Tuesday, November 8, 2011

60sec update

We have been home for 9 days. The first 3 we where in a jet-lag induced comma so surely they don't count against the days we have left.

We have briefly seen most of our nearest and dearest and hope to catch up with them one on one soon.

Let me give you a quick recap.

*Airport arrival then onto breakfast with a few friends and mums and nan.

*3 days of jet lag induced sleep.

*Friday night pool party to catch up with some friends.

The festivities moved from the cool pool to the warm spa once night time came

*A solo early morning drive out to Mum and Dad's farm to spend a quality weekend with some of my family and our Dog Mac.  Mum asked me months ago what I wanted to eat most when we came home and Lamb Roast was top of the list. It was delicious and I introduced the family to smores. Well as close as I could get anyway. It was way to hot to light a bonfire so we just lit the BBQ instead. We didn't have gram crackers so Nice biscuits where the next best thing I could find.

My nieces Charlotte and Madelyn

My Nephew Harry and My Niece Alexis

*Barry stayed in Brisvegas and attended a birthday party and went to the driving range. Didnt take him long to get a golf club in his hand. Nobody is surprised.

*Monday night catch up with some of the girls from my old home group.

*Celebration BBQ for our good friend Matty who just won the NSW PGA. Barry sat glued to the internet watching for updates of Matty and if he had fingernails they would have been chewed off. Nice work Matt we are all so proud of you. You can read more about this legend here.

*Dinner with our friend Nikki Pen.

*Barry and Andy went to Indooropilly golf course for an early morning nine holes with our friend wags.( Notice club in hand for the second time in a week)

*And last night I was treated to my second lamb roast in a week. Feeling very well fed.

So as you can tell we are trying to make up for the social events we have missed in the past year.

How many dinners and parties can we cram into 2 months.

I am not sure but I am excited to find out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The un-hollywood side of LA

Barry and I have been in LA since wednesday last week and we have had the pleasure of staying with our very special friends Bob and Tracey their daughter Stephanie, Sarah O and Sarah D.

We LOVE our LA friends and we wanted to spend some genuine catch up time with them before heading down under. Our hosts have been gracious enough to take us around and show us many different parts of LA. We really feel like we have seen LA now and we havnt just passed through like our other trips.

We visited a few architecturally significant buildings in the city like the Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Town Hall and Cathedral. All beautiful buildings built in very different styles. We walked through the occupy LA and the protests outside the Micheal Jackson's Dr's trial. My observation was that most of the occupyers seemed more interested in getting stoned then sending a message but anyway.

The beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall

We have had many highlights but my favorite things we have done have all involved the wonderful work being done in and around LA. I want to tell you about a few of the organisations we had the pleasure of meeting with and touring their facilities.

Sarah D started and has been running a program called Kids Hope in a Elementary school in Eagle Rock for the past 5 years. Kids Hope provides mentors for 62 kids from Kindergarten through to 6th grade. They meet with their mentor once a week either during lunch or after school for one hour. The mentors are paired with kids after the children have been referred to the program. Sarah O has been a mentoring Megan for the past 5 years and they have a very strong bond and trusted relationship.

Sarah and Megan

It was a really wonderful privilege to watch the classroom full of mentors and students doing homework, practising maths playing games and reading books. Each of the students has a special story, some of the children have lost parents, have no english speakers at home, troubled homes etc most are having trouble in class and the teachers depend on the mentors to help them reach the children and help them along the way. One of the little boys is actually in the gifted program but was referred to the program as he only has female influences at home and needed the imput and mentoring of a man. Sarah's program reminded me of the quote "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Frederick Douglass

 Barry and I had heard about the Dream Center many years ago and Tracy and Bob took us to tour the facility. The Dream Center, is a volunteer driven organization that finds and fills the needs of individuals and families they currently serve over 40,000 people each month. The building is an old hospital that they have renovated floor by floor adding to there programs and services as they go.

