Friday, August 17, 2012

How do you know when you are in Haiti?

 

While we were in Haiti, Madison and I (and lots of our friends contributed), made a list of ways you know that you are in Haiti. So here goes…

 

You know you are in Haiti when…

your tan lines wash off in the shower.

chocolate turns to mush.

dinosaurs still live in Haiti.

after a shower, you are never really dry.

your bad hair days are taken to a whole new level, but you don’t really know it because there are no mirrors.

everyone around you smells fresh (or it smells like they want to be alone).

there are no speed limits, no stop signs, no lines on the roads, and everyone honks their horn.

you see a lady in her Sunday best riding a donkey.

you see 30 people get off a tap-tap (Haitian taxi) to watch a soccer game.

goats play soccer.

there is a rule for holding children…they must be wearing underwear.

a smile is all you need to communicate with the children.

you are super excited to get an extra fan in your bedroom.

you are just as sweaty after your shower as you were before the shower.

you prefer to shower outside.

everyone thinks David is Jackie Chan, and they do their best kung-fu moves for him.

the coke is REAL!

you are never regular.

the word fresh can replace any dirty word.

the mall closes down because of a rain storm (the mall is a term we used for the outdoor market).

the security system at the homes is a bunch of broken bottles cemented into the top of the concrete wall around the house.

a line of cactus serves as a fence around your property.

you know the generator has shut off in the middle of the night because you can hear Jack snoring.

you know, when it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.

your toothpaste melts.

the ocean is much cleaner than the pool.

 

 

To all my Haiti travel buddies, if you can think of others, please leave them in the comments!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What did the boys do while you were in Haiti?

 

As many of you know, I’m a stay at home mom. We don’t really get vacations. In order for me to take a week off and go to Haiti, I had to have someone really skilled, competent and loving to take my place at home with Cohen for a week. As I’m sure you are aware, this is not an easy position to fill. Who is worthy? Well, Cohen’s father of course!

 

I have a wonderful husband, who supports me in everything I do. He knew it would be lots of trouble to try to get someone to work around his work schedule and stay at our home to watch Cohen, so he decided that he would just do it himself. He took a week off of work, and stayed home with Cohen. He’s mentioned several times before this week at home with Cohen that he doesn’t understand how I can stay with him all day everyday. After a week at home with Cohen, he now says “I can totally see how you do it.” He loved every minute, as I’m sure Cohen did too.

 

Here are a few pictures of their fun together.

 

Breakfast. I don’t love to cook, so breakfast is not usually a cooked meal when I’m home. With Jace, it’s something fancy!

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The boys had lunch (or maybe dinner) at Taco Bell, because they can’t go there with me, because I strongly dislike that food.

 

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One day they went fishing with Nan and Pops. This is the only picture I have of that experience. Looks like the fishing was real good in the front yard. (I have some printed pictures, so if you live nearby and want to see the printed pictures from Nan’s camera, please stop by…I’d love to show them off).

 

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Another meal that must be eaten when Mom is out of the country…hot dogs. I despise hot dogs, but the boys love them.

 

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All that fun with Daddy is really exhausting. So exhausting that Cohen couldn’t even make it all the way on the couch before falling asleep.

 

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I missed my boys more than ever, but I’m so happy that they had a week all to themselves. Daddy’s and kids need that every now and then.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How was your trip to Haiti? (Day 6 and 7)


On the morning of our final full day in Haiti, we returned to the community of LaPiste and played with the children. Melanie did a great story about creation and the kids drew a dolphin on a paper plate.

This is a picture of the homes in LaPiste.

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Evidentially, this is the sign for “octopus” in creole.

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Check out that cute dolphin!

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I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but I’m drawn to the boys. They all remind me of Cohen and as much fun as the girls are, these boys are hysterical! They were drawing all kinds of things and asking me questions and telling jokes.

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In the afternoon, we loaded up on the bus and went to a resort in order to relax and really enjoy Haiti. It’s so easy to look at this country and think of it as nothing but a 3rd world country with no hope for a future, but when you see the resort (which is fancy for Haiti, but still far below American standards), you can see hope. Hope that one day, through tourism, business development, education, and ministry, Haiti can become much more than just a struggling 3rd world country.

