Haiti Post (thoughts and questions)

Here is my first post since arriving Haiti on January 8th.  I am not sure why it has taken me so long, as I simply draw blanks when I finally get internet. But here is what he has laid on my heart today on this gorgeous Sunday morning as I sit so comfortable on our house deck overlooking a stunning ocean view. Along with that view is the usual Haitian group of fishermenIMG_1687 or is it a family? Men and women congregate on the pier just beyond the cement, barbed wire, wall of the orphanage.  They are colorful, boisterous and animated.  What I wouldn’t give to understand what they are talking, no, yelling about.  They are not self-conscience of the volume level which is amusing. They know I am here and watching as I see them staring up here now and again. Sometimes I wave and often I look away so as not to appear a rude.  Their boats are dilapidated and on countless occasions we wonder aloud exactly what they are fishing for. One day they yelled up to me and when I looked over one held up what I think was a lobster.  kisa? no mesi….I just wasn’t gonna go there.

This is when I wonder in my thoughts, why?  Why do I get to sit up here, drink my coffee, check email and live an easier life than them?  How do I make sense of this?

I am beginning to see life here better as a long term missionary than a short termer. Even still, we are some what short-term as we  here 3 months. But time certainly gives a more clear picture of the people and life in Haiti.

Given time here or maybe any third world country, questions arise in your mind. Why am I here? How am I helping?  How do these people view us? Why do I have and they have not? How is this fair? What is God thinking?

Why am I here? Because God weaved our pathway here in a miraculous way. Two years ago I’d have laughed at you if you said that we would come to Haiti and then our daughter would go back to live for who knows how long. Then for it to open in to us coming for a season in time? Never saw this coming.  But I like it!

How am I helping? I (we) simply help in any way we can.  We have a role at Tytoo that we have been entrusted with and every morning we lay it down in front of God and ask for His guidance and help. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this (that’s God) and I press on even when I don’t want to.

How do these people view us? I would think this would be varied. Most find that the Haitian people as a whole are quite welcoming and friendly people.  In the villages they yell and laugh and wave and they are much less scary than they look.  Especially when they break into that beautiful, white-toothed smile! But how do they view us was the question?  I think they love us as we love them.  I think many view us as potential help.  I think this is simply human nature and we would do the same if we walked in their worn sandals. There are times when this gets discouraging because it can be emotionally wearing to know there is so much need with such limited resources.  I love to quote the great Mother Teresa when she said, “if you can’t help the masses, help one”.  A freeing thought.

Why do I have and they have not? Maybe the question more is, what are you doing with what you do have? Please don’t mistake this for judgement or condemnation. This is between me/you and God. I wrestle in my own struggle enough to know that it’s personal for each person.

How is this fair? It appears not to be.  But when I look deeper and see so many happy people here in Haiti I begin to wonder.  Of course they aren’t happy when their kids are hungry or they can’t find work, but I have yet to find a depressed Haitian. Surely there must be, but what I mean is this. These people have nothing but the Lord and this is apparent in how they trust him every day! This country has not dismissed the Giver of life. He is alive and well. Oft times I think we base fairness on the stuff we have and not the fullness of our soul.

What is God thinking? I admit that this thought crosses my mind now and again and I pray that God knows I do it with the upmost respect 🙂  But really? How does this make sense? My heart (that’s God) tells me that I might not get the answer in this life. For who knows the mind of Christ? (1 Cor 2:16)

Fast forward two hours later.  In between that time we have been trying figure out why we can’t get water in Ali and Taunya’s rooms? how Rog can communicate to Chad business he has going with Canada? how to deal with the woman that appeared at the top of our stairs who needs help with her little girl that we helped get to the hospital? We also have heard the church vehicles coming and going outside, the sound of worship singing in Creole, Pastor’s passionate sermon and much more.  Suddenly I realize that the people on the pier are gone.  Just gone, finni! What? When did they disperse? Where did they go?  How did it get quiet and lovely again without me noticing them leave?  So many questions……

More on Hait…..

