Sunday, September 27, 2009
Nick and I had been attending our church, Crosspointe, for almost 10 years when we moved here. This was our church-- not the church we grew up in, not the church our parents made us attend. Our church. When we were dating we started looking for a church, and that's where God lead us. So we were there for all of our married and engaged life. And we were very involved. I spent a season (about three years) working at the church before we had children. Nick and I served in children's ministry together for 9 years. Nick was an elder at Crosspointe for a year and a half before we moved to Haiti... It sounds so cliche to say this, but it wasn't just our church, it was our family. Our very best friends went to church with us, and we invested much of our lives (all of our adult lives) in this place. If you asked us three years ago where we'd be the rest of our lives, we would have said in central North Carolina, because that is where our church is.
But then God called us to something different. And it's the COOLEST thing ever. I love our lives down here in Haiti. I love the kids I get to work with. I love our team. I love it.
But in my heart, I still really miss my church family back in NC. I miss weekly teachings by Jonathan and Steve. I miss worship with Stephen. I miss serving in Kidspointe with Kris. I miss my kids LOVING their children's environments and coming home bubbling about what they've learned. But mostly, I miss seeing my huge "family" every week.
And church here in Haiti is very different. It's great and it's a big family here too. They love each other and they love Jesus. But I am just not really in that family yet. And it's not in English. I do pretty well with Kreyol these days, but for whatever reason, at church (maybe it's the sound challenges), I get maybe 10-15% of what's being said in a message. Probably less than that with the songs. I try very hard to engage in the worship and the teaching because I do long for this to be "my church." But my heart leaves frustrated each Sunday, having not understood most of what was happening. (But I do get hugged and kissed by at least 200 people every Sunday-- so they are definitely trying to "embrace" me in a non-language way.)
There is a great children's church. Sandra and Nixon do a great job of teaching the kids. And it's interactive and fun. My big kids (Nia and Nico) really like it. All the songs are in Kreyol. And we're learning all the songs, so that's fun. And Sandra does the lesson in English and then Nixon translates it. So that's a real bonus for my kids who aren't fluent in Kreyol yet. I am excited about the prospect of working with the Altidors-- writing curriculum and teaching again...
But the real kicker about Sundays is that Josiah is a bear. For what ever reason, Josiah HATES Haitian church. And any of you know who know Josiah know that when Josiah doesn't like something, he doesn't want anyone else to like it either. It's just kind of his nature. We also attend an English church on Friday nights too. He hates that as well. He cries and struggles generally through the whole thing, necessitating at least one (sometimes two) of his parents removing him from the service and walking outside with him while he cries and whimpers, "I WANNA go HOME now. I WANNA go HOME now."
This has been something Nick and I have really, really struggled with. Do we make him sit through two and a half hours (at least) of church on a Sunday morning? He is only two years old. So do we keep taking him in and out and in and out every Sunday morning? (And Friday night too-- but that's only an hour, so not as bad.) Do we just suck it up and stay home? But then how will he learn to sit still if he's not forced to from time to time?
Our "working" plan (it's not really working that well for us, that's why it's in quotes), is that we (Nick and I) rotate being "on" Josiah. We have different ways of administrating his care. I'd just rather stay at home and not even attempt going. It's just going to make me frustrated with Josiah, with church, with the world... (I tend to be a bit melodramatic... but yes, I do get mad at the world. Often.) When Nick takes Josiah, he generally sits downstairs with him (in the adult service) and just gets up and leaves when necessary, and then comes back, and then leaves, and then comes back. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
It makes Sundays pretty un-fun.
But, this too shall pass. In two years or less he should be ready for children's church, we should speak Kreyol fluently, we should be more involved, know people better... I know this is a stage. A stage I want to embrace and savor, as this is the ONLY time my kids will be THIS age.
But in the meantime...
Any thoughts on making our Sundays NOT suck?
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Our family is 10 people now:
Nick, me, Nia, Nico, Josiah
Fritzie, Prisca, Wildarne
Nahomie and Esther...
And it's going to about triple in size when it's all said and done.
We're headed up sometime in the next few weeks to Thiotte (Nico's birth city about 6 hours away) to visit three boys we've been approached about taking. Today we were approached today about three more girls.
As we wade through these tough choices- please keep our family in your prayers. Some days are harder than others. Today was a rough one. Nothing super-huge, just tons of little things compounding upon one another... Seems like when it rains it pours.
Please pray for wisdom and endurance.
Friday, September 25, 2009
So with that reference let me tell you a hilarious story. I'll warn you, it's weird. I have this mole on the back of my neck that Fritzie likes to rub. I have NO idea why, she just likes to touch it. We'll just be sitting there watching TV and the next thing I know she's rubbing it. Or I will be driving and I will feel a little hand come up from the backseat RUBBING THE MOLE. And I'll be all like, "Fritzie, you're so weird, what are you doing?" And she's like, "I don't know, I just like it."
