ACU Alumni June Trip - Serving Together After 36 Years

1st June Group

By: Devin Vanderpool, Director of Communications for LiveBeyond

    The most recent medical mission group to come with LiveBeyond to Haiti was a unique one: it was a reunion trip for many of the friends of Dr. and Mrs. Vanderpool from their college days at Abilene Christian University. It was composed primarily of ACU students from the classes of '80-82, along with their spouses, children, and a few other team members. This group had the unique ability to experience Haiti, not just as individuals, but as a community of believers that had fortified their bonds in college.

    At one point, Mama Laurie (as she is referred to by thousands of Haitian children, and her loving daughter-in-law) mentioned that each person from her class had some impact on where she is today, seeking the Kingdom of God by serving the oppressed in Thomazeau, Haiti. And I could see throughout the week just how much she and Dr. Vanderpool and the rest of LiveBeyond's outreach impacted the spiritual growth of the team members as they studied scripture together each morning, sang in church, served in the clinic, helped with Johnny’s Kids and Kè Pou Timoun and evangelism, went on At Risk and Maternal Health visits, and discussed the entire experience over supper. The longevity of the friendships held by so many of the team members gave the group more intimacy, allowing the spiritual growth of each person to compound upon one another. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) I was able to witness each team member put on the Armor of God, ready to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, shield-to-shield with their classmates. 

    For me, an ACU class of 2011 graduate, it was a chance to peer into the future and imagine what life might be like with my closest ACU friends in 30-40 years. Will my class be serving together in a mission field? Will we be warriors searching for ways to advance the Kingdom, aligning our shields and joining the battle? Isn't that so much better than meeting for a beach weekend or a ski trip? 

    On the final night, the group gathered around for one last round of prayers and, of course, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” We actually couldn’t contain ourselves, and we ended up singing several of the other familiar hymns, as ACU graduates are wont to do. I’m so thankful for the heritage of faith that ACU blessed me with. I’m grateful for the community of believers and spiritual mentors that I am inherently a part of, simply because I attended a particular college. During my week at the LiveBeyond base, I once again got to witness the ACU difference. Thank you, ACU, for preparing us to LiveBeyond.

(Side note: The class of ’92 also has a reunion trip to LiveBeyond in January of each year.)

ACU Class of '81

ACU Class of '81

Catching My First Haitian Baby...With One Glove On

By: Tayler Johnston, LiveBeyond Director of Maternal Health, Certified Nurse-Midwife and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner; reposted from her blog

1st Haitian Baby

Wow. . .  I have been wanting to write a blog post about my first baby born here in Haiti.  Four days later I am still having trouble putting words together, but here goes. . .

This past Friday, I had just finished my routine post-partum visits and was tending to a large gash on one of the Kè Pou Timoun children’s leg when I heard Gertrude (my Maternal Health coworker) yelling my name in a manner that I had not heard before.

Gertrude and Me

Gertrude and Me

I go out to the clinic pavilion to see a very pregnant woman struggling to walk towards the clinic assisted by a man and a woman who are yelling that she is in labor. [I later learn this is a cousin and sister.]  I usher her into our labor suite but wasn’t yet convinced that she was in labor (we have had a couple of false alarms), so I palpate her fundus.  A strong contraction started and lasted for about a minute, so I think this is probably the real deal.

I Doppler heart tones and they are 90s-110s.  [For readers who are not familiar with obstetrics, NOT reassuring.]  I immediately check her cervix to try to determine if transfer will be needed and she is 10cm/100%/-2 with a big bulging bag of fluid.  (Praise the Lord!!!)  She got a contraction and tried to push but there wasn’t really any movement.  Since FHTs were low, I broke her water to try to help the baby descend.  There was moderate meconium [aka baby poop, which can be a sign of distress, also not reassuring.  I later learned that this distress could have been from the hour and a half motorcycle ride she took to get to the clinic.]

She is now sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid and meconium so I take off my gloves to get new underpads when she asks if she can push.  I tell her yes and the baby immediately crowns.  I frantically grab clean gloves and after I get one glove on, the baby’s head is out.  I couldn’t get the other glove on and ended up catching my first baby Haitian baby with one glove on.

