Past Haiti mission trip team members met up recently to assemble Christmas stockings for the children of Bon Berger.  It was a great time to reminisce and talk about how much all of the children and adults in Haiti have touched our lives.  As we get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season, we are grateful to be able to deliver a little Christmas joy from East Tennessee to Haiti.  Sometimes it is hard to comprehend how much we have been given compared to those in a third world country, but our friends in Haiti are rich in the love of Christ!  Will you join us in praying for the children of Bon Berger and all of the adults that make it possible for them to have food, shelter, and love on a daily basis?  Please consider giving to our ministry as well.  All of your donations help provide for the basic needs of the children at Bon Berger. God bless & Merry Christmas!!   
First, praise God that Relo is out of the hospital! He is still very weak, but improving daily. Please continue to pray for his healing.
Someone once told me that half of the beauty in life is in rejoicing in the "small victories." This seemed like a nice quote, but not really real to me.  Who cares about the day to day stuff? It gets legit when the big things in life hit- your graduation, wedding day, 18th birthday...  But this time in my life has been one that showed me that I was completely wrong.
On Sunday, Hayden had to return to America due to illness (please pray for his healing too). When he left, it hit me pretty hard.  I went back to the orphanage and went upstairs to think.  I wasn't looking toward God. Honestly, I was just scared. I felt so alone, but God began to comfort me.  He said "I am always here, you will never be alone"  A beautiful little boy at my orphanage had followed me, his name is Jefferson.  When he saw I was upset, Jefferson lifted his little hand up to my face and with serious eyes looked directly at me.  He said the one English sentence I had taught him, the one way he knew how to make me smile, "I love you." Something about that tiny act changed how I saw things that day, simply because Jefferson did it out of love.
Later in the week, the kids decided that we all needed nicknames (I was like "seriously? I just finished memorizing all of your names! Now I have to learn two??"). But it made them laugh, so of course we made up nicknames.  The first girl came up, pointed to herself and said "Katie." Then Luceson got excited and said "Cory!!" Janina sprung up and yelled "Chris, my name is Chris!"  Finally, I understood.  They were giving themselves the names of people from past mission trips.  People they remember so vividly, even though the kids only spent a week with them.  The kids remember these people because they were shown love. Love is NEVER forgotten.  Even when I think I am spinning my wheels, never going anywhere, there is a small victory.  Because LOVE is the game-changer.  Every miniscule act, when done out of love, will leave a legacy.  This is more than just a small victory!
One thing I love to do is swim. When I was younger my sisters, best friends, and I would play a game in the pool that I'm sure you have played too.  We would go under water & see who could hold their breath the longest.  Plunging under the water, I would stay until I couldn't stand it any more.  With my lungs bursting, I would fling myself above the water and take a huge gasp of air.  This week was that breath of fresh air for me.  I have made a lot of contacts here now and met so many inspiring people. Mostly the children here refresh my spirit daily.  They are capable of so much trust and so much love every day they are excited for whatever we do be it sitting down to study English, dancing, singing or throwing me the sweetest, most thoughtful birthday party ever (watch out world, I'm legal adult now! Isn't that scary?).   

