Bonjou Haiti! ~Part 1
It’s been almost 2 months since I have been back from my mission trip to Haiti! What a life changing trip and one that has taken some time to process! I thought as soon as I got back, I would be able to jump right on my laptop and type away but it has been months of reflecting and processing this experience. While there has been many things that are going on in my life, Haiti has been playing in my mental ‘background’ and after several attempts of starting and stopping this blog about my trip, I finally got to a place of completion. I decided to break up this experience into 2 parts calling this blog entry Part 1. So here it goes::::
My girlfriend Jessica and I
both voiced a desire to do a mission trip so earlier this year she attended an interest meeting in Charlotte, NC with an organization called Love One Another Ministries International,
passed me the details and the rest is history! We both signed up and had our first mission trip experience together. This mission trip was scheduled for Sunday, July 1, 2018 to Saturday, July 7, 2018 but it didn’t quite go as planned. I’ll explain later in the blog….
I had a very ‘brief’ moment of hesitancy that I only told a few people while I was deciding on taking the mission trip. It was a moment where I became concerned with a slew of ‘what-if’s’ and God reminded me that He is the great “I AM”. He gave me a sense of peace that will revisit me in a real moment of potential danger while in Haiti. If you have never been to Haiti, outside of Labadee (a port that is a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean Cruises), my prayer is that this blog will give insight along with highlighting my personal account of what I experienced before and after the trip.
I knew some basic things about Haiti before traveling there like the blatant races tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic who both share the island and how visiting both countries in certain parts can be like night and day based on your skin complexion. As far as natural disasters, Haiti has experienced their fair share. The earthquake in Port Au Prince in 2010 resulted in over 230, 000 deaths, another 300,000 injured and displaced 1.5 million people. While still trying to recover from the earthquake, Haiti endured disaster from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, leaving thousands of deaths and literally very little time for rebuild between the two hurricanes. Not only has the country suffered from natural disasters but also from the corruption in the government that has deeply deprived the people from resources and opportunities. The country is not poor but the people are. The land is RICH with resources that have been stolen from other countries including the U.S. Some may say but there are multiple mission organizations, private and public, that have given back and brought many resources to the country. Yes, that’s true. But what one of my ministry leaders explained to me made sense, “The number one issue with organizations coming to Haiti is the continuity. Many come and help but there is no sustainability. More than just receiving food and supplies, the people need to also be taught how to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining.” So while there, I made it my business to have multiple conversations with the ministry leaders and some of the locals to get a personal account of what the Haitians have had to endure over the years. History books and News Networks are all good but to talk to people IN Haiti for me was empowering as I took notes like a reporter to later go back to read and digest.
When we landed in Haiti, I was taking it all in. As soon as I got off the plane, we had a short walk to the baggage claim area where it was chaotic to say the least. No air conditioning but everyone trying to grab his or her bags and exit out. We were greeted by our driver and loaded up to head to our hotel. While sitting in the van and driving through the city of Cap-Haitien, my eyes were astonished at what I was seeing. My mind immediately started to go through the Rolodex of countries I have visited over the years to find commonality. This level of poverty wasn’t new to me but I felt it differently based on all of my travels. Sure poverty is everywhere and hard to escape and trust me, while on a mission trip, there is no escaping mentally or physically. When we ventured out to the shelter where ministry took place for 3 and a half days, there was trash and puddles of mixed pollutants everywhere. The smells of some of the areas was not automatically known to my senses but for me, I compartmentalized it so that I can serve with my whole heart. I had never seen a community well before but would hear about fundraisers for getting wells placed in local areas in countries where people could not afford to have a private water source. I witnessed to some hard reality and after day one of visiting the shelter, you could only imagine that the word got out quickly. During the visit the team was split into two groups that assisted with clinical help that included administering medicines and bible studying.
