Sunday, December 30, 2012

Belated Christmas Post

So in the States it seems that Thanksgiving to Christmas is the main Christmas season.  But here, with no Thanksgiving celebration, Christmas Eve through New Years (and a few days past, I've heard) is the main Christmas season.  And my family seems to be following suit.  There wasn't much of a ramp up to Christmas this year until Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve we had a wonderful dinner with friends from Haiti Health Ministries.  Great food and great fellowship.  Then as a family we watched Home Alone - a Christmas classic.  Christmas morning we opened gifts.  Luke got my used ipad, the girl's each got one Haitian - made American Girl bed and a wardrobe for their dolls to share.
My mom flew in early evening on Christmas Day and since her arrival we've been playing a lot of Caring and Sharing Bingo (a family game) and introducing my mom to our many friends here.  Yesterday my mom and I walked a Haitian mile to Madanm Christians orphanage.  The children were excited to meet my mother and put on a great (and extremely long) Christmas program for us.  Here is a wee clip.

Teresa's family flew in yesterday and today my mom was reunited with all 5+ of her grandchildren.  Oh Happy Day!  Then, I've heard there is some fun New Years celebrations.  We shall see.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Eloise the Poet

Eloise has been writing quite a bit since we've gotten to Haiti.  We find her journals all over the house.  Last night Chris and I discovered this poem she wrote and that it was worth sharing.

he doesn't like you
she doesn't like me
evry time you look at him you get angry
evry time I look at her I get angery
this song dosen't have a happy ending rite now
so let's make this a song that has one
folloe your dream's and desstenies
come and let's see the thing's alaround you and me
then you can make lot's of friend's
and do thing's that youve neve don before
this song is coming to a end 
I have to say good bye
oh, make freind's with . . . he and she and I

By: ELOISE Thmpson

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Last week over 500 volunteers with Habitat for Humanity were here in Haiti.  They came with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter as well as Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood.  We got to enjoy a lovely (yet a bit extravagant) dinner of sea bass and real veggies in an air conditioned dining hall.  Then we got to listen to the Garth Brooks concert as well.  It was quite refreshing.

When Habitat departed they were encouraged to leave their tools and extra supplies with Christianville, where my sister lives.  Uncle Ryan took all the kids "shopping" at the Habitat leftover "store".  My kids were thrilled to actually shop and "shop for free even" as Eloise said.  They picked out hard hats, hammers, tape measures, rope, and more.  The experience got them all geared up to build something.  After much planning they decided they wanted a treehouse.  So we started it yesterday and got quite a bit further today.  Hoping to finish this weekend.

Chris sawing plywood with a hand saw.

The girls testing out the support system!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving as an Expat

Thursday morning started like most other days, with language study.  For one of our exercises Billy, our language tutor, had us listen to a popular, secular Haitian song.  As we listened he would pause the song and we would try our best to translate.  The lyrics of the song couldn't have been a better reminder on Thanksgiving morning.  Here are a few:
"Even though you have no food to eat, house to live in, and you sleep on the street - don't despair my brother, your life has not ended"
"Even though you are sick, and the doctors have no cure - don't despair my brother, your life has not ended"
"Even though you have no friends to support you or family to take care of you - don't despair my brother, your life has not ended".

For many Haitians life may be all they have.  So today I am thankful for breath.  I am thankful I'm alive.

To celebrate the holiday we had a total of 25 people over to my house for dinner!  It was a wonderful time of fellowship.  Everyone contributed something and we even had a real turkey, ham, pies, and ice cream!  The tables were decked with fresh cut flowers, most from my yard. And the children provided a dance party as entertainment. It wasn't the Thanksgiving I was used to but it was wonderful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Girl's Bible Study

Ashlee and I (Sara) have started a girls' Bible Study with the 10-15 year old girls at the Community School of Bellevue.  Bellevue school is the school where my children attend also.  We've started meeting with the girls every Thursday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 as school ends at 1:00. We've had two weeks of Bible Study so far and we have about 20 girls who attend. The topic we are covering is finding our identity in Christ.  This week my children put on a skit about the different "masks" they wear throughout the day.  Then the girls each made their own mask.  The girls love crafts!

Please keep this Bible Study and the female youth of the Community School of Bellevue in your prayers.  Please pray that Ashlee and I would be able to connect with them and grow relationships with each one.  Please pray the girls would feel comfortable discussing with the group.  And please pray ultimately that the girls would each come to know who Christ has uniquely created them to be.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Living Next Door to Cinderella

To most Americans Cinderella is a fairy tale. For many Haitians it is a reality. This country is full of Cinderellas. Girls, and boys, sent from their home to live with another family. Forced to do all of the chores while the children they live with run off to school and they stay behind.

