Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Videos from Haiti!

Hey, guys! Here's another way to have you experience Haiti with us... tons of videos for you to explore taken by myself and a few members of our team! Feel free to visit my YouTube Channel (SnmImmel) to watch the videos from our trip. These videos range from playing with kids, to Haiti lightning storms (with great commentary), to fun on planes, to interviews with some of our team members and Pastor Georges! Enjoy and let us know what you think ;)

How to access my YouTube Channel:
1) Go to http://www.youtube.com/ and search for SnmImmel

2) Click on one of the videos in the gadget to the left on this blog page, click on the title of the video. Once in YouTube, click on my name next to the top of the video.

OR

3) Click on this link :) haha... let's see how far down you read ;) http://www.youtube.com/user/SnmImmel

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thank you!

Family and Friends,

Beginning this letter is one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever had to complete. I feel like I’m back in grad school beginning a 50 page research paper and after many days of collecting my thoughts I still don’t know what the first sentence should look like. Writing my blog was easier than writing this letter because it was in the moment. Now 4 days removed from the trip of a lifetime I’m finding it very difficult to put into words just what this trip has done for me and for the people of Haiti.

I’ve heard several times that people who go on mission trips feel they come back more changed than any change they could have done for the people they were working with. It’s so true! I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity by God to work with the people of Haiti and it’s such a humbling experience to realize just how much, these people who have very little, have given me. Their sense of pride in their country, pride in what they do have, and faith in our Lord is inspiring, especially coming from our culture where we often get lost in the day to day tasks and tangible goods we desire beyond what our Lord has provided for us.

During our trip we had 4 main tasks: painting dormitories at the Haitian American Friendship Foundation (HAFF), weighing malnourished children, construction on a local church, and loving and working with children in local orphanages and through the community. We started the first day of our trip off right with a visit and stay at an orphanage in Port au Prince. This orphanage is run by Americans who have made it their life mission to take care of the children in Haiti. Their story of being called by God is one of inspiration, trials, tears, and triumph. It’s so amazing to hear of people like us just going “All Out” for our Lord. That first night we sang many songs, “How Great is Our God” and “Mighty to Save” to name a few, with the children as videos of the song were projected on the side of a building in the playground yard. We then went on to watch “The Karate Kid.” I’ve never loved that movie more than I did that night. With adorable children, left without families, and many without limbs after the earthquake, sitting in our laps and yelling “Miyagi” all night… whose heart wouldn’t have overflowed with joy and love?!

From there we left Port au Prince the next morning and headed over the community of Bohoc. Located 90 miles outside of Port au Prince, the 8 hour bus ride proved to be quite the long, sickening, treacherous ride that none of us will ever forget. We have all agreed that we will never complain about the pot holes in Atlanta again! ;) There in Bohoc we worked on the four main tasks mentioned above and spent all of that time getting to know the Haitians in the community, listening to their stories, and learning to understand their hearts. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog then you’ve heard the names of Pastor George, McGlover, Pablo, and my sweet Rubin. If you haven’t, and would like to hear about them, please take a moment to see their stories and the events as I described them while in Haiti by reading the previous posts on this blog page.

The Haitians, and the Lord through them, have showed me what true love and faith in our Lord looks like. To live daily for our Lord, in everything that we do, and desire nothing more than what He affords us is my ultimate goal. I couldn’t imagine going through life any other way now. It’s amazing that a 14 year-old can teach me that, but hey… you learn something new everyday ;) They have forever changed my life and my relationship with Christ and I will be forever thankful for them.

I pray that all of our hearts will remember the lessons we learned from the Haitians; That each day we will wake up seeking the Lord in everything that we do; That when we face the most difficult struggles in our lives we look to the Lord for comfort and guidance; That we will always trust in the Lord; and that we will never seek out more than the Lord has offered us.

First, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:12

And… I sincerely thank you all for all of your support and prayers through this experience. It would not have been possible without you and you were as much of our team’s ministry in Haiti as we were! Please keep our team and the people of Haiti in your prayers, as they continue their work there and we become acclimated to the culture in the states again. I can honestly say it has been more difficult coming back than it was going in. Prayers for us to remain open to what next steps God has for us would be so helpful. Many of our team members are already planning their trips back; many are considering long-term missions as an option in their life; and well… I’m looking forward to either a December or next June return to Bohoc! Hopefully some of you might join me J

You are all angels in my life and I will remain forever thankful for each of you!

If you do not have facebook and/or have not had the opportunity to check out the pictures from the trip, please visit the following links to the public albums:
God bless,

Stephanie

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"I love you now... and I'll love you forever... no goodbye... only love..."

"The Perfect Storm" was a heart wrencher... full of drama, love, fear, and death. I once dated this guy and whenever he would fly out of Georgia to visit his Dad he would tell me, "no goodbye... only love..." Even at the ripe old age of 17 I felt like I understood it and I really felt like he meant it, but at the same time never imagined that he wouldn't come back home. He always did and everytime I took for granted his presence and took for granted just how much he loved me and took care of me... as much as a 17 year-old boy can take care of their girlfriend. I mean... I call driving to the mainland to get Zaxby's for me when I was sick... taking care of me! It was my favorite and he knew it.

Leaving Haiti felt much like the goodbye we had when he would leave. I love Haiti and I left a lot of my heart there when I left, but I knew when I left that I would see them again. I know I'm going to see McGlover, my lovely little lady (who, if I thought God made mistakes, I would swear she was supposed to be mine), Rubin, Pastor George and Pablo again. I just know it! But what I also know is that there is more I can do for them here in the states, at this time, than I would be able to do for them over there. You see, I believe God calls us all to do different things. Some people He calls to do long-term mission trips, others He calls for short-term trips, and for some He calls to use their resources to assist others in helping on the "battle grounds." Neither calling is less than the other... God has built us all differently.

After much turmoil, many tears, mass confusion, and spiritual rollercoasters since re-entering the states I can confidently say that I feel like God has called me to be in the middle... He didn't make me a middle child, so why not make me a "middle missionary?!" :) You know what I mean... short-term once or twice a year followed by some work in the states that can carry back over into Haiti to assist them with what they're doing over there. There are so many things they need help with that can't be accomplished while sitting in Haiti... they need so many resources from here and they need PRAYER. We can pray from anywhere... did you know that? Just tonight I heard about a small group friend who was praying in the shower ;) He really does hear us wherever we are!

So... as I continue processing through this and try to put my thoughts, emotions, and spirtual journey into a precise tale of "glory" I can, for right now, wrap up my trip in this: "I love you now... and I'll love you forever... no goodbye... only love..." for my dear Haiti.

More on the details as I continue grasping what God is teaching me in these moments... ;)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My heart belongs to Rubin

As a middle school teacher I have the honor of working with students from ages 11 - 14. Personally, I feel like teaching is a job that requires much more than educating children on math, reading, social studies, sciences, and English. Education is an area that encompasses all learning: social, moral, spiritual, and life skills. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love my job and I love my students, but I wish Rubin was also one of my students.

Rubin is 14 years old and lives in the community of Bohoc, which is a community that is located inside the city of Pignon in Haiti. Rubin speaks very good English for it being his second language and has a passion for life that can sometimes be hard to find. He would like to be a doctor one day and come to the United States for medical school. I asked him a lot of questions, more than many of the other kids. At first it was because I was just very excited to be able to speak English to him, but mostly because of this first answer: "Why have you decided to be a doctor and go to the United States for medical school?" "I pray to God and He knows all, so I do what He says I should do."

Now I'm no expert... but I'm pretty sure I haven't heard that from too many of the 14 year old children in America. I decided to do an interview with him and learn more, but the basics: He would like to be able to help the people in his country who lose limbs. It's a phenomenal story of a child who has grown up in a poverish area who prays for more for himself and his community. He is 14 years old and I am inspired by him, his love and faith in our Lord, and his pride for his community.

