Sunday, October 30, 2011

Go Beyond Religion

Beyond - be·yond

[bee-ond, bih-yond]


outside the understanding, limits, or reach of; past: beyond comprehension; beyond endurance; beyond help.

I can not count the times I have heard James 1:27 quoted… almost.

People ALWAYS remember the first 2 commands of that verse. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Except there is no period there… the verse continues.

James 1:27  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

To go outside the limits of caring for widows and orphans, does that mean sending a bigger check each month than you want to? Does it mean taking a trip to go and hold babies who have no one? Does in mean visiting nursing homes even though they make you uncomfortable? Does it mean you pick up and move across the world? I’m sure to everyone it means something else.

But what about that last part. “To keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” A task that is already impossible. It is so incredibly difficult to keep a positive, Christ-like attitude,.

On days when an old man sits outside my gate with his hand outstretched, hoping for 5 or 10 gourdes. He holds an empty bowl, he’s hungry. On that day I bring him inside my home. I clean his swollen feet and I fill his belly. He pulls out 3 plastic bottles that he has picked up off the side of the road and asks me to fill them with water for him to have later. On those days I am not filled with joy, I am filled with a deep, pit of my heart sadness. I wonder how many years he has been hungry.

On days when I see the woman with 7 children spread between 2 orphanages, her belly swollen with new life again, it’s hard to love her. Its hard not to judge her and so I do. And then I remember, God loves that daughter of his! He loves her enough to die for her. And my sins aren’t visible in stretch marks of illegitimate children but I am no better or worse than that precious little girl of His. God gives us challenges to help us grow, to teach us to love and to be set apart. Each challenge we can win or fail but for each failure we walk away with a new lesson.

Being called a missionary is really, very intimidating to me. I am a Christian, my work is to help and serve but missionaries are so “good”. They do things like preach the gospel and baptize new believers. They smile and lot and touch everyone. I sit inside my gate and test, over and over again for a disease, tell them how to prevent and what God teaches us about sexuality but still, there they are again, the same faces needed to be tested again. I wonder if it’s totally fruitless.

I want to be a good missionary, a good person even, but I wonder what God wants. He ate with sinners and used people that were not very “good” to do really great things. I do my best to feed the souls of those around me, to share about Jesus love for them. But sometimes,  I say one thing and then I do another. And it breaks my heart to think that maybe when I turn away that hungry child who knocks on my gate every day, I am doing the exact opposite of what Jesus would do, of what I tell others to do.

I know that God put me here in Leogane, I know that for some crazy reason, He thinks I can work for His kingdom here. I know that if God says it, it will be done but I still struggle so much.

I hope that as I hold their babies, nurse their hurts and test their blood, I can also introduce them to my Jesus and His truth, a truth that has nothing to do with the clothes you wear, the tent you live in, the status of your blood test or your history. I hope that as I learn, more than ever of His grace, I can teach it too.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Anba Raje

In Creole it means under the grass, or weeds.

I didn’t know Leogane before the earthquake. I knew “Haiti” but I didn’t not know Haiti.

I did not know a man named Willy, I did not know a woman named Evelyne, I did not know a baby named Gup. I didn’t know anything of the life that I live now. I had been in Haiti but I had never been in MY Haiti. I didn’t yet know that there was a place that will fill my soul with longing for home.

Today is almost a year to the date that I moved to live in Leogane permanently. I had been visiting back and forth for 3 months but October was finally time for the “big move” You can read about the night before that move here. You can read my words, hear my promise and look at where I am today. It hardly seems like the same girl, in most ways it isn’t.

In the past year I have…

Prepared a baby for burial, Twice. Sat in horror and watched a hurricane and Cholera hit while I was a world away.Said goodbye to a little girl, with no idea it would be the last time I kissed her sweet cheeks. Was blessed with the most perfect baby boy in the world! Held another little miracle and loved him for 9 months. Gave a name to my dream and watched it grow.  Broke down, spent some time processing this new normal and remembered that God was God. Called A beautiful, crooked, broken tiled yellow house home, and meant it. Heard “Mama” for the first time and cried I have held a precious little girl as she slipped away to Jesus. I have longed for 2 homes, I have learned a new language and a new culture. I have washed my clothes by hand and been laughed at by a 9 year old while trying to start a charcoal fire.

