When little hands…

“When little hands pull a face close to touch noses or plant a kiss, a world of turmoil comes under the spell of a toddler’s epressions of love. Al is at peace. The power of a toddler’s embrace, the joy of her smile, the comfort of her cuddling, all teach us about a simple love that is pure and unmeasuread.” – Toddler Wise

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas friends and family!

Thanks for all your support during this year.  We have transitioned from Haiti back to the states.  Currently seeing where our future holds.  We have both been involved with Haiti – more to come on that front in the next post.

We were reminiscing of last year and the year before as we were having a Christmas in Haiti.  You may remember these funny games we captured on video.

For now… we are enjoying being a low-key Christmas as a family!

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Eliana Grace is one month old!  Melissa hasn’t had much sleep!  She has been amazing.  I help out as much as possible – trying to help during the evenings and weekends.  After taking the night shift on the weekend, I often wonder how Melissa has been doing it all week!

We are still confused why Eliana hasn’t been sleeping…

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We have been SOOOO thankful for the food.  Julie J, Dean & Cheryl, Jason & Abby, Gary & Kristen, Jenna & Sam, Melissa’s parents!  It is amazing how helpful that is during these early stages.

We are so thankful for all of you – if it was helping us while in Haiti, during our move, a person to talk to, or the million things I can’t even remember right now!!!

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Just a Little Tongue Tied

Have you ever heard someone say they were tongue-tied?

tongue-tied (adj.)
1. Speechless or confused in expression, as from shyness, embarrassment, or astonishment.
2. Affected with tongue-tie. (source: free dictionary)

I never really thought about where this phrase came from.  Apparently, it is a real thing to be tongue-tied!  We found out the hard way when difficulty arose in feeding Eliana.  After struggling to understand why she wasn’t eating and a weeks worth of fussy & sleepless nights we found out that she was tongue-tied!

We learned that when you are young this is a easy procedure.  Most people will notice with breastfeeding or when the baby begins to speak.

It’s not uncommon. If the connecting skin under your baby’s tongue (a membrane called the frenulum) is short or extends too far toward the front of her tongue, she has a condition called ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie. (babycenter)

With that being said.  I thought I would send out a few pictures over the last 3 weeks.

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Just Arrived: Eliana Grace

Eliana Grace.  6 lbs 11.5 oz.

Born 11/19/2013 at 3:12a

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Melissa started contractions at 10pm.  We thought it was going to take a while before needing to go in to the birth center but at 2am-ish Melissa started feeling like the baby started pushing.  Realizing that this was different from the previous contractions we rushed to the birth center 30 minutes away going over the speed limit and passing a few red-lights.

We arrived at 2:45pm and the baby was born shortly after at 3:12am!

We are all home now at Dean & Cheryl’s place (so thankful for their hospitality as we continue to transition back from Haiti).

Melissa’s cooking dinner now… haha, just checking to see if you were still reading :-D.

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Here are some more pictures:

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Debriefing at Missions Training International – Reverse Culture Shock

We spent a week at Missions Training International (MTI) in Colorado Springs debriefing from our 2 years in Haiti.

Did you know debriefing is actually a military term?  The military meaning of the word is “to unload confidential material so as not to be tempted to share these things when returning out into the world.” 

A few highlights from our time:

Paradox

We talked a lot about “Paradox”.  How it’s important to realize you are speaking in paradox with others.  For example, “I wish we had never gone to Africa.  I have seen incredible and powerful changes during our time there.”

Sir Henry Morton Stanley was a Welsh journalist and explorer, famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Stanley is often remembered for the words uttered to Livingstone upon finding him: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Stanley hired a large company of Africans to carry his equipment and forge a path through the jungle. He was in a hurry to find Livingstone and pushed agressively ahead demanding long and difficult marches through practically impenetrable jungle. One morning he awakened his porters but they did not move. He cajoled and threatened them but they refused to budge. Their Chief communicated their message to Stanley as follows: “We will not march today. We will wait until our souls catch up with our bodies.” ¹

“We will not march today. We will wait until our souls catch up with our bodies.” – African Proverb

In our haste to march through the jungle of life, sometimes we out-run our souls. We need to take a moment to let our souls catch up with our bodies. In our busyness of being back in the United States we can neglect our souls and we become stressed, strained and stretched.  It is important for us to take time to reflect upon our past and present – it’s after we do that we can focus on the future.

What you know about yourself can be changed.  What you don’t know about yourself controls you.

Stress

We talked about different types of stressors and took self-tests to evaluate our stress (holmes and rahe stress scale, headington, etc.).  What I found most interesting during this section was the similarities we had with other missionaries as we wrote out different aspects of stress.  It is important to evaluate because unmanaged high stress causes burnout which can lead to depression.

