Monday, May 30, 2011

I Always Have To Learn The Hard Way

As a little girl I was a terror. If my parents told me not to touch something, I grabbed it in both hands. If they told me not to go somewhere, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. So many of those times that I saw as controlling I can now see as protection.

Especially now, in my first few weeks of motherhood I am learning this lesson. Gup has a little walker and he loves to run around in it. To enter our living room there is about a 1 foot drop. I have told Gup countless times to stay away from this area. He has climbed up and down this step, he knows there is a drop and yet, the second my back it turned this is exactly where he goes. He has yet to fall, because I am there to catch him, but one day he might. He might have to learn, as I have, the hard way.

I always have to learn the hard way. Instead of embracing advice I balk at it. I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do!

Well, now I get to learn another lesson, the hard way.

I want to let you all know that there have been some changes in the focus and work of Espwa Berlancia, as well as in my personal life in the last few weeks.

After arriving in Haiti 3 weeks ago, as often happens, all the plans that I had made flew out the window. Spending time in this mission, on the ground I have seen the needs of this community first hand. Along with a trusted board member, and partner 100% of the way, Nicole Hollingsworth, who was here with me, we realized the necessity of a change in our focus.

Instead of working to build a home for children who are infected with HIV we are finding a great need for HIV testing and support in the area. This will take a lot of focus and energy, not leaving enough at this time to also take care of additional children. While this has always been a focus of EB, we are now shifting this to be our primary work.

I personally have found this change to be very difficult emotionally. I am a planner by nature and having things not go according to plan is tough! After the earthquake I was diagnosed with PTSD. I received medication from my family doctor. I was advised by several people to seek additional therapy but resisted. Unfortunately, this has only grown to the point where I am no longer able to continue moving forward until I receive this help. Slowly I have begun to deteriorate and it has gotten to a point where I cannot continue on until this is addressed.

For that reason I will be leaving Haiti on Saturday to return to the United States to seek therapy.

Espwa Berlancia is by no means stopping our work. We have a woman in our prenatal program right now who we will continue to support. We are blessed to have a wonderful nurse here in Haiti who I trust indefinitely. She will be making sure that “F” gets her care while I am away.

The absolute hardest thing about all of this is my Gup. There is no legal way for him to travel with me to the US at this point. There are things I need to do that focus on ME. As a mother this goes against every instinct I have. How could leaving him possibly be for the best? How could putting him back into an orphanage, just when he is learning to trust me, be worth anything else in my life? It has killed me to realize that it truly is for the best. I can not be the best person for him until I am the best person that I can be. I can not do that alone. I want to be the mom he deserves and if a few more weeks is what it takes, it will be worth it in the end!

In a way, I am being given, just a glimpse into the heart of the mothers here. There are many orphanages in Haiti where parents can come back and get their children when they are better able to care for them. They leave them there, it can’t be easy. I consider it a gift to be allowed, if only for a fraction of emotion, into that choice. The choice to leave him in the care of someone else until I can provide for him again.

Oh but still, it hurts.

I do not have a return date to Haiti right now, I feel that I need to focus on getting myself to a place where I am 100% ready to do this without the pressure of an end date. Be assured though, I do intend to return. This is my calling, I can not ignore.

I will come back when I have found my passion again, I will return to fulfill the calling that has always been mine, I will return for the other half of my heart. Held in those precious hands.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Address For Financial Donations

From now on if anyone would like to send a check to support Espwa Berlancia please send it to…
Espwa Berlancia                                                                                                                                      PO BOX 16803
Alexandria VA 22302
We now have a state-side office set up and would like all donations going to the same place!
Thank you so much to everyone who is continuing to support.
I have very sporadic and slow internet but I am working on a great big update for you all!
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Today someone’s world came crashing down.DSC03785

Today, everything I dreamed of for this mission shifted focus.

With a single drop of blood everything changed.

Her life.


And that of a precious, unborn baby.

The idea of setting up a project to help people who have HIV sounds glamorous and exciting and “good”.

Until it’s real.


There’s nothing glamorous about giving someone that kind of news.

There’s nothing exciting about staring at those two lines as they slowly appear, with a sinking heart.

There is nothing good about the hopes, dreams and plans that were crushed in those seconds.

There is nothing that could have prepared me for what that first “pozitif” would do to my heart.

And what it did to me, nothing compared to what it did to her.

Oh Lord Jesus, you called.

Now give Your strength, Your wisdom, Your compassion. Your love.

