Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Redefining joining with "the poor" (written by Nick)


Poor is code for different. At least the way we use it. "The least of these" are those that aren't like us. At least that's what we think. Ironically, they think the same thing. They are the "Axis of Evil," we are "The Great Satan."  Lines get drawn between "us" and "them."  We paint with broad brushes of "black" and "white," "rich" and "poor," when all of us, really, live somewhere in the middle. Even colonial Haiti, one of the most racially charged societies in history, recognized dozens of "levels" of "blackness," each with it's own set of rules and expectations. We have two, (three?) and all of us get lumped into one.

I heard an interview with a man who was born of an American father and an Iranian mother. "I," he described himself, "have the blood of both the 'Axis of Evil' and 'The Great Satan' pulsing through my veins." How do we begin to identify more like he does?

In our family it's been lived out through adoption. One of "them"-- black, Haitian, poor, abandoned, unhealthy, underdeveloped-- becoming one of "us". But maybe that's the easy part, "them" becoming "us," that is. We call it conversion. We get to keep our assumptions that our way is better, that we are "right." The harder part, maybe, is "us" becoming "them."

Too often, we mistake visiting "the poor" with joining with "the poor" (whatever that even means). Our mission trips and soup kitchens are nice. They can be life changing for us. They introduce us to a culture very different than our own, but if we walk away thinking we understand, if we walk away thinking that we fulfilled our obligation, then maybe that trip has done more harm than good.

So how do we join with the poor? I don't know that I have any answers. Honestly, I've tried. My family moved to Haiti and tried to do this for more than six years and I stand before you now at a place of failure. Nothing worked the way it was "supposed to." Yet I am not afraid of that word because I'm becoming more and more convinced that the gospel lives in our failure.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mangine Family Update- August 2015



Friends.

It's been a while since I have given an update on us. I mean, sure, I have uploaded pictures of the kids doing their "America stuff," but it's been a while since I have updated on how we are really doing. We have been in the States for about a month now after I came dangerously close to burnout in Haiti in June/July. Because of my history with PTSD, we decided to be proactive and moved our furlough up so we could work through this round of exhaustion and trauma.

This past Sunday our church started a series about lament. The basic premise is that within that church, (and especially in vocational ministry), we do not talk about the hard times and the moments of questioning, wrestling, and doubt until we are through with the hard time. Only then it seems safe to express the challenges and how we overcame them. But we often do not express them in the moment, in spite of the fact that the Bible is full of these kinds of moments, and even Jesus himself was not too proud to show his lament.

All of this is to say, this process for us has been going well at times, and has been really difficult at other times. More often it's the latter. We feel a real tear between "there" and "here." We miss the kids in Haiti, though we know they are in capable and loving hands. But mostly, we feel a need to address these emotional issues with a wider lens. We need to evaluate our goals, our abilities, our passions, and our health, and find a way to make the pieces fit together properly. There is great dissonance in our souls when we start to look at how these things might have to play out. Please don't try to read too much into that statement. It's not a vague way of saying anything. It is what it is-- we are examining all of our options and trying to seek out a way forward that takes into account all of the factors.

It's hard. It's REALLY hard. Nick is not experiencing the same kinds of struggles I am. And so while that is a really good thing as our family relies on him as the leader, as we discuss, process, seek counsel, and attempt to make sense of things, we sometimes struggle to stay on the same page. We struggle with putting each other first. We struggle with what we want and what we may have to give up in order to make the other happy.

My point in sharing this is simply to share it. Not because we have an ask to make, but just to humbly lay the truth before you, our friends and supporters. We are in a season of questions and doubts and stretching. And we feel there is value in being vulnerable and admitting that. And we are not sure the outcome other than to say we are committed to God, to one another, and to our family.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why I don't like adventure.

You know what I am sick of?  Adventure.  Lots of people talk about wanting to do these adrenaline-pumping activities-- cliff diving, bungee jumping, off-the-grid wilderness backpacking,  riding motorcycles cross country... whatever.  None of those things sound fun to me.  In fact, my main goal in life these days is to find activities where I can lower my adrenaline levels for fun.  And it's not that I am an old lady, although I am getting there. It's just that I have used up a lifetime of adventure already.  I have reached my quota.  Why?  Because everything in Haiti is an adventure.  Eating, driving, getting anything done.  Adventure.  You never know what awaits.