Services and programs offered include residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a transitional shelter for homeless families, mobile hunger relief and medical programs, and a foster care intervention outreach. Educational development programs and job skills training for homeless families and individuals. I was surprised at my over whelming emotions when we where told of a new program they had recently implemented. They have established a shelter and rehabiliation centre for victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is something we have recently seen in Haiti and it was really overwhelming to see a program to help turn around the life of trafiked women bought to the united states.
Dream Centre LA

Today we visited Home Boy industries. Home boy industries was started by Farther Gregory Boyle in down town LA. Father Greg had seen the terrible outcomes of gang violence. His philosophy was simple 'jobs not jail' There organization runs a two year program for ex gang members wanting a break. They offer gang tattoo removal, legal services, job placement, training and much more. They run a homeboy bakery and a home girl cafe. We ate brunch in the cafe today and then we toured the facility.  I was impressed, actually really impressed.

Meeting these men and women in another setting may be a scary encounter but you can truly see the difference father Gregs program is having. Last year becasue of the economy a number of workers had to be laid off as they simply didnt have enough money to pay them. The next day the laid off workers arrived at homeboy industries headquarters to work for free, becasue they simply have no other options and they are so committed to taking hold of the opportunity they have been given.

So if you are looking for a great place for a meeting or a nice breakfast or lunch venue then I recomend the home girl cafe its beautiful they grow some of there own vegetables and herbs, they have free parking and best of all you are helping to provide second chances or in some cases a genuine first chance.

Home Girl Cafe

So Halloween is not one of my favourite american traditions and I do hope that it doesnt get We also got to do some pumpkin carving but we made sure we stayed true to our aussie roots.

Just getting started

Pumpkin decapitation

We love Australia can you tell?

We have had a really great time in LA and we cant thank our fantastic hosts enough. Thank-you for lavishly loving us.

Get ready Brisbane here we come.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Most Excellent Joanna

Sad day in Haiti today.

Joanna Howard and one of the brand new bubs she has delivered.

Tomorrow Joanna leaves Haiti to begin her next adventure. For those that dont know Joanna she is an extraordinary midwife that has been part of Heartline for just over 2 years and has been with the Heartline family through the earthquake and beyond.

Joanna has been the chief architect of the Heartline Birth Centre and her hand prints are on the whole program. We have a saying in Australia when something is slapped together we say its "half arsed" and so many things here are just that band aids to very complex and not so complex problems.

But those words would never be used to describe Joanna and the way she goes about everything she does. At her going away party tonight Beth described Joanna this way. "She has set the bar really high for us and everything she does she does with Excellence" Thats definetly true of everything I have seen about Joanna and the Heartline Birth Centre.

When we first moved to Haiti I could not believe that God would hook us into a ministry with a birth center. I remember distinctly thinking "are you serious Lord what are you doing, you have to be joking" After our son Isaac died due to poor care and attention in a birth centre in the first world the last thing I wanted anything to do with was a birth center in the 3rd world. Seriously what are the chances in a country with some of the poorest maternal health statistics in the world. The majority of Haitian women have no access to a doctor or a midwife and give birth all too often on the floor in their tent or in a overstretched clinic with a bucket below them to catch the baby as there are not enough staff.

But as usual God knows what he's doing. Getting to witness what these midwives (or weird wives as they are lovingly refered to around here) do each day and the lives they touch is extraudinary. I have seen them save many many women and babies from certain death when they have expertly diagnosed serious complications and transported them to a hospital and paid for a ceasarian. A procedure that would not have otherwise been available to them.

The Heartline Maternity Center is not just a birthing centre its a learning centre and most of all its a relationship centre. Each clinic day there are chubby health babies everywhere because of the love and care pourded out on these women by Joanna and the team. Its no surprise that the women in the program rarely miss a day. They trudge miles and miles through rotten trash river when it flows, mud, rain and yet they still come. Because what Heartline provides is so different to the level of care they receive in any other part of their lives Heartline provides a maternity service of excelence and that is in no small way a reflection of the way Joanna has set the program up.

