What Love Is This

I never knew that my heart was capable of this kind of love.

It’s not like how I loved my pets when I was a kid. Or even how I love my family. Shoot, it’s not even the kind of love like when I come across a beautiful pair of shoes that are marked down off an already reduced price.  It is this deep in the stomach, overwhelming, never goes away and never runs out, ultra selfless, do anything to see them smile, burdened by what makes their hearts hurt kind of love.

I’ve never felt anything like it. And once again, shout out to all the parents out there – man, y’all go through it for your children. So worth it.

When I moved to Haiti I was the ultimate Auntie. As a 12-timer, I’m good at the Auntie role. It’s pretty basic really – chocolate after 10pm, toys that make loud noises, stay up past curfew, always go to their school for lunch when in town.

So when I got to Haiti and had to take on a parenting role – implementing rules, changing wet sheets in the middle of the night, disciplining (the worst, but more necessary part – kids definitely crave structure!)  – I was less than prepared, and even less prepared for the overwhelming love that has grown in my heart for 115 of Haiti’s finest.

Literally. Like when I pray for them, my heart is deeply burdened for what plagues their dreams and the insecurities that manifest themselves through their actions (which is the nice way of saying when they’re acting a fool, but I can’t be mad at them because I know it comes from their intense past that I could never imagine). I wonder what they saw before they came to live at Danita’s Children and I desire, more than anything, for them to catch a slight glimpse of who God has planned for them to be.

I am in America this month  and I can’t stop thinking of them, how their doing, what I’m missing out on and wondering if they miss me.

It’s crazy how God has given me this love that makes us all family in Haiti. Not like a group of people who live together so are inevitably close – we are family.

I am so grateful to be at my home church for a few weeks (my word, God had to have known that I was insanely home sick for it) and working in our US offices, in the land of abundance and overwhelming choices. However, no matter where life takes me, my heart will always wonder toward the kids who God is using to change my life. Their insane courage and determination to rise above the statistics that surround them continues to humble me and encourage me to always push for more and to continuously count the blessings around me.

You should do the same – you’ll be surprised at how beautiful your life really is.

Life, Sleepovers and The Plague

My goodness, life has gotten the best of me and I have not touched writing. However, for those who keep up – I am doing well. Life is good – and summer has arrived early this year! My goodness, the sweating never ends. No reason to even try and appear decent – all efforts are an epic fail. I wrote a post last year around this time about how I never knew that I could sweat this much. Well, truly nothing is new under the sun and it’s just daily life now-a-days.

We have had a massive virus free flowing through our camp – I call it the plague – and I believe we are finally on the up climb from it. Weeks of multiple kids with 104 fevers, vomiting, coughing and just looking so sad and pathetic is never fun. It is in those moments that I am always wishing that their little mischievous personalities would return because I hate seeing them so tired and listless. I got caught up in the madness for about a week of feeling like I got hit by a truck – which made me feel even worse for our little guys because I knew they were feeling just as bad. However, I am recovered and vaccinated – no typhoid or malaria for me, folks!

All in all, life is wonderful. I am so grateful to be spending my time here and committing these young years to service of God’s children. It is a true testament to having a plan, but God writing the story of my life.  I have a semi-freak-out-wanna be-meltdown in my head every now and then because I have no plan, but I read an article recently (you can read it here) about the staff and what it represents (the power and faithfulness of God) and it reminded me that my God is bigger than my plan, how He is always true to His promises and how He doesn’t change – not when times were worse and not ever in the future – and how my plan ultimately doesn’t matter anyway if I’ve given away my whole heart to Him and am walking in His ways.

In the mean time, life is full of hard work, long nights, birthdays, sleepovers and dance parties – always a staple at Hope For Haiti!

  

Thank you to my few sponsors who make my time here possible. Every time I buy groceries I am thinking of you and thanking God for the ability to be able to do so. These are definitely years of sacrificing and growing and learning and continuing a foundation that will sustain anything that the future holds.

…and the adventures continue – I’m gonna go sweat some more and maybe eat a mango or something!

P.S. I have some special some ones coming in just about a week that I am so beyond excited to see! I am like a kid at Christmas. They say some mumbo jumbo about coming to see the kids or something, but we all know it’s solely for yours truly! It has made this heat and sickness so much more bearable knowing that a part of my family is making the trip to bare it with me – I’m not sure that they are prepared for all of this, but I’m trying to down play it until they get here – muahahahahaha!!! < evil laugh

XOXO,

Hope

Room For One More

 I am looking at this group of 13 boys and my heart is breaking. I am reminded that I recently asked God to show me his heart in Haiti.

