Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
She is the woman in the beat up car, singing along to the Frozen soundtrack for the hundredth time just to see those little faces smile.
She is the woman walking up a mountain with a bucket of water perched on her head.
She is the woman who fights to be at work, in the daycare pick-up line and at the 3rd grade spring concert all at the exact same time.
She is the woman who lies awake at night wondering how on earth she is going to pay for the braces on their teeth or the food in their bellies.
She is the woman who cries into her tin cup of coffee, in the early morning light, because it’s just so hard, and she is so tired.
She is the woman who would do absolutely anything for her child.
She is the woman I am called to live among, to learn from.
She is your sister.
She is you.
She is me.
She is the modern day widow, the single mother.
Every Thursday afternoon I stand in a room full of women who’s names I know and who’s stories I am just beginning to discover. I measure their swelling bellies and ask them to tell me what they have had to eat in the last 24 hours. I pray with them, I praise with them and my heart aches for them. I send them on their way with a kiss on each sweaty cheek and I hope against all hope that the next week would be kind to them. I study and organize their charts and I pray for hemoglobin levels to rise and blood pressures to fall, knowing that the vitamins I give them can only do so much to fight the hand that poverty has dealt.
The book of James commands that we care for orphans and widows and the church had taken these words and run to all the corners of the world to build orphanages for tiny defenseless children. There are a few who hit the “orphan jackpot” they are placed in one of the good ones, with gentle and loving caregivers, where they are fed, they go to school and they stay alive…sometimes. But the majority land in the hands of those who’s only goal is to exploit and steal and destroy and because they are in an instuition, without a mother to meet their needs, their tiny brains lose the ability to form connections with other human beings and they are beaten and they are raped… sometimes.
What if we got it wrong all along? What if, instead of pouring the millions of dollars a year into giving mothers a place to drop off their babies, we used those resources to make sure that mothers were enabled to care for their children, and the inevitable orphans of their own extended families and hometowns? What if we really, truly realized that the only difference between her and ourselves, is the country of our passports? What if we gave her the same options we would fight tooth and nail to give if she were your sister or daughter or best friend? What if, instead of funding orphanages on every corner, we poured support into programs that create jobs and provide healthcare to keep women alive in developing countries. What if people worked together to support a select few children’s homes that are held to the highest of standards of care? What if we valued their lives as much as we value those of “our own”? What if caring for the “widow” prevented the “orphan”?
Maybe she made a mistake, the most visible and easy to condemn kind.
Maybe she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maybe she fought and saved for years to have the courage and cash to leave the man who broke her heart and her bones.
Maybe she chose to become a mother, in whatever way was best for her and she works hard and she takes care of her babies and she is still so very much alone.
Maybe, she is more than her circumstances. Maybe her past doesn’t define her.
Maybe in her home, just like you in yours, she is simply “Mommy”.
Organizations working to preserve families in Haiti:
Footprints Of The Son
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Education in Haiti means everything. It means the difference between surviving and thriving, it means the difference between shame or holding your head high, often times it means life or death. These children will have the opportunity to rise above the poverty they were born into, because they will have attended school. This donation will continue to impact these children's lives for the better for years to come!
Mike is 8 years old and is entering 2nd grade. He loves to study math and French. Mike is the only child in his immediate family and lives with his mother and many extended family members in Leogane, Haiti.
MIKE HAS BEEN FULLY SPONSORED!
Williams is 8 years old and will be entering the 3rd grade. Williams’s favorite subject is Math and his mother says that all of his teacher report that he can solve math problems meant for children several grades older than him. Williams lives with his mother and aunt in Kenscoff, Haiti.
*this photo of Williams is a repeat from last year, my computer deleted this years current photo. Sponsors will be provided with a current photo after Williams returns to pick up his sponsorship money and school supplies. WILLIAMS HAS BEEN FULLY SPONSORED!
Dora is 3 years old and will be entering her first year of preschool (this is the average age for children entering school in Haiti) Dora is slightly delayed and I am hoping that school will help her to become more verbal and develop socially. Dora lives in a foster home.
KARRIS HAS BEEN FULLY SPONSORED!
Faibring is 12 years old and entering 4th grade. She lives with her mother, 2 sisters, niece and nephew Adley. Faibring likes to study English and history and when she grows up she wants to be a teacher or work in an orphanage taking care of babies.
Annabel is almost 3 years old and is entering her second year of preschool. Annabel’s favorite subjects in school are dance and art. When Annabel grows up she says she wants to work on a computer. Annabel lives with me, and her baby brother in Thomassin, Haiti.
ANNABEL HAS BEEN FULLY SPONSORED!
Adly is 4 years old and is entering his 3rd year of preschool. Adly is fun little boy who loves to play outside and is a Brazilian football fanatic! Adly’s favorite subjects in school are art and math and he loves learning his shapes and colors. When Adly grows up he wants to be a bus driver. Adly lives with his mother, sister, 2 aunts and grandmother.