 Before we left the community gathering I met him at 2 days ago he told me he was going home to paint. I didn't think much of it except that this young man was not only very smart for 14, had a love for Christ, and a passion to help people, but that maybe he was also very talented. Last night we had the opportunity to go into a "gift shop" for the community that a few American missionaries have set up to run for them. People from the community create things to put in the shop and all of the money received goes back to them in the community. What did I find??? Nothing less than a beautiful painting of a flower... on the back of a record :)... signed by none other than the adorable Rubin. The lady in the shop told me that he had just brought it in that morning and it was the first thing he had ever decided to put in the store. I am now the proud owner of Rubin's record flower and couldn't imagine coming home with anything more meaningful.

I'm excited to keep in touch with Rubin over the years to learn more about what he is doing, and hopefully one day help him earn scholarships and apply for colleges in the states. It's the very least I can do to help him fulfill the calling he believes God has put in his life. Tremendous young man who has captured my heart... it doesn't hurt I have now heard he asks for me when I'm not around ;) It's official... I'm a Rubin fan!




Monday, June 13, 2011

A few pictures to wet your whistle ;)








No Comcast in Haiti??

It's funny how when we begin doing things in our life that make sense, that God has truly led us to do, we forget about the other aspects of our lives that tend to consume our interests and thoughts. Last night, after debriefing our day, somebody pointed out that we hadn't watched TV... if I'm being completely honest, I have NEVER gone one week without TV in my entire life... or at least not since I was in control of my regular TV consumption. To make the comment even more impacting... I hadn't even realized that TV had not been a part of my daily schedule the last three days. Shocker!!

God has really begun to put things into perspective for me here in Haiti. We wake up, get dressed, have quiet times, do devotionals, share community, eat breakfast, and are so totally focused on what we're here to do in Haiti that all of the "extras" we have in the states don't even come to mind. I mean... I didn't even pack make-up or jewelry! BIG step! For me, personally, this is such a blessing. I have a DVR and record, on average, 10 hours of shows a week. The question... when do I ever have time to watch all of it? Well... I tell you I do, because at the end of every week it's empty again waiting for the next week. It's a little disturbing when I really begin thinking about it... and most important... what could I have been doing with my time other than watching my recorded shows? What does God want me to do with that time? I assure you there is a lot I could be doing that would glorify God much more than watching TV.

It's a convicting realization, but just one more lesson God has taught me on this trip. I have found more peace, happiness, joy, sadness, and love in the last 5 days from the PEOPLE God has placed in my life than any TV show could ever give me. I think Comcast may be getting a phone call from me when we return ;)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just like the movies...

Usually waking up at 3:30am would bother me, but yesterday was a different ballgame. Waking up at 3:30am felt like I was a child on Christmas morning. In our household we would wake up early... usually our parents were already awake because my Dad had a tradition of taking a shower before we could go down to see what Santa brought. After the shower, we would wait, not patiently, to go down the stairs, but we always had to wait for my Dad to get his video camera ready at the bottom. He needed to capture our reactions. Yesterday, I woke up early, and time was just like my Dad... keeping me from getting where I wanted to be. I got up, took a shower, made my bed, closed my bags and waited... not patiently... for my ride to take me to the airport.

I felt like Kate Hudson or Julia Roberts walking on to a movie set. It was as if I had prepared for years for my role, studying other people, rehearsing my lines, and diligently researching my role. Everything had come down to this moment, the moment when all of my hard work would be put to the test... I'd either be paid the larger reward or fired like Lindsey Lohan on a bad day.

