Death. Life. Run.

Time has really got away from me. There are 16 days left in 2014 and this is only my third post of the year! I just might have to resolve to do better at blogging in the new year!

I have been running a lot lately. The last time I trained for a half marathon was 2010; I was living in America and I was not a believer, well not a follower at least. The last time I trained for a half marathon I was running with the Team in Training and raising money towards cancer research. I ran for Todd, a piece of my heart who lost his battle with cancer.

This time around training has been a bit different.

I am training on the trash covered streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti as opposed to the snow covered streets of Rochester, New York.

I am training sporadically, depending on time and heat and where the latest riots are taking place as opposed to the regimented group training I remember from 2010.

And this time, I am running for life, not death.

I am again running with a group, or more for a group. This time I am running for TeacHaiti, a non profit in Haiti, a school started by my good friend, Miquette McMahon. A group of us are running to raise money for TeacHaiti.

This time I am running for education, for life.

Since moving to Haiti life has changed me. I have stumbled across many organizations here that breath life into not only the people of this country, but also those of us who have come to call it home. So many of them who are involved in education in one way or another.

Some organizations have taught me exactly what I don’t want to be involved in, while others have shown me how to live.

I am running for education.

Education is knowing and loving (and being immensely loved by) the midwives at Heartline Haiti, who have taught me how to be a better woman, who have so much love and affection for the women of Haiti, the mommas and essentially the future. The midwives who educate women on breast feeding, caring for a new infant and even contraceptives and the rights we have as women, as humans.  Education is learning I have value.

Education is what I do as a teacher at Quisqueya Christian School. It is standing in front of my classroom in my Senior Transitions class, in front of my seniors and tell them to stand up against peer pressure. Not to be the norm, but to be the change. To stand firm in your faith, to go out of your way to love, to forgive and to live. It is the education I am gaining from knowing them, teaching them; from loving them. Education is seeking after wisdom.

“My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.” Psalm 49:3

Education is breaking the cycle of poverty. It’s knowing there is something better out there, something more. It is having a dream, wanting a better life-a better life for yourself, a better life for your children. Education is more than going to school and learning, it is knowing you are beyond blessed for the opportunity to go to school, to learn. Education is finding life in the wisdom we seek.

“and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” Exodus 35:31

Education is life.

Education is knowing there is more to this life, knowing Jesus died on the cross to wash away my sin. Knowing Jesus loves me, knowing God is looking out for me, knowing the Spirit is breathing life into me. Education is value, it is wisdom, it is life.

This time, I am running for life. I am running for education and whatever that might mean to you, but for me, it means life. For me, it means coming to Haiti. It means realizing there is freedom in my beliefs, there is freedom in Jesus, wisdom in education and life in wisdom.

As I ran my six miles yesterday, I found myself needing to recall the reason I am doing this run. In the heat, struggling to put in the miles, to wake up early, to run up that hill (because everything is up, even when you are going down, you’re still going up). I remembered my education. The life lessons I have learned, the life I was born into where education was not an option, but a requirement-given to ALL. Haiti is so different. Education is not for all. Freedom is not for all. The gospel is not for all; it has not yet reached every house hold, every ear, every soul. I took so much for granted growing up in the states, but Haiti has taught me so much.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” Proverbs 19:8

I think its perfect this run is happening around the Christmas season. Its perfect I am running to raise money for TeacHaiti (click here if you want to help me do that). It’s perfect that it’s hard and challenging and even up hill as so much of life can seem to be. It is perfect that this time I am running for life, not death.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

The Beauty of Roses

Often I reflect on my time in Haiti and think, man I want to write a book. I wrestle with writing a book when I know (or pray) my story is far from over. I have had a long journey over the last four years and have met some amazing people who I have written about. Most often I am reminded of them by Facebook’s stellar news feed. I often reflect on the people I have met here in Haiti when driving around; landmarks or restaurants reminding me of days gone by.

