Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back on Haitian Soil

Back on Haitian soil. Although the transition between the two countries never gets easier for me, when my feet hit the ground - it is well with my soul. 

Coming back to Haiti this year has an interesting twist. I had a travel partner this time! Laura (also from PA) has moved to Haiti to teach at the school. The timing worked out perfectly that I was in need of a roommate, so she moved in. Our first 36 hours back was spent cleaning, unpacking, and organizing our little apartment. 

I finally made it out to Jubilee last night and one by one my students came running to greet me as word spread that I was back. There is absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing in the world like a tiny child full of love running full speed at you and launching into your arms. Hearing Nikol, my favorite Haitian parent, tell me that her son had a calendar count down all summer for me to come back broke my heart a little.  The love in this place runs deep. 

God blessed me this summer with incredible new friends and precious time with old friends. I lived fully in PA and now I'm preparing my heart to live fully present in Haiti this year.  I'm trusting God in His leading, and I'm ready for the surprises He has in store for me. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

New Beginnings

I've been pretty silent on the blog-waves for many months.  2014-2015 was a hard school year for me in many ways, and it was impossible for me to voice my thoughts on this blog, mostly because at the time, I didn't understand my own thoughts.  I wrestled with God for a good portion of the school year as time with my best friends and roommates began to dwindle away.

In May, I had to say goodbye to not one, but two of my best and closest friends in the world.  My friendship with Keziah began in Port-au-Prince in 2010 and continued on as we eventually became roommates in Gonaives.  She left in May to move back to America and begin a new adventure.  Tia, my bestest friend/coworker/upstairs roommate/kindred spirit, also moved back to America in May and will be getting married this fall!  Seeing them leave our home permanently and say goodbye to all of our Haitian friends was one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time.  I will miss them more than words can express.

But in their absence, God is still good and a new adventure begins this weekend.  I will be getting brand new roommate and co-worker, Laura!  I met Laura in 2011 while visiting a church in PA.  She approached me with excitement when she heard I was living in Haiti, and she asked if she could come visit me there.  That was where our friendship began - when I let a complete stranger come live with me for almost 2 weeks in Port-au-Prince!  During that time, she expressed to me the desire she had in her heart to live and work in Haiti one day.  She was only 19 years old and still in college.  I had heard many people say those same words before only to never follow through.  So, I didn't have much hope for her to ever come live in Haiti.  Fast forward a few years, and at the same time my roommate Kez was planning to move to America, Laura decided to move to Haiti.

She prayed a lot, completed our application process, began raising support, and tomorrow she will be flying back to Haiti with me to be my new roommate and join us as a teacher at Academie La Saline.    This girl has never once set foot in Gonaives, much less Jubilee - our beloved ghetto.  But her love for Haiti is unshakable, much like her faith, and she is certain of where she is supposed to be.  Please keep this warrior in your prayers as she leaps out in faith and moves to Haiti this weekend.  Pray for her as she learns a new language, culture, city, and lifestyle. (her blog:

Help Odilove and Cassandra

In the spring of this year, I grew close to a family that lives behind our lunchroom/preschool building.  On my daily rides to school, I pass the smiling faces of Odilove and Cassandra.  Most days they are stark naked and yelling my name as they jump up and down with excitement.  Some days they would run into my arms in a full sprint asking me when they could come to school, too.

These two children are living in a small mud home along with many other family members.  As the new preschool director, it is my responsibility to select the new incoming preschoolers.  Daily, the Lord put these two children on my heart as I planned for preschool enrollment.  Despite not having the proper documentation that we require, I decided to enroll them anyway.

This summer, Odil passed away.  He was father to Odilove and grandfather to Cassandra.  He was a friend and neighbor to many people in Jubilee and he was also a local voodoo priest.  Many of us prayed for him and his family.  In one conversation I had with him this spring, he told me he was done with voodoo but not ready to surrender to Christ yet.  A few days after he passed away, his daughter also died suddenly and unexpectedly (mother to Cassandra and sister to Odilove).  These two precious little ones are now being cared for by their remaining family.

Often times in situations like this, families will send the kids away to the countryside to be taken care of by others.  I believe there is a reason that God put these kids on my heart this year, and I believe that Jubilee is where they need to stay.  My dear friends, Brian and Cody Smith are working to raise $2,500 in order to build this family a better home.  This will help alleviate a huge burden on the family and hopefully encourage them not to send the children away.