It kind of drives me crazy. But it also makes me laugh because WHAT THE HECK? It reminds me of how I am always playing with the loose thin "old lady skin" on the top of my mom's hand. I like to pet it because it's soft. And after a while she just bats me away and is all, "Leave me alone." (By the way, Melody likes to pet the old lady skin too... I am not the only weirdo.)
We're sitting around after church tonight and I am drinking iced tea. Fritzie is eating a peanut butter sandwich. Next thing I know she's petting the mole. I laugh and tell her to quit it. Fritzie says, "Men mwen renmen li. (But I like it)." Nick, who is sitting next to me asks Fritzie what you'd call the mole in Kreyol. She says, "Mwen pa konnen. (I don't know.)" Then Nick said, "Si ou vle touche li, ou bezwen bay li nom. (If you want to touch it, you have to give it a name.)" At this point I am like, "Listen WEIRDOS, STOP it with the mole touching, the mole naming, etc. Just leave it be." And Fritzie's all wanting to name it, and Nick and her shooting out names. Then Nick shot out, "Ti neg." And everyone in the room exploded into laughter/ So unfortunately, the name Ti Neg (little black guy)I think has stuck.
Before bed each night Fritzie comes in to say, "Good night Mommy Gwenn, Good night Papi Nick. And gives us little kisses on the cheek." Tonight she said, Good night Mommy Gwenn, Goodnight Ti Neg, Good Night Papi Nick."
I think Ti Neg is here to stick.
A reliable vehicle with BLACK BEAUTIES!
So, this is kind of another 2-fer… but it is ABSOLUTELY my top recommendation. One of our “non-negotiables” when we were considering moving to Haiti was having a reliable vehicle. We knew it would be a giant expense and therefore mean we had to raise significantly more support in “start up” funds, but there hasn’t been a single minute we’ve regretted the decision. Because of the incredible support from the Crosspointe community (our church in the states), we were able to purchase outright a brand new Mazda BT-50 pickup truck with an extended cab. It’s a very common vehicle in Haiti and that’s because it’s GREAT in Haiti. One author described the roads in Haiti as tearing even the toughest SUV’s down to their chasses. COULDN’T AGREE MORE.
This vehicle has blessed more than just our family—it has blessed EACH family on the Joy in Hope team as we often lend it to our team members for trips into Port Au Prince, or even just for around town errands.
The second crucial component to making this vehicle a “must have” is what Leann coined the “Black Beauties.” Most vehicles have these strong steel bars welded onto the frame of the car that protect the front and back bumpers. We SHOULD HAVE purchased these bad boys as soon as we bought the car, but we didn’t have the foresight and it took about 4 accidents with the vehicle (yes, literally) for us to take the plunge and get ‘em. We love them. They are VERY necessary in Haiti—protecting the vehicle for most of the bumps it gets on an everyday basis. We’ve been hit twice since having the black beauties and they’ve likely saved us from getting new bumpers. Fender benders are a huge reality here in this country, so having some vehicle protection is crucial. And at a price of $350 US for the whole shebang… SO worth the bucks.
And another bonus is that they make it really easy for your kids to climb up on the hood of the truck to play "library" up there. ?! I'd be mad at them, but hey, it's the only library they really have these days, so I guess I will show some grace.
So there you have it folks. The top 10. I can tell your lives are changed knowing this info...
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I love coffee. Haitian coffee is exceptional. I still miss Starbucks. (And I am praying daily that Pumpkin Spice Latte will still be seasonal when I visit the US in October/November-- sometimes they make an early switch over to the Christmas drinks... I hope this is not the case.)
A french press is the way to go. You don't know when you're not gonna have power and you don't know if you're going to be able to consistently find coffee filters, so a traditional coffee maker is not a good option.
I am SO thankful to Andrea who sent me my WONDERFUL french press... it's stainless steel and truly a thing of beauty. (And apparently a bit fingerprint-y right now.)
And yes, that is a bottle of rum reflecting off the french press... some days are harder than others. :) Just kidding, it was a gift to us from someone here... homemade kenep rum punch. Have had exactly one sip. It burned all the way down to my toes but it was yummy.
BTW-- Nahomie was making lunch when I went in to take a pic of the french press. She stopped what she was doing and just kind of shook her head as if I was crazy. I wonder what she says about us behind our backs? I am SURE I don't want to know...
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Don't worry. No pics today. Your stomach is probably still unsettled from the foot picture.
Here's the deal-- hand washing WRECKS your clothes. It makes them grow. Which, in the states, I actually desired from time to time... what with all the McDonald's cheeseburgers and J&S pizza... *sigh*...
Here it's a different story. No McDonald's cheeseburgers. And you would cry if you saw what passed for "pizza" here. You WILL lose weight when you come to Haiti. You will. Even if you love the food, Haitian Happiness (an extremely virulent form of dysentery) WILL strike you. It might take you down 5 pounds, it might take you down 22 lbs (which happened to me a few months ago), it might take you down 60 pounds (which happened to Danny a few years ago.) Either way... Your clothes will grow, you will shrink.
