SHARE THE LOVE
Steph Kauffman & Family (Brad, Caleb, Kadin, Jacob & Adella)
Steph Kauffman & Family (Brad, Caleb, Kadin, Jacob & Adella)
It is hard to believe that it has been 1& 1/2 years since our trip to Haiti! Time flies, and life is busy, and our family continues to reminisce about the positive experience we had while serving with Mountain Top Ministries in January of 2018. We would all call it "life changing!" and I say that in the most positive way.
For my husband and me, our passion to serve was embedded in us after a semester in Ghana, Africa in 1997 after we were just married. It was considered a cross-cultural experience through Eastern Mennonite University where we both attended at the time. We returned to the United States shortly before Christmas that year, with a renewed outlook on the needs around the world. Unfortunately, I had also been hospitalized with malaria while there, and had experienced being very sick at the young age of 21. I knew that I wanted to continue to serve others in whatever way possible, but I became very scared to ever travel overseas again! Secretly, I prayed that God would not ask us to travel in that way ever again. After all, there are plenty of needs here too, I would always tell myself!
I share this with you today, as it is heavy on my heart that many of us struggle with fears of all kinds. Travelling is scary! Going to another country is scarier! Taking your children along or leaving them behind can be the scariest of all. Financially supporting a ministry like this or sponsoring a child that is far away, can also cause fear. I want to use this newsletter today, to encourage any of you who may be feeling the call to go and serve or give financially, and you are finding yourself buried in the fears of it all! 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and of self-discipline."
I held onto that verse as it became obvious to my husband and me that we were to take our 3 boys (ages 9 - 14 at the time) and leave our 5 year old daughter with grandparents, and travel to Haiti to serve with MTM. I was filled with fear and feelings of unworthiness. As a family, we began to read Willem's book, Give Your Best, for part of our homeschool devotions. We also began to read everything we could about Haiti. I began to study the nursing manual for care to be given in the clinic there, and my husband began to pray over how him and the boys could be best utilized while there. The boys had never been on an airplane, and so we tried to prepare them for that. Psalm 56:4 "In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will NOT be afraid!" As I write this today, a group I know is serving at MTM and I can say how badly I wish I could be there again! We would all say the same! We love MTM! Please serve if you feel you should, or give if you have the means, or sponsor a child if God has placed that on your heart. You can be assured that your time and money will go towards an amazing cause that truly changes the lives of the people it serves!
Our week in Haiti was amazing! I was humbled by the gratefulness and joy of all the Haitian people we served while in the clinic. I believe we served between 700-800 patients that week, and in the midst of the busyness, and learning how to work through an interpreter, I have never experienced a better side of being a nurse. I was able to pray with all of my patients, work together with our team to provide the best care possible, and solve problems together to improve patient care. I thoroughly enjoyed working with our whole team, recognizing everyone's different giftings and working with Dr. Marcia. She is truly wonderful to work with! I received hugs and smiles from many of the children who I was blessed enough to be able to treat. I came home reminded that we need not be upset when we have to wait, and how we need to slow down and put relationships before schedules. Many of the patients we saw had waited many hours or even had to spend the night on cement. I heard not one complaint from the Haitian people, but received only praises and gratefulness. I will forever be thankful for the interpreters who worked tirelessly with our group to try and help get to the root of every problem we faced that week. Thank - you! I have never met a more incredible group of young people so willing to work so hard. Our boys wanted to stay in Haiti! Some of their favorite memories are: being able to play soccer with the kids, spending time with the kids at the school, playing with the kids, how happy the kids were, hi-fiving with the kids, counting pills for the clinic, catching lizards, the crazy rides in the back of the truck to and from the clinic, helping to hand out vitamins at the school, and helping with painting and building projects. Another favorite for them was getting to know our group! We will all be forever grateful for the relationships formed within the group. Devotions. Playing piano. Playing cards in the evenings. Adopted "grandmas!" Relationships made with the Haitian people. Our amazing cook and her smile! The dogs and other animals at MTM. The young men they met while making local purchases. Our walks home from the clinic in the evenings. Willem's singing and storytelling! They also loved trying different foods, seeing the different vegetation, and viewing all the beauty that Haiti has to offer. We all enjoyed the church service and especially the singing on Sunday morning. The men of our group, and our oldest son, were also able to work together to build benches for the school in Gramothe. There was a huge feeling of accomplishment as we headed out to the village school on our last day in Haiti to paint the benches and leave them at the school so that the students would all have benches to sit on. We were also able to go to each classroom, hand out vitamins, do teaching, and encourage students. The landscape was truly beautiful as were the students and teachers who we met there.