Friday, May 13, 2011

He Calls Me Mama

“I look at adoption as a very sacred exchange. It is not done lightly on either side. I would dedicate my life to this child.”

Gup Oct 2010 (13)

Once upon a time I met a little boy who stole my heart. When he was brought to our gate the woman who carried him told us she thought he was dead.

But he wasn’t.

Gup October 2010 (2)

He was sick, he was broken, he was starving, but he was alive. I held him, I gave my heart away and then I saw him smile…

Gup October 2010 (9)

He smiled and my entire world changed.

Gup October 2010 (7)

He smiled and I knew that from that moment on I would look back and know, that was the day I was invited into the secret, elite club.

Gup Nov 2010 (61)

He was mine, and I was his.

Gup Oct 2010 (23)

Those chocolate eyes were burned into my soul.

I held him close and every dream I have ever had came to life.

God who orchestrated those dreams, Who drives my heart and gives me my deepest desires, had a special idea when He gave me a love for this little boy.

He gave me this baby for season to love. Now He has chosen to lend him to me for a bit longer.


Today Gup came home.

His mother decided that, although she is physically unable to care for him, she isn’t ready to say goodbye forever. She knows that I intend to live in Leogane for a very long time. She knows I love her little boy as much as she does.

She had a choice and the one she made filled my heart to overflowing.

Someday, with his first mothers blessing, I will legally adopt this precious boy. 

Someday, in the eyes of the law, he will be mine. From this day on, in the eyes that matter he already is. He is mine and I am his. He calls me Mama and it melts my heart.


He is bringing my far away dreams to life.

How could it be that God has blessed me so?

I am Mama, he is my baby.


Thursday, May 12, 2011


As I start out on this journey I have had many people ask me difficult questions. While I know that all of them are in concern and love I find myself wondering the same things.

All of these concerns steam around the idea of me having 7 kids in a home where I am the only primary caregiver. I will not argue, that is an outrageous amount to take on. It is not a task (or idea) that I take lightly. However, I do see where their doubts creep in.

Honestly, can I care for 7 children on my own? Of course I intend to hire nannies but that is something that financially isn’t an option at this point. Perhaps someday, but not now, when I have $1,900.oo to budget and make last for as long as possible, payroll is the last thing on my mind.

Over the last few days as I have settled in I have been reminded of what my true vision for this project is. Children in this home is the very least of what I intend to do with my work here. I chose to make this a home for children because that is what my heart desires.   I want to be surrounded by my babies, because that is what I love. At the same time I know that my real work here is for the people in the community around me.

My real work consists in providing HIV tests, free of charge for anyone who comes in need. My real work is in providing those people with vitamins, nutritional supplements and  education classes. My real job is to do everything in my power to share hope. My work is to encourage those I come in contact with, to convince them that life is worth living, no matter how short  or difficult it may be. My passion is to teach the people who come to me that they are worth my time and energy. Their culture may say give up and wait to die, I am here to show them that there is so much more than that. My real job is to love this community. To sit and talk to them when they need someone to listen. To know their names when they come to me for help. That is what I am here for.

A long time ago God placed a passion for babies in my heart. He allowed a longing for children, he created it! Originally I set out to build a home for children in need. As I search my heart and listen to the council of those around me I am coming to realize  that once again, God is bigger than the plans that I have created.

He gave me a passion, allowed me to live it and now He is teaching me to let Him lead, even when I don’t want to.

I know in my heart of hearts God is bringing me the babies I have longed for. Already He has lent me one, Friday I have a meeting with the family of another. However, it’s possible I put my ideas into play before I let Him guide me to the place He wants.

Maybe God wants me to have only 2 children, and spend the rest of my energy on other things. Maybe He will bless me with 5 and give me the strength to still pour into my other work. I can’t see the future and no matter how much I want to plan, it’s not my place. It’s a lesson I will continue to learn for the rest of my life, but I’m ready to embrace it!

God knows the family He is building for me, for this house. He also knows what He has placed on my heart. If 7 babies and an additional full time job of running the outside project of Espwa Berlancia is His plan, then I trust that He will provide. If He is choosing to bless me in ways that are not according to my plans I will surrender.

This week we administered our very first HIV test here at the Espwa Berlancia headquarters. The results were negative. The quiver of nervousness that I felt while waiting those 10 long minutes is indescribable. When the negative results appeared I was filled with relief, but it was marked with a sense of urgency. This little boy’s test didn’t change his life at all. He will go one as he did before, learning to crawl, walk and thrive.

