12.30.2010

2010, its been a pleasure... err... experience

I know that everyone is blogging, talking, writing about what this year has held for them, or how its surprised them or whatever. I am not one to be left in the dust!

I welcomed 2010 in THE coolest way possible! I was at a Haitian church service, there were many who got baptized, then people got up and spoke about how the Lord had been faithful to them that year, then we prayed and then I kissed almost everyone in the building! It was so cool! Read about it here.

I've never been one to really make New Year's resolutions, or even really try to guess what the New Year is going to hold for me. I usually just take it one step at a time and go with the flow. That is exactly the attitude I had about 2010. Little did I know how greatly the Lord would show His power!

Less than two weeks after the new year was the Earthquake. The year for me was completely changed after that. My life is changed.
God has been so faithful.

The details of that day saved my life. Its weird to say that I am a survivor of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. Being a survivor is much more serious than it Destiny's Child makes it sound!

Those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning know how faithful the Lord has been to me.

He protected me through the earthquake and gave me the skills and the peace of mind to be helpful in the clinic for the following days. He gave me the skills and confidence to be able to assist the Doctors with burns, stitches, amputations, surgeries and many other things. He gave me the beautiful opportunity to comfort those who were dying, to make them feel Jesus' love for them. He comforted me when I was scared and grieving, and reminded me that He is my Rock, which no earthquake can shake.

He remained faithful when I set foot on U.S. soil. Somehow, I don't know how, but I made it to here. December 30. This year has been full of ups and downs.

I have spent time with my family like never before
I have made friends that have encouraged me and changed the course of this year
I have come through and defeated a lot of my struggles with PTSD
I have GRADUATED FROM A&M! I almost gave up at least 10 times along the way, but I finished!
I have cried more this year then ever before. Some happy tears, some painful ones

I have laughed with friends
I have changed so much! If I had met who I am today a year ago I probably wouldn't recognize myself.
I have felt all kinds of emotions

I will never be the same. But I think that is definitely the sign of a beautiful year!

God has been SO wonderfully faithful.

So here's to another year of not making resolutions, or of trying to guess what the year will hold. Here's to taking things one step at a time and going with the flow.

...And step by step You'll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days!...

12.28.2010

Packing

I'm in the midst of packing and shopping and packing some more. Wow. Who's stressed out?

My goal is to fit everything I will need for myself and for the clinic and for the school into one carry on, and one checked bag. .. Possible? I think so! crazy?... yes. (Oh and did I mention I'm responsible for packing all my breakfasts?)

I've never packed for a 5 month long trip. I mean, how much shampoo or toothpaste do you use in 5 months? How am I possibly supposed to think of EVERYTHING. There will be no Wal-marts, Targets, or CVS stores nearby. I can't just run down the street to grab an extra pack of toilet paper or soap. I'm more or less packing for a 5 month long camping trip. Which wouldn't be that difficult if I had actually been on a real camping trip before. I've slept in a tent. I've "camped" for like a day or two, but never for 5 months, and I've always been with at least 3 extra prepared people that were willing to share.

Anyway, I've come up with a system of packing... Prioritize my things into categories.
*Impossible to live without (like my water sterilization stuff for Cholera).
*REALLY really need.
*really need.
*Would be helpful or very helpful.
*Not a necessity, but a convienence
and last... but not and least
*Don't really need.

So long story short. I'm wondering what would you pack into these categories? What can you absolutely not live without? And what is something you could live without for 5 months?

Please be praying for me as a prepare for this trip both in my packing and physical preparation, but also for my mental and emotional preparation. In everything I know the Lord is faithful and He continues to be so!

12.23.2010

Prayer and support needs


Some of you have generously asked how you can help support me either through prayer or finances and so I have put together this letter to more accurately describe what my purpose is going to be in Haiti and what things I will be needing for my time there. 

Thank you for your prayers and generous support!