 A 12 year old girl came over to my house about a month ago. She picked cherries with me from my tree and patiently chatted with me through my broken Creole. She came in my home and taught me how to make cherry juice. Over the past month she has come in my house for a wee bit of time a few times each week. I invite her in to play with my girls. She immediately picks up the girls rooms, arranging the toys and making the beds, and then grabs a broom and begins to sweep. I plead with her not to clean their room - to just sit and play with them. Cleaning is all she knows. Eventually she will sit and brush the dolls hair. But shortly after her name is screamed out from next door.

This week she came over and played Legos with all my kiddos.  Later the kids moved to a different room to play something else.  I took my eyes off the situation for just a few minutes.  She snuck away from play to Luke's room and picked up every last Lego.  This prompted a series of questions from Luke that night about her compulsory need to clean.  We ended up having a long talk about child slavery.

She told me she lives with her maternal aunt and goes to school here while the rest of her family lives in the north of Haiti. I've never seen her in a school uniform. She doesn't go to school. I'm not so sure she lives with her aunt. I hear her name called out again and again all day long. We've heard her scream out as she is hit  repeatedly with a switch. My heart is heavy. My heart breaks each time her name is called out.

Please pray for wisdom for us.                                               Pray for the restavecs in this country.                                                                                                           There are too many Cinderellas here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween Festivities

Luke the Nerd, Kate the Princess

Eloise the Princess with Luke and Kate carving pumpkins from our yard!
The Final Products

Kate making invitation and decorations for the party.

Friends and cousins joined in for festivities, dinner, and treats.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Lots of people have been asking us how we are fairing the storm. Hurricane Sandy has passed us by now but we still continue to experience a lot of rain. We will have 1/2 hour breaks in the rain where we think it is done. Then WAM! it hits again. Just lots of rain. So how are we? Bored and a little wet. But other than that fine. Today Ashlee, Chris, and I were able to drive around a bit and check on some friends. Their house, a Samaritan's Purse shelter, stayed amazingly dry. And like us they were just bored. We then headed over to New Horizon's orphanage to see how they were all doing.  They had plenty of food for today and some for tomorrow as well. The only difficulty they were experiencing was trouble keeping their fires lit to keep the food cooking. We were able to encourage Mdm and Pastor Christian, visit with the kids a bit, and survey the water drainage needs for a future team to help with.
Me, loving on some orphans at New Horizons.  Just a wee bit wet.

Water was pooling in a lot of areas but remarkably the dorms stayed dry.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Living Room

My house is starting to feel like a home.  And what helped the most? Color! I love color.  Thank you to Leah Miller for being my personal shopper and doing such a great job. Thanks to Rachel for coordinating, Chuck and Tammy for packing it all up, and Constance Free Church for bringing in our bags.  Here's the living room now.

I have been walking on only rock roads and tiled cement floors for over 2 months now. Simply standing on those small area rugs brings my feet so much pleasure. Feels so much more like home now.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Restavec - A Loaded Word

We  blog quite a bit about the day to day life of our family.  That is so much easier than trying to express in words some of the misery we are encountering here in Haiti.  Before coming to Haiti I knew full well about the abandonment of children that abounds in Haitian culture.  But seeing it first hand is so hard.  So complicating, so multi-dimensional, and ultimately so heartbreaking.

Restavec is a French word, I believe, that literally means "to live with".  In Haiti children who are sent away from their family to live with another family are called restavecs.  Restavecs abound in Haiti, from the rural mountainside, to the suburban areas, to Port au Prince.  Some people regard the restavec phenomenon in Haiti to be modern day slavery.  Some people regard it as benevolent foster care.  The truth probably is both.  Each situation is unique, many awful, many not so awful, but all heartbreaking.

Over the past 11 years of my travels to Haiti I have become friends with a woman in a rural mountainside village.  I love her and her family deeply.  She has 8 children and her family lives on much less than $1/day.  11 years ago it was clear to me that she was feeding her second born son a larger portion than the other children as he showed the most potential for normal growth, intelligence, and possibly making it through school and out of the rural area.  He's 14, bright, energetic, and full of life.  A few months ago the family sent him away from their mountain home to live in a nearby city center with a different family.  The family houses, feeds, and pays the school fees of this youth.  In return he is expected to do all of the cooking, cleaning, and chores for the family.  He is a restavec, he cries for home regularly, his misses his 7 siblings and his parents.  He attends school, he eats, and he has shelter.

