Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've tweeted a bunch lately about the "contact."  This is a guy we met through a guy who has a lot of contacts at a government level and is helping us get a bunch of legal stuff-- drivers license, the equivalent of social security numbers, social services stuff, etc. done.  The system in Haiti is so confusing that many times, ex-pats (or actually, even Haitians) will hire someone to help them negotiate all the paperwork they need to get through.

I am not sure what to think about this dude. He used to be a general in the Haitian military (back when there was one), he drives really fast, and walks even faster.  He's a big (as in muscular, not fat) dude with kind of a Hitler-esque mustache, a shaved head and an extremely raspy voice.  He has a harsh demeanor but he's a get r done kind of guy.  He walks into a building and everyone knows him.  The crowds part for him.  He's made a business of being a "contact." He's a crazy driver, driving on the wrong side of a median-divided road when there's a traffic jam, and it would seem he knows every police officer/ government official in Port Au Prince.

He really intrigues me in that he scares me at the same time as I really kind of like him.  I wonder how he met all these people.  I wonder what he's like in his personal life.  I wonder how his voice got so raspy.  I wonder if he was a good guy or a bad guy in the military.  I wonder if harsh demeanor is real or all an act.

He doesn't seem to appreciate my "bubbly" joking/conversationalist personality.  I feel like he ignores 75% of what I say.  Which would lead me to believe he really doesn't care for me.  But he did tell Eddie (our bodyguard and right-hand man) that he likes working with me and that I make him laugh.  (Which he must do at home in his private time because I have never once heard the man laugh.  Or even seen him smile.)  And in all honesty, the laughing he probably does related to me is most likely at my expense, not because I am so witty. :)  He's just that kind of guy.

I always want to try to get a picture of him on my Blackberry when I am tweeting about him, but I am not sure if he carries a gun (my guess would be no because I can't imagine anyone trying to mess with him) and I am not sure how he would feel about his picture being taken.  I don't want to risk him as a contact and piss him off.  So I just do what he tells me to do and try to keep up with his lighting speed walking pace. (Which, as I mentioned in a recent tweet, makes me feel like (and undoubtably look like) a contestant in The Biggest Loser.   :)


Intriguing I tell you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

on a mission.

Got a great email from a stranger yesterday. It was so encouraging in so many ways...

But the best part about this email was the way she talked about her experience in being called on a short-term mission trip and her reactions while being here, and after getting home. I loved it.

I asked her permission to share because I feel like it sums up where a lot of people are when they experience Haiti.
Read on...
It wasn't until January 12th, when I was
sitting in a car wash in Chicago, Illinois ( I had since moved to be
closer to my boyfriend) that the news came on about the earthquake in
Haiti. They flashed photos of children's faces, my eyes filled with
tears, goosebumps ran down my back and something said to me "you've
got to go". Easier said then done, as I had nearly put my family into
cardiac arrest when I told them I was moving half way across the US to
be with "some boy" on earth would they react; the news
portrayed so much violence and hate; but I knew I had to go. (and know
now, the news..... was really wrong).

You can probably guess what happens from here.... :) In a sort of
whirl wind, the Children's Hospital I was working at in Chicago wanted
to send 2 nurses and 3 doctors to Haiti. Somehow, being a brand new
employee, amongst the many nursing volunteers, I was chosen - and my
life has never been the same.

I spent 2 weeks in Haiti, not nearly "saving the world" as well as I
would have hoped. In fact, upon departure, I felt that we perhaps
harmed them more than we had helped them. Sure I was able to care for
their "immediate" needs, but what about follow up? Who would care for
the wound I had bandaged in the days to follow that I was no longer
there, were we just slapping a band aid on every wounded heart and
calling it a day? I knew nothing about their culture, didn't speak
their language and had basically dropped in from the sky to deliver
care that I couldn't even follow up on......I spent the following
weeks at home heartbroken. I didn't speak of my visit for weeks; I
needed time to process; the people, the culture, my life. All awhile
reminiscing about the people, their fascinating strength and ability to
overcome anything, their love for life, their love for people - over
time, slowly and completely falling in love; with Haiti.

Since my returning home, things are different, how I brush my teeth
has even changed, I spare water now, knowing how uneasy it is to
obtain for a lot of people, how precious even a few drops can be. I
want to come back - I need to come back. And I sincerely don't know
where to start.

