Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Lifter Of My Head

"What do I have if I don’t have you Jesus?
What in this life could mean anything more?
You are my Rock, You are my Glory
You are the Lifter Of My Head"

2 weeks now since my last update and I have much news to share. Life in Haiti goes on and with each passing day it becomes more and more obvious that my calling here is a privilege to me. Until I sat down to write this I couldn’t think of much of anything to write that I feel like I haven’t written before. As usual, now that I have started the words won’t stop.
In 2 weeks we have gotten 3 more new babies. S is here with her mother because she is sick. She was about 6 weeks old and weighed less than 4 lbs when they came to us last Sunday! She is here for medical care to get healthy enough to go home with her mother. Until then her Mama will stay with her and help in the nurseries. A few hours before S we had a little boy dropped off. He had no name and so a name was given to him. The name that was chosen he shares with my brother and so of course I am drawn to this sweet boy, he is tiny but very healthy and of course adorable! When I am holding him I can’t help but think that his blankets weigh more than he himself does! Also brought to us was another much needed baby girl! Since I got here we have had only one other little girl brought in and so B is a welcome addition and I must say we are all enjoying having a bit more sugar and spice in our world here. She is adorable just around 5 months old, she has a TON of hair and big huge captivating eyes. She has me wrapped around her little finger.
Amidst all the joys that new babies bring I have sad news to share. On Thursday night at about 8pm DJ went to be with Jesus. DJ had been very sick since he got to GLA and it didn’t come as a surprise but it was a sad day when he left us. Seeing him in his last few days, filled with so much pain, made me extremely grateful for the assurance that we have for eternity. I can know that he is free of any pain and struggle now!
Joel and Yvonne, who are missionaries in our area and hosts of our church services every Sunday are finally back from The States! They have been out since I got here and I have thoroughly enjoyed having them home! They host our church services in their home every Sunday and come to us every Tuesday night for a bible study. I missed having a regular Sunday service while they were gone and the Tuesdays add even more. They really help keep me excited about God in the role that He has put me in here. The encouragement and teaching they share with us here plays such a huge role in my attitude towards my work! We are so blessed to have them back and I praise God for returning them safely to us!
The last few weeks all of my kids have been doing really well! M, my little tiny guy who turned one last month has gotten 2 teeth! A wonderful milestone because he has been so malnourished but I think that I will really miss his beautiful, toothless little grin. I have also been working particularly hard with one of my little guys since I got here and I have seen some wonderful growth in him. S is here at GLA with a twin sister. They were 2 last August. While his sister has done very well and it right where she is supposed to be in her development, S is falling more and more behind. He has a weak eye which makes it very difficult for him to focus on objects, his vision also makes it really hard for him to have any sense of balance and so he isn’t walking yet. He is a big boy and working with him can get exhausting but I know that he has so much potential and so I feel so much more urgency to give him 100%. When I got here he didn’t do much of anything other than lie in his crib all day. He could sit up but he didn’t really show much interest in what was going on around him. While I have started working physically with him I have started praying constantly over this child. God is hearing my prayers I know it! S has started responding in so many ways. I found a big bouncing ball that Molly and Joyce were kind enough to share with me and we are using that help with his balance. He sits up tall on it and thinks that it is just so much fun! Little does he know how much good it is doing him too! He has also started following simple instructions from me, when I tell him to come to me he scoots on his butt all the way across the floor to wherever I am. If I hold on his hands he will stand up and sit if I ask him to. Just last week he has started walking while holding onto my hands!!! Best of all S sees me now! When I go to the nursery to get him he smiles up at me. He used to hit me in the face when I would try to work with him, now he gives me big grins and huge kisses all the time. His love and hugs are the most rewarding moments of my day because I know how far he has come. A lot of times when I am working with him I have to take a break and wipe tears from my eyes because I am so amazed by this child. He is the only reward I will ever need for this work that I do These are remarkable improvements from where he was at when I got here and I know it is because I am covering this little boy in prayer.
