians at the orphanage, the realities of losing power every 5 minutes for the past 3 weeks, or the adventures of traveling to and from Petionville on a taptap with friends. But that would be a book. So here are a few of the significant moments and highlights:

1. I attended my first Haitian funeral, which was quite an interesting experience for many different reasons. A few weeks ago, Kathia, a mom to over 70 street children at a nearby orphanage passed away unexpectedly. I was only able to interact with her a few times, but she was one of the greatest people that I have met since I’ve been here. Haitians express their emotions very differently than Americans, and at funerals there are always several people who, in their grief, start “alligator-death-rolling” around the room, wailing at the top of their lungs, to the point where they have to be carried out of the service. So, while I’m holding a grieving little girl on my lap, folding chairs are flying at us and everyone is jumping out of the way, while a man continues to sing his hymn loud and clear. And while I think it’s rude and disrespectful to the close family and friends of the deceased, I guess these people just really need to express their grief and shock. A few family feuds broke out after the service, and then thankfully it was time to go. All of this happened before 9am on a Saturday morning. 

2. This week, I finished the last of 106 developmental assessments. As a child and family development major, I have taken lots of classes on stages of child development, family dynamics, parenting, etc. So, part of my internship since it’s for Georgia Southern has been to work one on one with each child, see if they are meeting basic milestones physically, mentally, language, and social/emotional. After I do this, I write about different ways to encourage the kids development in areas that they are behind in. This requires knowing each of the kids personalities, strengths, weaknesses, talking to other staff in detail about the kids, and spending lots of time with them. It’s taken me over 3 months, and I can finally say that I’m done! This info is sent to adoptive families or people who are matching kids with families, to hopefully get the best match for the child. I’m so thankful that I was able to get this done already, so now I can do what I’ve been doing here, without having to type up reports for it! When adoptive parents come to visit their kids, I get to sit down with them and talk about things I notice in their child, and ways to best transition them, based on their individual temperament and development. It’s been so neat to meet some of these parents and see how they interact with their kids, and talk with them through this process. 

3. Part of what I do every day is physical therapy exercises with a few babies. A pediatric physical therapist came to Maison a few months ago, and was able to show me things that I can do with a few babies every day to get them caught up to where they need to be. Baby V would scoot on her tummy but hates putting her feet on the floor. Now, after almost 2 months of exercises, she’s crawling everywhere, kneeling, and will stand for a little while. Baby Rosenerlie couldn’t even sit up on her own, but is now sitting up, rolling over, and scooting on her tummy. These sound like little things, but they are huge for these babies, who otherwise would still be staring at the ceiling. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to be a small part of that, and to witness these baby girls thrive and develop. I swear, I feel like such a mom when a baby gets her first tooth, or when they stand for the first time. The nannies laugh at how excited I get. But I think it’s awesome. 

                    Rosenerlie- 13 pounds of fabulous:

4. This past week, I got to go to Petionville twice. Petionville is about a 20 minute ride up from Port au Prince. It's like a different world there. There are cute shops and tall buildings, and the further you go, the quieter it gets. I had to get my visa renewed, so my friend Donald went with me. When Donald and I were walking around the city, taptap drivers  were yelling at him, telling him that the white people didn't walk, that he had to drive me- "the white people hate to walk!" they said. So I told them that I liked walking, and that was that. We then got approached by a rah rah band, who danced for us so we would give them money. Rah rahs have a history of being a form of voodoo worship. The guy kept insisting that I pay him, so finally I yelled, "I didn't ask you to dance for me, I'm not giving money to Satan!!" and walked away...I think I might have embarrassed Donald just a little bit... So, after he had recovered from his public humiliation of being associated with me, we walked past several street vendors, (of course I had to buy a cute dress) and we saw the rest of the city. It was such a fun day. Today, I got to go back with my roommate Hallie, and friend Kerby. We went on a bearhunt for the most delicious burger and waffle place ever and we finally found it. This waffle was so beautiful that I had to document it- my first strawberries since I've been here. Delish:

view of the mountian overlooking Petionville:

Tomorrow I leave for La Source. This is the village that I’ve gotten to visit for the past 4 years. I’m so thankful that my family and college friends were able to come in January with me, and sad that they won’t be here this time. But I can’t wait to meet up with the new team tomorrow. I know it’s going to be a great week. Spending a week with Pootchy is just what I need for a little break from the city. I'm so thankful for this little guy- who knew that meeting him 4 years ago would turn into all of this. Now, my whole family has met his whole family, my parents sponsor him for school, I'm his godmother, half of my suitcase goes straight to his house when we reach the land, and I'm spending a semester here because of him and what he has meant to me. No, I haven't been able to visit him yet, but it's his culture and his child-like love for Jesus that I fell in love with. He teaches me so much, and I can't express how thankful I am for him- even living in a world so different from mine. So excited to see him next week, and ready to see how the Lord will use this team for his glory.