More Jenna

Today, I write to you in a different setting. Listening to cars wiz past instead of motorcycles. I’m cold instead of hot. I just had bacon instead of…no bacon. I’m in the U.S. instead of Haiti and I have been home now for about one month.

Transitioning back to the way of life here in the States is still an ongoing process. I think about Haiti every day and the people I said goodbye to. I miss them and the way life was there. Honestly, I don’t think that will ever change. But, just because I miss it does not mean I am unhappy to be home. I know this is where God wants me to be, even though it meant saying goodbye to a wonderful place and beautiful people. I have been so busy catching up with friends and family that I really have not spent a lot of time decongesting how I feel about the transition. And truthfully, I’m not a big let’s-sit-down-and-talk-about-our-feelings person in the first place. So it feels a little overwhelming at times.

A close friend of mine shared with me about her personal experience of returning back to the States after about 7 months in Haiti.  She said it wasn’t months after returning, once she was settled, that she felt like she could really process what had happened. I’m finding I feel the same way. She also said something that will stick with me. She said, “Jenna, you living and working in Haiti just made you more…Jenna. Those experiences are shaping your thinking, heart, and life choices. Going to Haiti just made you more you.” I love the simplicity of that. Sometimes I feel like I need to change the way I look or dramatically change something outward so that people will physically see that I have changed. But that isn’t it at all. I wouldn’t say that Haiti completely changed who I am. However, through those experiences and relationships, my heart can never go back to the way it was before. I am more Jenna because of Haiti.

(more on my last few weeks in Haiti coming soon)

I would like to apologize if you did not know I was back because of poor communication on my part. Many of you receive my monthly update and I know I have not sent one out yet in a few months. Please be patient with me as I am trying to get it out as soon as I can get settled. I would love to meet any of you for coffee if you would like to hear more about my time in Haiti, just give me a call or e-mail me. Thank you for your patience and thank you for supporting me during my time in Haiti!!

(p) 320-979-0542



I’m That Person

I feel like I’m approaching this post with my tail in-between my legs. It has been a while! And for that, I apologize. But hey, better late than never? But then again I think that’s what people tell themselves to make them feel better. Oh well, I’m THAT person!

Life in Haiti has once again returned to a new normal. This new normal involves a new apartment, roommate, neighbors, and volunteers. All wonderful things! Thinking back to a year ago seems like a whole different life. Although sometimes I do miss those days. When everything was new and exciting and an adventure. Don’t get me wrong, Haiti is still all those things, but over time the constant needs, broken relationships, stress, and fatigue decide to join the party as well. All these things simply make Haiti more of a reality. It’s like watching an entire movie instead of just the trailer.


Yes, I have a month I do plan to leave Haiti. March. But this does not mean that I am checking out. I plan to continue to be fully present and eager here. Over the past few months (so sad that’s how long it’s been since my last blog!) I have been spending time with staff and the kiddos and working on some pretty big projects (one to be revealed to you soon!). It’s hard to write down everything I have been up to, and I have a feeling that even if I did, not too many people would sit and read the entirety of it all. So instead, I will share a few photos.

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not to be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.

Have a good Wednesday night everyone!

From America to Haiti | It’s All Real

The last time I wrote to you I was in the airport. After traveling from an unorganized semi chaotic airport in Cap Haitien to a large, busy, and flooded with diversity airport in Florida, I was burdened with heavy thoughts. I always try my best to not judge others in America about the way they prioritize belongings, money, and outwards appearance. But when you first step back into America after spending a significant time in another world, it’s a hard trap not to fall into. However, after spending just a few days back in America, I slowly become one of those people I quickly judged in the immigration line.

My time in the States was amazing. I loved every second of it. I loved that the first person I saw after landing in Chicago was my friend, Hannah. I loved that I got to spend my first weekend with my best friends celebrating two of my friends’ commitment to each other for the rest of their lives. I loved seeing my niece and nephew after 7 months. I loved being reunited with two close friends who know what it’s like to live in Haiti. I loved gathering together with all those who have been supportive of me this past year at one of my favorite coffee houses. I loved spending a lazy week with my parents; watching movies and eating popcorn. I loved watching old episodes of The Bachelorette and drinking wine with my sister. I loved kayaking at my cabin with friends. I loved experiencing the Great Minnesota Get Together for the very first time. I loved that I was able to squeeze my adorable niece and wish her a happy first birthday. I loved every day I was home.