I have never been to the Caribbean, so I was absolutely amazed at the clear blue water.

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What a great day!

The very next day, we all got up early for our flights home. Here are a few shots of me and my Haiti roommates, Madison, Carly and Chelsea. On our first day, our leader told us to split up by ages for room assignment. I looked around and realized at 30 years old, I was old, and I was about to be put in a room with folks my age. Madison, being just 17, was going to be put in the room with the younger girls. I kinda made a face, and I think the group leader saw me and offered to let me sleep with the younger girls. Thank goodness! Chelsea and Carly were great roommates!

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I saw this sign at the airport. Sad day. Goodbye Haiti.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

How was your trip to Haiti? (Day 5)

 

 

I was actually selected as blog writer for the group for the 5th day. How exciting!

 

Instead of posting the blog at the bottom, I’m just going to put it here at the top, then do the pictures after that.

 

 

July 17, 2012

Today was another wonderful day in Haiti. Last night might have been my best night of sleep yet. God blessed us with a cold front (or just a cool breeze). After a night of unbearable heat and humidity, the cool breeze coming from our window was like a gift sent straight from God. Of course, our room could have been cooler last night because my roommate, Madison, stole another fan from the dining room. Our room officially had 4 fans for 4 girls. We had to use our sheet covers because it got so cold (and by cold, I mean it may have dropped below 90 degrees in our room).

 

At breakfast, I felt like everyone was in a little better mood because of the cooler night. Of course, it could have been because our wonderful cooks, Keket, Maude, and Keket, made some very yummy banana pancakes. These ladies can cook!

 

After breakfast, we had a short devotional from Robert. He gave us a coach’s halftime speech and reminded us that our time in Haiti is not over, so we should still be working hard for the Lord. It is truly amazing how God has taught each of us so many things about His wonderful grace. I’ll explain more about our learning experiences a little later, for now, I’m just going to tell you about our day.

 

It all started with a trip to the Mission of Hope complex to drop off Jack. He is our resident team handyman and he’s used his talents to help Kyle do some much needed tune-up work on his truck. I’m sure Jack never imagined that his talents would be used in this manner in Haiti, but it just goes to show that God has a bigger plan for all those talents He has graciously given to us.

 

Once our group made it to Leveque, we did some shopping! The deaf community of Leveque is a very talented group of people. They showed us beautiful necklaces made from handmade beads, hand painted pictures of the landscape and homes in Leveque and some very fancy crocheted bags and scarves. If you are lucky, your family members may have purchased you one of these treasured items. They are such hot items that they sold so fast so my family members will just have to do without. Sorry guys. I guess that means I have to come back to Haiti, right?

 

After we bought up almost everything the community had to sell, we moved our group to the pavilion in the middle of the village and pulled out our “Bag of Tricks.” Margaret has given the big red bag full of fun and games the name “Bag of Tricks.” A few members of our group read a short story about the Armor of God, and then we led the kids in an amazing painting activity. They were each given a small shield (made from poster board), a paintbrush, and some paint. These kids are very creative! We had paint everywhere! Paint made it on our clothes, their clothes, the floor, the benches, the walls, and even the ceiling (you’d have to have been there to have fully appreciated the mess). When you have about 40-50 kids with paint and brushes, it’s a bit chaotic, but it was such a blessing to see the stunning artwork. I love messes, so this activity was my favorite of the week.

 

We took the paint and the brushes and put them all in a big trash bag to be washed later and that bag is still missing. I do hope we find it soon because I want to paint again! It was so much fun!

