Friday, September 20, 2013

Leaders Reflection

Just about a year ago today Lisa Olson and I joined another team to go and serve in Haiti.  Little did we know what that trip would put into motion.  After we came home we had a number of Slumberland associates ask us about our experience.  We hosted a lunch and learn to share about our time in Haiti.  Many people were moved from the photos and stories after which many remarked…”if you ever go back I want to go with you”.  SO… we put out the invitation to the Twin Cities group and 14 others answered the call to go and serve the Haitian people with Healing Haiti.  Thanks to each of you who supported our team through your prayers, giving financially and/or donating 24 suit cases full of clothes, medicine, school supplies… we personally carried over 1,100 pounds of aid to Haiti. 

We have always known that Slumberland is blessed with AMAZING people… We should not have been surprised how well our team did in challenging conditions.  Hot and humid temperatures in the mid to high 90’s every day with humidity in the 60-70% with no complaining and smiles on everyone’s faces the team functioned in one unified spirit.  It was amazing to see everyone’s gifts and talents surface in different ways throughout the week to serve both the Haitians and also each other.  We can’t tell you how proud we are of the Slumberland team.  We left as a group of associates and came home united as dear friends. 

We feel very honored and privileged to have led such a great team…

     - Lisa and Michael

Thursday, September 19, 2013


The last full day in Haiti we had the privilege of going up to the top of the mountain to treat the team to some well deserved R&R and to do some sight seeing and shopping.  Haiti is a beautiful Island and its’ highest peak is 8,793 feet.  It is noticeably cooler up the mountain with cool gentle breezes (below is a team picture taken at a scenic overlook).  Below we could see the slums that we served the past week.  From that elevation everything looked beautiful, however we all knew what the living conditions were like down below for thousands and thousands of people living in the slums. 

Haiti is a nation of extreme contrasts.  The difference from the ultra rich to the ultra poor is astounding with not much in between.  The temperature difference from sea level to mountain top is also drastic.  The biggest contrast I found is the deplorable conditions we found in the slum contrasted with the smiles and joy you found particularly in the children’s faces living in the slum.    There is beauty found even in the worst parts of Haiti, there is hope, and there is a good future ahead.  I have a good friend in Haiti who I met on my first trip, we became close friends very quickly.  I remember talking with him once as we were both admiring the view from up high … he looked over his country and said… “Haiti could be such a great nation”.  I believe he is right, and look forward to seeing it happen in our lifetime.
- Michael

Monday, September 16, 2013

Feeding Starving People

Today is our last day in Haiti and we have a long travel day ahead of us.  However, there is one last serving opportunity before heading to the airport  – the distribution of Feed My Starving Children Manna Packs to a nearby tent city.  We assembled 4 manna packs into plastic bags.  Each pack contains 6 meals.  We filled 30 boxes with 36 packs and loaded the boxes  onto the Top Top.  Riding to our destination, we were instructed to each take 3-6 plastic bags to the farthest tents first, return to the Top Top for more bags, deliver those and gradually work our way out.  The Haitians soon realized we were there and gathered around us.  Some of the older children tried to pull the bags from my arms and picked at the plastic to pull manna packs out through the hole.  We were taught to say “alean tattoo” which means “go to your house” so that the people would know we would only deliver to their tent and not to individuals.  I was grateful when a couple of residents took charge of the children  and the grabbing stopped.  Within 30 minutes we delivered 6,480 meals!   Thank you to many of you who have volunteered your time at the Feed My Starving Children facilities packaging manna packs  – it was a privilege to deliver them to hungry people on the receiving end.      - Linda

It was the morning of the last day of our trip.  30 boxes of FMSC manna packs were brought to our Guest House to prepare for distribution in a nearby tent city. There were two teams, 24 people, that worked in assembly style to put 4 manna packs into a black plastic bag - approximately 24 meals - and then back into boxes to facilitate the distribution process. We opened the FMSC boxes wondering if maybe some of them were ones we had touched in Minnesota during the Slumberland FMSC events. We were all excited to be involved in the full circle of making the manna packs and now getting ready to distribute them to the poorest of the poor, to hungry Haitian families. We could tell some of the packs were not fully air tight. Some of the boxes had loose rice in the bottom. One pack unfortunately had many bugs crawling in it and it troubled me greatly to have to discard this pack, fully realizing the importance, the need, the hunger. I will pack FMSC manna packs with much higher attention to detail in the future.

As we drove to the tent city, we were instructed to stay in groups of three. To hold the bags of food high in the air and to select a walkway -  a narrow path into the maze of 'homes' - to walk in as far as we were comfortable, to hand one bag to each house, working our way out back to the top-top (vehicle) to restock and go back in. We were not there to play with the children - the Haitians knew we were there for one distinct purpose. For the first time all week, I felt the Haitian's utter desperation for survival.