You'll need smaller underpants.
Seriously, these kids are PRECIOUS.
Prisca is 7. She's a REALLY spunky little girl. (To quote Nick Mangine, "Great, cause that's what we need in this family... another spunky female.") Her birthday is in June, so she just turned 7.
Wildarne is 6-- we just celebrated her birthday September 11th. She's a bit quieter than her sister and the first thing you'll notice about her is her short, short hair as she suffers from a fungal infection on her head that necessitated shaving off her hair.
The girls are biological sisters. They lived with their mother until about two years ago when she passed away. (The father had abandoned the family before the mom got sick.) The girls were placed in the same orphanage that Fritzie lived in in Jacmel until it closed down earlier this year. At this time, they went to live with their uncle. He knew that he couldn't care for them long term and came to our door asking for help.
We knew we couldn't accept the kids until December because we simply don't have the room, but after much pondering, we realized that we had to do something to step in to help this family. The uncle does love the girls, and is trying to do the right thing. But he simply does not have the resources or room for them, though he has a job and works hard to support his family (a wife and two kids.) Therefore, we decided it would be a benefit to this family, to the girls, and ultimately to our family long term to start the girls in school. They started along with Fritzie on Sept 7th and are doing well. They come over to our house every day after school to eat lunch (our big meal of the day) with our family. After that, we drive them back to their uncle's house, about 15 minutes away. This way we know they are getting nutritious food. We were also able to provide them with new backpacks and books, new shoes and socks, new underwear and new school uniforms. The first day of school I sent them home with toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo and medicine for Wildarne's scalp. THANK YOU to all of the people who donated items! They are making a difference with the kids who need it the most!
In addition to schooling, we've been spending some time on the weekends with Prisca and Wildarne when we can. They got to go the beach with us and the team last weekend-- which they LOVED.
I already have a lot of stories about the girls and I am excited that I get the chance to share them. Here are a few pictures and just one final thought about them for today--
These little girls have been through A LOT of major transitions. When their mom died they went to live at an orphanage. When the orphanage closed, they went to live with their uncle. Now they are in this weird transition for the next few months and then will live in our home. One of the "silver linings" about this story is that for the past two years in the orphanage, they lived with Fritzie-- basically as sisters. Haitian Children's Home exists to build and save families. I have learned in the past several years that the word "family" doesn't relate as much to biology as it does a state in your heart. I am glad that though these girls have had many, many losses when it comes to family, we get to be a part of resurrecting a tiny bit of their previous family in ours-- their sister Fritzie. Praise be to God who makes broken things whole.
Fritzie, Prisca, Wildarne and Nia
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I brought the Ped Egg down with me. No replacement blades. I wore through the first one in about 2 weeks.
A photo is worth a thousand words... this one is worth probably like 2 million.
I warned you it was gross.
Monday, September 21, 2009
This time she got her SHOULDER caught in the fan. It was bleeding.
I promise I am not making this stuff up.
She said it fell over and fell onto her shoulder (she was fighting with her brother at the time).
Part of me thinks I should be disturbed and wonder if she's self-injuring. The other part of me remembers that one time I fell out of the shower and busted up my knee so bad I had to see a "sports doctor." She comes by her ridiculous injuries honestly.
#6-- A well-appointed medicine cabinet.
This is definitely a MUST have. Before we moved here we had a BUNCH of stuff donated (THANK YOU FRIENDS AND FAMILY.) When you're getting ready to move to Haiti and people want to know what they can get you-- give them a list of medications. We were told that the first year for a family on the mission field is a pretty "sick" year as it takes a while to get used to all the germs. (And if you're going to Haiti, the sheer INCREASE in opportunity to acquire said-germs.) We came down here with every single over-the-counter medicine you can imagine. We literally went down the aisles at Target and purchased or noted all the medications we needed. And we came down here with about 2- 18 gallon Rubbermaid tubs filled. Some of it is for when we start the orphanage, but we've already used or given to others things I didn't even thing we'd really need-- things like ear wax removal fluid when baby Blayn had an ear ache, epson salts for soaking muscle aches, lots of cough/cold meds, lots of bandaids, lots of Neosporin, LOTS of Cortizone cream, lots of Calamine lotion, LOTS of Afterbite, TONS of Dramamine or Bonine.
Many things will heal on their own, but really, there is no way to get a lot of these things here in Haiti... or at least not a reliable way-- meaning you could find it one day, and then the next day it's not there... and won't be until at least two more military coups ensue. (Just kidding.) We've used ace bandages, sports tape, Visine, cough drops... Seriously, just do yourself a favor and stock up on anything you can ever imagine needing. It honestly has helped me feel a bit more in control of the many, many, many things I cannot control in this country.