The airport was fun... Atlanta airport is what it is and Miami is like one big circle with only one restaurant in the whole place that served lunch. For a group who woke up at 3:30am, 9am = lunch time! We had a 3 hour layover in Miami which turned into a 4 hour layover after we sat on the tarmac for an hour. The announcement made: "We are waiting on the rest of the crew." Well... at least we can thank American Airlines for not letting the flight attendants fly our plane! Finally we made it to Port au Prince!! We were greeted by the hot, humid air and a Haitian band playing what sounded like an introduction to Jamaica... needless to say I danced as I walked through :) From the gate we rode a bus to where immigration is located. This building looks more like an airplane hanger. In case anyone is interested... there is no picture taking in Haitian immigration! I got a pretty ugly look, so I smiled, waved my hand, and put my camera away. There were no signs... or at least none in English :(

From there we had our bags loaded on to a bus and headed to New Life Children's Home, the orphanage we are staying at until we leave for Bohoc. First, the people in Haiti drive worse than me... and that's saying A LOT, so I'm thankful we got here. There aren't many words that can express the scenes we saw driving in and I'm not sure pictures will do it justice, but please wait for the pictures to be posted. It's easier than putting it into words... but what I can do... is talk about these kids. Pablo... my little buddy... will have a place in my heart forever! We were here on the perfect night... we got to sing worship songs (How Great is our God and Mighty to Save) with the kids... IN ENGLISH!!!!... and they knew every word. After we sang we watched The Karate Kid... there's nothing like sitting outside, looking at the Haitian stars, and watching a Karate Kid screening on the side of an orphanage building. Pablo... a little shy guy sat on my lap with his backpack and clenched on to my heart forever. Pablo had a hold on that backpack, too. It took until about half way through the movie for him to remove the pack. By the end, he had put both of his tiny hands in mine and wrapped both of my arms around him. At the end of the movie I walked him to his room and watched him place his backpack under his pillow. Part of the pack remained hanging out, so I let him know it wasn't all the way in. He sweetly told me that he holds on to it while he sleeps. This adorable little boy has... a backpack, roof, food, water, and school in an orphanage. The word humbling doesn't do this experience justice... Definitely an experience I will never forget. I would say I have played a successful role for the first day.

Just like in the movies there is a writer, producer, director, actors, etc. Obviously our role here is actor... but God has been our writer, director, and producer... that is more than evident in everything we have done. We are blessed to be here and be a part of this mission and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us next. Off to breakfast and then hopping on a 5 hour bus ride to Bohoc, so... To be continued...

Pablo, me, Wisben, and Ryan

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Team blogger!!!

Hey, guys! If my rambling thoughts don't wet your Haiti trip whistle... check out my family's, I mean team's, blog: http://globalxhaiti.tumblr.com/ :) 63 hours!!!!!

Numbers...

512… the number of days since the 7.0 magnitude Earthquake hit Haiti
141… the number of days since I applied to go to Haiti
65….. the number of days since I met 22 individuals (most of whom I did not know)
18….. the number of days since I began calling them family
3….... the number of days before we leave for Haiti

Infinite… the many ways God, our supporters, and our Haiti family have already changed my life

Making the decision to simply apply for a trip to Haiti was difficult enough. I spent many days speaking with people I knew had attended missions, speaking with people from Haiti, and speaking with friends and family members about what I felt God had been calling me to do. After a lot of conversations and many prayers I finally decided to apply to go to Haiti.

There are many men who work on the custodial staff at the school I work at. They are Haitian, and during the earthquake of 2010 I was in direct contact with each of them as we worked to support them, love on them, and raise funds to send to Haiti in their names. Their accents are very heavy, but that hasn’t stopped us from communicating. There were times I would talk with them about their families in Haiti, those who survived, and for a few, those who did not survive. Since having been accepted on the Haiti trip, our conversations have now turned into their joy to share their country with me. One man even said, “I go with you!!!” He was so overjoyed that he just wanted to go with us, to be back in his home country, and to share how much he loves Haiti and his family with me.

God has blessed me with this amazing, yet scary opportunity, to leave my comfort zone, meet 22 of the most amazing people I have ever met, and work with them for Him and His people. Through meeting these amazing people, raising funds, witnessing to people as they ask about the trip, and becoming a part of my mission family I have become so humbled and stand in complete awe at just how amazing our God is. Pray big, people! God answers! Our Haiti family is solid proof of that!

