Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Join us in praying for the hospital!

40 Days of Prayer for Hospital Bienfaisance of Pignon

From December 9, 2009, to January 18, 2010, we would like to focus on praying for the hospital in Pignon. The hospital is vital to the northern plateau region of Haiti serving several communities and roughly 140,000 people. The last year has been a hard year for the hospital. The Comite de Bienfaisance, the Promise for Haiti Board, the administration, staff and Dr. Guy have many difficult decisions to make in the coming year. On January 15, 2010, there is a combined board meeting with both the Haitian and American board members. We need to ask God to be near us and guide us and to return to us and to restore the Hospital de Bienfaisance to what it once was in the name of Jesus Christ, our only hope.

We would like to invite anyone who is willing to participate in focused prayer for the hospital, the region and the people of Haiti for these 40 days. Local pastors and Christians around the area have also been invited to pray with us at the hospital each morning, and we are anticipating a positive response from the community.

We are asking that you pray for:

• The administration and leadership of the hospital and all personnel
• That the power and presence of the Holy Spirit would come upon the hospital in new and amazing ways
• The healing of patients
• Dr. Guy-protection and health during his political campaign
• The hospital board both locally in Pignon and stateside for wisdom, discernment and guidance
• For all the students in the area, particularly those sponsored through the HELP scholarship program
• The organizations that partner with the hospital through short-term missions including medical missions, work projects and financial assistance
• Release from the oppression of the enemy and the influences of Voodoo
• That staff, patients and families of patients know fully the love of Christ
• The future of the hospital and the country of Haiti

A few scriptures are provided for each 10-day period, and of course we want you to pray as the Spirit leads, these are just some of the things on our hearts.

Days 1-10

Zechariah 1:3
3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Psalm 50:15
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me."
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

2 Chronicles 7:14
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

James 4:7-8
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Psalm 33:18
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Days 11-20

Matthew 6:33-34
33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Psalm 105:3-5
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
5 Remember the wonders he has done,

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Proverbs 8:17
17 I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Luke 18:7-8
7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Days 21-30
Isaiah 55:6
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Jeremiah 29:11-14
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. [a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Ephesians 1:16-21
16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Psalm 113:7
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Proverbs 31:8-9
8 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Days 31-40

Ephesians 6:7-8
7Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

1 Peter 4:7-10
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

James 2:5
5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

1 Thessalonians 2:19
19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

James 1:2-6

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

Our New Home

Finally! It is with great joy and relief that I can say we are in our house! For us it has been a long time coming and we are thrilled to have a place to officially call home. We have been very busy over the last couple of months with teams from the D.C. area, Virginia, Missouri, Iowa and new friends from Indiana and Ohio. It has been so much fun getting to meet different people from all over the U. S. and getting to see old friends from home.

Groups have been very busy this fall! One group in particular is responsible for where we find ourselves tonight, in our own home with power 24/7. (Ok, so there is a little problem with our inverter system, but we should have a solution to it within the next week. The inverter is what allows us to have power all the time.) In one week in early November this group of men and women made all the screens for our house, which was an absolute must for me to move in, finished most of the tiling, finished nearly all of the painting, finished enough plumbing for a working toilet and sinks, built bookshelves, a table, shelves in the kitchen and hung kitchen cabinets! Oh yes, and I can’t forget to mention that they painted nearly all the gates for our windows and doors with very little complaining. It was a shame that they didn’t get to be the ones to move us in! But, we know they are happy just to know we are living here now. Having our house finished really put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving!

Another blessing to us was the arrival of some family. Two of Jared’s sisters, Beth and Tiffany, and Tiff’s husband Steve were here a couple of weeks ago. They had the honor of helping us move in on November 16. I told them I feel guilty because of the number of times they have helped us move. I was fully expecting to be in the house long before they got here. As with everything in Haiti, it is a slow process. It was great to have them here and the kids couldn’t get enough of their aunts. I am sure if it had been an option they would have easily let themselves be packed away in suitcases. But, as it is said, all good things come to an end. Seeing them off has been one of the hardest things we’ve had to do.

A Family Photo before saying goodbye at the Pignon Airport

Speaking of Thanksgiving and blessings, I am sure some of you are curious as to how we spent the holiday last week. I have to admit I was surprised by how much I am missing the holiday season in Iowa. We were invited along with other Americans from the area to a barbeque for Thanksgiving dinner. It was so awesome to us! There was a feast laid before us like nothing I’ve seen before. We had turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato salad, cooked veggies, BBQ pork, corn and mac, fresh bread, rolls, brownies, pies, ice cream and, lest I forget, Krispy Kreme donuts! I can tell you this much: it took a lot of planning to get some of those things here to Pignon.

The weather here is still very warm, and we spend much of our days sweating it out, literally. We are still in shorts (or skirts) and t-shirts and can’t even begin to sing songs like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas!” Jared got his guitar out the other day and was playing Jingle Bells until he realized it was a totally absurd song for Haiti. I also don’t anticipate that we’ll be roasting any chestnuts over an open fire either. I did manage to get out our Christmas CD’s, but it still doesn’t sink in that Christmas is only three weeks from Friday!

I am attempting to get my holiday shopping done via internet, and I am getting somewhat annoyed. This is the first year I haven’t participated in at least some form of Black Friday shopping in years. So I am cyber-shopping, and I stink at it about as much as store shopping. I tried twice to get the Amazon.com lightning deals, and both times my connection was so slow that by the time I got to checkout I lost the deal! I took that as a sign that I am supposed to give up and shop a lot less for this year’s gifts. Fortunately our kids don’t have any major requests! Besides, I think between grandparents and aunts and uncles the kids will not suffer at all. Did I mention Grandma and Grandpa Nikkel are coming in just over a week?

More to come….sooner than last time, I promise!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Journey to Haiti Event

Bring the whole family for an evening of the sights and sounds of Haiti!
Sunday, November 1
5:00-7:00 pm
Vermeer Global Pavilion, Pella, IA

Want to try carrying buckets on your heads, learn about noisy animals or talk to a family who lives in a different country? Then we hope your family will join us for Journey to Haiti, a fun family event for all ages organized by Many Hands for Haiti.
We're planning a fun evening for all ages! But we want you to learn something too! We want to reconnect you with the mission and purpose of Many Hands and teach you what it's like to live in a country like Haiti--but we'll do it in a unique, hands-on way. After a brief update on how God is working through Many Hands, we’ll check in with the Nikkel family in Pignon, Haiti, via video call. Get your questions ready because we're going to ask them all about life in Haiti!
After the Nikkels tell us about Haiti, we're going to do some fun activities that will help us experience life in Haiti. We'll have several stations for families to travel through, including...
  • Pics & Prayer: At this station you can write a note of encouragement or prayer for the Nikkel family, or get your creative juices flowing and "Pray in Color" or create a piece of art for someone in the Nikkel family. (I know Will & Natalie would love some artwork for their new rooms that will hopefully be finished soon!)
  • Games Galore: We'll have an obstacle course to show you some of the things they do in Haiti, a picture guessing game of some unique Haitian sites, and a food-testing station to try some of what they might eat in Haiti. We'll also have some laptops that will allow you to explore life in some Third World countries.

And here are a few details that may help families...

  • Some great snacks will be provided to get you through that dinner hour! (And not just the Haitian taste-testing food...) :)
  • A supervised child play area will be available, especially for smaller children, throughout the evening.
  • Many Hands t-shirts will be available for $10 in children and adult sizes.
  • All ages are welcome! Adults will have fun and learn a lot too!

Schedule of Events

Here is a tentative schedule of events for the evening. It is not an "open house." We will begin at 5:00 pm with some brief info and the call to the Nikkels. The evening will end with the freedom to visit the stations, mingle and snack at your leisure, so there will not be a formal closing time.