S and his sister have a unique situation here at GLA. Their adoption went through the Haitian court system last spring. They have the most amazingly patient Mom and Dad in The States who waited for them for 19 long months before that. At the end of the adoption process for children going to The United States an orphan investigation is performed. This is so that the US government is sure that the child has not been sold into child slavery or was forced to be given up for any other reason. Usually the step is a formality since all the parents of GLA children are required to sign the papers allowing their child to be adopted when they bring them to us. This was true in their case but now their birth mother is refusing to give her consent. I don’t know exactly why she is choosing to do this. I have heard so many different stories that I am not even going to try to share any of them with you. That isn’t important. What is important is that because of this the US visa for the m can not be issued. They are stuck waiting and no one knows for how long. According to Haiti the twins belong to their American parents but they are not allowed to enter the United States without their visa. This is a heartbreaking situation that has been going on for far too long. Their birthmother has no resources to take care of these children. If they were to live with her, surely Sonel would die. If Sonia lived she would grow up here in Haiti with no hope for a future beyond what her mother is living in. She would be hungry and weak and would be forced to grow up before she would ever have a chance to grow old. I am one who will always speak about the love that I see in birthparents here, I could never imagine the courage and heartbreak they must go through when making the decision to give their child to another person. But I am also realistic. There are some children here whose parents are not loving towards them. There are parents here, just like anywhere in the world that should not be allowed to raise their children and I believe that is the case in this situation. These chikdren belong with a family who can give them the life they deserve. S has done so amazing the last few months I can’t imagine what he would do if he had the proper therapy. They have parents who are not willing to give up on them no matter how hard it gets. I know that is very rare. How many of us could do the same. Waiting every day and not knowing if you will ever get to bring them home but living every moment believing that you will! It must be exhausting. It is the proof I need that they are the perfect people for these kids. During my prayers over S I pray for this situation. Every morning I take him at 8 to begin my day, and before we do anything else I pray over him. I place my hand on his head and I pray that his eye will be strengthened. That he will be able to see perfectly and with that his physical abilities will just explode. That he will walk and talk and run and jump like he should. I pray for his Mom and Dad who have spent so much time waiting! I pray for their strength and for their spirits. That they will not be discouraged but they will use this time to seek Jesus with all of their lives. That they will be so close to Him that nothing could diminish that joy and that waiting will just become one more way for them to serve Him. Mostly right now I pray for S's birth mother. I pray that her heart will grow with love for her babies and she will recognize that they only thing she can truly do well for them is to sign those papers. I pray that she will not find rest until she does just that. I pray that God would give her peace and that He would love her and that He would give me a love for her. That is a very difficult thing for me to do because I see what she is doing by holding out. These babies are being punished and it is so hard to watch because I witness what they could be and I don’t feel love towards her. Sometimes I think I might even hate her for this, but I know that hate will never win. I pray that God will grow a love for her so that I can pray sincerely for her. It is a work in progress but I feel it some days more than others. At the time being I am using my nights to pray for this specific part of the situation. The nights are not quiet here and I wake up often. Usually 3 or 4 times a night and when I do I immediately start to pray. I pray that wherever she is she would feel restlessness. I pray that God will put on her heart what she needs to do and that she will be woken at that time with that task in her mind. I know that our God is a God who answers our prayers and when I am lying in my bed I can picture her wherever she is being woken and touched by God. I would like to ask special prayers from all of you in this pursuit as well. Please join me in praying Sonia and Sonel home. When you are lying in bed at night and you find yourself awake please pray for this! Pray that she will be touched by God by so many of our prayers that she can’t think of anything else! Pray that these children can go home! I am praying every night and at 8 every morning. I know the scripture talks about the power we have in numbers so I urge all of you to join me. 8am here is 7 for any of you in Minnesota. Please make a point of saying a prayer for this situation at that time. I have confidence that we will all be amazed at what God is going to do in this!
Along with this you can always pray for the babies here. I think the chicken pox is almost over! We have only a few kids who still haven’t gotten them so we have an end in sight. Please pray that the ones who are still sick will be healed quickly. Pray also for Joel and Yvonne and all the work they do. Pray that God will give them the words and wisdom to share with us what we need. And as always pray for my spirit. That I would always be serving and growing in His word and that I would be a light. Pray that God would be lifting me into the paces He chooses!
Staying encouraged in His love,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is This What It Takes To Get My Attention

