Saturday, October 31, 2009

Culture Shock, episode 2

So yesterday we get into Miami and we’ve just cleared passport control. We walk down, picked up our luggage and were walking towards the customs screening when this tall, scantily clad girl walks by talking (loudly) on her telephone.

These were her words, “You wouldn’t believe the kind of (expletive) I had to put up with yesterday. I’m tellin’ you—it was some MESSED UP (EXPLETIVE)!”

Nick and I just look at each other rolling our eyes, knowing our kids have heard this woman swearing VERY loudly.

Nia whispers, “Mom, did you HEAR her?”

I kind of sigh and say, “Yes, I heard her.”

Nia says, “I KNOW! Can you believe she SPEAKS ENGLISH?”

Man, I’ll tell you what-- kids trying to navigate two cultures are SUPER CUTE.
BTW-Had the COOLEST thing happen in the airports today… can’t wait till I can share the whole story.

A Grand Send-off

Two days ago, the kids were off school and so we took all the kiddos to the beach. It was nice. We had told Nahomie that we’d be back by lunch. When we got home, she was waiting with a surprise for us. She and Esther had worked hard all morning preparing a feast for our send-off. It was OFF THE HOOK!

Starting at 1:00 on the plate and moving clockwise: (Spelling probably incorrect)

· French fries (fresh cut)

· Pasta salad (she made a separate one for Josiah with no mayo)

· Piklese (a carrot/cabbage/hot pepper “salad” served as a condiment with Haitian food)

· Akra (I don’t know what this is—not okra… something that you grate and fry.)

· Fried Plantains

· Fried Pork

· (in the center) Fried Breadfruit (it’s a vegetable that grows on trees)

She also made fresh papaya/banana smoothies.

Nahomie said that she wanted to make a delicious meal so I wouldn’t forget how good her cooking was while I was in the states.

That’s pretty sweet. Equally sweet was the fact that yesterday was Esther’s day off and she worked all morning alongside Nahomie getting things ready.

It was a sweet surprise… and it made us feel loved… I miss them already.

Nou la. (We're here.)

We're back in good ole' North Cakilaky.

It honestly feels like we never left.
We're not feeling culture shock all that much but I have noted the following things I really like:

1. The roads
2. Water you can brush your teeth with right from the faucet.
3. Non-vomit-inducing public restrooms.
4. Not feeling hot.
5. Not getting mosquito-bitten
6. Dunkin Donuts coffee
7. Chili's (more on that later... have a GREAT story to tell about the COOLEST people we met.)

I've also noticed the following things I really don't like about being here:
1. Fritzie is not here.
2. Prisca is not here.
3. Wildarne is not here.

Was nervous about coming back... but realize now that nervousness was not necessary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We're totally Haitians now.

Well, Haitian residents. But I have been told we can vote now. And own property.

We received (finally) our Permis de Sejour which means we can live in Haiti! (Good thing, huh?)

The thing is, I am way more Haitian than Nick. If he were really Haitian he'd know that Haitians don't smile in photos. Geez. That's so basic...

My first birth

Last night/today I attended my first birth. Well. Actually that's a misnomer. I attended MY birth (as in when I was born) as well as the births of my two biological children. But this was the first time I've seen birth from the other side.

It was unreal. I didn't feel sick or queasy, but I did feel a little scared a couple of times. But mostly it was just amazing, and miraculous, and kind of gross and disturbing at times too. But DANG, Anise is one strong mama. No medical intervention-- no pain meds, no pitocin, no episiotomy. She delivered in MY bed surrounded by two midwives-- Sarah and Jonna-- me, her mom, her aunt, Nahomie, and her two sisters. (It was a crowded room.)

It was a long hard birth for Anise-- 31 hours in all. Sarah and I were there for 16 of them. We pulled an all-nighter. It's been my first all-nighter in Haiti and my first since college maybe.

But I thought I'd show you what Anise has been working towards for the past 41 weeks---

Meet Max Danielson.

Mama is sore and tired. Baby is great-- mellow and wonderful.

God is gracious.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I really am a finicky gal. It's definitely one of the uglier sides of my human nature. I have been thinking about how Paul says he's learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. (Phil 4:12) I am SO not there. SO not there. I want to be there. Unfortunately, I think getting there means being in yucky situations a lot and having to learn to deal well with them.

Here's what got me thinking about all this.

We got home from a team meeting. It was a good meeting. Things are hard within the organization right now-- it's just one of those seasons. But we had a good meeting. I love the team of people I get to serve alongside of.

But then we got home. And we didn't have city water again today. And we didn't have city power, even though we were past the time it's "supposed" to turn on. And all of a sudden, my mood turned sour. And I got grumpy. And I started making copies for English class for Nahomie and Esther and ANOTHER ink cartridge was empty. And I got grumpier.

But then I heard a "Yahoo!" from the other room... City water had started flowing! And within two minutes, city power turned on. (Another "Yahoo!") And then about 1 minute later Mikey called and the Mitsubishi was in the FINAL stages of repair (a week later... all but ONE of our ministry vehicles had broken down this past week.) "Yahoo!"

I had another printer cartridge in the drawer "Yahoo!" Installed that puppy and made my copies whistling under my breath. I was ready to face the night.

I have a long way to go. I have a sneaking suspicion that this place is PERFECT for perfecting this really ugly part of my nature. I am so glad I have been placed here at THIS time.

And even though it's easy to have joy because thing are going well-- WATER AND POWER? HECK YEAH!