I know I have written about many of these people during my time over the years. I think of the difficult times I had, the days spent in prayer and uncertainty. Uncomfortable, hard days. Days when I now can look back and see the Lord at work. Days that were so overwhelming while I was in them, better days seemed far far away. Better days come and go, and I am grateful to know He has walked me through it all.

Sometimes I think back at those days and I can help but think, “How selfish am I.” How selfish am I to think my days were hard compared to those outside the gates of the various places I was so fortunate to lay my head down on. How selfish am I compared to the millions, starving, beaten, abused, broken, fighting their battle. Never have I gone to bed hungry or cold. Never have I gone to bed thinking, “God are you still there?”

The last four years has grown my faith in unmeasurable ways. Hardships I have experienced seem to be the thorn’s on the stem of flowers. If it weren’t for my thorns, I never would have come to the roses.

Facebook as I mentioned is a great reminder of the roses I have met over my time in Haiti. Today I was reminded of one woman in particular. I was staying temporarily at a guest house after what I thought was a devastating situation. I was reminded of God’s grace, how “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I am not sure I will ever lose the childish amazement when the Lord reveals himself in these situations. Here I am years later and still blessed, still seeing God use situations for His glory.

Over my time at the guest house, I met Stephanie Bowman. Stephanie was serving on a team with her two daughters. In a time I was really missing my own mom, I found myself drawn to Stephanie. She opened up to me and told me her story; addicted to drugs, abused, pregnant, but in the end, she has conquered. Like myself, Stephanie’s story is far from over, but I am count myself blessed to meet such a woman. Stephanie’s story is still going strong. She has taken her difficult situation and has turned it around to help others. She gives back to those who are not yet able to help themselves. Completely aware of what life can be like for women, Stephanie had a dream, a dream to impact the lives of others.

Stephanie started One Heart for Women and Children in Orlando, Florida. An organization that impacts about 1,000 people a month. People who are struggling, suffering and hurting. I think of how I show the love of the Lord to others and again I think, “How selfish am I?” How selfish am I when things get hard. My life is a dream compared to some. It does not fall on me how very blessed I am. My job, my family, my friends, my home-all filled with joy. I have people to turn to who have my best interest and happiness at heart; people who shower me with gifts and love and fill my heart with joy daily.

I am ever grateful for the reminder of people like Stephanie who are doing such big things for humanity and for His Kingdom and His glory. Stephanie, who doesn’t know it, has helped me to remember how blessed I am by her efforts to bless others. She is a continual reminder of how to be a disciple of the Lord, a true servant. Stephanie, who selflessly gives her love to strangers. Stephanie who was a rose to me when I was stuck in a thorn bush, who continues to be a rose and an inspiration to me.

I am grateful for the trials and welcome the difficult days, because it is from the bushes of thorns that we enjoy the beauty of roses.

and if you happen to be in the Orlando area, be sure to drop in and lend a hand.

http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2014/4/27/everyday_hero_stepha.html

The Choice

I know it has been a while since I have posted…sorry. The school year is winding down and at Quisqueya I work a lot with the seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I think many of the posts over the next few weeks will be about the seniors, again….sorry.

As I am able to sit in on the senior Bible class today, Robbie is Skyping in with an old mentor, Fred Grooms, who is launching his book today “Who’s in charge of Bob?” I can’t help but wonder if the kids understand the teaching opportunity playing out in front of them; the classroom that is removed from a text book.

Skype from Haiti

Skype from Haiti

“We are each given gifts and talents. How are you using them? Just because you are good at something, that does not mean you are called to do it.” Life brings us around to where we are supposed to be. “Broaden your view of what it means to be talented” Fred said. As I am preparing for this years 11th grade retreat I reflect on this time last year. As teachers we are gifted with the unique opportunity to be a part of this crucial time in students’ lives. They are exploring their talents and gifts, coming into who they are as people.