I say thank-you to God for pushing me out of my comfort zone again! For the experience our family had to serve Him and to walk alongside our group to be a part of this incredible ministry. I would encourage you who are reading this to prayerfully consider serving in this way too! To overcome your fears and serve in a way you may not have thought of before! If you are not able to travel, you may desire to give financially to this ministry or to sponsor a child through MTM. You can also commit to praying for MTM as they work to bring God's love and care into the lives of these people. There are many students who still need to be sponsored, and your gift will assure them a meal each day, an education, and an opportunity to experience and learn about God's love for them!
Our experience still feels like it was just yesterday and we will be forever grateful to have had this incredible opportunity to serve together. Our group became our family that week! A song that has become powerful for us, that we heard frequently after our return home is "Rescuer" by Rend Collective. I would encourage you to find it and listen if you can, and use it as a reminder that He is our Rescuer! And as His people we can help to "Rescue" those in need.
Blessings! Steph Kauffman & Family (Brad, Caleb, Kadin, Jacob & Adella)
My name is Herby Ceneus. I have been coming to Gramothe clinic for the last 18 yrs. I remember the first time I came it was for terrible headache pain, knee pain and hemorrhoids. Praise to Jesus that with the help of the doctors I’m much better even though I still have a headache from time to time.
I’ve been married for last 6 yrs. I have 2 children -My oldest son is 11 yrs old and my daughter is 3 yrs.
My wife and all of us have been going to the clinic. My son Rodney Ceneus is often sick with stomachache, headache and all of his bones hurt. We always find help at MTM clinic.
May God bless all of those doctors and nurses that come to help my family and thousands of others. My prayer is that they continue to come to help us.
Tammarc’s parents wanted to share with us that they thank God for the clinic and the doctors that are there especially at the time of her labor. (Dr. Tammy and Dr. Marcia whom she named Tammarc after). She was young and Tammarc was her first baby and she was very scared. She says when she walked into the clinic and saw all of the missionaries in there she felt safe and knew they would take great care of her (and with love). She will always be thankful for what the doctors have done for her and Tammarc.
Guerlanfe Louis said she didn’t finish school and want everyone to know it is important to stay in school.
Tami and Jeni Gudenkauf
Jeremiah 29:11 I know the plans I have for you,Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Wow! What an amazing God we praise and worship! He knows exactly the path He wants us to follow and has it all planned out long before we have a clue. Then He provides us with little nudges in the direction He wants us to go.
I first knew I wanted to medically help people when I was in junior high. My grandmother, who turns 99 this year, was my inspiration. She was a volunteer on the ambulance and worked in surgery at the hospital in their small Iowa town. She arranged for me to observe some surgeries when I was in high school, and then I knew the medical field was for me.
I was planning to go to the Peace Corps initially, but then realized the way I could be most effective in the mission field would be to become a doctor. God directed through that journey and now I am an emergency medicine physician. I still always had doing mission work in my plan but circumstances never seemed to allow it. I was very jealous when my dad got the opportunity to go on several mission trips long before I did. Then one day working in the emergency department, a friend who was doing her rotation to become a nurse practitioner told me about a medical mission trip who needed another physician since another person had canceled at the last minute. I didn’t have a passport and didn’t think there was any way I would be able to get all the arrangements made in time to go. God of course had other plans and was instrumental in making sure I was on that trip.
