Haiti Help Portrait Trip Day 2


I have to start this entry by saying thanks to everyone who has been writing us on Facebook, twitter and otherwise. We really appreciate your prayers and your kind words.

Today was another incredible day here in Haiti. Before breakfast was served we got talking about a particular youtube video then we had to pause and let everyone watch it. You may have seen the “Teasing the Dog” video – it got us all laughing. I mention this because it turned into a major joke throughout at the day and if you want to get a feel for the jovial attitude that this team has you’ll want to watch it. After breakfast we met and had a devotional where we talked about the day. We had a great prayer time. Kyle said that Josh made his journal today when he prayed for a Hope that is ignorant of the odds against us here in our endeavors with the deaf culture. Between a full night’s rest, a good breakfast, some fervent prayer and a hearty laugh we all felt really energized for the day.

 

We started off the day with a long ride to Leveque just outside of Cabaret, which is close to Chicago, oddly enough – that’s a musical theater joke – Okay, it wasn’t close to Chicago, but it did take us about as long to drive there. It was interesting to see rural Haiti after spending a day in Port Au Prince. The n

 

eighborhoods are generally safer and this area has lots fertile land and several good schools that the children in the community could attend. Mission of Hope has already built a considerable number of homes in this area already. The people living in this area all have space for gardens and we met a few of the residents as we came to tour around.

photo by Lori Mercer
Photo by Lori Mercer

We hiked around the property and saw where the deaf community will move – with the ocean just to the west and mountains to the east and plenty of room for gardening it’s a prime place for this relocation. We also saw the place for the new church that Frazer will be helping develop. I took the opportunity to take several video segments with Kyle explaining about where everything would be located. There will be basketball courts and a soccer field in addition to a new guest house for our future mission teams. I hope to have the video edited quickly and on the missions blog and transformation blog soon.

Photo by Billy Pope

Billy Pope, a photographer with 15 years experience said that this has been the most fun that he’s had shooting photos. The spirit ofratitude is palpable as its mutual between the deaf community and our team as we all feel so blessed to be here, participating in such a fun act of service. The single most common sign we see everyday is ‘thank you.’ Every time we show them their photo they say thank you and we thank them for letting us take it. The proud mothers with their children all lined up, the young couples as well as the elderly all lined up – each eager to get their picture taken and so loving and thankful while we’re just as thankful for the opportunity.

There were a number of children who were very fascinated with my beard. They all would run up to me andclimb up on me and start tugging at my chin. At one point I was carrying four children around. They’re all so loving and eager for attention. Many of the teenagers were also around at this point and I started talking with them teaching them different english words. Kyle was working hard to get all the kids young and old to start calling me “Grizzly Beard” this was too difficult for the Haitian children, to say fortunately so he settled for calling me “Papa Bear.” At one point they were all surrounding me chanting “Papa Bear! Papa Bear!”

One of the coolest people that we’ve gotten know over the past few days is thewoman that Kyle calls his ‘Haitian Mom’ I wish all of you could hear her voice – in spite of being deaf, she’s quite vocal and she has the most infectious laugh. She treats the kids like she’s all of their grandmother -shooing them away when they’re misbehaving and giggling when they’re being silly.

Perhaps the coolest indicator of how close we’ve become is that some of us have scored name-signs with the community. Yesterday the several leaders argued over what mine should be – they finally settled on a ‘W’ over the stomach (a loving comment on my weight.) Diane also got one – a ‘D’ on the cheek. I spent some time trying to pick up new signs today while the photographers shot. Again, the eagerness and thankfulness of the people in the community is just astounding.

Here are a few photos from today from Billy

And here are a few from Lori

And a few from Nick

My personal favorite moment of the day was probably toward the end of the day when a little boy came into the doorway of the leader’s hut. I had been sitting with the sign language dictionary trying to learn new signs. I signed to him “Christ Loves You” and he smiled and said back in sign language “Thank you.”

And so I end saying to all of you – Christ loves you and thank you for your continued prayers. Tomorrow is our last full day so please pray that it will be all that it can be. So far the trip has been amazing.

Haiti Help Portrait Trip Day 3

Bonswa everyone. Our last day has been a truly great one here in Port Au Prince. Our day started with a devotional out of My Utmost for His Highest from a couple of days ago.