When we returned on day 2 there were double the amount of people..Whoa! But the ministry team was prepared and accommodated everyone with a meal but to get to the meal, you had to sit through bible study and if you were there for medical attention, you had to be present until your number was called. I assisted with bible study teaching and had a front of the room view of the faces of the adults and children. The kids were so loving and kind and greeted every adult respectively with “Madame” which never got old hearing. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Every day that we will get ready to eat for lunch, our ministry leaders will communicate to line up to receive a sandwich and drink. Sure you would expect the normal pushing or jumping line but I witnessed to that and more. It was as if there was no confidence in being told that there is enough for everyone and everyone will get served. In my mind I was trying to imagine how would I respond if I haven’t ate in days and didn’t know where my next meal was coming? It didn’t matter that there were a box of sandwiches and a cooler of drinks right in front of them because their reality was going to go on beyond a few days of us being there so for them it was an ‘every man for themselves’ response to instructions. I got it but it was hard to watch. In my mind I knew I was doing a good deed but what could I do that would help beyond this trip? It felt like it wasn’t enough because when I go home, this will still be the same situation for them.
I ate fresh food from the land everyday that made me question what am I REALLY eating back in the U.S?
Once I returned from the mission trip, I begin to take my food intake more seriously and begin researching GMO’s more closely. I started buying more organic food choices from the market and started using ingredients to prepare my food and monitoring any process food that I was buying. I have begun the process of eliminating chicken out of my diet. Currently I don’t eat pork and that has been the case for over 20 years and with beef, only eating it when I crave it because of me being anemic. I never tasted a mango THAT good and sweet! I had fresh plantains from the tree, fresh fish caught that morning and prepared that same day, fresh eggs from chickens on the land, just to name a few items. There were also local food variety as well. Here is what was so crazy to me. When in the U.S, my body is accustom to eating every 3 to 4 hours and while in Haiti, due to ministering for several hours after eating, it was sometimes 5 to 6 hours later before my next meal and I was not starving in between meals. What I was eating was sustaining me for hours and my energy level was still in tact. Another kicker, I lost weight. Ha! So you know it was definitely a lot of reflecting I was doing on my food intake and the importance of fresh ingredients in all meals once I returned.
Friday, July 6th there was a news story that broke out about protest taking place in Port Au Prince concerning the IMF – International Monetary Fund. They were discussing the current gasoline contract that was going to expire on Saturday, July 7th and since no negotiations for a new contract agreement was not in place, Haiti woke up to a 38% increase in gasoline prices the morning of July 7th and the protesting that started in Port Au Prince made its way to Cap-Haitien. After breakfast we canceled plans for that day and thought it would be best to get a jump-start on making our way to the airport. While in route to the airport we were notified via text from the airline that the flight was cancelled. We decided to still try to make it to the airport to hopefully get rebooked only to be stopped by a local who said to our driver, ”If you continue on you will be putting your life in danger so it’s best to turn around,” in which he did. There were a mix of emotions from everyone in the van because in that moment it got REAL. For me, in that moment, that guy stopping us was an ‘Angel’ because if he didn’t stop us, we would have been right in the middle of chaos! And who knows how that could have ended. As I discerned the situation and observed how mindful and cautious my ministry leaders were with putting our safety first, I experienced God’s peace in the mist of it all. It was overwhelming and it overtook me. His peace didn’t bring tears but for me a calmness and quiet response. My trust for the Lord over my life became bigger than that moment. It’s REALLY hard to explain but I had another ah-ha moment in my relationship that helped me to not question who He is in my life and how he truly ‘Got Me’ in every sense of the phrase…God Got Me….Peace will bring many different responses because I have been at peace and moved to tears but this time, it was as if his love wrapped around me like the arms of someone who loves you unconditionally. There is no greater feeling on earth when I think about both examples. *Smile*
I hope that I left a mark that showed you in that moment how much you have changed my life. I have many amazing experiences and this one easily makes one in my top 5. With this being my first mission trip I returned home with a ‘heavy’ heart and mind. I also thought to myself that I’ve heard a lot of mission trip stories but I don’t recall anyone talking in-depth on how a mission trip has such a mental effect. My deed didn’t feel like it helped enough. Was it enough time spent in the country to make a difference? Does it count if I didn’t solve the problem but contributed a portion of love and ministry to their hearts? Was some of the conversations I had with locals about life and Jesus enough to provoke change in their lives? Yeah, I beat myself up and I had to say no Charlene, your contribution was a part of a bigger effort and God used multiple people to fulfill his plan and purpose. Your contribution mattered and even though your seed did not produce an immediate harvest, it will in God’s timing.
He quickly reminded me of 1 Corinthians 3: 5-8: After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
Look out for part 2 of Bonjou Haiti! There is more to share….
