Pain, Heartache, and Identifying True Love

Tonight I am reminded of God’s heart.

How he is so close to those who are broken hearted.

How his heart is broken for those whose hearts are broken.

And how my own broken heart (while not minimized!) is so trivial in comparison.

I could never pretend to know or even try to understand the pain that accompanies the loss of a child. The intense void that grows in the days to follow and the seemingly endless journey of unanswered questions and “what if?” scenarios.Image

We fought for baby Bergly’s life. We sought out resources. We took him away to a better-equipped malnutrition center, unknowing to this mother that it would be her last time seeing her baby boy.

I don’t care where you are from or what kind of lifestyle you experience or how common poverty or death is around you: loss is loss and pain is pain, and no matter how often it happens, it hurts nonetheless.

Just hours after she found out of Bergly’s passing she stress induced and delivered a baby girl, HIV + and tiny, the same night. Immediately she was faced with mourning the loss of one child and taking on the responsibilities of a new child whose resemblance is enough to make it impossible. 

In a world of survival mourning is not an option. Crying is weak. And nobody has time for speaking of the past. Realizing that this overwhelmingly pained woman is rapidly stepping outside of her mind we took them in to better care for the situation on so many levels.

What broke my heart tonight was not the pain that this woman is enduring, it wasn’t the silent sobs that were coming from within her on her bed because she misses her baby son so deeply, but it was the look on her face as I comforted her when I told her that there were people here who love her. That Jesus loves her. I have no description. It was as if she had never heard the words, or maybe it was just this time that she first felt it to be true.

I’m not sure if she knows Jesus, but I can say that I know that she feels love here, so much that is overwhelms her. I don’t know what her life has looked like… desperate, worthless, lonely… whatever words would have described her I am beyond grateful to God that he allowed her into our path to identify true love – love that only comes from Him – and the only love that can truly heal her heart. 

God is love. His eye is on the sparrow. And he is hard at work.

Baby Bergly: Choosing To Fight Anyway

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No matter how many miracles (on every scale) that we witness on a daily basis – whenever a rescue doesn’t end in success it is painful. It is painful because in choosing to fight for a child’s life we are choosing to be attached. To love. To go all in. Even when it doesn’t look promising. Even when it doesn’t even look hopeful. Aware of the potential pain in hopes of the potential success. And choosing to fight anyway.

Tonight my heart isn’t hurting for Bergly.

It actually makes me smile a little knowing that he has no more exhausted cries that sound like light little hums or emotional meltdowns (on his behalf) to get any kind of food into his belly. At two years old Bergly weighed only 11 lbs. (ya that’s right, what you probably weighed at birth) and any sense of exerted energy was just about too much for his little body to handle without a nap. And when I say exerted energy I mean swatting my hands away for too long and/or thinking of strategic ways to get the food out of his mouth before I got it back in. It really took it out of the little fella.

Tonight my heart is not hurting for him, but for his young mother who is about to receive news that her baby died. That she won’t even able to be there, to say goodbye, or to grieve at a burial. Just continue on with life as usual, as if he never was. My heart is hurting because I can not even imagine how her heart will be hurting.

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I am grateful, however, that along with the news of baby Bergly’s passing we are able to sincerely say that he didn’t go down without a fight. That there were many people working on his behalf… staying up nights and monitoring him each day. Interceding on his behalf to the God who created him and numbered his days. There were people caring for him and loving him and taking care of his mother and brother. I am grateful for The Real Hope for Haiti and how they were willing to take him on, knowing his severity, and fight for him until the very last moment.

Bergly is only one of many stories of complications within malnutrition. The inevitable effects of a food crisis, a country in crisis, and a family in crisis. Stories like his are taking place many times every minute. Unknown names. Unknown faces. So often fading from this earth only known and loved by Jesus. One more reason I am so grateful to all who are making it possible for Danita to make our Medical Center a reality. So Mom’s like Bergly’s don’t have to spend the rest of her life wondering what her baby boy would have grown up to be like.

