Join Terri Urban as she seeks to lose up to 40 pounds and build houses for homeless families in Haiti. Will you sponsor me at $1 a pound? Every dollar goes to Heartline Ministries in Haiti.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A House for Figi's Family

I have learned over the years to try not to have any expectations when you are talking about life in a developing country. It's human to have expectations, so often some sneak in...but I try not to let them.

For example, if you expect to get someplace in the developing world that normally takes 10 minutes to drive to, it can easily take an hour and half. More often than not, something will happen to cause a delay--your vehicle breaks down, or the driver gets sick and doesn't show up, or the road is closed for some crazy reason, or some other random thing happens to make you late. Other times, things swing the other way and something that you were expecting to be hard goes better than expected.

Another example of this would be adopting our daughter from Vietnam ten years ago. While the adoption process was going on, I purposely tried to NOT think about what it would be like to hold her in my arms for the first time. Because there were so many things that could have happened that would have prevented our ever adopting her. Thank God, Cece's adoption was one of the precious, grace-filled times where things went easier than is typical for Vietnam.

So, all of this is a rather lengthy way of saying that as I was trying to raise money to pay for the building of some houses in Haiti, I tried NOT to think about what it would be like to give away a house. I tried to keep my expectations low.

I left the picking of who would get a house to John and Beth McHoul, who have lived in Haiti for over 20 years and pour their hearts in their ministry every day there. John and Beth have personal relationships with hundreds, if not thousands of Haitians. They know their stories and are infinitely more qualified to pick one family out of all the needy families to get a gift of a house. The house, is, of course what you all made possible with your donations.

The tent camps in Haiti are like nothing I've ever seen before. In every public park, in every vacant lot, by the side of the road and even in a median strip there are tents and tarps where families are trying to survive after the earthquake. Nobody really knows how many people are living outdoors, but most of the estimates agree it is over 1.3 million people living in tents in Port-au-Prince alone. The tents get hot as ovens during the day, and offer lousy protection when it rains. The ground around them turns muddy and the water runs off onto whatever ground is lowest--usually the tents of many unfortunate families.

Tents are not secure, so the few belongings a Haitian family may have after the earthquake often get stolen because there is no way to effectively lock anything up. John says many times families who go to their church and live in the tent camps will trade off Sundays going to church--the husband going one week, and the wife going the next Sunday because somebody needs to stay with the tent and watch their possessions all the time. The tent camps are extremely noisy and crowded with tents strung up right next to other tents. I can not imagine living this way with my family.

Heartline has been trying to provide simple wooden houses for families they know have special problems. Many of the houses they build are for people who lost limbs in the earthquake and who Heartline cared for weeks and months while they recovered.

I didn't know when I arrived in Haiti who John and Beth would pick to get the first house this blog/fundraising effort would pay for. They told me they had prayed about this decision and chose a lady named Figi. Figi is not her real name -- which is Marjorie (a different Marjorie than the young woman I wrote about a few weeks ago who lost her hand.) "Figi" means "face" in Creole. John loves giving people--Haitian or American-- nicknames. John has the kind of crazy, outgoing personality that people just love and therefore they embrace any nickname he bestows on them.

He calls this lady Figi because she has seven children and John says all the children look exactly like her. They have her face, so he calls her Figi. As it happens, all her children are girls. Marjorie came to the Heartline field hospital after the quake with extremely high blood pressure. John and Beth fear for Figi's health and for what would happen to her children if she were to die. They have arranged for Figi to get treatment for her blood pressure and they have her come into the clinic every week, monitor her blood pressure and give her free blood pressure medication.

About the time of the earthquake, Figi had a baby and stayed at Heartline hospital for weeks after the birth while the doctors tried to monitor her health and get her blood pressure under control with medicine. Then Figi stayed in an outdoor ward with a tarp strung up over head, but at least she had a cot to sleep on, medical care, was fed every day and had the Heartline staff to help with the newborn baby. Her oldest daughter, about age 17, had stayed with Figi at the hospital also to help take care of her mom and her newborn sister. John and Beth know the whole family well. Figi eventually got well enough to go back with the rest of her family in the tent camps.

