Saturday, April 12, 2014

A God Ordained Interview

I've spent the last ten days working a booth out at the Clay County Fair.  It's always fun because I get to meet new people and tell everyone all about Apparent Project.  I never get tired of seeing their facial expressions when you explain that the beads they are looking at are made from cereal boxes. 

With each person that walks up, I never know who I will be talking to and where the conversation might lead.  Like this story from last year.

So, obviously I have come into this year wondering where it would lead and what God was going to do.  This time, it came from a completely unexpected place.  The mall. 


I know!  I was shocked too!

Here's what happened:

Normally, during this week, I sort of shut down my Calligraphy business.  I don't take on any new work because I just don't have the time.  But I received a call last week from a stationery company here in town that refers me a lot.  They were in a bind and of course the envelopes needed to be addressed and in the mail yesterday!  Because they refer me, I just didn't feel like it would be wise for me to say no.  Although I knew that was going to make my week even more crazy.

I made arrangements to meet the owner on Monday and get all the envelopes from her.  That was the best day since I didn't have to be at the Fair until 4:00. 

I got up on Monday and I took Anne to school.  I came back home and laid down on the couch for a little bit and fell asleep.  My phone rang at 9:00 and it was the lady wanting me to come and meet her to get the envelopes.  I asked her if we could meet around 1:30 or so, thinking that I could just pick Anne up from school at the same time and have more time to relax and be at home.  I had already gone out - would go out again and then run in the opposite direction to the Fair.  But, she couldn't meet me then - it had to be now.  UGH!!!

So I got up and got ready with the goal to meet her at 10:30.  Great.  Four different trips today.  Not real happy about that one at all. 

While I was getting ready, I decided that since I was going to be close to the mall, I would run in to the Clinique counter at Dillard's and pick up some eye shadow.  I had run out of my favorite color. 

I met my person, picked up my envelopes and ran over to the mall real quick.  I have a lady there that has been my "consultant" for years.  We got to talking and of course the subject of Haiti came up - as it usually does.  Since I had just been in February, we were talking about my recent trip.  Then all of a sudden she told me that I needed to meet someone. 

We walked over and she introduced me to the Este Lauder consultant at the other counter.  Her name was Valerie.  She had been to Haiti too and so we just "had" to meet.  This happens all the time so I didn't think much of it.  I introduced myself and we began exchanging stories.  Valerie had been there helping with water filtration systems and asked me about my experience.  I began to tell her my story. 

Literally, within a few minutes, she stopped me and said, "I have a radio talk show.  I would love to interview you.  Would you be willing to do that?"



A radio show?

What station?

Turns out it is WAY Radio - our local Christian AM station.  She has a program on the weekends called Conversations with Valmarie.

Wow!  Sure!   I'll be happy to do that!

I left there with my head spinning!  Ok - I get it God!  This morning really didn't have anything to do with envelopes or makeup! 

So - this past Thursday morning, I went to the radio station and got to share my story and talk all about Apparent Project!   How cool is that????  It was so much fun!  My only regret is that I didn't have her take a picture of me with the big headphones on and the massive microphone in my face!  LOL!

It is being edited and will air sometime after Easter.  Of course, I will let everyone know when!!!  You can listen on line so no matter where you are, you will be able to tune in!

Once again I just giggle.  God ordained that meeting at Dillard's last Monday.  And all my grumbling and complaining wasn't going to change anything.  For that I am thankful.  I would NOT have gotten dressed and gone down to the mall that day just for makeup.  I wouldn't have left my house any more than I had to. 

I'm so glad He uses me anyway.  And I am so excited to see where this is going to lead.  It was obviously God's plan and there is a purpose in it.  Great things are about to unfold.   Again.

One of the things we talked about during the interview was really being available for God to use us.  I'm so thankful that I made myself available three years ago concerning Apparent Project.  Otherwise, I would be missing out on all of these "God moments."

Living in His will is truly the absolute best place to be.  Sometimes it is hard - but it is ALWAYS worth it.

