Signs of Life: Even in death.

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There are moments in my life that I can’t even bring myself to write about. Some are too complex, some people cannot handle to hear, and some hold memories that I don’t care to ever relive. The past few weeks have been a mix of all three, but somewhere in the mix my heart sees God in the details, and in this season of loss I am choosing to identify the subtle signs of life within each God filled moment. 

There have been moments of anger, of grief, of fear, and of sorrow. Loss is never easy and watching suffering is sickening. Literally.

This weekend Christla became an orphan. Between thinking of the intense pressure and pain that Elydia experienced in only 26 years, to the amazing God moments we walked through, and of how much incredible relief that she left this earth with as a daughter of Christ, my heart continually finds itself in moments of overwhelming emotion. I am grateful to Danita for taking baby Christla in and committing to her life and future, and I am even more grateful that I was able to reassure her mom, in letting go, that her baby girl would be taken care of.

Today, I am not mourning the loss of my friend Elydia but choosing to celebrate her life, the many months spent with her and her children each week, and especially the last few weeks we had with her before she let go of her fight. AIDs is a slow and painful death and it was hard to be a part of those last days without praying for God to take her pain away. However, it was one of the most moving and compelling moments I’ve ever been honored to be a part of just a couple weeks earlier– watching her pray a prayer of salvation and release all past worry, shame, heaviness, and guilt from her heart.

My words could never serve justice to Elydia’s life or death, but I can say how beyond grateful I am to have been a part of it. That God would honor me with the opportunity of serving her in life and loss, through the passing of a child and the birth of another, through sacrifice and salvation, and of watching her exit this world with a heart full of peace and Jesus. My heart is overwhelmingly humbled.

And even a little bit jealous – she is upstairs holding her baby boy again. 

God is love. And He’s in the details. 

Signs of Life: Welcome, Baby Christla!

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Her eyes lock in when I hold her. Her little hands are so tight they are grey when she is hungry. She sucks on her first two fingers to fall asleep. She began her little life growing inside of her mom who was homeless and forgotten. IMG_0834 Elydia would arrive with her malnourished son – Bergly –  for Baby Rescue, always with her oldest (when I say oldest I mean 7) son carrying their possessions – a red water jug and a tiny black tote for Medika Mamba. When her son Bergly passed away she stress delivered her baby girl, Christla.

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I’ve always loved the redemption she held in her mother’s grieving, and I love how sweet Christla would, against all opinions, fight for signs of life in those first weeks. It’s been 5 months since Christla stole my heart and I continued to care for her, her mom, and the boys.

Today, Elydia is saying her goodbyes to this world and joining Jesus and her baby boy in the next. When I look at Christla sucking her two little fingers all I can think about is God’s incredible destiny for her: 5 months ago she was struggling for life and God’s perfect plan has strategically placed her in the arms of grace – anchored to hope and a future. She will never know the life of an orphan, she will never know the pain of rejection, she will never wonder who her mother was or if she loved her.

My heart cannot even comprehend. More on this on the other side of processing.

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I would like to take this moment to officially introduce the newest member of the Danita’s Children family – Christla Francois!!

Easy to say (and I won’t deny it) I’m obsessed. God has heard one of my deepest prayers.

Plenty of amazing pictures to come. Trust. Plenty.

The Face of a Statistic

October 11

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Tonight my heart is broken. Another loss. Loss at the end of incredible suffering, and another mother in Haiti who is feeling the intense pain of burying her son far too early, due to a simple and treatable sickness.

On Thursday I was holding him.

I prayed over him and treated him for parasites. Again. I claimed his little destiny for Christ and I discussed the importance of clean water with his mom.  I gave her diapers and made a note that it was about time to buy more rice and beans and oil for her family.

On Friday he was gone.

Just like that… into peace and joy sometime around 2AM.

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When I see the huge statistic numbers of children who are vulnerable and dying around this world my heart is overwhelmingly burdened for the suffering that plagues just Haiti even. How many sleep on dirt, have never known security, and how many will not see their fifth birthday due to things like dirty drinking water.