Monday, October 26, 2009

All packed up.

I am getting excited to get back to the states on Friday!!! Not so excited about the actual traveling part, but excited about the being there part. :)

Tonight Nixon and Sandra offered to keep ALL SIX OF OUR KIDS OVERNIGHT so Nick and I could have some alone time. It has been great. We watched two movies (7 Pounds and PS I Love You) and packed. It's nice to be four (well, more like 3) days away from leaving and be packed! Public kudos to Nixon and Sandra. You're both BRAVE, BRAVE people.

Speaking of public kudos, public recognition needs to be given to Mikey and Georgette who will be staying with our house, HCH kids, and staff while the Mangine 5 are furloughing.

So excited. Lots of plans are made... and really, I am looking forward to all of them! Plus, I am like a lot thinner than I was 6 months ago, so you're all gonna think I look pretty great. Giardia gets a bad wrap-- but come on. 40+ pounds down says that it's not ALL bad. :)

It's also my personal goal to put on at least 10 pounds on furlough. It's not that I feel like I've lost too much weight and need to put some one-- on the contrary. I am just going in with a realistic set of expectations.

Besides, Giardia will be all over that 10 pounds when I get back home to Haiti after 3 weeks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Culture shock.

So in two days our family will have lived in Haiti for 6 months.

Friday we head back to the states for nearly three weeks. I am starting to get excited. Mostly about the food. The people a little. The food... A LOT. (Just kidding. Kind of.)

Living here in this crazy-different culture, I wonder how my kids will handle the culture shock of heading back to the US. Nia is 6-- so she's lived a relatively small percentage of her life (1/10th) here in Haiti. Nico-- well, he's actually lived the majority of his life in Haiti, but his situation is a whole other story for another day. But Josiah. He's only 2. So he's lived 1/4th of his life in Haiti. That's insane.

If today is any indication, if nothing else, my kids are going to be cold in the states. This afternoon Nia put on a little light jacket because she was a little chilly. It was 86 degrees.

A good day

Today was definitively less grumpy than yesterday.

We got a water truck to come in and fill our water tanks. It is unbelievably great.

I immediately gave all my kids a bath. And then Nick took a shower. And then I did. And I washed dishes. And I FLUSHED THE TOILET! Mesi Jezi! (Thank you Jesus.) It's funny how the little things can become so much bigger in your mind when your house smells like a port-a-potty.

Nick and I skipped church with the American kids today. We hadn't had any time off together since before the last team came in, and we really needed it. It was great. And then Nick and I went on a date to the beach to swim without SIX children. Divine.

Afterwards, we picked up some street food, a fruit champagne (the national soda of Haiti) for Nick, and a cold Prestige (the national beer of Haiti) for me and we parked by the river and ate. We failed to remember that down by the river is also the dump, so there were many flies, but it was still lovely. I will let you know tomorrow whether or not the street food was a good idea.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Not as cool as it's cracked up to be.

I'll admit that I feel cool telling people I live in Haiti.

But it's not really always that cool. Like tonight for example. We have no water. Actually, we've had very little water for the past week or so because we've only gotten city water once in the past week. It nearly filled our tanks when it did come, but it's now gone. We ran out early this morning. I haven't had a shower in 2 days, which, is a PROBLEM when you live in a climate like this.

So, we did the logical thing and ordered a water truck. (Large truck that drives around to fill up people's cisterns and water tanks.) Problem is, they "apparently" came by. I say "apparently" because none of us actually SAW them come by. They said they did. And they also said there were too many trucks parked on the road so they couldn't stop to fill us up.

And so then Nixon called several other water companies and they all said it's now too late.

So no water tonight. Who knows when we'll get it again?!

In the meantime, I stink and I am a greasy jungle.

Seriously, this doesn't feel cool. It actually feels grumpy.


There's a girl that sits out on our front stoop most days. Her name is Stephana. She is 15 years old. Stephana has another name in town, "Madame Gwo Pye" (Mrs. Big Foot) because she has Elephantiasis. This was caused by a parasite from mosquito bites.

Stephana with her friend, Luciette.

She says she's had it since she was two years old and it doesn't hurt her. She also says she has no mom or dad, because they are both dead. She has lumps forming on her other leg as well as on her arms. She says they are not the same thing that caused her leg to swell... but I don't think I agree.

Every day she asks us for food or money. Every day we have to say no. Yesterday, for the first time, we gave her some keneps from our tree and 20 gourdes (50 cents US) to get a taxi. We had been sitting there talking for about an hour, and I just couldn't stand the thought of her having to walk home.

The depth of need here is overwhelming at times. It will suck the life right out of you if you let it.

:( Time flies

My mom is on her way back to the good ole' US of A.

It's not too bad THIS TIME because we head back to the US next Friday for three weeks. We'll get to spend a week with her then.

But WOW. This is the first (non-team) visitor we've had come and go. It stinks. Not the having-her-here part, but the she-has-to-leave part.

And as just a funny little side story--Josiah did not fail church last night. I did. Last night for English church they showed the "Joseph" movie. (Showing a free movie in downtown Jacmel= packed house.) I was SO stinkin' tired that after about an hour I went out to the car to try to sleep. 20 minutes later, nearly crying from tiredness and sweating my butt off in the car, I went in and asked Nick to drive me home. He did. And I mean to tell you... it was one of those "asleep before your head hits the pillow" scenarios. Dang. I feel like I could sleep for a week right now. But, alas, I have six kids, and their father is currently driving my mother to Port... so I need to brew some coffee and look alive.