Now, for the second part of stocking your medicine cabinet well, you will need a physician's assistance. Not a physician's assistant (though I suppose they can prescribe meds too, so they would do just as well...) I would HIGHLY recommend having a doctor prescribe you the following :
-Chloroquine for malaria
-Cipro for any host of infections
-Ambien (because getting used to sleeping in a new place is hard)
-Pain meds--stronger than what you can get over the counter... because you never know when an emergency will pop up-- be it an abscessed tooth, staph infection, or a broken bone. (All three have happened to HCH people since I have been here.) When such occurs, you may be hours or days away from being able to see a doctor. You need some relief.
I am not claiming you can't get prescription meds here. You can. Often without a prescription. BUT, you don't know how many pharmacies you're going to have to run around to to find what you need. So it's just easier if you have them on hand. (Plus Haitian medicines are not "coated" so you totally taste them going down, which is gross when you're already sick and trying not to barf.)
#5-- A good supply of personal toiletries.
It was really useful to have a supply of my favorite:
-VENUS razors !!! (I love those expensive little guys)
- body/face lotion
-contact lens solution
--GOLD BOND (of course!-- in fact, I thought about making this one it's own MUST HAVE)
We also brought down at least one, maybe two tubs of this stuff. Why? Because we're American. And that's what Americans do-- have a lot of stuff. But it was nice to have the need to shave and have Venus razors. To really stink and have American deodorant. We know eventually we will surrender to the Haitian counterparts of most of these items. (Or not, maybe we will continue to bring them down and have them brought down with visiting teams.) But it's been really nice to just have them at your fingertips. No searching around, no haggling over the price... it's nice.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I don’t mean to brag (actually, yes I do), but making kettle corn is my spiritual gift. I make GREAT kettle corn. It’s the best snack ever. Or can serve as a meal in a pinch. Cause, you know, it’s CORN.
I find that I spend a lot of time here missing food (see yesterday’s post about hating wearing a bathing suit). But kettle corn is the perfect snack for Haiti. It’s salty. It’s sweet. It’s crunchy. It’s cheap. AND THE INGREDIENTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE! It tastes just like it did when I made it back in the States, although it gets stale VERY quickly. (Which it would not if I put it in my Tupperware Modulars—but it never lasts that long.)
Friday, September 18, 2009
If you’re gonna move to Haiti, sooner or later, you’re probably going to have to/want to spend significant time searching out ways to cool down. The best way I have found to do this (other than finding reasons to go for a drive merely because your vehicle has air conditioning) is by swimming. Be it at a bleach-y (literally) pool or the serene trash-ridden beach, swimming is TRULY the best way to cool down around here. This presents a problem. Who the heck likes to don a bathing suit? Not this chica.
However, I have made an all-important discovery. Life is too dang short to not enjoy yourself while swimming because you don’t like how you look in a bathing suit. Far too short. And spending time in Haiti makes you realize pretty quickly that being concerned with how you look in a swimsuit is (to quote my friend CC) a “rich person problem.” It’s actually much easier to see this here. When you’re swimming next to a child who has NO bathing suit, a swollen belly, and the orange-y tint to their hair denoting severe malnutrition, looking bad in a bathing suit suddenly doesn’t seem that important.
Plus the beach is REALLY fun. REALLY fun. Jumping waves with the kiddos, teaching the littles how to swim, making sandcastles and playing Frisbee, it’s GREAT fun. You can’t hit Basin Bleu (my favorite place on earth) and not swim, so seriously folks, let’s just move past this, “I hate how I look in a bathing suit” business. So, now that my soapbox moment is over—let me get to the heart of what I am really saying.
You need at least 2 bathing suits you feel comfortable wearing in public. Three would be better. Now, nice bathing suits are expensive (I like suits from Lands End). So WHY do you need three? Well, really, you only need two. But then you might (hypothetically) visit a pool that’s been “chlorinated” with TONS o’ bleach, such as at (hypothetically) Coconut Villa, on Delmas 19, and it might (hypothetically) eat holes in your bathing suit. Then you’ll be down to two. And since clothing is hand-washed and line-dried, this process takes a while. It is my opinion that you need two.
Do I like being a bathing suit? No way. I actually kind of hate it. But I am trying to “evolve” to the point in my life where I don’t let really shallow things like that impede me from enjoying myself. Because really, no one else cares. And if they do, screw them. (I deleted the words “screw them” about 5 times and tried to think of a more polite way to say it, but all I could think of was less polite ways, so I decided to stick with it.)
So bring some good suits with you—even if you have to spend a little money...
