Greetings, my friends!
There were so many interesting things about the 16 people I just took to Haiti with me for two weeks. Firstly, they were from Christ For The Nations Institute (CFNI), a college in Dallas, Texas, where we helped two Aslan students attend many years ago. Secondly, they were literally from around the world! Suemune – Japan; Liviu – Romania; Etelvina – Brazil; Lola – Jamaica; Danielle – Brazil; Ammu – India (growing up in Dubai, UAE). Then there were Donna (fluent in Russian) & Elina (fluent in Ukrainian), sweet young ladies from Oregon and California by way of the Ukraine. Next came Yadriel and Astrid, both fluent in Spanish, who are from Texas by way of Puerto Rico and Panama! Throw in Jason (a southern boy from Baton Rouge), Sean (a real-life Texan who’s learning calf roping this fall), Emily and Chrissy (Texas belles) and Chris (a just-married Buckeye) and you have the team. Oh my goodness, I almost forgot their leader, Gabriel Castagno. Gabriel is my dear friend (and the son of Richard & Donna Castagno, lifelong friends)! An amazing bunch, all!
I’ve got so many stories to share about our adventures that it will take a few blogs to say it all. Things got off to a really rough start, when American Airlines canceled the group’s flight from Miami to Santiago, Dominican Republic. American cited “weather conditions” as the reason for the cancellation. However, the weather in Santiago was fine and there were a lot of other flights still going out that evening from Miami International. A recent Time article said some airlines are using weather or any excuse to cancel flights that aren’t filled to capacity. Once weather is the reason for a cancellation, the airline accepts no responsibility for food or hotel vouchers! That’s exactly what happened to our CFNI team. They were a group of college students on a mission trip: stranded, with very little money in their pockets and nowhere to sleep. Thankfully, they decided right then and there they weren’t going to let a night on the hard floor at Miami International ruin their indomitable spirit!
American promised our group that they and their luggage would make the next flight 24 full hours later. When I met the group in Santiago, however, all 16 of their suitcases were stranded in Miami. It would take a full week for American Airlines Miami to eventually get most the luggage to the group, and I had to pay a “fee” on the Dominican side all three times I crossed over to pick up suitcases. American refused to send over the final bag from Santiago, so I was forced to endure a grueling 12-hour roundtrip to retrieve it. This included bus fare, taxis to and from the airport and a paying for a night in a Dominican hotel. Otherwise, Jason (from Louisiana), would have had nothing to wear for two weeks but the clothes on his back. You might want to mark this down for the next time you’re thinking of flying the not so “friendly” skies of American Airlines!
But like I said, it was a 99.9% wonderful two weeks! We had 6 inspiring afternoons of day camps for 160 Aslan kids. My wonderful friend, Patrick Hess, from Step of Faith Ministries in NJ broke in the 62,000 watt generator for our new medical clinic! The CFNI students cleared the land for our Aslan Worship Center, and we had an inspired groundbreaking and dedication service with our dear friends Rev. Terrence Porter and Jean Mondesir from Pilgrim Baptist Church in Red Bank, NJ. And through Grains of Grace we distributed 25 pound bags of rice and 5 pound bags of high-protein beans each to 67 Aslan families in L’Acajou [pictures below]!
More news soon! God’s blessings to you all!