Haitian Baby
  • June 8, 2017
  • 3:20pm
  • Baby boy.
  • Apgars 9/9.
  • 6lb 10oz
  • 19.5″ long

All of this happened within FIVE MINUTES of her walking into the clinic.  I didn’t have time to call for any assistance except for Gertrude, my wonderful MH coworker, with no medical background whatsoever.  I literally couldn’t have done it without her extra set of hands handing me chux, cord clamps, scissors, a clean baby blanket, diaper, etc.  It made it even harder for me to understand how most Haitian women give birth at home alone.

Mom and baby were both happy and healthy.  He nursed beautifully (after some convincing.)  Exactly 2 hours after birth, she got up, got dressed, went to the restroom and then informed me that she was going home.

*Story and photos published with Mom’s permission.

From "Worthless" to "Beloved"

By: Jacklyn Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Evangelism & Discipleship Training Director

Originally published June 9, 2017

Last week I celebrated living in Thomazeau, Haiti for one year. A lot has happened in one year, strongholds have been broken, hundreds have come to know the name of Jesus Christ, new programs have been started, heartache has been felt, but most importantly, the kingdom of God has been expanded. I have always dreamed of spending my life doing missions but I could have never fathomed all the ways in which the Lord would move. I am so humbled to be a part of this work and it has truly been a great adventure.

Last week I was dealt some heartache of my own. While leading the team to Penigo, I was telling everyone about Badi and Gorgi. These sweet brothers both have a disease similar to Cerebral Palsy. For the last several years we have been praying for the healing of Badi, that he would run up and down the village jumping and singing. Our prayer is that all who lay eyes on Badi cannot deny the power of Jesus Christ. Two years ago, Gorgi was born and within six months we realized that Gorgi too had the same disease as Badi. Over the last several months we have been trying to incorporate them into our Johnny’s Kids program hoping that physical therapy could help improve their standard of living. We have had our hurdles to get over in order to get these kiddos in our program but here at LiveBeyond, we have been determined to do whatever necessary to help. The first time I laid eyes on Gorgi was just days after he was born, he was severally jaundiced. But quickly within a day or two, his coloring returned to normal. Since then I would visit frequently to see SenSen and the two brothers. We quickly realized that something was not quite right and we determined that he too had the same disease as his brother, Badi. Several months ago, Gorgi became very sick and when we brought him into the clinic we became fond of the idea of incorporating him into Johnny’s Kids as a possible treatment option. We knew that we didn’t have the staff available to immediately make that idea a reality but we were willing to fight for it. But, as we walked up to the brothers’ house last week, I immediately saw Badi but Gorgi was nowhere to be seen. As I approached their mother asking about Gorgi, she told me that Gorgi had passed away on Saturday. I know for me that so much of my grief is selfish, I adored sweet Gorgi and fought so hard for a hope of making his life better. But while my heart is absolutely broken about his death, I cannot help but rejoice that sweet Gorgi is no longer confined to a body that cannot move or speak. Instead, I am confident that Gorgi is enjoying the rush of what if feels to run and jump and dance. And most of all, Gorgi is resting in the embrace of our loving Father, whole and utterly complete.

In celebration of the power and might of our Lord, I want to share the incredible ways in which the Lord has blessed and healed our Johnny’s Kids. Every time I look at Nadia, I can’t help but see the healing power that is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. When Nadia was young, she was hit in the head by a rock and paralyzed. She came to our program unable to walk or stand at all. Her life was now centered around sitting in a chair and unable to go to school. Every day I would watch Nadia and see her determination. We would say, “let's try this exercise 10 times,” and she would push to do 15. She wanted to get better, stronger, and ultimately be able to walk. Within two months she was walking with assistance. Within 6 months she was walking on her own. She can go from standing to sitting and vice versa without having to hold on to anything and last month we were practicing jumping and balance drills. I was driving through Delman one day and saw Nadia just strolling down the road with a friend with the biggest smile on her face. This 14-year-old girl who is shy, sweet, and quiet, is one of the strongest, most determined, and fiercest girls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. When I see Nadia, I see the power of Jesus Christ.