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Top 10 Must haves if you’re gonna move to Haiti-- #9 Keen Sandals
I should be paid by Keen sandals. With the possible exception of Zenni Optical, there is not a company I stand behind more vociferously. I love them with a burning, sizzling passion. They are the MOST FUNCTIONAL SHOES ever created. I like them because they are very sturdy, close-toed shoes, but they are also sandals. You can wear them in the winter with a pair of trendy socks (not that we have those here in Haiti—winter, not socks—but you MIGHT encounter winter on furloughs), or you could wear them in the summer over bare feet. They tighten with a quick slide of elastic. You can throw them in the washing machine (not that you have one here in Haiti) and de-stink them by setting them out in the sun. Which is good, especially here in Haiti, because you never know WHAT you're going to step in next.
Finally, after over three years of near-constant wear, I have about worn out a pair. The sole is wearing thin, the stitching is starting to pull apart on the side and the elastic is dry-rotting. I think I have earned a new pair. When you wait for an REI clearance, you can get them for about $65.00, and they are worth every penny. They would also be worth it even if you pay the regular price of about $100.
(With how quickly children’s feet grow, it’s yet to be seen if they are worth the money to buy them for the kids. But my in-laws got them for Nia and Nico, so they are definitely worth the money we spent! :)
They are really a dream come true. A definite MUST have in Haiti.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It's a definite must have. In addition to having a bit of a struggle with the humidity, Haiti boasts quite the record with insect infestations. Having all your dry goods in Tupperware modulars assures that your dry goods stay dry and unclumped, and that your insect infestations stay contained to the one infested container.
Such as, in this case, pitimi.
Then there's a couple other added bonuses. Because really, the whole "bug thing" can happen anywhere, even in the *gasp* SANITARY United States. It happened to me with pantry weevils in July of 2007. How do I know this random date off the top of my head, you may ask? Great question. I happen to remember it was the week Nico came home, and a VERY inopportune time to have our entire dry goods food supply ruined. That is when my love affair with Tupperware modulars began.
One supplementary bonus is that we have an EXTREMELY leaky roof. By EXTREMELY leaky, I mean we probably take on at least 10 gallons of water every time it rains. Like RIGHT on top of our cabinets. All our "modulared" food has stayed good.
Another bonus is there is a lizard problem in Jacmel. LOTS 'o lizards. So when you move one of your boxes of food and find that it squished and killed a lizard, you know your food is still safe and not exposed to squished lizard germs. Hypothetically.
So that's #10... Check back tomorrow for 9!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Life has been fast-paced and exciting lately—the good kind of excitement for the most part! We’re into a good groove in terms of a schedule, and many feelings of chaos we’ve been experiencing are starting to fade. Haiti feels more like home everyday. The temperature is cooling down (meaning the low 90’s instead of high 90’s) which makes a HUGE difference. We’ve finally been getting regular afternoon rains that cool off the day and make sleeping more bearable.
School started for all the Mangine kids last week. Every morning at 6:50AM, Nia, Fritzie, Nick and I head out the door to go over to the office where we do school. Fritzie meets downstairs with her teacher, and Nia and I do school upstairs in team housing. Nick spends his mornings in the Joy in Hope office doing “desk work” (or, more likely, dozens of around town errands.) We finish school at noon, when we head back to our house for lunch—our big meal of the day—which Nahomie prepares everyday. We’ve started eating a mostly Haitian diet—which is a big change. We eat things like pitimi (a grain) with okra sauce, ble (another grain—wheat-derived) with beans and Haitian salami (DON’T ASK!), mai moulet (corn meal mush) with bean sauce. It’s taking some getting used to, but we’re making it. Nia TERRIBLY misses American food and so every Saturday it’s American food at the Mangine house. And we’ve started a tradition of bacon and pancakes every Sunday morning!
Today I thought I’d take some time to give you all an update on each member of our family individually. This might give you better ideas on how to pray for us specifically. So here goes:
Nick: From my perspective, Nick is thriving as a missionary. He’s very good at problem-solving, a quality that serves him well in this crazy setting. Lately he’s been busy as it’s been an active time for the Joy in Hope Board of Directors, (check out the Danny’s announcement explaining the changes!) but he’s doing a good job of balancing work and family—which gets confusing when your job IS your family. Sunday he had a bit of excitement (not the good kind) when he was involved in a small accident. He opened the door of the truck into the street and a motorcycle crashed into the door. The motorcycle driver fell off of his motorcycle and was scraped up a bit, but other than that, no one was hurt. We’re so thankful for God’s protection for Nick, our kids (the boys and Fritzie were in the car), and the motorcycle driver. We’re thankful for Nixon who was our voice for us, negotiating with the driver and making sure his needs were attended to. (And the car didn’t really suffer any major damage either… just a dent in the door.)
Gwenn: Things are going great for me. I love homeschooling and I love doing it outside of the house. Being an extrovert, it’s nice for me to see other people on a daily basis. By doing school at the office/team housing, I get the chance to see a lot of people pass through. I have started helping more with teams—assisting Leann with cooking on Sundays and rising early Wednesday mornings to make breakfast and give Sandra a morning off. We have a team of 18 here from Minnesota now—they are a lot of fun.