7 years ago, he is on the left

7 years ago, in the purple sweater on the chair

I lie awake thinking of him often.  I wonder what I would do if I were in his mother's position.  I will never know because I will never face anything like that, ever.  Modern day child slavery abounds in Haiti.  Is this an example of child slavery?  I have no answers.

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Day of School

The children got their uniforms Sunday afternoon and posed for a pic.

We were up early Monday morning with excitement and headed off to school at 7:30

Through a grove of banana trees with Eloise leading the way, of course.

Along an irrigation canal....

to the Community School of Bellevue.

There are over 100 children enrolled in the school this year.  However, for various reasons attendance today was only 10.  Chris waited with our kids until others arrived and school commenced around 8:30. The children spent the morning in devotions followed by play time.  Kate made it about one hour, was whimpering, and then saw a familiar face, Maxo.  When she saw Maxo she burst in tears and he offered her a ride home on his moto.  She gladly accepted.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for Kate.  Eloise enjoyed singing during devotion time.  The girls asked her to join in jump roping but she chose just to watch today.  Luke joked with the kids, showed them how to do the moon walk, and arm wrestled.  His comment of the day, "The girls at school are really tall and muscular".  Luke called us around 11:00 and said school was ending soon so we should come pick them up.  Glad we sent along his cellphone.

School here is expensive by Haiti standards.  It cost us approximately $150 USD per child to send our kids to school this year.  For us that isn't much.  But the average wage in our town is around $7.50/day or about $150/month.  So a month's pay per child, that is expensive!  Many Haitians are still attempting to get their children's uniform, school books, supplies, and tuition gathered.  So as the month goes on more and more children will join the school as they are prepared and funded.

Could you imagine paying one month's salary per child to send your children to school?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Got Mail?

We've had a lot of people ask us lately how they can mail us things.  We'd love to receive letters but it is a bit tricky.  We do technically have a house address that is on our lease and will be needed for legal documents.  But people in Haiti don't really refer to anything by it's address.  For example, yesterday I heard one missionary explaining to another where we might be able to buy a puppy.  This was the explaination, "Go up the road toward the market and turn where the guy got electricuted in the dump truck.  Then go up the hill until you see the house with the chickens and pigs.  They breed dogs." 

Another complicating factor is that there is no postal service in Haiti.  Well at least not in our town.  I asked our language helper about the postal service here and he was quite confused.  I in turn was confused not knowing how'd we pay our electical bill or how we'd even get the bill.  Apparently once in a while (very sporadically) someone from EDH will come read our meter and give us a bill if we are home or leave it by the meter if we aren't home.  Then we go to the EDH building in Leogane to pay it.

Anyway - so how do you get us mail?  Our amazing friends Rachel and Alan Burdette have agreed to collect mail for us at their home.  When I hear of a team of people coming from the US to stay here with ReachGlobal I will alert Rachel and she can send our mail to a person on that team via US postal service.  Then the team will bring it in their suitcase for us.  Teams come quite regularly.  The next team comes in late October but then it should be at least once monthly.  We will be sending letters out with teams to mail via US postal as well.

So for now our address is: 4045 12th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407 
(letters or very small items only please)
In the future we may get a private mail service in Port au Prince.  We shall see.  I think a "Donkey Express" would be useful here.  Maybe one day.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Fun

Here's a few fun things we've done this weekend:

Kate made a welcome mat for our front door.  She made it out of scraps of plywood and permanent markers.  While she was busy with the doormat Chris, Sara, and Eloise were making a lizard cage.

And the lizard cage now contains a hermit crab that we found at the beach today.  We've made a routine of going to either the beach at Grand Goave or the pool in Gressier each Saturday.  It is something the children look forward to all week, and the adults too!

Monday, September 17, 2012

We'll Call it a Success

Any of you who know me (Sara) well know I've been obsessing about needing a couch.  Today Chris and I headed to Port au Prince with our teammates Ashlee and Claudy for a shopping double date.  Thanks to T and Ryan the kids stayed in Gressier playing with their cousins.  Our first stop was Valerio, a mega store of sorts.  We were looking for a decent couch in a decent price range.  HARD to find in Haiti.  The most comfy of couches were between $1600 and $4000 US.  Ridiculously out of our price range.  We ended up finding the futon below for $440 US.  Decent.  So we bought it!  It is comfy, fits all 5 of us, and can lay down into a bed.

After a nice lunch with salad, that hasn't yet made me sick, we shopped at what we like to call the "Target-ish" store.  It actually is nothing like Target but as close as you can get in Haiti.  We then headed home, picked up the kids, and Chris assembled the couch.  One of us sat on it (can't name names) and it immediately broke.  Sadness.