Wilsmy is 9 years old and is entering 3rd grade. He is an excellent student and takes his studies very seriously. Wilsmy’s favorite subject in school is music. When he grows up he wants to be a pastor. Wilsmy lives with his mother, father and little sister, Rebecca in Thomassin, Haiti.
*this photo of Wildmy is a repeat from last year, my computer deleted this years current photo. Sponsors will be provided with a current photo after Wilsmy returns to pick up his sponsorship money and school supplies.
Rebecca Nozil is Wilsmy’s little sister. She is 6 years old and is entering 1st grade this year. Rebecca loves to sing and dance and her favorite subject in school is French. Rebecca said when she grows up she wants to be a nurse like her mother. Rebecca’s mother is a kind and caring woman who volunteers her time twice a week to help in our clinics, as a thank you for her hard work I would like to send her children to school through Espwa Berlancia.
REBECCA HAS BEEN FULLY SPONSORED!
Rebecca is 8 years old and will be entering school for the very first time this year. Rebecca is a very smart little girl who will benefit greatly from the structure of school and the social skill she will learn. I’m sure that she will quickly catch up with other children her age. Rebecca’s main caregiver is her elderly grandmother, they live with several other extended family members.
REBECCA HAS BEEN PARTIALLY SPONSORED - SHE NEEDS $100 TO COMPLETE HER SPONSORSHIP !
Sponsorship for each of these children is $375 (just over a dollar a day!) and covers their school tuition, uniforms, books, school supplies, backpacks and a brand new pair of shoes. None of these children would be able to attend school this year without the help of friends like you, thank you for considering investment in these lives! You can choose either full or half sponsorship at $375 or $187.50 please be sure to note the name of the child you wish to sponsor!
Sunday, August 10, 2014
When God first began calling me to Belle Anse I very firmly said “NO WAY” until I decided, a few months later, to change it up a little. Now, I know God doesn’t work this way but I decided to “make a deal”. I told him I would go, if He gave me 24 hour electricity and a car. I knew that both of those things were so far fetched that I would be safe for a good long while.
6 weeks later I posted a request on Facebook for 6 batteries that would work together with the city power that is sometimes provided, to give our house (almost) 24 hour electricity. Within just a few days this wish had been granted and I had 6 brand new batteries running in my house.
Then in early June I received an email that made me gasp. Without having made any public plea or even telling more than a handful of people about my wish for a car someone had made a HUGE donation to be put towards the purchase of a vehicle.
God was working, I was amazed. A few weeks ago I had that donation in my hand in Haiti and the search for the perfect vehicle began. I found a great car that is very popular here in Haiti. It didn’t have everything on my wishlist but it would be great for what I needed. I took a test drive and thought that it would probably be a good purchase but I decided to wait and look around a little longer before committing to anything.
Saturday morning, while taking a moto down the mountain for an appointment, I saw a car parked on the side of the road with a for sale sign. I almost didn’t stop because it was my “dream car” and I knew there was no way I would be able to afford it but at the last second I decided to at least ask a few details.
The owner was outside and I spoke to him for a few minuets. He told me a few things about the car including that it has never been driven or licensed in Haiti (A good thing, knowing it hasn’t been beat up by Haitian roads yet!) He showed me the inside, it was clean and comfortable. Then he showed me my very favorite part, the 3rd row of seats, meaning I can safely fit all 4 kids, in carseats with room for whatever/whoever else we may need to carry.
We talked price and surprisingly, the first price he gave wasn’t quite as high as I thought it would be. Back and forth for a few minuets and I finally got him to what he promised was his lowest possible price. That price ended up being just $2,500 more than I already had in my pocket without having asked anyone! I know that if God intends for this to be our car He will make it happen and so I am humbly brining this request before you. If $2,500 is donated to my car fund I will buy this amazing car, if it’s not I have another great car as a backup that just isn’t quite as perfect.
A car for our family means so many things. It means not having to carry groceries for our entire household on the back of a motorcycle. It means going to church again. It means going ANYWHERE as a family (at this point I cannot possibly take all 4 babies on a moto at once) It means so much to our family and it means SO much to my program. This car means I will never have to miss a middle of the night birth because I can’t get any of my regular drivers to answer their phones. It means pre-moving trips to Belle Anse are half the price and a hundred million times easier than they are now. It means that I can drive mamas and new babies home rather then send them on a taptap (hot, crowed and bumpy public transportation) It means that when we are living in a village that is in the middle of nowhere, we have a way to get to the nearest hospital (3 hours away) in the case of an emergency and not waste precious moments trying to figure out transportation.
I have spent 6 years in Haiti and owing a car has never felt necessary, it’s never felt possible. And now, the time has come. I am excited to take this next step, I am excited to grow my organization in this way and I am excited to have this blessing for our family, as long as God doesn’t see that one remaining seatbelt and get any ideas about filling it up!! Ha!
For those of you that want to take a peek, this is the 2002 Mitsubishi Montero that I am hoping to be able to purchase!