We also spent some time discussing the current political climate in Haiti. The new president has recently declared that he wants to rebuild Haiti’s national army. This may not sound like a bad thing until you find out that it was the Army that was the cause of much of the political instability in Haiti until the 1990′s. Apparently one dictator would seize power then a few months later his general would move the army in, kill him and take his place, only to have his new general move in a few months later. This President is expected to order the UN peacekeeping forces to leave so that he can replace them with an Army, creating Jobs for Haitians. The problem with this is that the government can’t afford to build a force equivalent to that 13,000 UN troops that currently keep the peace here. Many Haitians don’t like the UN. At best they don’t think they do much; at worst they don’t think they should be here at all. So to say the least, Haiti’s situation needs prayer.

 After breakfast we took a photo of the team and headed out for the day. Our first stop was a place at which the other teams who have come here have stopped, Rebuild Globally. This is a cool organization that uses materials readily available – old tires and trashed clothes – to make flip flops, jewelry and bags. It’s great because not only are they recycling materials, they’re also employing haitians at very good wages. We talked to them about ways the deaf community and Frazer can get involved with what their doing. We discussed the possibility of opening a Rebuild Globally branch near their new homes and the managers were enthusiastic. I hope we can get involved in helping them finding places to sell their goods here in the states. You can visit their website for more info.
Photo by Billy Pope

After stopping by a gas station to grab some water and snacks, we headed on to spend the rest of the day with the deaf community. My sign language had gotten good enough to make some conversation finally. As we finished out the photos we had come to find out that there was one couple that had recently had a baby and that she wasn’t ready to leave her house, so Billy, Josh and I headed over to their house and we caught a photo of them. It was one of the most precious photos that the team took.

We took time to interact with the community more. At one point I started dancing to some music with the kids and Josh told me that one of the community members signed “The fat guy can dance.” This is beginning to be a theme; maybe its time to lose some weight. I got into a conversation in the leaders hut about the percussionist Evelyn Glennie who is deaf. They talked about how she could feel the vibrations. After a few moments I started stoping out a rhythm on the floor and suddenly they all started stomping and tapping around the room. It was so much fun. I got into a tap-dancing competition with one of the guys. It was a blast.

Photo by Lori Mercer

We all told the community members that Jesus loves them and I was surprised at how shocked some of them were to hear this from us. The leadership council of the community took a photo together as well as Mackenson, the leader of the group. It was really cool to see the leadership take charge of organizing the group – settling disputes and making decisions. I learned the sign for ‘wise’ just so I could tell Mackenson how impressed I was with his decision making skills.

We finished with Nick and Billy walking around getting photos of a few of the children for future sponsorship profiles. Soon we’ll be offering people the opportunity to pay for a child’s schooling here in Haiti and they’ll be going to one of the top schools in the country- all very exciting. We were pretty tired at the end of the day. I don’t know that I have a reason for posting this picture other than the fact that it’s may favorite picture of Billy and Nick from this week. I think it looks like a buddy comedy movie poster.

If you can come up with a caption for this photo let me know – I can’t figure one out that is worthy of the awesomeness of this picture. In addition to this one (one of the only photos that I shot) Billy, Nick and Lori worked hard for us to total our three days to over 120 portraits between three days of shooting. But now the real work begins. They’ll have to edit through hundreds of different photos, picking out each household’s photos. We’ve been talking about having a special photo exhibition to raise the money to pay for the prints and possibly raise funds for future Haiti trips or Help Portrait events. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you and we’ll see if we can make it happen.

Click the thumbnail to see the full photo.Here are Nick’s

Billy’s

Lori’s

Over all this trip has been amazing and we’re already talking about our next Help Portrait event and many of us are excited to get back to Haiti again soon. I’ve got some sign language to work on – as many of the deaf people told me. (And apparently some weight to lose) But I’ve never had this much fun on a mission trip. I really feel that we conveyed the love of Christ to these people, even just in taking these photos and talking with them. I felt so fortunate to have been a part of this trip. At the end of the day I asked Mackenson what he would like to say to Frazer on video and the thrust of it was that this team was helpful and he’s glad that Frazer is involved with the community.