Beth told me to come to the clinic at noon on Tuesday, because Figi comes in then for her weekly blood pressure check and never misses her appointment. John and Beth wanted me to be with them when they told Figi the news that she was getting a house and would soon be able to leave the tent camp with her family. They were sure Figi would be very excited and happy.

Figi showed up looking terrible--downcast, hunched over, red eyes and a voice so scratchy and soft she could barely get words out. Clearly something was wrong. With my non-existent Creole language skills, I couldn't tell what exactly was happening but obviously something very, very bad was going on. Soon John and Beth translated what Figi was saying: her oldest daughter, her helper, had died three days earlier.

Figi was deep in morning and grief. Beth nearly started crying herself and we all ached for this woman who already had so many hard things going on in her life. John and Beth questioned her about what happened: had the teenager been sick long? Did she get cholera? Figi gave short answers in a choked voice...she didn't think it was cholera because her daughter did not have diarrhea--the teenager had severe stomach pain. The family took her to a large public hospital and she died very suddenly the same day she got sick. Figi is not an educated woman, so asking for a more precise diagnosis wasn't going anywhere. All she knew is that her daughter had died. Most likely, no one at the hospital ever bothered to explain to her why the girl had died.

Figi looked like she might faint and so we quickly got her a chair and into a side room away from the busy clinic lobby. Figi cried and poured her heart out to Beth. Figi said everyone in the tent camps is sick--coughs and other illnesses are spreading everywhere. She was afraid more of her children were going to die. Figi's husband has not been able to find work since the earthquake and she was afraid the whole family would starve. She cried out she was afraid someone in the tent camp would kidnap her girls and rape them or sell them as slaves. Pain and fear poured out of Figi like a flood.

It was beyond heartbreaking.

All we could do was hold her hands, listen and grieve with her. Allison, the leader of our short term mission trip was there, as well as Beth and myself. Beth told her that this American lady wanted to pay for her family to have a house. That John would find some land to buy and then she would have a free house and could move her family out of the tent camps. With her blood pressure issues, John and Beth are truly afraid that living in the camp is going to kill her.

With a house to live in, Figi's personal security and that of her family would vastly improve. Beth kept saying something in Creole and then "fini, fini" which means "finished." Beth promised her that some of those worries she had would be finished shortly. No more fear of flooding. No more living in a crowd of sick people, no more worries about her girls being kidnapped. Those worries would soon be finished.

Beth tried to tell Figi she must keep taking her blood pressure pills and take care of herself for the sake of her other children. Figi's plastic pill box indicated that she had forgotten to take her medicine for several days.

While Beth was talking, Figi was quiet and somber. She seemed shell-shocked--in her grief there was just no reaction to the news that she was getting a house. She nodded her head, but the news did not really penetrate. It was as though one of your children died and then three days later the Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Patrol showed up at your house with a check for $200,000 for you. You would be somewhat pleased, but you not be that happy because nothing can replace the loss of a beloved child. This was not the time for joy, it was a time for grief. In that grief God granted me the privilege of lighting a tiny candle of hope in Figi's life.

Allison and I stayed and prayed with Figi for a long time. Allison lived and worked for a year at an orphanage in Haiti and so she is fluent in Creole. At one point as we were praying, I heard a strange sound and half-realized that Beth had quietly taken a picture of us praying together. Beth posted her telling of this whole story and the picture on the Heartline Ministries blog which you can read at (See the entry for Nov. 10.) I am the one in the orangish shirt. Before I left, Beth took Figi and my picture together. As you can imagine, we are not smiling in the photograph. The picture still means a lot to me.

It was a good thing I had low expectations--that I had not spent a lot of time anticipating making someone very happy by giving them a house. It didn't happen that way. It's Haiti, and things rarely go the way you think they might. I could not give this woman her daughter back, but I could give her something else that will somewhat help her.

