Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year

I don’t really have a lot to say. As wonderful and beautiful a Christmas season with family is, it’s not what I crave. I would exchange every moment here for the gift of being at home with a little one to hold.

It’s New Year’s Eve, in general a holiday that I find a bit overrated and disappointing. In years past there has been this idea to “bring it in with a bang” dressing up, drinking too much sweet champagne. “The” countdown. The expectancy and pressure for the world to change in the 60 seconds that it takes for the calendars to change.

In reality very little does change. Aside from 3 weeks of trying to train myself to write the proper digit at the end of a date, my life has yet to be altered drastically at midnight of any given December 31st. Up until last January I didn’t think that 60 seconds was enough time for any big change to occur in my life. Then I realized that in much less time than that everything can be turned upside-down. 45 seconds of January 12th felt like hours, I try to picture what 15 more would have added, I can’t. My idea of how small 60 seconds is but a memory now.

This December 31st I feel myself placing even more hope and expectation on what the New Year means.Does it mean that in the next few hours I will say goodbye to the last 12 months? That the slate will be wiped clean and we will be given a new view on the world? There are so many things I wish I could throw away with the 2010 calendar tonight, memories that I wish I could erase. There are so many reason for me to cheer and bid goodbye to this mess of months. But nestled among those things are memories of miracles and hope. Lives I now know and children I love, all because life went on.

I have been guilty in the past year of talking too much about the pain in Haiti. I have been quick to point out the sad stories and to paint pictures of despair. It’s easy to do when it’s all around you. What’s not so easy it to take a few extra second and look around at the things that capture so many to Haiti. The beauty, the love and the joy that I am blessed with should be known!

The next 2 weeks will not be easy ones. I will struggle I know, over memories that are sure to present themselves. An anniversary has a way of taking you back to places you might rather not go. I know I will deal with these things in my own way. One of the ways I have chosen is to spend the next 12 days, leading up to the 12th of January and the one year anniversary of the quake, sharing with you “Ayiti Bel” (Beautiful Haiti). The things that I love, the things that make me smile, the things that God has given us to remind us of his presence.

Take some time with me to rejoice in the blessings of this nation.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Olise Joseph

Staff Oct 2010 (3)

The day I met Olise I remember thinking that it was unfair that she was there. She looked fragile and far too old for the energetic job we offered. Not having the heart to turn her away Mme Jeanel assigned her to work with the smallest babies. Most afternoons during the babies' nap time I would find Olise nodding off in a small chair, her body exhausted from a long, difficult life.

As I began to speak to her more I learned a lot about Olise. I learned that she once had a husband but that he had died many years ago. I learned that she had borne 6 children and buried 2. She had placed one child for adoption. The remaining  3 she had struggled to feed, clothe and care for alone. I learned that she was living in a tent with several family members and she was the only one with a steady source of income. One day I asked Olise how old she was, she told me she didn’t know but that she was born “in the beginning of Papa Doc.” This would make her roughly 50 years old, I couldn’t believe it. This old woman was barely older than my own parents, and looked a decade more mature. Then again, the average life expectancy in Haiti is 58 years.

Sometimes Olise would talk to me about what Haiti was like when she was growing up. She told me of years where she ate her fill, and seasons filled with storms, violence and fear. She talked of days where the mountains were filled with trees. Her version of the good old days. I can only imagine the things that Olise saw in her life.

Olise lived in a tent city between Leogane and Carrefour. In the lasts 11 1/2 months of her life she watched her homeland change more than she could have thought possible. After surviving an earthquake, life in a tent, a hurricane and threatening disease, Olise was killed this morning while walking along the side of a road. In less time than it took for buildings to crumble last January, a bus struck and killed our sweet nanny.

Olise took pride in her babies, she smiled and cheered for their accomplishments. Each evening at the house we have a small worship service for the children and nannies, usually Olise was asleep by the time the service started but never fail, she would rise from her bed to come and participate, with hands held high and a crackly voice raised in praise she would worship.  Olise loved other people and she loved Jesus. What more should I say about her, in the end, what more really, truly matters?

 Staff Oct 2010 (3)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby

This month brought celebrations for 2 of our sweet little ones! Two of our babies turned 1 in early December.

I was heartbroken not to be there for our little girl’s birthday on the 16th but I know the staff gave her a wonderful party with cake, singing and Chico for everyone! I can’t wait to hear all about it when I get home!