If anyone feels led do donate you can visit my paypal account and put “car fund” in the memo.
Thanks always, sweet ones!
Saturday, August 2, 2014
I was not impressed. I was not willing, and I was NOT going.
For the past 2 years I have lived in a place that is comfortable. The weather is mild, my daughter goes to a wonderful school, she attends a ballet class. There is a huge grocery store, with everything I could ever imagine wanting to buy just a few miles down the road. I meet my friends for drinks and dinner at beautiful restaurants. Yes, I live in a country that is far away from the home of my youth, a country full of poverty but I found a little corner where I am comfortable and secure.
Then God told me to give it all up.
I will tell you now, my reaction was not graceful, it was not loving, it was not obedient.
The first time I heard God calling me to leave this place and go to Belle Anse I replied with an out loud and stubborn hell no!
I am not going there. I won’t do it.
That’s right, I swore at God, which basically means I am like, the shittiest Christian ever.
Then I realized, that great big grocery store with everything to chose from, had taken over my heart.
The good schools, the fun restaurants, the “blessings” and comforts, were all fighting for my soul, for my focus. Every single one of them was becoming a security net that allowed me to forget that I do not have this figured out, I do not get to be the boss.
I let my material comforts become my god instead of turning to God to be my only true comfort in life.
During the month of July I fasted from some things that I really, really love in order to open up my heart up to what I knew God was calling me to do. My gosh, what a month it was! If you could imagine anything that could toss a challenge into my life, July threw it at me. I faced the death of a child that I loved dearly, betrayal by people who I trusted and the stress of finances that never seem to stretch far enough. I walk out of July having added 2 more little girls to our family for the next several months or more, making me a single mother of 4 children under the age of 3.
Through it all, amidst all the distractions, God spoke so very clearly to me that it was impossible to ignore. Over and over again I was brought to the story of Jonah. The symbolism was obvious to me, Jonah was a guy who God had told to go to a city, who refused and ran away.
I was Jonah.
I was being called to a place I didn’t want to go and just like Jonah, I had chosen to refuse. God did not send a fish to get my attention but He sure did some other big things! As I studied the book in every version that I could find God began to show me signs everywhere. I met a little boy named Jonah one day and another the next. I walked into a room to see a huge painting depicting the story hung prominently on the wall and finally, the kicker of them all… I faced a knock on my gate one morning from a man who I had never seen before, who said he had received a word from the Lord for me. That word? You guessed it, the story of Jonah.
I wrote a few days ago about a dream that I had, a dream where I found myself standing on a beach. That beach was the very beach I stood on 5 months ago when I visited Belle Anse for the first time. God’s calling was clear and the time had come for me to deny myself and follow Him.
Am I scared? Out of my mind! I am scare of my kids getting sick, I am scared of living in a place that I don’t know or understand. I am scared of how hard I know it is going to be, I am scared of uncomfortable. Yes, I am scared but I am going to do it anyway. I have been blessed the most in the scared moments of my life, I have learned the best lessons in the scared and so I will do it scared.
In early 2015 our family will be moving to Belle Anse, where we will learn really hard, really beautiful lessons. We will rely on Him more than we ever have before. We will grow in ways that I can only imagine and we will come out on the other side far better for it. We will give the small things that we can and we will receive so much more than we deserve. Belle Anse doesn’t need our family but God has called our family there for His purpose, the things that He will do in and through us are beyond what I can imagine.
My daughter will not learn to plié in a class filled with pink tutus but she will dance her heart out in the dirt with the children who will become her best friends, the ones who will teach her to be humble and serve with abandon. My son will not attend a classy French preschool but he will learn lessons far beyond what books can hold, while he walks life in a place that is filled with opportunities to become a strong, resilient, brave, loving man. I will not have a beautiful house filled with beautiful thing but I will have simplicity and I will find joy in the challenges because that is when Jesus reveals himself the best.
I am Jonah, but I am done running away. I am turning my face towards His plans and turning my heart towards His grace. Heaven knows I’ll need it now more than ever.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Yesterday Moses died.
I got the news in the early afternoon, cried a little and then went on with the dozen other things I had to finish before the day was over. When I finally fell into bed I couldn't sleep. My mind was racing and going over ever single "what if" and haunting memories filled my concentration. I couldn't calm down and so I got up and lit some candles and put on some praise music, for almost 2 hours I lay wide awake just listening and soaking in the quiet house. The last time I looked at the clock it was 4:18am, I drifted off soon after.
This morning I woke up with a start at 7:30am, my house was completely silent, babies all still sleeping. As I lay in bed I realized that I had been laughing out loud and had woken myself up from the most vivid dream of my life. In an instant every detail came rushing back to me.