Daphne is a little ball of fire. The first year of Daphne being a part of our program I thought she was unable to speak.  Now, after several years, she is quite the chatter box. She is making great strides in her physical therapy and though she is the smallest of our Johnny’s Kids, she still sneaks spoonfuls of food from the other kids’ plates.

I guarantee you have never seen a more infectious smile than Larissa’s. Though she cannot walk or talk, she certainly knows how to steal hearts. It is so abundantly clear to me that when we give water to Larissa or kisses and hugs that we are doing that for Jesus. Larissa has been transformed into a happy and playful girl.

And sweet Lancy Belle, who when we first started bringing her to our program was convinced that her mother was giving her to us. The whole way to the base she would cry out for her mother and the whole way back home she would cry because she had so much fun. Thanks to the incredible PTs that have come to LiveBeyond, Lancy is learning to walk. She sings Hallelujah all day, laughs, and has formed a beautiful relationship with Daphne.

And then there are Pierre Richard and Chenyello, these two boys who have very similar physical handicaps have become best friends through this program, even though they live only a quarter of a mile from each other. Our very first day of starting this program my mom and I were coming up with goals for each kid. Our goal for Chenyello was that at the end of the week, he would smile. He was such a stoic and seemingly unhappy child when we first started bringing him to LiveBeyond. Now his giggles fill the entire clinic as he races Pierre Richard around in the wheelchairs. When Pierre Richard first started coming I completely underestimated how far he is in school. For months I had him counting to twenty in Creole, I walked in one day and saw him dividing triple digits. I was humbled, to say the least.

I am so proud of each one of our kids and every day I am reminded of the legacy of my Uncle Johnny. But my absolute favorite part of this program is that every day our kids come to our base they are told how treasured, loved, and adored they are. In Haiti, they are called Cocobai which means worthless. Our desire at LiveBeyond is to show them just how valued they are. We have seen a physical transformation in each one of our kids and look forward to expanding our program to include more kids but we have also seen a transformation with the ways in which the community views children born with special needs. No longer are they viewed as worthless but rather as sons and daughters of the King of Kings!

 

Plunder hell and populate Heaven,

Jacklyn

World Day Against Child Labor

By Devin Vanderpool

Today, June 12th, 2017, is the World Day Against Child Labor. This day was started by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2002 to raise awareness about child labor with the end goal its elimination worldwide. The ILO defines child labor as work that is dangerous or harmful to children, and work that deprives or interferes with a child’s schooling opportunities. In its most extreme forms, child labor involves child slavery, child prostitution and pornography, and the use of children in illicit activities, such as drug trafficking. According to the ILO, 58.6% of child labor involves agricultural economic activities.

In Haiti, children, primarily young girls, are sent by their parents to live with other families and provide services in exchange for food and schooling. The term used to refer to these children is“restavèk,” a Haitian Creole word meaning “to stay with.” There are an estimated 250,000-400,000 restavèk children in Haiti. Because of the domestic nature of services, it is hard for governing agencies to determine if many children are being used as restavèk labor, or are children with domestic responsibilities within their families. 

There have been several laws and decrees issued by the Haitian government to set boundaries for child domestic labor, but most of these are unknown to the general public, and restavèk labor continues to be a widespread practice in all social classes across Haiti. Even with laws in place, law enforcement struggles to implement many governmental policies.

At LiveBeyond, the Kè Pou Timoun program provides an alternative for parents faced with the decision to send their children off as “restavèk” child laborers. Kè Pou Timoun means “Heart for Children” in Haitian Creole. The goal of this program is to improve all areas of the children’s lives. Monday through Friday, the children come to the LiveBeyond base for two nutritious meals, literacy lessons in Creole and English, Bible lessons, tutoring, leadership training, and regular basic health check-ups. There are approximately 105 children enrolled in the program with constant plans for expansion.

For $40 a month, a donor can sponsor one child’s attendance in the Kè Pou Timoun program and ensure their future, not as a restavèk, but as a beloved child of the true King, Jesus Christ. Go to livebeyond.org/kepoutimoun/ now to donate.

 

Sources:

ILO. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2017, from http://www.ilo.org/ipec/lang--en/index.htm.