(Schedule is subject to change...never know how a Haiti to Iowa Skype connection will be!)

5:00-5:25: Welcome & Update on Many Hands for Haiti

5:25-5:40: Phone Pignon (Get your questions ready for the Nikkels!)

5:40-5:50: Explanation of Activity Stations

5:50-7:00: Explore the stations, get snacks and have fun learning about the Third World!

Thank you so much for your continued support for Many Hands for Haiti! We hope you'll join us as we continue to learn about God’s love for those in poverty. Please feel free to contact me, Beth Gaulke, at 621-1628 or bgaulke@trcpella.com with questions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Update from Pignon

Wow, I had no idea it had been so long since I updated the blog! So many things have been going on here and we’re just now getting into a busy part of the year. Starting today we will have a group here every week until November 19th. It will keep us hopping for sure. We are really looking forward to the next couple of months, having teams around to work with, talk to and hang out with.

I am surprised by how lonely we feel sometimes. It has been challenging living in a culture so different from our own. One of the best things to happen is that Will and Natalie are becoming the best of friends. I suppose when you are the only English speaking, Caucasian kids around, you cling to each other. It’s not that they don’t get along with kids here and have a few friends, it’s just a different kind of friendship. They are beginning to realize they can really trust each other and that they need each other.

Natalie has been battling these freak infections from some kind of bug bite that goes from a simple bite to a full blown abscess. They are incredibly painful and get red, hot and swollen. We have found the only way to get rid of them is with antibiotics. Of course everyone knows too much is just too much. Anyway, she was crying one night because it was hurting so bad and Will felt so much empathy for her he started crying too. (He will probably kill me someday for writing it down!) He even told her how much he loved her and that she was so tough! It’s not like they don’t fight anymore, because they do. Believe me. But something has changed in the way they respect each other. It is good.

Jared and I too are finding we are growing closer as the days go by. Hey it isn’t every husband and wife that can do construction projects together and live to tell about it. It’s funny because the things we would have argued about in the states don’t even apply here. Like which tile to buy or what color to paint. We are very limited and I am finding the fewer choices I have the better. Speaking of paint, we finally got our paint problems worked out. We are well on our way to having the interior totally painted! Yea!

We made our first road trip to Port-au-Prince recently. The first 30 Km (19 miles) took about 2 hours with the entire trip (130 Km or 80 miles) taking roughly 4 ½. The road is very rocky and in the low spots very muddy. We came to a huge mud hole and debated if it was passable. Jared and I agreed if we were in the states there is no way we would even attempt to drive through. But, we are in Haiti and we did as the Haitians do, we went for it. Jared tried to get on a high spot, but we immediately slid to the left and got high centered. After some skillful rocking of the truck on Jared’s part, he was able to get backed up and we found enough traction to get onto a higher spot. The whole time the kids and I were silent, in awe of the scene unfolding. We still weren’t sure we were going to get through, but Jared persevered and we came out on the other side. We also knew there was no turning back because we were not going through that again. It didn’t matter that we would have to come back a few days later.

That wasn’t the end of our road adventure. Shortly after going through the mud hole of death, we came down a hill to cross over a stream and found a large “tap-tap” stuck, sideways, in the middle of the next climb. We took a position in the shade along with four or five other trucks and waited to see what the driver would do and if they would get it moved. There were only two options. To get it going, or to let it roll back into the stream and without a doubt on it’s side. Several people were on the truck along with cases of glass pop bottles and an assortment of other stuff. The passengers got off, some walked away, but others helped the driver get a path made for smaller trucks to squeeze by. That of course included us. We all waited in suspense as one beat up white Toyota attempted the climb. He made it through and we were tired of waiting so Jared gave it a shot. I thought for sure we were going to lose a mirror or get our first major dent, but we squeezed through unharmed.

We finally got to the city of Hinche and from there the road started to improve. Things got really exciting when we saw a sign at the side of the road written in French, basically saying “road work ahead.” We were hesitant to believe it, but were soon driving through “construction zones.” The road crews had heavy equipment; dozers, rock trucks, cement trucks and road graders. But there were also hundreds of men mixing cement by hand, and creating rock channels along the road for water runoff. PROGRESS! It was a great thing to see. The closer we got to Port the better the road got until it was all smooth concrete. Jared even got the truck up to 60 mile per hour. I didn’t even know there were places in Haiti to drive that fast, safely.

Once we arrived in Port-au-Prince we drove around for an hour trying to find the entrance to our hotel. It wasn’t very well marked and we ended up driving by it twice before we finally got good directions from a woman on the street. There we police stationed on the road going to the hotel and police in front of the hotel. We were happy to see such a large law enforcement presence in the city.

Our hotel was beautiful and had everything we needed, a big pool, satellite TV with US channels, and my personal favorite air conditioning! The food was great and nobody got sick. The kids and I spent the days swimming and Jared spent the days running all over Port with our friend Gevy, trying to get the things we needed. He did discover a couple of great places to shop for groceries and Ecko Depot, Haiti’s Home Depot. The Caribbean Super Market was the kids favorite find. We walked in and it felt and looked just like a US supermarket. We found all kinds of food, health and beauty stuff and toys. It was great, and I am sure it will be one of our “must” stops when we are in Port.

We had only planned to stay for two nights, but with everything in Haiti, you must be flexible. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get all the things done that we needed to, so we kept our room for another night. By then the kids were getting a little too comfortable and Will even asked if we could just live there all the time. After all, he had everything he needed a pool, A/C and the Discovery channel, which we let him stay up and watch. Natalie’s favorite thing by far was the super hot shower. She spent half an hour after every swim, “getting the pool water off.” We will for sure be making the trip again in the near future, just to relax a little.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Wish List

Several people have asked me about things that the Nikkels could use, so I finally got Stacey to send a list! She doesn't like asking people for things, which I think we can all understand, but I know they would be blessed by these things, or even just by your thoughts and encouragement in a card or letter. You can find the address on the right side of the blog.

Here are a few prayer needs as well:
  • Pray that God continues to reveal their role in Haiti as they continue to adjust to life there.
  • Pray for Stacey and the kids as they have begun their home school journey. Pray for patience and excitement.
  • Pray for the quick completion of their house and for workers to come alongside Jared to help with electrical and plumbing.
  • Pray that they will feel God's presence in powerful ways and be encouraged.
  • Thank God for their safety, an overall smooth transition, and the support they have in their friends, family and the Many Hands for Haiti board.

Wish List

  • AA batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • AAA batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • notebooks
  • coloring books & crayons
  • pens & pencils
  • ibuprofen
  • tylenol PM
  • benedryl (generic allegry med)
  • adult hair bands (non-metal)
  • granola bars
  • goldfish crackers
  • muffin mixes (add water kind)
  • pepperoni
  • summer sausage

Thank you for your continued support!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Days of School, Paint Surprises and More!

September 2, 2009

It is so hard to believe August is gone already! We started school last week even though I forgot to order some very necessary parts of our curriculum. It is definitely a learning experience for me. I am praying we will enjoy the home school experience, and the kids need something to focus on other than lizards, machetes and imaginary horses. I guess we are getting somewhere though because Natalie told me in the market today that we use “currency” to buy things and that in Haiti we use goudes. Will, on the other hand, keeps telling me how much he forgot over the summer. :)

We recently added another new member to our family, and this time she is really alive. Our friends, the Mompremiers, are heading back in the states and asked if we would be interested in taking care of one of their cats. She is a sweet young kitty named Pumpkin, and the kids love having her here. We also found out she is an expert gecko hunter and will probably be a great mouser as well. I guess we will see if she sticks it out here because the kids have a hard time letting her be. Hopefully it will teach our kids a lesson about being responsible for a pet. Will has been faithful, after much prompting, to empty her litter box each day. So far we have only been able to get our hands on cardboard boxes and are waiting to get to the big city to find a plastic litter box.

