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.

DC Medical Center

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!

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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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!

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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.

 

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!

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.

These Words Won’t Leave My Mind

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

I never continue to see them the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am asking you to feel grateful.

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

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

The question is – what are you looking for?

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.