As I write this letter to you I hear the drums of a voodoo ceremony somewhere in the distance. They have been going strong for over 12 hours now. All night last night they played. I heard them for so long that they became a rhythm inside my chest. My heart pounding to their beat. I fell asleep and woke up to the sound. Over the course of the night I must have become accustomed to the sound because when I woke up this morning it took a few minutes to register what I was hearing. My greatest fear in Haiti is coming true. I am becoming used to the life here and I hate that idea. I don’t want to become used to the struggles of Haiti because when I become used to it I don’t feel urgent about it anymore. I don’t ever want to see a child on the street during the day because her family can’t afford the tuition to send her to school and find that acceptable. I don’t want to sit in my car downtown when a barefoot young boy with dull hopeless eyes hold out his hands for whatever pennies I will drop and not have my heart break at the sight. I don’t want to see a baby with every rib showing and skin so lose it sags and not be shocked by the sight. I can’t stand the thought of these things becoming normal to me and yet this is what I find happening.

I believe God has seen me struggling with this and so, is brining the true desperation that I am living among into full view this week. Reminding me why I am here and how much people need GLA. Last week ended on such a high note. Sending home those three girls was such an incredible answer to so many prayers. With those little girls we have now sent home 8 children since I got here! Over this last month first M and them DL came to us. Things were going well. Last week, over a six day period we had 5 little babies given into our care. J is 8 months old and the others are all under 12 weeks. No matter how many children we send home our numbers stay the same. God is showing me that the need for GLA in Haiti is still large. I stopped really seeing that. I was so caught up in how many children we are sending into their new homes that I almost forgot about the children left here in Haiti who still need us. The work here is far from finished.

One little guy, who was brought to us on Saturday, he is about 2 months old and very sick, he is malnourished and as a result has some sort of skin condition. His face looks like it is literally peeling away. The poor little baby must be in terrible pain and Dixie has said that she isn’t sure yet if he will survive. Even this doesn’t shock me like it should. I hate that. M and DL came so skinny and weak and already they have grown fat and strong. They are so healthy that I almost don’t remember how they were before. The fact that they could have died just doesn’t seem real. But in fact the reality it that many children here do. Even today while I sit here there are babies just miles away that I can not help. This is a very upsetting idea to me. When I came here I wanted to help everyone! Over the course of my time here, becoming discouraged, I have forgotten that although I can not help everyone I can help SOMEONE! Rather than become overwhelmed and eventually deal with it by accepting the way things are I need to be filled with a passion to do what I am able. I pray that God would fill me with that urgency again. I realize that I will be here for a long time (although already it seems not long enough) I can’t possibly live every day being overwhelmed by what is going on around me. But I pray that God would keep reminding me of the struggles in little ways. That I would find it impossible to slip back into the comfort of life, even here and ignore it. It should take a week like this to bring me back to the needs of the people I serve.

Along with the struggles of this week came fun and joy as always. My kids continue to grow and progress every day. F is walking more and more and one little guy J-Man started taking a few steps as well. Ed who is 17 months old got the chicken pox this week and K is still recovering although he looks much more comfortable in the last few days. He is still waiting on a family, please pray that one will come forward soon. I have been having a great time with my Ella. She was moved up into a bigger nursery this week and I am very excited to see how she will grow in her new room. Wednesday November 12th will be her first birthday. How blessed I am to get to share such a very special day with her.

This past week has been a very unique one for me for another reason. Molly and Joyce who run the toddler house and whom I live with have the opportunity to go to The States for a much needed vacation and a day to visit with many GLA kids who had a reunion in Michigan! They got to see many of the kids they cared for and the families of several kids who are still here. Before they left they got together those kids and made videos for their parents. I’m sure they were thrilled to see their children on film. Since Molly and Joyce are gone and I am here at the house they showed me how to run the generator and water pump. It seems like a lot of pressure and I was a little nervous but John Louis, our gate guard and all of the nannies have been so great and helpful! Everything has gone perfectly smooth so far. John Louis even helped me pull off “movie night” on Friday for the big kids. They know they can’t get away with anything with him there. I have had a great time with them but they ask every day when Joyce and Molly will be back. It is obvious the kids adore them and when you see them all together it is evident that Molly and Joyce feel the same way. I helped them make a paper chain to tell how many days until they are home and every morning we tear off one link. 4 more days! Please pray for them in their travels this week. Pray that everything would go smoothly. That they will be well rested and return even more in love with their kids than when they left.

