Second Mile Haiti

Welcome to our blog! This is a place for us to keep friends and supporters up-to-date with the latest 'Second Mile' happenings! Check in often. Things are moving fast!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

give away a little love

It’s hard to keep people in the loop when we aren’t even sure what’s going on. We do know that God has been very evident in our decision-making. We have spent a great deal of time looking at several different properties. There was one property that we were sure we were going to buy. So sure that we told everyone how much money we needed for that particular property. One day I was out at the land and suddenly I could no longer picture us living there. I had an overwhelming feeling that this land wouldn’t be ours.

I think it’s important that everyone sees the error in my thinking.

I’ll say it again.

…..this land wouldn’t be ours.

That may very well be the problem with NGO’s, organizations, and businesses in Haiti. Everything has to be our idea, our land, our people, our donors, our resources, and especially our contacts.

I’m no Saint, and I have may have drifted into this “ours concept” once or twice. Okay, maybe more than that.

The reason we have been super quiet the last week is that we have been working out a partnership with another organization. They approached us and said Hey we love what you guys are doing and we think we can help each other. They were just starting to set up on a large piece of land and offered to share some of their space with us. None of this land is ours, but God’s. We would love to share God’s land. Isn’t that beautiful?

I like the sound of “this is God’s land.” 

This organization would be helpful in conducting the training seminars we had hoped to offer. We could share gardens and water and other resources…maybe even cows. We could run mobile clinics together... and just plain work together. They also already have a strong business education curriculum. What’s so awesome is that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Just a side note: I hadn't heard the phrase “re-invent the wheel,” and Amy tried to tell me that everyone uses it. I argued, and a week later a Haitian used the phrase. Amy 1, Jenn 0.

What I’m trying to say is that this organization has been active in several different countries and is very knowledgeable in micro-finance loans, business ventures, and running education seminars. You know, kind of like the phrase. Been there, done that.

Yesterday, I went and visited the property and spoke with the contractor. His name is Maurice. Maurice is a big guy with an even bigger heart. He’s from Canada and has spent the last 7 years traveling the world. He has set up orphanages, special needs facilities, playgrounds, farming programs, and training facilities for welding and all sorts of other trades…I could go on forever.  Let’s say the guy is experienced and knows his stuff.

He said a couple things that clicked with me.

“Everyone here just needs to get their heads out of their asses and realize we are here for the same purpose, and that purpose is love.”

“You are here to do whatever you can, whenever you can, however you can, for whoever you can, for as long as you can.”

“People need to understand that God didn’t give us money so that it can collect dust in a bank, he gives it so we can give it. If you want more money then try giving it away.”

“Money is like love, it’s no good unless you give it away.”

I think this guy would make an excellent neighbor don’t you?

I also asked if he would go back to the States and fundraise for us. He just laughed. Maybe he didn’t realize I was serious.

Okay are you guys ready for the BEAUTY and IRONY of God’s work?

I looked at a piece of land last week, and loved it. When I came home I told Amy we needed to buy it. It was pretty expensive but I saw right past that. A few days later we checked it out and someone said white people bought the land right next door. We were a little disappointed.

Then a couple days later our friend we met in Port au Prince called us and said he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t thought of this before but he had some land that might be perfect for us. Sure enough, he was a member of the group that had bought the land. A week earlier Amy had mentioned we needed to really partner with this organization because they were doing some really good things. BAM. God heard that a week ago, and probably said don’t worry I already have it in the works.

God is good like that.

Let’s be honest, God is really good.

So we don't know yet if it will work out for us to live next to them, but we sure know we our going to make great partners. Today I ask that everyone please join us in praying for this coming week, for our partnership, and for the potential “sharing of God’s land.”  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God's got another good one.

Entering the hospital was different this time. I haven’t felt the wobbly leg-weak in the knees feeling in a long time.

We went straight to the Peds department and saw the nurses unhooking Marck’s oxygen tubing and rolling away the machinery. All of the other parents kept their heads down. Maybe they knew the pain of losing a child and wanted to give Marck’s family some space. The doctors continued to go on with their day.

This was the first time Amy and I have witnessed a child pass away in the presence of a parent.

It sucks. It really sucks.

In case you didn’t know, our mission started because of this kid. He captivated out hearts and showed us what it was like to fight. We spent countless hours with this family. There were nights where we all stayed up praying for his survival, singing hymns till 3 in the morning. We have snuck across the Dominican Republic boarder with this family. We named their second child. They taught us Haitian customs and French phrases. We taught them about heart defects and respiratory infections.

Marck had a way of bringing people together. Makenson and Monia are our friends and we love them.

Monia used to joke about how Marck was a little guy with a BIG name. His father Mackenson named him. Marck Henry Finley.
Marck.. to carry on his own name.
Henry…a strong name. the name of the King who built the Citadelle.
Finley…the name of a great Evangelist.

Yesterday we were very grateful for our truck. It meant we were able to take Marck home.

