Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas In Haiti

Aloha everyone - or Bon Jou (good morning) as we say in Creole

Well, our Base Camp in Haiti is closed down for the holidays as all our staff are taking a much needed rest. I'm in Florida now but look forward to returning to my "home" in Haiti at the end of the month. Over the last month or so we haven't had as many teams in Haiti as earlier in the year, but still lots of work got done !

In Jeremie, some of our staff, along with a small team from DC, finished the bathrooms, storeroom and bunk beds - enabling the orphanage children to move into their new home. The bunk beds and dorm rooms are in such contrast to where they used to sleep. What a blessing to see the completion of something that was started over a year ago with the purchase of property for the new church and orphanage. And you may remember that our church in Honolulu - New Hope Diamond Head - donated money that was used to purchase the new property in Jeremie. Thank-you again New Hope Diamond Head for starting something to bless the Jeremie children and congregation. And thank-you to all the others - churches and individuals - who donated money and time to build the new church and orphanage on the Jeremie property. Their lives are permanently changed for the better by your love and donations. The work in Jeremie is not finished, but the children now have a wonderful new place to live (and go to school) and the church congregation has such a beautiful place to worship God.

Back closer to Port-au-Prince the work continues on the Torcelle Orphanage (I previously referred to as Bellande's orphanage). After lots of work relocating the stream, and building a canal along the edge of the property, we were finally able to building concrete footings and start the structure for the new orphanage. Currently the kids that will live in the new orphanage are living in two different places. Six of the youngest girls live with us at Base Camp and the others live in a temporary house close to the new orphanage. Eventually we hope to have 25 children in this orphanage.

The other exciting project at the Torcelle property is the new church. Now that the stream is moved and the property protected from flooding, this summer and fall we were able to build a beautiful temporary church structure for the congregation. After we finished the wood framing and roof, the Haitian congregation finished the floor, platform for the pulpit, the tarps for the walls and all the church decorations. Pastor Bellande used to have his church services in a tiny rented house close by, but on December 4th, the congregation had their first church service on the new Torcelle property. It was especially exciting for me to attend and celebrate with the congregation. Even though I am just getting to know many of them, I can easily see their love for God. Pastor Bellande asked for me to share a couple thoughts during the service and all that studying Creole finally paid off as I was able to share with the congregation in their language without an interpreter (although I probably sounded like a two year old trying to talk to them ! Ha !!).

And we continue to assist with the tent city near our base camp church. So far this year we've been able to install over 100 tarps on existing tents to stop the roof leaks and set up over 30 new tents for the families there. One of the joys of working with the tent city Haitians is seeing the new babies born there. They start out life in such difficult conditions, yet they also bring great joy to their families. Often I've been asked to pray for the newborns and it such a blessing to pray over these young ones - they may have to live very difficult lives, but God loves them and it's an honor to pray for them.

Have a great Christmas and we'll see you next year !!

God bless

Mark Olson,Foursquare Haiti

The finished Jeremie church & orphanage with many of the orphans and school children ready to start their school day.

Two of the children in the Jeremie orphanage admiring their new bunk beds and brand new living quarters.

The new Torcelle orphanage - slowly climbing out of the ground, along with the pile of sand we use to make the masonry mortar. In the background you can see some of the hard working ladies from the Torcelle church making our lunch over an open fire !

The Torcelle congregation having their very first Sunday service in the new church. Without moving the stream this church would not have been possible. Our temporary footbridge over the new stream canal is in the foreground of the right hand photo. The new Torcelle orphanage is being built behind the new church.

And just a few of the children who will live in the new Torcelle orphanage. Some of the cutest kids on the planet in their new school uniforms ! The girl on the left if Jesula (pronounced Jezi-la - which means "Jesus is here"). She is one of the care givers for the orphanage children.

One of those beautiful new born babies in our local tent city. This baby lives with her mom, grandmother and great grandmother in the same tent !! The grandmother is Keket who gave her heart to the Lord in the spring of this year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sha Bang Bang Maunalani Luau #2

A Fundraiser for Harris 2 Haiti

Aaron Harris will be heading back down to Haiti for a more long term commitment in the beginning of January 2012 and holding a fundraiser lu'au. This event will include Hawaiian food and entertainment. Come enjoy an evening of good food & fun all for a great cause!