The 'tent' homes were approximately 10 feet by 10 feet, made of pieced metals and tarps. Dirt floors, no furniture as we know it. I don't know how many people lived in each structure, there were so many people. We walked over and through their 'bathroom' areas and through passages that were so narrow I had to turn sideways.  There was urgency and tugging on us to bring food to their home. Obviously we did not have enough for everyone. We tried to be fair and to make sure each home only got one bag. At one point, I once got separated from my small group and felt panic and called out loudly to reunite for safety. I saw and felt the desperation of the hungry.  An older Haitian man tried to help put some order to this chaos, but desperation prevailed. Once our bags were gone, we were no longer searched out or tugged. 

6,474  of the 6,480 meals were distributed in about 30 minutes. That discarded pack meant 6 meals were wasted, 6 people missed receiving that precious food.  As we quickly drove away, I felt exhausted, somewhat discouraged and saddened by how massive this problem of hunger really is, by how impossible it was to meet all the needs, by the contrast of Haitian reality with how blessed I am to live in the USA. The images and memories of our time in Haiti will forever be etched in my heart. I know this mission has just started for me.   -sue

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mass Grave

    Not far from Port au Prince is the site of the "Mass Grave" where an uncountable amount of people
are buried after the 7.0 earthquake on January 12th 2010.  After over 200,000 people in Haiti perished
-thousands upon thousands of the dead were brought here.
     Our driver and guide Wilson explains this to us also mentioning that- at the time of the quake both he and his father were in town.  Wilson was in a classroom in school- he left the class room to find a drink of water- he watched as the building collapsed in front of him.  Nearly every person in the school died- but Wilson was sparred!   Unfortunately his father did not survive where his bank building also collapsed.
     A ways up the mountain multiple crosses can be seen with inspirational messages on them-overlooking the desolate land and the grave site.
                   -  Alan Bahr

There is Power in the Name of Jesus

Today we started our day with Church at Grace Village...folks walked way up the hill, wearing their very best for the service. Pastor Wesley sang the words "There is Power in the Name of Jesus" and those words rang true as the congregation sang in lifting harmony...the band played well (very well) and Pastor Wesley took the worship to the 'top of the mountain' (so to speak)...I couldn't help thinking of watching my step-mom dying in front of my eyes just about two weeks previously, tears welled in my eyes... and I wondered, "God, why are you showing me this? Because you want me to see the strength of believing in you?" My soul soared and I knew that was the message. - R


Part of our service when delivering the water is helping lift and carry it. Most of the containers that people use are 5 gal buckets, others are very large wide, but fairly shallow 'wash pans'...Some people even bring beat up 55 gal drums...or other sizes somewhere in between. The thing about water is, it's heavy. And, these people (often times children) have to carry as much as they can back to there homes.
I was astonished at the physical effort it takes to carry a 5 gal bucket of water through the narrow paths of very irregular terrain (filled with all manners of dangerous obstacles)...yet, here were 10 year old girls carrying one on their head as well as carrying one at their side. The people of Haiti are strong and experiencing carrying the weight of the water with them....I believe no weight is too much for them to be able to rise above the poverty. - R

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Today and yesterday were a day of contrasts.  The definition of contrasts is, "the difference or degree of difference between things having similar or comparable natures." Yesterday, we were again at Cite Soleil, arguably the worst slum in the western hemisphere and then today we took the neighborhood  street children to the beach to spend the day.  Even though both groups of children are poor, I would like to share my thoughts on the contrasts we saw.
Yesterday, as we delivered water, the children had to hurry to fill their buckets, carry them on their heads and bring them to their homes, then come back to the water truck to fill it again and again. Today as the children went to the beach, many for the first time, you could see their faces light up as entered the warm waters of the ocean.
Yesterday at Cite Soleil, we did a walk through the slums.  We were surrounded by perhaps a hundred children, walking on sharp shells, solid waste, hot stones, broken glass and sharp metal.  As we walked by the ocean, there was their public toilets, emptying waste into the water.  A fat pig lay in the muck, with only his snout peeking through.  Today as we drove up to the beautiful blue ocean at the far end of the island, we could see many people enjoying the water. The 32 kids we took, looked around and soaked in the beauty of their ocean.
Many children in Cite Soleil, are given cakes of mud to eat to mast the hunger they are feeling, because there is no food for them.  Today we made 70 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids to eat, the joy we saw as they ate and someone said as they rode in the bus to the beach they sang "today we eat."  How many times are we thrilled with a peanut butter sandwich.
Yesterday as we left, our hearts were saddened, when our truck was emptied of water, with many still standing by the truck with their buckets and were turned away.  Today, we passed out plastic bags of water for our street kids and they drank them up.
As we entered the bus to go back home today, the children all sang, "God is so good."
Even through the contrasts of the two days, we too want to say, "God is good." We continue to pray for all the children we have touched this week.  God loves everyone of them and knows their name. Our hearts have been moved and broken and we will always have the images of the children of Haiti in our hearts.  - Barb Larson