Child domestic labour in Haiti. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2017, from http://womenalliance.org/child-domestic-labour-in-haiti.

Beans & Rice Evangelism

By: Jacklyn Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Evangelism & Discipleship Training Director

By: Jacklyn Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Evangelism & Discipleship Training Director

Several weeks ago I was back in the States sitting in church thinking about ways that I could intentionally look more like Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went, He drew people to Himself. Everywhere He went, He served and healed.

I want to live in such a way that not only do people see Jesus in me but they see Jesus manifested in the things that I do. I am certainly not perfect, I fall down and sometimes my life looks messy. But because of the blood of Jesus Christ that is not how He sees me. I can come before Him riddled with sin and brokenness, and as I ask for forgiveness, He washes me in His blood. I am no longer a stained believer. I am a daughter that is pure, clean, and completely forgiven. He does not see me for my sins but sees me through the veil of His blood. As a disciple of Jesus, I am seen as His daughter, His bride, His warrior, and His servant.

That is one of the things I love about my job at LiveBeyond, not only do I get to serve the Haitians, but I first and foremost get to serve Jesus. Every day I teach a class to our Haitian staff about how we can be bold, be warriors, and be confident in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of my job includes going out into the villages and sharing the gospel with the people I meet and seeking out voodoo priests to tell them about the victory that happened on the cross and the redemption found in the blood of Jesus.

As I was sitting in church thinking, I realized that as Jesus taught, He provided a service whether that was food or healing. This is something that I decided I want to emulate. I am certainly no doctor, but I know I can clean cuts and put on band-aids and tell about the King of Kings who can raise the dead to life. So from this, the idea for beans and rice evangelism was born. I got back to Haiti and talked to our Haitian cook about making a pot of beans and rice so that I could carry it to the neighboring village and as people ate Pastor Sargesse and I could share the gospel.

Per usual, I had so many ideas of what was going to happen and naturally, most of them were completely wrong. But praise the Lord because He has moved each time and every day I am so humbled to be a part of His gospel being shared in Thomazeau. On the first day, we went to Cai Soda to the center of the village where they have a water pump. I sat in the dirt and immediately children half dressed, barefoot, and dirty came running up to get some food. Even though adults were standing around, I was floored that they wanted the children to eat first before they themselves got a plate. As Pastor Sargesse preached to the adults, I got to do something that I have never done before and quite frankly something I have never wanted to do before; preach to children. I have never been the type to want to babysit, teach Sunday school, or naturally gravitate towards children but I couldn’t help but smile as kids with their cheeks filled with beans excitedly told me they knew the name of Jesus. Over the last few weeks, I have seen a very small glimpse of why Jesus called the children to Himself. They are eager, excited, and filled with more love than they can share. I very quickly learned that the pot that Mauna had cooked for us was not big enough for the growing crowds we have had every time we have gone into different villages. The idea that people are coming because they are physically hungry and are leaving not only with full bellies, but also with full spirits fills me with hope that this region of Haiti will turn from the kingdom of darkness towards the Kingdom of Light.

There have been days that I have thought that to be successful in sharing the gospel you have to have big stages, large crowds, and loud speakers and all of those things are absolutely great but I am so humbled that one pot of beans and rice has been used to multiply the believers in villages in Thomazeau!

Sometimes being the hands and feet of Jesus looks like a pot of beans and rice. But it always looks like plundering hell and populating Heaven.

For We Do Not Wrestle Against Flesh & Blood

By: Jacklyn Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Evangelism & Discipleship Training Director

By: Jacklyn Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Evangelism & Discipleship Training Director