As far as the school tragedy is concerned I don’t have much new news to report. Saturday I did hear that they uncovered 2 classrooms full of children that withstood the crumble. Praise the Lord these lives were spared! I also heard that the very youngest students escaped harm because they were outside for a recess during the accident.

This week I ask that you continue to pray for several things. Please keep on praying for those involved with the school disaster. Pray for the families who lost their precious children. Pray for people to search for answers and to find them in Jesus. Please pray for out new babies, especially for little DJ as he is very sick and in a lot of pain. Pray for our kids who still have the chicken pox, for a quick healing. Pray for Molly and Joyce in their travels and for the kids who are missing them. This week too I ask for your prayers for myself. Please pray that my passion would grow with each passing day, that it would be impossible for me to look past the things going on around me, and that I would really see them. Pray that instead of being discouraged I would feel energized for the work that I have been given! Pray for my love to grow.

Until next time, I will be faithfully carrying out to the best of my ability the greatest assignment of my life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

School Collapase

Many of you have been contacting me with questions about the school collapase, like most of you the only information I have recieved is what is on the internet news sites. Yahoo news reports have been printed off and passed around to us here. The report I have and I'm told is the most accurate is this...

PETIONVILLE, Haiti – Rescuers digging through a collapsed school in Haiti pulled more bodies from sandwiched slabs of concrete, raising the death toll to 75 on Saturday as crews continued searching for survivors. President Rene Preval said poor construction, including a lack of steel reinforcement, was to blame for Friday's collapse of the concrete College La Promesse in Petionville. Roughly 500 children and teenagers typically crowded into the three-story building. Preval told The Associated Press that structures throughout Haiti are at similar risk because of poor construction and a lack of government oversight. "It's not just schools, it's where people live, it's churches," he said at the site of the collapse as crews picked through the wreckage in search of more victims. Doctors Without Borders was treating more than 80 people, many with serious injuries, said Francois Servranckx, a spokesman for the aid group. Petionville Mayor Claire Lydie Parent said at least 17 students were found crushed in a single classroom on Saturday but the report was denied by a doctor and firefighter at the scene. "There are a lot of rumors, you know," said Cap Haitien Fire Chief Ardouin Zephirin, who was brought in from Haiti's second-largest city to help with the disaster on the outskirts of the capital. Preval said a previous mayor of Petionville had tried to halt the expansion of La Promesse over safety concerns but the effort faltered when a new mayor came into power in the hillside Port-au-Prince suburb. "We have got to have a consistent policy that when one administration leaves office the next continues its work," the president told AP. "The next time the mayor speaks and the authorities speak, people will listen." International aid was trickling in. Nearly 40 search-and-rescue officials from Fairfax, Virginia, were expected to arrive with dogs by Saturday afternoon, said Alexandre Deprez, acting director of the local U.S. Agency for International Development. "I see a dramatic turnabout in the situation once they're here," he said. "We've done everything we've possibly can practically from the first hour." The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, was sending two helicopters to help, Dominican Health Minister Bautista Rojas said. France also sent a team of 15 firefighters and doctors with two rescue dogs. A French civil protection official, Commandant Patrick Vailli, said Saturday that the workers spotted five people believed to be alive in the school's two basements and recovered two bodies. Haitian Police commissioner Francene Moreau said the minister who runs the church-operated school could face criminal charges. Efforts to reach the preacher were not successful. Thousands looked on from beside the school and across the valley, cheering each time a live student was extricated from the debris. One student who emerged and was lifted on a stretcher cried and made the sign of the cross over and over. Thousands of Haitian menial laborers live in collapse-prone hillside slums around the capital to be near the mansions of the foreign diplomats, U.N. staff and wealthy elite for whom they work. Parents said they toiled endlessly throughout the year to afford the school's $1,500 tuition in hopes of empowering their children to someday escape poverty. Haiti, the poorest and most politically tumultuous country in the Western Hemisphere, has been struggling to recover this year from riots over rising food prices and a string of hurricanes and tropical storms that killed nearly 800 people. U.N. peacekeepers were sent to Haiti following the bloody ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004 and have improved security by fighting gangs and training local police.