Later taters.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It never gets old

As a family we took Prisca and Wildarne out to the Joy in Hope land out in Raymond today for the first time to show them where they will live one day soon...

The view NEVER. GETS. OLD.


A few shots of our time there...
Nick and Prisca. (Yes, Fritzie is sharing her water with Bigsby...)

Heading up the hill.

Nick explaining where our house will be.

Nico and Wildarne... united in fear of the dog.

Speaking of never getting old... it never gets old to wake up to this face every morning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The UN, Sri Lankans, and why Esther wants to marry a foreigner

As you may or may not be aware, the UN has a very visible presence in Haiti. UN soldiers are everywhere around here.

Now, one "fun fact" (sarcasm alert!) about some of these soldiers is that they are apparently from Speedo-wearing countries. Which makes the beach ULTRA obnoxious. For some reason, I find random naked Haitians on the beach less objectionable than the Speedo-donning Sri Lankan soldiers.

I have a tendency to tease Esther (mercilessly) when we're at the beach and just say stupid things like, "Oh look Esther, it's your boyfriend." She gets all flustered and embarrassed and vociferously denies it. Which makes it even more fun. So then it morphed to basically teasing Esther about any non-Haitian man being her boyfriend.

Tonight my mom took all 10 of us HCH Mangine's (including Nahomie and Esther) out to Cyvadier Plague for french fries and sodas. While we were there this little old white man with white hair came into the restaurant and sat down a few tables over. I just looked over at Esther and raised my eyebrows, as if to say, "You know he's your boyfriend." Worked like a charm. She started laughing.

But then Nahomie pipes in with, "You know Gwenn, you tease Esther a lot about all these guys, but she actually told me that she wants to marry a blan (a foreigner.) "

So then we all piped in with the laughing.

But Nahomie went on. She said, "But she's thought a lot about it and she has a good reason for wanting to marry a blan."

This of course interested me so I asked her why. I imagined it had to do with money. But I was wrong.

She said, "Most people think it's okay for Haitian men beat their wives a lot. And I don't want to be beat, so I'd rather marry a blan."

Hmmm. Not really where to file that comment. I thought I shouldn't just leave that comment hanging so I said, "Good reason."

Ahh.... everyday these cultural events. What a weirdo life.

wait, what did you just say???

So there's this guy at our church in Jacmel named Hugues. (Pronounced, "Eeg.") I literally think he's my favorite person I have met here in Haiti. He's just one of those people you have to love. He's the guy who's always around and always willing to help. And when he helps, he has a good attitude and stays right in there until the end-- not leaving until everything is done. He is super-great with kids and leads children's church with Nixon and Sandra. My kids love him. Everyone loves him. But because my Kreyol is not yet stellar, I always feel like I am saying the same things over and over to him.

Today I was over picking up my kids at school and saw Hugues. I wanted him to come meet my mother so I asked him if he'd like to join us for lunch. He came over and I began to introduce him to my mother. Hugues says, (in English), "It's nice to meet you. I saw you in church on Sunday speaking to the deaf people but I never was able to get over to say hello."

I'm all like, "What the heck? Hugues, you speak ENGLISH?"

Yeah, he does. A lot. Way more than I speak Kreyol.

Seriously. That would have been really nice to know SIX MONTHS AGO.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The irony

I dug through piles and found the cord for my card reader.

Now I can't find the card reader.

Still can't find my camera cord.

I honestly haven't looked a whole lot. Esther does a great job keeping things tidy around here. She cleans things spic n' span. I can't imagine life without her here helping. So this is NOT a criticism, rather, and observation... she's a "Pile-er." Meaning, when she's not sure what to do with something, she puts it in a pile somewhere. It could be anywhere. On top of the desk. On a shelf. On top of the printer. In with the clothes. On the back of the toilet... Pretty much anywhere.

Which, really, what else is she supposed to do? We live in a house WITHOUT CLOSETS. And really, very little furniture-- but a lot of Rubbermaid tubs. We have basically no organization system. And our system is "piles."

We're going to do better in our next house.

But for now... I will upload pics when I find the right pile.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's 1:15AM, do you know where your children are?

I can answer that question with a definitive yes. They are all sound asleep here where we're camping out in the living room. Some of them are gently snoring. Then there's my mom. She's not exactly gently snoring... but it's sweet and dear to me because it means she's here in my home. Besides there is the whir of several fans to help out. Yesterday the group left and my mom came in.

I've yet to detail the rest of the activities of the group. Trying to balance family/work/ministry/leadership... yikes. Happy times, drama-filled times. It's been a crazy week to say the least. I did take about a dozen or so pictures and when (if?) I can find my camera cord, I will upload them, because I know you're all waiting with baited breath to have a more substantial peek into my life. :)

I was starting to get very re-attached to this group (cause you know, they were all some of my besties from my ex-life in the states), but God was faithful to make the goodbye super easy-- a non-issue really. Late Thursday night I came down with terrible aches and pains in my body. Terrible. Mostly my legs, but also my feet and then my back and my arms. Then my neck then my fingers. Once my eyeballs started burning, I realized I had a fever. Sure enough it was 103 and I was laid out for most of Friday... that night was the worst and I stayed sick all day long yesterday too. So in a way, God protected me from long painful goodbyes by giving me what I speculate is the flu. (Swine or other? I don't know.)