I was blessed to be able to be with our sweet little baby boy on his special day. A birthday is so bittersweet in my world. I know that there is someone out there for whom this day is not filled with joy but longing. Longing as she remembers the sweat and pain that she endured to bring life into this world. Longing as she must have begged for a way to keep here baby, before finally realizing that she couldn’t. Longing to be holding her little one as he experiences his first taste of sweet frosting…

On a beautiful day in December one mother’s longing turned to joy as she was able to see how happy her baby was as he stuffed handfuls of birthday cake into his mouth. She arrived at 8am, having traveled by tap-tap for more than 3 hours to get to us, His Mama spent the day with her little boy.

From the time she arrived until the moment she had to leave she watched him with love in her eyes. She lit up with joy as she smiled and played and nodded her head approvingly as he refused to stand and I made him do it anyway. As I sat with her in the porch and talked she spoke to me the story of his birth. A story that belongs to him, one that is not mine to share, but a tale that touched my soul. A reassurance that this house gives hope to the hopeless. A reminder of why it is I love when I feel like there is none left to give.

She blinked back tears as he stared at his cake with huge eyes. She told me how, just one year ago, she had no idea his life would be so wonderful…

Oh how I wish that there was a solution that would “fix” Haiti. I ache with everything in me for mothers who love their babies but have to give them to someone else to provide for them. I wish we lived in a perfect world but I look around me and I am assaulted with the images of reality. This baby, because he was living in our house that day, had a beautiful birthday celebration. He is alive, thriving and happy in this place and his Mama visits and sees that. She is reassured that the choice she made was the right one because even while her heart is breaking, his is beating strong.

IMG_0155 IMG_0158 IMG_0129 IMG_0152

As she left she asked me again, if I was sure that we would sing happy birthday again before he fell asleep. Her simple request reminded me that as she sat in that hot, crowded bus on her way home, her heart would still be here, with the little boy that will always hold it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Though the call is hard, you are worth it all.

Once again I said my goodbyes

To those who I love most

My heart feels that familiar pain

As I long for home

Cause this road is hard

When I feel so far

Sebastien's Day At The Beach Nov 2010 (50)

God I'm crying out tonight

'Cause I've given You my life

But I'm tired and I'm missing what's behind

So once more here's my life


On the day that You called my name

All that I knew changed

I found when I said yes that I'd never be the same

Though the call is hard

You are worth it all


God I'm crying out tonight

'Cause I've given You my life

But I'm tired and I'm missing what's behind

So once more

Even when the tears are falling

When I find I fear the calling

You remind me

Words You've spoken over my life

Promises I've yet to see

You comfort me


God I'm crying out tonight

'Cause I've given You my life

But I'm tired and I'm missing what's behind

So once more, here's my life

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Haiti Is Crying

It’s been raining here for the last 2 days. Well, sometimes raining. Mostly it’s cloudy and cold with some sprinkles here and there. On the way to Port Au Prince on Sunday it began to pour.

As I talked Jeanel he told me that Haiti was crying because I was going away. I told him I thought that Haiti probably had bigger things to cry over than my leaving. He smiled at me and said that I was right but that Haiti was used to her problems by now. He commented that maybe it’s not Haiti crying anymore but God, looking down and crying for the people.

Maybe he was right, maybe God is crying, I can’t imagine that this pain doesn’t break his heart. Regardless of weather the drops that fall are tears or just rain, the sadness that is in the air is almost visible.

As my plane took off the tears that ran down my cheeks fell in rivers that matched the ones streaming down the outside of my window for the last several days. I didn’t care to hold them back anymore, there were no kids around to be brave for. I couldn’t push them back any longer and the sobs that shook my shoulders felt good, like a relief.

Now I am in Minneapolis where it isn’t raining. It’s a dreary kind of cold that makes me shiver until my muscles ache. I am here with only the thoughts of those sweet babies to fill my time. I’m not crying anymore but the tears are still falling. I can imagine the mothers who weep as their children lie on muddy floors with empty bellies. I can see the overwhelmed missionary who will give everything they can day after day and still look outside to the crowd of people they cannot rescue. I can imagine the old men who have seen their country face more than they ever dreamed possible, as a tear winds it’s way through the path of wrinkles on his face.