Psalm 34:18 “Our Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are crushed in their spirits.

Our Lord is always with us, but especially close in the moments that break our hearts. And tonight my broken hearted prayer is for Bergly’s mom. That she would find peace within the tragic reality and pain of losing a child after two years of a desperate struggle, and that she would know that God hears her hurt and He is present… even when she can’t identify Him.

… and that her sweet baby boy is safe, happy, and whole.

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Messy Love.

Sometimes love doesn’t look as expected.

Sometimes it’s takes your breath away.

Sometimes love is playful.

In so many cases love isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense at all.

For children, love is out of their control, and their lives will be shaped and formed by what they perceive to be love.

Sometimes love means cleaning up the selfish mistakes of others.

And sometimes, such as today, love is just plain messy.

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Speaking of the latter, as I was thinking today of how unpredictable love is, I got a new Rescue baby this morning into our Baby Rescue Program at Danita’s Children. He came with his homeless mother – a kilo lighter than when I saw him last week (not to mention every rib in his cage showing) which puts him below a severely malnourished category – so it’s an understatement to say that I was excited to start the process.

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It was as I was force feeding him Medika Mamba (it takes a day or two to be considered enjoyable… you would think starving children wouldn’t be so picky), covering his dry, blistered, and bleeding lips with vasoline, talking with his homeless mother about the importance of clean water (and filling her only source – an orange water jug), and praying over his tiny malnourished body as he hit my hands away and bit me a lot, that my frustrated self came to realize: this is love.

As much as this tiny baby hates me in this moment, this is love. It may not be as tender and sweet as many would describe, but this is as real as it gets. Literal messy love.

And, call it ironic, but my heart is honored to love this way. To have the angry little screams and frowny eyebrows as I forced medicine and Medika Mamba into his mouth and to get the glove on my hand bitten by tiny little teeth with all the tiny little strength his 12 lbs. can muster. Truth be told, it makes me smile to see him fighting back – because it it those tenacious and tiny little fighters who survive.

Love doesn’t always appear with hearts and butterflies, and sometimes it isn’t even love at all – only the imitation – but today, love came in the form of force feeding, loads of prayers, and hopes for the promises of the future.

Please continue to prayer for baby Bergly in his recovery, all of our children, and everyone at Danita’s Children. I know I do not only speak for myself when I say that we are so grateful for this life.

Because She Said ‘Yes’

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God told her to build it.

He didn’t give her a plan. She is not a doctor. But she heard the voice of God. And, once again, she obeyed.

She obeyed and drew up plans. She met with teams. She sought out council. She spent more hours than people could ever comprehend and moments that only God is aware of, working and praying and traveling, in order to fulfill this promise that she made to God and to the people of Haiti.

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I mean, seriously, this woman deserves a raise.

In the last year and some months of my life I can say that watching God’s faithfulness to her vision is number one on my list of life lessons that I have been made deeply aware of.

He is so truly faithful to us.

He is faithful to his children. He is faithful to his promises. He is faithful to every desire of our hearts. He is present in our pain, in our triumphs, and even when we feel like He is absent – God is so very present.

Currently, we are pushing through the final stages of construction. Lesson #2 that I am continually being made aware of: Excellence and patience go hand in hand.

I am grateful to be a part – we have no comprehension of what God is birthing through Danita and Danita’s Children right now. We can’t even contain it in our understanding, what He is preparing and planning.

Because she obeyed. Because she said yes. Because she graciously presses forward when so many obstacles stand in her way. Not knowing or seeing what the future will hold.

It is because of her sacrifice and dedication to excellence that our new medical center will be opening, state-of-the-art, and equipped to rescue, love, and care for thousands and thousands of vulnerable and hurting people.

Danita: you are a woman who I have no words to describe… I am not even sure Proverbs 31 is on your level, and I am grateful to be a tiny part of the story of what God is doing through you in Haiti.