There is heaps of talent in this room. This group of kids is going place. They are going to be adults for starters. Watching them grow this past year has been a joy. The teaching moments at Quisqueya are in abundance and I am sitting in the midst of a golden one. I find myself in awe of God, in awe of how He has used my gifts and talents to bring me to this exact spot.

I have many prayers for the students here, many prayers for the seniors we are about to send off. Fred talked about the choices we are given; “Choice. The thing I keep coming back to is choice.”

The future is full of choices. Day after day after day, the friends we have, the colleges we go to, if we want to buy that shirt, sleeping in or getting up and going to class or church. The choice is yours. Are you going to go to class and be all there? Are you going to work through the issues with your roommate or blow up and walk away? The choices we are making are making you who you are, you are each beautiful, unique and a gift from God. I can’t help but wonder as it is discussed with the speaker about their ultimate choice. “If we say yes to Christ, that means we are saying no to some other things.” Such a powerful statement and a good reminder.

If we made that choice, we still have to choose what we are going to do with it. Are we going to choose to the impact the world for the glory of His kingdom or are we going to say thank you for my salvation and all these blessings OR are we going to make the choice to profess our faith by how we love and live every day?

Are we rooted in Him? Is our faith enough? Are we truly grateful for our salvation?

There is so much I want to say to this years seniors. As you head out into the world, know I will always worry about you. Know I will always be here for you. Know the future is ahead of you and it is YOURS for the taking. God will use each and every one of you in ways you will never imagine. No Bible class, retreat, transitions class, or lecture will ever prepare you for life. Life prepares you for life. Don’t miss the moments ahead by making the wrong choices.

Hiking in Haiti: Seguin

This past weekend I got to take part in one of the many perks of my job. I was one of the chaperones of an annual weekend trip here at Quisqueya Christian School to the mountains of Seguin. I have been on some beautiful hikes here in Haiti, but never as far as Seguin. As Student Activities Adviser, part of my role here at QCS is to plan trip such as this one. I have to say I learned a lot through trial and error…

Like having the donkeys sent down and a price negotiated ahead of time…oops. But, like everything in Haiti, we figured it out without much stress (and with the help of one of our amazing parents)! Loading all of our bags onto donkeys we set off for what we thought was an eight mile hike.

The sound of laughter, the excitement that can not be contained on your face, life is full of blessings…

The groups were spread out over the hike, but with a route carved into the side of the twisting mountains we were able to see one another, even those a mile or so ahead of us! I am still not sure if looking up was a good thing or not at times; looking up and seeing mountains as far into the distance as you could and hearing “we are going over that mountain”

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Such beauty.

“Umm, Im sorry, but WHAT?!?!?” is what I was thinking in my head. Trying not to show my complete exasperation and exhaustion to the students we were trying to encourage. “Oh yeah guys, we totally got this!!”

The whole trip was breathtaking to say the least (and yes, I do mean that both ways). I tried many times to capture the views in a photo, coming up short every time. There are sights of this country that are something only to be seen with the eyes, no photo will ever do it justice. As I stood eye level with clouds, I looked around to mountains on every side as far as I could see.

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I mean, hopefully we do…

There were no cars, no noise and stifling air of the city; only beauty, beauty beyond words. Blessings beyond compare…

As we huffed and puffed up, I made sure to try to point out and appreciate as much beauty and blessings from God as I could. Every flower, every berry and tree, little huts made of stone, every rock. It was all beautiful.

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But none of it was as beautiful as my seniors. They are so special to me and I am so proud of them. Coming up a two mile hill (9 miles in) and meeting the front group coming back down to help the rest of us, what a blessing. They were encouraging to one another, cheered each other on and waited until every one of their classmates made it to the top.

Before arriving at our destination, we had a three mile hike through the pine forest. It was a necessary break for our feet and legs after nearly nine miles of up, up and more up (in case you are bad at math like me, what we thought was an eight mile hike was actually a little more than 11-oops!)