I'm humbly asking you to consider helping this family in their loss.  Please join me in praying for this family and specifically that Odilove and Cassandra will be able to stay in Jubilee and start school this September.  To help get them a new home, you can send donations to the address listed below.  Please do not write in the check memo, but on a separate note specify that your donation is for "Haiti Homebuilding/Brian & Cody Smith"

Mail to:
The Storehouse, PO Box 540782, Omaha NE 68154-0782 

If you prefer to donate online, please go to this link: 

When choosing to donate online, you must send an email to Kristen Klaassen at to let her know you are designating your donation for "Haiti Homebuilding/Brian and Cody Smith".

Matthew 25:34-40

Then, the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mind, you did for me."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Blessed Day

It is true that every day is a gift from God, but there are some days that I know Jesus showers special blessings and gifts upon me.  Yesterday was one of those days. 

Going to the clothing market in Gonaives is similar to going to a flea market or a yard sale.  You find various vendors each with little tables set up where you can dig through their piles of used clothing in search of a good find.  The clothing market is usually hit or miss.  Frequently, I find that the vendors are pushy, rude, and cranky.  If you look but don’t purchase they will sometimes yell, complain, or curse at you.  But, every now and then you catch them on a good day.  Thankfully, that happened yesterday.  Every vendor that my friends and I encountered was absolutely sweet and gentle and there was truly a sense of peace wherever we went.

As we wandered around looking at the various stands and tables full of clothing, I heard a woman behind me say, “That looks like the “blan” (white person) that prayed for us.”  I smiled and turned realizing that they were talking about me.  Two or three years ago on a similar walk through the market, I met the same man and woman.  They had been harassing me and I ended up laying on hands praying for both of them.  Since that day, each time our paths cross they refer to me as “the blan that prayed for us”.  

Yesterday as I smiled at them and said hello, the woman said, “When are you going to pray for me again?”  I laughed, “Do you want me to pray for you again?” I asked.  She responded saying, “Yes of course!  The last time you prayed for me lots of things in my life changed!”  I was stunned.  If I recall, that day I prayed for her husband’s injured knee to be healed, and it wasn’t.  I even remember a slight feeling of disappointment after I left the market.  

“I’ll pray for you now if you want.” I told her.  She explained that she needed prayer because she has been feelings persecuted.  So, right there in the market my two friends and I laid hands on this woman and prayed for her again.

It was a moment of encouragement that I needed.  It was a bolstering of faith, it reminded me that He is moving.  God is so good.  He is good even when I can’t see it, even when He seems silent, and even when I misunderstand Him.  He moves through me - despite me, and I can’t thank Him enough. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

100th Day of School!

Since the first day of school, each  my 1st graders have been practicing place value by counting the number of school days we've had.  I promised my students that when it was the 100th day of school, we would have a special day.  I told them I might even invite a 100 year old to come celebrate with us.  Needless to say, they met the 100th day with much anticipation.

The morning of the 100th day I requested help from my friend so I could transform myself from 27 to 100 years old.  Its amazing what a little make up and baby powder can do!

Dressing up as an old person anywhere is comical, in Haiti it makes you an absolute comedian.  Both the teachers and kids were beside themselves as they watched "Grandma Katie" in all her glory shuffling around with a walking stick.  Some teachers helped me walk.  I became quite a spectacle.

Some of the kids were slightly freaked out by my wrinkly appearance while others thought it was hilarious. Some of the kids knew instantly it was actually just me in costume. Other kids weren't
quite sure what to believe. 

The more I stayed in character, the more some kids started treating me as if I really was 100: opening doors for me, carrying things for me, and speaking extra loudly for me to hear them. 

Throughout the day we made 100th day hats, did a candy hunt to find the 100 pieces of candy that were hidden in my room, wrote 100th day poems, did special math activies, and drew portraits of ourselves at 100 years old. 

We shared the 100th day fun with the other classes by delivering 100 pieces of candy to the students and teachers in the other classes. 

It was a fun filled day for my class and me!!  All the kids wanted to know when Grandma Katie would come visit again. I told them their would have to wait until next years' 100th day. 

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