I find it almost comical when we need to pick something up from the “boutique” or make a run to the market for the simplest of things. Today I needed to pick up some eggs, peanut butter, crackers, canned peas and corn, napkins and if possible some canned meat other than Spam. We ended up going to three different shops and didn’t find any eggs or canned meat other than Spam. I have also noticed that lately we can’t even find real Spam--and believe me, there is a difference, be it ever so little. Eggs haven’t been too hard to find until recently, and they are pretty pricey, costing us around $6.00 for 2 ½ dozen. The problem with eggs is that you really take a gamble whether or not they will even be good. So far we haven’t gotten too sick and we’ve eaten quite a few questionable eggs!

We are slowly making progress on our house and have two rooms tiled, the water tank perched on top of the roof and full of water. Jared was very grateful that we didn’t end up having any leaks in the tank. He has been running pipes for plumbing and electricity, but as with most things here, it is never simple. We ran out of the right PVC pipe for the plumbing, and it’s not like we can just run to Menard’s or Lowe’s. So we are at a standstill with that until after our trip to Port (Port-au-Prince).

For those of you who love to hear a bad paint job story, this will provide a laugh (or a tear in my case!). A few weeks ago we started the interior painting, supposedly it was cream colored, but actually is a lovely, but overpowering, shade of yellow. We finally decided it would make a good primer coat and are going to shoot for a light brown/tan for the final product. Anyway, most of the interior walls and ceilings were done with the exception of one bedroom and the bathroom that has no light yet. Recently we started to notice sticky patches here and there and realized the concrete had not dried out completely before we started. A few days ago after a storm went through it was even worse. Jared decided to spray the walls with water to see if it would just slide off and it did. Most of the walls gave up the bottom half and in some places more. Honestly though it could have been much worse. At this point the floor is still mostly concrete, and we are a long way from moving stuff in so nothing is lost except a few gallons of paint and some sweat (and tears!).

We are hoping to be ready to move in before more teams arrive at the end of this month. There is a lot of work to do and school has the kids and I busy in the mornings, so we are praying for lots of energy, good power and good weather. In the end it will be what it will be! If I am not mistaken, it also seems like the days are getting shorter much faster than back home. The sun is usually setting before 6:30, which is too early for me! Hopefully we will be done with electrical work soon and will be able to work in the evening in our house.

The last week has been pretty tolerable as far as weather goes. The afternoons can still get pretty hot, but generally there is a good breeze in the afternoon and the cooler air sets in. There have been some pretty loud and heavy thunderstorms roll through the past few nights and even Jared complained he was getting “chilly!” The kids and I have had to cover up with sheets and light blankets recently, and I thought for sure it was in the low 60’s this morning when we woke up. Imagine the laugh we got when it turned out to be 75 degrees in the house. We are obviously adjusting to the climate, and I am starting to wonder if the clothes we brought for “winter” will be warm enough! I guess we will see about that too….

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Day in the Life

I realized the other day it is August already and we’ve been here for almost two months! Time really flies, even when you no longer live by a clock. We had a great conference call of sorts with Jared’s family on Saturday night. They all got together for August birthdays and crowded around the computer to call our cell phone by Skype. I have never been a fan of technology, but my opinion is quickly changing. We had our cell phone on speaker and took turns passing it around so we could all talk. It was great to hear everyone’s voices, especially when our 1 ½ year old nephew, Mason, finally said “Chuck Norris” for us. (It’s a family thing!)

Anyway, my sisters-in-law were wondering what a normal day looks like for us so I will attempt to let you enter in. Sleep is often interrupted in the wee hours (around 3:00) by a squawking rooster, usually very close to our house. He likes to instigate a 10 to 20 minute crowing competition with every other rooster in town. If it’s not the rooster, then it’s the bleating cry of a young goat. For the first week we would jump out of bed every time we heard it thinking it was one our kids crying. Now we just want to find the thing and put it out of (our) misery.

The sun starts rising around 4:30 and the day begins for most (not us). Thursday through Sunday there is a loud bell rung at 5:00 from the Catholic Church letting people know the service will start at 6:00. The bell is rung again at 6:00 to signal the beginning of mass, which can last up to four hours, sometimes more. We often wake up to singing, mostly hymns and praises from the churches nearby. We get up between 6:00 and 7:00 and try to spend some quiet time reading our Bibles.

Jared usually checks on the progress of our house and starts getting whatever materials need to be lined up for the days work. He also runs around paying bills for our house and other projects we are helping with. Of course that also requires frequent trips to “Fonkoze,” the bank near the airport. It would be a lot easier if we could use checks, credit or debit! We have to pay for everything with cash, and it’s complicated changing US dollars into Haitian Goudes. The rate is about $8 Haitian to $1 American. It would be easy if that were it, but the Haitian dollar is obsolete, so everything is then converted into goudes (spelled gourdes in French) at a rate of 5 gouds to 1 Haitian dollar. The funny thing is that most prices are in Haitian dollars but you pay with gouds. Fortunately for us Jared is the money man in this family!

For the kids the day starts with breakfast of bread from the local bakery and peanut butter or cereal and powdered milk. We can find corn flakes pretty easily but any sugared cereal can cost up to $8.00 US. So far Will has been kept happy by Grandma Nikkel sending his favorite, Marshmallow Mateys, via MFI. Natalie ran out of Honey O’s quite a while ago. To my surprise they don’t really have any objections to powdered milk, yet. I think it smells funny and has an after taste so I’ll leave milk drinking to them. We were able to find some chocolate and strawberry Nestle Quik in Cap Haitien on our last visit. All is well for Will and Natalie.

The rest of their day is spent playing, (arguing), coloring, (fighting), doing crafty things, (playing with a machete), hating the lunch prepared by our cook, (hugging and making up) and going whereever Mom and Dad go. This includes the internet café every few days, which they absolutely dread because it is “so boring!” As you can see I did not mention spending hours watching TV or playing video games, although at times I wish for something like that to keep them contented and quiet. We have heard we can get satellite TV, but it would cost up to $1000 to install a dish and then it has a monthly fee. I don’t think we are that desperate…yet.

Afternoons here are very hot, but we usually have a breeze to make it tolerable. From what we understand we have been blessed because we live in the mountains and not on the coast or in a city. I don’t think we’d survive there! Lately most afternoons the clouds build, generally in the northeast, and bring showers or at least cool air. As a matter of fact, last night I slept with a sheet and a blanket! I thought for sure when I woke up it was in the 50’s in the house, but it was still 78. I think it is safe to say we have adjusted to the weather here.

We are often running here and there checking out a building project, whether it is the library going up by the hospital or a new school being finished. Some days we visit the hospital, specifically the baby room, to see what is going on and if there is anything we can do to help. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. It has been hard living in a different reality, where sometimes praying for mercy is better than praying for survival. Through it all God is good and is constantly revealing himself to us even though we cannot possibly understand all he does and why.

In the evening we have supper; the kids always request “Fast Mac” or “Ramen Noodles.” Pretty nutritious, huh? It’s hard to cook a good wholesome meal without a meat department, produce department, eggs and milk! Our power is limited, usually running from around 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Needless to say, keeping things frozen is out of the question…for now. Eventually we will have a battery bank and inverter to give us power 24/7. Fortunately we have family sending us necessary food items like pepperoni, pizza sauce, pizza crust mix and Velveeta (keep it coming ladies!). We are able to get mozzarella cheese in Cap at about $8.00 US per pound, so we use it sparingly.

