Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Already?

Wow, I seriously cannot believe it is 2014.  My last blog post was in March of last year.  So much for keeping up with it!

Life has been crazy, busy, good, bad, ugly, blessed, you name it.  2013 was a challenging year to say the least.

In February of 2013 we lost my brother Ken.  He fought so many years against his addiction to alcohol and this time the addiction won.  So many mixed emotions - anger, sadness not sure what to feel, still.  The blessing came from be reunited and reconnected with his kids - that was the joy out of it all and what I choose to focus on.

February also brought the 6 year anniversary of my mom's death.  While the pain has eased some it can still knock me to my knees at times.  I miss her so very much but am so thankful she has been healed of the horrendous illnesses and pain she was constantly faced with on a daily basis.

2013 brought our hardest year of parenting to date - nothing horribly wrong, just waters we had never tread in before.  Its is so heartbreaking to see your kids go through tough times and heart breaking events of their own.  But lessons were learned and the future is looking so bright we gotta wear shades :-).

The older I get (hit 40 in 2013!)  the more I realize how much we judge others especially in our youth.  It seems we, in our blissful unawareness (in our younger days) think we have all the answers on how we would do things if faced with a situation.  Well, humble pie has been consumed much in the last year in my home and life for sure.  I am so thankful for grace from my Savior.  I am also learning more and more to reach out to others and not be so introverted - still hard, but working on it.

We were blessed as a family to be able to go on a cruise in October, we had such a great time.  It was much needed respite from the year we had been faced with - here are some pictures.







In late October we lost my Aunt Lee unexpectedly - she had been fighting lymphoma for a while but had been doing well.  She was my mom's sister and loved her dearly.  Through her funeral I was able to reconnect with my only other living aunt on my mom's side and my cousin.  There is positive in that., but I feel so badly for my Uncle Don, they had been married well over 60 years.  Can't imagine the sorrow he feels.

In November I went back to Albuquerque for my last business trip for that office.  It was bittersweet, thankful to not have to travel anymore, but going to miss that team tremendously.  I have transitioned to the Louisville office now.  I am thankful to have kept my job but now I actually have to get dressed, do my hair and make up and drive to work.  No more working in my pajamas!  First week back hasn't been horrible but definitely different!

In just a few short months Tyler will be graduating from high school, I truly can't believe we are at this stage with him already.  It truly has flown by.  He turned 18 in December and Logan turned 15.  Gah!

Today one of my very best friend's faces a biopsy surgery to see if she has breast cancer.  My heart breaks for what the results could be - but we know God already knows the outcome and we are clinging tightly to Him.  God is good and God is faithful - ALWAYS.

I am glad to say goodbye to 2013.  There were definite positives (meeting my goal weight and keeping it off!), growing closer to my husband and children, deepening friendships...but also recognizing that there were also negatives that I can learn from as well.  I let Satan have a little too much control of my life and thoughts last year - won't let that happen again.  I am looking forward to 2014 and the twists and turns it will bring. I don't make resolutions typically but I do resolve to daily remember to WHOM I belong and trust in Him alone.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Life is a fleeting moment...

It has been a while since my last post...but things had pretty much been the same - which is just fine by me!  I have transitioned off the MediFast foods and am maintaining my weight - feeling great and loving how I look and feel.

Boys are doing well -Tyler was in Godspell and currently getting ready for Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Logan keeps busy being Logan :-) both are great kids and we are truly blessed.  Life isn't always perfect with them but God provides, protects and teaches.  Heck, I am still learning at 39 (yes I am hanging on to that number until I can no longer honestly do so!)

Rob is doing well - he still struggles with back pain but pushes through.  He is really working hard to take care of himself and goes to the gym just about every day of the week and can slay me with one glance of looking at him still.  That's a good thing! 

I am busy as usual with work, being a health coach and also the Women's Ministry Director at church.  All of which of I truly love doing.  My hearts desire for as long as I can remember has been women's ministry and a yearning to be a life coach/counselor - God has me on that path.

I was planning a trip to Albuquerque for work the week of February 18th and was going to head to Phoenix on the 22nd and stay until Monday to spend some time with family.  I was really excited for the end of the trip in Phoenix.

As life does, a major curve was sent our way.  So if you are reading this you may want to settle in with a cup of coffee or tea because this will be a long post...more so I can get my emotions out and down to remember in the years to come.