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More on Haiti…. May I share with you some fun, yet very real observations I have made that might help you decide if you are a candidate to venture out of 1st world living.   This was from our second trip over, I am taking this straight out of my journal:

Thinking back over our week I struggle to figure out how to live here and continue to be stretched and grow as I was during our stay in Haiti.  I am not sure it’s possible.  Then I am reminded that with God anything is possible. If you think about the times in your life where you have learned and grown the most, you see that it was during and after difficult and trying experiences. God likes to remind us in our afflictions that “when we are weak we are strong”

Here are some of the things that we just might have to change our American thinking on:

  • Our idea of a good meal, or even sub par – let it go – if your hungry enough you”ll eat what is served (more later…maybe).
  • Lose the idea that things should go in logical order or a learned way that seems like common sense (to me).  If not, your toast from the get go.  My American instilled  logic (alleged) no longer in place.
  • A thin stream of water is a perfectly adequate shower.  PTL if it even turns on and double PTL if its what you might call warm. (I said might).
  • Dirt, grit and sweat all over your body is a given.  You learn to focus on other things.
  • Ice water is an undeserved luxury and it can actually bring joy. Ali prepared an icey water bottle for me before going out once and I felt pampered.
  • Get over no makeup, feeling fat, old, wrinkly, zits, bad hair days, whatever your hang-up, no one cares.
  • Don’t be righteous about a million and one noises that go bump in the night (90% made from other humans). It’s an every night occurrence. (other 10%, roosters)
  • If you’ve never seen a baby being born this could be your chance. You may even get to help if your willing.
  • If there has been an accident in Haiti and you can’t stand the sight of blood or exposed bone/tendons, steer clear of where the action is. Otherwise try and help.
  • If your reluctant to allow people to be blessed by asking for donations, a mission trip might not be for you (money is most needed).
  • If your idea of a worship service is orderly, reverent or traditional….oh man!!!!
  • Realize there is little if any private space. It’ll be there when you get back home.
  • Conversations such as, “so what activities do you do?” and “where do you want to go to college?”(Haitians understand that schooling is a privilege) are non existent. You think twice about asking “where is your mommy and daddy?”
  • After a while you begin to lose your fear of snotty noses.
  • Don’t be discouraged that you can’t remember names and Creole. It’s hard to see how my 55 yo memory is slipping away. But do try and learn some basics, as it will enrich your time and you’ll learn more just by hearing.
  • Don’t assume that if your pushing 60 (or 70), have metal hardware in your neck and a replaced hip, that you can’t partake. Rog did the work of a 40 year old. He and Steven helped schlep 14 bags from Iowa to Dallas to Haiti, moved piles of rock to wall off two gardens, put dirt in those gardens, hung up rebar and planted. Oddly, Rog did strain his back during a layover in Ft. Lauderdale stepping off a curb.
  • Might as well take your watch off.  Add 1/2 to 1 hour of time to pretty much any scheduled event.  I can’t even say why.
  • Learn to trust your driver and don’t watch. Pray a lot while en route to anywhere and try not to think about an accident and/or the lack of available medical care.  There probably isn’t even a word in Creole for seatbelt.
  • The good news is, your arm muscles get a great work-out trying to hold on in the canter (transport truck).
  • Just laugh when a kid grabs at your arm or thigh fat and says, “kesa?”

There will be more to add to this list but for now it is enough.  I don’t want my sister Kate to see this since her daughter plans to come next month. YaY Ellie!!!

The biggest upside to all of this is the kids.

Every time you come back to that orphanage and those gates slide open there are always kiddos running to help grab your bags, help you off the Cantor so that you can play, dance, laugh, talk, yell, sing or even cry with them.  This is why we go to Haiti, this is why Ali stays, this is why Laura and Steven want to spend their summer there. This is the secret to giving up our comforts as we know them…..it’s for the least of these.  Oh what joy shall fill your heart!IMG_5486IMG_5508






























Back in the good ol’ USA


Hello wonderful friends and family. I am back!!! Back to the land of Milk and Honey. Running water, FANTASTIC food, ice, clean body, orderly traffic, beautiful landscapes, brisk Iowa winter, people in a hurry, complaints about stuff that doesn’t matter. Can I also mention that everyone here is on their phone?

Oh dear that went downhill way fast!  That is the danger of going to third world and coming back into first world, for sure! The contrast is utterly stark and glaring and it’s disturbing. We live in a place where we have it all…literally all. When you go to a place like the villages of Haiti it’s hard to come back and see our excesses and what is important to us. Somewhere I read that most people who come back from poverty stricken places suffer from depression and become annoyingly judgmental. My fear is that I become all of this for a time, and then become immersed back into my old life before Haiti.