Found this quote in the article “Warning Signs of Missionary Burnout”:

Sincere plodders often achieve more in a lifetime than fiery men and women who burn out prematurely. – Donald E. Demaray

Here are some things people wrote on the board:

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Transition – Losses and Gains

We learned it is important to acknowledge our loss and acknowledge our love.  There is a grieving process that you go through when changing cultures.

 “The amputation of the familiar self”

There is no natural pathway in the brain for grief.  Important to realize we can carry grief and joy at the same time.

Re-Entry

Stages of re-entry:

  • Excitement – Greeting friends & family, eating special foods, enjoying your native cultural habits/traditions
  • Attempting re-establishment (which can lead to frustration) – Trying to setup previous patterns, questioning of self-concept, sense of loss as things are not the same and never will be.
  • Striving for control of your world to lower stress – Loss of direction during home assignment, questioning whether to return to field or become “mainstream” again, criticizing the home culture and church, loss of being on the “front lines.”
  • Integration or marginization – begin to feel a part of home culture OR remain an outsider, cosmopolitan (at home in all countries or places), greater sense that this world is not our home.

Healthy Goodbyes

Saying goodbyes is sooooo important!  We noticed that a lot of other missionaries did not allow time for goodbyes.  Heartline was really good about properly saying goodbye. Melissa also made a point to stop around to hug and say goodbye to others before we left.

“If I’m afraid of the goodbye, I won’t fully embrace you in the ‘hello'” – C.S. Lewis.

Choosing to approach that suffering of saying goodbye is important.  We found that others struggled with regret because of not embracing that suffering of saying goodbye before they left.

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This program came recommended by many people, including our old friends the Browns – you may remember us talking about them because we met them after they were broken into and the wife was shot.  It was a great program with built in time to relax and reflect.  The only critique I have is for the lack of true counselors or psychologists.

 

1. http://www.holyhelps.com/documents/holyHelps/Selah.pdf

My Teeth are Falling Out

Updates!  We have some baby updates and an ultrasound picture, finished our travels with planes/trains/automobiles, (oh, yea) and encountered a drug bust along the way…

Pulling my head up off my pillow, I put my hands to my teeth.  What a realistic dream!  I truly thought my front teeth had just fallen out!  This is the second time it has happened to me in the last two weeks.  Before this, I had never dreamt this teeth falling out craziness!

I faintly remembered that this type of dream had some sort of meaning.  It was almost morning. So I jumped out of bed to Google it up and immediately found a whole website dedicated to it!  Ha!

As a general rule, teeth falling out in dreams symbolize transition times. This type of dream echoes the emotional disturbances you may be experiencing as you or your environment is going through a period of change. (From: http://www.teethfallingoutdream.org/)

We have literally been on planes, trains and automobiles this last few months!  It has been a great journey but at times, an exhausting journey.  Shoot, it’s even exhausting drawing the lines for this ridiculous picture :-D.

After Haiti Travel

Some highlights:

  • We took an Amtrak train to Milwaukee, and in the middle of the night there was a drug bust.  A man was taken off the train in handcuffs.  We recently found out that marijuana is legal in CO – our working theory is that they were taking it from CO to IL.
  • As mentioned in our previous post, we made a unexpected trip to my grandfather’s funeral (appreciate Rich for the purchasing the tickets).
  • The scenery was a-m-a-z-i-n-g:
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Baby Updates:

  • Melissa had a baby shower in WI and in MN. It was such a special time for her connecting with friends. We are so grateful for the friends & family that have been there to help us AND be with us on the journey.
  • We found a birth center! Wooohooo!  They are fantastic and knowledgeable.  As an aside one of the midwives mentioned this video on youtube called 90 seconds to change the world.
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My favorite picture in Washington:

  • We also had an ULTRASOUND!!!  If you click on one of the pictures you will see the funny description of the way the doctor told us whether it was a girl or boy!  He was a nice enough guy but I think he might hate his job… just the vibe we got.  It’s either that or the fact that we were in a small room and I haven’t taken my monthly shower :-D.
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  • Debriefing at Missions Training International – gotta save this for the next blog.  I wrote too much so I started a new blog with this info.

Traveling to WI, MN, SD, WA, CO!? Oops!

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Well well well… I think we are finally relaxing a bit (at least as I begin to type out this post – might be different by the time I am done).  You see, we had planned some visits when being back but didn’t realize what that all really entailed. It was kind of like,

Let’s visit my bro before he is deployed in September – we can help him move out of his place!

Let’s visit my grandfather, grandmother, and cousins in South Dakota too!