On Monday, February 11th, I received a call from my niece Nickie who lives in Michigan.  After realizing who it was, I knew it couldn't be a good call.  She had just learned her Dad (my brother Ken) was in the hospital and things weren't looking very positive.  He had been in Michigan since about November staying with his son Kenny's family.  Kenny was in the Marines and in Japan and he was there to be with Stephanie and their 4 boys - I am sure a welcome sight for her to have someone!  Kenny was discharged and came home just before Christmas - what a blessing!

Apparently Ken had been sick for a few weeks and wouldn't go to the doctor (stubborn man!) but woke up on Thursday the 7th and told Kenny and Stephanie he needed to go to the hospital.  Being again stubborn made sure to tell them to tell no one (a very familiar happening and the beginning of the almost duplicate play out from 6 years prior).  By this time Ken was completely yellow and in  liver failure.  We all knew he had been drinking again but still didn't prepare us for this.

Six years ago when he was hospitalized for multiple organ failure (including liver) and sepsis we and the doctors didn't think he would make it through, but by God's grace and provision (and only that!) he did.  There was no medical reason for him to live but God chose to give him a second chance.  He was told MANY times by doctors and family that if he ever started drinking again he would die.  We really thought he would be ok and get through it, but addiction is very strong and something many people just can't understand the pull it has on our lives.  We all tried to help him, encourage him, but when someone is not ready to get the help they need, they just simply won't and won't listen either.  My stance is 'there but for the grace of God go I', too much genetic disposition in our family for addiction. 

So we aren't exactly sure when he started drinking but do know that it was a slow progression - we are all confident that he believed one more wouldn't hurt.  Not sure the "one" that sent him over but it pains, saddens and angers me tremendously. 

So back to the story, Ken was admitted and was quickly transferred to the Critical Care Unit (an ICU step down).  Nickie and Tina live in Michigan as well and were there with Ken alternating days at the hospital checking on him along with Kenny/Stephanie.  The last time he was sick he set up Powers of Attorney so we siblings were scrambling to find those.  He had chosen me as his health care POA so I sent all the information to the hospital and made daily calls to deem when it would be best to travel to Michigan.  We really weren't sure what the outlook was but it quickly became clear he would not recover...his liver wasn't just failing - it had failed.  He was very confused and really didn't have a clue where he was, could really only answer yes or no questions and only knew his kids at times. 

I made the decision to go to Michigan on the 18th (after cancelling my trip to ABQ the week before).  I flew in that evening not sure what to expect really, only images of the last time he was in ICU were in my mind.  At that time he was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator and so swollen but only yellow on his hands and feet. 

When I arrived and saw him, he was alert and awake and recognized me and asked me why I was crying.  I explained to him how sick he was and that he was in the hospital but he didn't seem to get it...BUT he knew me AND he talked to me.  He even noticed I had lost weight (he said "why are you so gaunt?" oh my that made me laugh so hard!).  I stayed with him that night for a few hours.  He was completely and totally yellow and looked like he was dying.

I left him that evening knowing he would never recover and my heart so burdened.  I was really not sure if he would ever know me again but thanked God for the time I had with him that night and that he knew me.  I was blessed to stay with Nickie and Tina (really this is a HUGE deal - it brought such happiness to me to spend time with them and Nickie's kiddos and getting to meet Kenny's kids for the first time too).  I couldn't sleep and decided to get up and was back at the hospital by 5:00 a.m.  I had told my brothers that I would assess the situation and let them know if they needed to come - I had hoped to speak to the doctor in person but knew before then they needed to come and told them immediately.  They were able to get a flight out that evening (Mike, Jeff and our Dad).

This day was another gift from God...he knew me all day - we laughed, well I guess I laughed mostly at him, in situations like this if you don't have humor you will lose your mind.  I quickly became the mean and crazy sister who wouldn't give him "frozen water", Nehi soda or Faygo.  He was on a very strict diet so he could only have thickened water and very soft food.  He was less than thrilled with the thickened water.  I could only laugh though - especially when he said he was going to get a camera to show people how mean I was for not giving him what he wanted!  Too much!  But he knew me, I read to him from the Bible and talked to him about why he was there.  I know some of what I said he understood and comprehended if only for the moment it was in.  The biggest laugh of the day was when he got mad at me for not getting him a banana split from the tree in the hall (neither of which were in the hall).  He even asked the nurse to bring him one. 

His kids came by through the day to visit him and his recognition was poor as the day grew on - when Nickie came by, I even became Patricia - who the heck is that?  He would get so mad at me for asking him who I was or who someone else was - but I kept telling him how important it was for him to say the person's name.  He also seem to be "living" in different time periods.  He was talking fine to me one moment and then fell asleep and woke up and asked me when was the last time I saw Bubba.  Bubba is our oldest brother who died 27 years ago.  I told him that and he had some recognition and just went back to sleep.