Joanne is one of the few people I can honestly say is doing what they where created to do. I have never seen someone love, I mean LOVE their job the way she does. She is most happiest sitting at the end of the birthing bed (her Dad Rick built) looking up a girls 'who who' waiting for the baby to pop out. For two years she has loved on these ladies and ensured every baby had the best chance of making it.

Thank-you Joanna I have certainly been blessed by your friendship and will miss you greatly. Thank-you for creating such a solid base for the maternity center to blossom from.

Thank-you for doing what you do best and for your friendship.

Many blessings for your next adventure.

You will be missed.

A Heartline Mum and her baby

As a tribute to Joanna could you please take a moment and clink on this link and vote for Heartline. they are in the running to win a $50,000 grant to be used for the maternity centre.


The Heartline Maternity Program provides Pre-natel care to all of the expectant mums in the program, Birthing facilities, Post Natal care for all the mums and their chubby bubs and also much needed family planning clinic for anyone that wants to come. The ladies take classes in anything from breastfeeding to STD's and everything in between. It truly is a remarkable place of excellence and love.

Thank-you for voting.

A recent addition to the Heartline Baby club

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aldente pasta, old boots and Barry's food economy

 If I could narrow down Barry's love language to one thing it would be "quality time" Specifically "Time spent cooking Quality Food" for him of course. You all know that I am less than enthusiastic about cooking its not that I cant cook I just really don't like to cook.  When its my turn to cook I generally takes the easiest and shortest route to getting a meal on the table and me back out of the kitchen.

As you can imagine that doesn't communicate much love to Barry. After a very challenging week last week, I wanted to show Barry just how much I had appreciated the care he took with me. He excelled as a husband last week, holding me when I really needed it, letting me cry and mopping up the tears, and just making sure I knew I was loved.

So today I wanted to show him just how much I appreciated him. I decided I would try to make salmon and spinach ravioli. I have always been in awe of people that make there own pasta and as the range of pasta here in Haiti is limited to spagetti and lasagne I thought I would give it a shot.

I had done a trade exchange with Joanna one of the Heartline midwives extraordinaire's here. 5 Avacadoes for a tin of salmon. We are blessed to have an avacado tree in our yard and it has produced a bumper crop and so I feel its my duty to ensure the neighbours and our missionairy friends are well supplied. Secretly I would have given them to Joanna anyway but her Dad is a master fisherman in Oregan and he catches huge salmon and cans them and Joanna brings them to Haiti, so this isnt just any salmon this is Oregan delicious salmon, gives Tasmanian salmon some stiff competition let me tell you.

I decided I would try to make salmon and spinach ravioli.  (Ive learnt the more adventurous the attempt the more Barry points I accrue.)  I have documented the fun for your entertainment.

My attempt to make the pasta without a pasta maker
I decided on a circle shape ravioli

So things where going well and I had headed the recipes wairnings that the pasta needed to be thin almost see thru.
The delicious filling, salmon, spinach, and cream cheese.

I thought my little pillows where looking good.

So things where going great I have always been in awe of people that make there own pasta and I was feeling pretty happy with myself. Tonight I was one of those people that make there own pasta. Yeah.

I decided that I should be really tricky and test how long they would take to cook so I could be sure they where aldente.
In you go.

I forgot to look at the clock to time how long the "test" took real smart I know. So a second pillow had to be sacrificed. This time I watched the clock.

So after many many more minutes than I expected they just were not cooking. They were a dismal failure I cant even show you the sad mess as they quickly entered the bin. Think of the texture of an old boot and you are close.

The pasta was just too thick. So unfortunately I am not one of those people that makes there own pasta.

I did manage to salvage the dinner and the valuable delicious salmon and we had salmon, spinach spaghetti instead.

Doesn't photograph well but it was delicious.

Happy customer.
Best part about stuffing up so bad is that in Barry's food economy I get still get huge points for effort, and he knows he is loved and appreciated which was the whole point to begin with.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So what does it cost to be a mssionary?