To be honest, (that’s what blogging is for, right?) I loved it so much that I wasn’t feeling excited to return to Haiti; to return to a hot, poor, dirty, difficult, and distant from family and friends country. I wanted to stay where I was; in my comfortable, clean, organized, and convenient home. There were changes and transitions on the horizon in Haiti and I was not looking forward to being the sweetheart of those changes.

Yet thankfully, the weight of my trip was lifted because I was not traveling back alone. My brother was with me. Now, I hadn’t traveled with my brother since I was 12 and he was 14. On the plane to Florida Tyler reminded me that the last time we flew together, I cried the entire time because my ears hurt. Let’s just say that I am glad that we didn’t have to relive that fond memory!  Having him with me was a huge blessing. The first few days of being back were filled with me and Tyler running around capturing film at all hours of the day. Literally. We even woke up at 2:30am on his last morning to drive an hour to a nannies home and follow her back to COTP. Only to get back in time for Tyler to throw his camera into his bag and hop in the truck to bring him to the airport. Being able to show Tyler around the beautiful country where I’ve been living for close to a year, made everything exciting again. Seeing Haiti with fresh eyes was almost similar to seeing it for the first time.

While I was home, I struggled most of the time with the feeling that my life in Haiti felt fake. Like I had been living in a place that was hidden from my real life. Now that I have been back in Haiti for almost 3 weeks, life and work has carried me away again. This life no longer feels fake, it feels very real. I feel bad that I was whisked away in America and felt disconnected from Haiti. To be honest (again!), that scares me. I think it’s a clear sign that I am not ready to leave Haiti yet. My biggest fear is that I will leave this place and soon forget that these people are real, their struggles are real, and these relationships are real. So for as long as the Lord keeps me here, I will continue to let the realness of Haiti soak into my body, so that when I am led to leave, it will be part of my being and unescapable from me.IMG_7721



From Haiti to America | Initial Thoughts

I find that traveling back to America is harder than traveling to Haiti. I have made it as far as Atlanta, Georgia and my head is already spinning. I’m sure I will have more observations even from a day after today. But I am choosing now, as I wait patiently for my next flight. So here are my initial top 10 thoughts thus far into my journey…

1. The difference from the Cap Haitien airport to Fort Lauderdale. Going from shoving everyone and their mother into small lines with no order or direction to a long line woven into a maze with dividers. An hour of waiting in this line for customs in Florida and listening to the two Haitian men in front of me speak creole and the “mission team” behind me probably beaming from an eye opening week spent in Haiti.

2. Going from one of three white people in a room of 50 Haitians to one of many white people among a collection of other ethnicities.

3. Watching some Haitians attempt possibly their first escalator ride ever. Man….that would be hard! I do not judge the lady who almost fell stepping off. But I did laugh a little on the inside.

4. Splitting off from Haitians into a sea of white, Asian, middle eastern, Hispanic, black, African American people. This is surprisingly a big difference after being in a place where everyone is Haitian and it is common to be the only white person around.

5. Debating between getting Starbucks and risking missing my flight or skipping the Starbucks…I chose my flight. BUT Starbucks I come for you soon!

6. Starring at all the food options in the airport. I mean, really, why so many options???

7. Everyone is looking at their phones.

8. There are some very obnoxious people. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely these people in Haiti too :) but I feel somehow extra annoyed by those people here.

9. I keep thinking about my Haitian friends and what would be going through their mind right now…would they be excited and loving it? Or would they be thinking about home and those who can’t have the luxury of everything that is here.

10. I find myself wanting to ask any black person who looks a tad Haitian if they are in fact Haitian. Not sure where the conversation would go but I’m sure I’d love it :)

I have a feeling my head will be running with even a longer list of thoughts like this for a while. Maybe I’ll write more about those later. But for now, I will continue on with my journey to Chicago!


