Friday, September 30, 2011

Let Sweet Jesus Hold You

Until I can hold you again.
On September 19th Baby Oleson was swept up and away from this world, he was received with joy into his Father’s arms. Whispered promised of glory and paradise reached his little ears as he was rocked close by his Abba Daddy.

Olson March 2011 (13)

In March, 4lbs of precious baby was placed in my arms and I fell in love. I had never held such a tiny treasure and the second that I felt his feather weight against me I was smitten. I was like a new mother, I undressed him and counted every finger and toe, I waned to see for myself that he was perfect in every way, and he was. Oh, if you could have had the blessing of smelling his tiny head and cradling him in your arms, you would know the feeling too. Some of you do. (Betty, I am thinking about you and crying with you right now)

 Oleson March 2011 (14)

From that day on Oleson was my love, the nannies joked with Gup about his new “baby brother”. Because he was so tiny, each night I would lie on my bed and hold him close to me, skin on skin, hoping that it would help him thrive. I fed him and changed him and took him out to show the world, my beautiful new treasure.

Oleson March 2011 (11)

On the way home from the airport Saturday I found out that just 5 days before I arrived home, Oleson had died. When I heard the words they didn’t really kick in. I had just arrived and was driving from the airport to my house. I can honestly say that I have never felt so happy, angry, fulfilled, proud, thankful and devastated at the same time. I wanted to cry, I SHOULD cry and and at the same time I was so completely ecstatic to be home that I couldn’t stop smiling. I smiled and then tears fell, and then I smiled again. I laughed at something someone said and then I was struck with an overwhelming guilt. Oleson was dead and I was smiling. I hate this life so much sometimes!

 Oleson May 2011 (35)

I know that to you he was just a picture of a cute baby on a blog you once saw. If that’s all he is to you that’s fine. I couldn’t expect more. But to me, Oleson was the baby that taught me that sitting still and watching baby eyes open and close is better than any award winning movie. From Oleson I learned that getting up in the middle of the night to feed a hungry baby is a blessing and a joy, he was the baby who taught me to treasure those late night stolen moments. From Oleson I learned more than I could ever touch with just words. He gave to me, in those short months, more than I could have every dreamed of giving to him.

There are missions that deal with the deaths of children every single day. I am not one of them. I am not used to it... I am not used to the idea of a baby that I loved and held and poured dreams and prayers into, being gone. There are places that burry babies and it doesn’t kill them. I’m jealous. I wish that I could do that to. I wish that God had chosen to give me even just a portion of the strength he gives to them. But I am weak, and I am broken, a baby that I loved died and it rocked my world. I am devastated . I don’t want to wait for Heaven to hold him again, I want him here now and I don’t even care how selfish that can sound. It’s what I want. I want to tickle the spot of the left side of his chin that always made him smile. I want to feel his newness in my arms. I want him to be with me!

Oleson March 2011 (3)

After the tears came the what ifs. 5 days… If I had been here just 5 days sooner there is a good chance that Oleson would be alive today. I knew him, I knew what to do to help him, I could have done something. I have equipment that could have helped him. I could have been here, holding him. Could have, should have, would have… you can live your life like that but you will never be free if you do, you can’t live for the what if and the could have been. I have to chose to live for today but that doesn’t mean that I am not heartbroken. He died and it sucks and so I’m going to cry if I want to cry, feel guilty if that’s what I feel and I am going to grieve for I life I loved a lost.
Oh God, I miss him. I can’t even think of an elegant way to end this so I wont.
In this world, Oleson, you were loved!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Who Am I That You Would Touch Me With Your Grace.

