Leaning Not On My Own Understanding

Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”

In wonderful memory of the sweet four year-old boy, Witson, who suffered through the last stages of malnutrition and recently passed away.

He was a reminder of why Danita’s Children is eagerly awaiting the opening of our medical center – to prevent simple deaths, such as starvation, due to lack of resources. 

 Sometimes I don’t understand God’s plans, I don’t understand why children suffer or bad things happen, but I trust that His ways are not the same as my own and that  Witson’s time on earth was for a purpose and destiny. Maybe we will see it and maybe it will be something that I ask God in heaven. 

Read his original story – “You Shall Live and Not Die” – pray for his mother as she mourns the loss of her son, and help us to prevent these simple deaths that can so easily be prevented.

Monday Update Just Because

Just for those curious about the little things:

1. It’s been raining all day. I walked to the bank in a soft mist and then by the time I left,  all the way to the border, and all the way to our property in large drops that smacked my face, soaked my hair and got all my bags wet. Praise God that my laptop is safe (looking for the positives, people).

Mom and Dad – don’t read the next one.

2. There are riots in the streets because people want electricity to come to our village, and because a guy got accidentily shot by a police officer last night. Tires on fire, rocks thrown. I’m spending the night on this side tonight so that we don’t have to cross the border this afternoon.

3. Our little 16 lb. 4 year old is recovering slowly but he shall surely live and not die.

4. There was a gecko in my bathroom last night (looked just like the bad guy on Monster’s Inc.) and I had to catch it with a plastic container. I accidently cut it’s tail off with the rim and then I screamed and lost him and then chased him around the house (who can sleep knowing that there is a gecko in their house) but the tail kept moving on the ground. I finally got him and threw him outside.

Happy Monday everyone – pray for our safety today and for the safety of our school children who walk home after school is over!!

You Shall Live & Not Die

When we arrived he was lying all alone. Alone in a dark room with two beds and an iv stand. Alone on urine soaked sheets and crying for someone to take him to the toilet.

Reason #762 as to why we can’t finish our medical center fast enough.

Witson’s mother took him, at four years old and only 16 pounds, in desperation to the hospital in our village. Knowing that she had no money and his condition was so advanced, they based his value on mere dollars, a liability of wasted time, and chose not to commit to his recovery. They sent them both away, back into the street. His abs protrude from his stomach and every rib in his chest is visible. It seems painful just for him to breathe.

Unfortunately, in the lifestyle of survival the value of a human life is compromised for the sake of the remaining family. If one child is sick it is easier to sacrifice that child – and not feed him – in order to keep the others progressing.

In lieu of that they sent him to Danita’s Children. We have no iv’s, no equipment in place, no staff, yet the best hospital in town sent this dying boy to us, knowing that we are the only place in Ounaminthe willing to take a risk for a human life. Willing to go all in. Willing to commit to save a life so valued by our God. And now the same hospital that sent him away sees that after only two days of treatment he is showing extreme signs of recovery. The same boy that they were so quick to let go unnoticed.

You think the life of a missionary is so glamorous? It’s really just being willing to do the little things. The sometimes gross things. Because they’re worth it. It’s continually walking into a dark room at a hospital in our village to ensure that our patient wasn’t put out on the street since our last visit. It’s carrying his fragile urine soaked little body to the toilet and sitting there with him while he struggles and is in pain. It’s then changing the soaked sheets that he has been lying in for hours because no one on staff at the hospital has even stopped to check. It’s continually checking his eyes to ensure that he hasn’t entered into a coma. It’s sitting by his bed, while people sit and wait in desperation for help outside in the hall, continually pleading for a life, declaring Psalm 118 over his little spirit, “You shall live and not die, and declare the work of the Lord.”

One day soon we will not have to beg for people to take risks with us. We will not have to plead with this community to commit for the sake of one human life. We will receive those in desperation and do everything possible to begin them on a journey to recovery.

Because they’re worth it.

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!

The Love Of Christ Will Jack You Up.

I sat in on a Bible Study recently and what was reflected upon was a great reminder as to why I do what I do, why I am in Haiti right now and an explanation to all those moments that I just couldn’t quite explain why I was drawn to certain actions.

When the love of Christ begins to dwell inside of us, at some point it will overflow. It is in that overflow of relationship that people see what is pouring from you.The following are the results of the love of Christ acting in our lives.

The Love of Christ…

  1. …compels us. There are moments when were asked to do audacious things that don’t quite make sense. But it is because of the love of Christ that our hearts are compelled  to take particular actions.
  2. …give us power to change the world. The world being whatever that means to you. Each of us have our own “world” and circle of influence which we have the power to effect, good or bad.
  3. …gives us the ministry of reconciliation. Of being the bigger person. Of making things right because that’s the right way, not because you found justice.
  4. …gives us the power to lay our lives down. Against all the pleasures of this world. Not because the pleasures are bad or wrong, but because God compels us each in different ways. What is a pleasure/sacrifice to you may not be to the next person. But God’s compelling love causes us to push aside our own wants, literally and metaphorically, for the purpose of His plan and purpose.
  5. … cuases extra-ordinary obedience. Sometimes it seems crazy. Sometimes it’s a gamble. But the point is that on the other side of it is more than you could have ever wanted in the first place.
  6. …endures. When it’s lonely, when it’s hard, when you feel unappreciated.
  7. …cause you to remember to keep your promises.
  8. …waits. Psalms says that God’s promises are birthed through faith & patience. Wait on God and His plan is always better than our own anyways.
  9. …gives. In the abundance of God’s gifts, so rich and so fulfilling, things are just things.
  10. …forgive.
  11. …serve. Not because it’s a cool job or has great benefits. But because we are so undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, much less the things of this world that we are so consistently blessed with. It is the smallest sign of gratitude that we could possible attempt at paying such a debt.
  12. …covers. A multitude of sins. Who are we to expose another when we are saved by the grace of the same God.
  13. …defends. Defends the weak. The poor. The needy.
  14. …takes a risk. Even when some say it’s a crazy idea, It’s not “normal”, It’s a gamble, the results won’t be as good as the alternative, or it’s not the safe route. Most great decisions were made in a very risky setting.
  15. …is a decision. Anyone could love God and not follow through with these things. It is when the love of God overwhelms our hearts, when our relationship with Him is consistent, that as we are molded into His image as we were intended to be that these come to pass.

