Friday, June 29

Back in the US!

We had a safe arrival into Ft Lauderdale airport, and went through immigration and customs without any issues! We have a long layover and will be catching our 8pm flight back to Chicago. Looking forward to sharing stories and pictures with all of you!

Thursday, June 28

Where does the king live?

Hello everyone, Gina Baker, here,
 So I asked the question, Where does the king live?  I know many of you are saying Kentucky, maybe Alabama.  NO, let me clarify, I'm not talking about that king (Elvis).  Where does Our King live?

Today, I met our King, living in Haiti.  After, a hard, hot, humble week, we were treated to a wonderful lunch, and an emotional "Thank You" party.  Our plan for the party was for us to hand out the donated gifts to all the workers at Little Children of Jesus orphanage and say ThankYou for  all their hard work, 365 days of the year.  And how it ended was with them saying Thank you to us for 4 days of, compared to Haitian days, is hardly work.

Anyway, back to my original though, I met our King today.  His "earthly" name is David.  He lives at the orphanage.  Cerebral Palsy as robbed him of his ability to speak clearly, to walk, to dress himself, to feed himself, to go to the restroom, and the list goes on.  What it has NOT robbed him of is, his mind.  David understands everything you say to him in English, in French, and in Creole. I invited him to our Thank You party, and his was so thrilled.  But remember, I said this was an emotional party and when my joy began to overflow (when I began to cry), David comforted me.  He put his arm around me, held my hand, and gently put his head on my shoulder.  At that moment, David, was Our King reaching out to me, comforting me!!

You have to understand, I am a Joyful Spirit team member oldtimer, I began coming to Haiti, off and on since 2003, and meet David in 2004.   When I meet him, he was 13 or 14 years old, now he is a young man of 22 and over the years, I have provided him with some physical therapy, tried to help with some of his material needs, and tried to show him Christ, in me.  I haven't shown him anything! He  has shown me! And today that was more evident than ever!

So, remember, if anyone asked where's the King,  you can say for sure, where he is NOT.  He is not in Kentucky or Alabama, or in a Sunday morning church, or in a collection of 66 books (the Bible).  That's not to say that you won't encounter him in one of those places.  It's to say that Our King, Jesus, truly lives in the Love, the Grace, and the Comfort, that we show and share with one another.

So go and find Him! And go and share him!
Peace and Love, Gina

Wednesday, June 27


Today was absolutely incredible. It was life-changing. It was fun. And I can't believe how quickly it ended. By the way, this is Jimmy Westenberg from GPS Faith Community, invited by Pastor Josh. It seems like only a few short hours ago we were waking up at the crack of dawn for another incredible breakfast of fresh mangos, yogurt, and cereal from Mrs. Debbie. 

Today was different because it was our first day off in two days. We took a day off from volunteering at the orphanage and the health center for a special ceremony marking the graduation of the kindergarten class at the Village of Hope School. Once we arrived to the Village of Hope, we took a quick tour for the people that haven't gotten a chance to see it yet. Soon after the tour, we rushed into the front row of the chapel to witness the graduation. The graduation was so enlightening. All of the children entered into the chapel singing and dancing to some traditional Haitian music. Throughout the graduation, the children sang songs, danced, and showed us that they knew the English version of the ABC's. Throughout the graduation, I don't think there was a single team member that wasn't smiling from the joy that the children gave to us. To me, the graduation was the best part of the entire trip so far, and it was one of the highlights of my year so far, as well. The graduation was a perfect showcase of Haitian culture, education, and pride. The look on the children's faces as they were singing was unreal. No words can describe how happy everybody was in that room today. 

Soon after the graduation, we moved over to the cafeteria to serve chicken and juice to the students' usual lunch of rice and beans. For two hours, we served almost 600 children a special lunch for the end of the year/graduation day. After the students were done eating, we were lucky enough to have a meal of the rice and beans with chicken. It was great. SIDE NOTE: if anybody knows the recipe to the rice and beans, please give it to me! 

After the school lunch was over, we left to go to the metal working village to buy some hand-made Haitian art. I, for one, spent WAY too much money, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. But seriously, how could you resist? After spending some time shopping, we left to do some odd jobs around the compound. We then had yet ANOTHER amazing meal from Debbie. I wish I could tell you what everything was called, but I would fail miserably if I tried to pronounce everything correctly. 