I was finally able to speak with the doctor that evening and he confirmed what every other doctor and nurse had been telling us, we needed to think about hospice because he would not recover.  No one could give us a timeline though - liver failure is one of those things that no one really knows how long.  And Ken also had double pneumonia and trouble breathing so it was hard to say if another complication would arise.  We had also been told he would be moved out of the Critical Care Unit because there was nothing further they could do for him medically in that high level of care.  We made an appointment to meet with the hospice team the following afternoon.

Dad, Jeff and Mike made it in late that night and we all went to the hospital the next morning.  By then he had been moved (we were miffed by this - no one had even told us this would happen so quickly - we assumed it wouldn't be till at least after we met with hospice).  BUT - he knew us all AGAIN!  And he knew us well - even jabbing at dad the way only he would.  He also asked about Rob and the boys which was nice for them to hear.  This day was to be his true "rally" day but we didn't know.  This is the day he even knew his kids fully and spoke about their kids and asked questions.  At one point he told all of us (me, Jeff, Mike, Dad) to leave him alone for 5 minutes - to get out.  THAT is Ken!  It was a good day for closure for us.

That afternoon we met with hospice - we decided to keep him at the hospital but look for hospice facilities in case he would need care after a week.  He was moved to a private room that evening (thankfully - the room and floor he was on was NOT good) that was much more comfortable.  By that evening he had become VERY restless and agitated.  We thought it was a result of the days activities and the Ativan they had given him.  It wasn't - they were all signs and markers of approaching death.  But he settled down by about 4:00 am (Jeff stayed with him that night) and he rested comfortably. 

When we all arrived the next morning he was still resting comfortably - breathing was very calm and rhythmic.  All the grandkids were supposed to come that day to say good bye and we were going to skype in Jeff's kids and mine as well.  We asked the nurse to back off some of the meds so he could awaken - should have known something was up at that point as she was VERY leery to do so.  Me, Jeff and Mike left around noon to go look at a facility since he had been resting so well and we didn't see much change.  We literally drove the 10 minutes to the facility and were getting out of the car when my dad called and said the hospice nurse had been by and would be calling me and that he only had a day or two at most.  The nurse then called me and told me that there had been drastic change since the day before and confirmed that he really had no more than a day or two.  So we promptly loaded back up and went back to the hospital.  It surprised us all to see how much he had changed in the 20 minutes we were gone.  It quickly went downhill from there.  And I do mean quickly...I was texting the kids it seemed every 30 minutes with you may want to get here by the end of the day to you must come now. 

Kenny, Stephanie and two of their kiddos were able to come and see him for a bit.  Tina and Nickie also made it.  Jackie lives out of state and it was just too quick to get her there before he passed. 

At 6:10 p.m. Ken took his final breath on this earth and his first breath in heaven (I am just sure of this!), he was surrounded by love in the form of Tina, Nickie, myself, Jeff, Mike and Dad.  It was truly a peaceful passing which is what I had prayed for (on top of being quick and painless).  God was merciful to take him in that manner and to provide us the time we needed as a family.

We had a very nice service/viewing for him on Sunday with many friends and family attending.  It was truly a celebration of his life - what he would have wanted.  No big fuss and no long funeral sermon.  Rob shared and I shared.  It was very nice.  The service ended with the same song we played at Mom's funeral (we didn't choose for Ken - funeral home just played) and it was perfect - Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone by Chris Tomlin.  Jackie was able to make it in for the funeral - what an answer to prayer - as I said amidst the sorrow and pain there was much joy as well.  We had such a good time reconnecting with everyone.

We were surrounded by love, prayers and thoughts the entire week and are so very thankful for that. 

Now we move on to life without him, we all still are wrestling with feelings of anger and sadness but I do know God will provide - He is good and He is faithful. 

I provided below what I shared at his funeral - my thought is to live a life without regret - forgetting what was in the past and pressing forward to what lies ahead.  I also added a picture - the best one we could find, Emmy (Mike's fiance) actually sent over to me this week (Ken is on the far right, Mike on the left and Dad in the middle).  All the other pics we have of him look like mug shots! 

Don't take one day in this life for granted - we don't know when our last breath will be taken.  Love those around you, don't live in bitterness and devote yourself to living a life Christ would be proud of.  Stay connected to family and love deeply.

This has been a difficult week for us all, but we push on hanging on to God's promises.

I was blessed to be this man's sister.


