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Category Archives: Support

The value of short-term mission trips

Short-term mission trips (I will not even try to address the PC-ness of this term) have taken a lot of flak lately, from the mild label of ineffective to the harsher criticism that these types of trips are downright harmful to those they try to serve. I took my fair share of short-term service trips before moving to Haiti full-time and I have seen a lot of groups come and go during my time here.  I’ve read and researched and tried to figure out the best approach not only to these shorter trips, but to our long-term strategies as well.  It’s not easy, folks.  Not at all.  I have seen plenty of short-term trips gone wrong: the-savior-complex, the-i-could-do-it-better-than-you’re-doing-it-judgments, the-get-as-much-work-done-as-humanly-possible-approach, the-touch-me-change-me-give-me-a-spiritual-high-mindset.  More come to mind, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.  All those flawed attitudes put aside, there is much potential value to short-term missions that should not be overlooked.   While most of the child homes here are pretty spread out, the Promise House is the first floor of the short-term volunteer house.  I’ll be honest, sometimes this can be a little, well, annoying.  They’re just always right there, you know?  Looking in on our life like a little fish bowl.  A fish bowl that’s still getting set up, cleaned, filtered, and all the little fish are still getting to know each other.  “Why is he crying?” is not a question I want to answer regularly.  My kids can’t communicate.  Chances are, I don’t actually know why he’s crying.  I digress.  I wanted to talk about the VALUE of short-term missions.  I have been reminded of this with a few of our recent groups and have been thinking about it a lot.  What did they do differently?  How was their approach to the trip unlike the others?  In no particular order, here are some of the things that come to mind…

  1. Successful short-term trips bless the missionary, in order to bless the mission. And I don’t just say this because I’m the missionary and I like to be blessed.  Though I do J  But mission is founded on relationships, work over time, understanding culture, fostering dignity and independence rather than giving-to and doing-for people.  The missionaries on the ground are trying to do this.  And it’s hard, tiring, sometimes discouraging work.  Blessing the missionary encourages them, gives them reprieve, and fuels them to keep on keeping on.  How did these groups bless the missionaries here?  The last group asked me more times than any other how they could specifically pray for us and our home.  And then prayed for us right then and there.  What a blessing!  The same group and the one before them brought little gifts of things they know we can’t easily get here.  A block of cheese, a tub of sour cream, chocolate, nice shower gel or hand soap, jerky, to name a few.  What a blessing!  They also provided meals for us.  Sometimes for us to get away from our “jobs” and eat together, sometimes a meal for our whole house so we didn’t have to worry about cooking for the kids that night either.  When you have a house full of people and limited ingredients and cooking skills, it is so nice to have a few nights that we d0n’t have to put a thought or a minute into making dinner.  What a blessing!
  2. Successful short-term trips help how they are needed, not how they want to. You might have in mind that since you are coming to an orphanage, you would like to cuddle and play with adorable children.  You might think you would be most helpful building this or painting that or feeding hungry neighbors.  And maybe some of the things you have in mind actually are helpful.  But to recognize that they might not be, that is the key.  A recent volunteer was helping us clean the kids’ rooms (not very glamorous and lacking in cute photo ops) when we discovered bed bugs.  So what did she do?  She researched the process of getting rid of bed bugs, gave us the cliff notes, and went online and ordered everything we would need to take care of the problem.  I’m willing to bet she didn’t plan her trip to Haiti thinking this is what she would be doing, but the need arose, and she met that need.  What a blessing!  Another recent volunteer is a physical therapist.  Instead of coming down with her own agenda full of unrealistic plans and expectations, and a list of equipment that is very impractical to us here, she talked with us many times before her trip and worked with us throughout the trip to see how her skills might be most helpful to our kids.  What did they actually need and what would be sustainable for us?  We now have a wonderful therapy room that is used daily and serves every home on campus.  What a blessing!
  3. Successful short-term trips bring something to the table that’s not already on the table. Taking work away from local people is a valid criticism of short-term service trips.  But there are some things the local people may not be able to offer.  If there are not enough skilled physical therapists in the area, you may be a huge help in that area.  Considering the needs of our kids, what a blessing!  Wilson and I attend Haitian church most Sunday mornings.  But sometimes worship in English is just what my soul needs, and a short-term volunteer can probably fill this need better than our Haitian neighbors.  What a blessing!  Exposing our kids to new and enriching experiences is also valuable.  A recent team had amazing musical talents and provided a special time of music with a guitar and violin in each of the child homes.  What a blessing!
  4. Successful short-term trips are just the beginning. There is value in the trip itself, but many times, the trip is the point when the individual becomes fully invested in the mission.  It’s hard to hear about something from afar and really catch the vision and discern how you can be a part of it.  But to see for yourself how the child home model is benefiting our kids, to see for yourself how the Promise House needs to be retrofitted to actually be accessible to those living in it, to see for yourself how God is living and moving in this place, to see for yourself is powerful.  When you see for yourself, you continue to pray for those you met, you share about your experience and get others involved, you sponsor a child or a missionary, you find yourself brainstorming ways to help overcome the obstacles you saw.  There is no limit to how God will use those two weeks of your life: a family in the process of adopting one of COTP’s kiddos is visiting right now, and the start of that journey was a short-term trip three years ago.  What a blessing!  There’s always my own story to illustrate this point.  My own life of parenting children with special needs in Haiti began with a series of short-term mission trips.  What a blessing!