That was a life changing experience. The trip was to the little town of Gramothe in Haiti with Mountain Top Ministries. What an amazing place and ministry! The setting is gorgeous, sitting on the opposite side of the mountain from the guest house. The tall white steeple on the church surrounded by the school and clinic against the green backdrop of the surrounding village and farm fields is such a breathtaking sight! Then I stepped foot into the village and the clinic. Wow! I felt so much love and acceptance and appreciation for what we were doing there. I think anyone who goes on a mission trip expects to go and help and be a blessing to the people in whatever village in which they are working, but I always come away feeling so much more blessed and enriched than what I feel I give. Every patient that comes to the clinic is dressed in their Sunday best and wears a beautiful smile. Quite often they have a hug to give before they leave as well. It amazes me how they can be happy after enduring so much hardship over and over. They survived a horrendous earthquake then hurricanes in addition to their already poverty stricken life. But all you see is their smiles and love. You see God shining through them. They are not angry or bitter. One of the biggest highlights of our many trips was on this last trip in October. I was blessed to deliver a baby! It was all so very exciting but very anxiety provoking as well. Being a doctor, I know the immense number of things that can go wrong in a delivering a baby if things don’t go well. While we’re well prepared at the clinic, we are not prepared for all those potential complications. I prayed and prayed and prayed, and of course, God in all His might and providence, delivered a healthy baby with absolutely no complications, mess or muss. And then she got up and walked back up the mountain to her home 45 minutes after delivery. Wow! God is so awesome and empowering !
I have been blessed to be able to go on several of these mission trips with my family as well. My daughter Jeni has gone on at least 6 trips with me while she was in junior high and high school. My dad and mom have been able to go along on several as well. There is no need to have a medical background or experience to go on these trips. There is always plenty to do and all are welcome.
Throughout elementary school my mom went on countless trips to Haiti while I remained at home, jealous of the incredible experiences I knew she was encountering. If it was up to me I would have been on every trip possible; however, being that my dad lived out east, I had to patiently wait until he sent us the signature necessary to allow me to get a passport. By the time 6th grade rolled around, the signature came through and I was able to join my mom in going on my first mission trip to Haiti. Having never traveled out of the country, I was very nervous. Fortunately, I knew that God, my mom, and a few other familiar faces in the group would guide me through it. Arriving in Haiti, I was shocked by the immense poverty. I was aware that they needed our help for a reason, but it wasn’t until we flew over miles of tent cities that I fully comprehended what level of help the people of Haiti needed.
After deplaning and gathering our mounds of luggage stuffed with essentials like medicine, equipment, and several jars of peanut butter, we finally stepped outside of the airport into the city of Port-au-Prince. Leaving the safety of the airport left me feeling shocked for a second time. A distinct scent flooded my nose, people were shouting in a language I couldn’t understand, in between shouts of creole, honking horns muffled the silence, and a group of Haitians kept pulling at our luggage in hope that we would give them money in exchange for their help in dragging our luggage to the truck. As I piled in the trunk of the truck I thought to myself of the mistake I had made. I was terrified. Would we be safe? How would I be able to make it through the week? I thought that starting 6th grade was scary, now I’m supposed to work in a clinic, which I have no experience in, in a country I’m completely unfamiliar with?
As we slowly climbed the mountains, I felt my heart beat return to its normal state. The air grew cooler and the commotion of the city began to dissipate. I was able to see how beautiful the country of Haiti really was. As we traveled to the clinic each day, I never felt less than overwhelmed by the raw beauty of the country. While the physical beauty of Haiti was breathtaking, I was mostly amazed by the spirit of the people of Haiti. Despite being materialistically less fortunate, the Haitians’ amount of faith, joy, hope, and gratitude seemed unmatchable. I was stunned by how they seemed to feel so full, despite having so little. While the Haitians’ unfailing optimism was prominent throughout the week of working in the clinic, it wasn’t until attending church on Sunday that I realized the intensity of their faith. The church practically shook with the strength of voices singing in creole their praises to God. It was this moment that brought tears to my eyes. I realized that while the Haitians may appear to have less physically, their completely filled with the Spirit, which is all anyone really needs.
By the end of our trip I had gained experience in doing things in the clinic like scribing for my mom or giving babies scabies treatments, I formed unforgettable friendships, I became very interested in studying creole, and most importantly, I grew so much closer in my relationship with God. God led me back to Haiti five times after that and each time was just as incredible as the time before. While I went to Haiti intending to change lives, it was my life that ended up being forever changed.