Yesterday Nick took ALL the kids (yes, SIX of them) to Port Au Prince to pick up my mother. While that looks impressive (and it is!) on the way their he had the help of the group and Sandra and Nixon, and on the way back-- Nana was there so he was chopped liver. (Hmmm.... they eat all worts of weird animal parts here... probably need to think of somehting else they wouldn't eat-- like say, for example, BACON.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I am a jerk.

So sorry. I didn't take ANY pictures today. As in ZERO. In my head I reasoned that A LOT of other people were taking photos and that I should "live in the moment" and not worry about capturing it for other people. And then there's also that I didn't feel like lugging around my camera. That might have been the bigger motivation. It's not my fault God made me too lazy. :)

BUT... I do not wish to disappoint, so, let me post a few links to some interesting info about the team.

Here's is a link to a couple of pics so far....

Also, the group is updating Stephen's blog everyday-- Check it out from different points of view:

Finally, while I am on the subject of posting links-- this doesn't really have to do with the Crosspointe team but more with our Haiti team... Leann, my dear friend and team member here on the ground in Jacmel posted some great pics of Riann (her 3 year old daughter) and Josiah. Josiah and Riann are cut from the same cloth. (Not literally. I assure you.) But they are both strong personalities and... hem... strong willed? They are a hoot together. I like it when Josiah plays with Riann because she's the only person around here that I don't have to worry about him hitting. I mean yes, he WILL hit her. No question about it. But it's 50/50 odds as to who will throw the first punch. And they can both take a punch too. Sooner or later, one of them will come tell me that one of them hit the other. I can yell, "work it out!" from the other room, the tattling party will go back to the offended party and say, "my mom said to work it out" and they will. And then they will move on. It's refreshing in a bizarre way.

Music camp is over. Today about frazzled my nerves. Well, actually it did. We decided last minute that we didn't want to leave Josiah and brought him along. Which means he skipped his nap. Bad plan. At one point I ended up going over to our truck and just sitting with him for about 20 minutes in the air conditioning. I needed the break just as much as he did. Plus, I got to be with him one on one for a little bit. My goal is to find time like that for Nico tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow-- it's my anniversary tomorrow... NINE YEARS married to Nick Mangine. Man I love that guy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Music camp

The team is leading a one day music camp for local Jacmel kids (and apparently some adults)-- it's fun. They did the first one today and are doing another (same thing) tomorrow.

They are teaching guitar lessons, drum lessons, making some percussion instruments, learning a new song in English (and Hebrew.)

My SIX kids are coming tomorrow. No wait, I lied. Josiah is not coming. So five of my kids are coming. (I just like saying I have six kids.)

And speaking of my six kids, being with the team all day long made me really miss them. It's hard to balance wanting to be with the team and wanting to be with my kids. Being a working mom is hard work. Mad props to all you working moms out there. MAD props.

I only took about 4 pictures at music camp today but none of them are great. So... maybe tomorrow?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wildarne's new do

Yesterday morning Wildarne started the day with short short hair. She's had a fungal infection on her head for a long time and her previous care-givers just kept it cropped really close. The first time we met her we actually thought she was a boy because of her haircut.

We've been treating the infection, and yesterday we hired two friends of Nahomie's to come over and put extensions in Wildarne's hair.

Here she is at the beginning of the process.

And here she is NINE hours later. (Literally.)

It's adorable. She's adorable. Nick thinks it's really cute but bordering on a Haitian version of JonBenèt Ramsy. And though she did not enjoy the process, she loves it. She told us today that she is beautiful. My heart smiled when she said that because she's right. The way I see it, $10 in extensions and $6.00 in labor (yeah, labor is cheap here... 2 people, 9 hours of braiding= $6.00 total) is a VERY reasonable price to pay to give a little girl the confidence she needs to tell us she's beautiful.

Having teams

I really, really love having teams here.  Especially when it's people I know and love!  My favorite thing is laughing with them.  I laugh continually when teams are here.  I also love seeing people experience Haiti for the first (or second or third or eighth time.)  There forms a special connection between people who have been here-- I can't describe what it is.  (Perhaps it's my gratefulness for the junk food they bring in???)  

Whatever it is, I love having this team here.

Music camp starts tomorrow!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Okay, for the past two weeks or so it seems that I am shedding. I don't know if it's because my hair is getting longer so it's more noticeable or if I am really shedding. It's MUCH more noticeable than normal!

Help! Does this happen to other people, or am I destined for a baldness???

THE BEST bundt cake ever

I had THE BEST cake I have ever eaten yesterday. Sandra (one of our team members) makes the best bundt cake-- heck the best cake PERIOD.

You have GOT to try it. I simply cannot stress to you how incredible this cake was. Wow. Just... wow.

Where's Nia? A hidden picture challenge, campout edition

There are seven people, can you find them all?

Friday, October 9, 2009

A different kind of excitement.

Just a couple of hours ago I talked about how excited I was at all the big things happening here at the Mangine house. Shortly after posting that, we had a different kind of excitement occur. Nia came up to me and told me she was feeling very itchy. This is not a new sentiment here in this mosquito-infested region of the world. We basically live life itching somewhere at all times.

But she began squirming and writhing and screaming that she was itchy all over. I looked over at her and her face was red and blotchy all over. I felt my heart panic and I immediately dropped everything (trying to get a family of 10 fed and out the door for church) and stripped her down. Hives were forming ALL OVER her body--- especially on her trunk, her scalp, and behind her ears.

I gave her a dose of Benadryl and threw her in a cool bath, while dialing Dr. Teresa. Thankfully Teresa was available and she talked me down... She had me double the dose of Benadryl, use some cortisone cream topically, and gave me the dosage for prednisone she needs if she starts having trouble breathing. I love her.

The good news is that I know what she's allergic to-- I gave her a new asthma medicine earlier today. So now I know that we need something different. And it's just one of those moments of God's grace as the doctor actually prescribed three different meds. I was nervous to start her on all those meds at once and didn't really think she needed them all, so I decided to start slow and only add the others if necessary. Plus, I thought it was too expensive to buy all of them at once when I wasn't convinced she needed all three. So my cheapness (or as I like to call it, "thriftiness,") paid dividends today.

So Nia and I are hope skipping church and just having some snuggle time. I am letting her watch a movie since I speculate she will be long asleep by the time everyone comes home from church for campout (thanks to the double dose of Benadryl.)

Thank you God for keeping us in your grip...

BUSTING with excitement.

We have a team of 12 people from our ex-church, Crosspointe, coming in tomorrow! I. AM. SO. EXCITED. This is Nick and I's first "official" team we're leading.

This team is comprised mostly of musicians AND several of them are from our ex-life group. I seriously do not know if I will sleep tonight. I can't wait to see these old friends.

This week they will be doing a music camp for kids in Jacmel, playing in a concert alongside of popular local band "So Nice," doing a HUGE 600-person community feeding, leading a pastor's conference, and leading Friday night English church... It's going to be an awesome week.

Tomorrow is the first of a WHIRLWIND couple of months for the Mangines...
The day the team leaves, MY MOM comes in for a week. Less than a week after she leaves, we head back to the states for 2 and a half weeks (with all our American kids.) After that we're here in Jacmel for Thanksgiving, moving to our NEW house on Dec 1. Having Pam come in for a week. Having Nick's parents in for Christmas...

BIG doings in the Mangine house. Ridiculously excited.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

THE show.

Last night Nia was playing with Nick's phone because the kids like to dance to the MIDI file ringtones. (Yeah, we have some challenges with our Itunes library these days and so it's pretty much their only access to music... but VERY Haitian of them to find a way to have "music" so we're proud.)

She came up with this idea that she wanted to put on a show out on our veranda. So this morning she set to planning. I was her helper. She came up with invitations and a costume and a hairdo. We set the stage and lined up chairs in front of it.

It was, hem, special to say the least. :) In all seriousness, it was cute. After that we opened up the stage to others who decided they'd like to participate.

Fritzie, Prisca and I were the opening act with a rousing version of "This Little Light of Mine"

Then it was Nia's turn... She waited backstage and then...

Made her appearance
After the thunderous applause ended, the crowd became restless in their chants for "Papi Nick, Papi Nick, Papi Nick." He delivered an incredible interpretive ballet number (again, to one of the MIDI ringtones on his phone).

Bigsby even made an appearance in his flamboyant and over-the-top performance.
After which I followed with an ANGRY piece. Here I am yelling at my inner child.

Are we dorks? Well duh! But I daresay that fun was had by all...

Silent tears.

I remember when Nico first came home to us he had a lot of silent tears. You'd look over at him and see that he was crying--tears would be pouring down his face and his face was pained-- but you wouldn't know it if you didn't look at him because he was completely silent. I have heard that's pretty common with children who have been in orphanages. They learn that there's no one to comfort them and so they don't bother crying.

Today that happened with Wildarne. She hit her head really hard on the cabinet and tears were pouring out of her face and she was strained in pain... but she didn't make a noise.

Nick and I took turns holding ice on it and holding her, and I just kept thinking about how different it is from my kids. I am always getting frustrated at them for whining and complaining and crying over things for which I don't think warrant tears. But the truth is, I'd prefer that to the silent tears. I was reminded of how very much children need a mother's love. And how grateful I am to have the chance to fill that role for these children...

I love my life.

Getting to know you...

It’s really fun getting to know Prisca and Wildarne. They are amazing little girls. Their personalities are a little different from what I had expected. I thought you might like to hear a little bit about them and our transition.

Prisca is the older sister, but you might think she was the younger one. She’s definitely a “performer” and she gets silly when she is the center of attention. She likes to sing songs and dance. She and Fritzie play really well together, and of course, she and her sister Wildarne, are thick as thieves. Prisca is very active and likes to run and jump and play.

You would probably think Wildarne is the shy one when you first meet her. That’s what I thought. It’s not true. She takes a little time to warm up to people but then she’s WIDE open. Which is funny, because you don’t expect her to be so crazy. She’s very much a little girl and she and Nia get along splendidly. Yesterday we took a walk to the beach and she and Nia came home with their fists bulging with “treasures” they found… shells, rocks, beach glass, flowers, plastic silverware that had been discarded. When they got home they set all their treasures up and made a tea party. I tried to make sure they weren’t really putting the stuff in their mouths, cause I am not too keen on them picking up typhoid as one of their treasures, but I can’t be sure they didn’t. It was very sweet and girly.

Both girls are basically healthy, but we’re still trying to clear up Wildarne’s head fungal infection. I am excited for her because this weekend Nahomie is buying some fake hair to give her a weave. : ) I will be sure to post pics. Nahomie also speculates that Wildarne has worms. Wildarne doesn’t eat well and is VERY skinny. VERY. I can easily wrap my thumb and middle finger around her upper arm. We’re treating her and hoping that this plus good nutrition will fatten her up. She also has an umbilical hernia that we’re going to look into having repaired. I hope this isn't too personal of information for me to be sharing, but I am looking for options... I am trying to figure out how to procure a large supply of Pull-ups for nights, as she's still a bed-wetter. I priced them out in Port Au Prince last week and they were 899 gourdes for 20 pullups. Which is about $21.00US. Crazy. Right now I am using diapers for her, but am trying to think of solutions to perhaps offer her a bit more dignity. Anyone have any suggestions?

Nick and I have commented that Fritzie has really blossomed since the little girls came. SHE LOVES THEM. As I mentioned previously, she’d lived with them for the past two years prior to moving in with us, so she’s very used to them. She’s incredibly nurturing with them and an EXCELLENT big sister—anticipating many of their needs. It’s very endearing. She’s going to be an excellent mother one day.

So far things are really going well. We love having these three girlies as a part of our family. The Mangine kiddies (Nia, Nico and Josiah) are really rolling with it and seem to be thriving having the other kids to play with. Nia's Kreyol has EXPLODED. We’re trying to figure out how to be intentional about making special time for our three “Mangine” kids. So far our working plan for family time alone is on Thursday mornings when the other kids are at school. Sonlight curriculum has a 4 day option or a 5 day option and we use the 4 day option and take off Thursdays. It’s been working well.

Our house is NEVER QUIET. Even if the kids are playing outside there is always a faint giggling or chattering to be heard.

I love it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lots o' kids!

Prisca and Wildarne are HOME with us!

They are doing great. Here's some pics--

Mommy Gwenn and all the girlies.

Tout timoun nou. (All our kids.)

Crazy Wildarne. Dude, she's HILARIOUS.

Letter from Rick Smith, the new Joy in Hope Director

Hey friends--

The following is a letter from our NEW Director, Rick Smith! In case you haven't heard, we're in the process of transitioning the location of the JIH office to Cary, NC. All the details are included below!

Thanks for your support...


Greetings from North Carolina!

Please pardon my interruption of a regular family email but I feel it is important to communicate what has been going on this past month.

We are currently finishing up the transition of Haitian Children’s Home, a ministry of Joy in Hope from Florida to North Carolina. Things have been going well this week as Jennifer and Jon Hancock packed up the office in Florida and drove everything to Cary. As you maybe aware, Jennifer is transitioning off of Joy in Hope staff so that she and Jon can begin preparations to be house parents in Haiti. This is an exciting time for their family and I appreciate all they have done for Joy in Hope for the past couple of years.

While I am talking about the new offices of Joy in Hope, we have some new contact information for you.

Our new mailing address is:

Joy in Hope

2731 NC Hwy 55


Cary, NC 27519

Our new office phone number is 919-439-7038. Please feel free to contact us anytime.

Now that you have the new address and phone number, I’d also like to introduce you to the new Director of Operations of Joy in Hope, Kristi Daugherty. Kristi will be working out of the new Cary office and will be coordinating all operations for Joy in Hope. She will be very busy over the next few weeks as she leaves her current job and also is on her way to Haiti for a short-term trip. She will be fully onboard after October 19th and can be reached at the Joy in Hope office or

Lastly, while it may be uncomfortable to talk about, you will find that I don’t shy away from tough conversations – especially where it comes to finances.

I would like to thank everyone for your faithfulness to this organization in the past. Joy in Hope wouldn’t be the Light and Hope of Haiti without the sacrifices of many of you. The reality of the situation is that the economic factors of the past year have caught up with Joy in Hope and, especially over the past 6 months, we have seen a dramatic reduction in support for the ministry. The team in Haiti has had to make tough decisions in regards to finances – either deferring necessary purchases or using emergency funds to buy food, fuel and other items. At this point of the year, Joy in Hope is approximately $40,000 behind where it should be financially.

I say this because I know as a supporter of Joy in Hope, you want to know what it currently going on. Many of you are very faithful with the commitments you have made to the children and families of Haiti and I thank you for continuing to fund the journey we have all been called to. For some of you, maybe it’s a matter of catching up your monthly commitment. For others, you maybe able to do a little more to help. It’s an individual decision but I feel it is important to let everyone know the situation and be frank and honest in regards to finances.

Lastly you can send all checks to the new Joy in Hope address listed above or if it is more convenient, you can donate online at

I am looking forward to meeting everyone eventually – whether it’s in Haiti or in the US or Canada. I am always available and can be reached at the Joy in Hope offices in Cary or by email at Please feel free to contact Kristi or myself anytime for any reason.

Grace and Peace,

Rick Smith


Joy in Hope

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Career exploration

I think we can count today as a school day!

We'll call it "career exploration."

Check out Nia's blog--

I LOVE raising my kids here!

Friday, October 2, 2009

In case you don' t read the comments...

On Sunday I was at the end of my rope and having a big ole premenstrual pity party and feeling all homesick for my ex-church. I got a lot of really helpful comments with ideas and thoughts from 7 of you-- thank you. This one made me take pause and really spoke to me. Thought I'd share it with you--

Thanks Cece.

"I just want to give you a big hug. I know what you mean. When I went to college, I attended a church that was Greek.. mostly immigrants... Greek was the vernacular. The service and sermon were in Greek, and people could not understand why I would be there if I didn't speak Greek. But the people were welcoming. The yayas (grandmothers) would smile at me and the priest would welcome me. Over time I worked on techniques to help me cope with not understanding. My job was a little easier than yours because all Orthodox services are the same not matter what language it is in. The sermons and REALLY long readings always got to me. Sometimes I even started to fall asleep. In those moments, I would remember that I was not coming to church in exchange for some sort of "fullness" payment. I wasn't going there because I selfishly wanted God to give me something for my time. I was going to church to worship our Creator. I was going to church because it was the place where I could stand before my God and say "here I am" ... too often I went to church DEMANDING that God fullfill all the needs that I thought I had. I wasn't going to church for Him, I was going to church for me. "Oh Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me a sinner" At the same time, I needed to engage in the worship.I developed the skill for guessing sounds and lip-reading... so that I could sing a long. I sang along and worshiped even though I didn't know the words. God knows my heart even without the words. Slowly, my frustration at not knowing the songs slipped away. Sermons were harder. For the sermons, I brought my Bible and just worked on it. If the priest showed ANY sign of the section of the Bible he would be preaching out of, I would flip to that section. I would really study and pray those verses. If I couldn't figure out the sermon, I would find my own verse, or go over my prayer list, or take the time to seriously pray over the people around me. Not only did that help keep my mind from wondering.... it helped draw me in to the community. I don't care that the Yaya sitting next to me didn't know I had just prayed for her, I felt much more attached to her because I had just spent time praying for her. Instead of feeling like an outsider standing in the middle of a large family, I slowly connected with one person at a time. And I discovered something about myself. It was not the people in the church who were distancing me, it was me myself who was building walls around myself. I felt out of place because I felt more comfortable that way.I was afraid of loosing my identity in my own culture/church. I was afraid of loosing my uniqueness... oh it is so ridiculous. For the first six months or so, I embraced the very things that made me uncomfortable. God also established the Church to feed and love on His unique peoples. I am one part of that Body who happens to speak English... and maybe a little French. Yaya speaks Greek. But the Heart of this Body is the same Heart. I had to teach myself to hear that Heartbeat ... even without the words... coming back to the heart of worship. It NEVER replaced my home church... where my heart still soars :) When I graduated from college, I didn't want to leave my beloved GREEK church community. It took almost two years of frustration... but God had grown me to love the Sunday worship there."

HCH Mangine Child Sponsorships NOW OPEN!

Fritzie, Prisca and Wildarne are all available for sponsorship! If you're interested, read on for some answers to Frequently Asked Questions...

What is the cost to sponsor a child?
The short answer is $32/month. The long answer is $160/month. Here’s how it all works out. The cost of care for each child per month is $160. We understand that not everyone is able to afford that kind of monthly payment, so we have structured our program so that each child has five $32/month sponsors. It is the Haitian Children’s Home policy that 100% of your money goes directly to meeting the needs of your child. It supplies him or her with food, clothing and shoes, education, salaries for the nannies who care for them, medical treatment, and housing costs including utilities, building maintenance, and various home upgrades. We find it’s a good way to do things. Not only does it give more individuals the opportunity to participate in giving, it lessons the financial strain on the Haitian Children’s Home should a sponsor determine that he or she is no longer able to participate in the sponsorship program.

Expense Breakdown

Cost per month per child
Housing $32.00
Food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. $40.00
Nanny Salary $8.00
Tutor $1.75
Housekeeper $1.75
Tuition $12.50
Electricity $12.50
Propane (for cooking) $7.50
Water $9.00
Building Maintenance $2.50
Medical $5.00
School Supplies (Uniforms, school books, admission fees…) $9.00
Staff Bonuses (Mandated by Haitian Law) $1.25
Birthdays (party for your child on his or her birthday) $1.04
Christmas $4.17
Clothing $5.00
Emergency fund (major medical or facility emergencies, etc.) $7.04

Total-- $160.00

Is my participation in this program tax-deductible?
Yes! You will receive a receipt every January to use for tax purposes for the previous calendar year.

How often will I receive updates on my child?
You will receive three email updates per year. You will also receive an annual “snail mail” update with a photo and a copy of your child’s report card each year. It's one of our biggest goals to improve communication with child sponsors over the upcoming year.

Can I write letters to my child? Will he or she write me back?
Absolutely! We encourage you to be in contact with your child. Our children LOVE getting mail! Feel free to send letters and we encourage you to send photos of your family. We encourage our children to write back. Because of translating/lack of mail service, it may take several weeks to receive these replies. You can also send an email to your child by emailing the houseparents.

I would prefer to pay one lump sum annually rather than monthly—is that an option?

Yes! We can set it up monthly, semi-annually, or annually.

Can I send gifts to my child?

You already are! As you can see above, part of our monthly budget for each child is a birthday and Christmas fund. Because our children live in close proximity to one another, we try to handle gift-giving occasions with a certain amount of equity. We give each child a party on his or her birthday with cake for everyone, homemade cards from all of their “brothers and sisters” in the orphanage, and a small gift. On Christmas, we have a similar party and each child gets 3 gifts: a pair of new shoes, one clothing item and one small toy. Additionally, we have an end-of-school party each year where we celebrate graduation to the next grade. We want these children to know that they are valued as a member of our Haitian Children’s Home family, and we believe that celebrating them individually on special occasions teaches them important lessons on how families function. In addition to this, you can send letters with flat gifts like stickers, paper dolls, temporary tattoos, photos, etc. Finally, you are always welcome to send community gifts that can be shared by all of the children in the orphanage. Popular items include soccer balls, inflatable rafts for the beach, hair beads, elastics and snaps, and craft supplies like string and beads to make jewelry. In order to pay for customs and shipping (from our US address to Haiti), for all parcels sent, please include a check for $3 per pound made out to Haitian Children’s Home.