We head for the airport first thing tomorrow, so pray for safe travels! We’re excited to get these photos printed and framed! Thanks for everyone who has been reading. If you read this I’m telling you that you should come to Haiti. Whatever obstacle is in your way God is bigger. Learn some sign language, get here and love on these people.

Tompy, the Haitian 410 Bridge National Coordinator was extremely helpful throughout our trip.

 

To God be the glory.

Further reading:

Nick’s Blog, Lori’s Blog and Billy’s Blog are all awesome as well.

-You can always visit Frazer’s Mission Blog and Transformation Blog to read about the progress of this and other projects.

-To get closest to the action visit kyleinhaiti.com to hear from Kyle Reschke, a good friend of mine, and Frazer’s missionary in the field in the deaf community.

Haiti Help Portrait Trip Day 1

butch said we had to be up at 4:00 in the morning, my response was “No, silly 4:00 is in the afternoon!” Photo by Lori Mercer

Mr. T escorting us by motorcycle to the New Life Children’s home Photo by Lori Mercer

I write to you at the end of a very long day. We started today at 3:00am (for us) and flew out of Ft. Lauderdale. We got to the airport really early but took some time to review our sign language and Creole. The flight was good. We arrived around 10am and made our way to the New Life Children’s home where most of Frazer’s teams stay on our trips here. The compound includes a guest house, church, garden and orphanage. It’s walled and there’s an armed guard at the gate. There is no better place for mission teams to stay at Port Au Prince.

Kyle met us in the airport and we were escorted from there by our Haitian police friend who is lovingly referred to as “Mr.T.” Once we got to New Life we sat down and Kyle told us a little about how things were going to go. He told us that the leadership of the deaf community volunteered to organize the people in the community to be ready to have the photos taken.

When we arrived at the community we were quickly mobbed by all of the children who absolutely love Kyle. As soon as the car from 410 drove up children came running out of the huts to meet him. Many people are surprised to find out that even though the adults in the community are deaf, most of the children are hearing. It’s very common for this to happen, but especially in Haiti where much of the deafness comes as the result of illness rather than condition from birth. The children in the community love to sing. Kyle plays guitar for them and goes through the few praise songs that he knows – often translating them into Creole. One of the coolest moments of the day was hearing all these Haitian children singing at the top of their lungs ‘Wi Jezi, wi Jezi, wi Jezi…’ – the chorus from ‘Trading my Sorrows.”

We got to hear from several members of the leadership council most of whom are very young and all seem like very smart, determined people. Mackenson St.Louise is one of the leaders and he is determined that the community learn English as well as French, Creole and Proper American Sign Language. In an effort to help in their endeavors we delivered to them several books that help teach proper sign language. They wasted no time as soon as we were done they they all took one of the books and set down to read them. It was awesome to watch them as they devoured the books – each of them was trying out the signs depicted in the books and then showing the others.

Josh Brewer, our wonderful translator was there to translate several amazing stories as the leadership council each shared where they were during the earth quake and how they came to the deaf community. You can hear more about Mackinson’s awesome story on kyle’s blog.

Photo by Lori Mercer

The team and the members of the deaf community were fast friends as they were all telling us stories and asking us questions. Many of them sat with us as we all hand-spelled our names and made what conversation we could. It was an enormous blessing. We took a tour of the community were we saw that a number of the people there have already started their own micro enterprise – artisans hocking their wares, other people selling other kinds of goods – there’s even a local pub.

Let the Photos Begin

Photo by Lori Mercer

Finally we started taking photos. God really provided for us in a cool way when it came time for us to decide where we were going to shoot. Since the first meeting we had been wondering were we were going to stage the photos, originally thinking that we’d try taking them totally outside in front of the T-houses you see in the above picture. But when we got there we found out that just in the past few weeks a new tent had been donated by UMCOR (woot! woot! UMC represent!). The tent was the perfect size and opacity; It provided a great back drop with a neutral white and wonderful diffused light that allowed the photographers to set up a single flash and take pictures that look exactly as if they’d been taken in in a studio.