Oh Haiti, I ache for you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This little guy really wanted to come with me!

 DSCN1641DSCN1636DSCN1644 DSCN1642 DSCN1643

I just didn’t think there was any way to keep him quiet enough to pull it off!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This morning I finally made it out of Leogane, to the guest house in Port Au Prince.

The last few days have crippled even more this struggling country. 



The air in Petionville felt heavy with tension as UN soldiers marched outside of the grocery store. The usual banter and playfulness of the locals was replaced with small serious groups, gathered on street corners and whispering to each other. DSCN0117 

I visited an artist across from the city square this morning to pick of a painting that he had done for me. When I arrived the normally bustling street was empty. There was no colorful art hanging on the wall, instead on the sidewalk were the charred remains of canvases and frames. Thony told me that the protesters had come and set fire to all of his artwork.  His eyes filled with tears as he told me over and over again “it was my entire life, my whole business and now it’s all gone”.

Today it has been 11 months since the earthquake. I have no idea when we went from 10 weeks to today. On January 12th Haitians gasped for breath. It seems since that day they have been left waiting. Waiting for promised help to come, waiting for hurricanes to pass, waiting in line to be seen by a doctor, waiting for the promise that this election could bring. A person can only hold their breath for so long, can only be pushed so far, before they can’t take it anymore.

When you go to a grocery store or market in Haiti the idea of a line is a bit blurred. Often times what defines how long you wait is how hard you are willing to push to get to the front or how loud you are willing to speak to drown out everyone else. You learn to do what you have to do, to have your voice heard. Now pushed to the brink people are doing what they have been forced to do because it’s the only way anyone will listen.

I don’t think it’s right, I wish there was another way but the reality is this… if Haitians weren’t reacting the way they are right now, would anyone care? If they didn’t stand up would anyone notice the way they were living.  If they weren’t screaming at the top of their lungs, would anyone listen? The answer isn’t simple, it’s heartbreaking and the truth is, lives are shattered every day that they wait and they can only wait so long.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Still Here

The car that was supposed to come to Leogane 2 nights ago made it only a few miles before being forced to turn back. They attempted to come again yesterday morning but didn’t even make it out of their neighborhood. The latest message I received said “ground transport not possible.”

And so now I just wait. Yesterday was by far the worst so far for manifestations. Here on the side of town closest to Port, there were several roadblocks set up. A Haitian friend who lives just a few blocks from us attempted to drive to our house and couldn’t make it through. One of our nannies brought Stivenson home from the hospital because they insisted he be released today (that story is a full entry in itself) She was able to get through on a motorcycle taxi after showing the men at the roadblock the small baby and explaining that he was sick. By the time she got into our gate she practically collapsed in relief. Our maintenance man also went out yesterday for a few minuets to check out the situation. He came back and just said “it’s bad”. I did not out outside of the gate yesterday, the US Embassy has advised that all Americans stay indoors and while I couldn’t make myself fully obey, I climbed up on the roof to see what I could, I did stay behind our secure walls.

As far as supplies go we are holding up fairly well. I was so glad to have had lunch on Sunday with a long term missionary to Haiti who runs a rescue center and clinic in Cazzale. He gave me a lot of tips about how to prepare, even though at the time we really had no idea what we were preparing for. We bought as much gas, bread and hotdogs as we could. Counting the Feed My Starving Children food, we have enough to last the house for about 6 weeks. We have a well on site and just purchased 2 bio-sand filters to clean water for drinking, so we have an unlimited amount of water! The only thing that we are starting to run short on is fuel for the generator. While we bought as much as we could we only had a few containers to put it in and by the time we went to stock up there were no larger drums to buy. We now have just one 5 gallon bucket of gasoline left. We have cut down to running the generator for only 2 hours each night and at that pace we will have enough fuel to last almost a week. We have also stocked up on oil for lamps and candles so if we do run out of fuel we will have a fall back. We use the generator for running lights, the refrigerator and TV, so we will be just fine if we need to go without for a little while.