Until next time - with dates and times so you can listen!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Prayers Answered - Clear Signs Pointing the Way

I've been home from Haiti for almost three weeks.  Time sure does fly by.  I came home and immediately plugged back into my normal routine and in less than 24 hours was sick.  I thought that I had escaped it this trip.  Seems I get a touch of something every time I go.  I will admit that it's much nicer being sick at home then there.  I'm always so afraid I will miss something if I'm sick in Haiti.

I recovered quickly and got back into our craziness.  Running kids to school, dance, guitar.  It is wedding season, so I've been writing a lot.  Trying to keep up with our regular schedule.  It has not left me a whole lot of time to process.  Although I will admit that the processing is different than it used to be.  I have learned so very much in the last three years.  About Haiti.  About aid.  About job creation.  About myself.

I look at the world so differently now.  And yet, I know I still have so far to go.

I think the thing that excites me the most is how I can look back over the past three years and see how each and everything thing that I have done concerning Apparent Project has been a stepping stone to the next thing.  If I would have known then what I know now about how much I would be involved and all that I was responsible for, I wouldn't have believed it.  I may have even ran.

It's gotten to where every time something new comes up, I just say, "Okay Lord, I'm yours - teach me what I need to know because I'm excited to see what this is going to lead to."  And then,  as time goes on and something new comes up again, I can look back and see how it all fits.

The question I ask is 'Why would anyone NOT want to be doing exactly what God has for them?'  This has been such an amazingly exciting journey for me.  To KNOW that I'm exactly where God wants me and to literally SEE the how and the why.  Oh, don't get me wrong, at times it has been overwhelming and I have felt very unqualified.  But, I'm not supposed to be qualified.  I am just supposed to be obedient.  I am just supposed to trust.  And it's those times that I see God work the most.

Apart from being mom, wife, pastor's wife, calligrapher - God has given me another important job.  He has been pouring into me for the last three years and I've known that I am supposed to share what I've been learning.  And I do that - in my blog and when I speak at churches and community groups.  But some new platforms are emerging and I'm so excited about them.

Remember how I asked you to pray about clear signs? Well, I've had a few answers to those prayers and I wanted to share them with you.

First of all, I am now the "Social Media Specialist" for both Market Haiti and Apparent Project.  Fancy title, huh? 

Market Haiti is the online 'store' for Apparent Project and other artisan goods from Haiti.  You can go online and purchase directly from them if you are not able to host a jewelry party.  It is operated out of Apparent Project's warehouse by Shelley's mom, Marilyn.  You can get several things through this website that won't come in an Apparent Project party box.  She purchases from other artisan groups in Haiti so there are several unique items not made by Apparent Project as well.  I encourage you to check it out.

Basically, I manage the Market Haiti Facebook page, the blog and any other social media stuff that helps get the word out there.

The other opportunity that I have is contributing to the Apparent Project Facebook page.  While Shelley still posts pictures and daily happenings from Haiti, I get to post from the U.S. talking about party boxes, shipping cereal boxes, fundraiser items, etc.  I will also be able to contribute to the blog from time to time and do some other marketing via email, twitter, etc.

I'm especially excited about these things because it gives me a regular platform to share about Apparent Project.  I hope to do some blog posts about the artisans as well. 

Besides being the "Social Media Specialist," there is another huge project in the works.  I cannot share all the details just yet but I am excited to say that it will mean traveling to Haiti more often and being able to regularly share all that God has taught me in the last three years.  Again - I am amazed at God's grace and provision.  I've known that the things that I have been learning are huge and they are not for me to keep to myself.  God has been pouring into my life and now I get to continue to pour into others.  It's overwhelming, scary and exciting all at the same time.  But that's the way this whole journey has been.

As soon as I can, I will give you all the details.  Who knows - maybe you will even get to be involved. 

For now, continue to pray for me as God organizes my time to make all these things work.  Continue to pray for the Board as we move forward into 2014.  We have some really exciting opportunities unfolding.  God is so good.  This ministry was born in His heart and it continues to grow and change for the better.  We have only just begun - I CANNOT wait to see what this will look like in the future and how lives will be changed.  The cool thing is - it's not just about the Haitians.  He's changing us too.  This is kingdom work and it's HUGE!