Today was a day of rest, sweating, shopping, and working. It opened my eyes to many different aspects of Haiti, and was, quite honestly, one of the most memorable days of my life. This trip has been life changing for me, and has helped me grow even closer to the lord. And as far as I can tell, it has been helpful to some other of my team members, as well. So, goodbye from us until tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 26

What God's Love Really Looks LIke

        Hello all! I can not believe day two of work has come to an end. Everyone here has been putting 100% effort into every project despite the heat and lack of sleep. My name is Katie Phares and I am so incredibly proud to say I am a first time member of the Joyful Spirit Haiti Team. Ever since my brother came here I have had a strong desire to experience Haiti for myself. Many years have passed since then but I believe that God had a plan for me to come this year and I couldn't agree more. I have to admit that being the youngest on this team intimidated me at first, but I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to spend my first trip in Haiti with. Since the time we stepped into the van at 4:00 a.m. last Saturday morning, God has been continually melding us into a tightly knit community.
        Today Christiaan, Gina, Julie, Josh and I went to Little Children of Jesus. When we arrived we helped feed the little ones breakfast. Then some of the members enjoyed some play time with the kids during rec time. Christiaan even played his guitar and had the kids actively engaged in playing musical instruments. Throughout the day Julie, Gina, Christiaan and I did some therapy with some children and we finished the day off with some crafts that resulted in neon circle stickers stuck to not only the kids' faces but all of us as well!      
         Our other team members; Pam, Cheryl, Jim, Gene, Shannon, Steve and Jimmy went to Village of Hope and painted up a storm while battling high winds. I have to give them credit for doing such hard manual labor out in the blazing sun. At the orphanage we are fortunate enough to have shade! They also enjoyed time with the children from the school, who socialized and watched them as they worked. I have not yet been to VOH but can't wait to go tomorrow as we have front row seats at the kindergarten graduation. 
         Tonight during devotions we discussed the initial sadness we experience when we see the severe disabilities the children at LCJ deal with each day and how difficult it can be to not question God about why these children are the way they are. It can be heartbreaking to see child after child with complete mental capacity but trapped in a body that to our standards does not work right. Especially when many of the disabilities we encounter in these children, are to an extent we will never observe in the states. However, these kids have more joy, love and trust than I will ever have. They are our example of who Christ really is and in God's eyes are great. The short time that I have spent here has taught me this and has allowed me to realize that what the world sees as great is no where near God's view of what the Kingdom of Heaven is. I have personally never seen the love of God shining more brightly that I have at LCJ. 

Monday, June 25

And the Work(?) Begins

What do nine individuals ages 20 through 65 who attend Joyful Lutheran Church in Bolingbrook, IL, one individual age 38 who attends Life Changers International Church in Hoffman Estates, IL and two 21-year college students who attend GPS Faith Community Church in Rockford, IL have in common?  God's plan to bring us together "for such a time as this".  We set out on the morning of Saturday, June 23rd on a six-day journey (missions trip) to the country of Haiti.

Hi I'm Shannon - the 38-year old from Life Changers Church - and I'm excited to be here with this wonderful group of folks on my very first missions trip.  Today, was our first official work day and while we worked it was in many ways NOT like work.  We sweated.  We got sunburn.  We were tugged and pulled on by many little children.  We bobbed around on the back of truck.  We got dirty.  We even got a bit tired.  But at the end of the day after having yet another tasty Haitian dinner and some time of devotion, we all shared our experiences from the day and NO ONE spoke in terms of "work".  Several of us went to the Village of Hope school and clinic to help with some painting projects.  In addition to helping improve the appearance of the buildings/structures, we had the opportunity to interact with the beautiful children and the friendly staff.  Others who went to the Little Children of Jesus orphanage were able to spend time with the children - administering physical therapy methods, feeding, playing games and caring for them.  If you put together all that was done today (at both places) it all adds up to LOVE.  And that's exactly what God has equipped us to do here in Haiti - i.e. pour love on the people of Haiti.

As was shared in one of our nights of devotion - "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." - Ephesians 5:1-2.  How I pray this continues to resonate with us not only while we are here the next few days in Haiti but also when we return home.  For that's exactly what God has equipped us to do here in earth.

Thanks Cheryl and Joyful Spirit Church for inviting me to come along.... I'll be forever grateful for this experience.

Sunday, June 24

Sunday Sunday Sunday!

AAAAH, my second day here in the caribbean. Steve here, so far it's been a very moving experience for me. People everywhere on the side of the road. Are they homeless or just looking for direction?

We started the day with one eye open. Sunday morning breakfast. A bumpy ride to the church for Service. On Sundays everyone dresses to the nines. The Sunday service was fabulous. A lot of interaction with the crowd. It reminded me of Us for our once a year revival tent service. Afterwards we had a nice lunch buffet at the Visa Hotel. Very nicely done. We even watched NASCAR.
Afterwards we headed off to the St. Christophe Earthquake memorial area. This is where all the bodies were buried after the January disaster. The best way I can describe this scene is to imagine looking up at a pretty blue sky. Then look west at the waste dump off of Royce Road in Bolingbrook, IL., filled with black crosses placed unequally along the hillside. To me, this is what loneliness feels like when you drive by, or just stare at that hill.

After the visitation a respect of life, we went back home and just took it easy, for 30 minutes. Then we pre packed all tools and donations for the next 4 days to be handed out.

Tomorrow, the work begins. To make life just a little bit easier for a few of our fellow neighbors.

We woke up with one eye open, and ended the day with both eyes open.

Peace Out