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However, today, my heart is so incredibly broken for the single life that made up a piece of those statistics. Loss looks totally different when it has a name and a face and a life. When a destiny is cut short… by something so preventable.

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In these moments my words hold no justice as to how grateful I am for all that Danita’s Children is doing to ensure that less and less mothers are made to fight a seemingly hopeless battle with malnutrition – and so many other basic sicknesses that plague Haiti… for Danita for saying ‘yes’ and for taking on so much pressure and sacrifice to bring Christ, medical care, and dignity to the sick and broken.

A lighthouse is an understatement to all that the DC Medical Center is in Haiti.

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… & To my sweet boy, Daubins:

If I had known that this day would have been our last together I would have held you so much longer. I would have hugged you so much tighter. I would have laughed more and taken 172,000 pictures (even if they all looked just like this one). These last weeks were a tough fight but I would have absolutely exhausted every avenue at my disposal to attempt and change this outcome. I am confident that God knows the number of our days, and I am grateful for those that I had with you.

Your smile brought me so much joy and I am so sorry and so angry that your life ended due to malnutrition. Your life was not in vain, sweet boy, and I will keep you in my heart always.

Learn more about the DC Medical Center & help alleviate suffering in Haiti!

Beauty In Suffering

Laundry Day.

In Haiti there are greater needs than I can explain. There is poverty and sickness and desperation. There are children without parents, there are parents with no resources and there is extreme need from coast to coast. Some days, as these people become my neighbors and my friends, that I just look around me as I walk through the village and know that there is no way that I could ever understand what this life is like. To only know a life of constant struggle.

For 10 months I have not been able to accurately convey the essence of what remains in this land of suffering that I live in.

Until last month while I was in Texas visiting my family. I was rather anxious, knowing that on Sunday I would be able to visit a church that has remained a significant part of my “story” of walking with Christ.

My family was a part of this community at it’s inception – when service was in a home, and then later when it was in a room that is probably now a nursery or storage closet or something. I hadn’t been there in, gosh, ages… 13 years at least. However, for all those years in between, anytime I was among anything resembling ministry, it always had big shoes to fill, from my warm memories of this gym turned church.

Even when I was in my late teens, moved to Florida, and found the community that changed every piece of who I am, and that I now call my home church, I remember describing this place to my parents as – “It reminds me of Grace.”

Okay, so sorry for the nostalgic rabbit trail, but the point is that more than 13 years later, after I found God to be my own, I was returning to this place that I always identified Christ in, even before I truly knew what I was identifying.

As Steve opened the message, he shared this story about a man who called him merely months into his position as pastor, and told him that a little girl just passed away at five years old and they needed his help. He went on to discuss how, as a new pastor, he had no idea how to handle the situation, but that he has since learned that there is a certain sweetness in these moments of tragedy that are only captivated when compassion is the only answer.

Of all the days for me to visit, it was this day that he shared this story about the man and the little girl and the sweetness. All of it actually ironic because this man, the one in the story, is in fact my family, and the little girl, who died of pneumonia at five years old, is my cousin, and the rest of the message – about the sweetness in moments of tragedy was exactly the words that I have been trying to convey for 10 months, about my life in Haiti.

Junette, one of the children at our orphanage, visiting the elderly community.

Truly, there is something to be said of this poverty and suffering, as there is an emmense beauty that we lose at home when using Jesus only as an option. However, it is in suffering that we have the honor of seeing the hand of our God at work. We see His great compassion through those who labor in His name, His promises are kept to His children and His faithfulness is revealed. Everyday.

In the big things.

In the little things.

Faithfully.

So everyday, as I am surrounded by great suffering, I choose to count it as beautiful, because it is in that suffering that there lies a sweetness of God’s provision, that is so easily overlooked when we have other options.

Remember that next time you come upon a situation of suffering, and you have the opportunity to make it a little more beautiful.