I am kidding myself unless I write this blog coming from a transparent point of view, stating that even after a third trip to Haiti I remain JUST as privileged and spoiled and longing for the comforts that I have grown up with.  Who am I to judge and condemn people who know no different and are convinced that the USA is the epicenter of the universe?  My stats may be inaccurate but we the people, might be better served living life knowing that we are the richest nation in the world compared to 3/4 of the rest of the world. Why better served by this? So that we can live life knowing that we have enough.  Knowing that having doesn’t bring deep contentment and happiness like our culture likes to drum into our heads. We have all heard this and said it to ourselves but it remains ingrained.  This concept has a stranglehold on our nation and it comes from marketers, Hollywood, TV shows, and Satan himself. Yep Satan. What better way to keep our eyes off of the very one who gives to us “every good and perfect gift” and on ourselves and how we can achieve and acquire more? Proverbs 14:12

You won’t hear anyone complain over there when someone brings up the name of Jesus (Jezi).  You hear/see it everywhere.  They have more important things to do, like the daily maneuvering through chaotic traffic to try and make a living, among other things. But deeper into the tiny village of Simmonette where cars are rare and feet are filthy and calloused, you meet the people who have NOTHING but Jezi! Certainly not all, but so many you come across know and understand that it’s him who brings them their daily manna. Then go to a worship service buzzing with Haitians from all over the village. You watch and you see the unashamed love and gratefulness given to the one whom their very lives depend upon. Picture dancing, arms reaching for the heavens, old people on their knees on the concrete, tear stained cheeks, all for the only one who deserves GLORY! Oh my, after that it’s hard to come back to the somber, reverent church services that plague our nation.

The truth of all of this seemingly critical (please forgive me) blog is this. Haiti doesn’t need us… WE need Haiti.  The American church needs Haiti. This nation needs for those of us who go and become broken in two, to come back here and help start a revival.  We need a revival for the God who created the miracle of this breathtaking, remarkable, immeasurable Universe. Who, yet, has count of the very hairs on our head.

One doesn’t have to go to the third world to see our need for spiritual revival.  But we do need to begin to stand firm for truth in a place that mocks and villianizes it’s citizens for standing on the truth of the very word of God.

I had no idea what to blog today and this is what God gave me. I pray that it’s not depressing or harsh but that it sparks a cord in us to change our thinking. As I said, I am utterly convinced change can come also, to those people who are unable to jet off to the third world. Change/transformation comes from God alone and I am unashamed to suggest that if it’s time to ask Him for that, He is as close to you as your very breath.

More blogs to come…

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18



Meet the boy who stole my heart in Haiti

You probably already know that I am slow to post. Reason being, I don’t have much time while I am working fulltime, and there is nothing rolling around in my mind to blog about.  So I wait on the Lord. Alas I think something may be brewing.  There are a few factors that have brought something I am hoping blogworthy to mind.  I believe the first is that it’s Christmas time. Second, there was a FB post today from Ali about not being here this Christmas (bittersweet). Third, a comment that a dear friend of mine made at dinner last night. Leann does medical missions trips to El Salvador (among other places) using her skills to perform cataract surgeries to so many in need. She is a selfless, down to Earth woman/surgeon who humbly gives of herself without a second thought. We were discussing the process of re-programing back to life in the States when coming back from a third world country. In her usual humor and honesty Leann said how it disturbs her that we are able to program back so quickly. I understood exactly what she meant. We talked about what it would be like for Ali to come back here. That was about the extent of this part of our conversation but it hasn’t left my mind.