I wish I knew!!!!

Obviously it costs money to be a missionary but that's not what I am talking about.

I dont really feel qualified enough to answer that question having only lived 9 months on the job. I do know that some days it costs more than I expected and then other days less. No two days are ever the same here, that much I have learnt.

I know days like today when I am sad and missing home that the price feels high. It feels high when I see photos of my nieces and nephews and my best friends kids growing up without us. It feels high when we miss important milestones, babies being born, weddings, parties, family weekends, or missing my girlfriend catch up sessions. The cost seems almost unbearable when one of our closest friends battles cancer and we are not there to hold her hand, or hug her boys.

I know that we will probably feel the cost of living in Haiti for the rest of our lives. One of my friends recently wrote "I want to go back to 2009 before I knew better" I cant imagine what life outside of mission would look like anymore.

It costs me to know I won the lottery when I was born in Australia and what a difference that win makes.

If you asked me last week what my favorite scipture verse is I would have said Luke 12:48.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

I used to use this verse to spur me on, to not cease and to try to follow what I was called to do. I used to kid myself that I didn't take my life for granted and that I knew I was blessed. Today this verse feels heavy. After living here, I trully know what it means to be "entrusted with much" and the weight of what is asked sometimes feels unbearable.

Most days here I feel unworthy of what I have been entrusted with and unqualified for the task at hand. 

After losing our son Isaac, God had slowly but surely bought us back from a very deep ravine we were in. Our lives were together. We had a house, a dog we adore, I loved my job we had even talked about trying to have a family again. Then everything changed. Our world was turned upside down and I am weighing the cost.

The world looks different it looks bleaker, more painful and feels so far from redemption. Its not that this just happened its just that our eyes have been opened. Ive learnt there is a price to pay for knowledge and I get the feeling its not a one time visit to the checkout. Some days I just wish I could open the drawer and put on my rose colored glasses even just for awhile.

In November we will fly back to Australia to rest, catch up with our nearest and dearest try to make up for what we have missed. We will also be raising our support for 2012. We wanted to use our money and savings to pay for the first year of mission. We didnt have a clue why we were called here so we didn't feel right about asking for money. My A type personality hate's the thought of someone else paying for my rice bubbles. I want to be sick just thinking about it. I think mainly its the final realization that I have to surrender everything if I am going to let God do what he has planned. Don't hear a word of this blog in any way doubting why we are here. We know we are supposed to be exactly where we are are. There are days like today when I wonder if I can ever get out of His way long enough for Him to do what He needs to do.

The stupid part is that I have seen God already work miracles since we arrived here.  It sounds funny to say but I don't have a single doubt He will provide. It just costs my strong will and pride to be humble enough to say "I cant do this alone".

If this blog was an accounting ledger the last cost would have to be firmly in the "Good for me." column. Just not sure where the other costs go, and what the tally looks like. Don't think I want to know.

I think I want this to be my new favorite verse.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30


Thursday, August 11, 2011


Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere. from Chris Tomlin's Song

Have you every had the privillege of experiencing one day in his courts?  Well this last week there was 20 plus of us that had this privellege and it was humbling to say the least.

Our friends from Awaken Haiti Jeff and Deb Delinger allowed me to join their team for the week to build a church in Canaan/Carri. They had been consulting with the local pastor of this new settlement where 18 month old tents are the norm, so this area was in real need of some hope for the people who live in this community. You see these guy's have a great heart for this community and instead of rushing in and trying to fix things they have strategically consulted with the local leader, Pastor Nathan to find what will make the biggest difference in this community of displaced Haitians. Praise God after 9 months of working towards the goal, the people received the gift of not only a new church but a 70 feet by 30 feet community building that can be used as a school instead of the very weathered and torn old UNICEF tent which expired about 8 months ago.

Expired elementary school tent (photo credit Deb Delinger)

So what was so humbling about this week and the experience of building a church/school?