Dang, it’s been some year. Over the past 12 months I have learned the beaches, restaurants and the money changers who won’t rip you off. I’ve found my corner, I’ve come home.

Tonight Sota was digging furiously in the yard, a place overrun with weeds and grass, I had no idea what for but when I went out to lock the gate later I found a few scraps of something, bits and pieces of medical equipment, construction gear and rescue supplies all with the same logo. It was a well known company that has come to help right after the earthquake. Bodies were recovered from our site so it makes sense that company was here but for some reason it hit be really hard, this home, this place of refuge for me was once a tomb.

Sometimes I forget that PetionVille and Leogane had the same disaster. When I go to Port Au Prince, I remember easily, that’s where I was. I never knew of this place called Leogane. But then I came here and I learned the truth… Legoane has a population of almost 150,000. On January 12th, 2010 approximately 37,500 of them died. More than 90% of the population of this city lost a loved on on that day. EVERY SINGLE PERSON THAT I TALK TO, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Before I knew Leogane, she was here. Before you knew of “that poor city in Haiti” Willy was here, and Evelyne was here. Before I knew their names God knew, He knew their hearts, their families and their home. He knew what would happen and He cried, because it sucks when really bad things happen.

He knew and while the world yelled and Him and jeered and mocked this “loving god” He began to unravel the plan that he had created for me. When bad things happen, God is there, He was there with me and told me very clearly what I was to do. I said no. But deep down I knew, that God was the boss, I would do what he said and go where he called. I could snort and stop like the best of them but when I came down to it, I would go and at no surprise to me, I would fall in love. This city, that was a city before the earthquake told the world their name, that is a city still, thriving and incredible, is my home. I didn’t know her then, but I know her now and I can say without a bit of doubt in my soul, is the strongest place I have ever known. I am honored to call her my home.

I have known this place for a year, I have found friends, my son and God again. Leogane, Mesi.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Do I want to live in a hot, shredded tent, standing all night long holding my babies so they don’t lie in the mud while rain pounds down?

Of course not, but for some reason I have found it a normal, even acceptable life for those around me. I have gotten so used to seeing the tents that they don’t even bother me anymore.

Do I want my baby boy wandering the streets barefoot, begging for scraps of food because he is hungry?

I would rather die, but kids come to me every day with outstretched hands, asking for just a bit of anything to fill their tummies, and I send them away.

I am praying that God breaks my heart and rebuilds it is a radical, passionate love for my neighbors, not as much as myself but so, so much more!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What’s Up With Gup

My Gup is now 2 years and 8 months old, I can’t believe how much he is growing up!

When I left in June he was barely taking his first steps. Now he walks and almost runs everywhere. He will sometimes still crawl if he wants to get somewhere really fast. He loves to play “fetch” bringing me one of his toys and having me throw it and running after to bring it back. I wasn’t so sure about it at first but I figure if it makes him happy then why not?


Gup as also finally decided that he likes Sota. He’s not even a little scared of her anymore and will stand on the porch and pet her and yell at her when she is doing something she isn’t supposed to. He also loves the new kitten we got. I am not a cat person myself but after the mouse in the kitchen incident I broke down and got us a kitten. Right now he is just a little bitty thing but hopefully soon he’ll be hunting away in the yard. We call him Mimi and Gup loves to play hide and seek with her and carry her around by her head.


Although he’s still very small for his age Gup is getting bigger and gaining weight well. He now weighs 22.8lbs and is wearing a size 12 – 18month clothes. He loves to eat  and we are working on eating more slowly and remembering that there will be more food later. His portion sizes are finally starting to look a little bit more normal for a 2 year old and not a grown man.