 

After painting, the kids separated into smaller groups. We painted fingernails, danced, sang, played games, and just enjoyed each other’s company. I’d like to remind you that most of our group from America does not speak Creole. Did that stop us? No! This week, I have discovered that love can be shown in any language. Kids don’t need to hear our voices to know that they are loved. They can see it clearly in our actions. The hugs, smiles, laughter, songs, dances, and games spoke louder than any words we could have found. Again, this is just another example of how God uses any talent we may have for His glory. Alex probably never thought her dancing skills would have played such an important role in Talisa’s life, but she made one little girl very happy today. Madison and Melanie probably thought their patience and nail painting expertise would never be used in Haiti, but they were wrong. They blessed many little girls (and their moms) today. Annie and Lindsey shared experiences with a member of the deaf community in Leveque. Sharing a similar background allowed them to connect with a member of this community in ways that no one else in our group could.

 

After playing for a couple of hours, we loaded back up on the bus and headed to “Gwo Papa Poul” or Big Papa’s Chicken. They served real Coke, chicken and rice. While waiting for our food, Annie told the best deaf joke I’ve ever heard, Kyle shared one of his stories about his time in the jungle and we thoroughly enjoyed some down time with our group. Of course, the food was wonderful! They served my favorite food…onions! Seriously, no joking, I do love onions!

 

Next on our agenda: the weekly soccer game. We met up with some fellow Americans who were volunteering with the Mission of Hope. The Haitians like to play music while they play soccer, so that led to lots of dancing. At one point, we looked up and the soccer players had come to the sidelines (mid game) to watch the dancing! (And by “us” I mean a bunch of rhythm-challenged Americans, with a few on the team who made up for with their amazing dance skills). As for the final score of the game, maybe they were tied. I honestly don’t know if they even kept score. I should have been watching the game more and dancing less, so I could have reported the correct score to our friends and family. Sorry about my lack of knowledge of soccer. I’ll try better next time (notice how I’m implying I’m coming back…that’s for my husband’s benefit, because he’s coming next year!).

 

After a long game in the hot, Haitian sun, we circled up, Americans and Haitians, deaf and hearing, and sang “How Great is Our God.” The award for Most Memorable Moment of the Trip would go to that experience. Imagine it: about 100 people in a huge circle singing and signing. It was beautiful!

 

Pastor William prayed for us after our song. He is a very passionate man, and I love to watch him sign. He expresses himself so well, that most of the time I don’t need a translator to hear what he has to say. It is so obvious that he loves God and the people of Haiti. They are truly blessed to have his as their Pastor.

 

It was our last day in Leveque, so there were hugs for everyone. Most of us in our group have only known the people of Leveque for a couple of days, but the relationships we built in that short time are so strong. I know I will miss little Emeson very much. He reminded me so much of an older version of my own son.

 

For dinner, our lovely cooks made fried chicken and mashed potatoes. It was so very yummy! For dessert, we passed around a bag of Hershey’s Drops, my mother-in-law sent with me. For future reference, don’t pack chocolate when you go to Haiti. It melts, because it is hot here. So we really just passed around a bag of mushy chocolate, but because we were so desperate for chocolate, we didn’t care.

 

After dinner, we gathered in the dining area for a wrap-up or debriefing meeting. Jack asked each of us to share something God has shown us during our time in Haiti. Jill was impressed that the kids wrote “Jesus” on their shields earlier in the day. Just goes to show how much they are learning. Eunique mentioned that there is unity everywhere; between the children and volunteers at the pavilion, the leaders in the deaf community, both deaf and hearing, Americans and Haitians at the soccer game. Chelsea mentioned that she found a lady in Leveque wearing a shirt from her church back in Georgia, and they had a conversation about it (note: Chelsea does not know sign language or Creole, and the lady did not know English…but they could communicate anyway). Melanie and Margaret saw a man, who lost use of his legs at some point in his life, pulling himself down the dangerous, hot roads of Haiti. Talk about a man on a mission. He was determined to get where he was going, and nothing could stop him.

 

While we might have come to Haiti to share God’s love with the people of Haiti, I think they may have taught us more about God than we could ever teach them in a lifetime. I praise God for the opportunity to come to Haiti, and I hope that one day I can return.

 

Here are some pictures of us doing the painting project with the kids. What a mess!!

 

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Madison and Melanie gave the girls manicures! They LOVED this!

