Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, TouchGlobal swiftly responded and has continued to send crisis responders to serve in Haiti ever since. We have established a presence and plan on staying here for a long time, so we thought it wise to set up a blog that family, friends, supporters, and teams can check to find first-hand information about life and ministry at the Haitian Queen (the TouchGlobal Crisis Response headquarters in Gressier, Haiti).

This blog will be updated regularly by various team members and staff.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Operation Love the Children of Haiti

Please keep Aaron in your prayers. He is a partner, who we are building the orphanage, The Shepherds House, for. He has malaria and is in the Hospital.

Jasmine and Greg decided to come down to Haiti to start an orphanage a few years ago. They now have 40+ kids who are all adoptable. Walking into their orphanage is different than most in Haiti. There is life and joy there. Since the earthquake, Jasmine and Greg lost almost everything. They are staying on a piece of land and all of the children are in tents. We are helping to build them a few shelters, especially with huricane season right around the corner. Right now, we are building them an all purpose room where they will have school, church and shelter if it storms. Touch Global teams will also go over every tuesday and thursday to play with the children at the orphanage.

Jasmine and Greg are in the back on the far left.

Brian Wetmiller with some of the children.

Donna Tente with some of the children

Christine Washington, sitting on some MRE's, with the oprhans.

This is where they live. There are probably 6 or 7 rows of these tents.

This will be the all purpose room. They started last week.

This is at the end of the second day.

This is it by the end of the fourth day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pastor Resner's New Home

*Please keep Kevin Watterson in your prayers...he is in the hospital for a ruptured appendix.

We got the news we would be building a home for a pastor in Leogane and were all very excited. Pastor Resner's new home is on a beautiful peace of land with mountains behind it. The church, where he pastors is down the road from his house. He is excited about living in the community where his church is. He is getting married on the 26th of June and cannot wait start a family with his new wife, in his new home.

Pastor Resner standing on the foundation of his home.

When we arrived in the morning, all that was here was the foundation.

At lunch, the men were very inventive with shade. It was about 110 degrees that day.

At lunch, we had a crowd of kids surrounding us. They were singing to us and counting for us in English. They were so sweet.

Some of the wood was so thick, it took this awesome stance to be able to nail it through.

This is a Haitan's feet. He was there helping us. I love his feet because they are the kind that tell a million stories and have traveled many different places.

Pastor Resner brought us sugar cane because he was so grateful. He showed us how to eat it. He taste like a sweet stick.

After the first day, we had all the walls up and a huge crowd helping us.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hi guys!  My name is Jon Lahr, and I'm down in Haiti as short-term staff for a total of 18 days.  I was asked to post to the blog so you may see a couple more in the coming week or so.  Some of the details or explanations of people and places may be old news to you all.   

On Monday, May 31st, our day began with Miguel driving Kevin, Jim Esson (he and his wife Karen have been here several times since the earthquake) and myself (Jon Lahr) to the airport in Port-au-Prince in order to catch a flight to Cap Haitien. Cap Haitien is a port about 170 miles above PaP on the northern shoreline of Haiti where EFCA has been getting their large shipments of equipment such as vehicles and generators. We were going there to attempt to drive a vehicle for the ministry that had already previously died in the mountains along the journey from Cap Haitien back to PaP.
Our flight there was great as we flew just above the mountains and landed quickly and safely in Cap Haitien just 25 minutes after take-off. After we landed, we met up with Charles who has become what I like to call EFCA’s guardian angel in Haiti. Charles is a high-ranking Haitian police officer who also happens to be a believer and loves the Lord! (He previously helped protect some of the ministry’s leaders when their truck full of supplies broke down in the middle of PaP.) Charles drove a day or so ahead of us in order to take 3 mechanics from PaP up to Cap in order to fix our truck. One was an older gentleman and the other 2, Junior and Orlando, were both 22.
By late Monday afternoon we finally had the orange truck full of supplies and we were on our way to stay overnight at a local pastor’s house because you’re not supposed to drive in Haiti after dark and we had an 8 hour drive over the mountains ahead of us. The next morning Charles went to pick up the mechanics that had been staying in another house nearby. Kevin, Jim, and I ate breakfast while we waited for them to return. As we were eating, Jim turned and said to me, “We’re about to go over a treacherous mountain with crappy vehicles and crappy roads. You better make peace with your maker!” Then he proceeded to ask Kevin in reference to our journey ahead, “Do we have a BIG hammer because we may need to fix stuff.” Little did I know how true those words would turn out to be.
Charles returned with the mechanics and we drove into the city to pick up a pull-behind generator that had just made it through customs. By mid morning we finally had everything packed and the generator hitched up to the truck. We were on our way! But, as we soon found out, we wouldn’t make it too far.
About 10 miles into our trip across the rugged roads, our transmission died and left a trail of transmission oil over 100 feet long on the road. The pic below shows the trail of transmission oil.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cooking in Haiti