Gup has adjusted so well to being back home. In fact, I was pretty amazed at how well he has done. He is sleeping in his own big bed in his own room for the first time and hasn’t fallen off in over a week! He sleeps, mostly through the night with a few exceptions every once in a while. He is also working on potty training and it is going very well! He loves feeling like a big boy and I love not having to change diapers! For the last 2 days he has been totally accident free with a diaper just at night. I’m praying that streak continues!


The other day he had his thumb shut in our porch gate and the poor little guy was in a lot of pain. I felt so awful for him. Nothing is broken though and we have the blessing of Tylenol to help ease the pain. Aside from that his health has been great, a bit of a cold and still having his staph outbreaks but nothing like we saw in June.


Gup’s language skills have exploded in the last 2 weeks. He is now speaking in both Creole and English and when I say something to him in one language he will sometimes repeat it in the other. He understands full commands in English and repeats almost everything you say. His words are so cute and it’s great to finally have some communication with him.


Gup is such an animated and precious part of this house and my life. I am amazed each and every day I spend with him, how much of a blessing he is to me!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Word Gets Around

It’s finally happened, Espwa Berlancia is a busy place! People know we are here and they are coming almost constantly now. Just as I sat down to write this I’ve been called to the gate twice. Once to take the temperature of a 2 year old little boy. “I’m sure he has a fever” his father said, “but we don’t own a thermometer, can you use yours to check for me?” 102.6, yes, he had a fever.

Most people come because they think that we are a medical clinic, I’ve stopped counting how many people I turn away each day. They must go to Comejo or Sans Frontiers. I try to send them to places that are free and have good doctors. Sometimes we will send someone over to the Heart to Heart clinic where they charge 50 gourdes (Just over 1usd) for an examination.

In June while I was here I was bored a lot of the time, I didn’t have much to do. Today it is so much different. There is constant activity now. People are beginning to know and trust us. They see me as a neighbor. I left but I came back, they know that when I told them I could return, like so many others do, I kept my word! While we sit together on the street corner eating griot and drinking cold prestige we talk easily, we joke and banter back and forth. During those seemingly insignificant times bonds are formed and the next day they come to my gate, working up the courage for the shot and the 10 minute wait for a result that could change everything. Joy soars through my heart with each “NEGATIF” that I write. Cold fear grips while I watch 2 faint red lines appear. I have to stop myself from sitting and staring at that little stick while it processes. Find things to do to pass the 10 minuets that the results require.

Each day as people come inside our walls a life is changed. Though almost everyone is sent along to somewhere else for the care that they need, the fact that they come to me in the first place is amazing and humbling. The accept me and that is something that my heart has been aching for for a very long time. Yes, every day inside our walls a life is changed, mine.

I am constantly growing, learning new things and falling even more in love with my amazing life. Espwa Berlancia will continue to grow and change and I will to but it just amazes me that the long ago dream is really a reality!

Oh, and by the way, I am pleased to announce that Espwa Berlancia is now officially recognized as a 501©3! So for all of you who have been waiting to make your big tax deductible donation, now is the time! Winking smile

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Like A Story That Had Just Begun

Her Name Was Miguerlene.

I knew and loved her for 91 hours and she changed me forever.


On Thursday night a local orphanage called me to check on 2 children they had just received.  I arrived, and they brought her out of the back bedroom, a tiny face, body, skin and bones, dressed in a winter coat, soiled diaper and pink socks. It took just seconds for me to realize that she was very sick. I knew that if she stayed at the orphanage she would die, probably that very night. The director agreed for me to take her home with me and try to find a hospital that would admit her in the morning.