I had dreamed I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean, it was dark and the waves were splashing up over the sides of the small wooden ship so hard that the salt water kept spraying in my eyes, making it impossible for me to see. I kept wiping my face only to be hit with another powerful wall of water and I was choking trying to breathe through the swells hitting me. Finally there was a small pause in the wind and the waves slowed down. I was wiping my eyes and struggling to let my vision focus when I saw a shape moving towards me across the water. As this object came closer I could see that it was a little child and he was walking across the surface of the ocean, the waves perfectly calm beneath his feet. I heard a small voice start to sing
“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand…
…Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
As he came closer my breath caught, it was Moses! On earth I never heard Moses speak, I have no idea how his voice would have sounded but when he opened his mouth to sing, I knew it was him. I never saw Moses walk, or even sit up, in the days he spent with me he could barely lift his head and yet, here in this moment a perfectly formed and functioning little boy stood before me and I looked into his eyes and it was him.
He opened his lips again and began to preach, He said
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
When he finished speaking Moses held his little hand out to me, beckoning for me to step out onto the waves with him. I felt no hesitation as I joined him and together we began to walk towards a distant shore that had appeared. As we walked and I held his tiny, familiar hand, Moses and I spoke in an easy and comfortable way. We had conversations in those moments that I longed for on those days when I looked into his eyes and saw the depth trapped by his broken body. As we got closer to shore his words slowed and his grip on my hand loosened until finally I was standing on a rocky beach alone. I looked around me and realized that I knew exactly where I was. As soon as it became clear I couldn’t stop laughing, in fact, it was that laughter that woke me up from my deep sleep this morning.
I woke up completely filled with joy and wonder over the gifts that God bestows. He let me see “my” Moses one more time and confirmed, without a shadow of a doubt that He has fulfilled His promise to make all things new, including the broken body of a little boy who suffered greatly here on Earth.
He wrote His promises and directions on my heart and He led me to the place where He created my soul to be filled with His purpose. God has a way of revealing Himself and it is beautiful and breathtaking and sometimes all I can do is laugh at how He makes His thoughts known to my weak and human heart.
The words that I heard Moses say in my dream come from the book of Acts chapter 20 verse 22-24. The entire passage is about Paul and his faithfulness in obediently following God’s directions on where he was to take his ministry.
Today, I am praying for the strength that He bestowed on his servant Paul, all those years ago. I am praying for the strength to consider my own life nothing compared to the joy of finishing the race that He has placed before me.
Deeper than my feet could ever wander, in the presence of my Savior.
Friday, June 20, 2014
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked-Luke 12:48
One day a mommy held her little baby boy, kissed him, put him to her breast and named him Renaud.
I have no idea what happened between that day and today…
… all I know is that today, he is 4 months old. He is abandoned and he is dying. Today I held him in my arms and I prayed for the sweet relief to come soon. For hours in this hospital, on a small side street in Port Au Prince I held this life in my hands. He was precious and suffering and loved and human. He was there and tomorrow, or the next day, he won’t be.
A few weeks ago I got a treasured message from an old friend. There were many beautiful and personal things that happened in that conversation but the one that really jumped out at me was when he talked about this verse from Luke. He turned it in a way that has played through my mind over and over again.
What if “much” in my world wasn’t money, which it seems to always be when I find these words quoted… What is my “much” are the opportunities that I come across each day?
Today was not the fist time I held a dying child. It won’t be the last. Today wasn’t the first time I have faced injustice in the eyes of a little girl, of a homeless man or a crippled grandmother. Tomorrow I will wake up and fight it again.
Every single night I go to sleep with a prayer on my lips to be used in some way. Sometimes I wake up willing to take on the world and sometimes my selfishness gets in the way. There is no shortage of opportunity in this land and, unfortunately, there is also no shortage, it seems, to my humanness. Every moment of every day is met by a violent clash of opportunity and options. I am rarely sure of any decision I make and even more rarely able to rest in it once it has been made. When I tell someone I can’t help I often struggle for days or even weeks afterwards, wondering if I made the right choice. I pour every bit of energy I have into a little starving boy just to get on the back of a motorcycle an head up a mountain to where 2 other littles wait for their mama to come home. They need me to be there, to hear them, to find the energy to delight in them and yet, on so many days it’s all I can do to make sure everyone’s teeth are clean and prayers are said before I fall into bed, my own prayers falling somewhere between my heart and my lips, hoping with all hope that I’m not screwing these 2 lives up.
Today, so very much has been entrusted to me. I have had so many opportunities to lean on Him as I live in the midst of this broken beauty. I pray I have met the expectations of the“much” all the while knowing that I have fallen so very short. I know how incredibly blessed I am to face the things I do each day. I KNOW what it means to be trusted with the chance to share life and death and everything in between with these beautiful people. That doesn’t mean I am always good at it. I am struggling so very much with the balance of being given and having much expected of me. I pray for strength through tears of exhaustion and I cry over the phone to my best friend, who moved 15 miles (6 hours!!) away about how hard it is to not have her next door. I throw myself these pity parties and in the end I find myself back where this whole journey started, kneeling in the dirt at the feet of the One who created this beautiful, totally screwed up plan, empty hands open, begging him to find something in me that He can use, something beautiful, something worthy. I plead with him to give me one more chance and to fill my heart with the strength I will need to make that chance count. I pray that much will be entrusted to me and that I will faithfully give that much more, through the strength and grace that only comes from Him.