Xoxo Charlene Evans
Facebook: Chiccy Baritone ~ Poet
I notice over several weeks going into my office building a sign that was posted on a door leading out to the parking garage. This sign simply said, “Pardon Our Progress.” The more I would read this sign coming in every morning for the past several weeks, the more it begin to resonate in my spirit. I begin to think about how that simple message has so much profound meaning. The phrase made me think about myself and what kind of progress have I made. Sure, this message was on the door in lieu of the entire building going through various stages of construction but I could not help but think to myself, “Pardon My Progress.”
But it doesn’t make sense right? Because the meaning of Pardon is: the action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense and when I think about some of the things I have changed in my life for the better, I don’t owe anyone an apology for that! So it’s really a little play on words. To define Progress means forward or onward movement toward a destination.
I am familiar with seeing a sign of this nature especially when some kind of work or construction is being done and it would normally say, “Pardon The Mess,” which made more sense. But the phrase, “Pardon Our Progress” is intended to state that this mess that you see now, is a work in progress towards something greater, an improvement, an upgrade. (WHEW~ That BLESSED ME!)
One major change I made on April 11, 2018 was purchase an Apple Watch to keep me accountable with my physical activity and to commit to a workout time that would best accommodate my busy days. For the past 2 months I have been getting up at 5am Monday – Friday doing ‘fasting’ cardio for 30 – 45mins to kick off my day. This change has made a major impact on my life in multiple ways: My energy levels are up and when I get to the office I am ready and alert for work. I love coffee but I don’t feel like I have to depend on it to perk up my mood. I feel better and my body, along with watching my food intake, has resulted in a stronger, healthier body as I continue to slim down gradually.
This change physically has also changed my time management. I wasted a lot of time after work watching several hours of television leaving only a few hours to read and to work on more constructive projects. I really desired to get in more time reading but also time to work on some personal business goals for myself. As a result of staying more active during the day, it helped me to focus longer in the evenings without feeling too tired from the work day. Talk about a huge CHANGE for me! Progress should be measurable in order to be effective meaning you should know what you should change, create a record and test through trial and error. Progress always involves risk. “You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” ~quote by Fredrick Wilcox
Look at it this way also…Progress does not only just involve all of the positive changes you have made but mistakes and failures are also progress! Especially if what you have learned has taught you what not to do! This result gets you closer to a solution or destination in your life because the goal is to be able to look back over your life and witness to progressive changes of yourself. There is a quote by Muhammad Ali that says, “A man who views the world the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
Let that marinate….
So, let me give it to you All Black, No Creamer, No Sugar, No Honey…
You have talked yourself into thinking a little change isn’t worth the effort because you looked at the end result from the end instead of looking at the end result from the beginning…the bible says to not despise small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..(Zechariah 4:10). Progress is Progressive….it doesn’t go from 0 to 100…it’s 99 other steps that you missed or ignored. Take it one step at a time until what you desire is present.
So “sorry not sorry” for how I have progressed in a little over 2 months. I don’t owe anyone an apology but I owe it to myself to do whatever I need to do in order to present my BEST self. #unapologeticallyPROGRESSING…..are YOU?
Xoxo Charlene Evans
Facebook: Chiccy Baritone ~ Poet
Are You Coming In Or Are You Staying Out?
I can remember on those hot summer days playing outside with my friends, we will make frequent stops at my house to either use the bathroom, get something cool to drink or going in and out “just because”. I can still hear my mom screaming from the inside of the house saying, “Are you coming in or are you staying out, because you are letting mosquitos inside the house!” My friends and I would quickly run out and shut the door behind us. My mom was very adamant about a decision being made and if we didn’t make it she was definitely going to make it for us. Having the door swinging open and close was never an ideal situation because not only were mosquitos a problem, so was her central air! Running your air conditioning unit in the summer was expensive and my hard working parents didn’t play that!
When I think about the importance of understanding the changes in relationships (platonic and personal), I feel like my mommy and her feelings on letting the air out. A decision has to be made. Either you are in or you are out. Managing and dealing with relationships changing is tough and sometimes down right difficult. Whether you have been friends over several years or made an acquaintance with someone fairly new that you are interested in, feeling like a relationship is starting to feel or become lukewarm has to be acknowledged but not necessarily addressed. This depends on the nature of the connection and the reason you may feel that it has reached an ‘in-between’ state.