Simply Presented With Hope: 13 Boys Update

It was in this month, one year ago, that 13 little boys walked into our lives at Danita’s Children, and changed the atmosphere as we knew it.

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I remember that day like it was yesterday [read about it here]: the overwhelming feeling of sympathy, the literal sickness in their eyes, and the even worse sickness that was apparent in their broken little souls. That first night was one that I will never forget, and the weeks that followed were spent learning a lot of “firsts”. First time in using a toilet, first time doing nightly devotions, first time eating THREE times in one day, first time getting new clothes/shoes, and many other first that I will pull out as embarrassing memories when their 14.

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That group instantly attached themselves in our hearts and the atmosphere was filled with the presence of little ones again. I can’t imagine my life in Haiti without this precious group of boys, even more so, it overwhelms me to think about what their lives would be like if they would have never been driven onto our property in shocking surprise that day. They keep me laughing, that’s for sure!

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Today, they are all enrolled in school, learning to ride bikes and love going to church and singing worship songs. Some will still find their way to me during the day just to say “thank you” for something they received long ago – even just a meal or a small treat. Yesterday, Wes came up and stated in clear English: “Are you going out today?” I naturally replied back, “no, I’m staying here…” until I realized what was happening. He was full of pride with himself that he is learning English now.

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They truly are a testament to how quickly a life in changed when it is simply presented with hope. Their future is bright and they are all blazing ahead. I have spend so many moments this month thinking of these boys, and what that day was like when they plopped themselves right into the center of my heart.

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His eye is on the sparrow: Baby Rescue Program

A.K.A. one of the best parts of my week!

Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration because I truly love my life here… bbbuuttt, there aren’t many things better than squeezing the cheeks of some cute little babies while praying that they gained weight!

Valmyr
Valmyr

ISMYLOVE (get it... her name is Ismylove, as in... [she]ismylove. Clever, I know.
ISMYLOVE (get it… her name is Ismylove, as in… [she]ismylove. Clever, I know.
Truth: One of them hates me. His name is Vena and this is his second go around in this program. The first time he was with us he was the most finicky child I’ve ever seen. Only wanted to drink out of a red solo cup. After that was used for a bath one day, he would have nothing to do with is. For weeks he was so sweet and tender, laying in my lap all day while I worked… then he mustered up enough energy and this is what he looked like at most times:

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We just re-enrolled him into the program… and he still is pretty ticked off with life. He is three years old now and has regressed back into the extremely malnourished bracket. Who knew I could love someone so much who cries if I even look at him for too long.

Isabella - she fell off of a table as a newborn and has a skull fracture. Living miracle!
Isabella – she fell off of a table as a newborn and has a skull fracture. Living miracle!

I am grateful to walk this journey with these little guys and celebrate as they recover using the Medika Mamba, peanut butter based baby food. Pray with us for each of them (Vena, Valmyr, Ismylove, Junior, and Isabella) and I will keep you updated along the way.

God is love. Pass it on.

 

Saturday.

I took a few of the boys out today to help in the community.

It was originally as a discipline, but as time went by preceding this morning so many of the boys were coming to me saying, “Mami Hope – I was bad too… do I get to go help?” I forgot how much gratitude is at the heart of our children. 

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The boys were so helpful – washing clothes, sweeping and mopping, helping cook food – while I sat and visited with the womanwho we were helping. She sells us mangos each week and her children go to our school, and she was so happy that her Saturday wasn’t spent doing all these things. She felt so special and just kept saying, “I can’t believe you brought the boys to help work.”As if she was in disbelief. She is a good woman and she works hard for her children. Her house is small, but filled with the traditional Haitian decor – silk hanging plants and covers on the table to keep out the flies.

 

All in all it was a great Saturday, and a wonderful reminder of the many blessings that I obtain in this life alone. God is gracious to remind me with such tenderness, as it is so easy to forget.

God is love, and we are his hands and feet. Happy Saturday!