We carried 2 by 2 gallon buckets of concrete for 6 hours in the 38 degree heat along side the pre school teacher and even some Ti moons (Kids) who wanted to help, that was pretty humbling.

Local kids helping to prepare the pad ready for concrete. (Photo credit Drew Kalbach)

The concrete bucket line. (Photo credit Drew Kalbach)

A team of mostly Americans walking alongside their Haitian brothers to train them and teach them new skills to and to see their faces of achievement at the end of the week that was pretty humbling. But what really flawed me was when the construction was complete the community planned a celebration church service on the Friday night.

Pastor Nathan stood there in 30 plus degrees (still at 6pm) in a suit and acknowledged that the community had received a true gift from the God. Pastor Nathan has faithful served the people of Haiti for so many years despite times when he must have felt God had left them out in the desert to rot and suffer. He showed clearly to all that He has not forgotten or forsaken his people. No one can argue that these people have suffered and they still do, but this night was a reminder and celebration for Gods goodness and faithfulness. A chance to praise God's name at the top of their lungs.  They have renewed hope. Their children will be able to learn in a stable building sheltered from the elements.  The community can now gather to worship and continue to seek God's face and bring life out of the dust of this harsh land they now call home.

Jeff was asked to say something to the congregation and the Lord clearly delivered a good word to him. Jeff delivered it at a volume and intensity that would rival any southern baptist preacher, he said "This building is not the church, you and me we are the church and if we truly want to be the church we must remember the first two commandments 1. Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and all of your mind. 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. If we follow these commandments we will be the church in action. (paraphrased)  

Some people say a building cannot change a community, and I agree. I don't believe that a 2000 foot square building will somehow wipe away the pains the Haitian people feel day in day out as they struggle to find clean water and enough food to feed their families.  But in alot of ways it goes alot further than you might expect. After seeing what took place this past week, Americans working alongside Haitians training these guy's in building techniques and sharing some common understandings of life and community. These are the building blocks of helping that does not hurt, building blocks that empower a community. It helps rebuild a communities identity.
The church / school / community center (Photo credit Drew Kalbach)

Now not only will the children from all around this village have a chance to go to school but they will be introduced to the gospel and that as we have witnessed is the real power that can transform lives because if it didn't then, I would not be here personally serving a God that has transformed my life.

That is the power in what I saw this past week, to see a community find hope despite the suffering, see a child valued and educated instead of sitting in misery in a dirt patch. To witness utter jubilation as the community thanked God for what he had given to their community humbling truly humbling.

So after 8 months of feeling like being part of the problem here in Haiti this was the week God humbled me in showing a glimpse of what he is doing.

I learnt that in order to be part of the solution sometimes you have to be part of the problem first, because you can gain a perspective from such an experience. Instead of seeing the problems you start to get a vision, but not a human vision but God's vision for how something like community can be developed and how in one week something like this can begin to transform an entire community.

I got to meet people who have lived and suffered from the loss of family members, their lively hoods and their homes taken from them in an afternoon. Yet here they were they had come together under one roof to sing to their God, to praise Jesus name in their local language, I wish you could have been there for a glimpse of this, one day in his courts it was truly amazing and I imagine a glimpse of what we can expect in heaven.

If you have had a day like that lately in your own Christian walk can I encourage you to share it with someone that does not know Jesus or the power of the Gospel because he deserves all the Glory and if we think were smart enough to work this all out come to Haiti because you soon realize these are God sized complicated problems and only he can bring the solutions. We can build all the buildings we like but if God doesn't change hearts nothing changes. 

Barry McDonald

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The view from our balcony. 
We where so grateful the sun finally came out.

Apologies in advance this will be a quick down pour of updates.

Baz and I flew to Fort Lauderdale a few weeks ago and spent a week relaxing and picking up supplies. We had to leave the country as our Haiti visa's were about to expire so it was a good excuse to chill out and reacquaint ourselves with each other. We had not spent much quality time together over the last 6 months as looking after the guesthouse and Barry doing building projects etc took up most of our time.

