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We had the pleasure and honor of following Bishop Jeune (the founder of Grace International) to three churches around Port Au Prince in Haiti. By 5:30 am, the team was dressed in our Sunday’s best with long sleeves, ties, full skirts, and shoes, piled into our little van, and roared down the dusty streets.

The first church was a gigantic tent outside, with hundreds and hundreds of people crammed into stools/pews that overflowed onto the side alleys and rooftops where other people who couldn’t see the stage, sat to just listen to the service. All I could think of was when I read the New Testament as a little kid, visualizing in my head all of the people doing anything they could in order to just hear Jesus speak.

The service was long and hot…Sweat literally and liberally poured down our faces as we listened, prayed, and worshipped along with the local Haitians. But through the heat, we saw the even greater fire in the spirits of the people in church. We were undeservedly given VIP treatment, as they had arranged for us to sit with the Bishop on stage, and were unexpectedly asked to lead them in a song.

Needless to say, we were shocked and humbled at the fact that they even wanted to hear us at all, and so we, without instruments or preparation, sang “Trading My Sorrows” to them, with the chorus quickly translated to Haitian Creole moments beforehand. Graciously, the congregation responded joyfully and we were, again, humbled and grateful. Pastor Abe, when speaking briefly with the congregation, said something that summarized exactly how we felt about what we witnessed there:

We are going to go home to our church in New Jersey and let them know that the Church in Haiti is strong.”

They are so strong…

After the service ended, we walked out of the tent and drove to the next church, which was on the Grace International campus. Within a shell of a building (that was once, I assume, a gigantic warehouse of some sort, or complex) were almost a thousand chairs lined up in neat rows. Bishop led us to the stage again, where we sat and asked again to sing to the congregation. This time, we sang a cappella “We Fall Down,” where, once more, we were welcomed and received with open arms.

Oh, before I forget, I should mention that the musicians of both of these churches were comprised of a bass guitar, a small drum set, and keyboard. None of the instrumentalists were trained in any way, but when they heard our songs for the first time, they were able to pick up the basic feel and tune of it and played along without a moments preparation. AMAZING.

At the third church we went to, we had to take our van up a mountain where there was rubble at every turn, and people peeking into our vehicle and yelling out “JACKIE CHAN!” at the top of their lungs. I know they didn’t mean it in a cold way, and it was actually pretty funny.

The third church was, by far, the most affluent of the ones we visited today, with a full band, video projection, and cameras. But still, if you had walked into the tiny building in 90+ degree weather with tons of humidity and no air circulation, you would have probably turned and walked back down the mountain. By now, it had gone from 5:30 am to almost 1:00 pm, and our group was tired, dirty from traveling, hungry, dehydrated, and hot.

But when we saw the other people in the congregation, suffering through the same things that we were and not even blinking an eye at it made us all wonder in amazement.

It made us think, and Steph really hit it on the nose: “Would we be willing, back in the States, to go to church every Sunday and worship as passionately as these people do?

What if our churches in the States were in dilapidated shells of buildings with no A/C or fans to push the air around? What if we had to get up at 5:30 every morning just to get a seat at church and if services were 6 hours in length?

Where is the passion for Jesus in the States? Are we that spoiled that we expect Jesus to be given to us on a silver platter with full media presentations and coffee with donuts, and no consequences for showing up 20 minutes late and in our Sunday’s worst?

The answer is “yes.” And I am saddened…because I am guilty of being that spoiled child. I have so much more to grow spiritually.

Actually, that’s an understatement in itself. I’m pre-infantile when it comes to my spiritual walk with God. I need to get straight and realize that God is not a commodity.

He is a necessity. More than the air that I breathe.

The people here who have nothing are the only ones to realize this. I need to learn from them and do the same.

At 6:30 am, our team of 12 left the church office in New Jersey to make our way to JFK. With thankfully very little drama, we hopped onto our packed flight and made the 4-hour journey down to Port Au Prince, Haiti.

Even for those who had traveled to third world countries in the past, every single person on the team encountered extreme culture shock: the lack of personal space, the smothering humidity in the steel customs/baggage claim/immigration room (which, half-way through, lost all power), the swarming of taxi drivers trying to take our bags…it was overwhelming.

Fortunately, we were not alone, as a representative of Grace International Inc. was there to meet us, along with two armed guards who escorted us out of the metal building and towards a little white van and blue truck with a metal-grille covered bed in the back. Half of us experienced the dusty trip to the hotel from the open-air bed of the blue truck, while the other half experienced a street-level perspective of Haiti in the white van.

After a quick debriefing at our hotel, we were taken to Grace International’s headquarters and given a first-hand tour of the facilities, schools, orphanage, and tent communities within the commune. We broke bread together with the representatives at dinnertime, and as the sun set, we were escorted back to the hotel, where our group sat down to debrief.

