Today, I just felt it on my heart to blog about prayers. So often we just want to pray to God about our needs, about our suffering, about our problems, about other people's problems. Today, I realized that I need to stop and pray..(especially when I am constantly surrounded by trouble, problems, and daily struggels) to sing a song of thanksgiving. Thanking The Lord for all that I have; the opportunities, the support, and the many wonderful things I have been able to do and be apart of over the past 5.5 weeks in Haiti. It is so easy in a swarm of daily struggels, where you feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and being surrounded by needs and third world poverty, demands and requests, and a constantly fast-pace and changing environment...to forget to take time to breathe, to pray, and to sing a song of worship. It is easy to get caught up in the problems that you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel and the glimpses of hope along the way. I think this is why Haiti has some of the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, they are "Simple" (more like remarkable) reminders to take a breath and notice all the GOOD, to keep your eyes focused on the beauty and the "flowers" that are blooming and transpiring EVERY single day!!! I am thankful for these simple reminders every morning and night.
The focus of this blog is on thankfulness. I find writing this is an opportunity to escape the many internal and external stresses and demands of mission work to reflect on the beauty, the wonderful opportunities, and glimpses of GOD I see everyday.
First and foremost, I am thankful for my family and friends that have supported me every step of the way. Mission work is very challenging on many levels, and without continued support, I don't think I would be emotionally and mentally able to handle the life of a missionary. It is so nice to have a friendly voice or email with encoruaging and uplifting words to come back to after a challenging day on the mission field. Sometimes these words may even be words of insight, direction, and enlightenment that help to refocus and change my vision. Lets just say that each day is like a battle in a third world country, a battle against poverty. Daily, I feel as though I am a warrior, constantly fighting to overcome the system that has held these wonderful people captive and unable to shine their light in the world. Naturally, some of these battles come with feelings of defeat...so having some words of encouragement just helps shine light on the tracks made and provides direction to reflect my attention on the good (the battles that you have won) during those midst of trial, frustration, and setbacks. So thank you to all those that have provided a lending ear, a word of encouragement, or have even just followed my work, sent some thoughts and/or prayers. It all means so much to me.
I am also thankful for this time of service; an opportunity to really give back to the world without expecting anything in return. I have been blessed with so much, and to be able to "pay" my blessings forward, is the least I can do to show my gratitude. Timing couldn't have been any more perfect either, having Just completed my dietetic internship and becoming a registered dietitian at the same time the Feeding Center at Grace Village was needing attention to get on its feet. I have had no major life commitments at this stage in my life, so I view time as a blessing for me right now.
Along with time, I am also thankful for the energy and stamina to do mission work day after day. As many people with long term mission work experience know, it is a high demanding environment.....constantly problem solving, communicating, planning, and learning...(sometimes doing things you don't exactly have training in and/ or had planned to be doing). These demands can be exhausting, overwhelming, and very complicated (especially when there are cultural and langauage barriers)...and I am thankful to have energy to get up each morning and start the day fresh!!
I am thankful for the many educational experiences and volunteer opportunities that have prepared me for EVERYTHING I have been doing. I have been amazed by the number of things I have been able to work on while here in Haiti...and so incredibly thankful for my educational experiences (both in psychology and nutrition) that have prepared me so well for being the nutrition advocate for Healing Haiti. Everything I learned in college and throughout the course of my dietetic internship has been a skill I have used in Haiti. I have been doing clinical nutrition work (helping kids gain weight), food service (meal planning, budgeting, food purchasing, production, food safety, developing mission statements....etc), management (hiring and restaffing to meet the needs of the children better), education (teaching staff, children, and general community about the importance of a wellbalanced diet and using the local markets for food), marketing, research and public health (looking at cultural patterns of food intake and food choices, as well as researching recipies that incorporate foods available to us)... And I am sure there is more. It just amazes me how many skills I have been able to use in such short time....thank you to all my teachers, mentors, and professional connections that have helped prepare me, have given me wisdom and tools, as well as the encouragement to be serving as a dietitian in one of the poorest countries in the world!!!! It still blows my mind that I am actually doing this...
Helping the staff to use color and presentation with fruits/vegetables in their meal prep....
Getting heights on all the kiddos!!
pizza night using a local produce called breadfruit!!
Getting weights on the kids!!
The long term missionaries down here with me, have been such a blessing. Wow, let me just tell ya... It's nice to have someone who can relate to the daily highs and lows!! :) These ladies have been very helpful on my emotional roller coasters. I couldn't imagine doing this without them here for their guidance, support, wisdom, and listening ear. Oh and of course...our goofy moments to just laugh!!!! They have been so great to me.. and I get teary eyed just thinking about how much they have helped me with daily troubles and daily joys. They have even down special things for me... like taking me out on a surprise get away for my birthday!!! Thankful for their servant hearts... For our friendship.