I feel humbled to reflect on these things, grateful to walked some of them out and very challenged to take on the rest.

When I say these things, it’s not as a “missionary’, it’s as a Christian. I don’t feel like my walking out a Christ lifestyle changed because I relocated to the mission field full-time. All of these things are still applicable and neccesary and relevant to our lives in the states. Each day we are taking risks and keeping promises and laying our lives down for the plan of God and being compelled to serve and endure challenges. This is the call of Christ.

It is that love of God that compels me to be here. Even with so much to lose and even when I’m tired and lonely and dirty, I am reminded of these things. Why I came in the first place. Because the love of God compelled my heart and through His plan I go to sleep at night excited to wake up early in the morning to spend my day with 500 kids who are hyper and typical and always humble toward their blessings, and a village of people who have no other option but to rely on God to meet every single one of their needs.

Only the love of God could compel that within me, because some moments I think I’m going crazy!

Watching Love Change Lives.

I’m sitting with a 6 year old girl in my lap. Mideline. Every time she sees me she latches on to my hand and doesn’t let go until I leave. Whenever I look down at her, she looks at me with the best smile. A few months ago she was found raising herself and her little brother in the forest, literally, after running away from a step mother who would burn them with hot irons, and I wonder if she has every been cuddled in her life. I constantly wonder what kinds of things she encountered, people who she ran into/survived and situations that God saved her from. She doesn’t talk much, but when she down her words are a high pitched Creole-ish language of it’s own. Her brother is the same way. Like they have their own made up communication between the two. We call it chipmunk, but they get it.

We give our children such little credit. They are so much stronger then we allow them to be, but at the end of the day they are children and we don’t realize how much they need, want and desire our attention and affirmation.

I guarantee, like so many Haitian children, that Mideline has never been able to be a child a day in her life. She loves calling the girls “Mami” and it is so obvious that she feels so secure within the walls of Danita’s Children. It’s just another one of those things that amazes me here.

I love seeing her love the love that she receives.

It doesn’t take much. Just love. Encouragement. It truly changes peoples lives.

Try it sometime.

That’s all, just a short thought while I’m working.

Internet has been crazy here so I haven’t been able to post much, but I am writing a lot and will have it all up as soon as I can.

Life Is Good.

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.

If I Had A Nickel For Every Time I Felt Grateful…

One of life’s biggest questions isn’t if you will accomplish your dreams, it’s are you willing to pay the price to get there?

 

An insert from my journal

(about two weeks in.. my prayer is that I will never forget this feeling):

My heart is so stirred this morning, with gratitude and with excitement. I was asked to pray around the breakfast table this morning and I couldn’t get anything out except for how grateful I am. I say it all the time, but I was literally so overwhelmed with emotion that sometimes I cannot find the words.

After a conversation with one of the missionaries this morning I am feeling so grateful to watch God’s faithfulness. I know that He is and I know that He remains constant, but it always moves me when I am able to watch it unfold.

 It seems that every time I prepare to travel with a purpose that my thoughts begin to be flooded with distractions. However, this morning I am feeling like God is saying, “you win”. That this is, this very moment, is the fruit of my labor. That all the of the seasons of humility and testing and silence that I couldn’t see the purpose in were for just that. To trust in the process without yet knowing the purpose. And on the other end of the fire is this great life that is so full of purpose, I don’t feel like I deserve to get to be the one to live it sometimes.

So overwhelmed with gratitude this evening,

Hope

Reaching Out.

I am sickened by the perception of our culture (myself included) that people harbor different emotions because they live with different circumstances. As if they don’t care as much or process as long or hurt as deep.

I am sitting in church, watching families, who get to church with their clothes sticking to their skin because they have walked so long in the sun, and they’re still on time. When they pray it is not because it’s ‘right’, but because it is out of the great anguish in their hearts, and to the truly only option of refuge that they know as “Jezi”.

Have you ever seen a grown man cry? Well it looks the same in Haiti.

One of the teachers at Hope for Haiti was robbed and beaten last week.

The community was shocked because he was drug out of his home, in front of his children, kidnapped, beaten and dropped off on the road.

Two days later he died of internal bleeding.

I watched as Pastor Richard choked back his tears, fidgeted with his keys and paused to try and find the words, delivering the news to Mami Karris that this teacher, his friend, this role model in the village has passed away. He has two young children who attend the school as well and my heart and prayers are going out to this man’s family tonight, who are now forced to learn a life without their dad and their husband.

The community here is without words, no one expected it, the students would even stop by the hospital to see him on their walk home from school. All reactions that are no different than it would be at home, and I am longing for the perception of people to become more clear across cultural lines. That we would see across racial and economic status and look at the hurting heart of people. A heart that will always be hurting as long as a void exists and one that will always be tender, through experience or reaction, as we reach out to one another.

P.S. Speaking of reaching out, I want to throw a HUGE shout-out to Angie Webb (also known as, “Angie from work”… she has worked with my Dad for forever) who reached out with great generosity, simply from the compassion in her heart. Thank You – it means more than you know!

 

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.