Amy and I worked as a team. She’s the comforting one. She stayed with Monia and the entire family. I helped Mackenson with all the funeral arrangements. We went to town to buy all the supplies for the coffin. Makenson told me that most people have to buy their child a pretty outfit, but he didn’t have to because Marck already had nice clothes.

And he did. He looked handsome in his suit, but more importantly he looked peaceful in his suit.

Marck’s house was crowded with people. This was just another indication that this kid was loved. We laid him in his coffin and headed to the cemetery. This cemetery is one we have been to many times. The same person digs every grave. He's at every single funeral. The pastor shared a great prayer, and he and Marck’s grandfather led hymns for the next twenty minutes. It took about twenty minutes to close up his grave with blocks.

As we were leaving Mackenson asked us to love Marck’s little brother with the same love we have for Marck. I think we can do that. No problem. Mickenson's baby dedication will take place next week and we can't wait to attend.

One of the last things Mackenson told us with our good-bye hugs is that we were all of the same team, like a futbol team. We bonded because we were all fighting for the same thing. We all wanted a win. We all wanted Marck to make it.

While he didn’t make it in our sense of the phrase, he sure does have it made.

(while driving home)
Amy: I bet Marck is breathing easy up in Heaven
Me: Yeah, he’s probably sucking in as much as air as he can!
Amy: Wait do you think we really even need oxygen in Heaven?
Amy: Do you think he’s still a baby?
Amy: Do you think there has to be like nannies watching the babies?
Me: Um…

Yesterday, we lost Marck. It was a hard loss. We will miss him like crazy. We have been blessed so many times by that kid.  And we will continue to be blessed. His story will always be told.

February 2012 - Mickenson (3 days old) and Marck (14 months old)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Gift of a SMILE

Hey there... still here.

Still loving every minute of life in Haiti. Still amazed by God's blessing on our first month back. Although we're just a tadpole of an organization at this point. We have this perfect peace that God will grow us into something awesome (in His timing). We are very content to wait on Him.

We are still checking out different parcels of land outside of Cap Haitien. We'll let you know just as soon as that becomes final. Prayers are appreciated at this point in the process. I'm sure He'll have us "stumble" upon the just right place sometime in the near future. We look forward to the day when we can pour all our efforts into moms and families in a way that empowers and supports them.

At present, we just can't seem to stay away from this concept. This whole mother/baby thing is something that sort of just naturally works itself into our lives here. Today was Saturday. We spent a good chunk of the day with the Tanias. Baby Tania and her mother, Tania.

It's a common trend in Haiti to carry on your parent's name in some way shape or form. A Guerlande might name her child Guerline, a Junise may name her daughter Junissa, a Mackenson might name his son Mickenson. Maybe Tania searched long and hard for something just different enough to suite her baby and just never found anything. At any rate Tania and Tania are pretty cute together.

We met Tania while working at Children of the Promise. An employee knew Tania and recognized right away that her baby needed help.

Little Tania was born with a condition know as cleft lip and cleft palate. But she didn't let this slow her down too much. When we met her at 6 months and 8 lbs, she was full of life and full of smiles.

We were impressed with her mom's care, attentiveness, and the creativity with which she was adapting to her daughters deformity. She had blended an assortment of vegetables, plus peanut butter and was feeding Tania from a makeshift bottle. Mom Tania was trying her best but the presence of an enormous opening between the mouth and nose and lack of a proper palate makes it difficult for children to feed and gain weight appropriately.

The Leap Foundation changed all that. 

The Leap Foundation is a Dallas based organization comprised of volunteer plastic surgeons, urologists, eye surgeons, anesthesiologists, orthodontists, nurses and support staff. They routinely journey's to less developed countries to offer specialized surgical care to children born with deformities. Being from Texas herself, Jenn had an inclination that they might be able to help Tania.

Sure enough, after contacting the Leap Foundation Jenn learned that a team led by the Foundation's founder, Dr. Hobar, was scheduled to arrive in Haiti the following month to perfom none other than cleft lip and palate repairs. It couldn't have been more perfect. Actually, if you consider the people that were in Jenn's life at the time, people passionate about Haiti, people passionate about children with cleft lip, and people that cared enough to raise the money for Tania's transportation to Port-au-Prince well than I guess the story does get... "more perfect."

That April Jenn accompanied Tania and her mother to Port-au-Prince for her first surgery.

Tania and Tania's first time to Port au Prince!

Wish we had a picture to show how the family reacted when they first saw baby Tania, fresh off the airplane, sporting a new smile. It was an incredible moment. This one-week post surgery pic will have to do.

During the first surgery Dr. Hobar created a new lip for Tania. Jenn and the team bonded over all things "Texas" and during the second surgery, in August, she was invited to get in on the action.

Jenn and Dr. Craig Hobar

The second surgery involved additional work on Tania's palate. The transformation was remarkable. A little girl that once looked so disfigured was given a chance at life, and a beautiful smile.