Since this blog got started because of Haiti, let me shift gears and talk about “the kids”.  The whole of our trip and Ali’s mission and Ed Hughes vision was “the kids”.  These are kids, just like our kids. My heart overflows with emotion when I think of these kids.  Let me introduce you to a one special boy.Image

This handsome, sullen little face belongs to Chris. Yep, Chris 🙂 One of the first times I went down to hang out with the kids alone I was sitting on a picnic table and he moved in on me. Before you fully understand what’s going on you think silly thoughts like, hmm he really likes me. He kept looking at me and standing near my knees. I began to talk to him and picked him up and sat him on my lap. After a long while, it was time for me to put him down but he stayed oh so near. Hand on my knee again and scary looks to any other 1 or 2-year-old that ventured near. Then I realized that he was guarding his territory (me).
You can’t not fall in love with this guy who is slow to smile. But if you think deeper about his little life you realize that like all children, they need the comfort and love of a constant and consistent caregiver. Hearing Chris’s story (what little I know) is heart breaking and you begin to understand more. Mom and Chris were admitted into Tytoo because mom was 80 pounds and they were both very sick. As they were recovering in the orphanage mom ditched out and there you have it. Just Chris. Imagine this little guy trying to make sense of no more mommy. Before we cast judgement on the mom consider that just maybe, she is young, hungry and destitute. I am not sure if this is the case, but in Haiti these are very viable possibilities.
It’s disturbing for me to think about what Chris did for me and how much I loved him, only to consider that I am there for a measly week, then gone. Just like mom. There is a bright-spot here and that is that Chris will grow and learn, probably go to school and he’ll become a survivor. He is blessed enough to be in a place like Tytoo where he is fed, clothed and loved to the best of the ability of the staff, who are taking care of countless other kids with similar stories. Not all kids in Haiti are this lucky and when you meet the older kids and young men and women, you see that they get this, and you sense love and gratitude. We came across countless Haitians with heartbreaking stories who want only to help their fellow Haitian by sharing what little they have. It’s fascinating to witness this and couldn’t be more inspiring.

One our last day I paid particular attention to Chris. I carried him around, brought him over to the clinic and even up to the house to Ali’s room, which is the place to be if you’re a young Tytoo resident (orphan). He had really come around (smiles finally) but my heart was so sad knowing that I had to leave him. As the morning wore on there was a lot of running around and packing. We were about a half hour away from loading up the truck when I walked past the baby room and heard someone just more than a whaling! I resisted the temptation to rush past, just in case it was you know who. Guess what? It was Chris. Standing there in just a diaper in a crib as mad as a hornet. The other mommies where doing the bathing process and too busy to attend to my boy. 😦 So I picked up this sweaty little body and scurried out of there. He immediately turned quiet and just held on. This story is no big deal, but it stays in my heart knowing that if for only one time I could comfort this baby who has no family. My heart swells with sadness for him and the others and yet the joy of knowing that there are servants there who will give their all for only the payment, not in money, but the rewards of serving the least of these.(Matt 25:40) Ali has our blessing to be in Haiti this Christmas and I think you now understand why.
So many thoughts swirling as to how to summarize this and conclude. Number one is that we know that God’s power is made strong in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). When logic tells us there are no answers, no end in sight, no solutions, the Word of God tells us that when we are weak He is strong. Could it be that He causes difficulty in our lives so that we see Him better? Imagine letting go and seeing His power unleashed! I believe the power of God is alive and well in Haiti and they are not ashamed to proclaim His name.

Secondly we must teach our children that they are not the center of the universe. We are here to make a difference for others who are in need. There is purpose in serving those who are less fortunate than us. Not only is there purpose but true fulfillment and joy. There is no better cure for anxiety and depression than to cast our eyes off of ourselves and lean in to the heart of God and look for a soul in need. He’ll provide this when we open our eyes.
I don’t want to live my life as though I haven’t been to Haiti and seen what we have seen. The temptation to slip back into a world of prosperity, stuff and petty annoyances is strong. Through his word, God says that He provides opportunities to make a difference every single day. So many needs out there. (Bloom where you are planted) Please won’t you join me in taking back Christmas? Lets prove the retailers wrong in that all we really need is Jesus, who enables us to forgive and to love and help our neighbors and fellow-man. Lets be the one to lend a hand and a smile. Invite someone in or make that call. Do with less and lets give more. More of Him and less of me. Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.

We got to watch the miracle of a new birth.

One of my favorite things I did at the orphanage was to assist in the medical clinic on site at Tytoo. I use the term assist loosely.  Debi (Oklahoma) is a nurse practitioner  and she invited me to help in the clinic on our first workday there.  I am pretty sure Debi thought I was a nurse since  Ali had told her that I’d worked in a high school health office for the past 3 years. Well let me just say, I can give out a fistful of meds, a cold ice pack and dirty looks but I am not a nurse.  I have worked with the elderly in home health and I have taken many pre nursing classes, so I know just enough to be dangerous. Even so, I love the medical field and I can run for this or that, bandage a wound, give out meds or just watch, but happy to help in any way. But I digress.