Back in October, I shared a story about one of our Haitian staff, Harold Leriche and how he has been the first of those baptized at LiveBeyond to go and make disciples. Over the last five months, Harold has had many hardships but I am sharing this with you in the hopes that everyone will pray for Harold as well as rejoice at the provision of God. Within weeks of Harold making disciples, he came to work one day and right after church received news that his 9-month-old daughter died suddenly. So often when we are faced with trials, tribulation, and death we have two choices one: to turn to God, seek His provision and rely on His strength or; turn away. My concern was that Harold would walk the latter road. But through his pain and tears, Harold praised Jesus. The next day, due to grief, Harold’s mother fainted and was taken to a hospital in the Dominican where she stayed for four months and has only returned last week. In January, Harold’s father fell and broke his hip and leg and though he sought medical attention, it wasn’t enough. Harold’s dad passed away on March 7. And though Harold’s mother was able to return for the funeral of her husband, she is incredibly sick and only increasingly getting more and more sick. I had the honor of attending the funeral of Harold’s father and throughout the entire thing, Harold was the perfect picture of strength and compassion though deeply marred by grief. Each time I hear of a new sorrow plaguing Harold my flesh winces wondering if there is any way Harold will continue to sing the praises of Jesus. And by the grace of God, each time I have been wrong. He came back to work today after the funeral of his father with the biggest smile on his face. When I see Harold, I clearly see the hand of God. For Harold, I cannot help but think of Job, who had everything taken from him and yet he continually praised God. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b).

But Job did not merely have bad luck, he was intentionally attacked by Satan. I can’t help but think the same thing has presented itself here. Harold, a faithful man of God, who was making disciples in the name of Jesus, who was expanding the Kingdom of Light, and is a fierce warrior for the Kingdom of God is not just experiencing an unfortunate series of events but instead is experiencing spiritual warfare. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). But despite it all, despite all the attempts of the enemy against Harold, he continually praises Jesus and gives all glory to God. 

So please join me in praying for Harold, his wife and brothers. Please pray that his mother will be healed in the name of Jesus. Pray that as brothers and sisters we can take up our weapons and stand with Harold against the enemy and fight in the armies of the Lord. Pray that Harold will continue to boldly share the gospel, make more disciples, and be a powerful man of God. 

Praise the Lord that though we are in the middle of a fight, we already know who has won! 

Plunder hell and populate Heaven,

Jacklyn

Quenching Physical & Spiritual Thirst

Sara Kauss_3512.JPG

By: Dr. David Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Founder and CEO

There is a common thread among the people that partner with LiveBeyond. We have a strong belief that in the Kingdom of God, there are no children dying from starvation. Mothers do not suffer from delivering babies alone. People do not die from drinking dirty water.

We work in a remote, poverty-stricken region of Haiti where the average person lives off less than $1.25 per day. The majority of the population lives without electricity, sewage sanitation systems and clean water.

It seems unfathomable that anyone could live off less than nine dollars per week. However, the reality is that millions of lives in developing countries are sustained without electricity and sewage.

Uncomfortable? Yes. Difficult? Yes.

But life without water? Impossible.

Water isn’t a problem just in Haiti. According to the World Health Organization, there are 663 million people across the world who still lack access to clean water sources.

On a daily basis, we witness people barely hanging onto life in Haiti—living in a state of constant thirst—both physically and spiritually. It can be debated which need should take priority, but thankfully, Jesus sets the example for us.

All four Gospels share the story about Jesus performing a miracle to feed the five thousand. Jesus could have easily shared His message to the crowd and moved on, but instead, He is moved with compassion to meet their physical needs first, and then their spiritual needs. He feeds them, heals them, and reveals the Lord to them through His teachings.

We see it day-after-day in our work to care for Haiti’s poor. The sound of starved, rumbling stomachs are one of the greatest barriers to people hearing about God’s love and goodness.

That’s why we follow His example to satisfy physical needs and bring spiritual satisfaction. LiveBeyond installed clean water filtration systems that purify 200 million of gallons of water per year in Thomazeau, Haiti. Today, 200,000 people in our region have access to clean water. Now that we’ve quenched their physical needs, we can share about a pure, life-sustaining gift from Jesus that never runs dry—the well of living water.

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Each day, we’re seeing more people refreshed and revived by drinking the "living water"—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Deep, inner thirsts are being quenched as His people enter into His presence. The Lord chose us to serve His children in Haiti. He graciously led us to this country to boldly advance the Kingdom.

You may be thinking, “That’s great for you, but I not sure I can make a difference.”