Petionville is located about 20 - 30 min from where God's Littlest Angels is. We have not been able to help with efforts at the site because everyone has been asked to stay away and let the workers do their job. Dixie has contacted Lydie, the mayor of Petionville, who has shared some of the needs with us. We are all asking our supporters to help with these needs. We are collecting money to go to 3 specific causes. The money will go to help with the hospital costs of survivors as well as helping with funeral costs and provide relief for those paying for morgue bills. A morgue in Haiti charges about $100 a day to keep a body, this is a huge ammount and is not possible for many Haitians. If you would like to help with this you can send money to Mrs. Jean Bell 2085 Crystal River Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80915 With School Relief in the memo. Please Please Please keep the people here in your prayers this week! There are many families who have lost precious children and many more who are still waiting on news. Pray for them. Pray also for us here that we would be witnesses in our actions towards the Haitian people at this time.

More news as I get it...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fix This

In my time here in Haiti I have seen many people come and go. Diffrent people with diffrent mindsets. One thing I have seen too much of in this short time is the number of people coming here thinking that they are going to “fix” Haiti. Often times setting out, although probably not consciously,with an idea that Haiti needs to become like North America. That they can solve the problems with a band-aid made of money. Being here, seeing Haiti, I know that is not what she needs. Yes Haiti is a poor place. Things happen here that would never happen in the United States. But Haiti is not the United States. Haiti is Haiti. She had a people with a rich culture. A people who love to sing and dance and who are so genuine when they speak to each other that they hold the hands of the person they are speaking to. They look into each other’s eyes, in North America that seems to be a very uncommon thing. We find it uncomfortable when someone looks so deeply at us. What is it that we are trying to hide?
Haiti needs help, that is a fact. But does she need to be fixed? Maybe she just needs to grow. This week made me very conscious of this idea. Since being at GLA I have seen many babies go home, a few weeks ago it was two 5 year old boys. But this week we sent home 3 girls. Sisters, almost 4, 7 and 9 years old. Tonight they will fall asleep in beds that have been waiting for them for many months. But it is unfamiliar. I wonder if they miss their rooms at the orphanage, where their closest friends are always just a few feet away. I wonder if they find it hard to fall asleep without the dogs barking in the distance and the sounds from the homes around them. The muffled Creole words seeping through the walls. I wonder how long before they start forgetting.

I am so excited for the things these girls will be blessed with in their lives. The oldest sister, at 9 years old, has experienced a life in her years in Haiti that would make most adults give up hope, things that will probably never leave her. But now she has been given a new chance! She and her sisters are going to a home with a mom and a dad who have prayed for them. Who have worked with everything they have for them. They will give them everything a child needs to grow up. Never will they wonder when they will eat again. They will have a home, and when someone asks them what they want to be when they grow up they can pick anything, ANYTHING and know that it is possible. Best of all they will grow up to know Jesus. I overheard a conversation between this father and his new daughters on his first night here. They stood in front of a statue of Jesus, he pointed to it and said “you know who this is? This is Jesus, He loves you very much and He gave you to me to take care of you”

From the next room where I was trying not to listen in on this private moment I wiped tears from my eyes. I am convinced that this is going to be the best possible family for these girls. They were chosen twice, by this man and woman who would become their mommy and daddy, and by God. He chose them for these 2 people, to be a family, and He chose them for Him, to do His work. 3 girls went home today to a place where they will grow up, a place that will give them the a chance to be anything they want to be. But they also left a home today. A place where they were born, a place where, also they grew up. A place, I pray will never leave them. I prayed a prayer over them that I pray for every child here. I prayed that God will bless them as they grow. I prayed that He would give them a love for their families. That he would make them happy. I prayed that he would give them talents and energy to do amazing things. On top of all of this I prayed that He would give them a passion for their first home. God has filled me with this passion for Haiti having never known the place, how much more could he do with one of her own children.