A friend of mine asked me to write a paragraph for her High School girls bible study. I thought maybe I would share it here too. She asked me to describe myself the best that I could…

Who Am I
I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am a girl who makes mistakes every single day and curls up on my Abba Daddy’s lap every single evening for His comfort and love to overpower my fears. Once upon a time I was living a comfortable “dream” life. I had a job that I loved and a plan for the future. Then I went to Haiti and everything changed. I saw things I would never forget, heard voices that now make up the soundtrack to my life. I held frail babies that I had only ever seen on late night infomercials. All of the sudden my comfortable life became very uncomfortable. I could not return to life as I knew it, I longed for more, I longed for meaning. Now I am a girl who lives every day with a purpose and a passion. A girl who gets to wake up and do exactly what I was created for, not because I am good enough for the honor but because He is good enough to be able to use me anyway. I am a girl, a sinner, a broken mess and I am forgiven, free and blessed beyond belief.

The last few months I have spent here in the States have been the most difficult of my life. The truth is that seeing Haiti every single day is traumatic, and it should be! It should break someone down to see starvation, death, poverty and despair. Before my counseling I thought that I shouldn’t be traumatized by those things. That I should be strong enough to hold it together. Instead I learned that I am strong enough to let it break my heart! I SHOULD cry when I see things that break my heart. I am allowed to feel fiercely. I worked through a lot of guilt for feeling trauma over something I felt like I shouldn’t be “allowed” to be traumatized by. No one in my family was killed, my house didn’t fall down. I didn’t witness the horrific things that other people did. I felt that I shouldn’t be allowed to be breaking down the way that I was. But I was. So I tried not to. I forced myself to dry tears when starving children knocked on my gate. I threw myself into anything and everything I could do to keep busy. I did everything I could to distract myself from feeling anything at all. Obviously that can never work for very long. When I did break down it was painful and raw. I was at my lowest of lows. Talking and sharing about everything was exactly what I needed. I was reassured that my trauma came from a deep place inside of me. A place so filled with love for Haiti that I couldn’t separate her from myself. I was grieving for a country that I loved and the fact that it would never be the same. I was grieving for the line that had been drawn, life before the earthquake and life after. I was crying for the things that I loved and the things that were lost. And I was ALLOWED. A person can’t force themselves not to feel something. I couldn’t make myself strong when I really wasn’t. I’m still not.

I had a lot of help and I am in a better place than I have been in a long time but I am also in a position of realizing that this is a continual journey. It’s still going and will still be years from now. But the journey doesn’t have to be painful, it can be filled with joy and tears, beautiful days and nights of fear. That’s life, a beautiful life. The life that I was chosen for and blessed with. Not because I am worthy but because He is mighty!

My plane is boarding, off I go. Home to my life, my babies and my purpose. Thank you Jesus!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Open Eyes, Broken Hearts.

This week, while contemplating the idea of asking for money yet again, I thought back over my life in Haiti and the ups and downs of the journey. Recalling the times I have come forward with a specific need and the response I have gotten the comforting truth that I was reminded of is this, I do not have to worry, I do not have to toss and turn at night in anxiety. There has never once been a need, now matter how large or small, that has been left unmet. From plane tickets to rent every single bit has been provided.

As I thought about it I looked back on the things that I wrote in relation to the money that was donated. A very unsurprising pattern began to emerge, the more heartbreaking the stories I share, the more funding I receive. It’s simple and predictable and it’s really difficult to accept. The worse the pain that my friends have, the more cash I am given… An earthquake crushes the city and thousands of dollars come pouring in, a baby dies and you can add a couple hundred more.

There is a part of me that never wants to tell another personal story again for just this reason. How can I possibly feel ok profiting from the pain of my people? But then, how could I ever throw away the opportunity I have  been given to make their stories heard, to give them a voice to the rest of the world. Love it or hate it painful stories break hearts and broken hearts seek healing. God has, for some reason beyond my understanding, decided to allow me to be a friend to damaged, hurting people. He has put me in a position where I am a link between the two worlds that I live in.  It’s a job that I am honored to have and struggle with immensely. There isn’t a tear-jerking tale written that has not brought me to my knees with emotion. Those names I tell you, the unpronounceable foreign sounds, come together to represent a neighbor, a child, a friend in my life. They are real. REAL, not a story, not a photo. A person that I love. Every time I choose to make their private, personal stories public it is an exceptionally difficult decision.