And to anyone looking for a church to call home in East Texas, please visit Grace Community Church in Greenville. Even 13 plus years later, I can still clearly identify God there – among the lights and the smiles and the electric guitars. And thanks Steve, for helping me find my words.

Thoughts For The Night: Capacities of Unknown Love

“It’s your unlimited power to care and to love that can

make the biggest difference in the quality of your life.” – Anthony Robbins

There is this reoccurring comment that I always hear when women have babies – that they knew they would love their baby, but they never knew that they would love them like this.

        

I didn’t exactly “get it” until I moved to Haiti and realized that there is something to be said about this love that allows me to love children who are not my own. Not just love them, but feel a way that I didn’t know possible. I never knew that this capacity of love existed within my heart. I didn’t know that I was capable of it.

I find myself burdened deep in my spirit by the things that burden them.

The big things that changed their lives forever and the small things that seem to be changing their lives for a moment (because to them, it’s all that important).

I know what it feels like for someone to love me that way. By choice. And the impact that it had on my life will never be fully known.

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And most, I am overwhelmed at the fact that this capacity never finds it’s limit.

Just when I think I’m loving a lot, a little Haitian kid comes crawling into my lap and all is right with the world again. I begin to causally pray and I hurt knowing the things that are hurting them.

This is the love that Christ called “unfailing.”

And it is THIS that I never want to forget.

I am 24 years old, I am not married, and I have no children. But I can confidently tell you that in this moment, as my heart is overwhelmed beyond expression, that I am currently experiencing motherhood.

And it is changing my life.

God Opportunities…

So when I’m running the boys house it’s quite easy to be totally and completely exhausted and totally and completely content and totally and completely going crazy. At the end of the day I’m just praying and hoping and wishing that no one else needs my assistance… which really means that I’m thinking “if one more person says my name”. Karris Hudson lives there and she is basically my hero. It’s a fury of dirty shoe, dirty shirt, dirty face madness as soon as those cuties come plowing up the stairs and through the doors. From there it’s lines of bathing, pjs, devotions like you’ve never experienced, homework, hilarious story times and any excuse not to have to go to sleep. There is usually at least one who is sick, crying or peeing the bed; and the list of things to do after they’re all fast asleep never seems to end – security supplies and locking down the property and ensuring that the older boys in our church aren’t like playing volleyball across the bunk beds and getting everything in earthquake position (because you never know what could happen) and a gazillion other things that I don’t even have energy to discuss.

Although most see these as complaints – or a crazy description that they would never volunteer for – I never end one of these crazy nights feeling anything less than totally grateful and honored to be called “Mami”. And for a side note… I mean, ya know, just for what it’s worth…I will say that I was doing a rather stand up job until Mami Karrisssssss came home with an abundance of snacks and treats and stole my thunder. I mean, it’s cool… It’s okay, I’m not bitter.

So I totally just went on a rabbit trail that isn’t even the point of this story but it is the reason that this story will become two parts. The point, is the moment that caught my heart, and reminded me of the sweet moments of opportunity that I miss when I get so caught up in long list of crazy madness that never stops.

Each night I pray for moments of opportunity. For my time here to be more than just work. To see people as people, with stories and children and histories of suffering that I can barely comprehend. To not become consumed with frustration at the humanity of this culture. For God to be continually uplifted and for our children especially to have an open line of communication about Christ. Shame on me for praying these prayers and seeing these needs and then becoming so consumed with the humdrum of crazy life in Haiti and forgetting to be aware when these opportunities that I continually pray for present themselves.

So for now – here’s to being aware of God opportunities! And the story continues…

Let’s Just Say… Whoa.

So when I woke up this morning I had no idea what the day would hold. Work in the office, play with some kids, possibly deal with something crazy and never heard of in the United States. What I didn’t expect was to spend six hours at a Haitian woman’s bedside, fanning her with a piece of cardboard and praying her through contractions. All while another woman across the room screamed through delivery, a teenager came in with a prematurely broken water and two orphaned young girls hung out on a bed with an IV in the arm of one who was pregnant. No separation curtain things. No screens. No medication. Just some beds and some Dominican nurses with attitude and some screaming women. And me and my friend, Brittany.