Usually we have language class with our friend and helper Gevy. Jared is doing great; I on the other hand am “pa bon elev,” which translates to “not good student.” Even the kids are picking it up some, but they often have no idea what they are saying. We will all get it eventually! After, or sometimes during, class we take turns showering. The water is fairly cool most days and downright chilly on days when the rains come. But the truth is it feels great at the end of a hot day.

After showers and class, we all gather in the kids’ bedroom to read a chapter from a book. Right now the book is called, “It’s a Jungle Out There.” It’s about a missionary family in Peru and all the adventures the kids have growing up. Our kids really like it, and it is quite funny to read together. Maybe someday we will have our own funny stories to tell. Shortly after the power goes out we try to go to sleep amidst the noises from the “disco” and our fine animal friends. Occasionally we hear the distant beat of the Voodoo drums, which reminds us to pray for the deliverance of this nation.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Breaking News!

Breaking news from the home front…okay, so it has been 1 ½ weeks already. We have a new baby! She’s very healthy and strong, and we’ve affectionately named her Rhino. The only problem is that we will never be able to keep her clean, inside or out! Let me explain. Last Saturday we got the much anticipated phone call we’ve been waiting for.

Our friends, Jean Jean and Kristie Mompremier, have been helping us since April to complete the purchase of a truck. As it is in Haiti, nothing is ever simple. We had hoped to make arrangements to have it here in Pignon when we arrived. It ended up being a month to the day of our arrival that the truck came. Jean Jean called us Saturday afternoon asking if we were still planning to go to Cap Haitien for Will’s birthday. He told Jared we might have to delay because the truck wouldn’t be ready yet. We were dejected. We have found out that Jean Jean is quite the jokester! He finally told us that his brother was on his way from the Mompremier home and would be here with the truck in 20 minutes.

Natalie and Will were screaming so loudly I am sure someone thought they were being abused. All I can say is it was a real blessing that we hadn’t known he was on his way before that. It truly was the longest 20 minutes we’ve spent here! We walked out to the gate and listened for the sound of a diesel truck. Several times we heard what had to be the truck only to have a beat up “tap-tap” cruise by. Jared and I gave up waiting and started collecting tools to put back in the garage. Then we heard the sweetest “beep-beep” we’ve heard yet. The gateman pulled back the steel gate and our little black Rhino pulled in!

I am pretty sure Natalie was crying at this point, tears of joy she said. Will just wanted to climb all over it, and thought he should be the first to drive it. He just doesn’t get it yet that even though there really isn’t a law stating a legal driving age, he can’t reach the peddles and see over the steering wheel at the same time. Not to mention he has never driven a stick-shift. We had to take some pictures, and Will found “ the best angles.” It was a good day for us.

You may be wondering about the name “Rhino.” We had a small DVD case full of the kids’ favorite movies for travelling. Somewhere between moving and having our yard sale we misplaced the case. Fortunately Grandma Shirley had gotten the movie “Bolt” for the kids to open on the way to Florida. (It is one of the few movies we ended up with here in Pignon.) In it is a hamster named “Rhino” and he is “fully awesome!” as is our new truck, thus the name Rhino.

Believe it or not, I just took the truck out for the first time yesterday! To tell you the truth, I was a little apprehensive about navigating tight spaces, driving in low gears, and had a real fear of running over a person, dog or goat. There are also bicycles, motorcycles, oxen, donkeys, mules and horses to dodge. All in all it was uneventful and I didn’t kill the engine or anyone!

As I said before, Saturday (the 18th) was a good day. The sun rises here around 4:30 and the city comes to life. About 25 workers and 3 cooks showed up shortly after to get going on the roof project. By 5:30 they were in full swing. They mixed concrete, gravel and sand by shovel then lifted it bucket by bucket up to the roof. It was then poured and the bucket was passed back down via rope. I am not sure how many buckets were involved, but it was a steady stream all morning long.

I woke up to the sound of men singing and thought it sounded so sweet. I was sure it was praise music, and I tried to pick out the words. Later I found the guys working on our house were singing about the spaghetti they were going to eat for breakfast. Shows how good my Kreyol is coming along! They worked so hard all morning long and finished up around 12:30. Then they ate rice and beans with fish sauce. I am so glad I didn’t take part in that and that our cook hasn’t even attempted fish sauce yet.

Over this past weekend the forms were removed and the crepe (plaster) process began on Monday. It will take some time, but we are told when all is finished the house will be ready to paint! We discussed what color to paint and even picked up a couple of paint samples in Cap Haitien. Just kidding--there are no paint samples! We can get white, off-white, and cream pretty easily. Once in a while you can find a few cans of blue, red or orange. It really just depends on the day! We’re a ways from painting so we’ll wait to make that big decision until later.

Will’s birthday was also on Saturday. He got to open a package Grandpa and Grandma Phillips sent with us when we left. Of course it was all things Jimmy Johnson! He was thrilled to get another JJ t-shirt (Grandma Nikkel brought one for him earlier this month) so he could wear one or the other every day. I don’t think they will last long, laundry by hand is very tough on things. He also got a multi-purpose tool that goes everywhere with him. You never know when you’ll need a little saw, knife or screwdriver here.

Monday morning we left for Cap around 7:30 to spend the night at the Mont Joli Hotel for Will’s birthday. Jared has been to Cap a few times, but it was a first for me and the kids. I know we’ve said it before, but the roads are really bad here. We are so grateful to our supporters for the truck! Jared told the kids it was like riding a rollercoaster all the way to Cap. He isn’t kidding. The kids thought it was great and it was fun, but I just prayed I wouldn’t need a chiropractor before it was over.

Apart from the road, the beauty of this part of the country is at times breathtaking. We have to go over a mountain and it is covered by rainforest. From what I’ve heard, the northern plateau area is one of a few places remaining that hasn’t succumbed to deforestation. I know there are several re-forestation projects under way around the country, and we hope the people here will see the value in it.

We had a great time at the Mont Joli swimming and playing in the pool. We also got to work on our tans. Our room was nice with two double beds and a TV. There were a few American channels: CNN, USA, HBO and a sci-fi channel. Unfortunately the screen was so bad and fuzzy you couldn’t really see anything. Not to mention the problem with the sound. So we didn’t watch it much, but that isn’t really any different than our everyday life. It’s funny what you don’t miss.

Thanks for your continued prayer and support. Until next time...


Friday, July 17, 2009

Celebrating a Concrete Roof!

I know it may be shocking to some to see another entry so soon! I think this will be the first time we have posted twice in one week. I guess you can call it making up for the weeks when we didn’t have any entry.

Things are moving quickly here these days. Tomorrow is Saturday and the workers are ready to pour the concrete roof on the house. It is amazing to me that only two weeks ago the foundation was being poured. Now we have new walls with window and door openings, and we’re about to have a roof! From what we understand it will be an impressive display. There will be 17 workers according to the “Boss,” but we hear there will likely be more like 30. Apparently when something like this is going on men will just walk in off the street to help, hoping to get a meal or a little pay.

We found out yesterday we are to provide two meals for the workers as it will be an intense, all-day project. So Jared, Will, Gevy (our tutor and friend) and two boys we hire frequently are going to the market as I write to pick up supplies for rice and beans (diri ak pwa) and spaghetti (spagette). The boss will hire three ladies to cook the food under a tree in kettles using charcoal fires. It’s pretty close to how the school lunch program is run.

So far today six loads of sand and three loads of gravel have come in by truck. I think there is more gravel on the way. I have to take a moment to explain how the gravel is made here. Ladies from town walk up the mountain to retrieve chunks of rock (weighing maybe 25-30 pounds, I am totally guessing) which they carry on their heads back down. They then take a hammer, or another rock if no hammer is available, and start breaking the big rock apart. Thus gravel is made for concrete. Down the road from us there is a portion of the street where you can find gravel of all sizes in piles outside the ladies’ homes. I cannot imagine having to support my family this way. Fortunately for them construction projects seem to be moving along and for now they have a way of making some money.