I wonder what my life would be if I looked at those those knocks on my gate that come at the *inconvenient* times as opportunities instead of annoyances…
…I wonder if I even know how to start being so wrapped up in God that I finally start to lose myself.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Sometimes working in Haiti feels like I’m in the middle of the ocean, swimming towards a shore I cannot see. I pick a direction that feels right and hope that it is. Then a wave comes along and I feel like I can’t go on anymore, until the rest of quiet water renews my strength and I set out once again, towards this invisible finish line that I know must be out there somewhere. I help one just to turn around and find 3 more in the same situation. It is draining and sometimes it is really hard to keep going.
One of the situations in this country that overwhelms me the most is the desperate need of quality care for the disabled and mentally ill. Obviously, ideal quality care comes from biological families but in a community where providing for a neuro-typical child is difficult at best, parenting a special needs child is almost impossible. Orphanages in Haiti are overrun with children who have been abandoned due to their disabilities.
A few miles from my home I visit them. I walk up countless steps and down long, dark hallways to the third floor of a building into a back room where 5 of the forgotten live. They are in various states of contortion and pain, left on a bare piece of foam, lying in their own vomit and feces, covered in flies. They are God’s precious children, in some of the most deplorable conditions you could imagine.
It was there in that room, at the end of the hallway on the 3rd floor of a green building that I first saw him…
He was easily the smallest child there and his skeletal frame drew my interest. I held him and I knew that his situation was serious but I had no idea just how much so. The baby in my arms weighed significantly less than my 5 month old son and when one of the nannies told me that he was 5 YEARS old I almost dropped to my knees in disbelief. Instantly, my eyes filled with tears and I choked back the urge to cry. Standing in a room full of injustice, crying does nothing, crying is not action. These children did not need my tears, they needed me to do something! They needed commitment, that when I walked away that day I would not forget the things I had seen and the eyes that had stared into mine.
And is became so. They haunted me as I went about my day, while I ate my lunch and when I tucked my own babies into their warm, clean beds that night. The unfairness that plagues this world was more alive than ever once I learned their names. Once I held their hands. Once I saw their pain.
One hand I held, one little boy in pain, one name I learned that day became so etched on my heart that I almost couldn’t think of anything else. It became an obsession. I knew that I would never be able to just sit back while he remained there. I began to question a few people about him and learned a bit more about his story. I pushed a little further and to my surprise, without even putting up much of a fight, I was given permission to try to help this little boy named Moses.
I picked him up on a Tuesday morning and held this fragile child in my arms on the back of a motorcycle, speeding home as quickly as I could. Every second felt like an eternity until I could truly take a look at him. I undressed and bathed his tiny frame and dressed him a newborn sized diaper and inside I screamed, “HE IS 5 YEAR OLD”. I weighed him on an infant scaled and stared at the numbers in disbelief, unable to understand what I was seeing 4.36kg (9lb 6oz) and inside I screamed, “HE IS 5 YEARS OLD”. I believe that Moses has cerebral palsy. He aspirates anything he tries to take by mouth, his health situation is very serious. I put down a feeding tube and watched as calorie filled formula slowly drained into his shrunken belly. I did the best that I knew how but in the end Moses was beyond the help that I alone could provide. On Wednesday night Moses was transferred to Project Medishare Hospital in Port Au Prince. He will receive lifesaving care in the best hospital I could find for him and I pray and trust that he will be well, one day. I will follow his progress and support him in any way that I can while that happens.
I still feel like I might drown before I reach that unseen shore but I swim on. Tonight it is with renewed strength because I saw God reach down and draw out of the waves a little boy named Moses and I know that hope is not abandoned yet.
Moses’ care will be ongoing and probably costly. I cannot begin to anticipate how much it will all add up to but finances will not stop me from providing everything that this country has to offer for my precious boy. If you would be willing to donate towards Moses’ medical care you can do so by making a donation below. Thank you, for valuing this life and fighting for him with me.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
And then just like that, I got a phone call. The voice on the other end declared “it’s the best case scenario” I was shopping and shamelessly burst into tears. I had planned to try to search for this “abandoned” baby’s family but hadn’t even made a single step in that direction yet, he was still brand new. It turns out I didn’t need to... His parents were there, at my front gate. They came for their baby boy, they wanted to parent him! That morning they had shown up on my doorstep, having heard that Jonelson was with “the blan”. It was the first time his mother had seen him since he was 37 days old. She had been crippled by severe post partum depression. Living in one of the rural villages of the most remote area of Haiti the family felt they had no choice but to leave their precious son in the care of an orphanage. For over 4 months he went back and fort between orphanages and hospitals until that day God saw fit to bless me with his care.