When we arrived at home Miguerlene was bathed, weighed and checked over. It was too late for us to get her to any hospital and so the nurse and I set about getting her as stable as possible. She refused any type of food and would gag and vomit when we put anything other than water in her mouth. She tiny feet were puffy and swollen and the rest of her body was emaciated. Her eyes were dull and the whites had a yellowish tint. We decided to place a feeding tube to try to get some nutrients into her and during that process I caught a glimpse of the fighter we had on our hands. A light came on in her, and she was very much alive! She batted away our hands and challenged the entire process. I hated that we had to hurt her but I knew that it was the only way that she would have a chance to survive.
Once the tube was in Miguerlene gagged and cried and looked at us with pleading eyes, eyes that still had that light of life. Oh, I could do nothing but cling to that light and hope.


All through the night I very slowly gave her pedyalite and tiny bits of high calorie formula. Early on Friday morning Miguerlene began vomiting and having bouts of diarrhea. Around 6am she had a small seizure. By 8am I knew that she needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible, even though I was pretty sure no one would admit her. This is Haiti and a lot of things are hard for a foreigner to understand, healthcare standards being a huge one for me.

We set off for the first, closest hospital and when I walked into the waiting area several nurses came out and glanced at her before telling me that their doctor was at the clinic across town. I would need to take her there. Back on the motorcycle we went, dodging in and out of traffic Miguerlene had a second, much larger seizure.

By the time we arrived at the clinic she had vomited yet again and had fallen into a fitful half-sleep. There were several people in line ahead of me that were there for check-ups and I waited, all the while wondering if this baby was dying in my arms. 25 minutes later we were seen by the doctor. When I unwrapped her from the blanket I held her in he shook his head sadly. He saw what I knew. After a short examination he told me that she was too sick. She was dying and they would not admit her to the hospital because it was not “worth it”. The only hope he gave was to take her to General Hospital in Port Au Prince. Even though I knew he was right I couldn’t just accept it, instead I went to 3 more hospitals in town, each one telling me the same thing. She was too far gone. No one would admit her.

As a last hope I took Miguerlene to a clinic staffed by several American nurses. One agreed to try one more time to get an an IV in her. The whole time she was getting it ready I struggled, was I really doing the right thing, fighting so hard for a “lost cause” was I only making it worse, was I just prolonging the pain of her life? I knew that I had to try. As Dana attempted the first line several of the Haitian staff members came in the room to see Miguerlene. One of the men looked at her and his eyes filled with tears. She’s smaller than my baby, he mumbled, his daughter is less than 3 months old.

After several tries it was clear that an IV wasn’t going to work. All of her veins collapsed as soon as they were poked. Miguerlene was fading. Their Haitian doctor came in for one last exam and told me what everyone else had. Miguerlene was dying. He told me to take her home, call the orphanage and let her go. I prayed, now that we had our answer that God would take her quickly. Dana agreed to let me stay at the clinic until they closed so that I could be with them when it happened. 5 hours later when they locked the doors Miguerlene was still alive in my arms. She had perked up a bit over the course of the afternoon and had ended up drinking more than 100ml of water by choice. Each drink was followed by a bout of diarrhea but she was trying. I had no idea what God’s plan could possibly be in this, I carried her home to wait again.

I intended to ask my neighbor to call her pastor when we got home to have him come and pray over Migureline but when I got home there was a man waiting outside the door. He was a local pastor of a small church and he had come to welcome me to the neighborhood. I have no doubt that God sent him to us, His promises were still clear, even though they were surrounded by a fog of doubt and fear. He said a beautiful prayer and blessed Miguerlene. He prayed that God would heal her and not let her die, he prayed for her infections, then he prayed that if God chose to give Miguerlene the ultimate healing and bring her home, that he would do it quickly and take away her pain. After he left Miguerlene drank 30ml of water and kept it down. About an hour later, over the course of 45 minuets I gave her 6oz of pedyalite through her NG tube and she kept that down as well. Again, I wondered, cautiously hopeful, if God was going to give us our miracle.