You all share that role by donating for the house and praying for me while I am in Haiti. Please pray for Figi too, her husband and her six remaining girls. Beth and John promised to keep us updated and as soon as they find some land they will build the house and send pictures.

Today's blog story was a long and hard one that I wish had a better ending.
Fini. Fini.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

People, Trucks, and Gangs

One of the greatest things about being in Haiti is meeting the people I been reading and writing about for months. Today, I got to spend time with Marjorie, who I wrote about when she lost her hand in the earthquake. Heartline Ministries nurtured her back to health and built a house for her family to live in. Marjorie is sweet and shy and wonderfully kind.

I also go to meet Emmanuel, a 20-year-old young man who lost one leg in the earthquake. Heartline is helping him go to school, and he is even able to ride his bike to school with his prosthetic leg. He loves practicing his English with the short-term missionaries like us who are with Heartline for a few days or few weeks.

I also got to meet the woman who will receive the house that I fundraised for with the blog. I'll make that a separate blog entry. It was an especially tragic story and it didn't go at all how I thought it might.

Getting from point A to point B in Haiti is completely crazy and you wouldn't believe the things that people do here as a matter of daily life. Things that are considered totally unsafe and illegal in the USA are done here without an eye blink.

Soon I'll post soon the pictures of the truck I've been riding around on every day--a huge truck with a railing on the top-- and we sit on the roof of the truck and hold on for dear life. It puts you up so high it is like riding and elephant--if you can imagine riding on the roof of the cab of a semi-truck, that's what we are doing. You have to contiuously be aware of tree branches and power lines and many times we have to quickly lie down flat on the truck roof to avoid being hit in the head by anything.

You can do incredible things when you come as a missionary and stay with people who know Haiti and all it's ways. These are things that would never, ever happen in the USA and would be totally crazy to do if you weren't with someone who knows the area intimately. Today, we went to Cite Soleil in downtown Port au Prince for a meeting/party with 50 children that Heartline sponsors to go to elementary school. The United Nations considers Cite Soleil to be a highly dangerous slum and sends their people into that part of town only when wearing hard helmets and armed with heavy guns.

Cite Soleil is ruled completely by Haitian gangs, but the head of Heartline Ministries, John McHoul, is known and respected even by the gang leaders in this roughest, poorest part of town. The leader of the gang is a gianormous guy named Franz.

We saw the Cite Soleil children put on a little program of singing and recitations, and when it was over, an incredible thing happened. Franz, the big, tough-looking leader of the gang (did I mention he was huge?) took my hand in his. As if I were his mother and he was taking care of me, he helped me climb into the Heartline truck. He treated me and all the women of Heartline with the utmost kindness, respect and care.

In Franz's eyes, I was with Pastor John, so I was automatically considered OK by him. Franz had his gang guys standing guard all around us as we were leaving and he made sure that no one messed with us or our truck. That was a totally wild experience! I am a typical Briargate suburban mom-- I do not usually hang around with tough-guy gang leaders.

As a side note, there was one little thing that happened today that made us all laugh in the middle of a really hard part of Haiti. On the building that hosted the Cite Soleil program, someone had taped up a handmade paper sign put there for today. It was written in broken English, and totally cracked up everyone in our group. The sign said, "Welcome Pastor John and HER Staff." John may never live it down. Naturally we had to take a picture of him with the sign.

Getting very late here, must sign off for now.


There is no end to the work that needs to be done in Haiti--this is one small ministry and there is endless work to be done. Our short-term team is pitching in with very routine-sounding but necessary work like washing walls and painting rooms. Heartline runs several different programs: a sewing center to provide women jobs so they can support their families. Heartlin runs a maternal and baby care center, so women can get prenatal care during their pregnancies and have safe child births. Heartline also does lots of follow up care so the babies have a higher chance of remaining healthy.

For more than ten years Heartline Ministries ran an orphange, but after the earthquake adoptions from Haiti were expediated--meaning all the kids here got adopted and went home to be with their forever families.