In 3 short days we leave to go to Haiti. Some are excited, some are scared, some are nervous, some are packed, some won’t pack until Friday morning… and some of us are feeling all of the above. What do we all have in common right now? We all are going into this knowing that we are loved. We are loved by God, by each other, and by the huge showing of support we have all received in preparing for this trip. Please continue to pray for each of us as we finish preparing for our departure. Please pray that we will remain focused on what God has called us to do during these last days. We are excited, humbled, and can’t wait to share this experience with all of you! 3... 2... 1...


God bless,
Stephanie

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

Monday, June 6, 2011

Here's to my family!

Family - (noun) a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not. http://dictionary.reference.com/

Family is an interesting word. I just got home, to my apartment in Atlanta, from our last team meeting before we leave for Haiti on Friday... and all I seem to be able to think about today is this word, family. My entire family: brothers, sisters, step-siblings (which I clearly include as my biological siblings since I refer to myself as being one of 6 children!), parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (though now all deceased I feel even more inclined to make them proud), my FRIENDS... yes... you're my family, too... the families in Haiti, the families of the Haitian custodial staff at the school I work at, etc.

Aren't we all family?! The definition above says it all... parents, children, group, whether living together or not. I don't know about you, but that's God, our Heavenly Father, and every single one of us here on Earth. That's a family! I'm already emotionally dumbfounded at the idea of how OUR family and OUR God, have come together to put together this amazing team, equip us with the words, resources, love, grace, etc. that we need to get to an area that needs so much help... an area where God will work through us to help out our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I'm scared I'm not ready. I'm scared I won't have the ability to be all they need. I'm scared to just leave the country for the first time. BUT... I'm sane, willing, and able because I KNOW I have a family and a Father who will be with me every step of the way. Tonight I'm not praying for God to be with me... why? He's already with me! I'm praying for our family... that we will allow ourselves to be all He intends us to be. That we will see Him at the end of our rope, knowing that everything we do is for Him and our family members. He is enough... Lord, please give us all the strength, wisdom, and courage to follow You through this journey. We know You're leading us and we want to follow... we need to follow You!

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ Romans 15:5-6

Friday, June 3, 2011

One week away!!

I can't believe we're only one week away. It was almost a year ago that I began having conversations with my friend Mike about going on a mission trip. I was feeling the gentle shoulder shoves from God to get out of the south (which I've never left) and work with others in need, in His name. Mike was a huge support system and someone I knew I could speak to about this topic, especially since he had already been on several trips to Cambodia. He advised me to pray, so I did... I prayed for some time about what trip God really wanted me to be on. After praying and many conversations with people, including the Haitian natives that work on my school's staff, Haiti seemed like the clear "winner"... if you consider me entering your country to be a "win!" I might think twice about that if I were you...

Now... a year later my palms are sweating thinking about even flying down to Miami, let alone a country that struggles to obtain clean water; I just took a pill that has a little Tyhpoid Fever guy in it... so now he's inhabited my body; and I'm having nightmares that I've left my passport and below the knees pants at home when I arrive to the airport! How am I supposed to do work in the field if my shorts are above my knees... this isn't acceptable! So I woke up this morning and did what any sane person would do... I began packing... one week in advance. Some might claim I need therapy, my friends might laugh at me, my Mom would tell me to write out my list. Well... the list is made, I have a bag sitting next to my door with band aids, a hat, pens, trash bags, neosporin, etc. It's a far cry from being completely packed, but even just a little start makes me feel better. Ahhhhh... but I didn't even include my passport... after all that! See... writing it out certainly does help! I guess I need to go put it in there before I forget... AGAIN!

Here's to still praying for...
  • our team's safety.
  • the Haitian people we will work with.
  • that God will work through each one of us for them.
  • that we will all remain open to what God wants to show us and teach us through this experience.
and...
  • for my precious sanity ;)

And to Mike... my dear friend who allowed the Lord to speak through him, thank you for your long lasting encouragement, grace, and support. I'm blessed to know you and your amazing heart for our Lord!


Love you all!

Steph