Birthday Blessings: a Haiti team update

Do you remember the day you were born? Of course not, but you do know what year, day, and maybe even what time that event took place. I’d also guess that you have been able to celebrate that day each year with people that love and care about you. Many of the kids at House of Hope orphanage had never experienced a birthday until Grace Church decided that their birthdays were worth celebrating. Keep reading to find out more! (Missed the last update? Click here!)

Wednesday was a beautiful, HOT day in Cap Haitien!

We started today with singing, and we are all getting to know our songs better – both in English & Creole! A fun skit and lesson about Zacheus followed special sharing time led by Allison Dahl with all the team and the children (and a few tears!). Balloon games were a hit today, both balloon races and balloon battles.

Sharing time (Allison leading) with the kids
Sharing time (Allison leading) with the kids

The really big hit today was the Birthday Party held for all the children (and staff) of the orphanage. This was our second year doing this and it has quickly become a favorite tradition! Many of these kids do not know when they were born – so we celebrate one big birthday party for them all! The pavilion was decorated with streamers and balloons. A special cake and soda were purchased in town and brought to the orphanage for the party.

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Gift bags wrapped the night before were shared, by name, with each child. The gift included sunglasses, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, earrings for the girls, athletic headbands for the boys, and the special finale was a brand new French bible for each of the children. The team helped them each write their names in them. The children were so happy and thanked us from the bottom of their hearts. Thanks to the generosity and support of our family at Grace Church this special gift was possible!

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Tomorrow will be our last day at the orphanage. There will be many tears from all, to be sure! As this is the third time Grace Church has sent a VBS team to House of Hope orphanage, the Haitiens tell us they now regard us as family – a special honor that we treasure deeply and take very seriously. Thanks to all of you who have made this possible. We tell all about our church and God’s people there who send us here. God is clearly working down here – impacting children and adults for Christ in Haiti made possible through your love, prayers and support.

Kids wearing shirts from yesterday with Prov 3:5&6 on back
Kids wearing shirts from yesterday with Prov 3:5&6 on back

Many of our Haitien brothers and sisters tell us that they are praying for us every day – and also that they are praying for us to come back EVERY year! For some, they have told us this is the highlight of their year – a very humbling thought indeed. Thanks be to God for His grace and mercy without which none of this would amount to anything.

House of Hope - pavilion where VBS takes place
House of Hope – pavilion where VBS takes place

Friday the team will spend seeing the sites of Cap Haitien as well as visiting a local beach. The team has already put in a hard week and the down time will be welcomed (& needed!) before preparing to return home – although there will likely also be much sadness as we will miss the kids already. Then we get up very early Saturday morning for our flight back to Port au Prince then on to JFK.

Steve with Pastor Abner Joly (Director of Orphanage)
Steve with Pastor Abner Joly (Director of Orphanage)

With all the needs that our Haitien brothers and sisters have down here, it won’t surprise you to know that we have begun to think about a work team project that would likely fall sometime in January 2015. (It is not so hot in January!) Please think and pray about this possibility. Perhaps you would want to come along – or – support the team in some way. There are many needs and we want to be lead by God as to how best to help. It could be at the Grace Bible Institute (where our teams stay and local Grace Brethren church leaders are trained), one of our local churches, the House of Hope orphanage, or a combination of these. And don’t forget, VBS 2015 could very well be right around the corner! Thank you for your prayers!

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Courtroom Drama

Tissues were being pulled from pockets and purses, sniffles could be heard round the room, and on several occasions, an emotional audience burst into celebratory applause and nervous laughter! (Are you allowed to clap or laugh in a courtroom)? There were even a few “amens”! All these people were gathered to witness “gotcha day” for two families from Grace Church who are significant in the leadership of our ministry. On Thursday, God smiled as six children between these two families lost the identity of “foster kid” and claimed a new identity as part of a forever family!

The first proceeding was for Eric & Jen Lewis’ family. Eric serves as a secondary Bible teacher and the Spiritual Life Director at Lititz Christian School. They already have a son, Ray, who is now joined by four siblings who were adopted on Thursday. Unique to this proceeding, was a personal, heart-warming, and sincere expression of gratitude by the judge, which is highly uncharacteristic for a legal proceeding. The judge shared that as he read the stories of these children to prepare for the hearing, he could clearly see how each child has been growing and thriving in the Lewis home. This was also evidenced by the gallery packed with people who have been impacted by this family. He further expressed the significance of this family’s example to our community through their foster-care and adoption journey.

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Later in the afternoon, the gallery was once again packed for a second Grace Church family’s hearing. Our Pastor of Student Ministries, Jeremiah Kleylein, along with his wife Nicky, adopted their two foster children who were each placed in their home at birth. After taking the stand and being grilled about birthdays, anniversary dates, and intentions to adopt, the judge, again, shared his sincere appreciation for this family’s commitment to these children. Noting the large number of “free baby sitters” in the courtroom, he suggested that now that the children are out of the foster-care system (which only allows court-approved supervision of the children), Jeremiah and Nicky can go on lots of dates!

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To celebrate this exciting day, more than 80 Grace Church staff, Lititz Christian School staff, and family members of the Lewis’s and Kleyleins gathered in the Grace Church café for a pizza party! The festivities included a time of reflection about the significance of adoption – and the parallels of our adoption into the family of God as Christians. We TOO get a new name, forever. We TOO enjoy the rights and privileges of a new family situation. We TOO are part of a whole new family! We thanked God for the closure that Thursday represented in these journeys, and we enjoyed food and fellowship together!

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Please continue to pray for the many children around the world and in our own community who are in need of a new identity in a forever family! Pray that God would continue to call families like these to the ministry of foster care and adoption! And please consider what you can do to be active in supporting the many great efforts already taking place!