Now, what happened to us logistically (as stated above) simply could not compare to what impacted us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And we were shocked to find that the magnitude of what we experienced had somehow occurred during the 6 short hours that we were actually in Haiti. Our accounts are summarized below:

Culture shock. For more than half of us, this was our first missions trip to a third world country. You watch documentaries of people living in third world countries all the time, but as we were driving through the heart of it all, it truly dawned on us how real it was…what we saw on TV was not just impacting a small group of people. As we drove, we saw that what was being shown on TV was happening on every single block we passed.

Needless to say, our drive to our hotel was impactful. We saw people living next to blackened polluted streams of water, with smells of sewage and clouds of diesel and construction dust consuming us. But the people living in those conditions were active: always moving, and living their lives.

Despite the conditions they were in, everybody was doing something to survive.” Jung noted. We realized just how sheltered Americans were. The people of Haiti were not just fighting, but they were fighting HARD and with PURPOSE to survive and live fully.

While several of us were prepared to witness the kind of devastation that existed in Haiti, we were unexpectedly shocked by the attitudes of the local people.

As we walked through the tent communities, people brightly walked out of their shack homes to wave at us, all the while laughing, smiling, and welcoming us in Creole. Their attitudes showed that they were grateful for what they had, despite what the earthquake had taken away. And we were all humbled by their welcoming spirit.

Jen gave us an account of her drive to our hotel: “Our van stalled at one point during our drive, and when I looked out the window…I accidentally made eye contact with a lady who was carrying a large bundle on the top of her head…and to my surprise, she gave me the most genuine smile. She didn’t have to smile at me…she didn’t even know who I was! And it struck me, as she had no reason to be nice to me…just how warm the people are here.”

The levels of poverty and destruction were nevertheless grave. “I’ve been on missions in the past, but this was by far the worse I’ve seen. It broke my heart…” Abe shared.

You think you’re worlds apart, from what you see on TV, but in reality, we are only 4 hours away from Haiti They’re our brothers.” Danny said.

Little kids are getting heavy buckets water from the well and carrying it on their heads to bring home, like an adult…it makes me feel bad.” Jenny shared.

Scott brought to light what the situation was and really, what the heart of our purpose was in Haiti. “It’s more like they’re the ones reaching out to us. Like the little boy that unexpectedly reached up and grabbed Jung’s hand, just to hold it, they’re reaching out to us and welcoming us. We should be the ones reaching more out to them.”

We were in awe of how much Grace International was doing for their community. Over 25,000 people were being sheltered in their tent communities and provided unlimited safe drinking water, guards at every entrance gate, livable conditions, and a community they could be proud of living in.

It’s so great that families are lucky enough to get access to clean water. It completely blew me away. We take for granted the fact that we get clean water every day back home.” Steph noted.

All in all, we had arrived in Haiti, feeling so small and insignificant, and overall, hopeless for the situation at hand. But after meeting the people who were passionately serving God by being Jesus’ hands and feet to Haiti, meeting the warm people who were fervently and joyously living their lives, we felt so much more hopeful for the future of this nation.

Our goal this week is to not limit God by taking control of what we think we can and can not do. Instead, we will simply love without thinking, reaching out first without hesitation, and going with the God’s flow and seeing just how much He will be able to use us during our short time here.

It’s finally happening.

A team of 12 (including myself) from Metro Community Church will be heading on out to Haiti early tomorrow morning, and will be staying for an entire week to help support Grace International, Inc. in feeding thousands of orphaned children, building homes, and constructing fences for a nearby school/orphanage.

And it’s especially because of the financial and prayerful support of the following people that I am able to have this opportunity:

  • Mom and Dad! (Of course!)
  • My brother Peter (Thank you esp. for financially supporting me, even though you’re a poor college student!!!)
  • My grandparents!
  • Pastor Dave and Mrs. Michener!
  • Ms. Sandy Pope!
  • Mr. Avery and Ee-mo!
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sang Na!
  • Elder Paul and Mrs. Robertson!
  • Mr. Marvin Onyemaechi!
  • Bridgeway Community Church!

Thank you thank you thank you for supporting us.

See you guys on the flip-side. I’ll do my best to update daily and document/journal what goes on in Haiti. Please continue to keep our group in your prayers.

[If I am unable (for whatever reason) to update, you can also follow our Haiti group’s blog, which can be found HERE.]

I love being an American.

Sure, America is flawed in many ways, but I wouldn’t have had such a musical magical fancy free night anywhere else in the world.

It started off with my friends Vicki and Grace. The three of us went to the Chelsea Theater in Manhattan for the Sound of Music’s 45th Anniversary, where they held a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long.