Susan Frcka “My Cup Runneth Over” Psalm 23
Ever since I was accepted into the School of Nursing at DePaul, University in Chicago I planned on being a Frontier Nurse riding by horseback into the Appalachian Mountains to deliver babies and care for some of the poorest of the poor in the US. Well after graduation, life and most likely God’s plan took me on a different journey of getting married, working in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at a large academic hospital, raising a family, then entering into corporate healthcare for 22 years before retiring. Although I do not regret any f this for one second, my clinical career could not have been further away from my earliest aspirations of caring for God’s most vulnerable. In March of 2018 I embarked on checking off one of my “Bucket List” to do’s -- to go on a medical mission trip. My dear friend, Kate Clark, had made 10 trips to Haiti over the years and when she spoke of her experiences, her love and passion for the Haitian people and specifically the work she was doing at Mountain Top Ministries through an organization in Chicago, Little By Little simply warmed my heart. Kate convince her fearless leader, Vanda Marsh to take a leap of faith and agree to my last minute request to join the March 2018 team. Like any new adventure I had my own preconceived ideas about the trip, MTM, the needs of the Haitian people, and what I might do with my clinical skills. Nothing could have prepared me for this life changing experience. I was told I could only bring one small personal carry-on bag and a backpack. What??? No checked bags for hair products, makeup, six pairs of shoes and two outfits per day??? Rude awakening of what was to come. Arriving at the airport at 4:45am, I was greeted by the LBL team of 26 all who were so welcoming and warm. We arranged and rearranged 30 suitcases filled with supplies making sure none were over the weight limit. We checked in as a team and with Kate Clark at my side and Vanda Marsh leading the way I was off on the trip of a lifetime.
The week flew by. I was in utter amazement of the LBL team, MTM especially Willem and Johane but mostly the Haitian people themselves. Witnessing the daily miracles, blessings and the love and appreciation of those who stood in line for hours and even over night at the clinic to be seen by the clinical team. I was humbled and overwhelmed. Riding in the back of Willem’s open truck up and down the mountain each day allowed me to see the poverty yet resourcefulness of the people of Gramothe. I was so touched by the waving little children along the way with huge smiles on their faces. The women cooking outdoors, washing clothes in the almost dry river bed, carrying large bundles of crops and/or containers of water for miles was an inspiration. I felt ashamed of the many times I was frustrated or complained about the little inconveniences in my life. Using my God given nursing skills was more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. We saw over 1,000 patients that week. It was exhausting physically and emotionally and I missed my family but it broke my heart to leave knowing there was so much to done and so many patients that needed care. Once home, I couldn’t wait to share my experience with anyone who would listen. Much to my surprise, everyone I spoke to wanted to know more and like me with Kate, I felt they saw the light and passion within me when I shared the many stories of my encounters and the ongoing needs of these people along with the good being done by LBL at MTM.
Fast forward seven months to trip #2 for me, October, 2018. On my first trip I unofficially became the “queen of scabies treatments” however the clinic had run out of Sulphur soap and had a very limited supply of clean washcloths. Something so basic in the treatment of scabies in these infested children was a scarcity. I decided to investigate Sulphur soap options and found a company in CA that would sell cases of soap at a reduced cost. I posted a “Can you support . . .” request on my Facebook page sharing the link for bulk orders as well as a request for new washcloths. The response to the post was overwhelming - - - just one simple ask for help. Friends, family and acquaintances of Kate’s and mine provided us with over 100 bars of soap and hundreds of clean new washcloths. In addition we received cash donations in an excess of $1,800. We were blown away. Not only were we able to treat the children in the clinic we were able to send soap and washcloths home with the parents to continue treatment at home making it much more effective. With the cash donations we purchased cloth diapers, plastic pants, diaper pins and onesies and put little packs together for the newborns and infants. I was so humbled by the generosity of so many as a result of a simple FB post. Just as heartwarming were the smiles and tears of gratitude from the families for which we were able to make just a little difference. A great need, a simple ask can make a huge difference Susan Frcka
Hello, my name is Isaiah Syrmopoulos. I have been to Haiti four times in the last four years, and every single time I go my love for Haiti and the people of Haiti grows even more! The first year I went to Haiti I hadn’t had any idea what was in store for me and how Haiti would change my life forever in many aspects. I had never been on a mission trip, but I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to Haiti for the first time in 2015. On my first trip, I remember as I was getting on the plane a wave of emotions were flowing over me as I was so excited and had butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know a whole lot about Haiti prior to my trip, but I knew that it was very poor. Upon my arrival in Haiti and over my trips to Haiti I’ve learned that Haiti is poorer than I could have ever imagined and that the living conditions and everyday life are worlds different and not even comparable to that of life in the U.S. Over my four trips to Haiti I’ve come to learn that the Haitians are very rich, however not from a monetary standpoint but in so many other ways, whether it be measured in personality, happiness, or spirituality. Nearly every single interaction that I have had with a Haitian has been a positive one, whether that be exchanging pleasantries with a person in the clinic or acknowledgment with a wave by people passing by walking to the clinic. From my experiences, I have nothing but praises for the Haitian people.