Jonelson’s mama and papa were absolutely beautiful! I loved them from the moment I sat down at the kitchen table to meet them. They explained that this was the first time mama had been able to get out of bed and make the journey to come visit her son. She told me it felt like “the fog was starting to leave her head”. When his parents saw how well Jonelson was doing they were eager and excited to take him home and resume life as a family. I saw the pain that being separated had brought each of them. I saw the way Jonelson looked at his mother’s face, I know that he had longed for her since the day they had been separated. They were meant to be together and I was willing to do everything in my power to make sure it could be so. I purchased formula, clothes and blankets and packed up a bag full of toys and diapers to send on the 6 hour journey through the mountains to their village. I asked our Haitian nurse to pray while everyone in the house gathered around this precious family. What followed was a beautiful prayer and then an impromptu song of praise. Through my tear filled eyes I caught a peek of a young father cradling his son stopping for a moment to press a kiss into the baby’s temple, his voice rang clear…
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin
As I led the family out the front door and they headed down the street I looked after them and had to smile. The back of his father’s shirt declared the prayer of my heart. Look to the Son, baby Jonelson! Nou p’ap janm bliye ou.
How great Thou art
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The first thing I noticed were the all too familiar, impossibly tiny arms crossed tightly in a crib all alone. His head turned and my breath caught. The understanding in his face gave away his true age. He looked to be a brand new, if not premature baby, until his eyes looked into mine and my heart sank. I knew that not only was he at least 6 months old, he was desperately ill.
His name is Jonelson. He was born November 5th, 2013 and they day he was admitted into my short term foster care program he weighed in at just 7lbs. He wore the very clothes that I had lovingly dressed Henry in the day he was born.
Holding the first bottle to his lips I was encouraged and devastated at the same time. He wanted to eat, he craved food, which is a wonderful sign, it means he hasn’t give up. There was nothing wrong with him, nothing that is, except a true and simple lack of food.
Except it’s not simple at all.
I can tell caregivers all day every day, with every breath, to feed their babies “more”. But all to often “more” just doesn’t exist, it’s hard enough to provide “enough” let alone “more”.
Jonelson was starving. Literally, wasting away to a slow and painful death. His every single day on this earth was filled with more pain than I will probably ever know. His story is not simple. Seemingly abandoned, I am doing my best to find his mother to help and encourage her. I long for Jonelson to have an abundant future, I pray it will be so. I dream of placing him in the arms of a woman who surely held him in those precious first hours and kissed his tiny head, exhausted and amazed by the miracle she had just accomplished in bringing him to this world. I can’t imagine she has any idea the fate that has awaited her son when she held him that last time. I pray that one day very soon I can look into her eyes ad we will marvel over a love for this sweet, amazing and strong little boy.
I have this picture in my head of how I want Jonelson’s story to go but in the end I really have no choice but to step back and say as I have so many times before, “Not my will but Yours” His every breath is held in the hands of a Father that surely loves him even more than I, or even an earthly mother could ever comprehend. I have no doubt that this is meant to be a story of redemption, healing, beauty and truth my only job now is to sit back, hold him in my hands, pour everything I have into him and watch our Daddy at work.
Jonelson will be well and I will be a little bit stronger too. I will once again be blessed to learn the precious, secret lessons that He always reveals to me through His most fragile ones.
You are a precious gift! There is no justice for the pain you have endured, only hope that one day you will change the world because you are so incredibly strong. Tiny one, You inspire me, the hope in your eyes and the fight in your spirit make me study the things that I choose to fight for and invest in. You are brave and I pray that one day, when faced with situations that need the very bravest of men, you will stand strong because you know that you were created for greatness.
I love you, every single one who has had the honor of caring for you over the past week, we all love you. We will stand up for you, we will be your voice and we will fight for you because each and every one of us has been blessed to see the precious treasure gem that you are.
Kembe Fem, Ti Chape.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
I didn’t come to Haiti thinking it would be a big deal. I didn’t come with the expectation that my life and my passions would change. Quite simply, I came to Haiti to fulfill the expectations of the American church. Mission trips are what you do when you are a “good Christian” and I so badly wanted to be thought of as good. I felt the heavy weight of all those secret areas of my life that fell outside of the boundaries of acceptable Christian behavior and so I set out to do this thing that would lift it. I wanted to be on the list of the good kids that come from the good school in my small town in a corner of the richest country in the world.
The grace of God found me, a broken and weak little girl, longing to fit in with the “perfect” Christians that surrounded her, and rescued me. It filled up every corner of my searching heart and overflowed into a passion that my small town in a corner of the richest country in the world just couldn't contain.
It’s been 6 years and I am still finding the pieces of my story that God captured and scattered all those years ago and I am uncovering them in the most surprising places. A little bit in the crumbled buildings of Leogane, where I first became a mother… a tiny fragment in a red suitcase turned coffin buried in a place no one will ever visit… a small sliver in a crippled old man who lives and loves more fiercely than any able bodied human I've ever met… there is a chunk on a distant beach, where my best friends serve and grow and graciously let me peek into their lives, a place I dream of joining them someday… there is a fraction in a little girl who’s file reads patient #0001, she changed my mind about everything to do with malnutrition and loving a child that isn't “your own”… There are tiny sprinkles in the delivery room of the local hospital where I found a new passion and learned to welcomed new lives… And there are the biggest pieces I have found so far, in 3 people who have changed every single aspect of anything I have ever known, imagined or believed. 2 sleep in the room next to mine and one remains my first thought each morning and the last prayer on my lips each night.