I know that it is very likely that soon I will encounter a different result. On that day I will have no choice but to rely fully on the fact that God finds me worth of being here for such a moment as this.

The outside work of Espwa Berlancia is moving to the front of my mind. This is not to say that God will not bring babies to my family, but I am learning that this may be my dream, not His. He will grant me the desires He has given, while at the same time He will guide me in the direction He has ordained.

My goal in this work is to be entirely honest with all of my supporters. Never to “trick” you into thinking I am doing something that I am not. For that reason I think that it is only fair to let you know that there is a good chance that this may not develop into what we originally thought. However, I know that God brought me here, He designed my heart for this place and He knows exactly what He will do with this willing heart.

Only time will tell. Maybe they are my plans, maybe they are His. Maybe He planted desires that will be more than any of us could have ever dreamed. Only patience, and God will reveal what amazing things will grow out of this willing and open heart.

“I am not the boss, you are not the boss, Jesus is the boss!”

Boss my heart.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Remember this sick little girl?

Bianka At Hospital Oct 2010 (1)

Last October and November Bianka was very sick. At one point we were told by the doctors that she surely wouldn’t make it through the night.

She made it through that night, and the next and the next! She made it and when I came home after a short trip to the States in mid November she had been released from the hospital!

Bianka Nov 2010 (52)

Several weeks later Bianka got sick again. She was still weak from her last illness and her body was not able to fight the vomiting and diarrhea that she had picked up. Once again I feared for Bianka.

November Birthday Party 2010 (38)

Thankfully, Real Hope For Haiti offered their help. Bianka, along with 3 other sick children were taken to stay in their clinic and receive much needed medical care. 

The children ended up staying for several weeks and were all nursed back to health by the loving staff in Casale.

Yesterday after unpacking a bit at my house I headed over to the orphanage to visit the kids. One of the first faces that greeted me was little Bianka. Chubby, smiling and even showing off by standing up for me, Bianka was every bit the miracle that I hoped and prayed for. While sitting and cuddling her I calculated in my head what her age was now. That’s when we realized that very day was Bianka’s first birthday!


What a sweet day to be holding such a precious blessing.

Happy Birthday Bianka!


Getting There Is Half The Fun

This trip to Haiti has been the most interesting I have ever had by far! I am so thankful for Jerry Smith, who offered his services, and his beautiful airplane, for this trip.


We were able to pack 200lbs plus Miss Sota into his Malibu!


I sat in the back most of the time and tried to not let my motion sickness get the best of me ;)


The time I spent in the front of the plane was exciting! Watching the monitors made my head spin a little but I did manage to master the entire aviation alphabet over the course of the trip!


We ended up spending 3 nights in Fort Lauderdale because of bad weather.

The first night we slept at the apartment of a friend of Nicole’s ( a gal who flew down with me to help out for a few weeks) It was a bit on the small side but we all ended up fitting!


On night 2 we ended up in a hotel near the airport, it only had one bed but it accepted pets so we were in! We enjoyed a nice night of relaxing, shopping at a few local stores and eating Dominoes pizza.


Sota even made herself at home in a nice cozy cubby. What a nut!


On day 3 we headed to the airport to wait for Jerry to be able to pick us up for the trip down to Port Au Prince. Unfortunately, he ended up being delayed and we packed all of our things for yet another hotel stay.


We spent that evening in another hotel and set off at 5:30 am, finally for home!

The flight down was gorgeous! We flew low over the ocean and were able to capture some incredible views of the Caribbean islands.


After a quick stop in the Bahamas for fuel and a bathroom we were once again on our way.


At 10:00 am we finally landed.


The trip through customs and immigration was a breeze. We weren’t charged outrageous fees, everyone was helpful, it was incredible.

A truly amazing welcome home!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What About Elange?

Well, it’s bittersweet. Elange is no longer at the orphanage. When her biological family was contacted with the news that she would most likely not be able to be adopted they decided to come and take her home. I was not here when it happened but I am told that her mother came and took her back to their home [tent] in Cite Soleli.

For some of you, the idea that Elange was living in an orphanage, relinquished for adoption while she had a living mother who it seems, is capable of caring for her, might be a bit confusing. While I “understand” it, sometimes I am confused to. Why is it that a child with living parents would be called an "”orphan”?