We have good news for you. When you accept Jesus’ invitation to come and drink from Him, “rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me.” (John 7:38, MSG)

This World Water Day, ask God how His rivers of water can flow through you to meet others’ needs. When Jesus fed the 5,000, he didn’t single-handedly distribute the food; He tapped into his disciples’ willing hearts and faith to feed the crowd. Jesus chose to make them a part of this story, and He has stories to write YOU into as well.

Commit to advocating for the needs of the poor. Get your family and friends involved to take action against extreme poverty around the world. Consider donating to LiveBeyond to support our work. And most importantly, continue to drink from the living water, and be filled with His constant presence that will never leave you.

Empowering Thomazeau | Solange's Story

Some of the responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Some of the responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

How long have you worked for LiveBeyond?
Since 2013.

What is your job at LiveBeyond?
I started my job by working at LiveBeyond's chicken coop, but now, I make jewelry and clean the medical clinic.

What is your favorite part about working for LiveBeyond?
I love Kè Pou Timoun and what I do here [at LiveBeyond] every day. 

Have any of LiveBeyond's programs improved your life?
Yes, I was baptized and married at the LiveBeyond church. I believed in Jesus before, but wasn't active in my faith.

I was a part of LiveBeyond's maternal health program through my last pregnancy, and my baby girl is healthy. My son, Jean Roodler, is in Kè Pou Timoun. It’s a very good thing that they pay for his school, so he learns different things.

How has your job transformed your life?
I feel proud and great about working for LiveBeyond. I love learning how to make jewelry.

What are you looking forward to in the future at LiveBeyond?
I am hoping that the LiveBeyond church and school will be built soon. I am excited to know that my young girls will get to be a part of Kè Pou Timoun someday.

Anything else that you'd like to share?
I want to thank everyone that goes and comes to LiveBeyond. I am thankful for people that helped start Kè Pou Timoun—For all of the people that go back and come to see the kids. It makes me so happy.

Seven Best Things About Being a Kè Pou Timoun Camp Counselor

By: Laurie Beth Chalk, Former Kè Pou Timoun Camp Counselor

By: Laurie Beth Chalk, Former Kè Pou Timoun Camp Counselor

College students all over the country have to decide what to do over summer break. Many will have an important internship, some will have a job at a retail store, and only a few will get to be a Kè Pou Timoun camp counselor. I believe that there is truly no better way to spend your summer than by pouring out God’s love onto fun-loving Haitian children.

1. Jesus
I love this camp because it is all about Jesus! Every day, you are showing God’s love to kids, telling them about Jesus, and teaching them ways to be Jesus to others.

2. The Campers
If you want to be a Kè Pou Timoun counselor, then you have obviously been to Haiti before. The sole reason you are applying for the job is because of the precious faces you will get to see every day.

3. The Counselors
The other counselors you will be working with are truly going to be some of the best people you have ever met! You will form deep friendships in just a matter of three weeks. These people are the ones who are going to walk with you every day, and who will understand how tired you will be. They are your constant encouragers, and literal best friends for the entirety of the camp.

4. Dancing and Singing
Dancing and singing are fundamental parts of camp. The kids love to sing and dance! It’s awesome. Dance parties are a must, and be prepared to listen to lots of Justin Bieber.

5. Nighttime Activities
After the kids have gone home for the day, you will have a lot of free time. This is when you really get to bond with the other counselors and interns. Card games, guitar sessions, and movie nights are all things that are super fun to do with everyone!

6. Water Days
Water days are seriously the greatest. Be prepared to get pelted by multiple water balloons, and to lose total control, but it’s fantastic! You will be exhausted by the end of the day, but you will know it was worth it because of all the smiles you saw on the kid’s faces.

7. Relationship
Overall the greatest thing about camp is relationship. You learn so much about your relationship with the Lord. You will grow like crazy in your faith. You create relationships with the kids. After the three weeks come to an end, you will know the kids by name. You will know their personalities, and what makes them smile. Finally, you create relationships with the other interns/counselors. People who you have never met before will become some of your closest friends.

Being a camp counselor is not an easy job.  Some days will be tough, some days will be very challenging, some days the kids will be in a weird mood, and some days you will just not have any energy. However, you are there for a reason! Ask the Lord for endurance. He will give you enough. When you feel beaten down, pray. The Lord will lift you back up. Jesus is at the center of it all. You are there to be a blessing to the kids, but you will be surprised at just how much they are going to bless you.