This is a pretty common reaction we get when people get "back home" from a short-term missions trip to Haiti. They will call us a few days later and say something to the effect of, "I just don't know how to reconcile the "two worlds" I am experiencing. How can I live here in THIS one when I know THAT one is there?"

That is an excellent question. And here's what I have to offer you.


We couldn't reconcile it.

We took the easy way out and moved here. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Haitian honesty.

So we're in the back of the truck yesterday coming back from the beach.

We have a pretty hard and fast rule that if you are wet, you cannot sit in the front of the truck on the way home from the beach, you have to sit in the back. Now, we have benches and a frame back there so it's really not all that bad.

For carsickness reasons, safety reasons, and "because I am the mom and I say so" reasons, I always sit in the back, closest to the tailgate on one side.

So picture this just for a second so that you can understand the situation--

I am all the way in the back of the truck (in a swimsuit) sitting on a metal bench and holding on to one of the bars above me, so that my arm is bent at a 45 degree angle, perpendicular to the bar I was holding on for support, which inevitably, made my turkey waddle (the flab on the area where my triceps SHOULD be) kind of wave in the breeze like a flag. (Sorry for the nasty visual, but that's where we were.)

Nico was sitting on my lap. Josiah was sitting on Fritzie's lap across from me. Nia was sitting next to her, and Hugues, (our manny) was sitting on the tailgate also holding on in the same fashion as I was. However, unlike me, there is not an ounce of body fat on Hugues and he's a Haitian man, so he's of course, ripped. There was no turkey waddle flapping for him. He has actual tricep muscles where they should be.

Now. Here's the conversation that happened. (It actually all happened in Keryol, but I am going to write it in English.)

Nico: (Observing Hugues' muscles, reaches out and starts rubbing him all over his chest--making everyone uncomfortable-- and says...) Hugues, you are strong.

Hugues: (Kind of embarrassed.) No.

Nico: (Still rubbing Hugues' chest and moving onto his arms.) Yes, you are strong. Look at your muscles.

Hugues: (More embarrassed.) A little bit strong.

Nico: (Had stopped touching the muscles, but only because I swatted his hand away.) No, you're VERY strong. Right Nia?

Nia: Yes. You have GIANT muscles. (And then making it about her because that's what she likes to do...) And Hugues, look how strong I am too. (Raises her arm to flex her bicep.) Feel my muscle.

Hugues: (Obligingly) Yes. You are VERY strong Nia.

Josiah: I am strong too, Hugues. Look at me. (Raises his arm to flex his bicep.) Feel.

Hugues: (Not obligingly because Hugues likes Josiah better than anyone else in the world...) Oh Josiah, my man. Look at you. You are strong. You are SO strong.

Nico: Me too. Me too. I am strong too, right? (Raises his arm to flex his bicep.)

Hugues: (Obligingly.) Yes. You are VERY strong Nico.

Nico: And mommy too. Mommy is strong too.

Nia: Yeah, mommy is very strong.

(This of course, turned everyone's gaze to my white flapping arm flapping in the breeze, positioned just inches from Hugues "GIANT" Haitian-man muscles. Sidenote: I saw where this was going and tried, in vain, to change the subject, because yeah... but no such luck.)

Hugues: (taking in the comparison and not really knowing this is something in America "of which one does not speak," just goes for it.) Yeah guys, your mom is strong. Only she's strong here... (and with that he points directly to the flapping waddle.) Look, she's very strong there.

This, of course, results in a roar of laughter from the 12 people in the back of the truck. I called Hugues a bad name under my breath and swatted him, but then joined in with the laughing, because, to quote Emily Sailers, "You have to laugh at yourself, because you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't."

Gotta love Haitian honesty.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My most-requested recipe-- Cox's House Dressing

My mother-in-law has this great salad dressing that was the house dressing from a restaurant in Elysburg, Pennsylvania (near where Nick was born.)

We make it all the time in Haiti. Our staff now makes it. The CCH staff makes it too...

I get a lot of requests for this recipe. Here it is:

Cox's House Dressing
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup oil
1 TBSP minced onion (or grated fresh onion)
1/4 cup ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of garlic salt if desired

(NOTE: We use fresh chopped onion and fresh minced onion.)

In our house, it' is called "Sos Manman Nick" because I got it from Nick's mom.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stephen French Goodale

That's my dad.

He rocks.