What: Sha Bang Bang Maunalani Luau #2 for Harris 2 Haiti

When: Saturday, November 12, 6:00-10:00pm

Where: 5136 Maunalani Circle, Honolulu, HI 96816

Tickets: $15 via Aaron Harris or hawaiitohaiti@yahoo.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back to Hawaii from Haiti

Aloha everyone,

It's been way too long since my last update. September was a pretty busy month as a couple of our staff headed home for some rest. And then near the end of the month I left for a short break to see my family in Florida and my church family in Hawaii. Visited my daughter in Florida and celebrated my twin grand kids first birthday. What a great time ! My mom also visited and we had four generations at the birthday bash ! Then visited my mom for a few days at her home, and then to Hawaii to see my church family there. While in Hawaii I was able to share what God is doing in Haiti. Aaron Harris and I shared a slide show of our time in Haiti and a couple personal stories, sprinkled with a few brief comments in Creole - was so fun !! God richly blessed that time in Hawaii and a number of people said they were moved to make changes in their lives as a result of sharing about Haiti.

Thank you so very much to all my friends in Honolulu for such a wonderful time visiting a week ago. You were all such a blessing to me. I am so privileged to be part of such a wonderful family at New Hope Diamond Head. And to the many other friends outside of the NHDH family - thank you too. I love you all.

Landed back in Haiti this evening and getting right back into the work here. And so great to see my Haiti "family" and friends ! Tomorrow is church so I will be going to the tent city to pick up a bunch of friends that live there to bring them to church. Can't wait to see them !!

Blessings !!

Pastor Mark

p.s. - Next update will be very soon and bring every one up to speed on the happenings in Haiti !!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricanes in Haiti

Two hurricanes have missed us !!! Praise God !! Two straight hurricanes this past month have avoided us here in Haiti and we are very grateful. We don't want them harming others either, but we are grateful the hurricanes have bypassed us. With 600,000 or more people still living in tents, a hurricane (or even a heavy tropical storm) would reek havoc with the lives of so many people here. Thank you Lord for your mercies !

Since my last update we've taken two more teams to Jeremie. The first team was a four man team from the east coast and we took the infamous public bus ! They were thrilled with the experience but afterwards they did ask about flying to Jeremie the next time they come to Haiti ! Ha! With this team, we started the bathrooms for the church/orphanage and poured the concrete slab. The next team was large (15 people) so we rented a bus for ourselves and made the trip in "semi-comfort" (that team will laugh when they see the words - "semi-comfort". Ha !) This team continued work on the bathrooms and also began painting the church. We also installed window protection (security bars) and built some "proto-type" bunk beds to see if we could economize on the cost for all the bunk beds for the orphanage children.

It is so very exciting to see the Jeremie project coming together. The church was used this month for the first time when a mission team from the National Foursquare church came for a week to do evangelizing in Jeremie. Forty Haitian church members from my Haitian home church came to serve. They slept in the incomplete orphanage upstairs and held services each night downstairs in the partially completed church. What a wonderful time seeing people come to the Lord. Nearly 200 people made commitments to the Lord during that week in the evening services at the new church building. And it was so cool to see God putting the new building to use before it's even completed !!

When we started painting the new church everyone in the neighborhood wanted to help and we had a dozen or more local Haitians working alongside the American team - caulking, prepping and painting the exterior of the building. What a transformation - now it is really starting to look like a church. We are hoping and praying to be able to move the children into the new orphanage in another month or so. Still lots to do, but getting so close to completion !

Back in Port-au-Prince the work continues with the tent city, Girl's orphanage, new church and orphanage for Pastor Bellandes congregation and so many other things. Way too much to cover in one email. The new property for Pastor Bellandes congregation and orphanage was dedicated in August and we are moving full steam ahead making that property ready for construction. We are currently moving a stream that runs through the property and yesterday began building a temporary church structure. The temporary church is needed since the congregation has to move out of their current location before the end of September and we can't build the permanent church by then.

This coming week we will finally get the razor wire protection on the top of the security wall for the Girl's Orphanage. That's exciting, but even more is the new well which was drilled two weeks ago. When completed, the girls will have the same free drinkable water that we have at the National church property. This well will also provide free clean water to the local community surrounding the girl's orphanage (as we have done with the other wells we've drilled).

So much more to tell and show you all. I'll try to get another update out before we head back to Jeremie again around September 10th.

God bless you all,


Jeremie church and orphanage - Painting is almost complete, security windows installed and ready for worship services to begin !!

Evangelistic services in the new church in Jeremie. Nearly 200 people made commitments to the Lord during that week !!