I did the best I could to help Debi in the clinic and she was very patient and kind.  Her job is not an easy one as I watched her try to piece together information (through the translator Jewls) about the patients. There were so many things that she does without in the clinic.  I am guessing that her first challenge is dealing with lack of space…every inch of every bit of space is in use with supplies, meds, examine table,cot,chairs etc. All the usual medical gear, AND people. There is a constant stream of people coming and going and this doesn’t include the endless line of patients who sit outside weekday mornings waiting their turn. Most of these patients come from the village of Simonnette where the orphanage is located. Though many come from much farther. In the few days I was in there I heard some hilarious dialogue between Debi and the Haitian people. American thinking? out the window 🙂

I am excited to share the experience of a baby being born in the clinic during our stay.

So it was Tuesday mid morning and I was down hanging with all the kids.  Ali appears, walks over and says pretty nonchalantly, “someone is having a baby in the clinic”.  What?  I got up, gave someone my baby and starting running over, all the while thinking, hurry, they need me, why did I not get this memo??? When I got there sure enough it was just as Ali had said, “someone was having a baby”.  I jumped right in and there I was, another body in that tiny clinic 🙂 Oh boy, this is just the kind of action I was hoping for. I get to help a baby be born. The place was abuzz with estrogen.

The mommy was from the village and this was her third baby. Dad was lurking around in and out. There were several Tytoo staff members including Debi the NP and Hillary an EMT. Ali, Tirzah, Karen, the Haitian staff Francia and Soriah and various others coming and going always. I could tell this wasn’t going to be long and drawn out as Hillary kept saying “we are so close”. I stood up behind mom’s head taking video and wiping her face. I tried to stay out of the way but the pressure of wanting to capture something so exciting overruled. Such a fine line between trying to capture the miracle of birth and keeping it G rated. Fail!

Watching a mom in labor does something for mommies who have been there. This gal was a trooper but needed for it to be over. I looked over to one side of the room and there are Laura and Steven (my other daughter and her boyfriend), kinda watching but looking ready to run out when necessary. But things are moving right along, people are yelling, Soriah is furiously fanning mom’s face with a piece of paper like it’s her job. Suddenly more shouting, mom screaming and boom! She’s here and she’s pink and slick and she’s alive but she doesn’t know how to breath yet. Our competent and experienced nurse went to work suctioning to get her a going. This took longer that I was comfortable with but Debi stuck with it and when sweet baby girl took her first gulp of oxygen we were all gleeful…WoHooooo!!!!

This was an awesome, joyful experience and I won’t ever forget that day in the little clinic. But in Haiti, unless there is an income earner in the family, and even if there is, most lead a very,very hard life. Our precious,new baby will grow up tough and most likely very poor.

Tytoo exists to help the orphans, widows (single moms) and families that are destitute. They don’t just want to give handouts to the moms (and/or dads), they are striving to create jobs too. We learned so much about what they are doing and how they are helping so many, along with educating kids and employing Haitians. So many are working so hard to keep this all going. Before we went there last month I used to ask Ali when she is coming back home. I remember actually feeling sad and angry when her answer would be “I don’t know mom, but I can’t leave the kids right now”. In my selfishness I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear. But what I saw when we were there are beautiful, precious children with stories so heartbreakingly sad that it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around. I can honestly say that Ali has our full blessing to stay as long as God calls her. I couldn’t feel more privileged to be a part of what is happening at Tytoo Gardens in Haiti. Please pray for them as they head into a very busy time this Christmas.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.     Psalm 139:13

Picture 1: Notice the white,ghost like fog near Soriah. That is her fan for the mommy
Picture 2: Laura and Steven not feelin it.
Picture 3: That’s Debi in the foreground.




How was Haiti?