The Haitian Queen is beyond blessed to have Rosita cooking dinner for the entire house. She is insanely talented in the kitchen and can turn the smallest package of meat into enough to feed dozens--she really hast the gift of multiplying the loaves and fishes. Her pasta with meat sauce is deelish.

Not to mention the flavor she packs into everything she makes. Her banana bread is ridiculously addictive. I had planned on dropping a few pounds and certainly not gaining any in Haiti--and I'm getting concerned. Her fresh rolls rival even my mother in law's.

Rosita has four children, all girls: 17, 13, 6.5 (adopted) and 2.5 (surprise)! Her husband is a pastor, which as all Pastor's wives know can be really challenging, but Rosita says she does her best to be a good sport about it. Before coming to work for the Queen after the quake, she cooked for 200 people a day over at Christianville, a large school / mission just down the road. I think she's pretty happy to be cooking for a more manageable number as it allows her to show off the skills she honed in culinary school.

I love cooking and entertaining and wanted to pick up some recipes and tips from her! The first thing she taught me was how to cut up a mango. The mangoes here are TO DIE FOR. You've definitely never had anything this sweet or delicious in the states. Mango here is the perfect, stand alone desert. The basic technique is to peel one side at a time and then to carve a crash hatch grid into the cut side. Then she slices that grid off--it works because mango pits are really flat cylinders. And it works best when mangoes are just ripe.

I used some of the mangoes that had over-ripened in a white cake mix for dessert one night and it was really quite good. The only thing I would do differently is add the fruit half way through the baking so it doesn't sink to the bottom.

The land here seems exceptionally fertile and all of the produce is fantastic.
The tomatoes are really awesome. We buy produce at the local markets and then simply rinse it in water with a few drops of bleach to kill anything that might make us Americans sick... so far since we got here no one has gotten sick which is pretty surprising.

Much of Rosita's cooking is based on garlic and green onions mashed together. Rosita has one helper Miglan. I love the large wooden mortar and pestle they use.

I've told Mark that if Rosita ever needs a vacation I'd be happy to come back and fill in--hanging out in the Queen's kitchen was a real highlight for me.

Volunteers are on their own for the most part for breakfast, lunch, and snacks... for those times "missionary caviar" (aka peanut butter) is a must.

Building in Haiti

Before my husband Nick and I landed in Haiti on Tuesday we had no idea there was even such a thing as construction missionaries and now we know four of them. It makes sense when you think of it--someone has to build the spaces for all of this good work to happen in. We are also both completely helpless when it comes to fixing or building anything in the States (he's an investor and I do marketing for a start-up) so I had absolutely no idea how difficult it is to build in a country like Haiti--everything moves like molasses here where delays are the rule not the exception. Bribes are par for the course and moving anything takes forever on these roads. It's rare when you're on a paved road and it's even rarer that it's not littered with cracks and debris. Sometimes there are even shanty tent villages set up in the median.

The leaders of the teams we're with (see earlier posts) were stuck on the road for over eight hours with a broken transmission trying to bring back things from a container that was dropped up in Port Haitian.

Some interesting facts I've learned from building Superintendent Jim while here in Haiti... my apologies if everyone already knows this. Haitians build everything with cement blocks because the wood here comes from South America and isn't treated for termites. Termites thrive in this tropical weather and will destroy anything you build. Sometimes people try to treat the wood by dousing it with diesel fuel, but that of course makes it extremely flammable, probably not a great idea in this heat. Wood here is also very expensive and of a much harder variety than what you normally buy in the US.

To save money, Haitians try to make their blocks with as little cement as possible.
As a result, some of them are so loosely held together that they crumble in your fist... so that's why you see piles of crushed rubble everywhere here. The blocks are internally held together by rebar: Rebar is been bent by the crake into the craziest statues everywhere here.
The Haitian Queen is also made out of concrete blocks, but likely of a better cement ratio as only the second story collapsed. Volunteers have been hard at work rebuilding the second floor--yesterday Nick, Brian and others tackled the roof.