Nia: Nia has settled into school well. She’s a good student and generally pretty easy to teach. She also loves teams. She’s become very outgoing with teams and begs to spend time with them whenever they are here. It’s actually something we’re trying to figure out. We want her to spend time with visitors, but we’re also aware that she has many, many people coming in and out of her life. We want her to make healthy friendships but it’s hard doing that one week at a time. Does that make sense? Pray we can show discernment and that Nia would find a true “best friend” here in Haiti.
Nico: Little Nico is having a hard time lately. He’s not been enjoying us being out of the house in the mornings, and he’s been exhibiting a lot of “attachment” behaviors that have been difficult for our family. We’re trying to meet him where he is and adjust our lives appropriately. We’re praying that God will give him a sense of peace and come to know that we are truly his forever family. It’s definitely a process. We’re striving to slow down with him and spend good, quality time with him every day. And we recognize that all of these new experiences and people must be very, very confusing for him. Heck, things are confusing to us and we’ve not had to experience a fraction of the loss he’s had to experience.
Josiah: Josiah is two. That pretty much sums it up. He’s an extremely strong-willed child. Extremely. We love Josiah to pieces, but by the end of the day (multiple days of the week,) we are doing all that we can do to hold it together. He’s a lot of work. We’re praying that God would give us the wisdom to understand how to channel his “energy” into something amazing. We know that strong, determined kids like him end up being world-changers. Plus he’s really cute these days, and talking up a STORM, in English AND Kreyol. (Usually in the same sentence.)
Fritzie: I know this is what you’ve all been waiting for—an update on sweet Fritzie. She. Is. Fantastic. We love this girl. We are so incredibly thankful God brought HER into our family. Her specifically. She is a gift. She has a hearty joy-filled laugh and a sweet, tender spirit. She’s also very clumsy. Very. Every single day she trips or spills a drink or a plate of food, or something like that. At first we just thought she was clumsy (like me), but we now have a more definitive diagnosis—she only has vision in one eye.
Last week we brought Fritzie to the Dr. Ryan Price in Christianville to have her eyes checked. He confirmed that she has almost no sight in her left eye. She can see a little bit of light and some shadows, but when he covered her good eye, she couldn’t even see his hand right in front of her face. The good news is that in her right eye, her vision is perfect.
So, this brings up kind of a series of events we need to investigate. Ryan said that when she had cataract removal surgery earlier this summer, it led to a bunch of inflammation inside her eye, as well as some “debris” that has grown on the artificial lens they implanted. Because she went so long (nearly 15 years) without being able to see in that eye, the pathways in her brain are “set” so that it is extremely unlikely that she’d ever be able to see out of that eye, even if we were able to clear up the residual problems she has. On top of that, there is the issue of her eye being crossed. That can be repaired with a muscle tightening surgery. But even if we were able to find a way to get that done (no one in Haiti does the surgery, so we’d have to take her out of the country), it would only be cosmetic.
That being said, we do see the merit in trying to find a way to do the surgery, even if it’s only for appearances. We think that it would be incredibly useful for her self-confidence, as Haitians are generally pretty harsh about anyone who is different. They are usually pretty quick to point out differences and tease… even adults. In fact, this past weekend, we were driving to the beach and Nick was in the back of the truck with Fritzie, and people on the side of the road were pointing and shouting out (in Kreyol), “Bad eye! Bad eye! Bad eye!” Nick said it broke his heart. Please pray that we might be able to find a way to help her get corrective surgery, and please also pray that we could show Fritzie that we love her and care for her just the way she is. In the meantime, we’re going to order her some stylish glasses with protective lenses so that we can protect the vision in her good eye.
I need to wrap this up—but let me just give a quick update on Nahomie and Esther as well. (They are our staff members.) Nahomie is thriving in her role of “head nanny.” She’s learning how to shop weekly at market and plan meals. She likes having Esther around, whom we hired full-time to assist Nahomie in running our home. Like me, she likes to be in charge, so having someone “under her” works very well for her. And I think it works well for Esther too. I still teach English classes twice a week to Esther and Nahomie, but I fear that once we start taking in more kids (in December) that this is no longer going to be logistically possible. So we’re going to look into some options for local English schools around here that we can send them to. That will make me sad, because I really do like teaching the classes, but it’s a change I know is inevitable.
Thank you for your faithful support of our family and Joy in Hope. We love the life we get to live. We know it’s because of you, sacrificially giving and faithfully praying.
With grateful hearts.
Gwenn, for the Mangine Many
Nick, Gwenn, Nia, Nico + Josiah
Nahomie and Esther
Monday, September 14, 2009
Forget Kevin Leman's "Birth Order Book," I can boil it all down to three main thoughts.
1. First child-- Don't allow ketchup on ANYTHING until at least 3 years old because of the high sugar content.
2. Second child-- Allow ketchup as a dip for side items, but consider it a "hill to die on" when said child tries to dip their spoon in the ketchup, causing a tantrum in Wendy's forcing all family members to leave the premises.