That's me and two of the Santa Barbara team standing behind the security door at the new Jeremie church.

And there is the infamous bus to Jeremie !! We've just arrived in Jeremie on the public bus. Every trip is a journey to remember !!

Here's the canal we are building to move the stream out of Bellande's church/orphanage property. Once the stream is moved it will just about double the usable land on the church property.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Latest and Greatest

Aloha everyone,

After returning from Jeremie at the end of June, it's amazing how fast July has flown by. God's work continues here and we love being a part of it. Aaron Harris went home last week and we miss him terribly. I am certain he will return. He is a blessing to the ministry here and I am sure God will bring him back in time.

Since my last update I went to Jeremie again with just my translator. We inspected the plaster (looks beautiful !), got the window framing started with our Haitian carpenter and negotiated making the windows for the church with another Haitian contractor. It's so nice to see the project moving ahead. Running short on funds though (which is always the case !) but we should have enough to finish the church, orphanage and maybe some bathrooms. Eventually we want to build a school here, as well as some self sufficiency projects when God brings in the funds.

Monday we tried to take another team to Jeremie on a rented bus. They were going to paint the outside plaster and do some other work, as well as do a "Vacation Bible School" for the children in the orphanage. We left out of base camp at 6 am in one of those "military style" buses I mentioned in my last update. I say "tried" to take them to Jeremie because about 6 hours out of base camp, on the mountain road to Jeremie, we encountered a road block and could not pass. That morning someone had killed a Government Representative from Jeremie and the killer (supposedly the representative's own body guard !) lived in the area we were in. Angry residents from that mountain town blockaded the road and would not let anyone (Haitian or American) pass. They rolled huge boulders across the road and were standing around shouting and not allowing anyone to pass. We eventually had to back down the mountain road for nearly half a mile to find a place to turn the huge bus around. We discussed our options with the team leaders and finally decided to go back home to base camp to avoid the possibility of exposing the team to any danger. So for another 6 hours (plus stopping to get food) we road that huge bus all the way home - 13 1/2 hours total in the bus !! What a long day !! But the team was fantastic ! They were all junior and senior high school students and their leaders from Washington state and there was absolutely no complaining from anyone - what a great group of people !! It was a disappointment not to get to Jeremie, especially as the people there were expecting us, but we know that God had other plans for this team. So since Monday we worked on the church property, set up another new tent in the tent city and poured a new concrete "entry ramp" for the girl's orphanage front gate. We've broken two mufflers at the entry into the girl's orphanage property these last few months since the entry is so rough and steep !! (they both broke off as we tried to drive in !) After losing the second muffler, we decided to fix the problem and did so yesterday. It looks great and hopefully will make it much easier to get in and out of the girl's orphanage from now on !!

Work continues on the National Church property and now with the larger facility the church is growing quickly. Last week the building was almost filled to capacity ! One of the things I enjoy a lot is picking up people in the tent city on Sundays to bring them to church. It's a tiny little "bus ministry" and is such fun. Usually I drive over to the tents about 45 minutes before church and gather up anyone who wants to come in our base camp van. A couple times I brought bread rolls for them to eat on the way to church. It's a great time to practice my Creole as I "knock" on their tent "doors" and get them all loaded up in the van for church. Sometimes it's mostly children and other times it's mostly adults. My closest friends there - John, Junior, Miquel, Gerald, Carmen, Kekett and one or two others are regulars, but we often have "first timers" come along too. As I enter the tent city to pick them up, it's also a time to really see how they live - sometimes eating nothing and sometimes eating just a tiny bit for breakfast, then doing dishes with dirty water in a bucket squatting down in front of their tents. Then they put on their "Sunday best" which is often clothing that we would probably throw away and not even bother to give to the Salvation Army ! But they want to come to church and try to get dressed up. One thing they are always needing is shoes. They don't want to go to church in their broken down old flip flops (which is what many of them wear all the time). They want regular shoes for church. We have begun asking teams that are coming to work in Haiti to bring men and women shoes so we can give to them and get them to come to church. I am praying for an increase there (with shoes for them all) that will require a huge bus to bring them all to church !!

Another thing we just started two weeks ago is an English service at the National Church. The Haitians want to learn English so badly and this is an opportunity to learn English as well as worship the Lord. The service is much smaller than the Creole service, but I am certain will grow in time. The Americans, of course, also love it since the teams usually have no idea what's going on in the Creole service.