As an answer to my prayer He showed me his hurt,

which came in the form of two UN trucks and a van full of orphaned children. Their cheeks were stained with tears and they were all naked. Onto our property filed the Mayor, the Judge, the national social worker and a variety of security detail, UN guards, etc…

They shut down an orphanage in our village and with nowhere else to go they brought the children to our door in hopes of giving them a new home. These children were taken off of the street to be cared for, which clearly never happened, and as I peered into the van windows they were terrified and crying.

I can’t imagine what their day was like. And it was only lunch time.

The boys filed out, each one of them naked, one boy putting the neck of a t-shirt around his waste to create a skirt. Their faces were scared and their bellies large and expanded. They followed along, kind of confused, prolly a little embarrassed, and were slightly skiddish in the room full of missionaries and national officials, just watching. Naked. I wonder if they were ashamed? Sad? Just plain hungry? All I could do was hold them in my lap and tell them it’s okay now. It didn’t matter that they were naked, would prolly pee on me and clearly have infections all over their eyes. I couldn’t hug them enough. I knelt down next to one little boy and asked him, “How are you?” He put his head down with tears in his eyes and quietly whispered, “I don’t know.”

                 

When asked if they wanted to bathe they all eagerly agreed, even more than they wanted to eat. Who knows how long it’s been since they have had a bath, a toothbrush, a bed. As my heart is breaking, but I’m grateful that they’re here. I’m grateful that I will get to rock them to sleep tonight. I’m grateful that they are safe, clean, with full bellies and each will sleep soundly in a bed. I hope that they fall asleep feeling like this is a new beginning. A good beginning. And wake up feeling like they’re loved.

                                  

Learning how to pray.

Our sisters can scrub a kid down with the best of them, so first up with baths. Next was dinner. I don’t think they understand yet that this will happen THREE times EVERY day. Our kids trust that we will provide for them, but you can always tell the new guys from the bunch – they eat like they truly don’t know where their next meal will come from.

What made my heart overwhelmed most was how our boys took them in. They introduced themselves, took them by the hand and led them toward the playground. They prayed for them during devotions (And when I say prayed during devotions, our kids don’t play. They pa-ray). In Haiti, prayer is not a sweet notion. It is a real conversation with a real God. And even as young children, they get that.

One boy, sweet Moise, asked me, “Can they stay here for a long time so that they can go to school like we get to?” During Friday movie time I saw two let the new boys sit in their laps so the new boys could see better, and then when their legs got tired they gave up their prime viewing position so the new boys would remain comfortable and stood in the back. When it was time to get into bed they led the confused ones to an empty bed and got them a blanket before claiming a bed for themselves.

It is those moments that my heart of a mother beats – to watch the children that we brought in the exact same way and raise each day to be grateful and considerate and God conscious –  to then identify insecure, identify pain, and walk out everything we hope that they take away from life – when no one is watching – to ensure another child’s wellbeing.

Sigh… things that make you cry.

I ended my night rocking 13 little boys to sleep. Best part of the day for sure. Everytime I took one into my lap he immediately cuddled in and crashed. I know their day had to be so crazy. They all said they were tired and I know that it has been a long while since they have been rocked, cuddled, anything but laid on the ground for bedtime. As they fell asleep I sang to them and prayed over their little broken spirits. I’m choosing to see a hopeful future in them. What they are going to be. What their future now holds. Their countenance has already changed so much in only a few hours.

 

As I write this I am sitting in our office winding down. The kids are asleep, counted, double counted and prayed for. I love that time of the day. Our boys are so sweet when they’re getting sleepy. It’s late, but I’m not ready for bed. I’ll regret that tomorrow. I keep wondering about these boys and what they must be thinking about right about now.

In the midsts of all the growing and construction and work that goes into making each day a success at Danita’s Children, we were reminded today – that there is always room for one more.

  

I’m grateful for the reminder and grateful that I am able to be a part of their story. Also so grateful that Danita followed God’s call to her. It gives me such reassurance in the fulfillment of God’s promises – even when they seem crazy.

And on a day like today, you see the fruit of it. When 13 little boys file out of a beat up van and never look back.

I am going to sleep feeling ready for bed, but so content.

Here’s to purpose – Cheers & Goodnight!

P.S. Sidenote – we now have 13 little boys who desperately need sponsors so they can begin school, etc… please share with your friends and family and help us change these boys future!

These Words Won’t Leave My Mind

As I continue to get backgrounds and histories on our children there are just some that don’t leave my heart. It’s so different when you see a child, then learn what their life is like.