Day 1

My NYE dates: I've seen these girls just about everyday for the 365 days in 2012.
My NYE dates: I’ve seen these girls just about everyday for the 365 days in 2012.

New Year’s Eve.

No fireworks.(Heard them across the river – does that count?)

No sequins covered outfit.(pouting)

No kiss (unless kisses goodnight to the babies counts??!!).

However, another year down and another exciting one ahead – cheers to living the unknown! It’s hard for a type A person such as myself to even choke down a phrase like that – progress people… this is a picture of progress.

It’s just after 12 AM and my thoughts are so consumed with what has been and what is to be.

I started this year in Haiti, at Danita’s Children. 12:00AM – located on the couch of the girl’s orphanage to be exact. So tired from a full-on dance party that it was a feat to even stay up until midnight. When I finally got a moment to stop, a baby in my lap, we were both down for the count pretty quickly.

I remember waking up the next morning, January 1, 2012, feeling like this was a pretty cool place to begin a new year. And that I should cook some black eyed peas. Because you know you’re supposed to eat black eyed peas on the first day of a new year.

Doesn’t everyone do that? Or is that just MY Grandma?

2012 was so full of nothing that I thought, yet so full of everything that God knew that I needed.

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This time last year I was adjusting to a new home. A new country. A new culture. A new lifestyle. I was far away from everything that is secure, and so excited for every day’s new adventure. I’m so grateful for the heartache, the hardships, and the headaches that came along with it.

On a long list of a full year, I can definitely say that this year:

I learned what the true meaning of value is.

The true picture of grace.

The true testament of faithfulness.

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As I look through 2012 photos of tragic stories and beautiful miracles, of lessons that I still don’t understand – that will travel a lifetime with me – and of heroic people who will never be known, I am honored that God trusted me enough to be a part of the story, and overwhelmed at what He has shown me about the character of my God, His faithfulness, and His never ending pursuit of me.

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 Although continually watching suffering and injustice is never easy, seeing God’s beauty in it’s mists is something that I can still never fully describe.

Even in the moments, as right now, where I am just at a blank – on my life, my future, my next 5 minutes – I feel like I continue to remain in such an intense place of gratitude. Gratitude that I continue to walk in God’s presence and mercy every day. That for the past 365 days I have learned more about who God is and how, as much as I want to make my own plans for my life, it’s really not about me at all.

Thank you to those who helped me get here, help me continue here, and help me to remain sane in the middle of my momentary lapses in identity.

WORD to a FRESH 2013! Isaiah 54: I am preparing to stretch! My house… my heart… my spirit… because I want it all! It makes NO rational sense. But who asked for life to make sense?

Happy 2013!

Christmas In Haiti: The Fun Don’t Stop

We don’t stop around here!

 

At the end of another whirl wind day in Haiti – this particular one saturated in Christmas spirit – I am feeling a mix of something like being run over by a truck and completely content after watching over 300 children receive possibly the only gift of their year.

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Each class brought decorations for their classroom  (true Haitian style with those silk plants) and sang Christmas carols, while eating cookies and juice.  There were a few renditions of “Feliz Navidad” for my Spanish folks, one class learned to say “Merry Christmas” in French, English, and Spanish, and one got fancy and build a 3-D model of our school building.

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Although being away from family and friends is always hard, there is something about knowing that although I will not receive presents on December 25, I will see hundreds of children who sleep in dirt and barely eat most days with a huge smile – and that, my friends, is completely satisfying!

PS: Talk about a double take – I discovered a new decoration placed in the boy’s bedroom this holiday season.

 

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Upon further review – uh oh,  wait, do I know them? – oh yes, that would the Holiday card from the Rivera family. Johnson is so excited that “his family in America” sent him photos that he wanted to show them off to all his friends. Thanks, Freddy & Missy – you made his world!

Next up: Christmas for the orphanage!

… and the elves continue! Merry Christmas from the TRUE North Pole! XO