Last week the Washington team decided to bless the girls in the girls orphanage with a meal - so they cooked up a giant pot of spaghetti and we took it over to them Saturday at lunchtime. At first the girls were hesitant, but soon their hunger overcame their shyness and they devoured the spaghetti. We watched numerous girls, no more than 10 years old, come back for two and even three plates full !! A number of the team members didn't even try to eat as we watched the girls gulp down the food with smiles on their faces. We didn't want to take away any of what they could be eating. After lunch the team did some skits and then painted the girls nails with fingernail polish. The team decided to wash the girls' feet before painting their nails (it's pretty dirty there and the girls are often barefoot). At first the girls didn't seem to want their feet washed but, again, pretty soon they were loving it. As they were getting to the end of nail painting it started to rain so we all headed for cover at the girls new dorms. Some of the teenagers on the team decided to play in the rain and the girls thought that was so funny ! Haitians don't generally like the rain and quickly head for cover whenever a shower approaches. To watch the Americans dancing and singing in the rainstorm was hilarious to them !

Another team from Las Vegas was also here last week and did a medical clinic in the church similar to what we did back in May. Hundreds of people from all over the community came for free medical attention. It is such a great way to bless the community and connect with them. We had helpers who prayed with the patients, and others who just played with the children of the patients, colored, blew up balloons, or simply held the children while their parents got attended to. Great time of loving on the local people ! This week the same team went out to Les Cayes (another remote province) to do a second medical clinic. Although I didn't go to that one, it went great and continues to the end of the week.

And another team from Georgia came, drove two hours every day for three days and build a small church structure in the mountains by a town called Las Cahobas. From the road it's about a 30 minute hike straight up the mountain to the church property. Their Haitian brothers in Christ carried all the lumber, roofing tin, generator and other supplies that would have killed me to carry. But for them it's simply a days work.

The work continues all over Haiti. Haiti has such great need. Many wonderful things have been done in Haiti since the earthquake of January 2010, but there is so much more to do. I am so happy to be a tiny little part of what God is doing here.

Blessings to all,

Mark Olson

Team Coordinator

Foursquare Haiti

The almost completed church and orphanage in Jeremie with the new entry and "steeple". The masonry block in the foreground is a neighbor's new house. They asked me if we wanted to buy their property when I was there in February, but I said no. I told them to build their house and then come to our church. Maybe they will now that they are building it !!

A few of the kids in the Jeremie orphanage. You can't help but love these children !!

Getting ready to feed the girls in the orphanage their spaghetti feast !

One of my tent city adopted "daughters" and another baby who seems to like us Americans !! But I tell my Haitian friends here that I love these people so much that I am "preske aysiyen" (almost haitian)!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Journey to Jeremie...And Back

Aloha again !!

Well, just got back from working in Jeremie, Haiti for the last three weeks. We don't have any internet at the base camp there so I couldn't communicate with the world for a long time.

The work in Jeremie is going very well. We started a new church and orphanage there in February (I wrote about it then) but have not had any teams available to go back since then - until now. This trip the team built the front entry to the church and started plastering the outside to prepare for paint. When it's done, the new building will be a beautiful white "stucco" looking building with the church downstairs and orphanage upstairs. Pastor Casamajor is such a great man of god and serves his church people and community very well. He also heads up the orphanage and takes care of 45 children. I headed to Jeremie a few days before the team arrived to make preparations and measure each child in the orphanage for a new school uniform. A church in Charlotte, N.C. received a donation of $ 1,500 for school uniform material for the Jeremie children and our own Pastor Rosinell (assistant pastor at the National Foursquare church where I normally live) is going to make all the uniforms.

When the Charlotte N.C. work team arrived we jumped right into construction - built a front entry and "steeple" so the building looks more like a church. We also did some minor changes to the structure that was started in February. Working in Jeremie is so fun - and we have become the community entertainment. We call it the "blanc show". In Haiti we are "blanc" (white) and for some reason, watching us cut lumber, drive nails - or even just stand around talking - is so interesting to them ! One local lady even brought a chair to sit on the side of the road and watch us work. But their curiosity also provides such a wonderful opportunity to minister. I often ask the kids and even the adults - "ou renmen Jezi ?" (do you love Jesus ?) They are so responsive and developing relationships with them is so rewarding ! I am thankful beyond words to be able to serve here.