Oh, let’s visit all our regular supporters to say hi.

Of course, we want to spend time with our parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, 2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, oh and our old next door neighbor!  A little exaggeration added for emphasis :-D.

So this is a little bit what that actually looks like in reality:

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Maybe not the best “transition” plan to the U.S. if I was going to do it all over again.

Though, we have been so thankful to be able to converse with friends and family.

South Dakota

Had a small reunion.  We found a box of old pictures, it was so fun.  My grandfather’s family had 12 brothers and sisters at one time!  Yikes!  It was interesting to hear how they used to live back in the 40s.  It’s curious how it resembles how people in Haiti live today.  Oh, and Melissa loved the small town feel!

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Washington

In Washington, it has been awesome hanging out with my bro and his friends.  Additionally, we even were able to visit with Jeff & Terry who we have gotten to know in Haiti.  At their church on Sunday they had two guests from Haiti.  One guest speaker we knew in Haiti!  Small world!

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Random concluding thoughts

It’s hard to describe our current emotional state.  As we try to get settled in with finding jobs, birth center, place to live, I have been trying to remember:

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. -Matthew 6:30 

What transitions have you been going through?

Funny story from Haiti

Here is a little story from Haiti that made me smile:

Today I was at EDH (city electricity) trying to pay son’s bill.  EDH – “We haven’t read the meter. How about you put one of our guys in your car drive him to your place (20 minutes), he can read your meter and then bring him back here (another 20 minutes) and you can pay the bill.” Me – “Sorry, in a bit of a hurry right now.  How about if I take a photo of the meter and bring it in tomorrow and you can give me the bill.” EDH – “Fine. Let’s do that.”  – John Meadth

 

 

 

Used to Seeing… Now Seeing…

We have landed safely in the land of a-m-a-z-i-n-g-n-e-s-s!  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Haiti and always will!  Dodging traffic or riding the motorcycle was always an adventure.  It’s kind of like a video game driving around Port Au Prince.  You just don’t get a +1 life-up or a redo :-D.  As long as you don’t lose the game, you’re good to go!

Now that we are back in the U.S., our minds are flooded with imagery of things we remember yet now are strangely overwhelming.  The stores seem bigger, the food more abundant, the cars newer, the water hotter, grass greene… well… it exists :-D.

Of course, my stomach always seems to have reverse culture-shock as well.  Without fail it seems to get sick on every transition.  Thank you stomach for this most uncomfortable feeling!  I guess adjusting from rice and beans diet makes it a little angry.

I decided to put some of my Haiti pictures to use.  I know it doesn’t exactly convey the difference between the cultures but hopefully it may give a glimpse at why missionaries can have such a culture shock.  The images that have been a part of our lives over the last 2 years have now been reversed.  It is not necessarily negative but just a dissonance between the 2 worlds that you don’t know quite how to reconcile.

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Haitian Wedding

Risline, who works at the guest house, got married yesterday!  She has been a part of Heartline for a long time.  We have enjoyed getting to know her.  She can be quiet, but get Melissa joking around with her and she will laugh more than anyone!

The wedding yesterday was beautiful.  I would love to understand all the cultural pieces of a Haitian wedding.  A wedding can vary depending on the couples religion, part of the country they are from, preference, resources, etc.  I will tell you what I know or think I know 😀 from yesterday’s wedding.

As you might expect, invitations are spread by word of mouth throughout the church and community of the bridal couple.  Melissa and I helped print out a few invitations that Risline could give out, but she only wanted about 25.  Most of her family lives too far out into the countryside, and there was no way of getting invitations to them.

People dressed up in their finest clothes, the shinier the better.  Below is a picture of us ready to go to the wedding.

The Guest House staff ready for the wedding

When we arrived, we were directed to go to Risline’s house as they were still preparing.  Melissa and Marjorie went in – the guys stayed in the van :-D.  After about 1/2 hour, tons of people came out and crowded in the van.  Guess we are turning this into a Tap Tap :-D.

Van turning into a Tap Tap for the Haitian Wedding

We arrived at the church and found Risline, in her wedding dress, and her husband to be sitting with all the doors and windows open in a car.  We waved to them and then took a place in the church under a ceiling fan :-D.

Wedding

The wedding started 2 hours late.  Seems about right for a big event in Haiti.

The car pulls up with most of the wedding party inside of it.  A person at the front of the church announced the party.

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I didn’t understand this until after, but they hired the people that walk down the isle.  This included the dancers, the princess and others that went down the isle.  As opposed to traditions in American where the bridal/grooms party are related or close friends with the couple getting married.