“Can’t Go Back Now”

the-weepies_featured_photo_galleryYou know that one song you listen to and it just makes you feel good? Well for me that song is “Can’t Go Back Now” by the Weepies.

Depending on how well you know me, you may already know that The Weepies are my favorite band. They are my favorite because no matter how many years I’ve been listening to their songs, the songs never seem to get old. And believe me, when I like a song I tend to listen to it on repeat so this is saying a lot!

The Weepies are an adorable married couple. Not after fame, this couple makes incredible music together and have many followers. I’ve seen them live in Chicago and they were perfect! Seriously, they were better live than on their record (I thought). Which is a mark of true raw talent. Deb, the wife, was diagnosed with Cancer and after 6 months of Chemotherapy and surgery, she is now in remission and is cancer-free! Just proving she is a rockstar on and off the stage! Since then, they have begun making music again.

I love many of their songs, but I want to share with you my most favorite. This song has so many lyrics that I just adore! Please let me enlighten you…

Yesterday when you were young
Everything you needed done was done for you
Now you do it on your own
But you find you’re all alone, what can you do?

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
‘Cause you can’t go back now

You know there will be days
When you’re so tired
That you can’t take another step
The night will have no stars
And you’ll think you’ve gone as far
As you will ever get

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
‘Cause you can’t go back now

And yeah, yeah, you go where you want to go
Yeah, yeah, be what you want to be
If you ever turn around, you’ll see me

I can’t really say
Why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter
Are the ones you take all by yourself

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
Yeah, you and me walk on, walk on, walk on
‘Cause you can’t go back now
Walk on, walk on, walk on
You can’t go back now

This song had special meaning after I graduated college and moved away from Chicago. I remember listening to the lyrics in my car while driving away from Chicago. It definitely had a bitter sweet meaning. It was so hard to leave my friends in Chicago and go on ahead to an adventure that I was doing alone.

“In the end, the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself.”

I agree with that. Your life is…YOUR life. I went through high school and college clinging to those closest to me. I always had to be with my friends. My mom and dad can attest to that! Even in college, my best friend and I did everything together…literally everything! And I am so thankful for my friendships! God has blessed me tremendously with great and faithful friends. However, as important as these friendships are, I needed to learn that I should not be afraid to do things by myself.

Haiti was the true test for this. I was coming to Haiti by myself. Without my friend. Without my family. I was blessed with two amazing ladies to kick-off this adventure with (shout-out to Rachel and Kerry!). It wasn’t until 3 months ago, when Kerry left, that I truly felt on my own. Those past few months were filled with good followed by hard days.

One thing I have realized is that I have need to rely on God to be that best friend of whom I tell everything to. Someone that I can hash out my feelings with. With a close friend always nearby, this was something that I didn’t need from God. I am still learning to run to God with my struggles and joys instead of friends. I know God has placed friends into our lives to be there for emotional support but God doesn’t want to be replaced by them!

“Can’t go Back Now” somehow captures all of these feelings :)

Here you can watch their music video…a little weird but at least you’ll hear the song!

It’s a Caterpillar Life for Me

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what sets me apart. How is my life any different than a non-Believer? Are my words different? Thoughts different? Actions different? To be honest, when I think about it, my answer is no. No, my life does not look much different.

I could argue that I am in Haiti serving at a Christian organization working with orphans and malnourished children (man, that sounds good on paper). But take me out of that context and put me back in Chicago. Would my life look different then? My life may only look different here in Haiti because I have less distractions. Less drama to talk about, less people to not like, less parties to attend and less bars to drink at. Faith shouldn’t have to depend on the holder’s surroundings. Shouldn’t it be stronger than that? Well, as look at my life the past few years, I can say that without a doubt my faith indeed has been dependent on my physical surroundings.

Tonight I picked up a book my cousin gifted me for Christmas, Forgotten God, by Francis Chan. I want to share with you a piece from the first chapter (Obviously I haven’t got that much further than that.)

“For all its caterpillar life, it crawls around a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. And then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plumpy little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body and gorgeous wings?