 

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The other children played games. The first one was similar to simon says, but you say something (in creole, so I didn’t understand it), then the kids jump over a line. If they jump at the wrong time, they are out. Last one left is the winner.

 

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Then we brought out the basketball goal. This game was great! The boys loved it!!

 

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Next…lunch at Gwo Papa Poul. We had the “Hatian Meal” which is some yummy chicken, rice and friend plantains.

 

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Here are a few pictures from the soccer game. One word to describe this game, HOT! There was no shade, no breeze, no relief, but we didn’t care. It was a great game!

 

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While some of the boys played soccer, we danced. They had a huge sound system setup. If you know me, then you know my love for dancing. When this nice Haitian man asked me to dance, I couldn't refuse. Sorry Jace.

 

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As much fun as it was dancing with the Haitian Man, this was my favorite dance partner for the week…Emeson. I do love this kid.

 

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My Emeson. I miss him so much!

 

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

How was your trip to Haiti? (Day 4)

 

The morning of our fourth day, we went to Leveque with the purpose of building a cross out of stones in the side of one of the hills. It was great watching it come together, and working as a team – Americans and Haitians. The adults and kids in the community helped us so much and it was another wonderful way for us to build relationships with the people of Haiti.

 

This is the before picture…

 

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Can you see my sweet Emeson in this picture? I was super excited to see him once again. He kept calling all the American Ladies “Emily.” It made me so happy.

 

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Here is the after picture…

 

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It was a really neat experience and it’s nice to know that the cross will be there for a long time, even though the ones of us that built it may not be there.

 

While we were building a cross out of rocks, a few of the other folks in our team from 410 Bridge were teaching Pastor William about Joseph. He learned the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and we asked him if he would tell the story to us. You do not need to know sign language to understand the stories William tells. He is very animated and his facial expressions and movements tell you everything you need to know about Potiphar's wife.

 

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After lunch, we returned to Leveque only for a few minutes. It started raining and we were concerned about crossing the creek, so we loaded back up on the van and headed back to the guesthouse.

 

I didn’t take pictures of the kids in the rain, but in Haiti, when it rains…that means it’s SHOWER TIME! All the kids were outside, naked, some had soap, and they were getting themselves clean. It was too funny.

 

 

Now for the blog for the day…

 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Submitted by Jodie Fuller:

 

Hello dear family and friends! It is a great privilege to be able to write you an update on our team. Today was a bit unusual as we experienced a decent size rain storm for most of the afternoon. But let me begin from…. well…..the beginning.

 

The morning began in a normal way for us in Haiti. We awoke to the early sounds of roosters crowing. For me, that means around 3am California time….for the majority of the team 6am. As has been mentioned before, the ladies here at our Guesthouse sure can cook….and they prove it with each and every meal. I have been especially blessed by the fellowship our team enjoys. With a team made up of people from across the US…God proves that HE is sovereign and in control. This morning I sat during breakfast just taking in the great unity we share.

 

Once breakfast was finished we began getting ready to take our bus ride over to Leveque. Along the road we consistently see little old women atop donkeys, traveling to or from market. Sometimes they are dressed so regally. The juxtaposition is heartwarming. The people here hold themselves with such confidence, with much proper pride in their work. Their lives are not easy, but they trust God and are a joyous people.

 

The plan for today (unless God wanted to change it) was that Kathryn would continue her translating work with William, and the rest of us would work on clearing a hill to create a cross with large rocks so that all who come to Leveque will know that it is a community built upon Christ. I have never seen so many hard and joyful workers in all my life. David got right to work using a machete’ on some brush. Emily easily is one of THE most lovely and joyous women I have met. She kept up with the men all the way!! Oh, and I will never forget the dancing conga style line (hello Eileen!!) as we passed rocks to each other in an assembly style line. We worked so well as a team that we finished the cross much earlier than we expected.