Guess what? This is also the same way we deal with our personal relationship with God. We are in and out..just fickle… Sometimes we go to church and sometimes we don’t. We don’t pray and sometimes we do. We don’t read our bibles to gave knowledge and wisdom and sometimes we do. We don’t cultivate the relationship and build on desiring a deeper relationship with God for various reasons and then claim to not understand why we are not experiencing the fullness of God. The bible calls this behavior being ‘lukewarm.’
“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” ~ Revelation 3:16
This is by no means a personal attack, so please don’t take it as such. Rather, think about the areas in your life where you know you could give God more because we ALL have them. Let me raise my hand FIRST! Just like you don’t care for someone who seems to be ‘in and out’ of your life, God feels the SAME way! As a matter of fact, He is so disgusted by this behavior that He says that he is about to spit you out of his mouth! What an analogy. Picture THAT!
Make a decision about who you desire to be in God. When you think about your relationship with God, does it represent growth? If it was a chart will it have multiple spikes of high and low points or will it be a curve (not a perfect curve), but one that shows an increase that shows that you are not the same person you was 20, 15, 10, 5 years or even a month ago?!? Don’t spend your life running ‘in and out’ of your ‘Daddy’s (The Lord) house. No, once you make a choice you then form conscious, intentional decisions to walk with God every step of the way. Life is short and at some point that door to life is no longer going to swing in and out….so where will you be? IN or OUT.
Xoxo Charlene Evans
Facebook: Chiccy Baritone ~ Poet
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Now and Later
When I first moved into my house ( January 2011) in Greenville, SC, I was shopping for home decor and paintings like crazy the first couple of months. I was so consumed with trying to decorate and complete every room of the house as quickly as possible. My mom gave me the greatest advice as she watched me stress myself out in this pursuit and she said, “Do one room at a time. When you purchase something, place it in the room and feel the flow of that item in the room. Either it will go with the flow or interrupt the flow and in that case either you need to move it to another location or move it out.”
One particular item that I purchased during this time was a metal flower that had multiple colors. I really liked this flower but it just didn’t ‘fit’ the feel of every room or hallway that I tried to hang it in so I put it away in my closet and would remind myself periodically that I had it and need to use it to decorate a space somewhere in the house. 7 years later, that flower stayed in that closet and never was used. For some reason I never felt compelled to sell it, give it away or even throw it away, even after I sold the house. As I packing my house to relocate to Atlanta, GA I came across this flower. I thought to myself, well, I didn’t use it in Greenville, SC so maybe I will have a space for it in Atlanta. At the time, I didn’t have my residence picked out yet so I did not know if Atlanta was going to be the place where my flower would finally hang. So I included the flower with all of my belongs that were being shipped to Atlanta, GA.
Fast forward to February 2018. I am now in my new place in Atlanta, GA. As I was unpacking my art and home decor, I came across the flower and yes; it flowed very well with my space here! I smile at the journey this flower has been on and how I never felt led to let it go but to wait on the right environment for it to be a part of. An environment where it will enhance the feel and flow of the room. It didn’t feel forced to be a part of the home décor vision. It was created for this space at this appointed time.
I look at my life and what God has equipped in me. Those gifts, opportunities and abilities are not in vain just because they didn’t manifest when and where you thought they would. This is bigger than a flower brought in Greenville, SC that is now being used in Atlanta, GA, but I know you knew that…(smile). This is about never giving up or feeling like what you have inside of you will never get an opportunity to minster outside of you. God has appointed a time, place and season in your life where He will manifest what He has equipped in you. It may not be for where you are now, but trust me, it will be for later.
Believe. Work. Wait.