Another tidbit that comes to mind but doesn’t really constitute a whole bullet point is how important it is that short-termers realize that while this is a trip for them, it is home for us.  Yes, you want to make your time worthwhile and work from sunup to sundown, but we do this every day of every week of every month…you get the picture.  We need breaks.  With the last group that was here, every time I interacted with someone, especially if it was inside our own home, they thanked me for allowing them into our home, allowing them to be a part of our lives here.  I didn’t quite realize how important this was to me until this group verbalized it so consistently.  Does it need to be said every time?  Of course not, but we can tell if you have that frame of mind.  If, on the other hand, you come down to knock on my bedroom door after dark to ask me about something that is definitely not an emergency, you are probably interrupting “funny business” (This has really happened.  Two thumbs down), or my sleep, or just time away from all the people all the time.  Okay, that probably could have been a whole bullet point.  And it is bringing to mind a few other things I’d like short-termers to know, but maybe I will save that all for another post.

The point here is that we do appreciate individuals and groups who visit us for a short time, volunteering their time and utilizing their resources to make the trip happen.  There is value in short-term missions, but value is not incidental, it doesn’t just happen.  It takes mindful people, clothed in humility, prayerfully seeking to participate in God’s work on the mission field.

I would love to answer any questions you may have if there is even the slightest tug on your heart to embark on a short-term trip in the future.  And I hope this is an encouragement, rather than a deterrent, to some of you considering taking a trip down to Haiti to visit us, or wherever else you might feel called to go.

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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Life in Haiti, Sheila, Support, Travel

 

Calling all cooks…and parents…and people who eat food

As you might have heard or read, Wilson and I are now cooking all the food in the Promise House.  If you know anything about my culinary experience or lack thereof, you could see how this might be a bit challenging.  So here’s where you join in: I need your recipes.  Your breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners.  Your tried and true, all your kids eat it, you are confident when you bring it to a potluck, recipes.  The simpler, the better, but I don’t mind spending extra time in the kitchen for extra deliciousness.  A second recipe using the leftovers from the first earns you bonus points.  Comment with a link to the recipe or just type (copy/paste!) the whole recipe right in the comment.  Maybe some of you will get some new ideas for yourselves too!  Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a recipe or meal idea to share:

  1. In general, if your recipe involves 4 cans of this or that, or a boxed mix, chances are we don’t have those things.  Think fresh.  Think natural.  But also feel free to throw something out there and maybe we can find it.  I am looking for an excuse to do some grocery shopping in the Dominican anyway.
  2. If your recipe involves some specific spices and you want to send us a big ‘ole container of that spice (or other random ingredient), we can hook you up with an address, and we can make your recipe over and over.
  3. Kid-friendly is ideal, but Wilson and I also eat the same food as the kids.  We will then chop that food into small pieces for some of the kids and put the rest in a food processor (An awesome donation from our bus!) to puree it.  We can add water, milk, broth, or whatever liquid “matches” to get the consistency we need for the rest of the kids, so most anything can be modified, just something to keep in mind.
  4. We do have an oven, stove, and crockpot, so pretty much any cooking method is possible.  Meals that don’t require much (any?) cooking are also nice for the summer months to avoid adding any more heat to an already sweltering climate.

