March 11 2013 - MaryLu Over the last few years, I have come to a significant realization about my purposes in life. I feel called to be a mother and to aid the poor. I realized I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother when it was still very uncool to say that was what you wanted to be when you grew up. I was probably a freshman in college and not even dating anyone when I realized this was part of my path. I did a pretty good job hiding this information from my family until it was more socially appropriate. I worked as an engineer for a few years and did enjoy the work. But I LOVE being a mom. I feel fulfilled, challenged and happy. But I digress. What I was really trying to come to, is that I also feel called to address poverty across the world. I took a class called "Peace and Justice" at Villanova University that first inspired me in this direction. It's a bit of a scary direction to feel pulled into because the problem is so big, so pervasive and unsolvable. But the constant suffering and need of our brothers and sisters pulls at my heart, and I must try to do something to provide aid. But I have to tell you, it is a lot harder to work on problems of poverty than it is to work on problems in parenting. My children are always present. They wake me in the morning with needs and I could constantly be doing things, learning things, preparing things for them every waking hour. But as I have two purposes. So this Lent, I'm going to try to give more time to that second purpose. My plan is to spend a few minutes or a few hours of every day working to aid the poor. So perhaps, with this new dedication of time, you will see a few more emails from me, a few new web posts, and maybe even a fundraiser in Manasssas taking shape. I feel more fulfilled in my purposes already! Sept 9 2013 - MaryLu Empowering Haitians July 2013 Mission Trip Report We have returned safely from another productive trip to Cap Haitian, July 14-21, 2013. The team included members from Sudley UMC (Norman Hertz), Lynhaven UMC (Josh Brandenstein, Allison Crisher, Chuck and Marlene Passerelli, Nicole Moore, Kelsey Mahoney, Ralph and Carolyn Satter), Grace UMC (Michael, MaryLu, Jackie and Isaac Hertz) and Mike Denman. Isaac (age 7) and Jackie (age 9) are the youngest missionaries we have yet taken to Haiti. The team worked on a number of projects including a water project, children’s bible camp, preliminary construction for a house, painting the mission center and food distribution. In the photos above, Isaac helps with crafts at bible camp and Jackie helps cook a meal for day laborers. The photo on the right shows our base of operations at the EH mission center and food storage. Empowering Haitians, locally called Espoir Haitien, has a significant ongoing presence in the community of Cap Haitian with the food distribution program. We support roughly 340 people’s monthly calorie needs in the community. The program is organized around local churches and an AIDS patient group. Those community groups nominate their 6 poorest families to receive weekly distributions of rice and beans. In addition, English classes are offered to the children of those groups. Many of the missionaries on the July trip spent significant time working with the children of the groups involved in the feeding program. The children came to the mission center to participate in a craft, songs, bible story and snack. The team brought Polaroid cameras and for many children, making a craft with their picture on it was a real highlight. This July’s water project involved running pipe a few inches underground from a well on the top of a small mountain down to distribution points and cisterns in the community. Mission team members worked alongside community laborers to accomplish this project which makes clean water available to hundreds of people. We also started construction on a simple concrete house on the hill for a needy family. Just getting the materials to the jobsite is hard work. Bags of sand or concrete must be hand carried up the mountain. We also painted and installed roofing for a small home and painted the interior and doors of the mission center. The children worked hard and really enjoyed their trip. They made friends even without speaking the language. They carried sand, used shovels and pick axes, painted and helped with the children’s bible camp crafts and games. Jackie and Isaac had collected toys from Sudley UMC and Haydon Elementary that they hoped to use to start a toy lending library. They were able to share these toys with the community around the mission center and use the toys during free play at the children’s bible camp. The hope is that these toys can be used in future trips and for parties or activity days when children from the feeding program come to the mission center. Jackie and Isaac also collected clinic supplies which they donated to the EH community clinic. We left hopeful that we could restart the micro-lending program and begin a renewable goat project. The micro lending program will start with a group that was successful in the past and then offer new loans to women connected with the churches and groups of the feeding program. The goal of this program is to help small businesses in the community grow. The goat project will also be based on the success of our feeding program community. Families will be selected to receive a female goat. They will give back the first female kid, but get to keep milk and additional kids. We hope this program will provide families with a sustainable source of food. July 25, 2013 - MaryLu I just returned from Haiti. It has been two years since I was last there. It is still very much the same: visceral, desperate and bustling. There is so much to say about this trip but For now I will stick to the topic of women and children. For the first time, I brought my children, Jackie (9) and Isaac (7) with us to Haiti. My hope is to foster in them a love of service to others. This trip was a wonderful experience. They stepped up to paint the mission center, carry sand up the hill, dig a trench for pipe, and participate in half day vacation bible schools. Language was no barrier for them to make friends and play. Jackie learned creole jump rope rhymes and had an entire entourage of little girls following her around. As we were hiking up the mountain to see the water project, Isaac told me Haiti was 14 times better than Disney world. Awesome. And I met with the Espoir Haitian micro loan committee my last day in country. We have made a few changes to our group numbers and policies for taking applications and are going to start lending again. I'm so excited to see this sustainable program moving forward again. Jan 10, 2011 – MaryLu It has been an emotional month for Empowering Haitians. With a heavy heart we cancelled the January trip to Haiti due to political unrest. We followed the recommendation of both The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and our fellow missionaries, Dr. Ford and Ms. Alice. Everyone is worried about the possibility of violence and the probability of road blocks leaving us stuck at our hotel. In fact, our Haitian team lead, Patrick, has asked us not to come because he is fearful of the situation. In all the years we have been going, this is the first time any Haitian who is dependent on our support has said “please stay away.” The UMVIM cancelled all trips in January, we are hopeful that if the situation changes we can do the work we had planned in January at another time in February or March. I was worried about the financial impact of our decision, but it felt like the right one. We made this decision knowing we would lose money in airline fees. Little miracles happen every day. Generously, everyone planning to go on the trip helped us cover these costs. The big miracle happened with the close of the financial year at Sudley UMC. Deb gave me the financial figures for how much money we had for Microloan and the well project. I was so worried, having only raised $4000 of the $12,000 we needed to do these projects. What great news! She had over $9,000 from Sudley for Empowering Haitians! Michael loves to say "let go, let God". It was only this fall; that I put these needs for microloans out there. Our cup overflows once again. Thank you for your continued support for the poor in Haiti. I know we will get to go again soon and we will bring with us the gifts of our church and our community to bring hope and love to our brothers and sisters there.