Until next time......

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 6 - Haiti Tourism

I am so excited that I have been able to see so many new sides of Haiti this trip. If you haven't noticed by now, I'm all about helping through jobs.  Giving people dignity and a sense of self worth.  Hand outs are good during a relief effort, but never long term.  It only promotes more problems down the road.

I especially love empowering the Haitians to stimulate their own economy.  Having employment means they have enough money to buy what they need for themselves.  Buying things here locally helps to employ someone else.  And the cycle continues.

One thing that is beginning to turn around in Haiti is tourism.  This island is beautiful and it has so much to offer.  Living in Florida, I understand how tourism helps our state.  The same is true in Haiti.

Just this week,  I have shopped at the Apparent Project Boutique.  I have eaten out a few times.  I have purchased from artisans in both Croix des Bouquet and the Iron Market.  And now we are spending the last two days at Club Indigo on the beach.

It is a little surreal being here.  Especially driving past the opposite extreme to get here.  But Shelley helped me to look at it differently.  This resort employs over 200 Haitians and completely supports the village just outside of it.  Where would those people be if this did not exist?  We forget that tourism creates jobs!

I think so often we forget about tourism as being a "help."  We can easily feel guilty as we lay by the pool when there are desperate people not too far away.  But if you really think about it - isn't it that way in America too?

We don't have to look far to find homeless, desperate people in the US - but we still go on vacation.   Come here, where every white person is "plugged in" doing some kind of aid and it's just not right to plop your butt on the beach.

Well, I'm thoroughly enjoying myself.  Fellowshipping and loving on those who work with Apparent Project here in Haiti - giving them time away from the day to day stuff that we really have no clue about - that's so important.  It's been a nice break from the week.  We are still doing a lot of chatting and bonding.  God is using this time as a unifier and it's awesome.  And at the same time, we are helping to stimulate the local economy! Sounds like a win/win to me!

Club Indigo

Local fisherman.  They sell live Lobster and Conch and cook it for you right on the beach!

LOVE the local sail boats

Isn't it great?  We did a whole lot of talking, laying by the pool, swimming, walking on the beach, taking naps and Pene and I even got some snorkeling in!  Can't beat that!  We ended our day with a wonderful buffet dinner in the dining room.

Two of the Master Potters, SarahJane and Scotty along with Carlin and the Clay kids!  
Zebedee, Jackson, Ember and Keziah.

Marilyn (New Director of Apparent Project), Ted Barlow (Operations Manager in Haiti) and his wife, Rebecca.  Pene and Jim Speaks (Board Members) and of course, Shelley (Founder of AP and now owner of Papillon Enterprise)  And I was taking the photo. 

We have one full day left here in Haiti.  We travel back to the Guest House tomorrow to pack and prepare to leave on Monday.  Can't believe it's almost over.  But LOTS of exciting stuff is in the works!  God is working and we can't wait to see what lies ahead!

Until next time......


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 5 - Traveling

Today began with the sound of the generator turning on because our cistern was out of water and the pump needed to be turned on in order to refill it.

I love the sights and sounds of Haiti in the morning.  The streets are busy with all kinds of activities as people move about.  Kids are heading to school - some parents to work.  Roosters are crowing, dogs are barking.  Large trucks rumble by sending an entirely new layer of dust to settle on absolutely everything around.  Nothing is immune.

At 8:00, every morning, the children in the school close by begin singing their Praise and Worship for today.  Today was "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

In Creole!  Awesome as usual.

The water is finally filled so I begin packing my suitcase to head to the beach for the weekend.  I'm so excited as I have never been outside of Port Au Prince toward the country side.  I head over to the artisan house to finish packing my other suitcase with new items for the Clay County Fair.

Ted shows up about 12:30 and it's time to head out!  We made a few stops along the way. (Not all were photographed.  I try really hard to be respectful of the Haitians.)  I try to be as discrete as possible in most areas.