It didn’t take long for word to get around the camp and soon Billy, Lori and Nick had their hands full with families wanting their photos taken together. Diane was busy taking names so that we were sure to match up the photos with the correct households when we return with the framed photos in December. I acted as a light stand for much of the afternoon. Butch was doing crowd control and Josh was in the middle the whole time, making sure that everyone was understood. I wish I could tell you how amazing it was to take photos of these people and show it to them. Though none of them speak english – and many of them don’t speak at all – we could all see the joy in their faces as they each saw a photo of themselves. All of them were very thankful. It was funny to see the number of things that are universal – the awe of an elderly couple looking into each others’ eyes in one photo, teenagers refusing to smile in a family picture and the fact the everyone feels joy knowing that they’re worth photographing.

Here are a few of the photos from today – all three photographers contributed a great deal today. These three photos were taken by Billy Pope. You can see the larger image by clicking on them. Keep in mind these were all taken in the same tent in the deaf community.

for more photos by Nick, you can visit his blog 

End of the day

Tonight we had the blessing of joining the children at the New Life Center for their evening devotional. Though the whole thing was in creole, I was still struck by the sincerity of their faith and the universality of our God. As the team leader I was asked to stand up and tell the kids who we were so I explained through a translator what we were doing and introduced the team. After the devotional each one of the children approached each one of us to wish us ‘good night’ or ‘god bless’ in english. It was a really cool experience.

over all it was a really good day – we’re all excited to get back out there tomorrow, but the whole team is really tired. Even as I finish writing this a little after 9, I’m the last one awake. Thanks for your continued prayers – we’ve been feeling them! God is doing a great work here!

My Help Portrait Trip to Haiti Day 0

The Team: Billy Pope – photographer, Josh Brewer – interpreter, Lori Mercer – photographer, Diane Klaaren – Assistant, Myself, Butch McPherson – director of missions, Nick Drollette – Photographer

As some of you know Frazer, my church and place of employment is currently partnered with 410 Bridge to help house, educate and disciple the deaf community of Haiti. We’re also now working with Mission of Hope which miraculously helped us find land free of charge for the deaf community in exchange for our partnership with them to provide spiritual development for an entire community of Haitians, both Deaf and hearing. You might be interested in reading the posts from my first trip to Haiti to hear were we were back in april, and then check out this video to hear the most recent update from Kyle Reschke, our missionary on the ground.

This is my second trip to Haiti and my first Help Portrait event – What is Help portrait you ask? Well you can visit their website for more detailed information or you can simply check out this graphic:

And this is what we’re going to do for the Haitian Deaf community. Frazer’s November mission team to Haiti will arrive in Port Au Prince tomorrow morning. We’ve got three pro photographers and myself (an enthusiastic hobbyist) as well as a couple of people to assist and an interpreter for the deaf. We’re going to take high quality portraits of each family in the community and return in december to give them their photos, matted and framed as a christmas gift from Frazer. It’ll be the first picture they’ll have to hang in their new homes. Many of these people have had photographs taken of them, but they’ve never had a portrait of their family that they could keep. For some of them it may be the first photo of themselves they ever owned. But more than the photos we just want to love of the deaf community. Relationship building is always the number one goal of these trips and we’re hoping that through those relationships we’ll see more and more people in Haiti – deaf and hearing – come to know Christ.

Today we traveled to florida and took a few moments to get to know each other and talk about how we’re going to be working as a team over the next few days. It’s a tall order to get high-quality portraits for over 150 families over the next three days, but I believe this group is up to the challenge. So far our team has really enjoyed hanging out – just check out their Facebook pages for some of the fun pictures from today’s day of travel.

We’re all very excited about tomorrow and the team is very appreciative of the support we’ve been shown on Facebook today – lots of people are praying for us and that is a huge encouragement. We’re hoping that more than giving them great portraits that we’ll get a good opportunity to relate to the community. You can be praying for us in several ways: That the language barrier isn’t a barrier, that we’re able to use our time there wisely and that the weather holds out so that we can get portraits of the whole community.

Further reading:

-You might be interested in reading the posts from my first trip to Haiti

-You can always visit Frazer’s Mission Blog and Transformation Blog to read about the progress of this and other projects.

-To get closest to the action visit kyleinhaiti.com to hear from Kyle Reschke, a good friend of mine, and Frazer’s missionary in the field in the deaf community.

Thanks for your prayers and if the internet connection cooperates I hope to be writing you tomorrow evening as well.