I Can See it in Their Eyes

One of the things we did during out time in Haiti was “hut to huts.” This is when you walk out in the streets and just talk to people you meet, reaching out to the community. The people in Haiti were not what I expected. They were very joyful, content with the little they had, open to talking to you about Jesus (even if they weren’t Christians), and always friendly. I had been told by people who have gone on other mission trips that people are usually happier than you would think. And it’s so true. If Americans were placed in the situations that these Haitians are in, I don’t think they could have had the same contented attitude and happiness. I know that I certainly wouldn’t.

The first full day we were in Haiti, I went out with Paulette, Brent, Aaron, and Annette and we walked around part of St. Louis. Paulette speaks Creole so she acted as our translator. She stopped and talked with everyone, asked them how they were, asked them if they knew Jesus.

In Haiti we walked around and spoke to people about our faith. We prayed with them. Invited them to church. Told them about Jesus. In America when people walk around neighborhoods, trying to tell people about their faith, they’re laughed at. They’re turned away. People pretend that they aren’t home.

It seems to me that as Christians we should be kind to everyone who shows up at our door. Even if we don’t believe the same that they do. The Haitians we spoke to were so open and welcoming and kind. They didn’t turn us away because we were foreigners. They listened to us and showed interest in our faith. Or shared their thoughts about faith, their relationship with Jesus.

People in Haiti lean on God because He is the one who will save them. They lean on each other because solidarity doesn’t get you far in a third world country. They trust that God will provide for them because they live in a country where people often can’t provide for themselves or their family. Their faith pulls them through the hardships they face everyday. Their strong sense of community fosters a healthy and warm atmosphere. Neighbors help each other.

People in America pride themselves for being self sufficient. Even when their lives are falling apart they believe that they have the ability to fix things. They feel no need to lean on God because they can go to the store and buy the things they need. Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Having faith is often seen as a weakness as well. Most people aren’t content with the things they have. They’re always looking at their richer neighbor. They think things would be better if only they could get that new computer, fix their car, get a raise, buy designer clothes.

These are generalizations, I know. But there is a stark contrast between Haitians and Americans in their attitudes towards daily life and the things they have. And from what I saw, Haitians are better off. They’re happier. Content. More at peace. Those were all things I felt while I was in Haiti. I felt this strong joy while I was there. Not everything was happy and things certainly weren’t easy but I was able to have an enduring joy and sense of peace for the whole trip. I felt more content there than I do at home. Things were simpler and it was surprisingly easy to live with so little.

While we were walking in the streets, Paulette stopped and spoke with everyone. She told us that she could see it in their eyes, see their need for Jesus. I think that if you walked the streets in this country and truly looked at people, you would see it in their eyes too. A longing, a need. One that they don’t understand and try to hide. But I believe it’s there, it’s in everyone. We all need Jesus.

Here are some of the beautiful people we met in St. Louis:

The Important Things

It’s been about a week since I got back from Haiti. Just one week. I’ve been busy; the day after I got back my family headed out on our family road trip to Maine. I’ve been working on editing the 1000 pictures I took in Haiti. And I’ve tried to blog about it. I have a saved draft on this blog right now describing how it is I ended up going to Haiti, the people I went with, the flights to Port-au-Prince, and the incredibly eventful bus ride to St. Louis du Nord where Northwest Haiti Christian Mission is located. But I haven’t been motivated to finish that post. My words just weren’t coming out right. I wasn’t sure what was going on, why I didn’t want to work on blogging my trip. But I realized this morning that I didn’t need to detail my trip day by day and that maybe instead of focusing on details that didn’t matter (the misery of the bus trip), I could just say “the first day was overwhelming but God brought me through.” Because that is so incredibly true. And God bringing me through a tremendous amount of challenges is one of the most important things that happened on the trip, something that deserves being focused on. I’m not going to write about every crazy thing that happened but I am going to try to convey the important parts of the trip, the things that God taught me, and how it changed me. Because posting pictures of this:

is pointless. It doesn’t tell the story of my journey. It doesn’t tell you about how I deeply love Haiti and the people there. It doesn’t tell you why, if someone asked me right now, I would return in a heartbeat. The story of the picture above is an interesting one and, if you ask me sometime, I’ll tell you about it. But first I want to tell you about the things that matter. Like this:

Because that picture tells you something. That boy matters. And deserves being talked about.