As believers, we ought to experience this same kind of astonishment when the Holy Spirit enters our bodies. We should be stunned in disbelief over becoming a “new creation” with the Spirit living in us. As a caterpillar finds its new ability to fly, we should be thrilled over our Spirit-empowered ability to life differently and faithfully. Isn’t this what the Scriptures speak of? Isn’t this what we’ve all been longing for?

It really is an astounding truth that the Spirit of his who raised from Jesus from the dead lives in you. He lives in me. I do not know what the Spirit will do or where He’ll lead me each time I invite Him to guide me. But I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of his strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me.”

I am beginning to look forward to my trip to the States at the end of this month. The term “missionary” was never a label I thought I’d have above my head. I know once I claim to have been doing mission work in Haiti (still even now I have a hard time saying “missionary”!) people will expect me to behave a certain way. Oh no. People will expect me to behave like a…watch out I’m going to say it…


Wait a minute…isn’t this the same label I’ve been living under for the past 20 some years?! But now all of a sudden I can’t down play it anymore because my profession has made it so obvious. How does being labeled as a “missionary” have a heavier weight than the “Christian” label? (That’s rediculous!) Is it because the world is use to people claiming to be Christians yet living lives that look the exact same as the next? I think so. And I don’t blame them, I have been one of those Christians. I have a feeling you may know some of this kind as well, maybe even yourself.

I’ve been struggling with what that means and how I am going to handle it when I got home. My conclusion?

It is a HUGE blessing! Now, I have no excuse to blend in. It will be, and is, a challenge but I am preparing for it. Oh, and a little prayer would be nice :).

I can’t say I won’t make mistakes. I can’t say I’ll never mess up. Just give me like 2 minutes and I’ll be asking for forgiveness again. But hey, if the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in me…I think I’ll be okay to handle it!

I want my life to look different than a non-believer. I want people to see Jesus through my life and my actions. I know the only way to do this is complete and utter dependence on the Holy Spirit. I’ve never really been down that path, but I have a feeling it will lead to great and unimaginable joys.

Dreams | Haiti Edition


I remember after I graduated college I got asked the question, “What is your dream for your future?” multiple times. That question was intimidating, but also freeing. After college I felt like I could do anything, see anything, travel anywhere. Maybe you know the feeling. Dreams about having a job that I love, a family to love, and a home to settle in. People all around the world have dreams. Dreams for their future and dreams for their children’s future. Truth be told, for many of us, our dreams can be made a reality. We simply have to work hard and strive for it.  Dreamers in Haiti have a whole other set of hurdles to overcome to reach their dreams.

We try so hard to pretend that even without money we can make our dreams a reality. And this may be true…if your dream is to fall in love or be a good mother. But the reality is, most dreams involve money. There are many ways for us to get money; work extra hours, fundraise, loans, rob a bank. You know, the norm. In Haiti, it is more difficult to do any one of these things.

In a country where the unemployment rate is at 80%, simply having a job is dream come true. Any money you’re making is going straight to food and shelter. Not much extra is saved or even left over. For some, their extra money is given to those in even less fortunate circumstances than their own.

Next to the COTP compound there sits a school. Every day from 8-1pm about 322 students come to school with faded pink uniforms. The girls all have big bows holding up their freshly done hair and boys belts tied tight fastening their loose pants. When I get ready in the morning, I hear the laugher and chatting of kids before school begins. This is one of my favorite sounds in Haiti by far.

About a week ago I wandered into the Manna school to take some photos of the kids celebrating one of the last weeks of school. I ended up being too late to get the celebration, which including all the kids in a big circle singing, dancing, and clapping. Instead, I met, for the second time, the principle of the school, DeConge. He offered to walk with me through the school and let me take pictures. The kids were all in their classrooms, some eating, some studying. I was very thankful to be able to walk through and snap some fun pictures of the kids. After we finished the walk through, I got to talking to DeConge. DeConge has been working at Manna as the Principle since 2002. The Manna school has classes kindergarten-6th grade with 322 students who attend.

Public Education in Haiti costs anywhere from 500-3000htd. This cost does not include shoes, uniforms, books and exam prices. These costs along are enough to stand in the way of a child going to school. However, with the abundance of NGOs in Haiti, education can be afforded for many. Most NGOs offer free education. Manna school being one of them. Manna school pays for lunch, shoes, uniforms, and books for all the students. Allowing many kids without the means to go to school a chance to receive an education. But this education gets them only so far.