3. Third child-- Wholeheartedly encourage child to eat ketchup as the main course in an attempt to sit down at a meal for more than 1.3 minutes without having to get up for something else.
So, then I'll bet you're wondering what Nahomie is up to if Esther is doing all these tasks. Well, believe me, in a "manual" society like Haiti, she has her hands full too. Nahomie has completely taken over the tasks of meal planning, shopping several times a week at market, mid-day cooking (our large meal everyday), etc. She's working a lot more on how to expand things when we begin taking more children in December.
So then I’ll bet your wondering what I am up to if Nahomie is doing all these tasks. The truth is that I am busy from sun-up until sundown. We’ve started homeschool which is a 5 and a half hours a day (from the time we leave to start—we do it over at Rue Petion- until the time we arrive home.) The curriculum we are using (Sonlight) is much more reading-intensive, which means that I am occupied nearly the entire time we’re doing school. I am still usually fixing breakfast and dinner, and I am working on a vast array of Haitian Children’s Home stuff. I am still teaching English classes twice a week. I am facilitating a Bible study once a week. And I am trying to support my husband as he takes on more and more responsibilities within the organization. More info on that soon...
I cannot remember a time I was consistently this busy. It’s insane. But good insane, not destructive insane. In spite of the busyness, we took a good chunk of time last Thursday to spend together with just the 5 of us (me, Nick, Nia, Nico and Josiah), and then a few hours in the afternoon with just Nick and I to Sabbath and chill… It was great. I admit, it was hard to disengage knowing there were many pressing things occurring, but it was good for our souls to intentionally try to disengage so that we could engage with one another. Things are only going to get busier and so it’s definitely a good practice to start being more disciplined about this now.
Tomorrow is our "regular update" day, so look for more then about Fritzie, her adjustment to our family and our adjustment to her! (Sneak preview: WE LOVE HER!)
We're SO excited! -Gwenn
September 13, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
There are always foundational moments that exist within people and organizations—events that occur that define the very core of who you are. One of those moments happened earlier this year when Haitian Children’s Home expanded to Joy in Hope, in an effort to not just build a family for our 25 children, but also build families in the community that surrounds us. We now find ourselves at another foundational moment. It is with great excitement and joy that I write you today to share the huge opportunity God has given us at Joy in Hope. As of last Saturday, September 5, Joy In Hope became a global organization. After a prompting from God and months of prayer and counsel, the Joy in Hope Board of Directors voted unanimously to expand the mission we all carry beyond Haiti, in order to replicate it in other places in the world.
In order to accomplish this task, there are some big changes coming within our organization. These changes, I believe, that will take Joy in Hope to the figurative “next level” in terms of efficiency, accountability, permanence, and growth. The most notable change is the hiring of a new Director for Joy in Hope that will oversee all aspects of our newly-expanded mission from the US. I’d like to introduce Rick Smith, the new Joy in Hope Director.
Rick has worked in corporate America for 22 years as a software engineer, project manager, and global alliance manager. For the past 5 years Rick been employed on the leadership team at Crosspointe Church managing all administrative functions of a large church—finance, human resources, operations, information technology, and purchasing. Rick has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 21 years and they have three children—Dan, Stephen and Sammi. Rick and his family have been involved in world missions for a long time, taking short-term trips to Haiti, Kenya and England.
I am personally excited about Rick coming on with Joy in Hope. This is a very good thing for Joy in Hope, for my family, and for me personally. As this mission has grown incredibly quickly over the past 3 years, it has become more and more apparent that God has been calling me to turn over ultimate leadership to someone more skilled in running a large non-profit. Because of God’s hand and your faithfulness in support, Joy in Hope has grown beyond what our family and staff on-the-ground here in Haiti are able to manage.
Something I have come to love about the heart of our Father God is that when He calls us to big new things, He provides the way. This is a position we’ve known we’ve needed for a while now, but didn’t see a way to provide the funding necessary for a venture such as this. So when Rick stepped forward with the skills and heart we were seeking, AND funding for his salary generously provided by his former employer, Crosspointe Church, it became very clear that this was the way that God was providing.
With Rick at the lead from an organizational standpoint, I will be freed up to work in Haiti in the capacity I love the most—directing work IN Haiti, and more importantly, being a husband to Leann and a father to my 25 children.
One thing I want to assure you is that the vision, staff, and infrastructure that we have in Haiti will not change. We are simply expanding our organization to include a new director, and as I briefly hinted at earlier, a new country.
You won’t find Kamanong listed on any map, but it’s about 4 hours outside of the capital, Nairobi, in Kenya. It is at this place that there is a children’s home where 70+ children live. For the majority of these kids, this is the only home they have ever known. Many of them are AIDS orphans or abandoned to the streets. It is our dream to provide a holistic approach and build an outstanding primary school, deliver high quality clinical care, provide clean water, and give them opportunities to grow in their faith in Jesus in a church. It’s energizing to dream about the kind of life change that will occur as we take the first steps to replicate this vision God birthed nearly 3 years ago.