The babies of Haiti, like every other country are the hope for the future. But that future will not exist unless they return to her. They must leave to get the resources to do the work that Haiti needs, but they will need the courage to return to do that work. They are the ones who understand the most what I see, that this is a beautiful land that needs, not to be fixed, but to grow.

Though My Body Fails

This week I think that Satan has found a place where he can catch me! He must see the work I am doing here and hate it because he is desperate to stop it. Only days after recovering from my bout with pink eye I was hit with a cold. Not just any cold but without a doubt the worst cold of my entire life! I have been brave, I have sucked it up and went on with my days but I am miserable! My sinuses are infected and so swollen that it is viable in the skin under my eyes. My chest is congested and every breath burns. I have a cough that rattles every few minutes and I have a gland on the right side of my neck that is swollen to the size of a grape! I started feeling a little run down and stuffy on Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday morning it had hit full force. I couldn’t even force myself out of bed. Another staff member here has the same virus and compared it to getting hit by a Mack truck, the funny thing is, a Mack truck has actually hit her so I guess she knows what she is talking about! All I know is that I did not get out of bed all day. The only thing that drug me out of Friday was the fact that I had Creole class that afternoon and I knew I needed to be there for that. I did begin taking an antibiotic, which is not something that I take lightly. Hopefully it will start working soon.

After missing a full day with my kids and feeling pretty quiet for 2 others this week was pretty uneventful. One of my little girls F did have a great day on Friday. She has been in such a wonderful mood lately, laughing and smiling and always excited to see me. She is now able to walk up and down the stairs to the balcony all by herself! I took her up on Friday morning and she was in such a good mood that I went and got her for some extra time in the afternoon. I am so glad I did. We spent some great hours together! All of the sudden it was like a switch was flipped and she was walking. Since taking her first steps a few weeks ago she has stalled. Nothing could make her walk after that. Now she has decided to start once again! She walked all afternoon and after supper I brought her down to the living room where, after being bribed with chocolate chips she walked some more. This kid is going to be running in no time!

As of this week 4 of my kids have had the chicken pox. My S Twins, K and J-Man all got them this week. They look pretty miserable, especially K who seemed to have them worse than any other kid here! They all run around covered in calamine lotion with socks taped over their hands! S and S both look like they are almost totally healed. M, my littlest boy had them a few weeks ago so most of my kids have gotten it over with. No one seems to be affected seriously, for which I am thankful!

Yesterday after I started feeling a little better we went to PetionVille to a hotel called the El Rancho. We went for a swim in their gorgeous pool and had lunch in the restaurant. It was a great day of relaxation for everyone and a lot of fun to lie in the sun for a few hours. On the way home we stopped at a grocery store. The biggest I have seen in Haiti. It was almost like walking into North America again walking though those doors. Almost, I bought cheese and grape juice and even some chocolate but I still had to “drive” my cart every aggressively, just like out on the streets. All in all it was a positive way to end the day!

This week I ask, of course, that you pray for my health. I already feel like I am getting better but I am far from the 100% that I need to be to keep up with my kids. I also ask that you pray especially for three little girls who went home to their forever families this week. Please pray for their adjustment in the weeks and months to come. Pray for their parents, that they would have a love for these girls an that they would become a strong family. Also this week I ask that you all pray for my little F. Pray for her physical health and for the strength she needs in her legs to walk. Pray for her emotional health, that she would continue to be filled with joy and that her bond with me and her nannies would grow strong. Pray for her spiritual health, that she would grow up to love Christ. That she would long to seek and serve Him. Pray for her families. Here in Haiti that they would also be brought to Christ through her life. That they would feel joy and peace over their decision to bring her to GLA and pray that they will strive to make a difference in the place where they live. And for her adoptive family, that they would also have a peace about their decision to chose a child from Haiti. That they would have strength during the months of waiting and that when the time does come for them to take her home that they would raise her to love Jesus above all else and teach her to work for Him all the days of her life.

As always, I thank God for each of you in your faithfulness to me in this journey.