I struggle between not wanting too much time to pass after our trip to Haiti (lest I forget) and still trying to process so much in my mind.  Where does one even begin?  Many have asked me this week how the trip went? “How was Haiti?”  hmmm I think, how was Haiti?  How was Haiti? It was many, many things and that is why I will try and blog it.  I love the idea of sharing and with a blog, people can make the choice to read or pass.  So I’ll go slowly, one thought, story, person at a time as I continue to ponder something so radically different than anything I have ever experienced.

After almost 24 hours of traveling (we spent the night in Dallas) I got to have that “earth shattering” hug with my daughter whom I haven’t seen nor barely spoken to in 6 mos.  Yep is was a “moment” when I finally saw my little blond beauty emerge from a sea of shouting Haitians behind the gate outside PAP airport. That intimate moment when we embraced, my eyes were squeezed shut with tears and lasted maybe 10 seconds.  Then that voice of reason in my ear, “okay ma, lets go” or was it “let go”?  I’ll go with the former.  Oh happy day, we are finally here with our Aligirl!!

And so it began, trying hang on to our luggage and not let someone finagle 2 of our 14 bags away from me and all of us. We were somewhat prepared since it’s our second trip down.  Thank goodness for Ali as she suddenly joined in all the shouting trying to settle on a price for all the help that was  being directed our way.  Based on the shouting and the arms waiving we could see that no one was happy with pricing. I was transfixed on Ali (our Ali) using the Creole language with authority and ease (hahaha it was such a funny sight).  I did understand her as she kept waiving her arm saying finne! (I couldn’t have agreed more, finish the job, then we can talk). Then suddenly it was over.  Just like that! The price was 10 dollars, down from I want to say 100 (I could be wrong).  So yep, 10 bucks to schlepp 14 bags and 5 Americans up onto the back of the Cantor (Haitian truck, think large pickup, as in open air).

Looking back, I wish that I would have used the wisdom of knowing that going to a place like Haiti, can take many (me) 2 – 3 days to change your thinking, mindset and everything you have ever learned in your lifetime about pretty much everything. (more on this in another blog). PTL (Praise the Lord) if your a flexible person and if not PTL that you will be challenged to become one. Haiti is a place you learn how flexible you really are or are not. Image  I doubt if there is a word in Creole for seatbelt.  We are in the back of a Cantor going down the Haitian highway drinking in the scenery as it all came rushing back to us.  The noise, the cows, goats and dogs along side of the road.  The brightly colored moto’s (taxi’s) claiming Jesus (Jezi) and thanking him (mesi), the markets outside of PAP, and the chaos of it all. Then there is the constant blaring of horns seemingly at us (and some are).   You can feel the driver (NayNay) accelerate  around a curve with his horn blaring and if you dare to look up ahead you realize that his goal is to actually pass someone before that line of traffic in the oncoming lane gets to us.  I then realize the risk one takes when coming to Haiti.  I also realize how out of my hands the whole situation is.

There are people all along the sides of the road (precariously close, always). We look at them and they look at us and we wonder what they think of us (more later).  They are a beautiful people group and always smile back when smiled at.  There are no airs or walls.  The feeling one gets is that of survival.  They are making money to buy their daily bread, so to speak. It is a sight, and while it’s tempting to grab your camera, you know not to, out of simple respect

Once we get off the main road and begin our journey onto the side roads and towards Simonnette, our destination (Tytoo Gardens) we hang on and wish we had a breathing mask 🙂  Dust and more dust surrounds us because of the dusty gravel road.  We are immersed in it.  I look over at Ali and our other Haitian friend and they don’t seem bothered.  So when in Haiti…..don’t complain I guess. (more on not complaining in another blog)

Finally we turn a curve and are face to face with the ocean and the scene is absolutely gorgeous. We know we are so close and then we see the large metal gate and our driver beeps and the gate opens.  This is our home for the next week.  More importantly this is our daughter’s home and the place that God led her to last March on our first trip down. Tytoo Gardens orphanage.  We pull up and kids come running and all I can hear is Ali, Ali, (they put the accent on the second syllable). These kids love her and she is the constant in their lives right now, along with many other staff members at Tytoo.  We gave up a week of our American, God-given comfort, but Ali and the others have given up all of it for a season in their lives. Truth be told though, the blessings of making a difference in even one life far outweighs the idea of giving up our own pleasures.  People who know this (and many do) have found the secret to happiness.

James 1:27

How was Haiti?  Please stay tuned my friends.