I can't imagine loving my dad more.

He's gentle and kind. He's compassionate and gracious. He's smart. He's hardworking and a positive thinker. He's a good husband to my mother. And he's been an excellent father to me and my sisters. He loves Jesus. And he's the strongest man I know. (In other words, my dad is stronger than your dad.)

We were pretty tight when I was growing up. (I am pretty sure I am his favorite daughter. :) I don't live near him anymore, and so our conversations are fewer and farther between. In fact, we haven't talked in a few weeks. Today he told me that with all of the different things I am going through these past several months that he recently became convinced that there is nothing he can say or do to make it my situation better... nothing except point me to the ONE who is mighty to save. Then he shared with me this passage of scripture. I thought I'd pass it along to share with you...

Psalm 112

1 Praise the LORD.
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who finds great delight in his commands.

2 His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.

6 Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.

7 He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.

9 He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor,
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked man will see and be vexed,
he will gnash his teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.


That's my dad.

He rocks.


Even as I sit here and type, I have a question in my head as to whether this post will be just one of my therapeutic writing sessions, or an actual blog post. As who processes things externally, I have dozens of "saved" posts that I think I should blog but realized after the fact that I just needed to write them to write them. And that was it. I have dozens of saved documents on my recently stolen computer that were the same thing. I sure hope that whoever stole my computer can't read English and has the sense to wipe the hard drive before using it, or selling it. Because yeah, my private thoughts... well, they were pretty private. But oh well, such is life, eh? (Can you tell I am friends with Canadians these days?) And yes, I have come up with a better system for journaling my private thoughts since. :)

This is what I am thinking about this morning.

I am thinking about the heat that my husband, Nick, took for the recent decision that was made by the Board. As the only member of the Board who lives on the ground in Haiti, the brunt of the pissed off people directed their anger at Nick. This came in the form of death threats (as I previously mentioned), fights at our home with people involving the police (while my children all cowered upstairs crying), tons of passive aggressive attacks and even, more recently, a "brother in Christ" calling my husband a liar and a moron. I am not sure when that kind of name-calling became okay, but I think I missed that passage in scripture.

But I didn't miss this one:

But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you. -- Matthew 5:44

There is nothing that torques me more than relational tension. I am a relational person to a fault. I love people. I love being around people. I tend to trust people and believe the best in them. So the idea of having "enemies" is killing me. It is literally eating my soul.

And I am not just a mama bear when it comes to people ganging up on my kids. Man, when someone says something bad about my husband... my heart breaks. The true nature of my husband is that of humility and compassion. At the core of him, he loves Jesus, he loves his family, and he is THE MOST forgiving person I have ever met. Literally. He can have it out with someone, and then the next day, truly be their friend. Truly. (Not so much me, I have a harder time letting go.)

But back to that passage in scripture.

LOVE your enemies.

Bless them that curse you.

Do good to them who hate you.

And pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.

Seriously? Are you serious?

I am going to be honest. I don't know HOW to do this.

My mother-in-law is a big believer in the expression, "rise above it." And that's MOSTLY what I've been trying to do in this situation. But I see that God is wanting so much more for me. As always, he's wanting the best for me. And that means, even in THIS situation, dying to myself and surrendering it ALL-- doing things I don't want to do and "going places" (figuratively and literally) that I don't want to go.

Pray for me as I attempt to do this. It's not what I want to do.

Okay, I decided to hit "publish." Just so I have the accountability of doing this... Aargh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kembe fèm

Kembe fèm timoun an Ayiti. Nou p'ap kite nou pou kont nou.
Translation: Stand strong children of Haiti. We will not leave you alone.

Kembe fèm!

Brighter things.

A few months after the earthquake as I was writing and writing and writing in order to try to process all that we'd been through, the words to this short, simple song came out of my head and onto paper. I would sing them to myself when hard memories from the quake/aftermath would surface and I'd find myself struggling with anxiety.

Again now, as I stand in a place of brokenness and uncertainty, struggling emotionally-- I again find these words cycling through my head:

What I've seen is all part of the story of who I am
And I cannot erase it
But You can-- You can redeem it for brighter things
Brighter things than what I've seen,
You can redeem it for brighter things

Who You are is the only story of who I am
That cannot be erased
And You have-- You have redeemed me for brighter things
Brighter things than what I've been
You have redeemed me for brighter things

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Charles Spurgeon quote...