In my conversation with DeConge, I found out that after the oldest grade graduations, sixth grade, they rarely have enough money to continue their education elsewhere. Keep in mind that these sixth graders are between the ages of 16-20. Currently at Manna school, the sixth grade class has 8 girls and 14 boys. And after this week, who knows if or where they’ll find further education past the sixth grade.

“After our kids are done with primary school (6th grade) they usually don’t continue. Their parents don’t have money. It’s pointless for them to finish primary school when they don’t plan to go much further. After they are done with 6th grade, I see many go and sit at home and that makes me sad. When I see a kid on the street it makes me sad because they need to be in school. I am passionate about this. I love these kids.” –DeConge

DeConge has a dream. He described to me how he wants to start a high school with a sponsorship program for students to continue onto a university. He wants a place for the students to be able to learn about mechanics or carpentry or nursing etc. I preceded to ask him what is stopping him from carrying this dream through,

“Money. Money is the biggest issue because without money you can’t do anything. We don’t have any money.”

He continued on to explain how he is always looking for more contacts in the States. Because to him, the States mean money and money means he can make his dream a reality. This is not an uncommon conversation to have with people in Haiti. People talk about their dreams but then usually end the conversation with an “ask” for money to help make their dream possible.

Being in Haiti, I’ve realized the difficulty that many have to see their dreams come true. People work hard every day to make enough money for THAT day.  Saving for the future usually takes the backseat. The idea of having money left over to start a school or orphanage seems nearly impossible. What I can see, most larger organizations in Haiti are completely funded by wealthier countries in North America and Europe.  This is so prominent that many have began to refer to Haiti as the Republic of NGOs.  Many see this as a problem. And yes, I do agree. I believe in a perfect world Haiti should be able to support itself.

Now, I don’t have all the answers…I don’t even have ONE answer. But I have hope that some day God will restore Haiti: The Republic of NGOs. I pray that some day Haiti will be able to have schools and universities independent from donated money from the States or anywhere else. I pray that someday Haiti will be able to hold itself up by their own two feet.




Giggly after cooling off with some water


My friend Rachelle. She runs to the fence to chat with me most mornings on my way to COTP.



Do it Because You Care

Before I moved to Haiti, I always heard about sponsorships. “Help a child in  ___(fill in the blank with third-world country)…send a child to school”. But truth is, I never felt connected. Not sure what it is, but this feeling of being connected is something we all take very seriously. When we feel connected, we feel the urgency to do something – to take an action.  There is something about having a relationship with people that draws us to give our money. When we  know where and who our money is going to, we are more committed to give. Before I lived in Haiti, it was easy to over look this call to sponsor a child and focus on my own need for my own money.

Then I moved it Haiti.

I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter if we are connected through a photo or even if we ever meet the child. The reality is, there are children in Haiti who can not attend school because of money. There are children who don’t have enough money to pay for the next school year. There are children who are sitting at home during the day instead of in school. There are many children who can’t attend school past the 6th grade. They are here, waiting for someone like YOU to take a chance on them. Regardless if you’ve met them or not. Each name has a face and each face has a dream. A dream that can not come true without your help to send them to school.

Normally, I try my best to not encourage us to believe that we are “saviors” or “heroes”…but to be honest, these kids do need us.  You can give these children the opportunity to dream. To dream about who and what they want to become.

I believe the root of building a better Haiti begins with education. Education allows children to dream about the future. To dream about a better Haiti. I don’t know about you, but I believe that’s what we are all fighting for.

I want to challenge you. I purposely did not post any photos in this post. (Believe me, this is hard for me when I’m dying to share some with you) I don’t want you to be moved by the one photo. I want you to be moved by the need and reality of the situation in Haiti. The reality that there is a child in Haiti waiting to make a difference in Haiti. Will you take a chance on him? Do it because you care about the future of Haiti, not because you were moved by one photo.School Sponsorship3


Visit from the rents

I am excited to write about this next post.  This last week my parents came to Haiti to visit me!