This is the iron market.  Both inside and outside is filled with booth after booth selling just about anything you can imagine.  It's a lot of haggling and people following you around, "Please come see my booth"  It can be overwhelming but today was fun and I bought a few nice things.

We drove by the Cathedral but it is under construction now and we could only see it from a distance.

It was finally time to head towards the beach.  What should have taken us just under 2 hours - it actually took us more than 3.

We were up close and personal with this mess for over and hour and 15 minutes.  We just kept inching a long, often times just sitting, and could never really see a problem anywhere.  It was very fun to 'people watch' although it was most warm when we were stuck with a bus on one side and an huge dump truck on the other.

I've heard about traffic like this here but had never experienced.

Until today.

1.5 - 2 miles in an hour and 15 minutes!  I have now been initiated! No wonder you don't try and cram a bunch of stuff into your one day!  Nothing to do but sit and wait. 

Ya - no one is going anywhere for a while.

Sure - come on out dude.  Not sure where you are going to go.

This guy has THE best spot!!!!

Finally we broke away and drove along the coast and by the mountains.  So beautiful!

This may have been my favorite of the day.  Just how many Haitians can we fit in a Tap/Tap?  He was going FAST too!!!

Because of our delay - we arrived just as the sun was setting. 

We arrived and checked in with just enough time for me to take this photo from my room tonight.

I CANNOT wait to see it all in daylight!!!!

All 14 of us enjoyed a wonderful buffet dinner tonight and then most everyone went swimming in the pool.  Excited to see the Caribbean tomorrow!  I may just have to go snorkeling.......

Please continue to pray for us.  While this is meant to be a relaxing time away from everything, God is still working.  We are hoping to have lots of conversations and time to bond, and be real!  We must be unified.

Until next time.........

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 4 - Building a Bridge!

One of the biggest things that our team learned while preparing for our trip to Haiti last March was that poverty is not about material things but more about the relational distance between those that have and those that don’t.

I'll let that sink in for a moment. 
Poverty is not about material things but more about the relational distance between those that have and those that don’t.

We learned that while reading the book, "When Helping Hurts".

So, with that in mind, we need to figure out how best to bridge that gap.  How can we close that relational distance? 

Russ contacted Shelley at the beginning of the summer and asked her how we, as a church, could best support the people of Little Clarvil for Christmas last year.  Clarvil is the little community that sits behind AP.  It's where about 60-70% of the AP artisans live.

Apparent Project is not about giving hand outs so we knew that any kind of Christmas gifts - trinkets, etc were not going to be an option.  And we didn't want it to be.  Sending things like clothes, toothbrushes, etc does more to hurt the economy than help it.  We don't want to send things that can be purchased there and in turn, help to stimulate the Haitian economy.  

So, Shelley took our request and went to Clarvil and asked THEM what they really needed.  She came back to us and said that they requested a bridge.

 The area behind the corn field is Clarvil.  You can see the trail that runs through the "ditch" and then comes on up the hill to the main road (which would be behind the photographer).  This area is prone to flash flooding and even during a mild rain this "ditch" becomes a raging river.  It's even more dangerous during Tropical Storms and Hurricane season.  

The people become trapped and cannot get to the main road.  Some attempt to cross and unfortunately drown.  Children fall in.  It becomes deadly.   

They askeded for a bridge so that they can cross safely during these times. So that they can continue to get to work - to school - to the market.  

How cool is that?  I LOVE how Shelley went to THEM and asked them what they needed.  Not trying to figure it out or assume something.  Shelley took it a step further and got a few estimates for the cost of building it.  Then she presented it to us.  We LOVED the idea!

Many would assume that we would bring a team and build the bridge ourselves but we believed that it would be best to raise the money needed, send it to Shelley and allow her to hire workers within Clarvil and purchase the materials in Haiti.  That would be the best case scenario all around.  Not only do they get a new bridge, but they will be able to do it themselves and get paid for doing it!