So Heartline now has an extra empty building--the former orphanage). After the earthquake that orphanage building was quickly turned into a field hospital, to care for so many people wounded people. Thanks to the efforts of dozens of different medical people who volunteered to come to Haiti in the weeks and months after the earthquake many, many people were healed. I've been telling some of those stories in earlier blogs.

Now that former orphanage building/field hospital is being changed into a home for unwed teen moms and their babies. The goal is to intervene in a young woman's life during her first pregnancy and provide emotional support, a stable housing environment, education, literacy training,and Christian mentoring. Also, to teach those young women job skills so they can support their children. Most of all, the women staff here at Heartline want to let the teen moms know they are loved deeply by their heavenly father, and that they can make other choices -- so that a girl having one child at 17 years old doesn't have another baby the next year and the next.

Those of us on the Colorado short-term team are painting the inside walls of the former orphanage. Washing walls, killing spiders, wiping away cob webs, cleaning and painting isn't glamorous work, but it is a small way we can help the full-time missionaries here. The Heatline staff is also introducing us to lots of the Haitians who they see in their ministry every week. Today I witnessed part of a class for moms to learn basic care for their babies--for example what to do if a baby develops a temperature,

Usually when I have traveled for missionary work in the past it has been to a Spanish-speaking country like Bolivia or Honduras where I can talk to people with my mediocre Spanish. Here I can't understand or speak the language at all and I'm really feeling it. Still, there are many people around who can translate. Not speaking Creole does have its drawbacks, however.

Last night I made a run out for sodas at a local small market nearby with one of the other volunteers, a teenager who has been living here in Haiti several months. When we got to the store, we were having trouble communicating with the clerk about the amount we owed--we only had American money.

My teen buddy hasn't been here long enough to acquire much Creole, and I know about only ten words. People here are more than happy to take American dollars, but there is a lot of math involved in the currency conversion. Currently there are about 40 Haitian "Gourdes" to the dollar. Doing math in my head has never been a great strength of mine (probably why I became and English major).

We solved the issue with the store clerk when I switched to Spanish. Wahoo! My brain barely remembers my high school and college Spanish but apparently I can shake the rust off if I really need to. Many people speak Spanish in Haiti because the Dominican Republic shares this island. We finished the translation in Spanish and I rejoiced that my long-ago college education finally paid off. I can buy a Coke-a-cola in Haiti.

Lots more has happened, but I am on a shared computer with other folks who would like a turn to use it, so I will sign off for now. More soon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Full Day In Haiti

Yesterday was our first full day in Haiti, and it was packed with activity and getting a real look at Haiti. The morning started with a 40 min. drive through the streets of Port au Prince as we drove to church. Port au Prince Fellowship Church is an English-speaking congregation that attracts a lot of native Haitian Christians as well.

Church in developing countries is different than the church service we are used to in the U.S. ...and the number one difference is in VOLUME. People sing and clap and praise in super loud voices that, if you were to do the same thing in an American church, people would stare and wonder what the heck was wrong with you. The singing and praying go on with a level of high emotion and intensity that just seems unusual to outsiders, but from what I've seen is the total "norm" for other countries. By comparison, our churches look half asleep.

Later we took a two hour drive through the city of Port au Prince. Maybe someday I'll be able to describe Port au Prince, but right now, let's just say it's beyond anything I've seen in Bolivia, Honduras or even Vietnam in terms of the depth and scale of the poverty.

We're talking cobbled together tents that go on for as far as the eye can see in some places--with garbage and the insects and animals that feed on garbage everywhere. Garbage is piled in heaps everywhere you look--and pigs and goats that feed on the trash wander around freely and become extra traffic hazards. Pigs and goats running in the street are more common than squirrels in Briargate.

Much of the earthquake damage has been partially cleaned up in the parts of the city we were in-- mostly visible by vacant lots everywhere--buildings that have been torn down and hauled away. In other places, there are buildings that are totally pancaked--as if stomped on by a giant invisible foot. You can count the floors on th heap and tell that it used to be a four story building but is now only about eight feet tall. We saw the ruins of the National Palace (the Haitian version of the White House) and the mostly ruined National Cathedral. You all have probably seen pictures of those on the news.