Dear Friends, 

For the next 5 months I’ll be living and working in the small rural village of Little Guinea, near the northern coast of Haiti.  This will be my fourth time to go to Little Guinea with a group from Frontier Camp, planting a children’s camp, Jacob’s Well. Haitian Pastor Gersan Valcin and his wife Betty partnered with Frontier Camp, establishing Jacob’s Well as the first phase of community development for Little Guinea. Since the start of Jacob’s Well Camp in 2006, a church has been planted, and in the fall of 2010 a school opened, which meets in the church building.

Pastor Valcin grew up in Little Guinea, under the darkness of the voodoo religion until he was led to Christ by a missionary doctor. After being educated in the states at Dallas Theological Seminary, Gersan returned to Haiti, and he pastors a large Protestant Evangelical church in Port au Prince. Pastor Valcin has planted over 70 other churches in rural areas of Haiti. He and Frontier Camp have partnered to make Jacob’s Well a large-scale community development project with long-term plans for a permanent school, clinic, orphanage, and camp/retreat center. Jacob’s Well has already created jobs for many Haitians in construction and security as the compound has grown. More importantly, the light of Christ has come to this area and many have been saved. The lives and futures of those in the village and surrounding area have been forever changed by this ministry. 

The Valcins have asked me to serve full-time at Jacob’s Well this spring, while they are based in Port au Prince. While I am in Little Guinea, I will have three main objectives: teaching English in the upper grades of the school; educating the women in the community about health and hygiene topics, including Cholera prevention; and, providing first aid and other minor medical care and education to the village and in the surrounding areas. A local young woman will live at Jacob’s Well with me, and the local elders and their families will be responsible for my security.

I hope you will consider helping me in any way you feel led. These are a few of the Jacob’s Well Camp and Little Guinea  financial needs: 

·                     Child sponsorship: $30/month for one child’s full education or $360/year (300 kids total)
·                     8 rechargeable batteries for the compound generator at $135 each
·                     4  flood lamps for the compound at $50 each
·                     Wire for the fence- 10 bales at $25 each
·                     Internet access at the camp for 5 months at $90/month
·                     $300 for wood to use in construction projects
·                     A 50,000 gal cistern for water at $2,000.
·                     My personal expenses $2,000
·                     Haitian Kreyol Bibles= $5 each (We can always use those!)
 ·     
I would be blessed by anything that you may find yourself able to give, especially prayer support! Some of my prayer requests include:

·         Wisdom as I prepare to embark on this journey and live in Little Guinea
·         Love for the people I am with and that I may share Christ’s love with them
·         Clarity of communication as I am immersed in the Kreyol language
·         Health and safety from Cholera and any other sickness or danger

If you would like to donate, you can do so online at www.frontiercamp.org or by mail to: Frontier Camp, 131 Frontier Camp Road, Grapeland, TX 75844. Please note “Noelle Gonz├ílez-Haiti” in the memo line.

Please continue to check back here for updates from me concerning my work and prayer needs:  

Thank you for your support!


12.16.2010

The shadow of death

I just found out that two children from Little Guinea died this week. 

One developed Cholera symptoms yesterday afternoon and died last night at the hospital in Limbe. He was 10 years old, a student a the school where I'll be teaching, and a relative of a friend of mine.


The other boy died last night. I am unsure of all the details. He was 15 years old. However, from what I know this wasn't a Cholera related death. Apparently he hadn't had used the restroom at all for 2 days. He came home with a fever last night and died this morning. That's all I know about his case.

This is so heartbreaking and tragic for so many reasons. The family of the second boy will probably never even know what killed him. Its possible and probable that he was severely dehydrated, but I don't think anyone will ever really know. The one that died of Cholera was just too far along before they got him help. I cannot even imagine what it feels like to bury a child. Please pray that the Lord will comfort these families.God has been SO faithful to me and to that country. None of this caught Him by surprise. He knew the number of hairs on their heads and the days of their lives. I know that he will be faithful to comfort their hearts!


I wanted to share this mainly so you can join me in prayer. I am heartbroken for these families right now and somewhat fearful for the rest. This is the first instance of Cholera originating in the village. There have been a few cases, but they have been in the surrounding areas. Now that this has happened there are little Cholera germs running around. Please join me in prayer that the Cholera will not spread to the village I love.