The workers coming in tomorrow will blend the sand, gravel and concrete mix with shovels in piles on the ground. Then they will be hoisted, one bucket at a time, onto the “roof,” now only sheets of plywood supported by a mixture of timbers cobbled together with nails, and a few steel supports. I keep saying OSHA would love to see this! Jared tried to get me on the soon-to-be roof, but I am afraid of heights, especially ones that look so precarious! I was nervous just standing on the “ladder,” which was nothing more than timbers with a few strips of an old board nailed on.

The roof thus far is a layer of block with rebar interwoven on top of plywood. The concrete will be poured into the cracks and over the top of the block. It will take 15 days to cure with water being sprayed or poured on three times a day to prevent it from drying too fast. Once that process is over, the supports and plywood will be removed and returned to the place we rented them from. I find it hilarious that here plywood is rented for each project--that is until it rots. We can’t just run to Menard’s or Lowe’s to buy the things we need. It is humbling to realize how easy we had it in the States.

When this part is over, it will be time to hire more workers (maybe the same crew) to pour the concrete floor and crepe (similar to plastering) the walls and ceiling. This also includes the entire outside of the house. Then we will be ready to paint, tile and install doors and windows. We have already been discussing getting a carpenter started on the furniture we will need. It might be possible to get some beds, frames, and other furniture (if we can find it) in Cap Haitien. The road has gotten better as of late and instead of taking 4-5 hours to travel the 36 miles to Cap, it only takes 2 1/2! This is progress!

I would love to report that our truck has arrived, but alas, it has not. (I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, can you tell?) We were told over a week ago “maybe four or five more days.” We are getting used to this; it has been a month since we got here, still no truck. Apparently there is a paper that needs a signature to release license plates for the truck, which is waiting and ready and paid for. As Jared has pointed out many times, the bright side is that he’s losing weight from all the walking! It’s good to be able to find a bright side to things here.

Will has been occupied for the last two days making trucks with friends Francely and Woodson. Both boys are quite a bit older and often work for us doing odd jobs to make a little money for their families. They use any scraps they can find, including the empty cans of wasp spray I previously threw into the trash pit. At first they were trying to cut the cans with an old pair of scissors until Jared let them use some tin snips. All three of the boys at one point had cuts that needed attention. I have decided I cannot possibly protect Will from everything and that I will have to trust God to keep him safe. He is really enjoying this project!

Natalie spends her days playing with Barbies, Littlest Pet Shop toys, play-doh and coloring. She also likes to play with Alina and Chrissy, friends from the Haiti Home of Hope orphanage run by our friends Bill and Jennifer Campbell. The Campbell’s have become a tremendous help and valuable resource to us. We are so grateful the Lord brought them here first.

I have been going to the orphanage on Wednesday mornings since our arrival here for feeding clinic and milk clinic which alternate weekly. My class in North Carolina has proven to be useful already as I have seen so many of the things we talked about there. Unfortunately I am also already seeing the sometimes devastating reality of poverty. It is so hard to believe in the time we live in that people, mostly children, are starving!

It seems overwhelming at times, what can we possibly do to make a difference? Then I remember a great story I read (I think it was in The Hole in our Gospel by Rich Stearns) about starfish being washed upon shore. There were so many it seemed overwhelming and useless to do anything about it because it wasn’t possible to save them all. As one man stands despairing, another is seen casting starfish out to sea. The one man points out the hopelessness of the situation and asks, “How can you possibly make a difference?” The other man throws another starfish into the ocean and says, “It made a difference for that one.”

Matthew 25:40
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hot in Haiti

Last Thursday we said good-bye to our first team to visit since we arrived. The team was from our home church, Third Reformed, in Pella. It was so good to see old friends and to meet new ones. There was a good mix of men and women, young and young at heart. There were four teenagers, a couple of twenty-somethings, one of which became a thirty something while here, and the over thirty crowd, including us. Of course the real treat was having Grandma and Grandpa Nikkel come with them. They arrived on July 2nd and if I remember right it was very hot that day! (On a side note, my Tupperware also arrived that day! Woo Hoo!)

Two weeks ago we hired a few guys to clear all the debris from the house we’re working on and the area surrounding it. The contractor we hired started work on digging the footing for the foundation and making blocks for the walls. It is amazing to see how quickly things can happen here! The group was very impressive. They cleared rocks, concrete and garbage from around our house without complaint. The sun was brutal at times and sweating is a given.

The work was dirty and tedious, but spirits were high. Some sang, some joked around and others came up with quirky names for biting ants. One of the highlights was the tarantula we unearthed. It was pretty big, but nothing compared to the one found later crawling up the compound wall. I have been told if you put a tarantula and a centipede together they will fight to the death and the centipede will always win. I don’t think Will has caught on to this yet as I am sure he would try it.

We were also able to do some painting at Three Bears School in nearby Fontaine. The ride out was thrilling the first day. We left the compound knowing rain was imminent. The road was quite bumpy, nothing unusual there. Our truck was a big Mitsubishi, fondly named “Mama Mitsi” by a previous trip member. It is the same truck that rescued us from mud hole two years ago. Will and Natalie rode in back with myself and the group. Natalie laughed and screamed continuously saying “this is way better than Adventureland!” And then it rained on us. It felt like being shot with a pellet gun, but was cool and we welcomed it.

There were several kids at the school and Will entertained them with his soccer ball and newly acquired skills. He was a total mudball before it was over! Some of the girls painted kids fingernails and we were able to get the first coat of paint done in all five classrooms. We returned the next day to finish up. On the way out to the school, which is about 7 km from Pignon, a little girl was waving her craft from that morning’s Bible School. You could tell she was proud to have her foam heart that said “Jezi” (Jesus). We were all touched.

Several of the team were involved in a Bible School at the hospital. It ran Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning from 9:00 to 11:00. Kids came early for a snack and stayed afterward for a meal of rice and beans. Some walked a great distance to attend. They had a great time singing songs, hearing stories and making a craft each day. I know the team was blessed by seeing such joy in these kids. Bible School will definitely be something we will continue to encourage groups to do.

With the various talents of the group we were able to get the plumbing for our house stubbed in. All I can say is indoor plumbing is a must for me. I am so grateful to know that I will have a shower, toilet and running water in our house! It’s the little things that excite us. (Did I mention Tupperware!) We have also decided we definitely will have an inverter to provide power through the night. We currently have power during the day but not at night. It can get very uncomfortable without any air moving not to mention the cacophony of animal noises and the ever popular disco.

We also celebrated the 4th of July while the group was here. Grandma and Grandpa brought in some sparklers, which we were surprised to see airport security let through. The kids thought it was great, a couple of the cooks even got involved! Next year we’ll probably be in the states and will have to find a really good display to see.

It was such a blessing and encouragement to us to have a group around. They were always upbeat and fun to be around. We will enjoy being with various teams from around the country. Will and Natalie will have friends from all over! Having to say good-bye was very hard for all of us. There were many tears but we know we are where God wants us to be and we look forward to meeting new friends next month!

Please continue to keep the people of Haiti in your prayers. There is much hope and excitement for the future of this country.

You can also pray our truck arrives soon. It has been almost a month since arriving and we are anxious to have some wheels!

God Bless~The Nikkels

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bonswa from Ayiti!

Site of Our Future Home

Bonswa from Ayiti!

That is Creole for “Good afternoon from Haiti!” It is a warm but quite tolerable Monday afternoon here in Pignon. We had a great weekend and spent our Sunday morning and early afternoon with Christie and Jean Jean Mompremier, their girls and a team from Orange City, Iowa. Jean Jean is a pastor of the Maranatha church in Bohoc not far from here.