On the streets, people carry their loads on their heads here in Haiti. I've tried it and found out how much easier it is to balance something heavy that way because the weight is centered on your body, not pulling you in one direction or the other. One image I will remember from today is a older lady who was balancing a three gallon plastic bottle of what appeared to be blue car window-wiper fluid on her head as she walked.

The guest house we are staying in while in Haiti is very comfortable, so don't think I'm camping out in a tent or something like that. It's a regular house and I have a the bottom bunk of a bunkbed in a room I'm sharing with three other women. The room could hold eight women if we were full here but, I have the comfort of the bottom bed without the shaking involved of having somebody on the top bunk. Our hosts, the McHouls who founded Heartline Ministries over 20 years ago and the couple that runs the guest house have been extremely gracious and kind. We had a small worship service in the guest house last night. Sundays are really stressed as days of worship here.

One thing I find extremely encouraging is the number of American young people who are staying in Haiti at the Heartline guest house. People in their late teens and twenties who are here for a month, some three months, some a year, all pouring out their lives and doing whatever needs to be done at this ministry for Haiti. There are at least three young people staying here at the house long-term, and several others who live in buildings within a block or two of here.

I wish I had more time, but it is early morning and the work of the day is about to start. The internet connection comes and goes quickly and disappears without reason so I need to sign off. More soon. Terri

Saturday, November 6, 2010

We made it!

We did make it to Haiti about noon today. Very little sleep last night -- maybe 2 hours so this is going to be short. My traveling companions are great--all people I have never met before. Hurrican Tomas was very kind and mostly missed this part of Haiti. Everyone at Heartline has been very welcoming. More tomorrow when I am not so tired and loopy. Love to all of you and especially Ralph and the kiddos. Terri

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Good News / Bad News

Take a look at the blue graph, baby! The blue bar has moved big time, thanks to you many generous donors. (It's on the far right side of the blog page.)

This isn't the final number. A few checks are still coming in. The bookkeeper can't come up with a final number yet, but we are finally able to say YES, WE HAVE ENOUGH TO BUILD A HOUSE (or two) IN HAITI. Wahoo!

So that's the good news. The bad news: just about everything else. Hurricane Tomas, is as this moment, pounding Haiti. I can only imagine what the horrible results will be for the people in the tent camps. Cholera is spreading in Haiti, and this new flooding will only make it worse.

At this moment, no airplanes are landing in Haiti--the airport in Port au Prince is closed. I am scheduled to leave DIA this afternoon (Friday) and fly to Florida. Our little mission trip group of five people was supposed to board a plane early Saturday morning to fly into Haiti. The ministry we are serving is right in Port au Prince, sbout 15 minutes from the airport, so if they let planes land at the airport, we will be able to get to our destination. We have potential to be one of the first planes to land after the storm lets up.

If the airport remains closed into Saturday morning, we will have to be re-booked on new flights into Haiti. We may be cooling our heels in Florida for a day or two. I pray we make it, and don't end up having to turn around come back to Colorado.

I hate all the uncertainty. Let me categorically state, I am bad at uncertainty. But these events are completely out of my hands. So please pray for me to accept whatever happens without getting emotionally bent out of shape. May God's will be done.

And to keep track of me from now on, you are going to need to check my blog. I've been emailing about 75 people directly with my blog, but I can not do that while in Haiti. The responsibility is now on you. If you want to know what I am in doing, where I am, and if we make it to Haiti you will have to check my blog. Go to

The leader of the trip has an Iphone, so I hope to be able to update my blog from Haiti. I will try very hard to do so. I have no idea what internet access will be like after this storm.