We presented the idea to our church and raised $5000 by December.  It was perfect because that is when the rainy season ends in Haiti and the ditch would dry up again.  It allowed them to work without being interrupted. 

Shelley hired Elinord's husband to oversee the construction.  He hired his team and got to work.

He is the smiley one in the front.

They dug the holes for the foundation by hand

They mixed and poured the foundation by hand

They brought in all the rocks - even the ladies helped

They used railroad tracks for the structure

 Welding everything together

Covered everything with cement and gave the rails a coat of paint.

It was completed about 2 weeks ago

And today, I got to walk on it with the artisans!  What an amazing thing!

I promise you that had there not been a ton of people around, I would have found a spot to go and just sob.  I couldn't hold back the tears.  Except for a few things in my life (like the birth of my children) I can't remember ever being more overwhelmed, humbled and yet proud at the same time.  The emotions were crazy.  

I found out that they built the bridge with the ability to expand it and make it wider for cars in the future if needed.  I also found out that they ran the city water pipe through the bridge so they don't even have to cross the bridge to get their water.  I learned that when it floods - their water supply is cut off!  Wow!  That will no longer be a problem.

The thing that I am most proud of is that THEY did it.  THEY built it the way THEY wanted and NEEDED it to be.  We didn't go in there and assume anything.  They planned well - thought ahead and built it themselves.  And they are continuing!  They started digging a ditch on their side of the bridge and laying pipe for water.  Amazing! 

The sweetest, best moment of the day was when I was back at the artisan house and Elinord came and found me.  She tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned around she said ever so carefully and sweetly (in English), "I want to thank you for the bridge."  

Again - I could have sobbed but fought to just let the tears come gently.  I gave her a huge hug and drug her to Shelley to translate - "You are so very welcome - please tell your husband thank you for building it.  He did a wonderful job."

I have never been more humbled and more proud at the same time.  I could only stand at the bridge, looking around, thinking of the rest of Hickory Grove and contemplate about how we did this.  We have made a permanent difference in this community.  We have helped to give something that will allow them to continue to grow and better themselves. And we did it the best possible way - by empowering them!  

We helped bridge that "relational distance between those that have and those that don't."

That just makes my heart soar!

Until next time......

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 3 - Journey to Croix des Bouquet

I LOVE Croix des Bouquet!  Each year I find new and amazing stuff created by the artisans there.  The process of creating the metal art from the 55 gallon oil drums dates back to the 1940's.  The skill has been passed down through the years and is a major stopping place for visitors to Haiti.  Shelley has been hiring them to create the Christmas Ornaments, medallions and other pieces for her jewelry. 

It was really fun to see the difference since last year.  They have really done a lot of work to improve this area and make it even more visitor friendly.

March 2012


March 2012


It really is incredible to see these guys work with nothing but chisels and hammers in the dirt.  It's hard work and it creates amazing pieces.


This is Claude.  He, along with two other Haitians, traveled with Shelley a few weeks back to help with the New York Now Gift Show.  It was his first time ever out of Haiti!  He created all of the Fundraiser Ornaments last Christmas, along with many of the other pieces as well.  He's incredibly talented!

He is the artisan that created the verse for the wall in Russell's office along with many other custom pieces. 

It was really great seeing him today!

I really it quite amazing to have connections with these artisans.  To watch their lives improve because they have a steady job.  I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing how lives are changing for the better.  And it's not about hand outs - it's about jobs.  It's about dignity.  It's about long term sustainability. 

If you are interested in ordering some metal art - check out this link!  The entire site is awesome!

Please continue to pray for us.  In between our little excursions, we really are sitting around the table at the Guest House and talking.  Brainstorming.  Bonding.  Getting to know one another and praying that God will guide and direct us.  Apparent Project was birthed from the heart of God - there is no other way to explain how it has done so well, so quickly.  God's fingerprints are all over it.  We only want to follow His lead.  Pray for wisdom, discernment, unity and a whole lot of faith to step out and obey.

We are trusting God and we know it's going to be awesome!!!

Until next time......