Philippians 3:13-14
Now, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

We all have done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be.  Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become.  Don't dwell on your past.  Instead grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now.  Realize that you can be forgive and move on to a life of faith and obedience.  Look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of the hope Christ offers.


The Dash - By Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

50 Pounds Feels Great!

Today was the day I hit my 50 pound mark!  I am so stinking excited I can hardly stand it!  Never, never, never (did I say never?) in my life did I think I would be at this healthy weight and in a size 6 none the less!  I have NEVER been in a size 6 since probably middle school (and maybe not even then!).  I am also at a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index), haven't been there in A VERY LONG TIME!

Take Shape for Life has truly changed my life.  It has given me the tools I need to be on the road to Optimal Health!  This program is NOT a "diet".  Diets are like rocking chairs - lots of action but you go nowhere.  This program is like a race car - you take off and there is no turning back and changes are immediate!

Oh and the way it feels when someone (especially your husband) compliments you on how you look is beyond wonderful!  Another bonus (besides the energy and feeling awesome) walking by a window or mirror and realizing it is your own reflection you see and not some other thin person.  WOW!

I am so very thankful for this program and am blessed to be a Health Coach so I can also help others on their journey to health!  This program doesn't just help you lose weight and turn you loose like all the other programs.  There is a transition period and a specific maintenance plan to help you keep it off.

Interested in starting your journey to health?  Visit www.susantuma.tsfl.com/explore

Interested in helping others on their journey as a Health Coach?  Visit www.susantuma.tsfl.com/biz

You WILL NOT be sorry!

Here are some pictures from my journey!  I hope this inspires you to make changes in your life TODAY!

Blessings to each of you!

Day 1!






40 Pounds!


50 POUNDS!  Size 6 Jeans!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Take Shape for Life

Well I am officially a Coach for this wonderful program that has been nothing short of life changing for me!  I am 16 weeks in and have lost 41 pounds.  I still have about 10 more pounds to go to get to my goal, but want to shout from the roof tops what this program has done for me.

I have struggled with my weight since having my 2nd child nearly 14 years ago.  After my first I had gained but wasn't as much of an issue.  After Logan was born the weight piled on and on and on...it took many years to figure out some of the issues (thyroid/PCOS/insulin resistance).  I tipped the scales at my heaviest at 218 - once my medications really started working I dropped to 176 within about a year and a half.  176 quickly turned back in to 186 by 2012 and I knew I had to do something drastic.  Just watching what I ate and exercising wasn't cutting it anymore.

Then I saw some of our great friends begin losing weight like mad, and commenting how easy their program was...I had to know more!  I went to a food tasting and the rest as they say is history. 

I only wish I had learned about this program sooner!  It truly is the easiest thing I have ever done and the only "diet" I have NEVER cheated on, never been tempted or had cravings on...amazing!  I certainly didn't set out to become a coach for this program but I can't hold this knowledge all to myself!

What's the catch?  Really, nothing!  If you stick to the plan, don't cheat and do what you are supposed to do, you lose weight.  Guaranteed.  Not joking!  It is a 5 and 1 plan meaning you eat 5 of the MediFast meals a day and 1 lean and green meal (protein and vegies).  Eating every 2-3 hours is key.  Exercise?  Yes typically after 3-4 weeks on plan and then nothing to strenuous. 

There food tastes great and there are so many options - in fact a mac and cheese was just released.  The recipes that are "legal" for the lean and green meal don't seem like they could be - even my hubby and sons like them!

The only "catch" of sorts is that the first 3-5 days can be a little difficult as your body adjusts to the plan and getting rid of all the nastiness we put in to our bodies.  As a coach I am there to help you through not only that first week but every week thereafter!  The support on this plan is amazing!

Another great thing is that this program is nutritionally complete and backed by physicians.   

I could go on and on!  Yesterday I bought my FIRST EVER pair of size 8 jeans and they fit comfortably!  I have NEVER been in a size 8 in my adult life...so amazing!

Below are some pics before and after (40 pounds) and a link to my website.  Please let me know if you are interested in changing your life too!

www.susantuma.tsfl.com 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful for MY Man!

Recently I have had such a heavy heart for so many couples facing marital issues.  So many on the verge of divorce, so many hurting hearts...so much sadness.  It made me so very thankful for my man - I am blessed by his love and faithfulness - not only to me and our boys but to God. So very blessed to have a man who protects our marriage at all costs, who works hard to show our boys what a Godly husband should be and works just as hard for the cause of Christ. It hasn’t always been an easy road, but with each passing year I fall more in love with him – thankful we work as a team to keep our marriage protected!