And last night was no exception.  We were hanging out in our yard after having a busy day.  Our kids, the neighbor kids, and our staff member's kids were all playing on our playground.  Nico was having races across the monkey bars with some of the older kids in the neighborhood.  And Josiah wanted in on the action.  And he did great.  Without knowing that he could do monkey bars, he did!  I was so excited for him.  He said he was scared, but he did it.

Now, here's where it is appropriate to mention that the aforementioned playground equipment is new to us.  A few years ago, my friend Sarah had a team come in to install a community playground in her neighborhood.  A resident there had an open lot, and said he was donating it to be used for this purpose.  Except just kidding, because a couple of years later he decides to sell the land and gives Sarah a couple of days to remove the equipment.  She obliges, and knowing we have a big yard and the kids from the neighborhood always come into play in the afternoons after lessons, she offered it to us. We were happy to accept.  And this playground equipment has made our yard the happiest place in the Breman zone of Jacmel each afternoon.  A teeter-totter, a swing set, and monkey bars. All heavy duty stuff like I grew up with before playgrounds became illegal in America because of accidents and broken bones.  And, to lower the bar on safety even further, ours is concreted in to our concrete yard. And the monkey bars are about 10 feet off the ground. (You can probably see where this is going.)

So yesterday afternoon, I was pushing Schneider on the swings when there's this terrible thump followed by a scream.  I ran over the source of the scream and it was Josiah.  One look at his wrist told me it was broken.  It was all deformed looking.


Nick and I grabbed some ice and some money, and ran out the door to the hospital.  And here, my friends, is where the adventure began.

We arrived at Hospital St. Michel (the only hospital in the area that is open and does x-rays on a Sunday.)  It is also the public hospital for the region.  It's nickname is "The Morgue."  (I didn't make that up.  Check Jacmel's Wikipedia page if you don't believe me.)  Let me start off this adventure by saying that the public hospital in Haiti on the best day is a terrifying proposition. But there have been a lot of good changes lately.  And we knew this was our best choice, short of traveling 3+ hours into Port Au Prince.

We walk into the ER, and immediately don't have a good feeling, because there are no lights on.  It's just starting to be dusk, and so there's enough light to make things out.  We head to the front desk and say that we need an x-ray. She told me there was no power and so no way to do an x-ray.  I push a little bit.  The nurse looks at Josiah's arm and orders an x-ray and says we can wait for the power to come on.  She gives us the bill to pay ahead of time (500 gourdes, or about $11.00US.)  Before the x-ray can be done, we have to go pay and bring the receipt back to her.  We do so.  And then we go back to radiology. I am saying silent prayers for power in my head because still no lights are on.

Magically, by the time we appear in radiology, the lights come on! The doors are locked, however, and a piece of paper is taped on the door with a hand-written phone number.  Before I can call that number, the guy (to whom the number belongs) came up to us and told us he was the x-ray tech.  I told him that we needed an x-ray.  I showed him the script and the receipt.  And he said that it couldn't be done because of the power.  I told him the power had turned back on.  And he said that was generator power, not city power.  And we couldn't do it on generator power. (As an aside, I understand this concept.  One would think "power is power"... right?  Not so much in Haiti.  You have to be careful what electrical devices are on and drawing power depending on what kind of power you are on. There are between 3-4 options- solar, inverter/batteries, city power, generator.)  I showed him Josiah's wrist and he seemed convinced it would be okay to do just one x-ray.  And so he did.  He shows us as he's handing over the x-ray, that there is a small fracture.  But he said it was no big deal and to go back to the ER to see the ortho doc to get a cast.

We head back to the ER, feeling quite accomplished and proud of the fact that we got seen so quickly, power came on at the right time, etc.  But as we are heading in, a vehicle zooms into the ER parking lot and a body (dead or alive, I do not know) was carried into the ER in front of us by about 5 running people.  We go back and sit down.  There is great drama unfolding before us with the patient that was just brought in.  There is screaming and pushing and wailing.  Josiah starts to shake and looks at me and says, "Mommy, bring me home.  I am scared. Bring me home."