I was praying this morning while getting ready, and may have asked God to give me opportunities to specifically show the love of Jesus. Little did I know – knowing what this day would hold before I was ever born – Jesus was replying, “ha… you have no idea.”

I knew I needed to make a trip to Dajabon at some point, so when I saw our errand staff on his way there I jumped in the cart to catch a ride. Ironically, I couldn’t do what I needed to do, but in true daily fashion, this lead to that, and I ended up at the hospital. One of our teachers was in labor, and whoa.

Usually Haitians birth their own babies, in their own homes, with whatever they can find and a razor blade. No, seriously they do. But she, Lovelie, had the luxury of birthing in a hospital… and whoa. I just couldn’t believe the “luxury” that she was granted. Ceiling tiles falling out, rust and water stains all over the walls, painting and construction in the room next door (just what every mother wants for their new born baby – paint fumes and construction dust) and no privacy what-so-ever. There were eight beds in the room, each labeled with a piece of tape on the wall. All supplies needed for labor/delivery have to be brought in – sheets, towels, nightgown, receiving blankets, newborn outfit, socks, that little sucker thing that moms use to suck boogies out of their kid’s noses. Talk about planning ahead. If you don’t remember, you don’t have it. Don’t even think about being catered to or pampered in the worst pain any human can go through without dying.

Along with being in such luxury, Brittany and I were trying to fully understand the Haitian process of giving birth. Cultural differences at their finest. Lovelie’s sisters were there, just kind of watching and “allowing the process to happen”. They kind of smirked together as they explained these ways to us. That she couldn’t have pain medication because, well, you can’t have birth without pain. They’ll just know it’s time when her pain is a certain way (aka she’s about to die) and she pushes and a head shows. And she couldn’t drink water because if she needs a c-section it may come out. Duh… why didn’t I think of that?

Long story short, there are a lot of things about labor and delivery that are only known by people who have had babies. It must be like a secret society or something, because whoa. Prolly because they know if they shared with those who hadn’t been initiated yet then our population would slowly dwindle. I had no idea. And I must say, I’m a little traumatized. And will explain no further – for the sake of mixed company and others who are not yet in the society – I’ll just say… whoa, whoa, whoa. I just stuck to my job of fanning with the cardboard and praying when she looked like she might pass out and saying things that roughly translate to: “Jesus is here with you” and “push a lot down there” and “breathe like this”. What I didn’t do was let my eyes wander. Lesson quickly learned – as little eye wandering as possible. A couple of times things happened and Brittany and I just got big eyes and look around to see if anyone else was freaking out and tried to play it cool, calm and collected… clearly newbies into this society of pain also known of childbirth.

After one nurse kept screaming at her to not whine and to push like a man, popping her stomach a lot in this weird way (cultural?) and slapping her in the face when her pain was so heavy that she wasn’t focusing enough, she claimed it as “time to deliver”. The doctor continuously pushed on her stomach with the stethoscope and promptly rushed her out of the ugly room with all the beds while saying something in spanish about it being fatal.

 [WHAT?!] Exactly! I know, that’s what I said, too. 

Enter longest silent moment of my life…. scary, scary praying…. Brittany and I watching the scary delivery in the emergency room, because, well, what is protocol, anyways… the nurses, literally, pushing on her stomach while they jump up and down because the baby was too high to come through the canal, lots of other gross stuff, and then – big sigh of relief – the cries of a little baby girl!

They asked us to name her, to hold her before anyone else, and, after much deliberation and discussion during the earlier fanning process, we presented her to her mother… as Esther – a courageous girl who God gave a big voice to speak on behalf of her people in their suffering. The family was SO extremely happy because 1. It was a good, strong, Biblical name and 2. We made a little presentation of their baby to them, which they took very seriously, and stood with them for six hours and got them lunch and took care of their sister when it was time to eat. It really is the small things, folks.