Xoxo Charlene Evans
Facebook: Chiccy Baritone ~ Poet
Hurry Up And Wait
I took myself to brunch after church this past Sunday and once I arrived at the restaurant, I was told there was a 45min wait. I know that normally if you are by yourself, you could just walk up to the bar and eat but the hostess quickly informed me that even the bar area had a ‘wait.’ Standing there for about 2 seconds longer than I needed to, I wanted to leave. Yes, I was hungry but not starving, the motivation was more towards the fact that the wait seemed unbearable. So without thinking any further, I decided to take a seat and wait it out. After only 15mins of waiting, my name was called and I jumped up! I quickly grabbed my purse and put an extra ‘pep in my step’ just in case he changed his mind! Hahahha! I placed my order and my food came quick, not to mention, it was also very good and tasty. I took my time eating and thinking to myself how I’m growing in the area of patience. I almost made an emotional decision that would have made the wait longer. I have been doing this a lot lately and that is, waiting beyond my comfort and praying to God to help me while I wait. Exercising my faith in waiting has been a great challenge for me as I watch areas of my life unfold totally opposite of “my” timeline. In the mist of waiting, God has the ability to change every situation as quickly as he wants to because the laws of man do not define HIM. Your life can change in a blink of an eye and I can testify to that. But I thought about the result of me waiting and how much I will enjoy the reward after I have waited. This wait was a test of obedience and patience. My willingness to wait resulted in me not waiting as long as I thought and my food was worth that 15mins. God made the 30 min difference and expedited my request…not because I asked, but because I waited.
My Prayer: God, you KNOW our beginning, our end and everything in between. Anxiety is never worth the stress of worrying about situations we cannot control. Help us to desire letting you LEAD and relinquish control. Build areas of weakness into strength. Build our trust and faith in your PLAN. Help us to not grow WEARY in well doing while we WAIT. Let the PEACE of Christ rule in our hearts and keep us! God I will trust in you and your timing, not my own! AMEN!
xoxo Chiccy Baritone
Facebook: Chiccy Baritone ~ Poet
Who Is SHE?
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was sitting in Starbucks in downtown Greenville, SC right after a meeting. Working on some details on a project, my attention would shift from my lab top to the outdoors. I could not help how beautiful it was that day and I wasn’t the only one that thought the same thing. There were droves of people that passed by during this mid afternoon period—some dressed in workout clothes and some in suits but then my eye caught this woman standing there as if she was waiting on someone. I said to myself, ”She’s not from here,” and I didn’t mean that in a bad way but sometimes your spirit gives you a confirmation before your head does and little did I know, I was about to find out in the next few moments…
She looked like a young, Patti Labelle, you know the soulful singer who has hits that span over 50 years like, “If Only You Knew,” “On My Own,” and “New Attitude” just to name a few. Her attire was all black—Black top, black boots and these fierce black “cat eye” style shades that definitely fed my curiosity. Who Is SHE? Well, I kept typing away and continuing to notice this woman and somewhere in between typing and looking outside still seeing this woman pacing back and forth, I heard someone call my name. I looked up and it was one of my really good friends, Deanna Hudgens and she was with that lady! As I get up to greet my girlfriend she introduces ‘that lady’ and it’s my girlfriend’s sister! Oh My GOD! So we all made small talk and then it started to click. My girlfriend, who is originally from Flint, Michigan, spoke about this sister in previous conversations but she lived out of town so looks like I was correct!
YES! I now know WHO SHE IS! Well, not on a personal level but enough to make the association since I have never met her before.
But here is where the story takes a very interesting turn that I can only sum up in 3 words…
She IS AMAZING..
Allow me to introduce Greenville, SC to this lady. Stephanie Taylor, Founder of Taylor Made Solutions, where education meets fashion, insight, innovation and impact!
Have you ever met someone who embodied their BRAND before they ever opened their mouth? It’s like once they begin to speak, that intuition that you have about them comes to life in that moment? After the first 5 minutes into conversation, I knew I was face to face with fashion brilliance!
From her affiliations with multiple celebrities and Fashion Group International, to building the Fashion Curriculums for the Art institute campuses of New York, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, Pittsburg and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stephanie Taylor’s passion for fashion and academia expands beyond the classroom. She has that fashion “IT” factor and her ability to embrace the fashion culture, which is constantly changing, has allowed her to reach across demographics to cultivate this gift and her next stop is the beautiful and constantly evolving city of Greenville, SC.
Stephanie Taylor has landed in an area that can definitely learn from her. What she brings to Greenville, SC is a package that is diverse and fashion forward. This was not her choice but her stop to the Upstate is a divine appointment, one I believe is filled with potential to change the face of fashion in this city. I just happened to meet her and honoring my southern roots and the manners taught to me by my mom and dad, it will be very rude for me not to introduce her to YOU. I know “Who That Lady Is” now…her name is Stephanie Taylor.
Check out her website and stay in touch with Greenville, SC newest Fashion Mogul