I hold him tighter, plugging his ears and covering his eyes.  Then a very sick little old man is wheeled in and I wish I could cover my eyes and ears too... the ER is an open ward.  No curtains for privacy.  Finally the nurse gets back to us.  She says she's been trying to call the ortho, but he's not answering his phone.  So, they can admit us and Josiah can be seen by him in the morning. I told her we couldn't stay the night, that we'd try to find another hospital/doctor now that we had the x-rays done.  She agreed, but said we couldn't leave until we splinted up his wrist for support.  She writes me another prescription -  this time for a splint.  Nick goes off to the cashier and pharmacy to pay for it, but they are out of splints, so we leave without one.


Nick calls an orthopedic surgeon we know in Cay Jacmel-- about 30 minutes away from where we were downtown.  He answers and says that since we have x-rays, he'd be happy to see Josiah.  Only, his car is broken down, so can we come pick him up at his house and then go on to the hospital from there?  No problem.  He explains where his house is and we pull up about 40 minutes later (after a quick stop at our house for some ibuprofen).  He wants to see the x-ray before we head to the hospital so that he can know what we're dealing with.  But it was pitch black.  No worries, he heads to the front of the truck and uses the headlights to read the x-ray.  He says we can go get it taken care of and off to his hospital we go.  It's about 10 minutes from there on bumpy backroads that make Josiah wince and contort with pain.  We finally arrive, and upon seeing Josiah's wrist in the light, the doctor decides it's too swollen to cast.  So he has us sit down while he goes back into his storage room to look for a splint.  The only problem was that he didn't have one that fit.  But TIH- (this is Haiti), so he uses the smallest one he has-- an adult medium. We bring him back to his home and then drive home, him telling us to keep the splint on it and come back in about a week for casting.


By the time we got home, we realized that the too-big splint won't be a finished product.  But it was all we had.  Josiah slept in our bed and groaned throughout the night in pain.  I put out the alert this morning trying to find a more appropriate-sized splint.  Initially, we got two that were also the wrong size, but then I started getting texts about other options.  We headed down to the new clinic in Morne Oge (about 20 minutes away) that is run by some friends of ours.  And we were in luck.  They had a US doctor in town.  (Of course, he was an OB/GYN, but to a certain extent, a doctor is a doctor, right?)  Either way, he hooked us up with the new splint which is just slightly too big rather than ridiculously too big.  And now, we are all set.


Josiah hates only having use of one hand and he's still in a lot of pain. But we're all squared away for about a week.  Then we have to figure out how to get a cast on him.  But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Can you understand why I don't like adventure?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Six year Haiti-versary

Six years and one day ago we got together with our life group to say goodbye.  These were our people.  The people we "did life" with. They were (are) the best.

The very next day (that's six years ago today to be exact), we moved to Haiti. 

We were young and naive.  We were hopeful we could change the world.  We were following a calling we believe God placed on our lives, and we had NO IDEA what was coming.

Enjoy a few snaps of the early days, when we were the carefree Mangine 5.

We had far fewer wrinkles and much less sun-damaged skin.  Look how fresh-faced we were.  Awww...

The first several days, weeks, and months were full of learning and discovery. 

We learned new ways of doing all the things we thought we already knew how to do.  Like speak.  And be married.  And drive.


And eat. 

Our kids were babies. Like, really. Josiah was only one year old. What were we thinking?!?

And now- six years later, we are older.  We are wiser.  We are jaded.  We are (way) more tired.  We are (far) less fresh-faced.   And while we might now know how to speak here, drive here, and subsist only on carbs and fat (well, and smoothies), we are still learning every. single. day. how to live in a new way. 

We still believe in the God that put this calling in our lives all those years ago, and we still have NO IDEA of what is coming next.

Six years and one day after that top picture was snapped, we find ourselves  surrounded again by a group of people that we "do life" with.  It is a different group now.  And to be honest, we miss all those people from the good ole days-- every single one of them. We (I) sometimes (a lot) fantasize about moving back to NC and have a "normal" life again- I long for the simplicity of things like 24 hour electricity and, you know, getting a normal paycheck.  But knowing what we know now, we know that "going back" would be in no way normal.   