 

I personally left the cross area for just a little while to visit in with Kathryn and William, one of the deaf leaders/pastor in training. Today William was taking some of the story of Joseph that he had learned yesterday, and signing it for himself. If there is anything I can leave readers of this blog with, it would be the major importance the 410 Bridge is in this country and especially in this community. Seeing firsthand a man called by God to pastor this community was amazing. With every sign, every movement….you can see the calling of God on this man. You can see everywhere you turn how the sustainable living model is the appropriate one. We are not here to give to the people, but to work alongside them and let them take responsibility for their futures.

 

We arrived back at the Guesthouse and enjoyed our lunch time. Once refreshed we began preparing to leave for our afternoon activities within the community. A pretty major rain storm was on its way, but we decided to travel. We arrived in the community just as the storm had begun. We traveled up the hill to the community center/church pavilion. We were greeted by many children and young adults, all finding the rain a great opportunity to either take a clean/free shower or play dominoes under shelter. Due to the amount of rain, the decision to come back to the Guesthouse was made rather quickly.

 

For the past few days I have noticed a connection that the young ladies on our team have with the children here. Carly especially has had her High School French studies come in handy. The children flock to her, Alex, Emily, and Chelsea. Emily has exclaimed that the children here are so amazingly loving…”all you have to do is smile and they love you” Love truly has no language barrier.

 

After a wonderful dinner, Annie began an ASL class with the majority of the team. Everyone caught on quickly and found the time enjoyable. Once the class was finished we all were blessed by Annie’s life story as she shared her experiences growing up Deaf in India and the US. Thank you so much Annie for the privilege to get to know you! You are a wonderful young woman and we love you.

 

Once Annie was finished with her life story she and Lindsey transitioned into our devotion time. They shared about what it means to be a servant and how we need to keep our focus on the eternal things, not earthly things.

 

On a more personal note, sometimes it is the quiet person, the one who is in the background, that can make a huge impact on our lives. I have seen God use Robert in such a gentle and loving way this week. Watching him care for the babies in the community truly has touched my heart.

 

I would like to backtrack a moment to yesterday. Yesterday, a boy named Albert was brought to the 410 Bridge Guesthouse. He is 17, but looks about 10 years old. He has lived in an orphanage in the middle portion of Haiti all his life. He is deaf and has no language. He possesses a few home signs, but no true language. Can you imagine? Some caretakers of his are very concerned about his future. Kathryn sat down with him and in just 5 minutes of teaching with flash cards the boy had a vocabulary of 9 signs. I took pictures of this historic event. Within a week he will need to have somewhere else to live. We are all thanking God that a group from another church is here under the Mission of Hope organization and they have 4 Deaf within their team. The orphanage has agreed to keep Albert one week longer so that these Deaf men and women from the US can give him as much language as possible. Please be praying for Albert.

 

As I write this the sound of laughter can be heard from upstairs. The ladies have gathered in one of the rooms to just hang out. It blesses me to hear them. It blesses me to see younger people who are getting the idea that their lives are not their own, but they are bought with a price….they are Christ’s.

 

By God’s gracious mercies alone,

 

Jodie Fuller (for the whole 410 Bridge Team)

Friday, August 10, 2012

How was your trip to Haiti? (Day 3)


Our third day in Haiti was a Sunday, so we went to church in Leveque. They speak Creole in Haiti, so of course we couldn’t understand any of the message, but it was an amazing worship experience anyway. They have a sign language translator at the church for the deaf community. They sang “Blessed Assurance” in Creole as well.

Here we are all dressed for church.

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We went back to the guesthouse for lunch, and after lunch we returned to Leveque. We met up with some of the kids from the community and drew on paper plates. I met this handsome man my first day in Leveque and fell in love. His name is Emeson and he’s a great kid! We played ball together the first day, drew together today, and later you will see us dancing together (in a later post because that happened later in the week).

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One of the ladies from my church donated these really neat sign language bears. The kids loved them! You stick your hands through the bears arms, then put on the red gloves, then start teaching sign language.

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Here are the kids dancing. They LOVE to dance!