There is a team of 3 from Frontier Camp that will be arriving tomorrow. They have done a lot of studying and working on their Kreyol and on understanding Cholera. Hopefully they will be able to start doing some education and sanitation projects (in their free time.) The main purpose of their trip is to build bunk beds for Jacob's Well Youth Camp. This way when the rest of the team from Frontier Camp arrives we will be able to host an overnight camp for the children.

Pray for these families. I don't know what they stand spiritually, but I do know that Christ has beaten death. I hope that these boys knew the Lord and that through their deaths Christ will be glorified.

12.12.2010

The Plan: Part deux

Ok, so hopefully my previous post helped to lay the foundation in your minds of where I'll be. Now I'll try and tell you what I'm going to be doing. This may be difficult because its going to be a learning experience the entire way through the process.

My roommate:
I will be staying at Jacob's Well Youth Camp (JWYC) from January 5th, 2011 to early May 2011. So this trip will be roughly 4 months long. I will be living with a girl from the nearby town of Limbe. The village that I will be living in is called Little Guinea, this is where the camp is located. I do not personally know the girl I'm staying with, but I do know that she is close to my age, but a few years older. This past summer, a Mango Tree project was begun at Jacob's Well. The intent of this project is to plant and grow mango trees to produce mangoes that can be sold to generate some revenue for the camp, this way it is a little bit self-sustaining. This girl has been helping organize this planting project. My understanding is that she is acting as Jacob's Well's secretary for both the mango project and the school.

Security:
Along with the safety of having a roommate at night I will be supervised by security guys. Gersan and Betty call them "elders" meaning they are either elders in the community or in the church. Either way, The Valcins trust them with my safety and the safety of this other girl and the camp property. They are already conducting 24 hour surveillance on the campground to make sure that none of our materials and camp supplies wander off or get broken. They will continue to do this while I am there. I will be with someone, either my roommate, the elders, or a teacher at the school at all times. The elder's wives will help feed me so I don't starve, they will hopefully show me how one would go about doing laundry in Haiti, which I'm excited about, all the ladies do their laundry on the same day and just hang out together in their front yards and hang-dry their clothes on the nearest cactus fence, I hope I get to participate soon!

My Jobs

School:
In August the two schools that serve the area around Little Guinea closed down because the teachers weren't being paid, so they quit coming to school. The families in the village don't have the resources to pay for school for all their children and usually only the oldest child of the family is able to attend school. Jacob's Well had a long-term goal of opening a school and a clinic in the far off future, but because of these schools closing and the Cholera epidemic these have both become needs that were forced to the top of the list. This past Fall a school has been meeting in the church building at the campsite. Haitian teachers from the village are currently working for free hoping to receive compensation very soon. The girl I will be living with has been in charge of collecting money from the parents and keeping track of the children's registrations. There are currently about 150 children registered and 115 attending school. There are around 300 school-aged children in the village and we would like to provide them all with the opportunity to attend school.  My involvement with the school will be to teach English to the upper grade levels. I'm honestly not sure what "upper grade" means, because the oldest grade I think is some where around 5th grade. I have never taught English as a second language before, so if anyone reading this blog has any ideas they are more than welcome. I don't want to reinvent the wheel here, so I'm planning on using an English-Kreyol bible and going through it starting in John. I will memorize verses in Kreyol and they will memorize verses in English. When I was little I memorized everything by singing songs and I have some old cassette tapes with singing bible verses that I'll probably take. Also I think its easier to learn songs in a foreign language than just learn to speak. So that's the plan for now.