So over the next few weeks I’m going to try to share my experiences. I have a feeling my words won’t do Haiti justice. But I will try. And I will try to focus on the important things. Sorting through my pictures, stories, and life to find the things that truly matter.

Like the fact that God brought me through. And has done it every day of my life so far. And continues to do so every single day, without fail.

Pre-Haiti

Tomorrow I am going with my parents to Knoxville where I’ll meet the group I’m going to Haiti with. I am so excited to meet everyone and for this trip to finally be here!

God has already used this trip to teach me things. I really learned to trust him with the financing of the trip. I didn’t worry about getting the money I needed and just prayed that everything would work out how it should. And it did. I’ve gotten do many generous donations from people and my trip is completely paid for. I have been so blessed.

I believe this trip will be life changing. I’m excited to experience new things and allow God to use me in Haiti to do his work.

I’m so looking forward to sharing all my experiences and photos (of course) when I return! Please pray for my group and me. And thank you for your support :)

My Sister’s Birthday and the Biggest Cake Ever

Yesterday was Celina’s birthday- she turned 13! She is an amazing person, a super talented singer, really smart, and beautiful! We had a really fun time celebrating. My mom, two sisters, and I went and saw Rio in the theater. It was a cute movie with fun music and now I really want to go to Rio de Janerio. Celina got a couple of Wii games for her birthday, one of which was the Harry Potter Lego game. We played that quite a bit yesterday- it’s really fun! We just go around smashing everything we can…hehe. After BBQ chicken and rolls and corn for dinner, Celina, my mom, and I went swimming. The water was sooo warm. I liked it though. We had a lot of fun fighting over pool toys :) Then we went home and ate the cake that I’d spent a lot of the day making.

What cake you ask? Oh it was pretty intense. I made an Oreo Cake. Now this cake is not calorie free. However, a slice of this cake really doesn’t have more calories than watermelon, so don’t feel bad about eating it! The process of making this cake was pretty involved and there were times where I just about lost it. But in the end I think it was worth it! (Be warned, this is a long post!)

I started by making the two chocolate cake layers. I used the Pioneer Woman chocolate sheet cake recipe (best chocolate cake ever!) and baked it in two 9″ pans.

You start by mixing together your flour and sugar and whatnot.

That is not butter. Nope it’s not. It’s…umm..tofu.

Add your tofu and cocoa mixture to the dry ingredients.

And mix ’em together! With a wooden spoon! It really is so much fun! Now you need buttermilk but I never have buttermilk to I just take milk and put a ton of lemon juice in it. Then you add your eggs, vanilla, and baking soda. It starts fizzing and stuff! I always feel like it’s some sort of science experiment. Oh here’s a hint, when a recipe calls for baking soda, you have to put it in. Hem hem…not that I’ve EVER made this recipe and forgotten the baking soda. And I’ve definitely not done that twice. Nope!

Now I learned a while ago how to fold parchment paper so you can easily get the perfect circle. It’s so easy! And your cakes really won’t stick to the pan at all. Look up how to do it! I’m sure there are plenty of videos of how to do it.

So I put the batter in the pan and stuck it in the oven for 20 minutes. I thought they were done but I realized a little while later that one of the chocolate layers was still kinda raw…the only thing I could at that point was cut away the raw-ish part (it was only one section in the middle). I hacked up that cake layer and then flipped it over and made it the bottom of the cake. And nobody will ever know. Unless they read this.

After the chocolate cake layers were done, I made the chocolate frosting for the outside of the cake. This frosting is from Sugar Plum and is one of my favoritest chocolate frostings ever! I’ve altered this frosting before to make it into nutella frosting, too. It’s really good. But I didn’t do that this time. For this frosting you make a pudding-like mixture first.

Milk.

Flour. Sugar. Cocoa. Some other stuff. (I do this picture thingy for fun…if I were you, I would follow the recipe I put at the bottom of the page instead of my perhaps-not-accurate picture captions.)

You whisk this mixture together until it gets really thick. Then put it in a bowl and put it in the fridge/freezer to cool it.

After it’s cool, you need to strain it. I hate straining this mixture so much. It’s hard to do and I get chocolate everywhere and I ended up breaking the strainer. Straining this mixture is a delightful, easy process. Once it’s strained, you cream some butter tofu.

Then you add the strained pudding mixture and melted chocolate chips.