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Below is the blog for the day. I believe this one is written by Carly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Today was our second full day in Haiti and I think it’s safe to say that everyone has already fallen in love with the people and culture of this country. We started off the day by attending an early church service in Leveque, which was absolutely amazing. The church, which is also used as the community center, is an open-air pavilion. When we arrived, there was already a very large crowd of Haitians from Leveque and the surrounding area who were ready to worship and glorify God. The church accommodates for both the hearing and the Deaf, which helps reiterate the importance of a friendly relationship between the two. 410 Bridge is working very hard to help the people of Leveque understand how beneficial it is for the hearing and the Deaf to live amongst each other in harmony. At the service, the preacher shared his sermon in Creole, the native language of Haiti. In addition to the preacher, there was an interpreter who shared the sermon with the Deaf members of the community. Since there are only a few people in our group who know sign language fluently, many of us were unable to understand the church service. Personally, I think that the language barrier made this experience even more special. We didn’t necessarily have to understand every word the preacher spoke to see that these people are so very passionate about praising and glorifying God. There was so much positive energy resonating throughout the church and I am so thankful that we had a chance to share this experience with the people of Leveque. After the service ended, William, who is training to become the Deaf pastor of Leveque, explained the sermon in further detail to the Deaf members of the church. As he was using sign language, Katherine was interpreting the message into English so our group could understand the sermon. I cannot even explain how amazing William is when he is preaching to his fellow Deaf members of Leveque. Words don’t even begin to give this man justice. He is so passionate about the Lord and the importance of living a righteous life that glorifies God. He, along with Katherine, explained that the sermon was about the temptations that people face over the course of their lives and how important it is to remain pure. William is captivating to watch because he uses so much emotion as he communicates with the Deaf members of Leveque.   After William completed the sermon, our group, along with a church group from Florida, headed to the construction site of Leveque’s future church. The church sits on top of a hill that overlooks the entire community and will be a wonderful upgrade for the sweet people of Leveque. Saturday night, Katherine suggested that each one of us write either a favorite Bible verse or a special prayer on a piece of paper, to leave at the construction site of the church. When we arrived Sunday, they were digging holes to prepare the foundation of the church. We read our prayers aloud and then put them in the holes so that they will forever be a part of the church’s foundation! After doing so, we returned to the guesthouse and shared lunch and fellowship with the other church group from Florida.   Once our appetites were satisfied and we were rested, we returned to Leveque for the afternoon activities. Jodi and Margaret were teaching the children both sign language and English, which will greatly improve their overall communication with each other, as well as lessening the language barrier between the people of Leveque and future mission trip/church groups. In order to help the children better understand this foreign information, Jodi and Margaret used flashcards and had the children repeat the word back to them, in both English and sign language. These children are SMART! It was amazing to watch how quickly they absorbed the information and the pride they took in themselves for learning. Simultaneous to the English/sign language lessons, a large group of us were playing with the beautiful children of Leveque! We brought paper plates and markers so that they could unleash their artistic talents and draw whatever they desired! In addition to drawing, we also used Karlenes’ radio to listen to music and dance with the kids. Karlenes is one of the hearing members of Leveque and can speak English very well. He also has a great taste in American music, which is what was primarily playing on his radio. After spending several hours in Leveque, we returned to the guesthouse. Across the street from the house, there is a huge soccer field where the Haitians play or practice their skills on a daily basis. It just so happened, that they had a game going on around 5:00, so we were able to watch them play from the balcony of the house. Not only do they have passion for God, but they also have passion for soccer… and they are good! We then ate dinner, which was prepared by the three Haitian women who stay at the house and cook for us. They are all so sweet and have prepared us amazing meals so far! After dinner, the three women agreed to share their own stories for us. They told us where they’re from, what their families are like, and what they enjoy to do for fun. One of the cooks speaks very good English, so she was able to interpret her friends’ answers and relay the information to us. These ladies all have such great hearts and attitudes. It was a lot of fun getting to know the three of them a little bit better. To wrap up the night, we had a short devotion, which was prepared by David. He did a wonderful job and talked about how we often forget that our body is the temple of God and the importance of taking care of ourselves, in order to glorify God. I think that many people were touched by David’s words and went to bed with a happy heart!