Overwhelmed with Love

By: Megan Hemmingsen, Physical Therapist & LiveBeyond volunteer

By: Megan Hemmingsen, Physical Therapist & LiveBeyond volunteer

My first trip to Haiti was in February 2015 through my company, STAR Physical Therapy, and again two years later in January 2017. I had felt called to mission work, but it wasn’t until I got an email about a trip to Haiti that I answered God’s call. My hope was to, in some small way, help the people I met. Little did I know how much the people of Thomazeau and both experiences would change my life. You don’t spend a week in Thomazeau without truly experiencing God’s presence and handiwork.

Both my trips were heavily involved in Johnny’s Kids. These are beautiful, resilient children that happen to have physical disabilities. In America, children with disabilities have doctors, therapies, medicines, and even support groups to aide in their independence and functional mobility. This is not the case in Haiti. In fact, my trip in 2015 was the first physical or occupational therapy any of them had ever had. I could have easily gotten caught up in how much more functional each of them would be had they been born in America, but their spirits are so inspiring that instead I became overwhelmed with love for each of them.

When I first met Nadia, she couldn’t walk without significant assistance. By the end of my first trip, she was able to walk the length of the clinic by herself, but needed one of us close by just in case she lost her balance. Two years later, she is independently walking to and from LiveBeyond. I am a physical therapist, and I have seen many people take their first steps after a surgery or a neurological event, but watching Nadia walk up to the clinic brought tears to my eyes. This is just a glimpse of God’s hands at work when you come to Thomazeau.

My second trip was just as emotional, because now I got to witness all the progress that has been made. One of the most rewarding moments of my second trip was watching Lancy and Pierre Richard be baptized. To watch these two kids commit their lives to Christ was a moment I will never forget. There is so much evil in Haiti that proclaiming God as your Savior results in bodily harm.

This is something Doudelie knows all too well. She was a new friend I made on my second trip. Laurie told us how Doudelie’s family was very involved in voodoo and did not approve of her coming to church at LiveBeyond. Doudelie then wanted to be baptized knowing her family would not approve. Her story is the most vivid example of God’s grace I have ever seen. She was willing to stand up for God because of what He had done in her life. As Laurie told us of her baptism, I found myself wondering how many of my family and friends, myself included, would so boldly stand up for God in the wealthiest and most religiously free country in the world.

Before I ever left Haiti in February 2015, I knew I would be coming back to serve. My faith was tested and strengthened in the six days I spent in Haiti. I came back from my first trip with a brand new perspective on life. I learned so much about the God we serve and just how wondrous His works are. I thought I had felt God’s presence before this trip, but there are no words to describe how compelling His presence is in Haiti. I struggled coming back home after that first trip. There were bigger things in this world than complaining about how long I had to wait at a restaurant or what song we sang at church. Now, instead of seeing a need to complain, I saw Annette and the inhumane conditions she lived. I wasn’t starving, I was hungry; Stevenson and Kenson were starving before God intervened.

These life-changing experiences would have never been possible if it had not been for the amazing company I work for, STAR Physical Therapy. It’s rare to find a company that allows employees to grow professionally and spiritually, and probably more rare that they promote your spiritual growth through mission work. STAR provided our way to Thomazeau and the amazing experiences we had are carried over in our patient care. Since my first trip, STAR has supported three total trips to Thomazeau through LiveBeyond. Each trip allows for the people of Thomazeau, especially Johnny’s Kids to have a plan of care developed and continued by therapists. These trips have changed me and I will always be grateful to work for a company that supports service to all.

I cannot wait to return to Thomazeau and the awesome people we have served. There is still work to be done, oppression to eradicate, and lives to be saved. I encourage anyone or any company that wants to make a difference to consider Thomazeau and LiveBeyond. The people of Thomazeau have taught me to live intentionally and to encounter all I meet as if they are Lancy or Doudelie.

 

Megan Hemmingsen is a physical therapist in Clarksville, Tennessee. She received her BS from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2010 and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2013.