Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer 2014 Recap

Our team is home safe, sound, and feeling incredibly accomplished, though not in the way we had originally intended…
Moses waiting at the Embassy for his interview.
Our trip started in Monrovia huddled together in prayer at the US Embassy for Moses as he waited anxiously to be interviewed for a medical visa to the United States for surgery to repair his damaged ear drums. Each of us had a slightly different opinion of the expected outcome, but what we shared (Moses included) was resolution that no matter what happened, God was in charge and He knew what He was doing. After a quick prayer and a few pep talks to Moses the night before encouraging him to be honest and to relax during his interview, we sent him and Neyor in to the Embassy and waited in a restaurant down the road for the answer. A few hours later, Jeff, Fungbeh, Neyor, and Moses entered the restaurant with two big THUMBS UP! Moses was approved for his medical visa and will be receiving his surgery, donated by a doctor in San Francisco (thanks to our friends Kelly and Lorenzo) in the coming months. He is very excited about his trip to America, and plans to use this gift of restored hearing God has given him as a means to translate sermons into Pele in order for His word to reach more people in Liberia. We are thrilled at the ripple effect this situation is having, spreading so much good!
Cathy, Jeff, Allison and Neyor prepare to go to Phoebe Hospital
Dr. Cathy Mcintire joined our group this year and intended to come and spend some time at Phoebe Hospital working with the staff there. Many of us had also intended to join Cathy at the hospital to help in any capacity we were able. After we arrived in Gbarnga, Cathy, Neyor, and Allison visited the hospital for a brief tour of the facilities. The next day when they returned to start working, they were met outside by one of the doctors advising them not to enter the hospital as they’d confirmed their first case of Ebola in Bong County. A woman from a neighboring county had traveled to Phoebe when she felt she had not gotten adequate health care at another hospital, which eventually resulted in 4 nurses and 2 doctors becoming infected with the disease. While the majority of the medical outreach portion of the mission trip was quickly forfeited due to the risk of exposure, Cathy was able to join Neyor and several of the children out in the community to educate those in the village surrounding the orphanage about hygiene, preventative measures for spreading disease, and other basic medical information that is not otherwise readily available to those living in remote parts of the country. She and Marci Blackshear were also able to meet with the girls at the orphanage for some practical medical education appropriate for preteen and teenage girls. 
Brittany shows our Ghana UN friends her basketball skills.

One day as the team was headed out to go visit the farm, several UN soldiers from Ghana stopped by the orphanage and dropped off rice, canned goods, and other food for the children. We were all completely blown away by this gesture, and they were just as excited to see us as we were to see them. They invited us to a cookout the following day, and the entire team (plus Dr. Flomo, an orphan in the home) went to the UN compound for a BBQ/dance party! It was very surreal and such a wonderful experience that we won’t soon forget. Brittany Davis, a former UF basketball player, brought tons of UF swag to present to the soldiers as a thanks for the invitation, and of course we left them with a HALO shirt as well.

Some of our wonderful staff from the farm model their new HALO shirts.
Jeff and Allison were able to meet with every member of the staff (teachers, caregivers, cooks, janitors, farmers, administration) as well as every single child individually to discuss, confidentially, any of their concerns or suggestions and any requests they had for HALO to make their time at CCH better. The talks were overwhelmingly productive and encouraging, both to Jeff and Allison and to the staff. Many issues we were previously unaware of (ranging from behavioral issues to supplies such as extra buckets and washboards needed) were resolved or are in the works to being resolved shortly. Each member of the staff was also presented with an appreciation package at a ceremony, and each of the older children who fulfilled all of the terms of their “contracts” (including stipulations such as good behavior, grades, etc.) were awarded with a prize put together by Allison. We throw a dance party towards the end of every trip and this year we included the staff in the dance party/special dinner celebration. It was a wonderful opportunity to recognize them for all they do for the kids as we all know the facility would not run without the help of every single member of the staff. No job is any less important than another, and we made sure to take every opportunity to express our gratitude for all they do.
Isaac, Kelli, Peter, James, Helena and Marci enjoying some chores
Many of you donated shoes, clothes, backpacks and other supplies to the kids starting back to school at St. Martin’s and CCH this year, and we’d like to thank you sincerely for your donations. Each child attending school at St. Martin’s received a backpack, tennis shoes, dress shoes, and a new outfit. Each child attending school inside CCH received new tennis shoes and an outfit, at minimum. While passing out the clothes, we found that some of the shoe sizes we’d recorded for the kids didn’t fit the ones they were originally designated for, however with some quick thinking from the ladies passing out the shoes, every single child ended up with new shoes that fit. Kelli Blackshear said, “This is a lot like bread and fish!” Every need was met, and the kids were thrilled with their new clothes.
Much of the trip followed that same theme – God providing all that was necessary in every situation no matter what. We were protected physically from disease, we were given every opportunity to spend individual time with the kids and help them where they each are in their lives, and we were given all the time we needed to identify the needs the orphanage as a whole has, both immediately and in the future. We recognize that none of this would have been possible without your prayers and other contributions, and we would like to sincerely thank you for all you did to send us out this summer to do God’s good work. We are all vessels God is using for His purpose and that includes you, but the work is not yet finished!

Jeff & Fungbeh discuss Suakoko site plans
Some of the immediate needs we identified while we were visiting are mattresses for the kids (most of the mattresses they’re currently sleeping on are quite old and are in need of replacement), new school uniforms, and very importantly, a new vehicle for the home. Both cars we are currently using are, as they say in Liberia, “spoiled”, as our late arriving members of the group Lousia and Chase discovered when the oil pan fell off of one of the vehicles midway through their commute to the orphanage from the airport! As we continue to minister to these wonderful children, we ask for your continued support in whatever capacity you are able. Most importantly, we ask that you continue to pray for us. We were keenly aware of all of the prayers lifted on our behalf in the midst of a serious Ebola outbreak this summer, and we’re humbled and grateful for all of the protection offered to us and the kids. Please continue to pray for God’s hand over our work, and thank you again for your continued support!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pizza For HALO - Everyone wins!

HALO's primary mission trip season commences in a few weeks, and our Orphan Ambassadors have found some creative ways for you to get involved in supporting our efforts this year. We sometimes reap the benefits of Chic Fil A's Spirit Nights, with a portion of proceeds from a certain location benefitting HALO on a specific night, and now Mellow Mushroom has gotten involved in the cause! Four participating Mellow Mushroom locations in Jacksonville will be hosting two days of fundraising opportunities simply by stopping by and mentioning HALO with a flyer we've posted to our Facebook page. With our upcoming medical missions trip in July and our first long-term HALO representative Marci Blackshear leaving in just a few short weeks, this is a great way to show your support and enjoy a meal out at (let's face it) one of everyone's favorite spots in town! The participating locations are all over the city, giving you plenty of convenient options to choose from. Please mark your calendars for our two Pizza for a Purpose nights and join your fellow HALO supporters!
For more information on My HALO Project and for other opportunities to get involved, visit or Help A Liberian Orphan, Inc. (HALO Project) on facebook.