I love when people want to visit me because then I know they will understand and see more of what I experience here in Haiti. I can explain all day where I live, what I do, who I’m with, etc. but it all seems too mysterious for some people until they come to see it for themselves.  I am so glad my parents were able to come and see my life here.

We were pretty busy the entire week they were here.  There were 2 tiny little babies that were admitted into COTP’s care just a day before they arrived. Each were one month old and weighed only close to 3 pounds.  One other little boy was only days away from being reunitIMG_1952ed with his Haitian family, but unfortunately was too sick to g home. The second night my parents were here, my mom and I took the little boy overnight and part of the next day. Which was my birthday! My mom rolled over at 2 AM when we were awake with him and said Happy Birthday. Ha…and mother’s day! How convenient. The night after that we took the tiny 3 pound baby boy for the night.

My birthday was a really fun day. First we went to church in the morning and then took afternoon naps while it was raining outside. Later that day, a friend barbecued all day for the staff and volunteers at COTP and we enjoyed some yummy cake made by my dad and decorated by friends. We played some crochet, in which I took a close second. After the crochet match, a group of us headed to town to watch my boyfriend’s, Toto, soccer match. Yup! You read correctly. I am dating someone from here. Call me crazy but he’s great. Maybe I’ll go more into that later ;) But for now I’ll just leave you with that and a picture!


Here is a list of some highlights of the trip..

– The beach. We ended up going to a complete private beach because the cruise ship tourists were at the beach we planned to go to. I brought along my new hammock I got for my birthday. (SOCO hammock) It’s awesome!

– Picking my parents up from the airport.

– Moto ride to San Souci palace. My mom and dad drove on their on (borrowed) motorcycle. Very daring!

– Phase 10. Had some great laughs as we fought our way to the 10th phase.

– My birthday and Mother’s day. It was a great day with friends and FAMILY!

– Taking care of the little babies with my mom

– Skyping with Nicole and Luke, Ty and Michelle and Avery

– Decorating my roomIMG_3968




Just a reminder that I’m happy to great anyone at the airport who would like to visit me :)


Thank you mom and dad for coming and spending a week with me, Love you both!!



A lot has changed around here even in the past few days. One of these things is that my roommate Kerry returned home to the States. So this past week or so I’ve been getting use to living alone. Which I’m finding out is a lot harder than I thought. The second thing that has changed recently is that one of the other international staff got pretty seriously burned from an oil fire. He and his family flew to the States the next morning to seek better medical attention. That happened on Sunday night so it has now been almost two days since they’ve been gone. And we are not sure quite when they will be back.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands after I get home from work. Having no roommate makes dinner pretty easy. Although 2 people wasn’t much different than just 1 when it comes to eating. What I’ve found is that I eat little for dinner. This could be due to the fact that I have random odd and ends of food supplies or it could be that my one loaf of bread gets four pieces eaten before the loaf goes bad. So eating is for sure a change.

I have a lot of space. I have two bedrooms. One I use for my clothes and the other I use strictly for sleeping and, like now, for computer time in front of the best fan in the house. I thought I would be good with doing dishes frequently or not having many….not true.

Some days I feel super productive and practice Creole flash cards for two hours. Other days I watch 5 hours of The Amazing Race…on a Saturday of course.

There are some things that just seem a whole lot lamer doing by yourself than with one other person. For example, watching hours of TV shows at night…eating weird meals, playing with your cat, and probably more that I just can’t think of right now.

The weekends are really the hardest part. It is just a lot of free time by myself. I know there are plenty of people who would gladly invite me over to hang out or eat, but there is something about being home in my apartment that I don’t want to give up. I want weekends to be relaxing and ultimately I feel relaxed at home, even though it’s lonely. So really I feel like it’s a lose-lose situation.

My parents come to visit me on Friday for a week and I am very excited. I am happy to see them and I am happy that I will have company in my apartment. Also, there is a girl coming to COTP to intern for about six weeks and she will move in with me. I am excited for that.

I’ve never really been a fan of change now that I think about it. Transitioning out of College was the worst. However, sometimes the new normal after the change is as good if not better than before. Until then, I will go along for the ride.