I was driving home yesterday from dropping our youngest at school and listening to Pathway to Victory - it was Part 2 of a marriage series of living without regrets.  It was talking about one of the main issues that cause marital strife - SELFISHNESS.  This is so true!  If we boil down all the arguments we have as couples it is typically selfishness - we want it our way, all the time.  I think a lot of couples forget in the heat of an argument that they are on the same team - that they love each other and should be working together not being selfish.

Made me start thinking of why so many marriages are hurting and failing.

Couples forget why they got married in the first place, they forget they chose to be with this person for the rest of their lives - they made a covenant before God, family and friends.  Today's society makes us think that divorce is easy and no big deal...but it is a HUGE deal!  There are very few times where divorce should even be considered biblically. 

So what are many couples missing?  Priorities are a key - a lot of families have them out of order.  God, spouse, children should be the top 3 priorities IN THAT ORDER!  God must be at the center of everything and then our spouse, then our children. 

So what gets messed up usually?  Parents cater to the wants and needs of their kids more than their soul mate.  They spend their time running from one sport or activity to the next, never having time for the spouse (or even dinner as a family at home).  Now, I am not saying our kids shouldn't be a priority, but I am saying that our children grow up and leave home and you are left with a spouse that you may not even know by then!  Kids are not equipped to make decisions on how many activities they should be doing - that is why parents must help them!  Our family has a rule of 1 activity per year, doesn't always make our kids happy but we eat dinner together almost every night of the week and that is so much more important than anything else they could be doing - that is when true communication happens!  We must care for and love our children BUT here is something that most people miss - the best thing you can give your child as they are growing up is to witness a strong, healthy marriage!  That gives them security!  When they grow up I can guarantee that they aren't going to say 'I am just so thankful that my parents allowed me to be involved in 6 different activities a year even though we were never home and never had quality family time but I really enjoyed all those activities and stress!'  They will however be forever thankful for a strong family - strong marriage and values that they can apply to their own lives!

So here is another area that couples tend to get wrong - they think if they give 50%/50% their marriage will work, this is a LIE!  Each person should be giving 100%!  We must always be on guard and always be working hard to make our marriages succeed.  We must each be working to fulfill the other's needs - filling their love tank daily!  Is it always easy?  No but anything you love is worth fighting for!

Guarding your marriage is so important NO ONE is affair proof!  Why?  Because we are human and we live in a fallen world.  Protect your marriage!  Always be on guard - have clear boundaries that both of you set.  You must be honest with each other - accountability is very important.

Carve out time for your spouse!  This can be with date nights or just time in the evening when everything is quiet and all are in bed.  When you are in the midst of the infant/toddler years this can seem impossible but you must make time for your spouse - arrange to swap childcare, take a nap during the day, whatever it takes to be ready to spend quality time with your spouse.  Intimacy is so important - whether physical or emotional.  Having trouble with physical intimacy?  Try reading Intimate Issues by Dillow/Pintus!  Do a Bible study together or with another couple, just be together - often!

I know you have heard of the quote "Don't sweat the small stuff", this is so applicable to marriage - typically we take 'small stuff' and let it become big stuff - why?  Again, probably selfishness!  We want it our way, because our way is best right?  Wrong - God's way is best!  Go to His word - there is a perfect plan for marriage in the Bible! 

Don't be afraid to go to counseling if you need help - or find another couple who emulates what you want your marriage to be - get the help you need!

Protect and fight for your marriage - don't become another statistic!  Someone once said "A beautiful life does not just happen, it is built daily by prayer, humility, sacrifice and love.  May that beautiful life be yours always." 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall Already!

Can't believe it is already Fall!  Isn't this picture of a road we drive beautiful? 

I had so hoped to keep up with blogging, but alas life has taken place and time has gotten away from me.

I had started a blog post a few months ago just after school started but never got to finish it.  Summer seemed to be played out on Fast Forward.  We stayed so busy and it went by way to quickly.  With our trip to Haiti, Camp, VBS and life in general, it made for busy days and evenings.  We were so thankful when school started and things slowed down a bit!

I stepped into the Women's Ministry Director role at our church in June and am loving it.  My heart beats for helping women see and become all that God has created them to be so this is a perfect position for me. 

I also decided to lead a Life University study at our church for married women called Intimate Issues.  The class has been going great...in fact we have a reputation around church, a good one but funny to say the least.  We are the women that meet in "THE ROOM". 