It is still very possible to donate to this effort to build houses in Haiti if you are moved to do so. Please make the checks out to Heartline Ministries. You can find out more about Heartline by clicking on the link on the right side of the blog. They are a fabulous non-profit that has been in Haiti for over 20 years. Send checks to: Heartline Ministries
(ATTN. Pound4Pound Housing Fund)
P.O. Box 898
Sunnyside, WA 98944

I am trying to raise the money to build at least four houses in Haiti. Be sure to write Pound4pound on the memo line so the bookkeper will know to dedicate your donation to this house-building project.

OK, I'm off! Stay tuned and pray!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Memo to Hurricane Tomas: GO AWAY!

With less than five days to go before I leave for Haiti, yet another new wrinkle has appeared. Hurricane Tomas is looking at the moment like it will hit Haiti on Thursday. I am scheduled to leave for Haiti on Friday afternoon.

With over a million people living in tent camps, I can not even imagine the devastation if a hurricane hits Haiti. There is literally nowhere safe to put the people who are living in the tent cities to get them out of the storm. Please join me in praying that hurricane Tomas weakens and changes course to miss Haiti.

At the Urban house, we've received some bad family news I am not at liberty to share, at least not now and not over the internet. Let me say only that the forces of darkness apparently want me to be anxious and afraid. Please pray with me that I stay grounded on the word of God and in the calm that God alone holds my fate and my family's future in his hands. We stand on God's promises and trust him.

Lord, we know you have the power to control the wind and the waves. We humbly intercede right now for the people of Haiti. Spare the people the destruction of a hurricane, we ask in the name of Jesus. Turn Tomas in a direction where it will not cause loss of life. We pray against the spread of cholera. We pray against the tide of hopelessness. We ask for solutions to the many problems of the land, especially the issue of housing for the people. Lord we place our hope in you and ask you Lord God to protect the innocent. Lord, we ask you to save us from despair and put our hope entirely in you.

Friday, October 29, 2010


The clock is ticking because I'm leaving for Haiti in six days. If you've been intending to donate to the fund to build houses for homeless families in Haiti, please do it now. Do NOT procrastinate one more day!

Many of you have asked me about the cholera epidemic in Haiti and how that would affect my plans. My answer: only God knows. Cholera is spread by unclean water, so avoiding contact with contaminated water and to a lesser degree contaminated food is key.

While in Haiti, I am staying at the Heartline Ministries Guesthouse, which is run for American visitors and by American hosts. They are very familiar with the protocols for safely handling food and water. God willing, I won't need to worry about getting sick.

But if cholera hits the Port Au Prince area, Heartline Ministries would likely become involved in helping the afflicted. So really, who knows? I'm trying not to think too far ahead. This is one of those time when I am trying very hard to place myself in God's hands and not worry over every possible scenario.

The good news is that more people are donating to build houses in Haiti--the bad news is that we are running out of time. Currently we are at about $1650 or 33% of the $5,000 goal

There are only three days left to donate through the Paypal route,(the Chip-In Meter) if that is your intention. The Chip-In Meter closes on November first, and we are practically there. Paypal is not the only method available--there is always the good ole' personal check. The blue graph on the far right shows the ACTUAL TOTAL, adding together the Paypal contributions from the Chip-In Meter and checks people have mailed in.

You are very welcome to send in a personal check. Checks should be made out to: Heartline Ministries and sent to:
Heartline Ministies ATTN.Pound4Pound Housing Fund
P.O. Box 898
Sunnyside, WA 98944

Be sure to add that "Pound4Pound Housing Fund" on the envelope or the memo line of the check so that your donation will be specifically dedicated by the bookkeeper to this housing effort.

In the meantime, huge thunderstorms are dumping rain and wind on Port au Prince several times a week. Living conditions there are bad and getting worse--it's been over 9 months since the earthquake. Safe, basic housing would make a huge impact on the lives of families there. Please help.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Big Diet Reveal

OK, three months of dieting. Drum roll please....I've lost 17 pounds.

I was hoping for more weight loss, but a little more than 5 pounds a month is pretty good. It's the best I could do without a personal trainer, nanny or chef. I feel I gave a good, honest effort and got some decent results.