Nick and I are actually staying outside in the outdoor bunk houses that volunteers put up when people were still too afraid to sleep indoors. I love the bright colors of the bunk houses and they're extremely well built... but somehow the mosquitoes seem to get through the nets we carefully drape over ourselves each night and I'm a little afraid of the recently sighted tarantula, which terrifies me. I make Nick do diligent flashlight sheet checks every night.
Yesterday we went out to buy chicken wire because engineers that visited recently suggested reinforcing the house by wrapping this wire mesh around the entire exterior structure. The thinking being that in the event of an earthquake, this extra support will give you a few extra seconds to get out before the house collapses. Nick's French (and mine a little, too) came in handy when negotiating to order more rolls as we went to two hardware stores where they each only had in stock.

Superintendent Jim and his lovely wife Karen Esson are with Side by Side and have been here many times and will come many more until the orphanage is finished. They come alongside other organization to help them build projects to free them up to do what they do best. They've built orphanages, like the one we're working on just down the road, hospitals (they've done one in Congo, Sudan, Chad), clinics (including one near Nairobi) and even a bomb shelter in Israel. Jim is a construction genius and has excellent relationships with the Haitians. Karen is one of the sweetest women I have ever met. It is amazing to just listen to her life stories! They've recruited Lori and Brian from outside of Atlanta to be here as house parents at the Queen for the next two months.
I'm convinced Lori is meant to be my best friend because mosquitoes seem to love us equally, we're both 25, and we have almost the exact same wedding bands. We feel very blessed to have arrived the same day as a nice couple our age. Brian will be in charge here while Jim and others work to get the needed supplies in. Right now the team is working on one of six planned buildings for the orphanage--they're starting first with the administrative house, which is the smallest. The orphanage effort is being headed up by Aaron Nelson and his group Shepherd's House. Aaron is originally from Port-Au-Prince and was adopted by two missionaries, Terry and Cary Nelson who have been working there since early 80s. We're still working on leveling ground for the first site and this morning the men marked out the building's outline. Jim is working on getting a cement mixer into Haiti so as to insure that our bricks are of the highest quality possible should another big one hit.

It's quite humbling for us to be around people who know so much about building--what an incredibly useful skill, especially in a place like Haiti! I'm resolved now to pick up a few more useful life skills! And I'm also just impressed that so many people are willing to do this much physical labor in a climate this hot and sticky. They really have a lot of love for the Haitian people.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kevin's Latest Adventure in Haiti Customs

Written by Kevin W. in regards to his recent experience in Cap Haitien:

Tuesday morning we awoke full of hope that we would finally be able to get our last truck out of customs and get on the road back to Port-Au-Prince earlier this time than the last time. We drove into the city, and arrived around the 9 a.m. time we were told to be there, and gave a wad of cash to Poala to work her magic and get the truck released.

She promptly took the money, headed out the door towards the bank where she needed to make the payment, and said “m’ap vini”- literally translated meaning “I’m coming,” which means “I’m coming back.” Whenever I hear that, I get nervous, because, although it means I’m coming back, I never know if it will be 10 minutes or 10 days.

Cap Haitien or New Orleans?

We did what we always do in these situations… Wait. Only this time the waiting was broken up by various runs to the bathroom. When I went in to the “bathroom” at the office, I realized that it doubled as a storage closet, and also noticed that the shower had not worked for quite sometime, if ever. I also noticed the 5 gallon buckets of water on the floor, which I assumed meant that the toilet required manual flushing. My assumption proved correct in that when I pushed the handle down, no water flowed from the tank to the bowl. I grabbed the small plastic container, dipped it in the big bucket, and proceeded to dump the small container’s contents into the bowl. Now THAT’S a real water saving toilet design!

I alternated between various stages of consciousness for the next several hours, until Charles told me I needed to eat… Yeah, right. I told him no way, so he offered to go to the Pharmacy to get me something. I wrote down what would work best for me and what I had forgotten to bring on this trip to help keep my digestive tract regulated -- acidophilus. On all of the other recent trips I had taken it daily, and I had not gotten sick.