I continue to be thoroughly amazed that SEX (wow, yes I did put that in print!) in marriage is not discussed.  Satan has taken control of this area and as Christian wives we need to re-claim it for the ONE who created it!  It is supposed to be fun and enjoyable...the whole class (including me) are learning many things this semester!  Lives are being changed - God is at work!

Another journey I have been on since mid-August is losing weight!  I had lost about 35 pounds prior to that over a year but then it just stopped.  I was disheartened and frustrated and MAD!  It seemed no matter what I did, nothing happened.  I started noticing the weight loss journey of some great friends and started on the same program - Take Shape for Life using MediFast products.  Wow oh wow is all I can say.  As of today I have lost 32 pounds - yes that is correct 32 pounds since mid-August.  Never thought that would be possible.  It is the BEST and EASIEST weight loss experience I have ever had.  It is nutritionally sound and was created by a physician.  It promotes healthy eating and living.  My health has improved dramatically since being on program.  I will post pics of my journey soon!  I still have about 20 more pounds to lose and am actually excited about it and don't dread it!  I am in clothing sizes I haven't worn in over 17 years, amazing! 

I am just about a month and a half away from having a 17 and 14 year old...time is simply flying!  They are both such great kids - we have been blessed beyond measure with them in our lives.  The past month we have had 2 extra kiddos around as well helping another family.  Their little sister has been in and out of the hospital with a rare kidney disease so to help with some normalcy we have kept them with us for most of that time.  They were such a blessing to have in our home. 

I am thankful that the Fast Forward button has been taken off and we are just on Play - I would be ok with hitting the Pause button now and again to be hones!  But I am thankful for everyday I am given to be on this earth with my family and friends!  Happy Fall y'all!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Haiti Mission Trip

We had an life changing trip to Haiti.  I am going to do my best to share everythign we saw and experienced.  We have a ton of pics and I wish I could share them all, but that is just not possible.  We all came home changed and humbled from our experience.

This is our team as we were preparing to head to the airport in Louisville to begin our trip.
We had an amazing team from Graceland Baptist Church:  Connie & Alan Marcum, Betsy & Noah Wright, Chris Knear, Josh McCarty, Drew Sherrow and our family.  We left Louisville on Friday afternoon and flew to Ft. Lauderdale - got to our hotel there about midnight and were back to the airport for a 6 am flight to Port au Prince Haiti.

We were met at the airport by our mission partner from SMI - Frank Williams.  He had all of our luggage corralled as we went through customs and loaded on to the SMI bus to head to Guitton where the Mission House is located.

Driving in Haiti is a bit scary to say the least.  There are really no rules and so you have people passing and speeding and doing crazy things...we learned quickly to just look the other way and trust that our drivers knew what they were doing!  :-)

Driving from the airport toward our first stop was quite an experience - we saw what was left of the tent city...so sad.  Yes people live in these tents!
Our first stop was at the mass grave site from the earthquake of 2010.  This site has over 200,000 bodies buried in it.  Even standing at the site it was very hard for us to comprehend the enormity of the situation...bodies were brought to this site by dump trucks.  There was no way of anyone knowing if their family member or friend was brought there or not.  There was a memorial at the site...I can't remember the exact translation but it was something to the effect of "We will always remember". 

From here we went on to Guitton to the Mission House.

Guitton is known for their Voodoo, this area (and the whole country) is steeped in this evil cult.  The Mission House is on a secure compound and we felt very safe there.  The picture above shows the inner gate - but there is also a high stone wall with razor wire that surrounds the compound.  They had running water, electricity, showers, nice beds and wonderful food.  Frank's mom Kay Afterkirk, was our wonderful chef and was aided by Connie.

After eating a wonderful lunch we ventured out to the village of NaWash.  It is about a 15 minute walk or about a 20-30 minute drive from the Mission House...weird I know, but walking is quicker due to the condition of the rocky roads you have to take.  Graceland gave $25,000 to SMI to build a church in the village of NaWash.  Graceland has adopted this village and any teams that go back to Haiti will go to this area to work and help in meeting the needs of the community.

The first thing we did was stop by the church to see how the progress was coming.  The structure was built, windows installed and was ready for painting and the roof to be put on.  Our task for the week would be helping to carry in the gravel to level the floor before pouring the concrete and painting the outside of the church.  Here is a pic of what it looked like when we arrived...
After surveying the church and land we headed in to the village to meet the community.  There are about 2,000 people that live in NaWash.  This village has been around for over 200 years - originally formed for the people who worked at the sugar cane mill just down the road.
We met under a huge tree and interacted with the kids and took pictures - which they LOVED!  Frank relayed through an interpreter what we were doing and that we would have their first church service on Friday.  The adults and children of the village seemed to be really excited about it.
After that we all headed back to the Mission House to rest up for our big work week ahead!