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Beauty is everywhere.

The horses, grass on our feet, waterfalls, the music of nature; more blessings, everywhere blessings…

After settling in and taking the coldest shower I think I have ever taken in my life we gathered together for a meal, debrief and devotion. Over the course of the weekend we read through and discussed the entire book of Ecclesiastes. We focused our weekend on wisdom and leaving for college with wisdom in the hearts of our students. Here at Quisqueya I am blessed to have the opportunity to continually speak wisdom and truth into the hearts of our students.

Learning with my students, watching them understand, falling in love with God each day; more blessings….

During our first debrief everyone went around and shared one thing they enjoyed about the day. I so love hearing the way our students care for and about one another.

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The second day a causal hike to a waterfall and cave turned into an extreme three mile adventure down a river bed.

“Since no one knows the future, who can say what is to come?” Ecclesiastes 7:29

Although I was worried at times, like when the water was up to our shoulders, it turned out to be an amazing time for our students! I can’t imagine the day going any better. I love the plans the Lord has that far exceeds ours. The debrief that night was one of my favorite moments, asking the kids “Where did you see God today?” I loved their answers, but mine was my favorite. I saw Him in you! In your strength and enjoyment, your complete appreciation for the beauty around you.

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I am blessed by each of you.

They took the time to look around and appreciate the moss and the water. They took the time to stop and wait for each other, to help one another down the river. I am so proud of the people they are becoming and honored to be a part of their stories in a small way.

It is the company we surround ourselves with that make us who we are. Our experiences, our reactions, our joys and laughter together, how we conduct ourselves in difficult situations. We set the bar high for ourselves and for those around us.

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I am proud of you all!

Ecclesiastes gives us much wisdom and I am grateful to have shared that with our students and those with me in the mountains. Be joyful in your day. In the warm hike through a wooded forest and in the freezing river. Be grateful in your day. In the sights of the mountains around you and in the road that never seems to stop going up or ending. For there is much to learn from every situation.

“When times are good, be happy;

but when times are bad, consider;

God has made the one as well as the other.

Therefore, you cannot discover

Anything about your future.” Ecclesiastes 7:14

Speaking of love.

This weekend I was reminded of the power of love through the power of our words. Often we get caught up in our busy day to day lives, we can forget to tell someone we love them. We can forget the power in speaking these words to others.

Have you ever stopped to focus on someone else in the middle of your day? Written them a note or dropped them an email or text just to say “Hey dude, thinking about you. Love ya.”

Well, let me tell you, I have been on both ends of that message and as the receiver during a time of need, it was greatly appreciated. I have been reminding my students about the power of their words. We never know what another person is going thru…

…when they might need to hear “Hey, thinking about you today.” Or “Love ya.”

Maybe moving away from my family has brought my appreciation of words to a new level. Or maybe it is from the loss of so many loved ones, so many things left unsaid.

I try hard to never go to bed mad, to never leave things unsaid.

The power of our words is important. Love, honesty, sincerity. Kindness matters, and it just might be your words that are a breaking point in some one else’s life.

I hope we can all choose the words that show the love of Christ today.

Before you speak, think. Be selfless. Show kindness. Love with your words.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 2:13

Thankful for friendships near and far who help me understand the power of love through their words.

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To my cousins, I love you crazy fools!!!

ImageTo my best friend, I’m here…I love you.

ImageTo my brother, I am so proud of the man you are, I love you.

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To my roomie, thank you will never be enough, I love you.

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To the friends of my soul, thank you for showing me the meaning of friendship.

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To those who are left out…

to the twins and lynds, all of my moms and dads, peanut in Minnesota, the one whos home shares a wall, shares a name, share my blood, to those who have crossed my path today, yesterday and tomorrow…

you are in my heart and I love you. I am no further from you than across the water.

Be Love.