But it is apparent that Chris has adapted well to Haitian culture already.  He grabbed some 2 X 4's, a drill, some screws, and went to work.  It now is functional again.  So yes, we will call it a success!!!

It's gray and our chairs are black.  So again for any of you that know me well you know that I love bright colors.  I'll need some bright pillows and curtains to liven up the room. In due time......

Friday, September 14, 2012


Each evening we eat dinner with our teammates down the street at the Haitian Queen.  My kids come to life each evening, full of energy.  They have been putting on many dance performances in the bed of a pickup truck for our teammates and night guards.

Tonight's production was a newly created song by the kids called "Krapo".  Krapo is the Creole word for frog.  The children enjoy the word and made up a whole song and dance.  They spent the day planning the performance, writing out lyrics, making up dance moves, and created frog masks. The performance lasted only about 1 minute and finished right before the rain started.  They put out a tip jar and received US change and Haitian Gourdes.  Luke did the conversions into US money, added it all together, and divided by 3 to be fair.  I guess they are homeschooling themselves!

Monday, September 10, 2012


For many reasons we've decided to send out kids to Haitian school.  We'd love our children to learn the language quickly and to make friends.  We'd love to become more involved in the community where this school is located.  And as parents, we'd like to provide more structure to our kids' days and more concentrated language learning to our  mornings as well.  School starts here in Haiti on October 1st.  We have a lot to do to get our kids ready.  We need to enroll them in age-appropriate grades (as opposed to academic levels), buy material and have a local seamstress sew them school uniforms, and attempt to find and buy their school books.
The school is in Bellview, a community a one-mile walk from our house.  The walk is adventurous as we go through a wooded area, along an irrigation system, and over a creek.  The school is run by Maxo, a local partner, and has approximately 60 kids.  There are two temporary shelter buildings each housing three classrooms.  Each classroom has three row desks, a chalkboard, and a small table for the teacher.  School is taught in both Kreyol and French.  The school day is from 8am to noon.  Our children will still be homeschooled in the afternoons at academically appropriate levels in English. 
Luke is quite excited.  He wants to learn the language quickly and make friends right away.  The girls are timid yet desiring to go.  The girls will most likely be in the same classroom for moral support.  In just a few weeks our kids will be uniformed up and on their way to full immersion.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Setting Up A Home in Haiti

Setting up a home in Haiti is very different from setting up a home in the States. I suppose just about everything is different here. We furnished our Clinton Ave house from used furniture from family, Ikea, estate sales, TJMaxx, and Target for the most part. When we needed something in particular - say a dresser, we looked into all our options and then picked the exactly what we needed for exactly the price we though reasonable. That is simply not how it works here.

Our home is great. We've been blessed greatly as my sister bought and set up our beds before we arrived, we shipped Ikea chairs in suitcases, and we found a reasonably priced kitchen table our 2nd day here. But since then we've added to our home quick slowly. Most furniture is sold on the side of the road in Port au Prince and the prices and inventory are not set. We can purchase some things in import stores but the prices are very high. So we are "shopping" around as best we can and hoping to have dressers for our clothes in the next couple of weeks. For now suitcases are working! And we are finding creative storage solutions from the local markets.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our New House

Here is a link to a video of our new house.  I hope it works.   New House in Haiti

Friday, August 17, 2012

32 Hours

To say this past week as been busy is an understatement.  We celebrated all three of the kids' birthdays.  We celebrated the girls with an American Girl party and we celebrated Luke's 12th birthday by giving him cash and an afternoon alone with a friend at the Mall of America.

We were overwhelmed by the love of our local body, Hiawtha Church.  Sunday we were blessed by a commissoning service followed by a going away party.  The party had an amazing turn out and even more amazing food catered by David Fernandez. If you attended and we didn't get a chance to speak with you we are so sorry and hope you felt welcomed.

We cleared our calendars for this last week in the states in hopes of having plenty of time with Chris's family.  Unfortunately some work problems arose that needed attended to for most the week.  Leaving behind a business is harder than I'd thought. 

We spent the day Thursday packing.  It was quite the task.  We were about to give up when Tammy and Chuck Dube came over and miraculously repacked our bags and made everything fit.  Praise the Lord for amazing friends!  Here are some before pictures that don't really even do justice to the amount of stuff we were dealing with.  We now have 15 suitcases, 5 carryons, and 5 backpacks packed.  We'll take some after pictures at the airport.

So we are headed out in 32 hours.  Insane. We are actually ready and thankfully have a full day to enjoy our family.  So I must logoff for a game of Scrabble with the in-laws.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sunday 12th Farewell Events

Everyone who is able is invited to our going away events this Sunday, August 12th.