I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to go to Haiti as I feel that it has benefited me greatly in so many aspects of my life. Examples of this consist of things such as being more grateful for everything in life, whether that be a car to drive to and from school or a plate of food, as I always clear my plate or save anything I can’t finish for later, but definitely never wasting any food at all. Whenever I encounter hardships in my life I have learned to change my perspective and look at them through the eyes of a Haitian and it is then that truly I realize that my hardships are nothing compared to those of the Haitian people and that I need to overcome these.
My first trip to Haiti in December of 2015 I got to play a lot of soccer with the children at the school and it was so much fun getting to build relationships with the kids and see how grateful they were and how much fun they'd have. They make do with anything from a plastic bottle, a rock or an old covering of a soccer ball with a popped inside and blowing up an already popped balloon to fill it and use as a soccer ball due to their resourcefulness. With me having gotten to spend a bunch of time with the children over the years I began to develop relationships with them. On my most recent trip in November, I noticed as I’d be walking around kids would recognize me and approach saying, “Isaiah!” while giving me knuckles and shaking my hand. I even had a comment made to me from a team member how cool he thought it was that he hears children hollering my name as I’m walking by. I am so grateful for the opportunity to feel so connected with these people. One of the many reasons why I want to continue my trips to Haiti for the rest of my life, to be able to watch the Haitians grow and for Haiti to become a prospering nation.
Over my four trips to Haiti, I have learned a substantial amount of Haitian Creole, which is the language of Haiti. I am now able to carry on fluent conversations with people, whether that be at the clinic or on the street. I was blessed on my last trip in November to lead the Morning Prayer in Haitian before clinic.
One of the amazing things that I have learned from this is how incredibly kind and gracious the Haitian people are, as in America I’m aware of many instances where people get angry at and are rude to foreigners for not being able to speak English or for speaking broken English. I have found that Haiti is the polar opposite of this, as when I speak to people they seem to enjoy conversing with me no matter how many mistakes I make in a sentence. They are more than happy to help me with the language, teaching me the correct pronunciation of words that I am looking for. While in the clinic the translators have helped me immensely by teaching me many words and no matter how many words I ask for help within a day they never get even the slightest annoyed and on the contrary, they seem to appreciate my efforts.
Overall my trips to Haiti have helped me to be appreciative for anything and everything that I have in life and to never take anything for granted. I try to live every day to the fullest and let nothing get me too down because with my newfound perspective I have gotten from going to Haiti I know that just about any problem or inconvenience that I have isn't comparable to anything that the Haitians face on a daily basis. I keep this in mind and act accordingly and this is how Haiti has helped me to live a happier and more joy-filled life. Every trip that I take to Haiti I feel myself loving the people of Haiti and Haiti itself even more, continuously gaining a richer perspective of life on every trip.