Rob, Chris, Tyler, Logan, Drew and Noah (along with Marshall - another team member we adopted in Haiti) slept outside on the patio.

They got to experience (hear) a Haitian funeral party/voodoo ceremony.  The party we can only guess was to remember the life of the loved one they lost - the music started out fine (although LOUD) but as the night progressed went in to a voodoo ceremony.  It was definitely an experience for them and an opportunity for us all to pray against the evil that exists.  As believers, we know evil exists and sometimes experience it, but the evil that lurks in Haiti is ever present and needs constant prayer against it.

The girls (me, Betsy and Connie as well as Stacy when she arrived) slept inside and shared a room.  The nights weren't horrible as well all had fans we could point right on us and had a breeze that would blow in through the windows.  We had a couple nights when we had rain and had some sprinkles on us which actually felt good.

On Sunday we attended church in Guitton.  Church used to be held on the Mission Compound where they also hold school, but there was issues where some of the people attending were trying to take over the church and they were practicing Voodoo, so Frank closed the church and it is now used as a school only.  The pic below shows what is now used only as a school.

The pastor of the church moved the services to his home - they are held under a tarp in his front yard.  Because we were considered guests of honor we were seated on the "stage" and introduced ourselves.  What an experience to see the Gospel being taught and the Haitians singing praise to the same God we serve!  Although we didn't understand the words we felt the Holy Spirit at work.  Frank and Rob also preached through our translator - they both did a fantastic job.  It was really great for Rob to speak directly to the kids - it was Children's Sunday - something we didn't know until we were there.  We had over 180 people that attended on this particular Sunday. 
Sunday is not a work day in Haiti so we went back to the Mission House and had lunch and fellowship and started prerparing the bags with the toiletry and first aid items for NaWash.

Logan really connected with the Haitian kids - they call him "Logans" and love to hang out with him.  This is him and a couple kids he met the first day!

He also got to drive with Marshall in his little "clown" truck that was renamed as Logan's truck.  He did a great job seeing it was a stick shift!  He also got to drive the tractor as well - he had a blast!

Monday began our work week - we were all ready to get started!  Everyone worked so hard - especially the guys carrying in the gravel for the flooring.  It was hot and miserable but everyone did a great job.  We had a lot of the kids and some adults come from the village to watch us.  We were able to interact with the kids - it was really a great experience.  I was so proud of our 4 teens Drew, Noah, Tyler and Logan - they all worked so hard and didn't complain!


At the end of one of our days as we were cleaning up, some of the kids helped Logan, Drew and Rob clean there hands in the aqua duct.  Speaking of the aqua duct - this is their ONLY water supply and it is controlled by the government and only is released at certain times.  This is the water they use for EVERYTHING - drinking, cleaning, bathing, washing clothes, you name it.  It made me think about how we take our water for granted - we know that when we turn our faucet on we can drink it without the thought of getting sick or fear that it will run out.

We were joined by 3 others from Indiana while there - Sid, Stacy and Bobby.  Bobby was adopted from Haiti as a child and just this year started coming to Haiti.  Stacy brought a ton of hair stuff for us to hand out to the girls and women while we worked on the church - they loved it!

Each morning except for Friday most of the team headed to the church to work on painting and finishing touches on the outside.  Others stayed behind and worked on projects at the house such as building shelves in a shed, putting up doors, lots of cleaning and organizing.  We also worked on  preparing the bags for handing out to the community.  Each family (we had enough for about 150 or so) would get a bag of rice, a bag that included soap, anti-bac wipes/santizer, shampoo, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste and first aid supplies, and a bag for each child containing a toy, bracelet and toothbrush and toothpate. 

One of the special things about the kids bags was that a friend of mine in New Mexico, Raina Timms, just "happened" (don't you just love how God works?) about 100 McDonald's toys that she and her kiddos had been saving and posted on Facebook about it.  I of course immediately said we sure could use them in Haiti.  She figured out a way to get them to us and those are the toys we used.  What is even more special is that her kids prayed over those toys. 

Below are some pictures of when we went in to NaWash to deliver all the bags.  It was nothing short of chaotic and a bit scary, but God kept us safe and we were able to hand out the supplies and give a quick "God Bless You" in Creole.  There is just so much need in this village - lots of kids and people following us around begging for the bags we had...but one of the conditions was that they must be in their home to get the bags.  We were constantly telling the kids and adults to go to their home.  So hard not to be able to give to all, but this is just the first step in teaching the village on how to interact with Americans and to learn that we will be back to help.