We are SO Ready to Sing Along (and thanks, Mom, for the roasted peanuts~)

(If you’re a fan of the Sound of Music, find a showing near you!)

These Sisters were REALLY Ready to Sing Along!

I not-so-surprisingly had SO MUCH FUN. If you knew me as a kid, I used to memorize, word-for-word, every old-school Disney VHS in existence. I even owned all of the sing-a-long videos and watched them till the tape wore out.

I felt like a little kid again, following the sing-a-long text at the bottom of the screen, and even clapped along with the rest of the audience. FUN!

All in all, a SPLENDID time.

(Click below to see my bootlegged capturing of “My Favorite Things”)


After the movie was over, and after I said good-night to my friends, I traveled into the subway systems of NYC to head on home.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really paying attention and ended up taking the wrong train a bit too far. When I realized how far off I was, I immediately got off of the car to backtrack. (I do this more often than you may think.)

That’s when I got another taste of awesome musicality.

I never had a chance to get his name, but this one guy had been serenading all of the impatient NYC commuters with some Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight, and even Usher~ While I rarely ever tip the people singing in the subway systems, this guy was good. And he actually made my wait enjoyable. So a tip he got, and the vid below I shot. Let it Buuuuuurnnn~


I had to make a transfer on my way back, and I saw an elderly gentleman providing some old-timey entertainment as a miniature version of a one-man-band.

Maybe not as talented, but it still made me nostalgic of the music I used to hear on the Ocean City Boardwalk as a kid.

As I am preparing to leave for Haiti this Saturday, I am realizing more than ever how much we take for granted here. Things may be tough right now, but at least I can live in a society where I can draw comics, blog freely, and if I wanted to, dress like a Nun, run around in costume, sing “The Hills are Alive” at the top of my lungs, and do it all without fear or shame.

So during work today, an associate from another company dropped by to pick up some stuffs…

…and she brought me a cupcake!

A GINORMOUS cupcake!

(While I’m not much of a bakery fiend, I so do love chocolate, so…boo-yeah!) The gift was totally unexpected, and it was so nice of her to bring such a nice treat while I’m plugging away solo at the office. (It’s so quiet when there’s no one else in the room…)

Now, I’ve never been to Crumbs Bake Shop before, but if you enjoy decadent, moist, and sweet baked goods, and you’re in the NYC area, go and check them out!

UPDATE: I only ate a quarter of the cupcake and I’m DONE. The rest will wait in the fridge for my co-workers to enjoy once they get back.

Wow, another Friday Feature already?

Okay, sure, it’s technically Monday…but considering that I was sick and incapacitated for the past week, I hope you all can understand!

This week we have Dante Sheppard, a friend of mine that I’ve known, performed with, worship team’ed with, and volunteered with since high school. Without further ado, check his photo comic and interview below:

Taco Bell + Jamba Juice = Dante

  • What’s your full name?

Carlito Brigante Lopez

  • What do you do?

Convert oxygen to carbon dioxide.

  • How did you find this blog?

GWhang’s my girl. She stalks me on FB and begs me to follow her blog. Actually, it’s the other way around. =\

  • If you were a cookie, what kind would you be? And why?

A chocolate chip cookie ’cause it’s the tastiest. I mean, the most popular. That sounded weird…

  • Quick! Write down the first thing that comes to your mind!

I REALLY want a chocolate chip cookie right now!

  • You have a $20 bill in your hand and you have to spend it NOW or else it’ll crumble into dust! What do you do with it?

Go to Taco Bell…and then grocery store to buy cookie dough.

  • Favorite Drink?

Yoohoo.

  • One article of clothing you can’t live without?

My black v-neck t-shirt. It’s simple, but my favorite.

  • The most recent movie you watched…and how was it?

The Hangover = Hilarity!

  • Favorite Childhood Movie?

Edward Scissorhands.

  • Any final words for the Webernet?

I’ve started looking for jobs in Maryland for GWhang to apply to. Just saying… ; )

I made the mistake of taking a shower and leaving the apartment without drying it first.

My hurr go all crazy when treated like that.

For all the guys out there that are curious as to what lengths some girls go through to get their hair looking nice, let the ironing begin!

Step 1: Start

Step 2: Be Patient, Take it One Handful of Hair @ A Time

Step 3: One Side @ a Time

Step 4: Don't Forget the Bangs

Step 5: Get the Back

Step 6: Alllll the Way in the Back

Step 7: Don't Give Up! Almost Done!

Step 8: Let the Straightener Take a Break

(For those of you who care, I use the Jilbere de Paris Tourmaline straightener. Fantastic.)

Hmm. Looks like your kick has been getting kind of low over the years~

The Christian Life is like Martial Arts...