Meet our Office Manager.....Deb Williams
In 2002 I visited MTM for the first time. Never having been on a mission trip, or even out of the country, I didn’t really know what to expect, but never could I have been prepared for what I was to experience. During that week I felt happiness, joy, love, a closer relationship with God, but also a feeling of guilt, of being overwhelmed, sad and a feeling there had to be more that could be done to help. How could there be so much wealth in the U.S. and SO MUCH poverty in Haiti??? It wasn’t fair! Why is life so much easier just because of where we are born? Once I returned home I found myself irritated to hear someone complain about simple things like pot holes in our roads, complaining there was too much traffic, or the line was too long at Walmart or waiting a few minutes to see the doctor or even myself thinking “I don’t have anything to wear today” or “I don’t have anything to eat in the house”. Good roads, quick service, fast food, getting an education, having a good job, a full closet and a full stomach are all things we take for granted in the US, but that simply isn’t the case in Haiti. Those things are luxuries that people in third world countries don’t necessarily have available to them. For instance, when we have a headache we just go to the medicine cabinet and take Tylenol that we drove to the local Walmart to buy. There are people in Haiti that don’t have access to medical care or stores and they walk 4 hours to get to a clinic just to wait all day in the sun to see the doctor. There are children that walk 3 hours one way to get to school because they know the value of getting an education.
I learned something that week in 2002. I learned we don’t need all our “stuff” to be happy. The Haitians taught me that true happiness & joy come from knowing God and being loved by God. You don’t have to have 3 cars, a big home with a pool, a closet full of nice clothes & shoes! No, those things don’t produce real joy. The Haitians I worshipped with on Sunday, in that church packed full of people with standing room only, were truly happy. I found myself admiring them for “getting it”.
I knew on that first trip that I wanted to be involved with MTM. I wanted to help, but…how? Well, in 2007 I started volunteering to help with clerical duties and in 2009 was given an opportunity to work full time at MTM. I am now a stateside missionary to Haiti! I love my job and the opportunity to be involved in a ministry that is working towards empowering Haitians to break the cycle of poverty. They are being given an opportunity to get a quality education and have health care and are being brought the Gospel. And…one of the coolest things about this is that we are now seeing MTM’s efforts come full circle. Some of the high school students are mentoring younger students in other areas, graduates are now employed at the school and disciples are being raised up to spread the Gospel to other areas.
I have found my calling! I love working to find sponsors for students, getting to connect people with their student, processing donations, ordering medicine for the pharmacy, working in the clinic, building, painting, loving on babies…anything. I serve God by serving the people of Haiti. On my trip two weeks ago I was able to witness the miracle of a new life being brought into this world. A young lady walked to the clinic in labor, within 30 minutes gave birth and about an hour later walked home with her baby. Wow! The things we take for granted!
I love being in Haiti with different teams and hearing how a week in Haiti affects people. I have been several times and God always shows me something new. I am so blessed to be part of the work God is doing in Haiti! I have seen many changes over the last 16 years. I have watched MTM grow from a tiny church to a big, beautiful church, I’ve watched grades being added to the school as the years progressed and have watched several classes graduate. I have seen the clinic grow from a little area in a classroom to a fully stocked & equipped clinic & pharmacy. And next month I will get to witness the opening of our new Trade School. You simply can’t stand on this mountain and NOT see God at work!
If you would like to be a student sponsor, help with the Trade School expenses, be a general donor or would like to be on a team serving in Haiti I would love to talk to you. Also, since I am considered a stateside missionary, I raise 100% of my income from people like you who donate. If you would like to join my support team, please contact me at MTMTH09@gmail.com. I recently launched a 50/20 Campaign trying to get 50 sponsors to donate $20 a month. I’m half way to reaching my goal! YOU can be part of what God is doing in Haiti even if you can’t travel there personally. You can donate, find sponsors or pray for our ministry! It takes the whole body of Christ to impact the Kingdom for His sake!
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel... Phil 1:3 NIV
PAINTING THE CHURCH
PAINTING AND ORGANIZING THE CLINIC
Deb in clinic pharmacy
November 2018 Share the Love Story with Deb Williams can be see in the NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER
October 2018 Share the Love Story with Heather Neuses can be seen in the OCTOBER NEWSLETTER
September 2018 Share the Love story with Brad Lutes can be seen in the SEPTEMBER NEWSLETTER
August 2018 Share the Love story with Debi Fritz can be see in the AUGUST NEWSLETTER