So, off he went in search of my “good bacteria.” He returned about an hour later with something that said “enzemas” on the package, so I figured it must be the closest thing he could find in consulting with the pharmacist. I should have told him to get me something more along the lines of valium, if I had known what the rest of this trip was going to be like! Charles insisted that I eat something with it -- that’s what the pharmacists said. Ok, fine… get me some crackers out of the truck.

Finally about 2 p.m., Rico came into the office and told us to go to the APN office, and Poala would meet us there with the paperwork. I knew what to expect having done this before. Charles and I traded our ID’s for the “parking passes” once again, and wandered over to where the truck was parked. A quick look told me all was well, just like we had seen it a month ago. After an hour or so, Paola came with the paperwork, and haggled with the head hauncho in the on-site police station.

At about 4 p.m., we were given access to the keys and the truck, but a larger truck behind ours had to be moved before we could get ours out. The designated driver for our truck jumped in, turned the key, and nothing happened -- I mean absolutely nothing. Rico swears they leave the ignition on just so they can “help” us when we come to get the vehicles. We went through the same routine as the last time, having the workers run around looking for a good battery and trying to jump the truck. Even though we had installed new batteries in the truck before it left Florida, the batteries were so dead that we ended up taking a good battery from our truck and putting it in the orange one to get it started.

We completed all of the remaining paperwork and drove both trucks to Rico’s warehouse to off-load as much weight as we could and to put it in the white truck for the trip across the mountains.

Unload as much as you can!

Knowing that we would not leave before dark, I contacted Caleb to see if we could stay at his house for the night, and finish the trip to Port-au-Prince from there the next morning. When I reached him, he was not in Pignon, but he said that he would call and make arrangements for us to stay in the camp near his house.

We left Cap Haitien about 5 p.m. and headed for our final stop at Henoc’s house for some supper, and to drop off several cases of water that had been on a pallet in the back of the truck. After, eating and jumping the truck again, we headed off into the night to start the grueling trip across the mountains…

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was a typical day in Haiti...

Daily update from a volunteer from Westshore Free Church:

Today was a typical day in Haiti.

We completed our devotions at about 7:30. Plans were all made for the day, and we were ready to head out in our separate directions to accomplish our tasks. Work on the toilet foundation, pick up wood and start cutting materials, pick up sand, go to meetings, or teach a class. Loaded up, ready to go, and the cell phone rings.

Miguel, the Haitian driver, was taking Charles to the airport and the jeep broke down. The only suitable vehicle to go help them was the black pickup that was full of tools to take up to the toilet job site (pictured). So, we moved the tools to the van. Bill and Wesley headed in to help Miguel and Charles. Mark was to take us to the job site in the van, than go pick up wood.

At the job site we looked at the sand. No, we didn’t have enough... hardly enough to even get started. But of course the van was not able to make the trip to the new sand pit; we needed a four wheel drive for that (but it was now on it’s way to Port au Prince on the rescue mission). We would do what we could do, then wait.
Mark got into the van to head out to the lumber yard. The van wouldn’t start. I don’t know what they did but it only took about 15 minutes to get it started. And, we began our 45 minutes of work, knowing we would have a few hours to hang out with our Haitian friends.
I won’t continue with the blow-by-blow, but I must say, by the end of the day, at least to my surprise, we had accomplished quite a lot. The foundation is done, Bill and Gary cut all the wood for the toilets, meetings were attended, etc…

I previously sent pictures of getting sand from the river. But better then that, the locals showed us where to get free sand. A drive of a mile or so, through fields, across back yards, and we finally came to a mud hole. Literally – a mud hole. Scooping away the mud on top revealed some pretty nice sand below (better then the rivers) .
A couple of things happened at the sand pit that are worthy of note. First, one of our helpers picked up some mangos at a nearby tree. He washed them in the mud hole, right next to the cows and chickens, the mud hole with the mosquitoes hatching, then he ate the mangos. In some ways, they seem very aware of water quality; but obviously, in others they don’t.

The other thing has to do with litter – it’s everywhere. Not just earthquake rubble, but trash thrown down wherever you are, whenever you have it. So, at the sand pit, one of the Haitians wanted to get into the front passenger seat. As he did, he started throwing out some trash that was on the floor of the truck cab. I said, “No, we will take care of it later.” As I jumped in the bed of the truck and we were heading out – I saw the trash flying out the window.
[Oh, and YES, Charles was able to catch a later flight back to California.]

...a typical day in Haiti!