After the Lion King-ish ceremony was concluded, Brittany and I exited down the hallway in an end of a movie type, full-circle, compellingly cool moment, tired and sticky with sweat, feeling pretty mid-wife-ish (it is hard work watching someone that stressed out), but ultimately content, and excited to return with goodies. We looked at each other and high fived. It’s been a good day.

Once again, I’m ending my day exhausted and grateful and honored for the amazing and beautiful and fully traumatizing moments that God allows me to be a part of in this crazy place and in this crazy life. I would want to be spending these days nowhere else.

Welcome to the world, little Esther Jean-Baptiste – you’ve been claimed and destined for great things!

My “One of Those Days” Pep-Talk

Matthew 6:23, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well.” … SO STOP WHINING. (my translation)

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s packing and anxiety of traveling and passport checking and not wanting to get on that 3 hour bus ride. Maybe it’s because life is unpredictable and scary and following a path less traveled isn’t always glamorous and I don’t always feel like being courageous and making a deliberate decision to continue anyways. Life doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t just fall into place. It takes deciding to keep going every time that it would be easier to not.

I’m reminding myself today that God’s arm is not too short. He can reach me right where I am. And, for what it’s worth, the God who placed every star in the sky doesn’t need my help in coordinating the plans that He created before I was ever born. This is how He builds faith in us – testing and watching us follow through. Or not follow through. So, to myself, stop trying to control a life that has already been set into motion. Not for me, but for God to be glorified. Just live with a willing heart and allow Him to make your way straight.

I literally just gave myself that pep-talk, while I wrote it and had a little pity party, and then re-read it and cheered myself on!

No joke. I’m so weird. Now I’m gonna go get on an exhausting 3 hour bus right and begin the process of getting to Florida!

Cheers to a hot shower and good water pressure in about 5 hours!!

XOXO,

Hope

Hot Showers and Such…

I was recently reading a blog of a girl who lives in a developing country and she does great things for God: she raises multiple children who would otherwise live hungry most days, and she feeds hundreds each week and she teaches English at a small village school. Her life is full of joy and hardship I’m sure, but she is gracious and humbled to do what she does. Although I was inspired by her faith and pursuit, there was a small bit that I couldn’t disagree more with and that I fear a lot of times the terms “missionary” or “mission work”, etc.. get wrapped up in.

This girl was describing the lifestyle of some of the people who surrounded her – their living conditions, their eating habits, their constant desperation for help – and challenging her readers to think more often toward those are aren’t as fortunate as themselves. However, she took that a bit further to say that she was praying that every time people who live in America take a hot shower that she is praying that they feel guilty over the water running over them.

 Wait.

Not only is a hot shower not shameful, but it is a hot shower that a business owner, church member or basic supporter is under each night who make every bit of a missionaries work possible.

I understand her point. But, it is being focused within and being consumer driven and selfish that is wrong. It isn’t the hot shower that should ensue guilt. It isn’t having nice things and enjoying all the abundance of the Lord. It is a greedy mindset that is wrong. Not thinking past ourselves or of the priorities of our God that is wrong.

In fact:

I am so grateful for every single business-minded, wealthy person, pastor, church member, believer, or non-believer for that matter, who understands the importance of legitimate change in developing countries, and sees the potential to act as the hands and feet of Christ through providing for others to go. Whether they may have never been out of the county, never have a desire to rescue a dying child off of the street or could simple not want to rough it in the mists of under-educated people and desolate, desperate lands.

 I’m even grateful for them if they took a hot shower tonight.

Even a little jealous.

The point is, it doesn’t have to be this or that. One is not right or wrong, or better than the other. All equally important although some are not doing what were doing, or doing it how were doing it.

That is all. Goodnight folks. Enjoy your shower.

XOXO,

Hope