This is what our life group looks like today.  It's far more complicated now.  To be honest, many/most days it is less enjoyable.  But our life here is good.  Really good.  We feel like we are really living. 

We now know that we can't do something big and dramatic that will change the world.  But we also now know that we can "do small things with great love" as Mother Teresa said. And so that's our goal.  

Thank you to everyone who has stood with us on this journey.  Feel free to have a tasty beverage today and raise your glass to our celebration of six years in Haiti. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Untouchables.



While scrolling through facebook for the millionth time the other day (I really need to get that under control), I saw this image that was a collage of 6 images by a Cuban artist names Erik Ravelo.  (See full size images on his website).

The purpose of these images are to raise awareness about child protection from the varied attacks children face around the world.  From top (L-R) abuse of children by priests, sex tourism, the war in the middle east.  Bottom (L-R) organ trafficking, gun violence in schools, and the fast food/obesity epidemic.

These images really touched me. According to Ravelo's website, the message of these pics is that "the right to childhood should be untouchable." Now, I get that they all have their own political statement. But I am not writing today about these specific political statements.  I think the point that was so poignant to me was the fact that there are innocent people (including children) being crucified at the expense of every cause.

And this got me to thinking, "What kinds of children are being crucified similarly where I live (in Haiti), and at the hands of whom?"  And I started scanning my brain for the images that could be the subject of similar photos.

First, I thought about the media.  (That's an easy target.)  I pictured a poor, swollen-bellied, malnourished child hanging with his arms spread on the back of a journalist or a photographer with a big telephoto lens. I thought about the way that Haiti is portrayed in the media, often robbing the dignity of her children.

Next I thought of the UN.  There are an array of different images.  A sexually molested child on the back of a UN soldier.  A child dead from cholera on the back of a UN soldier.  A light-skinned baby with a single mom as the result of UN soldiers impregnating young women and girls.

I thought about pictures of slavery, and restavek, and big NGOs, and the abuse of lower class Haitians by upper class Haitians.  But the images that couldn't leave my mind were the ones where children were on the backs of missionaries.  Hear me out here.  I am a missionary.  I am not saying that all missionaries are abusing or taking advantage of children. I am not even saying that MOST missionaries abuse children, because most of them don't.  (In the same way all priests do not molest children and all tourists do not rape children, etc.). But, you guys, some, albeit a small percentage, do. And getting a front row seat to view the trauma is a tough place to live.

The images I see in my head are of all different types of missionaries; the ones with business suits that breeze in and out in first class seats, those with safari gear to tackle the cement jungle of Port Au Prince, the short-term matchy-matchy t-shirt crews, the long term missionaries in their ripped pants and faded, stretched out t-shirts from years of hand washing and line drying, the nuns in their habits, the Mennonites in their bonnets, the Mormons in their sacred underwear, the hippies going to live in a tent or a house made from garbage, the first-world rejects looking to re-create themselves in a new place, the fresh-out-of-Bible-college kid who majored in missions, the bleeding hearts on a journey to find social justice.

In their arms they hold the tools of their trade: hand sanitizer and bug spray, Camelbacks, Nalgene bottles, Bibles, free rice, vaccines, medical supplies, cash, religious tracts, Evangicubes, used shoes, new shoes, used clothes, new clothes, art supplies, Christmas presents, school supplies, soccer balls, candy, and giant green army duffels stuffed with all the former.  (And goodness knows what else.) Oh! And don't forget the camera.  They all have a camera.

My point is this-- it is tough to know what the actual photos of these abusive missionaries will look like.  It could be any variation of all of the above.

And the children hanging on their backs could also present in any number of ways. It could be a child who has lost her family because a missionary built and orphanage needed orphans to fill it.  So her mom, in the desire to ensure she had food and clothes and school, abandoned her.  It could be a former street boy who lives in an orphanage and is being sexually abused by the missionary in charge, and is threatened to be kicked out onto the street if he tells. It could be the negligence of a missionary who supports a church/school/orphanage/etc. where the children are being abused by staff members.  It could be a child beaten by his father because a short-term team member gave him a $20 bill.  This enraged his father who works more than a week hauling buckets of cement for 12 hours a day to make the same amount of money.