God is expanding my trust in Him.  This week, one of the babies here got very sick.  He started throwing up and things got worse very quickly.  Within hours, we took Relo to the hospital.  The doctors there sent us home with a diagnosis of worms.  It was so frustrating, because there was obviously much more wrong with him.  Over night, his condition worsened and by Friday morning, Relo was completely unresponsive.  After a rushed trip to a different hospital we were told he was severely dehydrated and honestly could have died had we not taken him straight to the hospital.  Relo is still struggling, but we are praying so hard here. Join us? At home, it is so easy to put our trust in other things such as our family, our job, money, healthcare, and ourselves.  Haiti offers me a new frustration daily, but also a new lesson and a renewed sense of joy.  I feel so alive, like I can BREATHE. 
Moving to the orphanage on Sunday was quite the change. Sunday night, we played outside for quite some time and laughed a lot.  The kids were amazed that we would truly be staying there. After playing we had a worship time when the kids sang, it felt amazing to worship the King.  Monday morning we settled into a daily routine.  It is a mad dash in the morning as older kids bathe, fix their hair, and immaculately dress for school.  A hearty meal of spaghetti (yes, spaghetti is a common Haitian breakfast food!) or porridge is served.  Sometimes I am surprised by how much the kids eat.  They come and kiss my cheek before they leave for school.  With the school aged kids gone, the workers begin to mop, sweep, clean bathrooms, and change sheets. I mainly wash dishes or care for the babies during this time.  They were not happy with my cleaning skills! Hayden & I also use this time to shower and eat breakfast.  In the afternoon, when the children return from school, we all greet each other like it's been forever since we last met.  Big smiles, hugs, and kisses on the cheek are expected! The kids take off their uniforms and study.  Sometimes they have me or Hayden help them with their math.
At this time, the workers are washing clothes.  Some days, I will try and help.  I don't know if you've ever washed clothes by hand, but it is difficult to get them clean. Let alone clean to Haiti standards! Many times I will wash a shirt 4 times before it is deemed clean, or I am sent away a lost cause! I will learn eventually (one can hope).  The kids eat an early dinner and we run around in the back.  They play many games we might play at Camp Ba-Yo-Co, such as patty cake, tag, and soccer.  They also play a lot of games that I don't understand, but valiantly attempt, unsuccessfully.  Then we have a nighttime bath, put on sleepy clothes, and do a Bible study.  At night, the older girls and I gather on my bed and talk for a few stolen minutes before we all crash and sleep like rocks.
There is one thing that struck me this week, and that is how hard we work at the orphanage to be clean.  Mopping everyday (the first day I mopped, I learned the Haitian word "repete" quite well, mopping each room 3 times!!).  The kids bathe twice a day and we scrub laundry over and over.  Sometimes until our hands are numb.  So much energy goes toward reaching cleanliness. It makes me wonder, if I will put that much effort into cleaning and laundry, do I put the same into keeping my life pure and clean? 2 Corinthians says "Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit." In my life, I can't help but wonder what my walk with God would look like if I put in the effort to keep my thoughts, attitudes, and actions as clean as the clothes we scrub.  It is something I am working to remember as Hayden and I both faced some sickness and homesickness this week.  A pure attitude makes a difference.  Sometimes, it feels like there's always more to be done.  But when I hear the kids praise God at night, or see the babies laughing, I am not finished yet.  Man, I am worn and more than a little shaken. But..."when I am week, then I am strong" in Christ.  2 Corinthians 12:10
I thought it would hit me that I was here when I got off the plane. But it wasn't until I got out of the airport that I became acutely aware that I had finally made it to Haiti!  It smelled just like I remembered it.  First we went to the guesthouse and then headed to the orphanage.  When Ryan, Hayden, & I arrived we got a full-blown Bon Berger (pronounced Bon Berjay) welcome.  The kids were so excited, jumping up and down and yelling.  When a girl I met in a previous trip, Escala, saw me she said "Laura!!" She was happy, and so was I. For the past few weeks, I have been studying Creole and that helped. The children love it when I try to speak.  They delight in pointing at something and having me repeat the word until I get it right! Thus far, we have been staying at the guesthouse in Haiti, but Hayden and I move into the orphanage on Sunday and then it's the real deal!  I know my patience, kindness, and faithfulness are going to be put to the test.  But for now, I live for those slobbery kisses from the kids, shy smiles, and hysterical giggles.  This looks like a bright beginning...

The team has arrived safely in Port-au-Prince and had quite a first day (including two flat tires)!  I know everyone was thrilled to see them! Please pray for discernment in a big decision regarding the home that houses Bon Berger Children's Home.  Can't wait to hear more over the next couple of days. 

Our first interns; Laura Beth & Hayden, and our director, Ryan, departed for Port-au-Prince, Haiti this morning.  We can't wait to see how God is going to use these willing young people! They are truly going to be the hands and feet of Jesus over the next couple of weeks.  The Madam of Bon Berger Children's Home is going to be thrilled to have two extra pairs of hands to help out with the 35+ children living at Bon Berger.  The kids are going to soak up some extra attention and love.  Most of all, we pray that the kids see the love of Christ through the actions of Laura Beth & Hayden.  Praying for safe travels for everyone!