Health Education/Clinic:
There have not, up to this point, been any cases of Cholera coming from the village itself, but there is a very large hospital in Limbe which is not far away (and upstream), so there have been several recent cases of Cholera occurring inLittle Guinea because of people bringing Cholera to this hospital in Limbe. I will be working to educate the people of the village about water safety, general sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, etc. This will be a large task because I will be reinventing the wheel in a way here. Not only will I be mainly speaking Kreyol, but there has been no program like this in the area. Because of the camp I have come into contact with many of the children, but I have not seen many adult faces around the camp in the past few years. I will be working to build relationships with the women of the village. Not only do I want to love these women, encourage them, tell them they are precious and not worthless, but I want to help them provide better lives for their families. I don't want to take them charity. I want to teach them skills. But most importantly I want to do this all with the love of Christ. If I walk into their village and in my uppity white-girl voice tell them that they shouldn't drink from the river and they shouldn't feed their kids this or let their kids do that I will probably hurt feelings. I will probably destroy the gospel of love, and I will NOT form relationships. They will not change their behaviors and I will do more damage than good. I would appreciate much prayer for this area of my work. I want to be an encouragement. I don't want these women to think that I am telling them they are bad mothers when they are breaking their backs to provide for their families. I want them to leave feeling loved, worth something, joyful, having built relationships with me and the other women in the village, and if they learn how to be more healthy along the way then I have succeeded. I don't want to walk into a village that has drunk water from the river for 6 generations and tell them that they can't do that anymore. I want to be able to teach, but to teach in love and with encouragement.

I will not be "running a clinic" per-say, but I will be using my first aid and response training to help in whatever ways I can. I really have no idea what types of things I'll see. Because I have served as the "camp nurse" on the past trips as soon as I get to the village now everyone runs up and starts showing me their cuts and scrapes. Hopefully I'll be able to use these opportunities to talk about proper hand-washing and wound care. We'll see.

In summary: (For those who scan the long blog and just want to get to the point.)

I'll be teaching English to children and educating the women of the village about Cholera and other health topics while hopefully forming encouraging relationships with all. 


I'm really not sure what this is all going to look like. I'm trying not to imagine it all in my head and form ideas and perceptions of what it will be like. I know that no matter what I day-dream it to be it will end up being vastly different, and I'll be discouraged. I am fully prepared to fail at everything a few times. I already know this will be a humbling trip. I want to glorify Christ and that is currently my only goal.

Please join me in prayer.

And now, without further ado, allow me to introduce....

The Plan!!!

To be completely honest, there has been much "ado" (n. Bustle; fuss; trouble; bother.) in announcing this.

I found out "the plan' a few weeks ago and have been putting off writing about it. I think this is partially because I'm so overwhelmed by the magnitude of it. ... hmmm. magnitude... not my favorite word to use since January 12 of this year, but I think its appropriate. This is a big deal. Hopefully not in the same manner as the 7.0 that tore apart my life, but I don't doubt that it will impact my life just as greatly...minus the post traumatic stress. I'm so very excited and nervous about taking this new step, but I am more than confident that my Father will be with me every step of the way to guide and direct me in His steps.

Ok, so here goes, I'm announcing this to the entire internet world.

I'm moving to Haiti.

I honestly can't believe this is happening. And its happening at whirlwind speeds I move on January 5th. I found out that this would be happening 35 days before I would board the plane. I have a million and a half things to do between now and then, but I'm sure I'll get them all done, and if not, then maybe they weren't important.


I already know that this is going to take forever to write out, so I'm breaking it into parts. This will be part one: Laying the Foundation. The History of Jacob's Well Youth Camp.

When I was 9 years old, I attended Frontier Camp for the first time as a camper. I loved it. I went on become a staff member, I have held positions on staff ranging from Cook's help, Junior counselor, Activity Leader, Senior Counselor, TP/General Store Manager, Med Tech, Health Care Assistant (which is the same as Med Tech, but they changed the name, so I count it as two positions!), ... and other hodgepodge staff positions. Needless to say my involvement with Frontier Camp has grown my relationship with the Lord and with others. My love for people and for camping ministry has been greatly impacted by being a camper and staffer at FC. (Shameless plug: If you are looking for a place to send your child for summer camp this year please send them to Frontier Camp. You won't regret it!)