Throughout the night on Friday Miguerlene began vomiting again. She had several small seizures and slept deeply through it all. Saturday morning she vomited again followed by another bout of diarrhea. I don’t know how there was anything left in her body to get rid of but she was finding it somewhere. As I took her out of the bed and laid her on a towel to bathe her for the day the most amazing thing happened, out of nowhere a butterfly appeared and landed on her shoulder. Throughout her entire bath and diaper change the butterfly stayed. I didn’t know what it meant but I knew that God was giving me a sign. A butterfly symbolizes new life, somehow or another Miguerlene was going to have a new life, I just had to wait and see how God would provide it.

Around 2pm on Saturday it became clear that there was nothing more we could do for baby Miguerlene. Because her feeding tube was so uncomfortable for her I took it out and prayed that God would boss her little heart. If there was even a fraction of a chance that she would live it could only come from him. I held her and waited. Instead of the death that I was so convinced would come Miguerlene began to struggle, she fought against the arms that held her and she sat up. A few minuets later she pointed to a bowl of food which she promptly ate. Then she did her princess point again, to a cup of water. She drank it greedily and we all waited for it to come back up, it didn’t. In fact she kept it all down and then went on to play for several hours. I knew then that she was going to make it, I just knew it. Miguerlene was going to live. She slept all night and didn’t vomit or have diarrhea once.


On Sunday morning I woke up both kids and we all sat down for breakfast. Again, Miguerlene refused to eat. I tried eggs, avocado, peanut butter, nothing. She drank sips of water but gagged over pedyalite. When I was able to finally get her meds in her she vomited profusely, there was blood in her vomit and at that moment my heart sank. Just a few hours before, convinced that we were going to get our miracle, I had gone through and pulled out several weeks worth of clothing for our baby girl, I knew now she wouldn’t need it.

After the vomiting Miguerlene became weaker and weaker. Around 5pm she lost consciousness. I called a friend of mine who is a nurse to come and she tried one more time to get an IV in her, at that point she didn’t even bleed when poked. She never once stirred or cried. None of her veins were good and a line couldn’t be started, instead she decided to place a new NG tube and try to give her fluids that way. Again, Miguerlene didn’t so much as stir. The tube was placed but it was painfully clear that it would do no good. at 6:45 when I checked her I knew that she would die soon. Her eyes were wide open but unseeing. She wasn’t moving but she was moaning softly. Soon after the gasping began. She would breath normally for several breaths and then stop, finally she would gasp and breathe again. Over and over, I listened to her heart, it beat strong still. Sabrina and I took turns holding her while we sang and prayed. She vomited again, violently, she was so close to free.  So close and yet so far. For the next 2 hours she held on, fighting. Her blank stare told me she could see something I couldn’t I longed for her and I longed for myself. She was going to the place I live to be called to.


At 8:37 Miguerlene finally gave in and let go. To tell you the truth by that point I was so relieved for her that it overshadowed the grief. She was finally free, finally home.

The thing about Miguerlene’s story is that honestly, there was no happy ending that we strived for.

She starved for over a year, was beaten by the people who were supposed to take care of her and left by her beloved mama, with strangers. She was poked and prodded and messed with for days, she was sick and miserable. If she had lived she would have gone back to all of those things.

Instead she died, and now she’s free but the death that I witnessed was violent and scary. She didn’t close her eyes and go peacefully, it wasn’t Hollywood nice. A pain filled life, a pain filled death. Swept up into her Daddy’s arms, free of the world that she spent much too much awful time in.


Miguerlene is another baby, out of the thousands who died of malnutrition in haiti. The infections it causes are not pretty, no one should go through that, let alone a helpless baby. Hopefully, because of the work of Espwa Berlancia there will be less little ones who will suffer the same fate.

Because Miguerlene changed my life I’m even more inspired to change others.

Because Miguerlene died I will live and love harder.

Because when I close my eyes, I see hers and I long for the visions that she had on that night.

Because of Miguerlene I am reminded that it’s ok to be raw and real and that just because one life ends doesn’t mean that the rest shouldn’t go on striving in passion.

Because of a baby, named Miguerlene I am a different person than I was 5 days ago.