But there's are some other equally frightening images that come to mind-- the images of missionary kids hanging on the backs of their mothers and fathers.  It's a boy that wants his dad's attention, but does not get it because the dad is always too busy serving others.  It's a little girl who is behind grade level on her school work because her mom is too busy serving the poor (or surfing facebook) to get homeschool done every day she should. It's the kids that can't return to their home culture and feel comfortable, because their parents never taught them about their birth culture.  It's missionary kids with a mouth-full of cavities and rotten teeth because their missionary moms were too always too tired to take the 1 minute it would take to brush their teeth.  It's the missionary kids abused on the mission field because their missionary parents did not realize the risky situations their children were being put into.  Or missionary kids who only 40 years later could forgive their parents for sending them away to boarding school so that they could be on the mission field unencumbered.  It's the missionary kids who raise themselves and tiptoe around their parents because they know how exhausted the parents always are from "serving the Lord" and they just don't want to upset them.  It's the missionary kids whose parents never do devotions with them in spite of being out spreading the gospel all day long to anyone who will open the doors they knock on.

These things on this list are all real-life things that have been either observed in my own house, observed in other missionary households, or told to me by other missionary kids.  I think that all missionaries should heed the message these scenarios tell.

But this cautionary tale is not just for missionaries.  I encourage you to think through what your life looks like, whether you live in the bush of Africa or in the suburban Bible belt of North Carolina. What is it that your life is marked by?  What roles do you identify with?  It could be your occupation, your political views, your religion, something you do for entertainment, or some cause you support. It's essentially the same question I asked myself about children in Haiti. "What kinds of children are being crucified similarly where I live, and at the hands of whom?"  And as your mind scrolls through examples, take note. 

This kind of self-introspection is difficult.  But to paraphrase a pastor I heard long ago teaching on parenting, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose the souls of his children?"  Let's think on that together.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mangine Family- March 2015 Recap.

Hi friends!

Springtime is nice in Haiti.  Lots of sunshine, but the temps are not blistering quite yet. Our springtime rainy season has started, which means driving rain nearly each evening.  While it makes lots of mud, it also keeps the temps quite nice. As a matter of fact, last night I was cold while laying in bed.  That pretty much never happens. I will take it!

In March, we saw many things happen.  Read on!

Nick and I received a tax-return this year and decided to invest in solar power for our home.  We purchased and installed 3 panels with the hope that we will be able to decrease the amount of time we have to run our generator.  So far it's working!  We're hopeful that these 3 panels can decrease our fuel bill for our generator by at least $200/month.

Many thanks for the solar project goes to Travis from F1 Engineering and his team who installed the solar panels for us.

We've made a new friend in our neighborhood.  She is a 20 year-old new mom, named Mika.  I stopped by her house a few weeks ago to check on her after she had her baby and found she was burning with a 104 fever.  The baby also had a fever.  We sent them to the hospital and they did nothing except send the baby home with Tylenol and vitamins. So the next day we consulted our friends at Olive Tree Projects, a local maternity clinic, and they were able to help.  Mika stayed at their clinic for 2 days and was treated for an infection.  The baby, Bebito, seemed to have trouble regulating his temperature, but that self-corrected.

Since her illness, Mika has become a good friend. She stops by a few times a week just to visit.  It's really nice to see her and Bebito so healthy.

Our kids are all doing well.  No one has been sick recently other than a few sniffles here and there.  They have been enjoying spring break this past week.  I love this picture from the other day.  We've always just sung a prayer song at the beginning of a meal, but our kids are outgrowing that a bit, and so it was so cute when Schneider volunteered to pray to bless the food.  When he got flustered mid-prayer (after he'd already prayed for people in the hospital and in prison), Prisca jumped in and whispered phrases into his ear for him to continue.  It was a tender moment.

Even though the kids are growing up, they still have moments that remind us they are still children.  The other day I printed off some coloring pages to color with the little kids, and all the teenage girls wanted to color as well!  So I had to print off more.  This is Sanndi's creation.

Jerry is doing well in his foster family.  There have been bumps in the road.  But he's doing well.  We went to the beach last weekend and ate lunch there. (Thanks to Nick's parents who treated us!) Jerry saved half his meal so he could bring it home to his younger foster brother, Melkisadek. That was endearing.



Speaking of Nick's parents, they just left after visiting for 8 days.  It's always fun to have the grandparents here.  Nick's dad, Ken, helped us with some projects around the house.

And Grandma did lots of activities with the kids.  She brought a book on paper airplanes and the kids each made a different one and then they had flying contests.  She also came with plenty of fabric and helped the girls learn more about sewing.  Each girl made a hand-sewn bag while she was here.

We also had fun doing some typical touristy stuff, like strolling on the mosaic waterfront, and giving them a tour of historic downtown Jacmel.

Jacmel has made much progress recently.  They are trying to encourage tourism and have made some big changes.  There is a new playground for the kids along the waterfront.  It was like pulling teeth to get Schneider to leave.  And there were probably at least 30 other kids also playing along with him on the small play structure. There was a steady stream of kids coming down the slide.  It was such a happy scene.


Another big change in Jacmel is that the old iron market, where the open air street market has been located since 1895 has been evacuated and moved into the new market area that has been under construction since early 2011.  The old market is being restored in the hopes of building a tourist market in that spot.  I loved this picture I snapped of the empty market earlier this past week.  The cathedral in the background is circa 1859.


 As you can see, the kids did not want them to leave!  This was them yesterday morning trying to prevent Grandpa from making his flight.

Each month we are here brings new joys and new challenges. At the end of this month we will be celebrating 6 years of life in Haiti.  Nick and I love the work we do, but constantly struggle with the feeling that we're always letting someone down.  Haiti is a tough place to live and work, but it is worth it.  I have several things that have been on my mind for which I would love your prayers.  Please allow me to quickly share them.
  • Our grown children Fritzie and Yves have ventured out on their own a bit this past month.  Please pray for God's guidance and protection upon them.  Please pray for maturity and integrity.  Please pray for Nick and I as we walk through the appropriate balance between caring for them and letting them care for themselves.
  • Please pray for paperwork surrounding Schneider's adoption.  We are currently going down a path which MAY permit him to travel with us even before his adoption is complete.  Please pray that this would be successful.  We are really struggling with the idea of taking a long furlough if it means leaving our baby behind.
  • Nick is trying to find some contract work in programming to help supplement our income.  Money has been very tight.  Please pray for the right doors to open for that to happen.
  • Finally, please pray for a spiritual renewal for Nick and I. I feel like we're stuck in a pattern of getting by rather than pressing in spiritually.  And I think that makes a difference.
Thank you for your faithful partnership with us.  We appreciate the sacrifices you make so that our family can thrive. We are always looking for new partners to come alongside of us.  If you know anyone who might be interested in hearing more about what we do and why we do it, please send them our way and we can bring them up to speed.

I hope you have a great Easter weekend and that you're surrounded with people you love.

With a grateful heart,

Gwenn, for the entire Mangine Many

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Life plans.

I had this thought in my head that once my kids started to get older, things would start getting easier. In some ways, that's true.  I don't have to deal with diapers anymore, except for our few bed-wetters, and they can handle their own diapers these days.  Even Schneider almost always bathes himself.  (But I still try to get in there to do a good scrub down once or twice a week.)  The kids know their morning routine and get going independently.  There are older kids always wanting to earn a couple gourdes by picking up random jobs and extra chores.  In many ways, things are easier.

But as the majority of our kids enter the teen years (and beyond for a few of them), the kinds of busy that Nick and I find ourselves is changing.  Instead of wiping butts and getting kids dressed, we are really thinking about the future.  Nick likes to say that we are not raising children, we are raising adults.  It has weighed heavy on us the responsibility that Nick and I have to our kids in their growing up years.  This means working to keep communication lines open, to present our kids with life lessons in relevant ways, and dealing with a ridiculous level of hormones.

These thoughts have helped us start to identify "life plans" for each of our kids.  We have been and are in the process of thinking through a set of goals and plans for our individual kids.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that we recognize that each of our children is unique.  They have a unique story, unique gifts, and a unique set of circumstances that brought them to the point where they are now.  The combination of all of these attributes presents certain realities,  For example, we know that a few of our children will not have the capacity to finish high school.  It's not that they are unintelligent, life has just not afforded them the opportunity for this to be an option.  We know that for some of our kids, their childhood years were marked by trauma and a lack of opportunity for basic education.  They have come up with obstacles that were outside of their control, and that changed the trajectory of their life, too.  As these kids have aged, we've come to realize that success (for some of our kids) can mean something different than finishing school.  

Culturally, this plays out in the statistics.  In Haiti, only about 67% of children attend primary school.  Only about 20% attend high school.  And only about 1% receive a university education.  So, obviously, this has spilled over into the unemployment rate (at least 40%) and the poverty rate (about 80%). (source: CIA World Factbook)

So when we think about 12 children entrusted to our care who will eventually be adults, we understand that this is an uphill battle.  Now, please don't get me wrong.  I realize that my 3 American kids, and Schneider soon, too, will have a whole other set of opportunities because they are (or will be) Americans.  This means that they will be able to enjoy the privilege of a (pretty much guaranteed) minimum wage job should they live in the States when they are past the age of 16.  I recognize the inequity in this.  It's not something any of us can change, so just for the sake of argument, let's just say that we have 8 individuals to prepare here in Haiti when we're talking of the future.

Of those 8, there are probably 3 who are unlikely to finish high school.  Perhaps 4.  (But the 4th is not due to ability but advanced age and the possibility that he will not wish to continue his education.) \ Of those 4, 2 of them are going to be fine.  They are naturally go-getters, they are hard workers, they can follow instructions.  I would feel confident recommending them to anyone as an employee.  The other 2-- not so much.  I honestly do not know what to do with 2 of them. I am not sure where life will lead them.  Orphaned at a young age and forced to live on the streets has caused in them a fracture that 5+ years of consistency, provision, and love has hardly begun to touch.

And so we've found ourselves in this moment with one of our older boys, where we have needed to see more effort and responsibility on his part.  We've provided him with the skills and opportunities he has needed to begin to be self-sufficient.  Not willing to just drop a kid when they turn 18 which is the norm for "orphan"ages around here, we've fought for this kid for years.   Believe me when I tell you this is a huge problem in Haiti-- What do we do with the 300,000 kids who have been in orphanages when they become adults?   How do they enter society when all they have ever had has been given to them at regular intervals?  We see this struggle every day.  Nick currently has an on-going dialog with 5 kids from an orphanage we used to work with who regularly ask him for money, letters for visas to try to go to the States, jobs, etc., because they do not know what they are supposed to do now that they are grown.  Orphanages in Haiti are failing kids in so many ways.  But that is a story for another day.

All of this is to say, that this week Nick and I had to make a hard call with one of our older boys (legally an adult) this week who needs to learn the value of work.  I could go through an extensive list of the gentle, educational ways we've tried to do this.  But that would be pointless, because so far, all of them have failed.  So, my desire to rattle off what we've done up until this point would just be image management.  This week we sent him out into the countryside for a period of (at least) 6 weeks.  We know that the life he will be living there with some family friends will not be easy.  Participation in hard work and contributing to the needs of the family will be necessary.  Honestly, I do not know how he will do. But we feel very strongly that this young man needs to accept more responsibility if he wishes to continue receiving financial support from us.  (Side note 1: THIS IS HARD!)  (Side note 2:  I know that parents in the States are going through the same thing with their kids, too. Or their 30-year-olds.)

Will you please pray for our son?  Would you pray that he will grow to see work not as a punishment but as a part of life where he can find satisfaction? Please pray that he would understand that we still love him and are committed to him, and that it is out of love we're pushing him in this area.  And pray that he would learn the lessons he needs to learn quickly and completely, so that he does not have to repeat them.  Finally, PLEASE pray that he doesn't do anything stupid.  I have all these "what-if" fears.  Thank you!

The longer I live the more I learn that we're all just doing the best we can.  Thanks for all the ways you come alongside of us so that together we can raise adults who will have a net-positive impact on their community.  Indeed it does take a village.