For every one story I tell there are 10 others that I just can’t bring myself to share. Things that are so wrong and sacred I can’t bring myself to give them to the world that doesn’t understand. I know that awful, heartbreaking truths are what get attention. I know that the worse the pain the bigger the reaction but I also see the other side. The name that goes with the face of that orange haired baby. The old man who lies sick on the side of the road outside a clinic that doesn’t care if he lives or dies. I have watched news stories and been outraged over what seems like blatant exploitation of Haitians for financial gain. And then my stomach just sinks because I wonder if that’s really any different than I what I do here. Every single time I tell a story that makes someone cry, am I just as bad as those that I am so quick to judge? Am I stooping just as low?
Honestly, I struggle with that everyday. I know that there are times where it is my responsibility to make sure that people know the truth about life in Haiti. It is my job to share reality and reality is that really sucky and sad things happen a lot here. It’s also reality that those really sucky and sad things pop into my mind a lot faster when I sit down to write because just like the rest of the word, the more dramatic life is the more of my attention it occupies. But I also know that it is my responsibility to keep sacred things in a special place in my heart, saved only for the relationship between my friends and I. It is my responsibility to keep some things private. The question comes, where do I draw that line? How do I know what to share and what not to? How do I makes sure that I don’t fall into the trap of breaking hearts to fill up bank accounts? I think it’s going to be an ongoing part of my journey and I’m sure that, just like every other aspects I will make some mistakes and I will grown and learn.

I want to continue to share my Haiti with the world while making sure that I am the most loving and respectful person I can be to those who it impacts. I long to protect them with everything I have and do everything I can to bless their lives. I want hearts to break but I want Haiti to heal, I want GOOD things to happen for my friends. I wonder if it is possible to have both?

Monday, September 12, 2011

2 Weeks 2,000 Dollars

2 weeks from today I will finally be home!

Leogane Tent City June 2011 (53)

It’s so real I can taste it, oh my word. I almost never let myself get excited about going back until I am on the plane. There are just so many “what if’s” until that point.

Once again I find myself holding my breath. Will it really happen? Will everything actually come together?

Today I got a phone call from Leogane. Mr. Willy’s son was on the other line, his father is sick again. You may remember that last June Mr. Willy appeared to be having a stroke while I visited him in his home. Jesse and I were able to put him on the back of a motorcycle and bring him to a local hospital. He was not admitted… Instead they confirmed my suspicions but told me that they were out of the medicine that was needed to treat him. They sent him home but graciously gave me the information for a clinic that would give me the medication. Pills were delivered and though weak and still lacking control over the left side of his body, Mr. Willy was on the mend when I left to return to the States. Today his son told me he has been growing weaker, his fevers are almost constant and he has been unable to walk for several days. They took him to the free hospital in town but he was sent away because they had no empty beds. I have no idea if I would be able to help if I were there. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to turn him away. Tonight I pray that he will hold on for a few more days…

Mr. Willy June 2011 (3)

I have hesitated to share too much of our newest information because working in Haiti, I know that plans often change and things almost never turn out as expected. However, I am fairly confident after much communication with those on the ground that our new news is certain to happen soon.


2 to be exact. Both are waiting to join our home when I return to Leogane. I hesitate to share much until everything is official. Like I said, in Haiti nothing is ever guaranteed until it happens. What I can tell you now is that these 2 little ones are biological siblings, almost 2 years old and newborn. The 2 year old is HIV+ and the new baby has not yet been tested. Their mother is a very young woman who is extremely sick. At this point it is obvious that she is dying of AIDS.