I am still planning to leave Leogane as soon as possible. The reality of a Tuesday, American Airlines flight is becoming more and more unlikely but should there be an opportunity for me to get somewhere with more access to the airport I will take it. Still no word on if the US will call for an evacuation of Americans, and I pray that it wont come to that. At this point I just have my 3 bags packed (the “leaving immediately with what you can carry on your person  bag” the “leaving soon, bring one small suitcase and go bag” and the “getting on a regular pane and leaving as normal bag".) For now I will just wait. It seems quieter in Leogane today than yesterday but I don’t know what is going on in the rest of Haiti. Trying to be patient.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leaving Town

The last few days have been tense, to say the least. As far as the rest of Haiti is concerned, Leogane has been quiet. A few manifestations yesterday when the results were announced and now just waiting. Everywhere you look there are people just waiting. Groups of women huddle between tents, listening to handheld radios, whispering, sometimes crying. Young men gather around television sets, shouting over what is being said, staring silently and again, crying. Really, there are a lot of people crying. They are angry yes. They have been tricked and lied to, they are mad because no one is listening. They are angry because they are completely powerless. But among them, more than anger is a deep despair. For 12 long months we have been holding our breath, waiting for something to give, waiting for something to change. For a lot of that time people have looked to this election for a bit of hope. After waiting so long, for a last resort of sorts, it’s all the same. Yes, they are sad. I’m sad too.

After much debate and communication with other missions and our director back home it was decided that I should try and make my way to Port Au Prince to be nearer to the airport. I know, going from a place that is eerily silent and calm, to the heart of the country in turmoil doesn’t make a ton of sense but after weighing the pros and cons and going over every possible outcome I did realize that staying here where it is safe for now, is just not wise. One of our adoptive families has a contact in Port Au Prince who has a clinic here in Leogane, they have a car that will try to  travel to Leogane late tonight or early tomorrow morning to bring 4 other people back to Delmas. They have agreed to take me with them. They have a guest house where I will stay until I am able to fly to the States, or return safely to Leogane. Right now this is the only guarantee I have for getting to Port, even this is not a guarantee… if they make it through, I will go. I have had a plane ticket to leave on Tuesday for the last 6 weeks. I have planed to spend a week with my family and celebrate Christmas. I don’t know if the airport will be open when Tuesday comes around. I don’t know if I will be on that flight, I don’t know if I am, when I will be able to get back here. The only thing I know is that after 3 days of weighing possibilities and changing my mind that I need to do what everyone feels is best.

Last January when American’s were evacuated after the earthquake I did not leave. Right now, making this choice to do so is killing me. It surely doesn’t seem right. However, last January I was in a place with several other foreign people. We had someone there to tell us what to do, what not to do and if we were truly safe. Although I feel like I am safe right now, I have no idea what is about to happen and I am alone. I am the only American in our “mission”. I do not have a car and driver to take me where I need to go. I do not have other people here to bounce all of this off of. I just have to commit to doing what is logical, even if it is breaking my heart.

I know everyone here is fine. In fact, maybe they will be better off without me here for the next little while. There is a lot more pressure on them, as much as I fight it, when I am around. They go out of their way to make sure that I am taken care of and without that strain I think that everyone will breath a little easier. The daily schedule may not be kept as closely as I would have done, and the English classes will slack while I am away but when it is all over, everyone will be ok. This staff is more than capable of making sure that the kids are fed, cared for and loved. Usually when I leave I make a paper chain for the kids to use and a countdown for when I will be back. I am not doing that tonight, not because I don’t plan to return, but because I could never make them a promise that I can’t keep. I told them I am going but that I will be back, I don’t know when, but I will! My prayer is that things will calm down soon. I pray that I will come to The States, spend some much needed time with family and friends and come back to have Christmas Day with my babies, like I had planned. I pray, but I have to loosen my grip a little and allow myself to trust that no matter the outcome in the next few weeks, I will be exactly where I need to be the most.

Now I am off to read bedtime stories and tuck everyone into bed. I will cherish these moments and I’m sure, relive them a lot in the nights to come.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dear Dad, You Can Just Skip This One…

Last Friday I left the house to visit Bianka. We are so blessed to have found a wonderful local hospital for our kids, right here in Leogane! Now we don’t have to drive into Port Au Prince when we need to have our kids seen by a doctor. When Bianka had to go back to the hospital I was so relieved to know that I could just hop on a motorcycle and go see her. I can even visit more than once a day if I want to.

Friday, I set off on the 5 minute ride, Madame Jeanel decided to come with me. As we approached the main road I could hear music getting louder but I didn’t think much of it. Madame Jeanel made a comment that people were getting excited about the upcoming election but when I asked if we should keep going she said yes, it was “no big deal.”