We got to spend our Saturday with this now 18 month old little girl. And her mom.

Tania's journey is not over yet. The Leap Foundation returns to Haiti in April. At this time Tania will receive her third and final surgery to finish closure of the palate. We hope and pray that Tania will continue to grow big, and strong. We can't thank the Leap Foundation enough for what they offer to families like Tania's around the world.

As for Second Mile Ministries, we don't need a facility to invest in mom's like Tania's. In the last few months before Tania's surgery we'll be stopping by each week to check in on the family and deliver a nutritional supplement that's sure to help her gain weight before the big day. Now that we've got you hooked on her smile, stay tuned for more pictures. :)

Outside with Tania's sisters and a cousin - Jennie, Myra, and Yousline.

Monday, February 6, 2012

the payoff of patience.

It's been over a week since our last blog post. Since each day tends to carry about a week's worth of excitement we'll have to work hard to catch everyone up to speed. There's so much good news to report!

On Friday, the last of our visitors left Haiti to return to the States. We had the privilege of hosting two the same time. These visitors were in Haiti on behalf of their respective organizations to evaluate potential areas of partnership with Second Mile Ministries. Emily, Robert, and Gary of One Globe Fund spent 5 days with us. Joe of Investing Your Talents stayed a whopping 10 days and Peter, a fabulous videographer was with him for the final four.

What a whirlwind of a trip. Initially, we drove to Port au Prince in our new Ford Ranger, grabbed our visitors from the airport, headed to a Partners Worldwide conference, stayed the night at the Wall's guesthouse, and then drove home to the North of the island. It's a gorgeous drive. Interesting, that a distance as short as 90 miles could take 6 1/2 hours by vehicle, but the bumpy terrain and mountain passes between Port au Prince and Cap Haitien prevent one from traveling any faster.

The country's two largest cities are quite different if you ask me. Jenn and I have spent enough time in Port au Prince to know that we're happy to call Cap Hatien home. Port au Prince is huge and busy. Cap Haitien, by comparison, is small and busy...which I find much more appealing. It's nice to be able to run into several familiar faces each day.

Speaking of familiar faces, we ran into two of the most amazing women we know when we took our visitors to church last Sunday.

The church we attend is called Tabernacle. The church structure itself is an unfinished, open-air stadium that is able to accommodate at least 10,000 people.  Now I've never actually taken a head count but I'm pretty sure at 3,000 people attend every Sunday. It's an amazing experience to be together with that many passionate people raising their voices in praise and thanksgiving. Being American, we're typically stopped by the ushers as they try their best to coax us to the front of the stadium where seats of honor await us on stage. They don't want us pale skinned folk to burn up in the sun. However, this kind gesture is always met by our pleading to be freed from this obligation and us running for seats to the left of the stage, off the hot seat. We'd rather not receive the extra attention. I'm happy to report that this duck and dodge thing is getting easier each Sunday. Maybe within a few more Sunday's we'll be considered regulars...

"Tabernacle" celebrating their 20th anniversary as a church. 

Having visitors in Haiti was a stretching experience, if we're honest. We are accustomed to's our home. We know how to fend for ourselves but having five other mouths to feed was a whole different ball game. We tried to show them the Haiti that makes us smile, the Haiti that's a got a hold on our hearts. 

Its beauty.

Its brokenness

Its potential.

Its fervor...
Its joy. 

Jenn got quite the surprise on Joe's last day in Haiti. He had decided upon coming to Haiti that he would be leaving his iPhone behind, 32 GB of awesomeness! He wanted us to have the ability to take and post pictures with ease, stay connected, and have access to all sorts of beneficial applications. 

Here Jenn is receiving her gift. The crazy thing is that Jenn had seriously considered buying an iPhone prior to coming to Haiti. She had an iPod, loved it, and lost it. A few people had given her some early Christmas money to replace it. She was even considering going all the way and getting the iPhone instead...and she'd even gotten as far as the Apple store. But after pacing around the store, going in and out a few times, and even phoning a friend for back up she just couldn't justify spending all that money. 

It may seem silly to be digging for deep meaning in this story. But I just can't help but see it. I feel like there is always reward in patience. Always something to be gained from letting God whisper His wisdom into decisions even as seemingly small as buying a phone. 

Speaking of purchases.... we made a big one recently. Have you seen it!?

Thank you to everyone who has donated to Second Mile Ministries. Your donations made this possible.   Having the truck will allow us to make frequent visits out to "our land." We're currently in negotiations to buy a piece of property about 20 minutes outside of town. Jenn and Johanne have their work cut out for them this next week because...we're at a place donation-wise where we can purchase! 

There was a matching challenge and you delivered!!!!! Over $6,000 were donated in the last two weeks, with an additional $5,000 given in matched funds! Remember that little after thought of a sentence we threw in at the end of a blog post two weeks ago? Crazy to think where we were two, three months ago. 

We trust that money will continue to pour in for other upcoming needs. Y'all are awesome.