I never continue to see them the same.

I then understand their actions, I feel their heart, I see their pain and I am humbled at their happiness and laughter.

One of our boys has a mother. She lives in our village and is very poor. She has a lot of children and leaves them alone a lot to go into the Dominican and work. They live in a two room house, and when I say two rooms I don’t mean two bedrooms. I mean like two rooms total in the house. Two wooden, square rooms the size of walk in closets.

Our boy loves his family. He is proud of them, but also grateful that he lives with us. He was having some behavior issues one time and his mother came to talk to him. What she said to him hasn’t left my mind.

She said, “I think you have forgotten what it’s like outside these walls, son. You don’t understand how good you have it…” – then the kicker – “…I just had to sell our bed to be able to feed the rest of your siblings this week.”

Sell their bed. The only bed. In order to eat.

Now all of his siblings and his mother will sleep on dirt at night. No blankets. No pillows.

I’m not asking you to feel guilty for what you have because God provides and His word says that He provides in abundance. More than enough. Extra… just because He wants to.

But I am asking you to feel grateful.

Because you really have it pretty good in life if you just take a second to look.

If you look around for things to be grateful for, you will indeed find things to be grateful for. However, if you look around for negative things, that is what you will find as well.

The question is – what are you looking for?

One is Enough.

I’m sitting on the floor watching little Alexson sleep. With each inhale I can count every rib in his chest. As I rub my hand up and down his back I can feel the bones in his shoulders protruding out. He has lived with us for a few weeks and looks better than he has probably his whole life. He is almost eight years old and weighs 28 pounds. When he came was so pale that Haitians questioned if he was American.

 

Watching him I am amazed at the children who God have brought through these gates.

Some have a bright hope for a future today because of Danita’s dream.

And others don’t make it.

Some were here for a few months. Some a few days.

It’s unrealistic to say that poverty in Haiti is changeable in a short period of time, or without an unchanging God.

Some people ask, “What’s the point?” 

It’s offensive to hear, actually.

I’m not trying to say that we are solving the problem.

But I can tell you the point.

The point is that no child, or human for that matter, deserves to eat out of a trashcan. No child deserves to be left dying alone. The point is that we may not be able to love every child in Haiti, but we can love the ones who are put in front of us.

Even if it was just one – that’s enough.

Hundreds of kids who would never have had the love elsewhere. Never have had the opportunity elsewhere.

Whether for a day or a month or forever, God put them in our path so that they would be in loving arms. Instead of a street or a trash can He has honored us with the opportunity of loving His children, no matter the circumstances or length of their stay on earth.

Even if they come to us and then die hours later, God saw them valuable enough to die loved and comforted and in the arms of His children.

Just Saying.

Laughter is Like Milk… It Does A Body Good!

 

I think God must have known that I needed a good laugh today.

I began creating profiles for our children so that when people inquire to sponsor them they have photos and information on hand of each child. In Haiti there are three levels of Kindergarden, so many of the children who I were interviewing today are brand new to the whole school idea.

The first week when school started there was the long lesson of – What do you mean I can’t just pee wherever I’m standing? What’s a bathroom?

And of course – I miss my mom!

And just the complete distraction of uniforms and pencils and chalk and all the other exciting things that come along with going to school for the first time.

The questions that I was asking today were about family and eating and favorite subjects. Mostly fun questions, but some are needed for medical history, hygiene, needs, etc.

However, starting with the four-year old class probably wasn’t the best idea since kids are kids no matter where you are and just because they live in the worst poverty in the Western Hemisphere they are just as unaware of everything past playing with cars and singing.

I got some of the best answers today trying to figure out things about these children.

A few went something like this:

“What’s your Mom’s name?”

“Little Lady.”

“No, not her nickname. What is her real name?”

“That’s it. Her sur name is Little Lady.”

When asking what these K-1 students would like to be when they grow up, I got a range of answers, including:

“a bear.”

“A woman who answers phones for people.”

“All of them. I want to be everything there is.”

“rice.” (No joke. That was her answer.)

Another question, “Does your mom have a job?”

I got one boy who said, “Yes – My Dad works and then pays my Mom to cook me food.”

and one boy proudly proclaimed, “Yes she has a job!”

“Well what is her job?”

“Each morning she bathes me, gives me food and sends me off to school.”

Ahhhh, kids. They’ll getcha every time.

Enjoy your Thursday folks. Laugh a little.

Goodnight,

Hope

Christmas For 105 – Just Slightly Different!

O my, where to start!