We were so grateful to receive the invitation to go to church with them and then enjoy an “American” style meal complete with hamburgers! The kids really got a kick out of that. They also enjoyed playing with several kids, including the Mompremier’s daughters Tana and Kerri. They also got to pet their cats and new puppies, which was a new thing for them as we are constantly telling them, “DON’T TOUCH THE ANIMALS!” They just don’t get what we’re so uptight about. I am not a germaphobe, but I am honestly grateful for the manufacturers of germ-X!

We went to our first “football” (soccer) game last night. Pignon played a team from near Port-au-Prince. It was pretty crazy at times. The players get pretty fired up and so do the fans. It ended in a tie and a mad dash for the one small doorway in the concrete wall. We had to really hold on to the kids for fear they’d be run over. Our evening ended with a DVD of “Funniest Home Videos.” It was an oldie but goodie! We of course do not have any regular TV programming and DVDs are the only thing we can watch. It is only on occasion as we don’t want to start a habit of being able to watch it all the time.

Jared is already being Mr. Fix-it. Our generator was shutting off shortly after being started last Friday night, so he worked on it Saturday and it seems to be working again. He also had to fix the plumbing in the kitchen sink after it started leaking from the drain. I guess you can never get away from home maintenance!

Will and Natalie are doing well and making friends pretty easily even though there is a language barrier. I guess playing is a universal language. Will had a hard day last Friday and said he was staying in Iowa when we got back. Please keep him (and Natalie) in your prayers as this is quite an adjustment.

Today we are burning a huge pile of dried weeds and dead trees removed from the area where we are finishing our house. We were told it could be finished in two weeks, but then realized that it will always be “just two weeks!” It’s just one of those quirky things about this culture. Hopefully the contractor will be coming by today to give us an estimate on cost for completing the house and give us an idea of when he can start. Pray for hard workers and a lot of patience for us.

We are praying that our truck will be ready sometime this week. It’s tough not being able to get to certain places like the airport without waiting for a driver. We are looking forward to seeing the team from Third Church on Thursday. Will and Natalie (and Jared and myself) are really anxious to see Grandma and Grandpa Nikkel as well. We’re praying the weather cooperates so the rain doesn’t bog down the grass airstrip they will come in on.

Our Creole is coming along…slowly! Jared is pretty sharp and has some practice; I however don’t retain things well. The other night our tutor asked me in Creole if I was a good student. I had to reply honestly, “No, I am not a good student.” He just laughed. We really are doing pretty well considering we’ve only been here for 11 days. Feels like an eternity sometimes!

I think we finally have our critter situation under control. For the first several days we had cockroaches, misquitos and flies all over. Then there was the night Will woke us up screaming for Jared because he saw something in the bathroom. Jared told him it was probably just a shadow. Will said it went under the door and sure enough a 4-5 inch centipede came scurrying out. Jared grabbed MY shoe and started beating it, then sprayed it with roach spray. Apparently these are mutant centipedes because it was still going strong. I put the shoe on and stepped on it, and that nasty thing still didn’t die. Jared finally scooped it up in the dust pan and got rid of it. Bugs are a way of life here so we had better get used to it!

I had better close this up as we need to get to the internet café to send it out. Last Thursday night we went fearing it would rain, and it did. The street outside the door of the building was literally a river. The kids stood on the step and watched as branches, leaves and occasionally a bag of trash would float by. We ended being trapped there until about 7:00 when the café overseer let us out another typically locked door. Guess we learned our lesson on that one!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We know we are blessed because of it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hello from Haiti!

Hello from Haiti! Well, we made it through our first week. I am happy to report that we are all doing well. We have been so blessed this first week, but we have also been challenged. To be honest I’ve had to stop a few times this week and ask myself what the heck we’re doing here.

When we arrived, the hospital was kind enough to have some cooks available to prepare some meals for us. On Friday a small team arrived from Community Coalition for Haiti so we had some company for the week. We hired our own cook on Saturday to help with market, laundry, cooking and cleaning. It seems kind of weird hiring someone to do things that we normally do ourselves, but the way of life here is so different. Her name is Beatris, she doesn’t speak English but she is an outstanding worker. It worked out so well because Beatris used to cook for the hospital and was let go because of lack of funding and now we have the opportunity to give her a job. I feel a little sorry for her because we keep trying to speak Creole to her. She’s a really good sport though. We just finished a pseudo conversation and we found she has 4 children: Benis, 20, Ligenz, 18, Finel, 11, and Sharen, 9. Our Creole is starting to come around. We are working with a tutor each night for about an hour and are starting to think we might be able to talk to someone soon.

We also got started on our house on Monday. We hired 2 workers to start cleaning the weeds and brush from around and inside the house. For those who don’t know, the house is a cement block house that was started years ago but never finished. It is located in what used to be the garbage area for the hospital compound. On Monday we worked all day with picks and machetes and cleared a lot of brush. The Haitians I worked with worked circles around me. We also hired two guys on Tuesday and Wednesday as well and were able to clean out most of the area. I am going over there in a little while to pick up more garbage. Hopefully next week we can get the “Big Boss” over here to get a price for finishing the house. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures. We made a lot of progress, but still have a way to go. We’ll keep you updated.

In Haiti there is one thing you can’t miss, and that is the need that surrounds you. We still aren’t sure what niche we will fit into exactly, but it’s obvious that there are many ways we can help. As we walked out of the compound the other day there was a young boy standing at the gate. He had a large piece of flesh missing from his arm. He said he had fallen on a piece of steel a week ago. The wound had been treated with iodine but was uncovered and the bugs were swarming around it. The next day his friend brought the boy back to us, and the wound had broken open and the bugs were all over it; it had several areas of dead tissue and needed attention. His name is Joseph Evenz. The family said they couldn’t afford treatment so Stacey cleaned the wound and bandaged it with antibiotic ointment. Stacey continues to treat the wound each day, and it is now healing nicely. A short time after Stacey treated Evenz, one of the watchmen at the hospital came to us with a tropical ulcer on his leg. The wound started as a cut from a pick ax in the garden and worsened into a large sore on the leg. He was carrying a leafy branch and swatting the wound to keep the bugs off of it. Stacey has spent the last several days cleaning and removing dead tissue from the wound and providing antibiotic bandaging. They are healing nicely and are learning how to care for the wounds on their own. I can’t imagine what we will see in the future, but we are sure God’s plan is good.

We got some really good news this week. We put a deposit on our truck a few weeks ago and were told that they had no trucks, and we would have to wait for a truck to come from Japan which would be about 2 months. Magically when the dealership found out we have all the money, they came up with a truck for us. We hope to have it in a week or so and are really looking forward to it.

This has turned out to be a little longer than I had planned. It’s so hard to convey not only what is actually happening but the thoughts and emotions that have come along with it. There are so many things that we can’t cover them all. We’re so grateful for the support we have and look forward to getting another week under our belt. If you get a chance, pray for wisdom to know what to do in unfamiliar situations, that we learn the language quickly and that we start building good relationships. Also keep the missionary teams in your prayers, specifically Tim and Catie Brand and a group from 3rd Church coming in on July 2. Take care and talk soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hello from Pignon!

As Beth said we arrived two days ago and are trying to get settled. We spent yesterday sorting through some stuff and getting a helper hired. She will be going to the market for us as well as cooking one meal a day and doing laundry Monday thru Friday. This morning we went with her and our translator Gevy (Jevi) to market. It was very hot and did not smell pleasant. Will and Natalie were quite an attraction, people are not used to seeing white children in Pignon.

The kids are doing wonderfully! The are so adaptable and are making friends already. Will got out his soccer ball yesterday and within 10 minutes it had a thorn in it and is not holding air. It still works, so he says! He's starting to pick up words from the other kids and will catch on very quickly if he is anything like his daddy. Natalie is making friends too and was thrilled to see Alina and Chrissy from the orphanage again.