I could try to put all of these fragments together, to form them into the picture I trust they are making up but I know that is pointless. The glimpses of this blessed life are still too tiny, too scattered. Every single morning when I wake up I am faced with the possibility of finding another one, never knowing in the moment if it will be just a small corner, or a bursting with color and hope, future and path changing, huge segment. I know that there are countless more to discover and I have no idea where on this island I will be asked to travel to gather them.
I feel almost no connection to the person I was before I came to Haiti, sometimes visiting my own memories feels like reading a book that someone else wrote. And yet my life, both the secret corners and the live out loud parts that I share with the world, still fall so very far outside of the boundaries of the Christianity of my youth. I don’t walk the streets of the slums evangelizing the poor, I don’t hand out plates of food to hungry masses. I don’t always wear shorts longer than my finger tips and I sit on the corner, in broad daylight drinking a cold beer on a regular basis. Actually, come to think of it, I’m probably not many people’s idea of a good missionary.
Thankfully, of all the things that have changed in the lifetime packed into 6 years, one of the biggest is that today I am no longer in Haiti to impress anyone. I am not seeking to get on anyone’s list of someone special. Today, I am not in Haiti to be a Christian, every evening I go to bed barely deserving of the title. I am in Haiti to wake up again tomorrow and beg God to bring someone to my door who needs love, and for the strength to give it. I am in Haiti to search every moment for an opportunity to extend a bit of the grace that I have been given to someone who needs to hear that they are worthy, they are loved, they are ENOUGH because speaking those words engraves them into my heart. I am the least of these, the worst of the worst but even when I do everything in my power to be damned, His grace abounds.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Last night I was invited into the home of a family who was gathered around their dying grandmother. As I cautiously entered the darkened space I felt very intrusive. I tried to move silently through the crowded room to the chair they offered me. I sat next to the bed of this dying woman and held her hand, 2 fingers resting on her wrist feeling her faint pulse flutter. One by one her family began to share about her life, the children she had lost the ways she had worked to provide for her remaining daughter and grandchildren and most importantly, her unfaltering faith. As they began to talk about her love for Jesus and her hope of Heaven her pulse began to quicken and became strong and steady. Her soul knew that the end was near and her faith would soon become her sight.
As the room fell silent again a soft singing began at the back of the room and rose throughout all the woman who were gathered around their family mother. They sang about gold and feasts and no more tears or pain, about the face of the Lord, shining like the sun. At the end of the song I struggled to hold my composure as her daughter whispered, “He will say to her ‘well done my good and faithful servant’ I know He will”.
This morning a sweet, 84 year old servant left this world behind and heard the words she had longed for “well done”. No more pain, no more hunger, today she is feasting with The King. When I face the hardest of situations in Haiti, the ones where I just can’t cope or accept, I will often close my eyes and imagine the beauty of Heaven’s first glimpse for those who have known the most pain in this life. Last night was not a difficult death to watch, as far as death goes. She was ready, her life had been long and her time was through but still I imagine the heartbreak she had known, the loved ones she had buried, the nights she had slept on a dirt flood through the pain of an empty belly. I think of those things being suddenly replaced by the most joy we could ever imagine and I can’t even comprehend the drastic contrast
The sweet assurance of salvation is so precious and near today.
Monday, February 24, 2014
He is a baby now, but he is a person who deserves privacy and respect and so I struggle to tell his story because it is not completely mine to share.
But, I know you share in my joy and that you love our family and that you pray us through and you cry when we cry and and praise Him for our blessings and so I will share a peek of this new one with you.
In November, a precious woman came into my life. I instantly loved her, I know that God put that love into my heart because at the time I met her I had no idea how much she would change my life. Today, we share a son.
Over several weeks we began to get to know each other in a way that is reserved for a select few in this world. We had meetings full of beautiful redemption and tears of brokenness. I prayed harder for that woman, in those 6 weeks, than I ever have for anyone in my life. I held her hand and held my breath while we stared together at a grainy ultrasound picture and made out the beautiful profile of the child she carried. 3 weeks later I held her hand and I held my breath while she preformed the most amazing work any human can do and a little boy slipped into the world.
A few hours later, I settled mama and her new baby together in a big room full of beds and kissed each of their foreheads and turned to leave. I carried the weight of what she had just asked me to do. I had given her every option I had available to me for this child. I didn't sleep a wink that night, praying the same 3 word prayer over and over again, knowing God heard all the thousands of ramblings of my heart and my head.