Commissioning Service at Hiawatha Church
10am 4155 41st Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Going Away Party at Hiawatha School Park
6:30-8:30pm 4305 42nd St E, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It has been another whirlwind month.  Now it is well into August already and the official countdown to our departure has begun.  We purchased plane tickets and will be flying out on Sunday, August 19th at the break of dawn. 10 days!

Thank you so much to all of you who have joined our support team, sent encouraging notes and messages, and been praying for us along the way.  The encouragement has sustained us through this crazy time.

We moved out of our friends' home and into Chris's parents home. We have a lot to do in these last 10 days including packing 15 70lb suitcases, tying up details of life here, raising our final 5% of support, celebrating all three kiddos birthdays, saying many, many goodbyes and hopefully sleeping at some point.

Thank you!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chris's House

When Sara and I got married in 2003, it wasn’t too long until we  were convinced to get a house.  Looking back that may not have been the best move for many people at that time, but in our mind it was a good investment and we were planning on staying about three years and then moving on to something that would be a better fit for a family of 4.  I remember not initially loving our neighborhood and thinking about all the things I would change.  Now looking back after leaving last month, I am so grateful that God kept us in there and made it our home.  

It’s too hard to describe all that I remember and love about our house and neighborhood but I think the story of white-eyes the kitten sums up much of what I loved.  One day Eloise found one of the many kittens that at various points have lived in our garage, and it had some type of conjunctivitis.  Thus the name “white-eyes”.  She desperately wanted us to keep it, and we debated this until a neighbor ended up taking her away and keeping her.  Eloise was devastated and despite my strong dislike for cats, Sara and the kids eventually ended up convincing me to get one.  Less than 24 hours later we had domino, a cat who very quickly found herself pregnant with kittens that were born in the kitty hospital on our porch.

While we eventually found new homes for them, the few weeks when they were living on our porch was a lot of fun.  Kate used to go a grab them and carry them around giggling, and there were many hours spent chasing them around and putting them in weird places.  

I will miss this and the many random things that on my own I never would have thought to try, but having done them makes our life as a family on 3824 Clinton all the more meaningful. While it's a little sad to be leaving a place with so many memories, it makes me all the more excited to make new ones at our home in Haiti.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kate's House

Little Miss Katherine was still just a plan for a future third child when we moved into our house on Clinton Ave.  Three years after we moved in Kate was added to our family.  She made an immediate impression.  Kate filled our house with both extreme amounts of laughter and joy as well as little bits of mischief.  Hilarious imps are always the most dangerous of weapons leaving memories of pencil marks on the walls and marker on the floor.

She loves her role as the youngest of three often being called our gigantic infant.  But she also doesn't mind so much being the oldest of the littles when the cousins are gathered.
She'll miss the only house she's ever known.  She'll miss her Minnesota and now Shanghai cousins.  Soon she will be reunited with her Haiti cousins and start to make her marks on our new home.  Her persistence joyfulness will come right along with us as she dances into Haiti.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Eloise's House

When we moved into the Clinton Ave house miss Eloise was not yet born. But just a week later she made an early arrival and joined the family.  She entered the house as a wee 6lb 4oz perfectly sweet baby.

She quickly became a spirited toddler! Luke would fall asleep beside her on the floor of their green bedroom after comforting her in her fits.  He'd bring a pillow down, cover them both up, and they'd drift off till morning. 

 She became a big sister just before her third birthday and took the responsibility quite seriously. She allowed Kate to crawl into her bed as soon as Kate was able and still allows Kate to twirl her hair until they both drift off.  She was immediately and has continued to be a loving, protective big sister. 

While she may grow quite slowly, she matures quite rapidly.  She has become our responsible, studious, orderly doll.  She amazes us with her sense of adventure, amazing upper body strength, and ability to create order out of chaos.  What a beauty she's become.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Luke's House

When we moved into our house on 3824 Clinton Ave Luke was almost 4 years old.  At that time he was not Luke but instead would only respond when called Spiderman or Peter Parker. He had just been adopted by Chris a couple days before we moved in and became a big brother a week after we moved in.  He was silly, full of energy and creativity, and a pure joy.

Over the past 8 years he has grown into an amazing young man of God.  He is empathetic, desires peace and harmony, and has fully grown into his role as leader of the siblings.  He cherishes his sisters and it is precious to see.  
Luke quickly became friends with the neighbor across the street, Troy.  They have been best friends for the past 8 years and it is one of the most difficult things about moving.
They went from wee boys to tweeners hanging out at the MOA and the MN State Fair together.