And blend it all up until it’s creamy!

Then you eat this entire bowl of frosting to make yourself feel better because the yellow cake layer just came out of the satanic oven and it’s inedible.

I didn’t really do that.

But I kinda wanted to.

The yellow cake layer I was making didn’t really turn out. And I was a tad bit frustrated.

Yellow cake+ Oreo chunks. How could that go wrong??? Oh I thought of a way. When your OVEN STOPS WORKING AFTER YOU PUT THE CAKE IN TO BAKE AND AFTER 30 MINUTES YOU GO TO TAKE THE CAKE OUT AND IT’S NOT EVEN COOKED AND SO YOU RESTART THE OVEN AND LET IT SIT IN THE OVEN FOR ANOTHER 30 MINUTES. Not that that was frustrating at all.

Now this may not look horrible. But it had the texture of…a sponge and tasted really gross. In the trash it goes!

This is when I cleaned up and went to the movies. And then I came back and tried this again. The oven worked this time! And here’s the cake layer a second time. Much better.

So now you have your 3 cake layers and outside frosting. All you have to do left is the filling! I got this filling recipe from Bakergirl and actually doubled her recipe because I didn’t think it would be enough. If anyone wants oreo filling, come on over. We have a ton in the fridge. The filling is basically heavy cream skim milk, powdered sugar, vanilla, and oreo crumbs. See that red handle? That’s the handle of our little spatula. He’s a little…err weak. He could barely handle folding the oreo crumbs into the whipped cream without breaking.

Next you assemble the cake!

I don’t know if you can tell how tall this is. It’s really really tall.

I had a really hard time covering the outside with the chocolate frosting. Note to self: less filling, more frosting.

Oh yum.

I hope you don’t mind messy cakes because this one was pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to cut neatly. We’re celebrating with our grandparents tonight and are gonna eat more of this cake. I suggested we just go at it with forks. That’d be the easiest thing to do! But it really was pretty magnificent. It’s not often that I get to make a totally crazy over-the-top cake. Actually I think the last time I made a cake as intense as this one was last year for my sister’s birthday.

(Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake recipe from Sugar Plum)

Here’s miss teenager! Look how pretty she is :)

Cake time!

If you have a little sister with a birthday coming up, you should make her this cake :) Or just make it for someone else you love.

Chocolate Cake Recipe from the Pioneer Woman

Follow her recipe except put the batter into two 9″ pans. And remember you can use milk and lemon juice instead of buttermilk. And remember to put in the baking soda.

Chocolate Frosting Recipe from Sugar Plum(she uses this frosting recipe for tons of things so I don’t know what to link to. Just check out her website. She’s amazing.)

Ingredients:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Directions:

In a saucepan, whisk together sugar flour, cocoa, salt, and milk. Bring it to a boil, whisking frequently. Boil for 1 minute or until the mixture is thick. Remove the pan from heat and strain mixture in a small bowl. Cool completely in the refrigerator or freezer. I just realized that this recipe says to strain it before you cool it. I am so bad at following directions. Like I have seriously made this frosting recipe probably 10 times. Maybe this would be easier to strain when it’s still hot. I’ll try that next time. Hem hem.

After the mixture is cool, beat the butter until creamy, about one minute. Beat in the chocolate pudding mixture until well combined, about 1 minute. Beat in melted chocolate chips until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Another note about this. I put the frosting in the fridge until I was ready to assemble the cake. When I took it out of the fridge, it was really hard. So I used my mixer and beat it until it was soft again and then frosted the cake.

Oreo Yellow Cake Recipe

Prepare a 1/2 of a yellow cake box mix. For me, this meant using 2 cups of the mix, 1.5 eggs, 1/6 of a cup of oil, and 2/3 cup water. Then you cut a sleeve of double stuffed oreos into fourths and stir it into the batter. Pour it into a 9″ pan and bake according to the box time. You could make your own yellow cake instead of the box mix. But I didn’t. Yep.

Oreo Filling Recipe by Baker Girl (The frosting she used for her cupcakes is what I used for filling.)
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons Oreo cookies, finely crushed

Yeah I doubled this recipe. I don’t know that that was necessary. So use your own judgment. Or you can one and a half the recipe. That’d probably be the smartest thing to do.
I ended up using close to 2 packages of double stuffed oreos for this.

Yum!