Looking after the Guest House was however a very rewarding experience and we where so grateful to be given the privilege of serving missionaries short term, long term and everything in between.

We had been asked to take a puppy back to the states with us. He was on of Larry (our guesthouse dog) and Annies (Beth and Johns dog) litter. He had been adopted by an American family connected to  Heartline. His name was Mac so we had to say yes. (For those that don't know our beloved dog back in oz is Mac) So this huge Mastiff puppy squeezed into his little carrier and we took him on the plane with us. Such a novelty to have a dog on the plane there is no way that would happen in Australia. Anyway he was the perfect passenger and after ticking the (carrying animal) box on the customs form and lots of gooing and garing from the dog squad in customs we where out the doors and Mac was in the arms of his new family.
Macs new family

So onto the amazing relaxing break in the sunshine on the beach in Florida that we had over imagined. The weather unfortunately had other plans and rained for the first 5 days.

This meant that we saw more of the inside of shopping centers than we had planned to and certainly didn't help the re-entry anxiety we experienced. One of the lovely ladies that stayed with us at the guesthouse wanted to bless us in some way and she organized for us to stay at this very fancy resort in Boca Raton Florida. (Thanks so much C) Really nice place and the funny thing was there where lots of Haitians working at the hotel so I got to praise my creole on them and watch in surprise as they tried to figure out why this white girl that sounds funny was talking to them.

The re-entry anxiety hit us pretty hard and I think it was exaggerated by our surroundings. Everyone we saw was driving a brand new fancy car from Ferrari's to Bently's we saw it all. They where usually driving to and from their gigantic mansions with their massive boats parked out front. I don't think Florida knows that the USA is in recession. All the excess really got us down and felt really surreal compared to where we have been living in Haiti.

A friend of mine made a good point the other day that she wonders what the Haitians that fly to Florida for the first time think of the US. She commented that "it must make them think that all of the US is like this." The first thing you see as you fly over the coastline is canal mansions and more boats then you can count. I imagine it gives them a very false sense of America. Its certainly was what we found the hardest part, reconciling that so much wealth and so much poverty lay just 1.5hrs flight time apart. 

The sunshine finally came out and that helped to lighten our mood. We also had a visit from friends that we also met at the guesthouse they came and spent the day with us around the pool at the hotel. We where very blessed by their visit (they drove 5 hours each way to see us) Who does that!! These people are really something special and it was a really nice relaxing day.

Oh I forgot to mention that Baz shaved his head and here are the pictures to show the transformation. He hadn't had a hair cut in 14 weeks so it was pretty feral to say the least. He did it himself and did a really good job of it. One of our dearest friends back home in Australia has been recently going through extensive chemo. Barry wanted to show his support by shaving all his hair off. Please pray for full healing of our friend she has two young boys and we love them ever so much.

Arrest Mug Shot
Charge Very Bad Hair

Released on Good Behavior

Thanks to our friends that chipped in for some special presents while we where away it was much appreciated.

On our last night/day,  I was sound asleep when I heard the familiar click of the electricity turning off. This is when I usually kick Baz out of bed to go turn on the generator, but we where not in Haiti we where still in Florida. Next sound I hear is the wailing of a fire alarm. I woke Barry and we discussed what to do next. I could then hear the faint instructions over the alarm. I checked the door for heat ( I put this in for Grandad and Mum cause I know you would ask me) and Yes I actually did it. The alarm was now screeching EVACUATE, EVACUATE so we figured we had better go. Barry had wisely collected our valuables and we headed down the stairs. We met a few people on the way down that asked us what they should do. Seemed obvious to me "Evacuate I guess". We where met at the bottom by fire fighters letting us know there was an electrical fire in the basement. I have to say I was happy to know we had walked down 21 flights of stairs at 3am for a real fire. What surprised me was that out of three towers of apartments less than 50 people evacuated. Apathy at its best or worst.