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Two (at least) sides to every story.

These past few weeks have been some of the hardest we’ve ever dealt with. Not just from a ministry perspective, but from a LIFE perspective.

I have been largely silent on the issue of the change of leadership in Joy in Hope/Haitian Children’s Home as I’ve felt a prompting to “rise above” the untrue and hurtful things that were being said about my family, specifically my husband. But I can be silent no more and feel I must explain the tensions we’re currently walking in.

Here are some of the facts of the issue for all you “facts people.” I want to go into more detail, but I am unsure of what I can legally share.

1. After what the Board of Directors decided to be a series of “irreconcilable breaches of trust” (I am tired of that expression, but it’s all I can give you now) with Danny Pye, he was removed from a leadership capacity in Joy in Hope/Haitian Children's Home. This occurred August 29, 2010. The full intention of the Board was to keep Danny and Leann in their roles as houseparents and give them a hiatus from responsibilities to spend time intentionally building their family and marriage.

2. Between August 29 and Sept 3, there was another series of events/discoveries that lead the Board to decide to remove Danny and Leann as houseparents. A generous bridge of support was offered to the Pyes, but as of yet, has not been accepted.

3. Nick stepped into the role as “acting director” from a Haiti side until a new director can be found.

4. Since this has happened, we’ve received 8 death threats resulting in us having to increase security, and confine ourselves and kids to secured areas (ie- traveling with armed guards, etc.)

5. Since this has happened, the birth certificates of 5 of our Haitian children have been held hostage by a Joy in Hope employee who was terminated.

Here’s a few of the feelings we’re feeling as we process all of this:

1. We are sad. We are so sad. I have cried myself to sleep a half a dozen times in the past two weeks. I have cried (like really cried-- the UGLY cry) every single day.

2. We are scared. We are scared for our safety. We are scared for our future. We are scared because we don’t live in a place where justice always reigns.

3. We are anxious. I didn’t eat for three days after this all went down. I have had constant diarrhea. My hair is falling out. I have a mouth full of canker sores. I am trying to "turn all of these anxieties into prayers," as the Christian in me knows I should, but it is very overwhelming.

4. We are angry. We are angry that we’ve been lied to and we are hurting. We are angry that lies are being spread about our family within the community.

Here is what we know:

1. God is on the throne. His plan will prevail even through this.

2. Building our family here in Haiti remains the only reason we stay here to endure this. We love all 10 of our children with a forever love that keeps us walking on as we fill roles we never wanted or intended to fill. God promises not to leave us as orphans in John 14:18. That is why we were created-- to walk in family with God. That is what we cling to as we trudge through this.

Thanks for letting me share my heart...

Thank you for your support.

Thank you for trusting us even when it's "messy."

Love, Gwenn

The difference a month makes.

After several months of ill health and heartbreak with trying to help Edwinson from Pinchinat, only to have him get sick again and again, Sarah (and her sister Laura) from Olive Tree Projects and I decided that together, we would foster him for two months to try to get him healthy and give him a fighting chance.

These pics are amazing.

Check out Edwinson on August 14, 2010.

And Edwinson on September 12, 2010.

PS-- Edwinson's birthday is Sept 20th! He will be one! I can't wait to have a party with CAKE.

Friday, September 10, 2010

There were two on the bed and the little one said...

I'm crowded, roll over.

So they all rolled over and one fell out...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What dies... the parable of the hydrangea

I wrote this back in 2006 shortly after having a miscarriage (which I still at times grieve), and then consequently my first trip to Jacmel, Haiti, and then another pregnancy (with Josiah.) Up in the middle of the night tonight, this story came back to me. Interestingly, this was WAY WAY WAY before we decided to move to Haiti. And I just felt like now was the time to post it...

You know that verse in John 12:24 about the grain of wheat falling and dying…

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

I am seeing that in my life.

Back in June when had my miscarriage, my good friend Kris gave me a beautiful hydrangea bush to plant in my backyard. She said, "I just thought you might want to have something living to look at and remember your baby." That was very meaningful to me.

