Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throw Back Thursday- October 2007

Seven years ago this week Nick and I brought our kids to Haiti for the first time.  (He and I had been a few times before and had been working with Joy in Hope (then called Haitian Children's Home), but this was the first time with the whole fam.)

Here are some #TBT pics from that week--  it was quite adventuresome!  TS Noel rolled through and totally soaked the Sudest...  It was crazy and fun.  And it was on that trip when we became convinced that the Lord was calling us to move our family to Haiti.

Here's the travel down...

Josiah and Berline.

Here I was introducing some of the kids to their online sponsors.

 Josiah and Elinda.

Our whole family at the Raymond beach-- Nia was 4 years old, Josiah was 5 months old, and Nico was 2 years old.  Seems like forever ago.

The day we went to the beach, the babies from the Hands and Feet project were there with Michelle, and Josiah hopped right in their baby pool.

Walking the land with Nico.

Nia slid right into children's church.

Sweaty and happy.

Man, these kids were tiny and cute back then.

 Then the rain started.

And it didn't stop for a long time.

TS Noel brought almost 30 inches of rain to the area.  The mountain road was washed out and we got stuck in Haiti a few more days.  And we didn't mind one little bit.

It's crazy the ups and downs since then.  This journey hasn't always been fun. But it's been good.  And I still believe in the call the Lord put on our lives that week 7 years ago.

A big thank you to the supporters who have brought us this far...

I can't wait to see what the next 7 years will bring.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Event of the Fall- Blue, Brew, & BBQ

I was in Haiti several months ago and a group of our friends let us know that they wanted to have a fundraiser for our family this fall.  For those of you who don't know us, my husband Nick and I run a foster home in Jacmel, Haiti, where we have committed to raising orphaned and abandoned children to adulthood in a family setting.  (That's all of us up top.) We're five and a half years into this journey in Haiti, and, as you can imagine, raising 12 kids is insane, and fun, and challenging, and expensive!  So with my friends believing in the work we're doing to ensure our 12 kids grow up in a family, they started planning and Blue, Brew, & BBQ was born.  And it's coming up soon- November 7th!

We got back to the States in September and started coming to the meetings about the event, and oh-my-gosh, I can't even explain how much these ladies have done.  This is not just a simple backyard barbecue.  This is an event.  You guys.  This is going to be so great.  I really do think it's worth the $50 ticket price--- Read on!

The venue for the fundraiser is this cool farm out in Chapel Hill.  It's called Rock Quarry Farm and it has this amazing barn nestled in the midst of a grove of 200 year old oak trees--

The BBQ for this event will be catered by Kirk Krauza and Greg Stoner.  These guys know barbecue.  They will be up all night on the day of the party to start slow cooking the meat and preparing the fresh vegetables to grill.  If you've ever had their food, you know you're in for a treat!  We have Skipper's (long time friends and Joy in Hope supporters) donating the cole slaw.  City Barbecue is donating the banana pudding.  Chick fil A is donating the tea.  LoneRider (a local brewery) is donating the beer.  (One drink ticket is included in the dinner price, other drink tickets can be purchased at the event.)  Hobnob Occasions is debuting their beautiful handcrafted farm tables and benches at the event. And entertainment will be provided by the Chapel Hill back porch bluegrass band, Big Fat Gap. (See a video of them playing here.)

We will be having a live auction with professional auctioneer, Pat Kelly.  There are some really great prizes up for auction-- Carolina Hurricanes tickets, Duke Football tickets, a bed and breakfast getaway in the mountains, YMCA track out camp, gift cards to local restaurants, spa and salon services, handcrafted Haitian items, jewelry from the Stoner Handmade Market, rounds of golf... and much more.

Blue, Brew, & BBQ is going to be so much fun.  And as a charity event, it has the potential to raise a lot of money for the care of our big family.  If you're local to the Triangle area, consider coming to the event.  Tickets can be purchased at  If you're not local, fear not- there are lots of other opportunities coming up where you can play a role-- things like our Christmas present drive, child/family sponsorship, and Nick's January marathon in Haiti, where he's running to raise money for solar power!

So please mark your calendars and buy your tickets--  and we'll see y'all there.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On a Moto Episode 24: Proof of Life

Yes, this is very similar to episode 22: Hog tied.  But this was a separate incident and I was just going to tack it on to that post.  Until I realized this picture offered something very distinct that proves this pig was alive when the photo was snapped.

Do you see it? (Click on the pic to enlarge it if you don't.)

You're welcome.

PS- To see the whole series so far, click HERE.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embrace the Heat

First, some business.  Good news.  I am still alive.  I can see how not sending out an update in over a month might have some wondering.  We are one month into a three month furlough to the States.  It's been quite a bounce this time for me in terms of transition because we sort of over-booked ourselves (as we often do).  From a work perspective I have accomplished approximately zero useful things during this time so far, but I think we're finally into a groove now where we can (and want to!) move forward. Sorry to all the people awaiting email responses!  With that off my chest...