Just kidding, lil bro. You were impressive last Sunday, with all your no-handed flips and kicking and stuffs. Way to represent our people’s sport and Bridgeway. ::thumbs up::

I remember when my brother and I would go to Tae Kwon Do, once to twice a week, almost every week for 11 years. Everything would go be pretty much the same. Line up, pay respects to the master, jog several laps around the dojang (studio), practice kicks/flips/rolling/jumps/forms, then the dreaded sparring…

I used to hate sparring so much. I was the smallest and the only girl in the class for the longest time…and my sparring was…sub-par…

Until I realized that the reason I was sub-par wasn’t because I was a girl or that I was small…but because I was making excuses for being afraid.

Of what, I don’t really know. If it was fear of pain, aside from a black-eye I got once on incident (which really wasn’t all that bad), I never got hurt that much. If it was failure, I was already failing royally by pulling my kicks and punches. Once I came to the realization that I didn’t have to be afraid, I actually got pretty good.

I was small, so I was fast. I was a girl, so other guys pulled their punches. All I had to do was use my circumstances to my advantage and do my best. And I never dreaded sparring again.

Funny how irrational fear can blind you from your true potential.

It’s been a while since I’ve done Tae Kwon Do. Doesn’t mean I’ve lost my madd skillage, though. Here’s a pic that really brings me back. See, Peter? Maybe your kicks ARE getting lower as you age?

Old School

Sorry, no Friday Feature this week. Today was crazy, and almost fatal…and I’m kind of spent…

I was driving home on the 2-lane southbound highway of the New Jersey Turnpike. About 2 hours into my drive, I felt a strange drift in my car. The drifting then turned into rumbling. Slightly panicked, I slowed my car down to turn onto the left shoulder when my left rear tire blew out.

The tire made a very large popping noise and smoke billowed out as the metal of my rims began to scrape onto the asphalt.

My car swerved violently and ultimately, I lost control. With the concrete divider to my left and an 18-wheeler to my right, the only thing that passed through my mind was one phrase: “God, please save me.”

Before I knew it, my car had come to a stop, inches from the highway divider. I had pulled over safely with not a scratch on my car or myself. Heart pounding and eyes watering from the smoke coming from my car, I fumbled for my phone and dialed AAA.

(If you don't get the reference, Youtube "Blood, It's Not Funny")

As I waited, I let my parents know the situation, and as I waited for AAA to arrive, I thanked God over and over for saving my cute little butt from a potentially fatal situation.

The icing on the cake was that the AAA guy that came to change out my tire was super nice. He even guessed my age to the year. When I asked him how he knew, he said proudly, “I have a daughter that’s 23. That’s how I can tell.” With fatherly care, he took care of everything in 15 minutes and helped me organize my stuff before seeing me off.

Nice!

I don’t know what the point of this story is, other than to thank God for saving me. Yeah. That’s all~

Oh! And drive safe!

I dialed up my mom as I trudged, umbrella-less, through the dark stormy night of mid-town Manhattan.

Work had run a bit late (literally, something came up just as I was putting on my jacket to head on out, go home, and hit the gym). Night had fallen, rain was falling, and I was at a point that I just wanted to get home, ASAP.

When I get into those kinds of negative mindsets, the person I turn to to keep me in check is my Mom. She knows just what to say to change my attitude, and while not always gentle in her approach, her methodology works every single time.

Today was no different. I griped a bit about my horrible luck with umbrellas (seriously, I have yet to own and use an umbrella for over a month before it breaks in some way) and she merely laughed.

“You know why you have bad luck with umbrellas, don’t you?” She asked.

My interest was piqued, and I momentarily forgot about the rain seeping into my shoes. “Why?” I questioned.

“Because you were meant to be chauffered around in a limo, not to walk around in the rain with an umbrella. Since you aren’t living out the lifestyle God intended for you, all of your umbrellas are going to keep breaking until you do.”

Though her statement was a little cheesy (and somewhat reminiscent of a pick-up line I once heard), I actually burst out laughing when she said it. And not only did it boost my mood, but it also made me feel like I was somehow worth that kind of extravagant lifestyle.

Either way, it just goes to show you that a small word of encouragement can go a seriously long way. As I type this out (dry in my apartment), I’m still smiling.

With all of the tragedies occuring amongst our teens and young adults, it is so important that we all provide loving and uplifting words of enouragement to our co-workers, classmates, teachers, family members, etc. A single, genuine word of love can outshine any form of negativity that is thrown one’s way.

 

Ignore the Blue Blob and Embrace this Verbal Hug

 

That’s all! I hope you all know that no matter who you are and what kind of baggage you’re carrying, that God loves you unconditionally. Though you may feel lonely, you are never truly alone. Love you all, my Webernet readers!

A Cartoon Stuck in a Real Girl’s Body

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