We just finished out a wild and wonderful week of Summer School with the kids at The Bridge Christian Children's Home in Pignon, Haiti. As most of you know, my husband directs Christian Friendship Ministries and our family lives in Haiti during the summers and travels back and forth a few times a year. This summer we will play host to several teams coming to serve in Haiti.
This was a special week because we had friends from Fresno - Bev Damm and her daughter, Kelly, and Debbi Ball - who returned to Haiti to help us put on a Summer School. Ericlee's college roommate, Doug Round and his wife, Brenda, along with their three girls also joined up this team. Doug and Brenda have been long-time friends and supporters of our mission work. It all started last year when they told us they were really interested in seeing Haiti and our ministry with their own eyes and bringing their children to experience life in Haiti. Of course, we were thrilled from the start. Their three girls are the same ages as our three girls and we are always big advocates for families experiencing this kind of ministry together.
Our week kicked off with a field trip to hike to Haiti's historical landmark, the Citadelle, and then on to Cormier Plage, one of the most beautiful beaches in Cap Haitien just a few hours north of where we live. This was a fun way to bond with the team and the orphanage kids. We had all kinds of awkward and funny moments as to be expected on a trip with 11 adults and 24 kids, many of whom do not speak the same language! Just assigning the kids to their rooms with our American chaperones and ordering meals was a huge ordeal. Some of the most memorable moments included Debbi finding a frog in her shower and, of course, seeing the kids delight in ocean play. For most of these mountain kids, this was only their second trip to the ocean. (Read about last year's first experience here.)
Of course, all good trips do have to involve a flat tire and eventually come to an end. We arrived back at the mission house late Saturday night sun-scorched and exhausted. We prepared a late-night dinner, bathed our 6 kiddos and practically melted into bed.
Monday morning we kicked off our Summer School with the kids. Ericlee tried to beat the heat and started their day with Physical Education and games. The boys were the only ones who turned up the first day but by the end of the week everyone was eager to participate in the workout and mini-competitions.
After P.E. each day, we would gather in the lower floor of the orphanage for our "classes." I had the privilege of helping lead the singing and teaching the Bible lesson each day. I chose a different kid each day to help with the singing. The kids love to sing so it was never hard to find a helper. Serline helps me here. She has never been much into sports but what a joy to see her enthusiasm when she sings praises! Then I would read from the pages of The Jesus Storybook Bible recently-published in Haitian Kreyol.
We closed out each day with Arts & Crafts class led by Brenda with help from Kelly. The kids made Bible covers, decorated Beach picture frames, sewed bags, painted canvases with their names on them. Art is something the kids do not get to experience in school. Brenda did an amazing job of choosing projects that they could use later but enjoy freedom in creating - the journey of art.
Debbi has a real heart for orphans. She has been to Haiti three times now. She also sponsors Makenson on a monthly basis. Debbi was able to spend quality time with him and get to know his goofy personality.
The sounds of kids yelling, "Kelly, Kelly!" could be heard all over the mission complex this week. The American girls were always fighting over who got to sit next to "Ke-wee" at meals and the Haitian kids were always pulling her in different directions to play. Kelly has been to Haiti three times now and has a heart to be a missionary in Haiti one day.
While mothering her own three kids, Brenda found time to be with the orphanage kids. She said her highlights included sifting through pictures with little James, who was fascinated by her camera, and reading a Dr. Seuss book with Estisonn. Brenda also enjoyed watching her own three girls engage in the culture. Her oldest, Liana, became fast friends with Judelene in the orphanage and Meilani. The girls swung from trees, helped in the kitchen separating rocks from the beans and created imaginary worlds all their own.
Brenda organized a project making dresses for all the girls in both orphanages through her church, Pollock Pines Community Church. They found patterns through the international organization, Dress a Girl. They made more than 70 dresses and each included a pair of underwear and hair bows for each girl. When we handed out the dresses we prayed Zephaniah 3:17 over each of the girls. The kids at Brenda and Doug's church also raised money through their Vacation Bible School to buy polo shirts for each of the boys as well as kites, art supplies and other toys.
They traveled to St. Raphael on Thursday to meet the kids in the new Kay Cadence orphanage and share the clothes with them there. In one short afternoon, the Rounds bonded with the kids in St. Raphael. Doug was also able to help Ericlee teach a math course for the teachers in the St. Raphael school. They asked Doug if he would come back next year and do a whole teachers conference.
We were sad to say goodbye to our team last night. We really became family this week: sharing highlights, helping our own kids negotiate the heat and the change of routine and building relationships with the orphanage kids. This is what community is all about! Today we welcome the team from The Bridge Church to do Vacation Bible School in St. Raphael.