We're writing to you today from chilly North Carolina. While we're shivering with temperatures in the 30s and 40s our kids back in Haiti are sweating in the high 80s. I'm going to get to stories and pictures from the month of February but since we find ourselves in the States somewhat unexpectedly, I thought I'd address that first.
Next month will be our 4-year-anniversary of living full-time in
Haiti. It's been a good but very difficult 4 years. And during that
time we've never taken an extended time together to focus on rest and rejuvenation. During the month we spent in Haiti following our last furlough, stress levels were too high, we saw our physical and emotional health deteriorating and realized the time had come for us to step out of day-to-day Haiti life to focus on overall wellness for a time.
We're not sure how long we'll be in the States-- at least a few
months. We're grateful to have a capable staff and great friends and partners in Jacmel who can manage things in Haiti for us for now. Additionally, we're working on strategies for us to stay connected and involved with our kids in Haiti from here in the States.
We'll let you know more about our plans as we figure them out. Until then, we'll be centered in the Triangle area. Our three American kids are spending time with grandparents and cousins until early next week. And then they'll be with us. On to the update from Haiti...
Our kids absolutely love the new playground that was built on the Joy in Hope land by our friend Gayly, a local welder. The funds were donated by College Heights Baptist Church in Prince George, British Columbia. It's hard to put into words the excitement that our kids have now that they have a place to play. It's never been easier for me to get all 12 of them in one picture! The community in Raymond has also been enjoying the playground and it has provided a lot of opportunity for getting to know kids and families in the area.
This month our kids started yoga classes. There's an orphanage in the area, Devoted 2 Children Foundation, who also are starting a program where they are offering yoga to kids in other orphanages free of charge. They have trained a Haitian instructor who comes by weekly or sometimes even twice-weekly to work on stretching and relaxation. We are all enjoying the classes and are thankful for this opportunity for our kids.
I love this picture of Manita. Her birthmother came by and brought sugarcane for all of the kids. It's great to have good relationships with the birthfamilies of a lot of our kids.
About mid-month we were able to be at the finish line of the second annual Haiti Ultra Marathon. This is an amazing event for endurance athletes-- they run over 60 miles from Port Au Prince to Cayes Jacmel over the mountains. They start at sea level, climb to over 6,000 ft and then back to sea level during the course of the 3-day-long race. This year I believe they raised about $10,000 for medical support in Haiti through the race.
Also that weekend, we were able to take our kids to the paper mache Karnaval parade in Jacmel. Here's a picture of Yves, Jerry, and myself watching from up in the stands.
And the rest of the kids, marched in the parade with IBESR (Haitian Social Services.) It was a long hot day, but everyone had a blast.
The month closed up with phase 1 of the road project on the land being finished with help from about 16 local workers and a team from Valley View Christian Alliance in Ontario, Canada. Here's a picture at the very beginning of the project.
Despite many challenges in February, we also had some really good and happy times. I remain thankful for the way that God has used Haiti to teach Nick and I so much about love and family, redemption and purpose. Thanks for bearing with us through all the ups and downs. We're looking forward to the next few months of home assignment and are so grateful for the people who support us tirelessly in a variety of different ways. I feel like I am always saying this, but we cannot do what we do without your support.
With grateful hearts,
Gwenn (for the entire Mangine Many)
"There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." Philippians 1:6 (The Message)