Hello, Progress! Nice To See You!

It cannot be denied that our property at Danita’s Children is beautiful.

It radiates with hope, but, even more so, it is built with an excellence that Danita carries throughout her ministry. So much has progressed since I went to the states and, from the mists of piles of construction and dust and ladders made out of sticks, these beautiful structures are erecting and change is in the air. I walked through and am absolutely amazed at how great it all looks.

   

Tile is going up on the ground level – which we are anxiously awaiting to open while the other floors are being finished – and stones are covering the outside of the buidling.

The first of our new orphan care homes should be finished within the next couple of months, which will house all of our little boys, and babies, who have been sleeping in our church since 2010.

I couldn’t be more excited for the laughs and late nights of homework and games and good memories that our children will share within these family units. When God said that he would not leave children orphaned, that He would come to them (John 14:18), that He would set the lonely in families (Ps. 68) He wasn’t lying – and those verses have truly been fulfilled here in abundance!

I am so grateful to be a part of their story, and to watch God’s hand at work through generous, hardworking, faithful people who are being used to fulfill God’s promises to His children. Merci Jezi aka Thank You, Jesus!!

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.

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!

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.

How Loud Is Your Voice?

Every time i glanced behind me there she was. Her dirty Gap shirt and unkept hair couldn’t hide the huge but sheepish, gap toothed grin in response to my eye contact. Like she had never seen such a thing. Blonde hair is a comodity in Haiti, I have learned.

We were in the market. Work study day. Every Thursday the kids at Hope for Haiti give back to their community. A servalution, if you will. Whether delivering food to a family in the village or cleaning, they are in groups that rotate each week.

Today I was tagging along to the market to buy Some necessities for a women and her son (one of Danita’s students) who are both HIV positive and because of the poor immune system and bad living conditions, have both contracted tuberculosis. By being admitted into the hospital, the woman’s other children are left at home. With themselves. Brittany (one of the missionaries) stops by her home daily to ensure food is being prepared by the oldest and then crosses into Dajabone, Dominican Republic to update the woman on her children.

This in itself is a luxury.

The two girls who are with us are responsible for picking out the items on a budget and then delivering the gifts and visiting with the boy and his mom. As we walk, the street child isn’t far behind. When we stop, she’s just behind the closest hanging, playing “smile back and forth” with me.

After a moment I glanced over to play and a shop keeper began slapping the girl with a cloth of some sort. My heart in my stomach, I didn’t even know how to react, and the girl just turned her back to him with shame and embarrassment, stone cold expression on her face, taking it.

A million thoughts flying through my head, not know which one to respond to first, i just stood there. In my American nature I immediately began looking for her parents, thinking “this is ridiculous!”. No where. Then trying to figure out what to say that he would understand.

Nothing.

As he continued to hit her, my friend Brittany heard the commotion as she was making her purchase and started yelling, “hey! HEY!” and then embraced the girl by the shoulders to step in between her and the man and in Creole began yelling at him, “What is your problem? She’s just a kid, she didn’t do anything.” The man told her that she had been staring and stormed away.

Staring? Really? Brittany turned to the girl to console her and the little girl immediately broke. Se turned away from us and began to weep. Wiping her tears with her shirt, she didn’t want to expose her vulnerable heart in a world where she is desperate to survive. A tender heart is not an option.

No one had ever spoken up for her. She just knew to “take it”.

We are their voice. You and I. We are their option.

For about 100 kids, Danita became their option. Supporters like you and I became their option.

Brittany became the little girls option today. She filled the gap.

How many are there who have no voice? No option? Who just, take it?

For as much as we spend on lunch a day, we could give a child the chance at a choice. An option. An option to smile, to hope, to dream.

Whether they are poor, white, sick or hurting, they have the same little soul and innocent spirit as your child does. As you do. It’s our job to allow it to shine.

Brittany pulled the little girl over to us that afternoon and told her to pick out anything from the table of hygiene goods – soaps, perfume, lotion (not what your thinking.. you’re thinking Dillards.. think garage sale) – and she pointed to the back, to a single pair of girls panties. And smiled ear to ear as she ran away, with her first and only undergarment.

Read Stories About Those Who Gained a Voice