I am so incredibly thankful for my fabulous kitchen staff that has been making great strides in the kitchen. They have come such a long ways since my two week stay back in June. It just fills me with such great joy when I see them working hard...when they are keeping the kitchen clean, purchasing lots of produce from the local markets, and preparing nutritious (and tasty meals), and working on recipe enhancements by taking out items per my request (cutting down on use of butter, sugar, and salt). In the past 2 weeks, they have even managed to get meals out on time!!!! I am so thankful for all their hardwork, and I hope that they too can see the changes and the progress they have made. I just have to take a second to brag about my kids' healthy eating patterns... 2-3 fruits and vegetables (at least per day) with a variety of whole grains and lean protein sources!! We are using more flavorful combinations of food, like avocado and beans, and new spices to enhance the flavors of meals. My night staff has been incredible at learning the new recipes; She has even been able to prepare new meals without me showing her how to do it...and WOW has she impressed me!!! I think she makes some of the best black bean burgers I have ever had!! :)
Black bean and blugar burgers...amazing!!
Preparing breadfruit Pizza!!!
I know, it looks funny...but beans and avocados really pair together nicely!!
This is black beans and "pitimi" (also known as millet. It is a super grain) paired with Haitian style vegetables. A meal that deserves an A+++ after all recipe modification and the incorporation of pitimi instead of white rice.
I am also thankful for the health and security I have had in Haiti. As many people know, there is a lot of corruption in third world countries...and I am thankful I have not been impacted by any major threatens. I am so incredibly thankful for my health...the ability to drink the water at Grace Village (yes, from the tap...it's purified) and eat the produce from the market (no, I don't bleach it) and not get sick. I can't thank The Lord enough for the negative test results from a resent blood test.. (Yes, blood test, negative results..). There are so many reasons to give praises of thanksgiving...
I eat a lot of produce in Haiti....
Every little opportunity I get to spend with the 56 munchkins here at Grace village, is a chance for me to refresh and to uncover that burning passion inside me. As our ministry continues to grow and expand, I find that our role as the missionaries begans to grow and expand....many days I am spent doing administrative type work (job descriptions, budget analysis, organization structure, protocols and procedures, establishing rules and enforcing them, creating menus and investigating available foods/resources)... I find myself moving away from the kids to work more with the leaders and the staff of the organization here in Haiti. It is amazing to see these leaders grow and expand in their job responsibilities...to walk alongside them to help them to establish rules, to help them keep organized and detailed in their work, to help enhance their skills and talents, and to see them be successful!! I am so thankful, though, for the days when I can spend more than 5 minutes with the kids. With my crazy schedule and their busy schedule (school 8-2, lesson 3:30-5, and dinner and worship at 6, bed at 8), it is hard to get to spend a lot of one on one time with the kids....to engage with them. I am thankful for the times I have been able to talk with some of the boys about studying. One boy asked me how I study because he needed some help trying to learn materials for school. I shared with him some of my best study tips (writing things out a million times and taking breaks to let my brain rest), and he came to me the other day and told me his studying was going better!!! I am thankful for the times I get to go play with them on the playground...to watch the girls do each other's hair, and to just be with them. The other day I had some time in the afternoon to catch-up with a few of the younger boys..they were sitting in their dorms with their school bags. I picked up one of their books on the ground and started reading to them. It just made my heart warm to see their reactions as I read through the book. They were all so engaged. Little 7 and 8 year old boys, Just so intrigued by the expressions of my voice as I flipped through the pages of the book. I couldn't help but think about the times my parents would read my brothers and I books before bed, and how much we loved that time to snuggle with our mom and/or dad and be nurtured with a story. My heart tugged a little too as I watched them inch closer to me, I am not sure if they had been read too much before coming to Grace village...During that simple moment, I realized how thankful I was to able to give them something I enjoyed as a young kid too. The time of escaping into a world of imagination... These moments with the kids scattered throughout my week really have made me realize how important it is for me to find 30 minutes each day to just be with them, to put down my work, and to set aside my problems each day to just be. I find that these moments are moments for me to refresh, unwind, and rekindle the fire inside me....
The kids before school!!!
Reading books together!!!
Yes, this is a goofy picture of me at the playground...
Spending some time with the little ladies!!
A little preschooler... I love peaking in the classrooms to see the future leaders at work!!
Meal times are really when I get to see the kids...
As I sit here and write-out my many reasons to be thankful, I can't help but just dwell on the wonderful glimpses of God showing up in my life through people, through trials, through sunrises/sunsets, through obstacles that ultimately arise in victories, through security and health, and through simple experiences that refresh my whole being.... I am so incredibly thankful that God continues to pour love into my life, to renew me, to refresh me, and to never..ever..give up on me (no matter how many times I fail... How many times I forget to acknowledge the wonderful blessings and reasons to give praise and thanskgiving).