We will be making some administrative changes in the next few months—keep an eye out for more details on that. This is a huge step for us, both in terms of faith and responsibility. We need your prayers and support now more than ever. If you have any specific questions about this transition, you can feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rick at email@example.com
Words cannot express the gratitude I have for you all, our friends and supporters. It is your faithful prayer and support alone that have allowed us to grow to the level we have grown, and it will be by your continued prayer and support we continue to grow, begin to build, continue to rescue children from abusive and dissolute lives. I feel so privileged to have served you in the capacity as the leader for the past three years, and look forward to continue serving on a different level of leadership, freeing me up to what I am most passionate about, and insuring the success of my family and of the organization as a whole. Again thank you.
Joy in Hope
Thursday, September 10, 2009
WHAT THE HECK?
How do you get your foot caught in a fan?
It bled. She cried. As she did back a few weeks ago when she stuck her HAND in the fan.
I don't mean to speak ill of my daughter or question her intelligence, but I am pretty sure after getting my hand stuck in a fan, I wouldn't be messing around with it with ANY of my extremities. But that's just me.
(BTW-- I have LOTS o' news to share-- Fritzie's adjustment, schooling children in Haiti, Fritzie visiting the eye doctor... LOTS o' news... But I am so dang busy I just don't have the mental energy tonight to dive in... possibly tomorrow.)
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
So, as I've mentioned, our kids have all been sick. It's insane. Nia was trying to will herself better so she could go to the beach with the team today. Her two favorite things about Haiti are:
- Teams visiting from the US
- The beach
I just kind of broke it to her as nice as I could. I explained very logically that we were heading to the beach and there would be no bathroom at the beach and so if she experiences and further... "troubles," we'd really be in a bad place for that to happen.
Nia, being the pensive, solution-minded child that she is, pondered this for a second. A little flicker of hope flashed across her eyes and she burst out with, "I've got it. Here's what we will do. I will still go to the beach but we can bring a bucket in case I need to have diarrhea."
Being the not-so-pensive, (though equally solution-minded,) mother that I am burst out with, "No. I love you and all, but I am not bringing a bucket with me to the beach for that purpose. No. Nope. None. Zero way that is happening. There will be other teams and there will be other beach days."
To which she gave me her extra lip-quivering whine, "But there won't be another beach day with THIS team!"
Which, of course, is correct. Call me a bad mom if you will. And while I feel the tiniest bit bad that she couldn't come along, I felt 100% certain I was not up for her "bucket" idea.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
The bad news is that ALL three of my Mangine kiddos currently have they same symptoms-- fever, crabbiness, general irritability, crying, whining, etc, etc, etc.
Didn't have ANY power today until about 5:45PM. Which is ironic because we just spent a GREAT deal of money on an inverter and batteries so that we could have power nearly 24 hours a day without shelling out $12.50 per day in diesel. Apparently it was not hooked up correctly, so for the last week we've had less power than we've ever had here in Jacmel. And then the "Inverter Boss" also messed up the wiring so we couldn't use our EXPENSIVE (also new) generator to power the house either. Woo Hoo! Party on! I was already behind on emails, now it's just ridiculous. I am sorry if I owe you an email. Soon. Tomorrow? It's fixed (ish) now. Although we still can't use the generator. They say Monday it will be fixed. So here's to hoping EDH (city power) stays on and the inverter stays working.
Nick's at a Board (Bored) meeting from early today until late tonight... so the other bad news is that I had three feverish children with no fans and no dad to pawn them off on when I can't take the whining any more. I am currently feeding said children kettle corn for dinner and letting them watch "The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement." For about a week now Josiah has called it "The Princess Diarrhea." When we finally got power today Nia said, "We should probably watch The Princess Diaries since Josiah calls it The Princess Diarrhea and he has diarrhea." Seemed logical to me.
But I got to go because they are getting full of kettle corn (as I made THREE batches), and it's about to get loud again...
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Man, y'all... Nick is a good dad.
Today Fritzie wanted some keneps from high, high up in the giant kenep tree, and lickity split-- he climbed the tree to get her some.
It's incredibly endearing to see him being a dad to Fritzie. And it's incredibly endearing to hear her call him, "Papi Nick." I honestly have all the emotions of being a new mom again. Weird huh?
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
And oh, here's another surprise. She is not 13, almost 14. She is 14, almost 15.
And she hasn't completed 3rd grade, she's completed 2nd grade.
So... there you go. Haiti is never as it appears.
Regardless of all that-- isn't she lovely?
She got her hair re-done to do. Well, actually she is still getting her hair redone. We're about 4 hours into it... Maybe another 1/2 to 1 hour left. I love this pic!