In December of 2006 Frontier Camp partnered with Pastor Gersan Valcin and his wife Betty and sent its first team to Haiti to do a camp plant and host the first-ever Christian day camp for children in Haiti. The campground is just outside of Limbe, which is a little South-West of Cap-Haitian. There is an old Spanish well on the site that is called "Jacob's Well," named after the well in John 4:6 that Jesus met 'The Woman at the Well' and gave her Living Water. We decided to name the camp Jacob's Well Youth Camp (JWYC) because of the location and also because our main goal is to bring everlasting life giving water to the souls of those who are in that area.

Much of the time during the first couple of trips has been spent training Haitian staff to do camp. We do not want an American camp in Haiti. We want to plant a Haitian camp in Haiti. The counselors are local church and AWANA leaders, adults who not only have a relationship with these kids, but will actually see them again for discipleship and follow, not to mention they speak Kreyol and we don't!


In December of 2007 I took my first trip to Jacob's Well and immediately fell in love with God's beautiful creation of Haiti. It captured my heart. Every bit of it stole my heart... the mountains, the ocean, the smell that is not always pleasant, the beautiful people, their smiles, their waves, the way they say "nowaaa" instead of 'Noelle', the roosters that crow all through the day and night. I loved it. I knew as I was riding in the tap-tap (Haitian form of taxi. You hit the side of the car twice for it to go or stop..."TAP... TAP" very clever) getting dirt and grime matted in my hair and looking out at the rice fields that I was made for this country. This was the reason God created me. To love these people. Over the years I've realized that it may not be permanent, and it may not be forever, but at least for this season I am to love these people with my whole heart.
 {One of my favorite all-time memories. Less than 5 minutes after we arrived there were 30+ kids wanting to play. Knowing ABSOLUTELY zero kreyol we grabbed hands and played ring-around-the-rosie over and over again. The kids would just fall down whenever they felt like it. Pure joy.}
{I think this is when I knew I never wanted to leave. 10 minutes into my trip.}
 {Meet Orasca. You'll be seeing more of her when I move}

In December of 2008 I made my second trip to Haiti. It was wonderful, but a little more difficult. By this time I knew what I was getting into. As beautiful as these children are and as I think the whole country is they are in deep darkness and slavery to Satan. Jacob's Well Youth Camp (JWYC) is working to show the love and freedom of Christ to the next generation by teaching the children about Jesus. This second trip was more difficult because I was more aware of the spiritual warfare that was occurring all around me. One night we spent in tents at the campsite because we were holding an overnight camp for the older children. The Haitian staff were in the tents with the kiddos and we were there for moral and prayer support. 

That night I learned several things. It gets REALLY dark in Haiti. There was a bright moon, which was awesome, but it was very dark other than that. It gets very cold in that region of Haiti. Our camp is on the side of a mountain and it definitely got very chilly which I was not expecting because of the heat during the day. Also, sound travels really well in Haiti. There was no city noise or anything so we could hear very clearly the Vodoo ceremonies that were taking place across the valley that our mountain overlooks. Satan has a hold on these people. The gospel has been proclaimed through JWYC and that is something to celebrate!

Since the start of Jacob's Well in 2006, a church has been planted in the village and God is being glorified. I believe the church was planted in 2008. In fact, one of the things that blessed me greatly was on my second trip to JWYC I was looking for my friends that I had made the previous year. When I asked about them the other village children told me that they were at the church doing a program that sounded like a discipleship program for the children who had accepted Christ as their Savior that past year. (I'm not 100% positive that's what it was, because my Kreyol was even worse then than it is currently, but I think that's what they told me.)

So this church has currently been there for almost 3 years now and there is now a building and so much works has been done.


It is now functioning as a school building... Which brings us to part two of the story.

Please check back for the rest of the story *said in a Paul Harvey voice*


Until then please pray for:
-The hearts of the people in the village.
-The Cholera and rioting that are tearing apart the country.
-My personal sanity and preparation as I try to finish finals, raise support, graduate, and move out of the country in the next 3 weeks! Pray that I will have the wisdom and understanding to prepare for this journey well.

Thanks for bearing with me. I'll try to get the following parts of the story written as soon as possible.

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