As you can see from the pictures, there are various types of "homes" in the village.  Some are concrete and some are made with whatever the owners could find to make a shelter.  The house is just a couple rooms and really just used for sleeping since most of the time it is so hot.  Cooking is done outside over a fire pit.  No electricity, no running water, no bathroom, no kitchen.  Some families have mattresses to sleep on but many don't.
Another day we were able to go to the school in another village (Saintard) where over 1,200 children attend.  We were first treated with  a group of students singing - we came up on them practicing and had them sing their full song again - not really sure what the song was, but they did a great job and sounded awesome.  After that, we were able to go in to the classrooms and interact a bit with the kids.  They have Kindergarten through High School at this school and children and adults of all ages.  The school does not provide food for the kids, it costs about $400 a day to feed everyone - this is such a need!  Please be praying that God would provide a way to feed this school each day of the school year!



Behind the school there is a small village where SMI has started a little neighborhood of homes.  They are in the process of building more now - each home costs about $4,000 to build.  There are 5 families that live there now and we were able to give them some bags of rice and some bags for the kids as well.  They were so appreciative.  It is the small steps like this that make a difference.

We were also able to visit an orphanage ran by Ms. Phyllis, another ministry separate from SMI.  She has a large campus and hosts a number of groups on site.  There are about 50-60 children that reside in her orphanage.  She has made a decision that she does not adopt out the children that are placed with her, which I have very mixed emotions about.  It just broke my heart to think that the kids there will never have a true family.  But they do have a place to sleep, food to eat and they do go to school, which is much more than some of the other children in Haiti.  This orphanage is definitely on my prayer list.


This is where the kids shower...
The next 4 pictures are the kitchen where the kids prepare their food and where they eat...



Sid handing out candy to very excited kiddos!

One afternoon we were treated to a trip to the beach at the Wahoo Resort.  What a beautiful area this was.  The water and beach were absolutely amazing and the backdrop of the mountains was breathtaking.  Rob, Josh, Tyler, Logan, Drew and Noah were all able to go snorkeling - they had such a great time.  It was an awesome afternoon of fellowship and a time of refueling for all of us to get back to the work we came to do.

One of the others days those who stayed behind at the Mission House were able to take rice in to the village by the Mission House in Guitton.  We split into two groups and one group was able to give to those Haitians who were involved in the voodoo ceremony giving them a "God Bless You", we pray that a seed was planted and God will grow it in their hearts. 

Kay and I had a very touching moment with one of the women, she is a believer and comes to church in Guitton each week.  Madame TiTi is her name and she is wheelchair bound so to get to church is a chore on the back roads.  She lives in a small room in her son's "home".  We went in with our interpreter and asked if we could pray for her and she agreed, but before we could pray she had to put a prayer covering on her head, so humbling for me to see so much reverance in the midst of her situation.  Kay offered up a wonderful prayer that left us in tears, it was truly a moving experience.  It made me think of how many times I offer up prayers to God without the thought of the true reverance he deserves...and yet this woman in the midst of poverty and with nothing to her name knows her place before her King.  Brings tears to my eyes just recalling this special moment.

Our last day was spent preparing for the first chuch service in NaWash.  Some of the guys went to get the chairs and sound equipment and set it up at the church.  We all headed over and found the church filled with tons of people looking in from the outside.  There were also several people from the village of Guitton there to show their support - how awesome is that!  We were all very excited to see God at work.  Frank, Rob, and 2 Pastors from neighboring villages were able to share and we had some time of singing praise songs.  Frank was able to get a popular Christian orchestra group to come and sing for the service.  This was such a hit!  Everyone that could stand and dance was up and praising the same God we worship!  So awesome to see.  There were probably over 300 people that showed up for this service.  We pray that lives were changed and that a seed was planted that God will grow in their hearts.

By the end of the night we were all exhausted and fell in to bed for a few hours before rising to leave early the next morning. 

I think I can speak for all of our team members in saying that this was a life changing trip.  We experienced so many things while there - some much to emotional to process at the time.  I am still processing much of what I saw and witnessed while there.  I am humbled that God chose to me to serve this week with HIS people.

There is so much need in Haiti, not only the kind that money, time and effort can help, but a HUGE need for the love of a Savior.
Our final picture before leaving with our team and the SMI team.  They were all so awesome!