We are without internet service and will be for awhile, no idea when the guy who installs satellite will be around. We will try to get to the internet cafe (strange to be in a country where people have no clothes and are starving, yet still has most of the technology we have...) or use the Campbell's computer at the orphanage.

A quick correction to our mailing address:

Jared and Stacey Nikkel
3170 Airman's Dr
Unit 1045-MH4H
Fort Pierce, FL 34946

We'll be in touch soon!

God Bless and thank you for your prayers!
Stacey, Jared, Will & Natalie

Thursday, June 18, 2009

They made it!

About 30 seconds after my last post, an email popped up from Jared and Stacey to let us know of their safe arrival. They are officially in Pignon, Haiti! I'll post the message below so you can read for yourselves. As you'll read, God has again shown his faithfulness in making their trip through customs completely free and uneventful!

They also received their mailing address, which is included at the bottom of their message.

Can't wait to hear more of the journey...can you?

Thanks again for your support and prayers!

Hi everyone,
Just wanted to drop a note and say that we made it, and it was relatively painless. One of our small bags did get misplaced, but we know where it is and the person who has it is trustworthy and will deliver it next week.

It is quite hot as expected, but it just rained so that was a nice relief. I am sweating profusely as I type. We did experience one very unexpected thing. We delivered 1600 pounds of our stuff to Pignon and did not have to pay any customs! We didn´t even have to see anyone. The pilot said they looked at the tubs, he told them it was personal baggage, and the customs guy walked away. I haven´t heard very many stories about someone coming to Haiti and not having to pay. God is truly good!

Oh, also our new address for those who don´t have it. We just got it today.

Jared and Stacey Nikkel
Unit 1045-MH4H
Fort Pierce, FL 34946

And They're Off!

Following their moving sale and commissioning service during the first weekend of June, the Nikkels had a few days to get last-minute items, pack and say many difficult goodbyes. They left for Ft. Pierce, Florida, last Friday, June 12, and had 5 days of relaxation before leaving for Pignon, Haiti, today.

While in Florida, Will and Natalie spent lots of time swimming and loving it! They discovered that Natalie is quite the little fish! They even tried to catch a space shuttle launch while they were there, but it was cancelled due to a leak of some kind. (Stacey reported that Will thought they should have just done it anyway.) In addition to the fun, they spent 4 hours at Sam's Club trying to buy the supplies they think they will need for the next year. Imagine trying to figure that out! Stacey said the few days of down time was really good for them, even though it is difficult to truly relax with such a big change coming.

This morning they left bright and early on an MFI (Missionary Flights International) and should have arrived in Pignon about 11:00 this morning. (Side note: Haiti does not participate in Daylight Savings Time, so they are currently on the same time as we are here in the Midwest.)

Below is a snippet from an email Stacey sent yesterday, and below that I've pasted some prayer requests she sent as well. After a long time of planning, their journey in Haiti has officially begun. Please keep them in your prayers!

"Tomorrow is coming fast and we are anxious to get to Haiti! Jared made a second trip to MFI with our luggage and found out we would be accompanied on the flight by some baby chicks and ducklings, Natalie can hardly wait to see them. Our flight should be 'non-stop' to Haiti, meaning we won't be stopping for fuel in the Bahamas. We'll pick up a customs agent in Cap Haitien on the northern coast, then fly into Pignon around 11:00. If everything goes well, we should make it through the customs check, hopefully with some of our cash left in hand. We've been told it can get pretty expensive, depending on the agent. So please pray all goes well with the flight and with customs!

We will be in touch as soon as we can. It could take some time to get someone from Port-au-Prince to come install a satellite so we will have internet service. Until then we may be able to use a local internet cafe (sounds strange for a 3rd world country!) or possibly at the Campbell's, our friends from the orphanage. At any rate we will try to get a message out to someone that we arrived and are getting settled. First order of business is to find a tutor and someone to run to market and cook for us. After that, piece of cake, right? We're looking forward to what God has in store for us and more importantly the people of Haiti."

Please pray for the Nikkels:
  • For Will and Natalie, anything the spirit lays on your heart; this is a big adjustment for them, and mom and dad need extra patience and grace during this transition as well
  • Protection over our marriage
  • Protection over our family relationships
  • Peace, patience and grace in everything we do
  • For there to be a set of truck keys in our hands soon!
  • God's mercy and grace as we are not even slightly prepared for what He has in store (it's so good to know He uses the ordinary!)
  • Anything else you can think of to add would be great....

Thanks for your continued support!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Commissioning Service

You are invited to a Commissioning Service for Jared, Stacey, Will & Natalie Nikkel on Sunday, June 7, at 7:00 pm in the Third Church sanctuary (708 E 13th St, Pella).

The service will be a special time of worship, encouragement and blessing for the Nikkels as they are commissioned to serve full-time in Pignon, Haiti. You can hear their story of God's powerful call on their lives and be part of their formal send-off. All are welcome!

Moving Sale

Hello, Many Hands Supporters! It is now less than 2 weeks until the Nikkel family leaves, and they are feverishly packing their house and preparing to be out by this Friday, June 5. There is much to do, and you can imagine that it is stressful. Not only is there the physical and practical aspects of packing, buying necessary items, deciding what to keep and sell, but there is also all the emotion of major life change, goodbyes and fear of the unknown. Please keep the Nikkels and their families in your prayers daily!

Moving Sale:
Friday, June 5: 1pm-7pm
Saturday, June 6: 8am-1pm
307 Liberty Street, Pella
(in alley)

On Friday and Saturday, June 5-6, Jared & Stacey are having a moving sale in Pella--at my house, actually! As Jared put it, "Think of all the stuff in your house, and then think of selling it." That's what will be on the sale. To name a few items, they have entertainment centers, a rocking chair, PlayStation 2, a weedeater, a leafblower, garden tools, hunting/fishing/camping gear, lots of toys, Dora the Explorer 4-wheeler, a queen size mattress, twin beds, bedding, a pre-lit Christmas tree, boys and girls clothes and much household miscellaneous. In addition, a couple other people are adding items like an infant carseat with base, infant bathtub, boppy pillow and an infant gym. Stop by and tell others! You can also see our ad in the Town Crier this week. If you have questions about anything, give me a call at 641-621-1628 or 641-780-1400. They must sell everything!

See you there!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Celebration & Information

It seems I need to start every post with an apology for the length of time that has passed since my previous post. So, once again I apologize that we are not keeping up! While I'm done making promises I can't keep, I do promise that once Jared & Stacey are in Haiti, updates will be much more frequent. I hope we can get into a weekly or bi-weekly rhythm at that point so that prayer needs can be frequently shared and you can experience some of what the Nikkels are living in Haiti.

At this point, final preparations are in full swing. Major fundraising efforts are complete, and we're left to the details of travel, packing, and planning. A couple things MUST be highlighted! God is so good! He continues to open doors and bless our efforts in His name.

1) The Meals With a Mission fundraiser in April was huge success! More than $12,000 worth of orders for frozen meals, Dutch letters, cookie dough and coffee were filled, raising over $7,000 in profit for the Nikkel start-up costs. (All this even without a single mention on the blog...I'm so ashamed!) Thank you so much both to those who ordered and those who offered their time to help us prepare all those meals! I don't know all the numbers, but I do know that over 5,000 cookies were scooped! You can use your imagination for numbers of hamballs scooped, chicken pot pies fluted and pounds of chicken cut. Another job well done by fundraising leaders Nancy Henry and Tiffany Van Zee.

2) SOLD! Jared and Stacey's house is officially sold! Stacey told me over and over again that "it was already sold," and her faith became sight. A young couple soon to be married will make their home in Kilduff, and they were two of just a handful of people to show interest. God had the right people in mind, and He opened the door. Such a relief and blessing.