Alright, who’s in?  You just may change our lives here and some of the cutest kids on the planet could be enjoying your recipe for years to come 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2016 in Life in Haiti, Sheila, Support, The Kiddos

 

The Final Countdown

It always seemed so far in the future, but we are down to our last week in the states!  We fly out of LAX Sunday night, February 7 and will arrive at Children of the Promise in Haiti on February 8.  You’d think we have very little to pack after sending everything on the bus (which is finally en route and will arrive in Cap Haitien on Monday!!), but it’s amazing how many things you think of at the last minute.  It’s also amazing how many tools Wilson has to bring along!  But I know they will be put to good use in our house, so it will be worth the extra luggage!  We will move directly into the Promise House with our kiddos (read this if you have no idea what I’m talking about), but our first week will be spent settling in and observing how things are going.  Tori has been living in the house and managing things (though she has many other jobs!) so she will be around for the week to help the kids and nannies make the transition.  Thanks, Tori 🙂

“How are you feeling about everything?” is a question often asked of me and Wilson lately.  Though I love my family immensely and know I will miss a lot of things here in the U.S., I really feel like we are going home.  Well, Wilson really IS going home!  But I think we would both agree that even though we are nervous about certain things and feel less than adequate to take on what lies ahead of us, we still feel 100% sure that this is exactly what God has called us to and are just so ready to get to Haiti and hold our kids.  We miss them!

For the Promise House to be successful, it needs to be funded.  Not my favorite part of the job, but that’s the reality.  $6500 a month seems like a lot until you think about supporting a household that includes Wilson and I, 8 kids with significant medical and therapy needs, and 4 nannies each day.  We know that God will provide, but most of that provision is likely going to come in the form of generous support from people like you.

Because I like nice round numbers, we are asking for :

50 people who each give $35 a month.  This is the child sponsorship program.

25 people who each give $50 a month.

15 people who each give $100 a month.

10 people who each give $200 a month.  One full-time nanny earns about $200 a month.

(If we get more donors in a particular category, we will adjust accordingly)

That’s 100 people giving a total of $6500 each month to make the Promise House possible.  To create a place where children considered weaker or less honorable by society are treated with special honor.  Where they are loved, encouraged, and supported to reach their full God-given potential.  We already have several monthly donors, and these numbers are the Total we need, not in addition to what is already being given.  If you go to this page, where I’ll keep the numbers updated with everything that has been processed (there is a bit of a lag on credit card reports, so you will not see an immediate change in the numbers unless you tell me directly how much you’re giving!).

Want to give less?  Or more?  No problem.  Want to give once, but not every month?  Also great.  The easiest way to give online is to go to childrenofthepromise.org/donate and put “Wilson & Sheila Chery” in the designation note.

We are looking forward to serving with you!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Support, Travel

 

Paint the Bus Party

Have you heard about our bus yet?  In case you hadn’t heard, Wilson and I bought an old school bus that we are packing with things we need for the Promise House and then shipping it to Haiti.  In addition to being a very unique way to transport our things, it will also be used as a “tap-tap” (share-taxi) as a means of keeping our ministry in Haiti more financially sustainable.   The bus was purchased on Craigslist from a man in Minnesota who had painted it all black.  Party bus?  Prison bus?  Who could be sure?

So last Saturday we had a bus-painting party to spruce it up a bit.  We are beyond grateful for everyone who came out to help as well as those who couldn’t come but have donated items from our needs list or money for the cause.  A huge thanks as well to Sara H. who came up with the design and organized the actual painting.  It was so much fun and I think the end result was fantastic!  There are still some final touches we will add before we leave like a couple Bible verses in Kreyol, but what do you think of the bus so far?

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Support

 

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30 for 30

Priorities change over time.  Our values evolve and our focus shifts with each obstacle we encounter, each blessing we receive, each milestone we reach, each new path we choose.  Birthdays are the one day each year that everyone’s attention, if only for the minute it takes to post on Facebook, is turned toward you.  In that day, in that moment, what reflection of your life will others see?  Certainly, this changes over time.  I’m assuming your 5th birthday, your 15th birthday, and your 50th birthday all look decidedly different, reflecting your priorities and values at that time in your life.  So on this, my 30th birthday, when you take a moment to read my blog or think of me as you send warm birthday wishes, what reflection do you see?

Sheila and Wilson

This is what I hope you see:

My life is an irrepressible outpouring of gratitude for the blessed assurance I have of Christ’s redeeming love for me.  He chose me, weak, broken, and undeserving me, to receive his amazing gift of grace.  That is why we have chosen those considered weak and broken to pour our love into.  We have chosen to care for these children with special needs not because we are “good people” but because God chose us and loves us even though we are not good people.  The only natural response is to spend our lives loving others as He has first loved us.