The next morning I rode down to the hospital with my stomach full of nerves, everything could change in the next few minuets and I was scared to death. Scared of changing my entire life, scared of changing Annabel’s entire life, scared of what it meant for my ministry and my free time and my finances and my future. I was scared of the judgment of others, I was scared I couldn't do it and I even begged God to not ask me to. And then slowly my heart began to change… The fear turned to peace, the kind that only He can give. God doesn't often ask us to do things that are popular among man and He certainly doesn't command us to step up to the callings of other humans or even hold us to answer to them. It was clear what I was to do. This calling that He had laid upon my life will be, and has been, met with resistance from some but there was never a doubt in my mind that it was His will.
Two hours later mama and baby had been released from the hospital and I settled this amazing woman into the backseat of a car that would drive her to her house and I turned on my own way, up the mountain to bring a little boy home with me.
I hope that none of you doubt for a moment that I exhausted every other option I could for this small baby, his mother and their first family. I long for parents to raise their children. I long for fathers to stay. I long for food for every belly and work to provide for every need. I long for a safe home for each and every person I come in contact with. I feel anger and despair over what the enemy has stolen through sin and brokenness. I feel anger and that anger drives to me do something but just being angry and wishing for things to be the way I think they should, does not take away the reality that they simply aren’t and they won’t be as long as I live in this world.
You can look at my photos and see a cute baby, he is adorable and I am so incredibly thankful that God entrusted him to me. However, a photo will never show the side of adoption that those of us who journey through it know. Redemption does not exist without first pain and brokenness. All around, from the women who carried my children, to me and back to those sweet ones, this journey is far from “cute”. It is messy and complicated but something that started out so painful can become beautiful, I know because I see it happening in our family every single day.
Now I start out on this road again, of knowing a little person, of falling in love with him and promising everything in my power to be mommy, forever. I know the responsibility it carries, I know the sacrifices it means and above all, I know the joy that it will bring. I cannot think of an assignment more powerful and precious than these two being given to me. I am so thankful, I am so blessed.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I will be eternally grateful, for the rest of my life, that I did. Everything I had ever dreamed of for my future changed in that moment and I had no idea.
The first thing I noticed were her stick thin legs, the second was the belly upon which she rested. Following the belly I saw tiny arms and the face of a woman that is now burned into my memory forever.
Even though I didn't really want to and I didn't really have time God captured me for these 2 daughters of His as I gathered them and brought them into my home. I listened to her words and they told a a story that seems as old as time, I've heard it over and over for almost 6 years. A man who left, a baby crying for milk that couldn't be given, a tiny family sleeping wherever a space could be found. The way she spoke and the sound of her voice, something connected in me and my burnt out fire for this part of Haiti sparked to life again.
As we sat in my living room that day she told me how she had left home before the sun came up that morning, borrowing the 50gourds (aprox. $1.25) for a taptap up the mountain to search for an orphanage that would be willing to take her youngest daughter. Tears filled her eyes as she told me over and over again “I have no other choice, there is no chance for her anymore. If she stays with me I know she will die.” I looked at the tiny girl in her arms and I knew that she was right. Maybe not today, or tomorrow or even next week but this baby would die of malnutrition if something didn't change for her. She looked me in the eye and begged me to take her daughter. I looked back and whispered to her my idea for both of them. Again, her eyes shined with tears, this time over the idea that maybe, just maybe, she would get to keep her daughter.
That afternoon when she turned to leave she kissed her baby goodbye it wasn't forever like she had thought it would be. I agreed to take Christella for an initial 6 weeks, to give her time to get her healthy and gain some weight. When she had recovered from her malnutrition, Christella would return home with her mother.
There is no other word to describe Christella but joy. There isn't a person who came in contact with her that wasn't fully enthralled by her presence. To know her was to be filled with her contagious joy. Yes, caring for her was hard work but the reward, unlike most work that I do here, was instantaneous. Waking up in the middle of the night to sneak in extra calories became something I looked forward to when I knew I would be greeted by her giggles and singing when the bottle was finished. That girl, despite all the pain and sickness that plagued her body, was filled with joy every second of every day.
The initial 6 weeks came and went and Christella was doing great but still just not quite ready (or maybe, selfishly, we just weren't ready to face saying goodbye just yet!). Emily was caring for her at the time and we decided that another 2 weeks would give her that extra little boost that she needed. At the end of her 8th week in our care it was finally time to send our girl home.
From 10lbs at one year old to 15lbs just 8 weeks later! That scrawny, sick little girl became a chubby, giggling toddler, crawling backwards and trying to stand on her now strong little legs. Our little joy filled Christella had gotten what she needed for this season. With a brave face and a few hidden, secret tears we sent her on her way. Prayers the only thing we could send with our ti chape, our little survivor.
And now tonight, as I write this there is the newborn smell and soft breath of a baby boy lying across my lap. The son that I didn't know I needed, that has filled a corner of my heart that I never knew was empty. He is breathtaking and joy.
His, although intensely woven into this one, is a story for another day.