God has many plans for the people of Haiti. Plans that are meant to bring hope to their lives. I firmly believe that adoption was created by God and that he loves building families in that way. I also believe that His heart aches when the brokenness of this world causes so much heartache and pain.

I believe that parents need to have choices regarding the care of their children. If a parent choses to seek adoption for their child because that is what they truly desire, there should be a safe place for them to do that. The sad reality is that for most parents in Haiti there is no choice, the only option they have is to turn their children over to orphanages. Here there are far too many orphanages and far too few places that offer assistance to parents who want desperately to keep their children.

This may confuse some of you because I have worked in orphanages the entire time I have been here. I have seen joy in the reunion of adoptive parent with the children they have waited years for. I have seen the love that  one little boy has brought into my own family. I have also seen the pain of a father who’s wife has just died, who placed his baby in my arms because he has no way to provide milk for him. I have hated bitterly, the fact that I don’t have the ability to just give him what he needs. He wants his baby but he is being forced by his circumstances to give him away.

There are AMAZING places like Harbor House, The Apparent Project and Real Hope For Haiti that dedicate their entire lives work to sustaining families in Haiti. I am so inspired by these projects, I hope that I will have the opportunity to learn from those who have seen this same injustice and are doing something about it. I pray that Espwa Berlancia will become a place where people can go and have options to do what they truly want to do. A place where they have choices. Only God can teach me to do this, only God can orchestrate the resources we will need.

It is the deepest desire of my heart to see true, lasting assistance brought to Haiti. There will always be orphanages here and honestly, they will always be necessary. In my heart, adoption will always be a wonderful way to bring children into the families that God desires for them. I will always rejoice over reunions of parents and children. I will also do everything in my power to make sure that each and every man, woman and child that I encounter is treated with love and respect. I will work my hardest to make sure that they are given options and choices as to what happens in their lives.

I am so thankful to have the ability to still be in contact with Elange and her family. I have spoken to her a few times and she seems like she is doing fine. The one thing that upsets and worries me the most is that she told me she is no longer going to school! This I can not handle. This beautiful, smart, driven little girl, the one who dreams of being a doctor, will not move beyond her 6th grade education. Unless that is, we decide to change that.

I know many, many of you asked about sponsoring Elange after my last post about her. I have sent up a fund where you can do that. All of the money that is brought in will be used to pay for Elange’s education. It is my desire to see her sponsored for each year of school she has left to finish and then sent on to university. I know that Elange is able to do anything she puts her mind to, she is a brilliant young woman. If Elange wants to be a doctor, Elange can be a doctor! But she can’t do it without help.

Each school year, including uniform and supplies cost approximately $350.00. Elange has 6 years of school left to finish before she will go to college. I am determined that we make is possible for her to go each year. Once she is done we will do everything in our power to send her to university. I can only imagine what great big things our Elange will do when she grows up, how much hope and healing she has the power to bring.

Will you help me help Elange? You can make a donation HERE. Please mark your donation “ELANGE”. Together we can take care of this little girl and break a bit of the cycle she is a part of!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Tonight, with the help of my little brother, I drew the winners for our giveaway!

The lucky few are:

Marketplace Painting – Dick Young

Village Painting – Jim Cox

Ladies Painting – Cathleen Haglund

Apparent Project Jewelry – Ian Gates (paypal name)

Globe – Annette Franklin

Bamboo Carving – Andrea Gaines

Statue #1 – Christianne (Comment # 8)

Statue #2 – Beth Kast

So glad that all of your homes will soon be filled with Haitian Happiness!

Please contact me rhyanbuettner (at) espwaberlancia (dot) org and give me your address so I can mail your prizes out to you!

Thank you to everyone who donated within the last few weeks. Tomorrow I start my journey back to Leogane. I am so ready to be home and sleep in my own bed again!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Several people have asked me about donating to Espwa Berlancia since my last post. I am so thankful for each and every willing person, we could not do this alone!

If you would like to donate items there is a list of our needs HERE. I am leaving next week, if anyone in the Fergus Falls/Alexandria is able to provide any of these things you can contact me for delivery/pick up. If you would like to ship things you can send them to:

Nicole Hollingsworth 1025 Chatham Dr Palatine, IL 60067

We also have a gift registry at Target, anything purchased online will be send directly to the above address.

If anyone would like to make a financial donation outside of paypal, checks can be written to Espwa Berlancia and sent to:

Espwa Berlancia 10317 41st Place NE Saint Michael, MN 55376

Thank you so much to all of you who have and will donate for this cause!