So, I thought my family was big – Christmas is slightly more hectic with 105 children! I won’t go into EXTREME detail because that would take like 5 posts and too much photo space. But you will get the gist of things. 🙂

 The beginning of the week was spent organizing and bagging a gift for each of the 500 children in Danita’s Children school. This is the only gift that many of them will receive. For those in Kindergarten this could be the first gift they have EVER received. To say the least their faces and excitement said enough.

Danita was home this week which made all the kids happy (us, too!) and she planned a party for the older kids, which absolutely has a highlight! It was like walking straight into a middle school dance – you know where the kids spend hours and hours getting ready and then show up and sit on the wall on opposite sides of the room. We ate goat and rice and beans, and I think the missionaries may have had more fun dancing than the kids did. Karris and I have made it official that were gonna force our kids to give us dance lessons.

 

On Saturday was Christmas for the little boys who live in the church. Big time decorations and such are wasted on little boys so we didn’t even go there. They loved their dump trucks and soccer balls and checkers games. After it was over I was leaving and one of our boys had all of the items from his stocking and was lining them up inside of his locker. He was so proud to have things that were “his” and not a mass hand out. His locker is the only space that is his own and he was diligently placing his own things inside of his own space. I can’t even imagine having such little to claim.

 

I spent Saturday night in the church with the little boys. When the sisters hear that I am sleeping in the church they get so excited that they create me my own little “space”. Their so thoughtful. They will create walls around one of the bunk beds by hanging blankets around the four sides for some “privacy” and to keep the draft from the cold night air out. We watched movies and most of my time was sitting in a rocking chair singing Christmas songs to Josiah, one of the babies who was abandoned at Danita’s Children after the earthquake. Sunday was true Christmas and we had church and I woke up to no covers, a cold and a seven year old in my bed with an ear to ear grin.

We ate a good goat and rice/bean lunch Sunday and began preparation for the girls party, which is like the grand finale. Kneeding dough, printing recipes, mixing ingredients. I won’t pretend like I was in on that mix. I was just the pleasant conversation and Santa’s helper when needed – dish washer, stocking prepper, drink refiller.

Monday was spent all day cooking food. Brenda prepares for this day, which has become tradition, for weeks in advance. She describes it as wanting them to feel for that day as if they couldn’t possible want a single thing more.

The girls woke up their personal stocking hanging on their bunk and home made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Then a consistent flow of home made snacks. That day for lunch Lindsey made the best lasagna ever. It could have been because I’ve only eaten rice, beans and chicken for like a month and haven’t had cheese in like a million years, but man o man… delicious!! That evening the girls came into the kitchen where an entire spread of desserts laid before them. Cookies, cakes, chocolate, pumpkin rolls – the works. They ate ALL OF IT!!! Then opened gifts and put on a fashion show of all their new clothes.

After it was all said and done – packages opened and food devoured – the older girls stayed upstairs to help clean and Brittany and I began an impromptu dance party. Probably one of the most fun that I’ve encountered. I don’t have photos of it – just one of those moments where you just had to be there.

Great way to end a great Christmas and I’m looking forward to a happy new year.

XOXO,

Hope

Beautiful Things.

I’ve been home for three weeks and I miss a different aspect of Haiti each day. I am grateful that I am able to learn the heart of the organization, and grateful to be able to walk this path at all. Somewhat conflicting at times, but I am confident that there is purpose in it.

Haiti has completely changed my perception of worship. I can no longer sing songs like “You make beautiful things out of dust…”, thinking of my life, my circumstances, or not even just how great God has been to me (and He has been GREAT – in all caps); but only of an Almighty God who continues to create beautiful stories out of nothing.

Literally.

He created Danita’s Children out of only the deep anguish in a woman’s heart.

He changed the lives of almost 500 children by providing them an education that will in turn begin a cycle of prosperity within their families.

He is creating the medical center, which will act as a light house in a world where there are no options.

And the best part

is that Danita’s story is not the only one, the best one or the biggest one.

Simply the one that I am watching unfold right now.

God is creating beautiful stories everyday. Out of nothing. All over the world.

It’s not all about you. About me. About America.

He is saving children and governments and single souls who simply ask.

I walked away from Haiti feeling like a better missionary. But not because I went to Haiti. But because I learned more about compassion and grace.

I feel like a better missionary because I see hurting and desperate people in a different way – in the grocery store, the post office, the beach – whether it’s because they can’t provide for their family, they are disabled and homeless, or just young, insecure and desperate for attention. I see them with my heart, and if this journey ended today I would be grateful for that alone.