The Bible says the greatest commandment is:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbors as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-39

Today I am trying to do just this, Love God. As a follower of Christ this is something I try to do with my heart and actions each and every day, love others. Love them at work. Love them at home. Love them on the beach, or down by the sea. Love others, right where they are, right where I am. I won’t say it’s always easy, but it is my calling. It’s all of our calling.

BE LOVE. Love God, Love others. We don’t have to go anywhere to show the love of God. I don’t have to be called out onto the mission field, or tent cities and orphanages.  We can be the love of the Lord and allow it to shine through our hearts where ever we are. Any place, anywhere, any time. BE LOVE.

Help.

I have two very different blogs that could fit under this title today. I am choosing the one that brings me joy, not the hardship that has crept its way into my thoughts yet again. That one I want to tuck away, tuck away and walk away from if I could, but I know I need to face that demon-and I will, but for this weekend I am tucking it away and choosing joy.

So here is my joy-FULL “Help.” post.

Here at Quisqueya I am teaching Sign Language 1 and Senior Transitions. My ASL 1 class has 11 students in it-all seniors. My Transitions class has 19 students in all of the seniors here at QCS. It’s no secret I love my classes, but even more than that, I love the opportunity to teach my student….and learn from them. As I walk this journey with the Lord, as I learn how to be a follower, I am blessed to count them as part of this journey.

In ASL class one of our new vocab words this week is “Help.” We were reviewing our words, meaning I already taught them the signs the day before. With my back to them, I asked “OK guys, whats the sign for ‘help’?” Turning to look at their answers, I had an itch, I was scratching both sides of my head in a bit of vigurous motion. One of those killing two birds with one stone moments, scratching my head and fluffing my curls.

Well, when I looked at my students, they were ALL, everyone of them doing the same thing-scratching the sides of their head.

I busted out laughing, “Guys, WHAT are you doing?”

“The sign for ‘Help’ Miss, this is what you are doing.”

Apparently they had forgotten what they learned the day before, the correct sign for “Help.”

Oh the joys of teaching.

Our theme here at Quisqueya is “Following Jesus” We have talked a lot about who we are following, how to be followers; disciples. For me, I often think of how I am teaching as I am learning. As teachers we are leaders, we are examples. Our students, our own children, are all watching us. Watching our example. And if we aren’t careful, they might follow the wrong example.

I want to “help” my students be followers, but that comes with teaching them the right signs, by being the right example.

(Be sure to smile at some one today, it might be exactly what they need) :)

A ‘Tough’ Day

 

“Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!”

Dr. Seuss wrote these words in his famous book Oh, the /places You’ll Go! and they are read by graduating High School Seniors everywhere. I got this book from my mom at my High School graduation, flipping through the pages and thinking about my future, it made me cry. I took it out to read a time or two during college, maybe once more as I packed it away before I came down to Haiti, but not since. Working at a school Dr. Seuss seems to have found his way back into my life.

Friday wasn’t such a great day for me and I can tell you Dr. Seuss and his fantasy land of Thing One and Thing TWO were very far from my mind. My students however were very much everywhere I turned. Thank goodness for the Chinese who first invented sunglasses to hide emotion because my teary eyes were masked.

 I had two classes to get thru to finish out my day and I could not fathom how I was going to pull it off. As soon as I turned around to walk out the gate to go home and eat my lunch in solitude BAM, there was my answer. I was face to face with a student, big grin on his face, ghosting me all the way thru the gate. I couldn’t help but laugh. Turning, the only thought in my head “these kids, Lord, thank you for these kids.”

They are my life, they are my joy and I am ever thankful for them. They get me through my day time and time again.

And when the path gets dark, as we know it eventually will:

“And when you’re in a Slump,

Youre not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself

Is not easily done.”

Dr. Seuss

Luckily I don’t have to un-slump myself. My students are there to make me laugh, my friends are here to offer words of encouragement, and my heart stands strong to rest in my faith.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God,

my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation,

He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

I am in the center of His will. I put both my fear and my trust in Him and I will never be shaken.