Current Updates:
1) Currently Stacey is in North Carolina for a 10-day medical missionary training, learning things like how to do stitches, give injections, put in air tubes, etc. It sounds like it is very hands-on and somewhat primitive, which I suppose is just how it will be in Haiti if she needs to use these skills. Jared reports that she is doing well, but is ready to come home. She still has one week left; she returns Thursday, May 21. Jared is home with the kids. Please pray for all of them in this time away from one another. The kids are doing well, but it's always tough without Mom.

2) Jared is technically on "vacation" right now, but is officially finished with his job with Jasper County law enforcement. While in some ways he was ready to be done, it is still a loss and transition to adjust to. They are thankful for the time Jared has to dedicate to the kids while Stacey is gone and to give to preparations for their quickly approaching move.

3) A Commissioning Service is planned for Sunday, June 7, at Third Church, and the Nikkels will be moving the following week. They will first spend a few days in Florida and then will fly into Haiti the following week. I don't have specific details (dates/times) of all this right now, but will try to get it on the blog in the next couple weeks.

Will you please be diligent in prayer for Jared, Stacey, Will & Natalie in the next few weeks? You can imagine all the emotional and practical implications of this move. Between now and the second week of June, many details of travel and moving will be finalized, the house will be handed to its new owners, many events and farewells will take place with family, friends and supporters, and the reality of this major life change will continue to become more real both for the Nikkels and those close to them. You can imagine that the Enemy will also be hard at work creating confusion and discouragement. Pray for a heavyness of God's Spirit over the Nikkels, for protection against the Enemy and for God to continue opening doors and "making the path straight."

Thank you for your support!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Missing Socks

Have you seen any socks around? I ask because MH4H supporters have knocked our socks off with their generosity, and God has knocked our socks off with his generous provision, even in our own inadequacy, uncertainty and doubt! Our feet our going to get cold if this keeps up...

Much has happened since our last post, and I apologize that it has taken so long to get an update. In this exciting season things are changing quickly, so we want to be diligent about sharing all that God is doing with you. The hard part is that it's also the busiest season for everyone involved, making it more difficult to get to the blog as often as we want!

With all that being said, on behalf of Jared & Stacey I want to say a humongous, ginormous THANK YOU to all who supported Hotcakes for Haiti. Our last post shared that there would be a finale pancake breakfast at Third Church on March 29 in hopes of meeting the $30,000 Nickels for Nikkels goal to purchase the Third World truck. Let me tell you, it was a grand finale! We went into the 29th with just over $12,500, so in our wildest hopes, we were hoping to get into the mid-twenties...maybe. Instead, God decided to use the generous hearts of so many people at Third Church to remind us that He is going before us and providing beyond what we can ask or hope. We ended the day with over $40,000! Those of us there when the announcement was made were overcome with gratitude and joy. It was an awesome moment! Thank you again to everyone who served at Hotcakes for Haiti, everyone who attended and offered financial gifts, and everyone who is praying for the mission of Many Hands for Haiti.

We had another great Hotcakes for Haiti breakfast in Sully on April 4, and we want to say another huge thank you to the Sully Lions Club for sponsoring that breakfast and providing all the needed workers. Gifts totaling over $3,000 were given in just three hours that Saturday morning. Thank you to the Lions and the Sully community!

And the craziness continues as this week is meal prep week for the Meals With a Mission fundraiser. More than $12,000 worth of orders came in for frozen meals, cookie dough, Dutch letters and coffee! Again, we were blown away by the response. We are grateful for many volunteers who are willing to help us prepare food this week. With over 660 meals to make, I'm sure many will be seeing lasagna and ham balls in their sleep! Please pray for this meals mission this week and specifically pray peace and protection for Nancy Henry and Tiffany Van Zee and their families as they lead this fundraising event and coordinate all the details. Volunteers will be preparing food all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If you'd still like to help, there are plenty of spots available. Contact Tiffany Van Zee at 641-780-2876 or stvanzee@iowatelecom.net.

On behalf of Jared & Stacey, thank you again for your support of this mission. In this heavy fundraising season, we also say a special thank you to Nancy Henry and Tiffany Van Zee, who have worked tirelessly on details for t-shirt sales, Hotcakes for Haiti and Meals With a Mission. Thank you for your sacrifice of time, and for the use of your gifts for MH4H!

We are so grateful to God for His continued provision and confirmation of this calling on the Nikkel family. It's amazing to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves and see that God is so graciously at work in all things, even when we are blind to it! Keep praying that His will be done through us!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Get 'Em While They're Hot!

They're here! We currently have Many Hands for Haiti and Hotcakes for Haiti t-shirts available for purchase with all proceeds going toward Nikkel family start-up costs. We have both youth and adult unisex sizes. T-shirts are $15 each, or free with your tax-deductible donation of $50. To order yours, contact Tiffany Van Zee at stvanzee@iowatelecom.net or 641-628-8664. See all the fun styles and colors below!

**For those of you attending the Hotcakes for Haiti pancake breakfast at Third Church on March 29 or in Sully on April 4, we'd love to see you wearing your shirt in support of Jared, Stacey, Will & Natalie!

Many Hands for Haiti logo is in blue and yellow on all tees.

Many Hands tees: available in pink, orange, green or grey
Adult sizes: S-2XL; Youth: S-L
(Infant/toddler sizes are available by special order, grey only)

Hotcakes for Haiti logo--FUN!

Adult Sizes: S-2XL in brown
Youth Sizes: S-L in orange

Other Current Giving Opportunities:

Nickels for Nikkels is a change drive to raise money for the purchase of the reliable Third World truck the Nikkels will need in Haiti. The campaign wraps up this weekend! If you'd like to donate from your change jar or just give cash, containers are displayed at Third Reformed Church or Gosselink's Christian Book Store in Pella, or cash/check donations can also be brought to Marion County Bank. We're just over 1/3 of the way to our $30,000 goal, so please consider a gift!

In case you haven't heard, Hotcakes for Haiti is coming soon to a church or community center near you!

On Sunday, March 29, pancakes, eggs, sausage and drinks will be served all morning at Third Reformed Church with freewill donations being taken for the Nikkels, specifically to be added to the Nickels for Nikkels total for the purchase of a reliable Third World Truck.

On April 4, Hotcakes for Haiti continues with another hearty breakfast at the Sully Community Building from 7:00-10:00 am. We are so grateful to the Sully Lions Club for sponsoring this breakfast! T-shirts will be sold and freewill donations will be taken for Nikkel family start-up costs.

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to the MH4H blog! Jared & Stacey have been away for awhile, but now with some teamwork, we've resurrected the blog, and it will now become the online hub of information for fundraising details, ministry information and personal thoughts from the Nikkels.

I'm Beth Gaulke, Jared's sister, and I'm helping with communication in this season of preparation and fundraising. It is such a blessing to be part of this process, an exciting time of obedience to God's powerful call on their lives. What an amazing journey the Nikkels are walking--one of sacrificial obedience, unexplainable joy, impractical change and blind faithfulness to Jesus. Please pray for them in this time of planning, fundraising and major life change.

If you need to get caught up on the Nikkel family's story and the call they've received to serve in Haiti, read Stacey's very first blog entry here.

Currently, fundraising is in full swing as we seek to raise the $70,000 in needed start-up costs. This money will go toward building a small house, buying a reliable truck, funding ministry costs and projects, and the actual costs of relocating to Haiti. Watch for how you can get involved in helping us out in the next post!

We'll be frequently adding new information, such as prayer requests, giving opportunities, details regarding the process of preparation and relocation, and more! Thank you for your interest in the Nikkel family and Many Hands for Haiti! Keep checking back!