The dancing of girls coming down the isle at the haitian wedding

The choir also sang a song during the ceremony, which was great.  Below you can hear a snippet:

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The pastor preached… and preached… and preached :-D.  He asked if anyone objects to the marriage.  Nobody objected… always a good sign.

They were all very serious during the ceremony.  Obviously trying not to smile.  Melissa, at one point got Risline to crack a smile but then Risline quickly changed her face to serious.

There were 4 people up front with 4 chairs.  They were the bride, groom, marenn (god mother), parenn (god father).  Similar to the Maid or Matron of Honor and Best Man respectively.

The front of the church with wedding party

I had a real hard time getting good shot because there were SOOOO many people taking pictures.  In fact, I couldn’t even see them exchange the rings because so many people were crowded around!  Look at the following shot while they exchanged rings.

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After the ring exchange they signed the marriage license.  By “they”, I mean it must be half the family :-D.  Three from the bride’s side and three from the groom’s side.

At the end of the wedding everyone went up to the bride and groom and kissed them on both cheeks.  Even though I have lived in Haiti the last 2 years, I am still not totally comfortable with this.

All in all the wedding was around 2 1/2 hours.

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Reception

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After the wonderful wedding we went to the reception which was at another missionary’s house.  They had it beautifully decorated.  They parenn gave a speech and they opened a bottle of champagne.

They handed out some food which was banana bread, a brownie, Haitian “cornet” , and a banana muffin. Shelly & Melissa made the food.  Melissa had made 120 banana muffins and 5 pans of made from scratch brownies the day before.

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It was a great experience.  Especially since we know Risline so well.

Showing solidarity with friends at such times at funerals, naming ceremonies, feast days, and weddings is extremely important. This is primarily done by attendance at these events and by contributing financially.  From African Friends & Money Matters

 

Uncomfortable Living in a Haitian Village

We have been busy with Lifetree groups this last three weeks.  Just before all the craziness began, the Heartline driver, Nick, finished his time with us.  He moved out to a small village called Ravine Seche.  It’s a small fishing village right next to the Caribbean.

You may remember this village from Melissa’s blog titled, Ever seen someone show up at the dentist wearing only a shirt?  The dental clinic we helped with was put on back in June 2012 at this same location.

Nick is now renting a house originally built by “Food for the Poor” in Ravine Seche.   A bunch of us, myself on moto, rode out to see him off.  I stayed the first couple nights in the village.

Nick and I got started by attaching the propane tank to the back of Nick’s motorcycle and headed down to get it refilled.  The plan was to make dinner but Darline, the house owner, ended up giving us some rice and beans for us to eat.  Wohoo :-D.

Here is his new diggs in pictures:

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So why is Nick moving out to this place?  He is going to learn Creole.  Along with learning Creole he will be acquiring (almost by osmosis) the Haitian culture.  He plans on spending 2-3 months living in this village.  After getting a good foundation in Creole he plans to begin a street kid ministry in downtown Port Au Prince – si dye vle.

While I was out there, we had a good time just figuring out how he would live, eat, and do life.

It was a quick introduction to village life when we heard,

“Bang! Bang!”

I was thinking, it couldn’t be a gun… ahh, after a moment… rocks!!  I ran outside the house immediately seeing some young kids looking pretty angry and picking up rocks.  Following the kids, I see a fight going on in the street outside the house.  A couple guys were going at it, both angry and trying to hit each other with sticks, another guy trying hold them apart, and a topless lady right in the fray, yelling and doing who knows what?

This is village life!

The other strange thing that came with the house were these hanging cactus things in both rooms:

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After asking a Haitian, I find out that these are some voodoo pieces that help keep witches and other flying spiritual beings from landing on your house.  It is protection to make them desire to venture to someone else’s house before yours.

This is village life

I really got a taste of village life when trying to go to the bathroom.  It’s basically a pit toilet.  Next to the toilet is where you can take a bucket shower.  I have done pit toilets before camping, etc. but this time I opened the lid and a bunch of cockroaches where underneath.  I took a cups of water and tried to wash them down the pit :-D.  After that I was able to use the abode.

Village life, right?!

It’s good to feel uncomfortable… right… maybe…?!

As followers of Jesus we are meant to be in uncomfortable situations.  Say we are in a situation that calls us to have blind faith.  That can be pretty uncomfortable!  I think of Daniel in the lion’s den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.

It’s easy getting along with someone when they get along with you.  As follower’s we are called to love even if they don’t love back.  Talk about uncomfortable, conflicting with someone who dislikes you, and maybe even someone who hates you.  In spite of that we are called to love back.

What situations have you been in that are uncomfortable?  What did you learn from it?

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