When I doubt and fear creeps in, God sends me countless reminders and blessings that help me realize I am exactly where I am called to be. My students. Living, breathing blessings. Joy. Happiness. Hope.

I am so blessed. I think about Ann Voskamp and the challenge of 1,000 blessings I am on.

My students, Lord, I thank you for the blessing they are to me. I thank you for their inquisitive minds, their expressive spirits, their excitement, their drive, their joy, their purpose.

And so I pick myself up and I go to class. I get through my lesson and decide I need to take some time to get into real life with my students. We put the books away and we talk. I pull up the encouraging words of Ann and read them with my students; Why You’re never ever really a failure.

I read this as part of my morning devotions: “ If you’re not willing to look goofy in the eyes of others at some point, you will never make it to your God-sized dream.” Ann Voskamp

I thought of my students, preparing college applications, writing essays, discussing their futures with each other, their parents, themselves. Afraid of failure, afraid of their futures, afraid of the un-known. But we can’t be afraid of the un-known. Being afraid of fear, is that possible? We can fear ourselves, we can fear others; fear the future, fear our fate, but are we just getting in the way of ourselves.

I thought of myself, am I my own worst enemy? What am I so afraid of? The Bible tells me to fear God; am I fearing God or am I too busy fearing myself?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7) Ecclesiastes concludes “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being.”(Ecclesiastes 12:13) I have no one to fear but the Lord. And yet, too often I allow the fears of this world to creep in. Death, failure, sin, faults, pain…

“I’m afraid that some times

You’ll play lonely games too.

Games you cant win

Cause you’ll play against you.”

Seuss has it right again. I’m in my own way.

And so I stood in front of my students and tried to hold back my tears. I left my fear of what they might think of me and I opened my heart to them. When it was over and I told them what they mean to me. I see hope in them. I see joy and beauty and bright futures. Peace. God has put me in this place, with these people, these students, these faces. Sometimes it’s not so easy and we fall into a slump.

“Except when they don’t.

Because, sometimes, they won’t.”

“And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

And I drift back to Seuss and his kind loving words:

“Somehow you’’ll escape

All that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places

where Boom Bands are playing.”

And at times I might feel it’s just me and alone, I am reminded to look up at the bright light shining…. I am never alone, for I walk in the light.

“For you, God tested us;

you refined us like silver.

You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.

You let people ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water,

but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

Psalm 67: 10-12

I can tell you of Friday I was not alone. I felt God in my heart and got hugs all day long. And to my students I want to say,

“Your mountain is waiting.

So….get on your way!” Seuss

I am so proud to call you all mine!

A new beginning, 8 months late

I have started and re-started this blog about 50 times since my last post. I write things down, I embrace my thoughts and my feelings and flush them out into my computer, but they never seem to make it up. Its past time I got past all that. People say starting is the hardest part. I know when I decide to run, the toughest part is getting out there and starting, once I am in it, everything is fine. Well it’s high time I got back on here and just started. So this is both my apology for being so delayed in starting and my start. So…more to follow.

Time lapse.

I guess time has gotten the best of me, I look back on my last post and realize its been almost four months! I feel like a slacker, to those of you who have always been dedicated readers, I apologize!!!

A major update is needed….

I am still in Haiti, happy and healthy as ever. In December I made another change, leaving an unhealthy work environment, deciding if life was keeping me in Haiti or pulling me out. In the end the answer is always clear and Haiti is still home.

I am now teaching at Quisqueya Christian School, a venture that is completely new for me. I wish I was more diligent about posting and could say how excited I am for the challenges, new experiences and developments that lie ahead-but the reality is I have already lived through the last four months, I can only go back and recount it.

To the best of my ability I will try to retell the months that have passed, the lessons I have learned.

Although it has only been four months, I have a long path ahead of me on this new journey. I am excited and nervous in the same breath.

Follow my story and journey in Haiti

Follow my story and journey in Haiti

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