I researched the best way to grow hydrangeas and made it a special project with Nia. (Although she never knew about the baby…) We went to Lowe's and bought sand and soil, dug a large hole, planted, mulched and fertilized the plant. We went to the beach and collected shells and placed them all around the plant. During the heat of the summer it needed to be watered everyday or would wilt immediately. So I was faithful to water it every morning and even sometimes in the evening if it needed it as well. The plant was doing well and thriving—growing like crazy. It was a very therapeutic thing for me. I could go out there in the mornings and just have a quiet moment as I was watering it to think and grieve and pray.

And then we left for Haiti.

When we returned I looked out the backdoor and cried as I realized the family of deer that lives in the woods behind our house had eaten the plant. I was really, really mad. I saw them in our yard a few days later and I ran out there and screamed at them like a crazy lady as I chased them out of our yard with a spatula in my hand.

It's an interesting thing though... Our trip to Haiti really helped me turn a corner on my grief over the miscarriage. I immediately bonded with the children at the orphanage and could see "purpose" (for lack of a better word) in our miscarriage. If we wouldn't have lost our baby, we wouldn't have traveled to the Haitian Children's Home and fallen in love with it.

God wasn't happy to send Jesus to the cross, but he had a much bigger plan then his "immediate family." Without God, we too were orphans. He sacrificed Jesus so that he could adopt us into His family and make us his children. Likewise, we could not add room in our hearts for these Haitian children without the death of our baby. I am in no way comparing my life to that of God… even the suggestion of that is absurd. I am saying that I see how in the past God used the death of one to save many. I believe that is what he is doing in our family. I think I am learning every day more and more what it means to be "crucified with Christ."

I find it interesting that it took so long for the deer to eat our hydrangea-- they ate everything else. There is a patch of bamboo at the edge of the woods in our backyard that they love, so they were always back there. And many times they even ventured to our front yard and our neighbors front yards eating the heads off our tulips, gerbera daisies and my decorative sweet potato plants. I just figured that deer didn't like hydrangeas.

This might be a stretch for some, but I believe that God didn't allow them to eat my hydrangea until he could replace the grief in my heart with purpose. He knew I needed something beautiful to cling to and he let me have it until he could show me something more beautiful that I could cling to.

It would still be an interesting story if it ended there. But it doesn't. A little over a month ago (interestingly, probably around the time I got pregnant again) our hydrangea started showing some signs of life. The stems and sticks that were nibbled down to inches started to sprout. Today it's "fully recovered." It's still a little bit smaller than when we first got it, but it is healthy and thriving. You would never know that it had been eaten down to the ground by the deer. I guess they didn't kill it. They just pruned it— similar to what I believe God was doing in me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New favorite song.

It's a must-download.
Can't Go Back Now... by the weepies


Yesterday, when you were young,
Everything you needed done was done for you.
Now you do it on your own
But you find you're all alone,
What can you do?

You and me walk on
Cause you can't go back now.

You know there will be days when you're so tired that you can't take another step,
The night will have no stars and you'll think you've gone as far as you will ever get

But you and me walk on
Cause you can't go back now
And yeah, yeah, go where you want to go
Be what you want to be,
If you ever turn around, you'll see me.

I can't really say why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself

And you and me walk on
Yeah you and me walk on
Cause you can't go back now
Walk on, walk on, walk on
You can't go back now

More lyrics:

Bragging on one of my BFFs

You have to see what our home church, Crosspointe, accomplished this past week in their children's environments...

For those of you who don't know, Nick and I were very involved in children's ministry for almostna decade at Crosspointe before we moved here to Haiti. This was all done In one week under the leadership of one of my very best friends in the whole world-- Kris Stoner. (and three amazing teams of volunteers.).

I can't wait until I can visit and see it in person.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Oh my heart!

Tonight was Fritzie's Sweet Sixteen birthday party.

It might have been my favorite moment as a parent to date.

Nearly all of my kids (even my "hard" ones) gave Fritzie gifts.  They saved up their own money and bought her candy, but they also wrapped up some of their own toys  (and I am just going to be honest, they don't have that many toys) and gave them to her.  They were wrapped in random paper and strips of duct tape, glued shut cake boxes, whatever they could find.

My eyes teared up to see Jerry's stuffed animal, his tinker toy, a yarn doll, and his laminated "school work" being unwrapped by Fritzie.  He was so proud.  I was so proud of him.

And so it was with kid after kid.  They had wrapped up their "precious" things and gave them away to make her happy on her birthday.

This life is hard.  But DANG, moments like this--  I just don't have the words...

Pretty much the sweetest 16 ever.  I love my kids.