I would be grateful for new vision.

Grateful for new worship.

Grateful that every time I sing “you make beautiful things out of us…” I am reminded of how such a beautiful journey came out of the chaos that once was my life.

So in the mean time, I’ll wait for an illuminated path.

Although waiting can be frustrating, I feel encouraged and hold a great sense of contentment.

God certainly has a plan.

A plan for my journey and for yours, and for all the kids in Haiti that I now know as hilarious – girls who love “Justin Beaver”, singing and making up dance routines, watching old 90’s dvd’s like “Saved By The Bell” and “7th Heaven”, and have the same insecurities that I had at 15 (weight, boys, fitting in, dressing cute). Boys who want to prank, play video games, play with toy cars (aka “machines”) and do anything and risk everything to get a mango down from the tree.

Although working stateside isn’t the exciting part of a missionaries work, it is still a necessary part of keeping the work of the kingdom moving. The part that makes it so much easier are those who have a place in their hearts for the work that is being done and partner with missionaries – in the field and stateside – to ensure the continuing execution of the job.

Even more so are those who are the greatest encouragement by reading and commenting on my writing and covering our work in their prayers and support.

I am excited to have the opportunity to work stateside for Danita’s Children, advocating for a group of kids who each have a beautiful story that could have so easily looked differently.

Truly bloomed out of the dust.

Thank you to those of you who have sacrificed for the difference.

Diaries of the Departed

I had a conversation recently about how I dont really sweat that much. You know, just kind of glisen and glow and wipe the  drops of sweat from my  brow.

Well I changed my mind.

I am sweating like no bodies business in this place. We won’t even talk about it.

But Charlene, just kidding. I do sweat. A lot.

The last time I was here I was shocked and amazed that what I was shocked and amazed by was not what I expected. It wasn’t the poverty and the way people live and how they practice a way of life that is almost frozen in time. Everyday life in Haiti is 100 years regressed from the states. Practices that I’ve only heard my grandparents talk about. Washing clothes by hand, in a river. Walking with loads of goods on their head. Taking a jug for miles to get clean water from a well.

What I was amazed at was how how graceful the women at Danitas Children are, walking out the fruits of the spirit in a way that I always pray for.

This time I am so amazed at how alike we actually are (we – Haiti and America, not we – me and the graceful ladies).

There isn’t much different about us at all actually.

Families have neighbors, and when they have guests over they pull out their best – whether it’s a chair or a drink or a smile. They love their kids and, just like our culture,  don’t know exactly how to love them correctly sometimes, as well. They want the best for them and for their happiness, yet out of frustration sometimes leave them, in hopes of either someone finding them or being put out of their misery.

I am updating the Danita’s Children database today and looking through “Notebooks of the Departed” as I call them. In them holds each child’s story, when they were born, to who, where they were abandoned, why and if they have any living relatives. On each profile is a photo of the child and a photo of who is “responsible” for them (aka who abandoned them… departed from them).

To play with these kids each day has been amazing, to learn their stories has been humbling, one those things that will always keep me grateful.

Some of the kids have been here since the beginning. They know how things work, are loyal to Mami Danita and what she has done for them, and oversee things around the property. Francia is one of them. She is a mother in her spirit. The girl’s house is under her respect. I admire the way she holds such a graceful presence (clearly learning from Mami Brenda, a trait I also admire in her) yet can command a room with her eyes, all while rocking Stanleey to sleep.

 A large group of the children came after the Gonaives floods. These kids were found abandoned, stranded or just desperate. The most recent are from the Port-Au-Prince earthquake. This group us still tender. Just a year later and sometimes you can still tell they haven’t quite adjusted to the stability that Danita offers.

Reading these stories of the kids and the departed who left them puts many pieces together as to why their personalities are the way they are. Why they cry. Are timid. Are outspoken. Or somewhere in between.

May these Departed Diaries always be a reminder that God takes care of His children. In the mists of fear over nuclear wars and crisis in Sudan among other things, He saw where they were and rescued them. Each one. On purpose. Even more so, I am grateful that He hears their cries even now. When they miss their families or pray gratefully for their lunch, remembering a time when they weren’t promised a next meal, He hears them.

Even beyond that, He hears those who have yet to be saved. Who are desperate right now. When they go to bed hungry, lonely or sad. He hears them and He knows them by name. He is positioning them and caring for them and loving them. Until the day that they are saved, either to their new home with Mami Danita or their new home in heaven.

And to image that only $29 a month could be just the life vest they God is looking for. He will save them regardless, but is calling His children to be a part of their story.