Oh the questions and pain swirl. We have been blessed recently with enough medication to change the lives of a few HIV+ people in our program. This young lady is at the top of the list to receive these medications. At this point our frantic plea is that she will be strong enough for her body to fight back from where she is, that the meds won’t have come too late. I don’t know how realistic that is. In the last year she has faded fast. Realistically, she may be too sick to be helped.

The best case scenario is that this woman will receive her medication and being to get well, that her CD4 counts will rise dramatically. If this happens we will praise the Lord for her life saved. Even with therapy it will be several months before this mama is able to care for her children again. Her toddler will need to be watched carefully as he is also infected. The new baby will need to be tested several times over the next few months and possibly years. This is a long term commitment that we are making.

Along with these precious ones are looking into a 3rd situation. A 3rd child that is in need, a 3rd real live person.

This brings many wonderful opportunities for us and carries much responsibility. No longer am I able to just “wing it”. A lot of thought and planning for the future needs to take place. In that respect I know that I need to seriously organize for my return. One big part of that plan is to be in a financial place where I can confidently promise everything that these precious ones will need.

I have outlined a monthly budget that breaks down all of our needs on the Espwa Berlancia website. You can find that information HERE. At this point I know that in order to proceed with our "*tentative* plans I will need to fly into Haiti with enough funds to run the house for AT LEAST a month. I have to know, before I bring these children into our home, that I will be able to provide for them and their precious needs.

To run Espwa Berlancia house for one month it costs $2,000. I need to be able to take that money, in cash with me to Leogane on September 23rd. Once again, I come to ask for your help. We are all created to care for one another, each can do it in their own way. I am incredibly blessed to be able to give my life, to live in Haiti unfortunately that doesn’t leave room for a “real” job. Oh, how I wish there was a way for me to be able to support this work myself but I know that just isn’t possible. Instead, I do the next best thing. I turn to you, I ask you for your help, I invite you to be as much of a part of this journey as I am. A body with many parts, all serving a purpose. That is the only way that this will ever be successful. Will you be a part of this with me? I you come beside me to take care of these little babies, to care in love for their mama, to provide for those I have learned to love?

In the next few days I will be working on sharing about my journey here at home and all of the things that have come together to bring healing and confidence in my return to Haiti. It has been a very personal and private time but I strive to be transparent to those who have so faithfully supported me. I am totally looking forward to sorting all of my junk into something someone would ever care to read, I can’t even try to guess how long that might take! But am committed to making sure that all of you know as much about the parts of me that relate to this work in Haiti, as possible.

For now, use the chip in button to help us make sure we can take care of these new, priceless lives.

Friday, September 2, 2011

When We Shared Hope

Monday was such a precious and wonderful day for me. I had such a great time trying to think of things to do.

One of the ideas that I had was to bake and share cookies with some people in the downtown area.

I used an awareness ribbon cookie cutter to make 50 red ribbon cookies.


When they were cooled I bagged them up and attached tags with a link to the website where they could read B’s story.


Then came the most fun of all, sharing our treats.

Kerdjerns was so funny running up to everyone on the sidewalk and holding out a cookie “This is for you, this is for you” he kept saying over and over again. He LOVED it. When we were almost back to the car we came across an older mad who was clearly in need of some encouragement. We put a few cookies in his guitar case and Kerdjerns went up and gave him a great big hug. You could just tell that he needed that loving touch, I think that was my favorite part of the day.


We also stopped at a coffee shop and bought a drink for the woman in line ahead of us. She read the card and just kept smiling and re-reading over and over again.

We fed the parking meter for someone and left an encouraging note on someone’s car.

Then we went through a drive through fast food restaurant and left some money and a note for the person in the car behind us.

Our last stop was to buy some balloons and stop by a youth soccer practice where we put balloons and notes on cars in the parking lot.


I feel so blessed to have resources and time to have spent the day doing things that brought joy and shared hope to others and to myself!

What kind of things did you do to share hope this week?