For the first few yards there was nothing different but as we approached one of the side streets I was shocked to see hundreds of people pouring out directly in front of us, and then behind us. In a matter of seconds we were surrounded. Music blared as people in green and yellow danced and shouted all around us. They carried horns, drums and giant boom boxes. Barefooted street children dashed among them clapping and singing along. For a second my heart leapt into my throat, I looked back at Madame Jeanel who was unfazed by the entire thing. She wasn’t worried so I guess that was that. Our taxi was at at an almost standstill. The mob was moving faster than we were as our driver tried to weave in and out of the crowd. The people passing never gave me a second glance, they were so caught up in their songs and dance. As we continued along I caught the attention of a few of the smaller groups. Many of them smiled and waved. Some asked me why I wasn’t dancing with them. A few even drew me into conversation, as I answered them in their native language and bantered back and forth about the candidates there was an easygoing air. This “rioting mob” as they would be reported was nothing of the such. They were a group of citizens who were clinging to a bit of hope that something might be better than what they have now. They cheered for Jude Celestien and yet when they asked me who I supported and I answered someone else, there was no anger. They did not shout or yell or threaten me. Instead they laughed over my use of a common nickname. They assured me that yes, he too would be a good choice.

As we passed a UN base and I looked up to see the camouflaged soldiers, behind barbed wire fences I wondered what they were thinking about this group. I wondered how they would relay this event to whomever it is they answer to. Few of the Haitians even took notice of them, some sneered and a couple shouted insults and demands to “leave before you kill us all”. Overall they were too caught up in their celebrations to pay attention to much else.

As we reached the turn to enter the hospital I was both relieved and a bit disappointed to not be following this group anymore. I waved goodbye to a few children who had walked next to me and went to see Bianka. She looked wonderful! She would live and within days someone would be elected who holds much of her future in his decisions. Oh how I pray they will take this job seriously.

It has now been almost a week since the election and we still don’t know who that person is. We continue to wait but as I do and as the news comes in I pray that you will take into consideration this account. I was not in Port Au Prince, I certainly can not report for every group who has marched the streets but I can tell you that on this day, in this crowd there was hope, not hate. I did not set out to put myself into that position and I will surely continue to be cautious when it is necessary but I believe that I was given a gift in sharing that moment with the people whom it is quite possibly a matter of life and death.

I am so thankful that my parents are not the worrying kind. They recognize this is the life I need, despite the unease it sometimes brings. I know with confidence that they love me living my passion. They have sat at home and watched my world unfold on television, through hurricanes, earthquakes and disease they have let me stay. They understand that it would be far more dangerous to me to be kept from Haiti than for me to be here in the midst of these things. Even still I can imagine that it is not easy for them to be at home and reading this, there have to be some what ifs that plague.  Mom and Dad, thank you, for letting me be here and not worry about you, worrying about me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Today is World AIDS Day.

To many people this means nothing. To some, it means the world.

My heart has been broken by this disease. I have seen it rip apart lives and ruin dreams. I have held babies with bodies ravaged by this awful sickness. I have seen that AIDS holds no concern over age or innocence.

I wish all of you could really, truly see and understand the things that happen in Haiti. The judgments that are passed on this country break my heart. If you only knew the person behind the woman who has 3 children in an orphanage and one on the way, perhaps the world would be slower to judge. If you could look into her eyes and hear her tell you about the things she is forced to do for the man who provides her only support, maybe you would feel a bit more compassion and love.

Then again, I am thankful that not everyone does understand. I am thankful that there is an escape from this sometimes endless, pain.

Today is one of those “2 step back” days. Today I am reminded how much need there is and how little I can do. Most of the time I hold back the tears, most of the time I push it all out of my mind. A part of me is scared that once I start crying I may never stop. Here I am, admits endless opportunities and yet for everyone I help there are a thousand whom I can’t.

There is no answer to this despair, just the acceptance that it is what it is. Acceptance balanced with urgency to do something, even though I cannot do everything.

December 1st is not a date to me, it is a face…

A baby…

A hope…

A miracle…

Today on World AIDS Day a baby who I love will have a blood test that will detect if he is HIV+. Waiting for the results is dreadful. I pray that on this day, as I think about the ones who are infected, I will soon celebrate one who is not.