If you are sponsoring me on a per pound basis, it's time to pay up. I'm continuing to diet and exercise, so those of you who feel inclined could maybe spot me three pounds and call it an even 20 pounds. I have a feeling I will be working quite hard physically in Haiti and will probably lose some weight there.

You can pay thorough the Chip-In Meter on the far right side of the page, if you have a Paypal account. If you would like to send a check directly to the ministry, please make the check out to Heartline Ministries and send it to:

Heartline Ministries
Attn. Pound4pound Housing Fund
P.O. Box 898
Sunnyside WA 98944

Heartline Ministries is a 501-C3 non-profit organization and you will receive a receipt for your donation that you can use for income tax purposes. It is very important that you write the Pound4pound Housing Fund on the envelope so that the bookkeeper knows to put it in the account specifically earmarked for building houses.

Of course, if you know me and see me in the regular course of a week, you can make the check out to Heartline Ministries and hand it to me and I will mail it in for you. But it might be quicker to just mail it in and be done with it. I need to get everything to the bookkeeper by November 1st!

I would really like to go to Haiti with an idea of how many houses we can build there as a result of all of us working together for homeless families in Haiti. $2500 builds 2 houses. I say let's build at least four houses for homeless families in Haiti.

Please don't delay if you have a pledge to send in. I leave for Haiti in eight days. P.S. We have at least $200 more than we did yesterday! We're at $1,515 raised or 30% of goal. It's time to really make those graphs move. Please help.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just 10 Days to GO--The Update

Imagine camping with your family. Now imagine camping with your family, with no camping gear FOR NINE MONTHS. That is what is going on right now in Haiti. Most people are living under tarps and blankets cobbled together to form the most minimal type of shelter. My brain explodes and my heart aches when I think about parents trying to raise their children in these horrible conditions.

Over one million people are living under tarps and tents at this moment in Port-au-Prince. My goal is to build four families houses in Haiti. That requires $5,000. At this moment, we have $1,315 in total donations. That is about 26% of the goal. The scary thing is, I leave for Haiti in 10 days! That's not much time.

I have been struggling mightily with a way to give you readers an accurate update on the amount of money we have raised together to build houses for homeless families in Haiti.

The Chip-In Meter (and the associated orange bar graph) on the side of the blog is great for people with Paypal accounts, but it has some significant limitations. There is no way for the orange graph to record the money from checks that people have mailed in directly to Heartline Ministries. Thus the orange bar graph has been rather inaccurate when it comes to totals from all sources of funds. I've been trying to figure out a better way of visually showing that.

So now we have a new improved blue graph near the top of the right side of this blog. It is just above the Chip-In graph. This blue graph adds together the Paypal contributions and checks for a complete financial picture of where we are. (Thanks to my hubby Ralph for working on the graph this weekend, in spite of the fact that our three kids were in a conspiracy to not give him a moment's peace to work on it.)

Those who have paid close attention may have noticed something else...I have lowered the goal. The old goal was probably unrealistic for these current economic times. I really appreciate the people who have dug in their pockets to give a donation to build a house for a homeless family in Haiti. $2500 builds two strong wooden houses in Haiti. Having a safe house means that families can stop living under tarps, tents and bedsheets.

The wonderful women in my Tuesday morning bible study group took up a collection for the Haiti Houses, and generously donated over $450. Thank you so much! I really appreciate seeing your faith in action. Appropriately, in the bible study we are reading and discussing the book of ACTS--which is largely about missions. Thank you Marilyn (our teacher) and all the fabulous women who attend. You all are huge gifts in my life. Again, I thank you.

I must get the donated money to the Heartline bookkeeper before I leave, so really Nov. 1 is our collection deadline. The funds need to be donated through Paypal or mailed by then.

So get ready to pay! I've been dieting for almost three solid months. I'll do the official weigh in tomorrow and find out how many pounds I've lost and how much you need to contribute to Heartline Ministries, if you are sponsoring me on a per pound basis. Of course, all donations of any amount are welcome.

Remember: In Haiti, camping has nothing to do with vacation. Please help me build some houses for needy families there.