What happens if I am no longer financially able to sponsor my child?

We understand that family dynamics change. Please just let us know and we will work to find a new sponsor for your child, no questions asked! You are still welcome to write letters to your child and stay in contact.

What happens if I miss a payment?
We understand that there are times when things get a little tighter financially; however, we are counting on sponsorship commitments to meet your child’s needs. If you miss a payment, simply resume the next month. If you are able to make two payments at once the next month, that would be great, but if not, that’s okay, just pick up with the new month.

Can I visit my child?
The Haitian Children’s Home offers short-term mission trips to Jacmel to work on various projects in and near the orphanage. Check out our Mission Trips page for more information on scheduling a trip.

How long do the children stay at the Haitian Children’s Home?

We’ve committed to caring and providing for these children through the completion of their high school education. However, high school education in Haiti is not like high school education in the United States. We believe that our children will leave high school with the tools they need to support themselves and contribute to the community. The typical child in our care will complete high school in their mid-20’s.

Can I pay by electronic debit?

Yes, we can help you set up a regular subscription with Paypal.

How do I ask more questions or sign up?
Email me: ! Looking forward to hearing from you.

PS-- I *think* that there are currently sponsorships in the Pye home too... Email me for more info! It's our goal to have ALL HCH children FULLY sponsored.

Prisca, age 7

Wildarne, age 6

Fritzie, age 15

HCH Mangine Update-- October 2, 2009

Hello friends!

Things don’t always go the way you plan. That’s a universal truth, but one that seems to be true much more often than not here in Haiti. We’ve been battling DAILY problems with electricity. If it’s not a problem with our power getting cut, it’s a problem with our inverter, or our generator, or … it amazes me how something that should be so simple, can be so complicated here sometimes.

In my most recent update, I told you about Prisca and Wildarne Pierre, the newest HCH Mangine kids who were scheduled to move in with us in December, after we move to a bigger house. As I said earlier, things don’t always go the way you plan. And as the situation with Prisca and Wildarne began to develop, we could see that it was getting increasingly tricky. They were living with their uncle, whose family began to experience increased difficulty caring for them—job struggles, landlord problems, run-ins with the law… and on it goes. We became concerned for the stability of Prisca and Wildarne’s immediate situation. And so the short story is this—they are moving in with us on Sunday! Yes, this Sunday! We’re excited and all hurried in a hundred different directions as we prepare to add two more to our numbers!

Our family has embraced these girls already as they’ve been coming over every day for a meal for the past three weeks. They are comfortable in our house and we are all comfortable with them. We hope that will make this transition a bit easier for all of us—but please keep our entire family in your prayers as we adjust.

We have sponsorship openings for ALL three of our girls! I will include some detailed info about sponsorship in another post today.

We have one additional need. We realized the other day that we don’t have a large enough table to fit our whole family now that Prisca and Wildarne are moving in. We’ve been holding out on getting a new one as we’ve been waiting for a team to come in to build one, and save us some money. However, we really feel that it’s important that we have enough space for our whole family (of 10 people) to be able to sit down for a meal together. Therefore, we’d like to go ahead and hire someone to build a table and benches large enough for our family. This will cost approximately $300. Please email me at if you’re interested in helping meet this need. If we had 6 people donate $50 or 12 people donate $25—we’d be there!

All three HCH girls are doing well in school. Met Frantzo (their teacher) is very pleased with the progress they are making and says they all work hard. He’s an excellent teacher, and we’re extremely grateful God made a way for us to hire him! Frantzo’s wife, Anise, has worked for the HCH Pye family for many, many years and is expecting her first child, a son, later this month. One of my recent “side” projects is taking Anise to her midwife appointments. I love it. Her midwife, Sarah, is a new friend of mine here in Jacmel and she’s been teaching me a ton. Last week I was able to find the baby’s heart tones without her help. It’s SO cool. Anise is due in three weeks and I am praying that she delivers before we leave for furlough 4 weeks from today. I really want to be able to attend the birth.

Nick has been busy trying to fill the “assistant to the regional manager” shoes while the Pye’s have been in the states for the past two weeks. I think he’s doing a great job, but I think we’ll both be glad when Danny arrives home and reclaims his job. : ) He’s also preaching at Friday church for the next two weeks and working to coordinate the next team, coming in a week from tomorrow. This is our first “official” team we’re leading and we’re pumped because it’s a team from our home church containing several members of our former small group. They will be doing a music camp in Jacmel, a pastor’s conference, and working with a popular, local band, “So Nice” to put on a big concert/community feeding.

I always say this, but I continue to mean it wholeheartedly, so it bears repeating. THANK YOU to all of you who give sacrificially so that we get the honor of living this life. It is not always easy—in fact many times it has stretched me farther than I thought I could stretch. But it is such a GOOD life. It’s indescribably good to be able to walk in the purpose for which we were created. Thank you.

With very grateful hearts,
Gwenn, for the entire Mangine family
Nick, Gwenn, Nia, Nico, Josiah
Fritzie, Prisca, Wildarne
Nahomie and Esther

Sarah, a local midwife, allows Anise to listen to her baby's heartbeat.

Nia, Prisca, Fritzie and Wildarne
Nick with Josiah and Nico