One thing our family has really looked forward to on this furlough is attending a Haitian church plant in Cary in addition to attending our home church, Crosspointe.  The Haitian church, (which is what we call it since I don't think it has an official name yet), meets at the Crosspointe office and it's a total mind blow for Nick and me because it's totally an authentic Haitian church. The same songs are sung with the same Chans Dèspèrans hymnals.  (We had heard this was the case and brought our own, which is the way it works in Haitian churches.)  The same loud voices sing these songs with a sound system hooked up for each week, even though there are only about 5-13 people that attend on a weekly basis.  (And remember, our family makes up 5 of those!) The same proclamations ring out through the service... Beni swa l'eternel! Jezi pi gran!  Bondye beni'w (to which everyone responds "amen.")  The preaching is spirited and lively and the pastor is not afraid to call out sin.  Sometimes the forward-ness of this kind of preaching makes me inwardly cringe, being so afraid of someone walk away offended.  Sometimes I find the boldness refreshing. (Well, what I understand of it.  The truth is that my comprehension of Kreyol, while conversationally fluent in Haiti, lacks at times.  Fast talking or yelling (especially when distorted by a very loud sound system) sometimes goes over my head.  So, I maybe understand 65% of what's being said.  I can follow the drift, but not all the nuance.  But, as usual, I am digressing.)

Today I had a revelation during Haitian church.  Sister Denise was up front leading worship today since Paulette (the lady that usually leads the hymns) was out of town.  She said something like this-- "The air outside is starting to feel cool.   Everyone is starting to be cold.  And we want to run from that, but with Jesus inside of us, we can feel warm.  He can make us feel the heat again.  He can be our heat." Spoken like a true Haitian.  In my experience, Haitians hate to be cold.  When the temperature dips to a "chilly" 82F, 90% of people will be wearing long sleeves and possibly a woolen or fleece hat.

I couldn't be farther from Haitian in this respect.  The truth is, I hate the heat.  I despise it.  And y'all, Haiti is hella hot.  My friend Gayly, a Haitian national, always gets so irritated about how much I complain about the heat.  To which I always retort, "I wouldn't complain about the heat around here if the country wasn't so freaking hot!" You guys.  I don't do well with the heat.  So when Denise was talking about the coldness being a bad thing, I almost had to pipe up and say something.  This cooler weather is perfectly delightful to Mama Gwenn.

And in that moment, I saw this reality--  Haitian people like the heat.  And Americans, well, not so much.  We all live in houses with air conditioning.  We drive cars that are air conditioned.  And the businesses we frequent are air conditioned.  I can live in Haiti for the rest of my life, and probably, my preference will always be cooler weather.  Just like for many of the Haitian people at church have lived in the States for some time now, their preference is hot weather.  It's just one of those inherent differences.  And it's this tension I feel as I live between two cultures.  But in that moment, I felt this feeling that told me this, "Gwenn, you need to embrace the heat."

Each year, starting in about April, I start praying, "God, please help me get through this summer's heat."  I even brought it up as a prayer request at church this past year.  I sort of view it as something to get through.  Something from which I am always seeking relief.  But how would my life be different if I could start embracing the heat?  What would it look like if I started praying in April, "God, help me to embrace the heat this year."?  What would it look like if, instead of being frustrated and constantly trying to find ways to get out of the heat, I decided to live life in the heat?  Not in spite of it, but in it.  What if my quest for comfort is derailing the work that God wants to do in me?

So what is it for you?  What's your nemesis in the way that heat is mine?  Could it be that God does not want to deliver you from it, but in it?   I guess my point is this.  I think we Christians are too caught up in our own comfort.  We want to be spared the discomfort of life.  But life is inherently uncomfortable.  And so often I see that I use my resources, my connections, my talents, my time, and my energy trying to find relief from my discomfort.  I think we all do. But maybe the time is coming where God has a more beautiful plan to deliver us in the heat, not from it*.

*But if you still want to pray that it's not that hot in Haiti this summer, that's okay for me too. ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Too funny to not double share.

Our family has been working on shooting a music video for fun.  Yesterday we were down at Lakou Nouyok and I was letting the boys freestyle a bit.  While the actual video I shot is much longer, I shortened it down to 14 seconds so as to not waste your time.  (Sorry for the double post for all the facebookers.)

You're welcome.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The colorful shoes and the anxiety of parenting a TCK.

TCK stands for third culture kid. It refers to (according to this Wikipedia page):
"children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.The definition is not constrained to describing only children, but can also be used to describe adults who have had this experience of being a TCK. The experience of being a TCK is unique in that these individuals are moving between cultures before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal and cultural identity. The first culture of children refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. The third culture is further reinforced with the interaction of the third culture individual with the expatriate community that currently resides in the host country."

You guys.  TCKs can be so amazing.  There are so many things they do well.  And there are so many really, really admirable traits that they develop by sheer virtue of the fact that they are a part of this third culture.  

But oh man, TCKs can be weirdos.  