One Sunday Pastor Casamajor preached a great message on being patient for God's blessing (or course I don't know Creole well so the interpreter helped me understand !) Pastor knew his congregation would want to move in the church quickly as they watched us work, so he was wise to talk to them about patience since he knew the building would not be done before we had to leave and head home. After greeting visitors that morning he asked each one a question in Creole and after one young woman responded he waved at me to go outside to talk with her. Of course I had no idea what he wanted so I asked my translator what was going on. He told me the woman wanted to give her heart to the Lord and Pastor wanted me to pray with her. I was so humbled and blessed. Through my translator, I talked to the lady and we prayed with her for Jesus to come into her life. Afterward I was able to give her a new Creole Bible thanks to the generosity of the Charlotte church team. What a wonderful day !!

The two cooks we had for the team were wonderful. They cooked great Haitian food and even cooked (although I think a little reluctantly !) some "American" style meals to make the team feel more at home. After the team left, they continued to cook for me and my translator until we left. One morning after breakfast I was sitting at the base camp table and the head cook came around the corner from shopping at the open market with a huge smile on her face. With great excitement she told me she had a "sipriz" (Creole for "surprise") for me for lunch. I followed her in the kitchen, watched her open the bag and dump it's contents into a huge pot. I looked in to find the liver, lungs, heart and miscellaneous other "unknown" inner parts of a goat. She couldn't wait to cook it all up for me and made me try pieces of it before serving it for lunch. Of course I told her how excited I was to have such a "wonderful surprise" and couldn't wait for lunch. I did, however, ask my translator how long it would take to get to the nearest medical clinic - "just in case" !! Ha ! But it all turned out fine and actually tasted great - and I so much appreciated her love and generosity !

After spending nearly three weeks in Jeremie it was so very hard to leave. The neighborhood was getting used to seeing us and the children always said "Bonjou Pastor Mark" each day as I walked down the dirt road from base camp to the new church building. After the Charlotte team left, I stayed on another few days to work and help the Haitian laborers get the plaster work on the church started properly. On my last day I gathered all the Haitian workers together, along with anyone else who wanted to listen, and shared with them how blessed I was working with them to build this new church and orphanage. I prayed for them and for God to use this new facility and them hugged them all. A few tears were shed - even among the Haitian laborers - as we said good-bye for a time. Hope to be back there later in July to finish the job and get the children moved into their new home and the church into their new place of worship.

The trip home from Jeremie was quite an experience. I couldn't get a confirmed reservation to fly home so I took the "Jeremie bus" back to Port-au-Prince. The bus is a very old, heavy duty - almost military style - bus that's designed for about 50 people. They cram, however, nearly 70 people in the bus and of course I'm the only non-Haitian. All the luggage is lashed down on the roof and a few guys ride up there as well. The journey is only 150 miles, but it's still a nine hour drive. At least 60 miles of it are dirt roads and some are narrow winding mountain roads that are one vehicle wide with a 500 foot drop off only inches from the edge of the road. At times I felt like the Holy Spirit was the only thing holding the bus on the road, but there were other times I felt like we were in a run away freight train driven by Satan himself !! When the road is open and straight, the driver "puts the pedal to the metal" and pushes as hard as he can. When he comes up on another vehicle, he simple lays on the horn (which you can hear for miles !) and goes around what ever is in the way. We drove the same route a few weeks ago delivering lumber and it took almost 14 hours, so you can imagine how fast the bus was going to shave nearly five hours off the trip !! What a wild ride !! But the scenery was magnificent. Beautiful mountain country that often reminded me of the Big Island or Kauai. Going through one village I noticed a smokey fire on the edge of the stream ahead and as we got closer I saw a man burning the hair off his freshly killed pig with another lady next to him cleaning the insides out of her freshly killed pig at the edge of the stream. Made me smile as I thought what would happen if I ever saw that going on at water's edge in Honolulu !! Ha !

Love you all,


The side of the new church and orphanage with the plaster crew working hard. In the foreground is the church "laundromat". Ladies from the church wash clothes in the yard next to the new church, since we have a water source, and then lay the clothes out on the grass to dry.

Part of the "blanc show" as neighbors watch the team working. Notice the lady with the chair who came prepared to sit all day and just watch us work.

Building the new front entry of the church as the plaster crew works on the side.

Some of the orphan children who are anxious to move into their new living quarters. It was so fun talking and laughing with them during our visit. They taught me how to sing "Jesus loves the little children" in Creole and we sang it every time we got together.

Here's the existing church and school they use. Can't wait til they get in the new one !!!

Our wonderful and talented cooks in Jeremie - Fabienne on the left and Madame Roman on the right.