So on this, my 30th birthday, I invite you to celebrate with me.  I had this crazy idea that for my 30th birthday, we could find 30 people to commit to giving $30 each month to support the ongoing costs of having a home for 7 children with special needs.  If you can give less or more, or would prefer to give a one-time donation, every bit of support truly does help.  For everyone who has told me “I could never do what you’re doing,” this is one way that you can.  I know it’s crazy, and maybe even unlikely, but is it possible?  Are there 30 people out there who want to be an ongoing part of what God is doing through us in Haiti?

To give, visit our website

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in Support

 

Update…About Us

It’s fascinating how God delicately and decisively weaves His story through each of our lives. If you don’t know us yet, we’ll give you a brief version of our story leading up to today:

Wilson, born and raised in Haiti, was hired by a non-profit organization, Children of the Promise (COTP), to maintain vehicles and buildings. His work was never just about the projects he took on or the paycheck; everything Wilson always said what he was doing was “for the kids.”

I (Sheila) was born and raised in California and moved to Haiti to be the nurse for 60+ infants and children at COTP, where I would stay for two years.  The job was extremely challenging but also immensely rewarding and caused a great deal of growth in me.

Each heeding the call to serve those precious children in very different ways, Wilson and I fell in love while dreaming of how God would use us together in even bigger ways.

We married in August 2013, and were separated for a time until Wilson was granted a green card and we could live together in the U.S. beginning in December 2014. It has been a busy and exciting nine months so far, full of family, friends, road trips, and countless new experiences and we have loved every minute of it. Okay, most of the minutes. Our lives are far from perfect 🙂

Sheila and Wilson

Though we both enjoy our life here in the U.S., we both feel strongly called by God to live in Haiti. Over the last few years, I have had countless ideas filling my mind of how we can best help the people of Haiti. Wilson has always listened politely, but none of those ideas have really caught his attention. That is, until I heard about a new position opening up at COTP working with the special needs kids. I had fallen in love with those kids during my time there and Wilson had as well, as he often came with me on medication rounds and spent extra time in their room whenever he could. So as we were lying in bed that night and I asked Wilson what he thought of being house parents for the special needs kids, he didn’t have to think for a second. “I would love that!” was his immediate response. And I started feeling giddy. Of all the plans and ideas I had daydreamed and brainstormed, this one felt right. My life has never felt so clear.

There are a number of children at COTP with special needs, including children with cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and spina bifida. Most of these children are unable to talk, walk, or feed themselves, and are fully dependent on their caregivers. We passionately believe that these conditions are not accidental, but that each of these children was intentionally and lovingly formed by God (Psalm 139, John 9). In 1 Corinthians 12:22-23, Paul tells us that “those parts of the body [of Christ] that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul also spoke of the thorn in his own side that he prayed repeatedly to be taken away. Rather than remove the hardship, God told him, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” How did Paul respond? “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The Promise House will be a place where children considered weaker or less honorable by society are treated with special honor. We will create a stable, Christ-centered home, where each child is loved, encouraged, and supported as we help them reach their full potential. We delight in these children and their special challenges and hope to inspire the Haitian communities around us to do the same.

We will be moving back to Haiti in January of 2016 and could not be more excited! As we prepare to leave, we ask that you lift us up in prayer whenever you think of us. In addition, there are two great ways you can partner with us and these precious kids

  1. Sponsor a child. Click HERE to meet each of our children. If one of their faces gives you pause, consider being their sponsor. Your monthly gift will help buy their food and medications, pay the nannies that assist with their care, and cover general living expenses. In return, you will receive photos of that child and written updates about their progress throughout the year. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll visit Haiti to meet them or be the person who connects them with their forever family.
  2. Fill a bus. Wilson and I are on our way to Minnesota right now to pick up an old school bus we purchased. We will drive it back to California where it will be filled with all the things we need for the Promise House. Then we will drive it to Florida to be shipped to Haiti. Besides being a unique method of shipping, the bus will then be used as a taptap, the main form of public transportation used in Haiti. The revenue from this business will help us be more sustainable long-term in Haiti, so we can rely a little less on fundraising support. Check out our needs list to see if there’s anything you might be able to put on the bus for the Promise House.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey. You can subscribe to this blog or sign up for an e-mail newsletter.

Have questions about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it? Please comment below; we never get tired of talking about these kids!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Support

 

Prayer Request Update

We don’t have too much new information, but I am still confident that God is listening and that He is working.  Our little one’s adoption agency has been working hard to bring him home.  COTP has been working hard to send him home.  Forever Mama has been working hard to carry him home.  We have seen glimpses of hope in this situation, and things looks promising, but it is not over yet!  Please keep praying that this hope we are seeing comes to pass and this family will be all together soon.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Life in Haiti, Prayer, Support