Seriously.  TCKs can totally struggle with where to fit in.  Because they don't entirely fit into their host culture.  And they don't entirely fit into their parents home culture.  They become this weird mix of the two, so much so that it's a third culture entirely.  And here's what's interesting about it, TCKs find a feeling of belonging amongst other TCKs.  And I am not just talking about TCKs from the same birth culture that go to the same host culture.  No, studies have been done that show that TCKs from any culture will gravitate towards TCKs or any other culture.  It doesn't matter if they grew up in Haiti, in Japan, in Africa, Belize...  TCKs understand other TCKs.  In fact, grown TCKs are likely to marry other grown TCKs.

Have I said TCKs enough for you yet?  Because I feel like I have.

Anywho... that's just a little background on who my (American) children are.  And it helps explain some of the tensions we struggle through in raising our kids in a culture outside of the one we're most familiar with.  These tensions really bubble to the surface during times of transition-- like when we're heading back to America for a furlough, or to Haiti after furlough.  Stress levels rise in all of us as we prepare for the pendulum swing.  Seriously guys, the difference between the two cultures we call home are dizzying.  It's hard for Nick and I by ourselves, but walking our children through it can be really, really challenging.

When the kids were younger, it was easier.  They were just little kids when we moved here.  Nia was 6, Nico was 4, and Josiah was 1.  (We found those to be excellent ages to transition kids, by the way.)  But they were just little kids who had very little opinion about where they lived, what they ate or wore.  It was pretty easy.  But now they are getting older.  And so sometimes things like how you dress, or how you talk, or what kind of music you know... that stuff matters more.  And I am SO anxious about the thought of my kids being teased because they are different.  It's probably in the top ten worries of every missionary parent.

So then the other day something occurred that I want to share.  Here goes--

Without a doubt, Nico is the most hip of the three American kids.  He's one of the coolest and most kind-spirited kids I've ever met.  And, at 9, he's starting to get into style.  He wants to learn how to beatbox and rap and he wants cool shoes.  Hightops to be precise.  So the other day I was in the market and in the used clothing section of the market, I saw these shoes.

From the moment I saw them, I knew Nico would love them.  I walked over to check them out.  They were his size.  And all his favorite colors.  They looked brand new.  And I knew I would buy them for him.  So, I did.  And then Nick and I are talking in the car on the way home and I mention that they are mostly pink and purple, and I wondered out loud if they looked too girly.  Nick said no, that they were totally something Nico would love.  Well then, upon further inspection, I noticed the tag said, "Size 3, Girls."  I pointed it out to Nick and he said, "Well, that probably won't matter to Nico.  If he likes them, that's good enough."  And I said, "Yeah, but what if kids tease him and say that he's wearing girls shoes?"  Nick told me that I should just leave it up to Nico.

Well, when I walked through the door with these colorful bad boys in my hands and told Nico they were for him, you would have thought the kid won the lottery.  To say he loved them is the understatement of the year.  The other kids hooted and hollered over how amazing they are, and Nico was feeling pretty good when he slid his feet right into them-- they fit perfectly.  Then Nick told Nico, "Just so you know, they are technically girls shoes, and if you don't want to keep them, we can pass them along to someone else."

Nico said, "No way! I LOOOOOVE them.  Anyway, I don't think they are girls shoes.  They look like boys shoes to me."  All the kids agreed that they aren't girl shoes.  (Even though they really are.)

And, just wanting to cover my bases, I said, "If you wear them in the States and someone says they look girly, how will that make you feel?"  

And without missing a beat Nico said, "I will tell them that I am Haitian, and that I live in Haiti.  And in Haiti we don't have boys colors and girls colors.  We just wear what we like."

Fair enough.  You can't argue his logic.  I love the confidence of that kid.  (And FYI, my friend Sarah would be so proud of him.)

So we're headed to the States with the colorful shoes in tow.

And if you tease him I will cut you.  With a machete.

PS- And don't get me started on Nia's jazz shirt and Josiah's orphan shorts...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another then and now post.

Yesterday I went to visit the camp where I used to work.  It's turned into a little town now, and the tents with foundations that once were have been transformed into real houses.  I suppose they are still technically semi-permanent houses, but then again a lot of houses around here are. :)

Anywho.  I got a chance to see some of the kiddos that I used to visit regularly for a year or two when I was doing the moms/babies program in the camps after the earthquake called Pwoje Konekte*.  

I dug through some old pics to show you the kids then and now, because who doesn't love a then and now picture post?  I know I do!  Here's then and nows for 4 kiddos.  I am sure I will be back sometime soon and can share more.

Dafkaline then and now.

Edwinson then and now.

Estel then and now.

 Jennifer then and now.

I was talking to my mom about visiting the camp and she asked if the kids recognized me.  Um. Yes.  In fact, when I went to leave, this is what happened. ;)

The year or two after the earthquake was such a hard time.  But it's good to look back and see that even the babies born in the worst of times are alive and thriving.  God is faithful.

*Pwoje konekte was a program we had after the EQ to try to get people in camps connected with services offering aid. It lasted for almost 2 years.

Read more about it in a few old blog posts I dug up: