Monday, February 28, 2011

the wood song.

One of my favorite songs of all time (maybe my MOST favorite of all time) is a song called "the wood song" by the Indigo Girls.

Lately it's becoming more real to me as the imagery of trees and seasons and new life through hard winters becomes so vivid.

Read the words to the song. Go download it at Itunes. It's worth it.

***
"the wood song" - Emily Sailers

The thin horizon of a plan is almost clear
My friends and I have had a tough time
Bruising our brains hard up against change
All the old dogs and the magician

Now I see we're in the boat in two-by-two's
Only the heart that we have for a tool we could use
And the very close quarters are hard to get used to
Love weighs the hull down with its weight

But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we'll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we'll have missed the point
That's where I need to go

No way construction of this tricky plan
Was built by other than a greater hand
With a love that passes all our understanding
Watching closely over the journey

Yeah, but what it takes to cross the great divide
Seems more that all the courage I can muster up inside
But we got to have some answers when we reach the other side
The prize is always worth the rocky ride

But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we'll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we'll have missed the point
That's where I need to go

Sometimes I ask to sneak a closer look
Skip to the final chapter of the book
And then maybe steer us clear from some of the pain it took
To get us where we are this far, this far

But the question drowns in its futility
Even I have got to laugh at me
No one gets to miss the storm of what will be
Just holding on for the ride

But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we'll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we'll have missed the point
That's where I need to go

****

And check out my new ink I got last week while in NC.

Ti vakans: Downtown Andrew Brown

Since we knew we were coming to Colorado, last fall we contacted one of our best friends (Andrew Brown) to see if we could meet up while we were here.

Andrew, like he does, completely blew us out of the water and prepared 30 of the BEST hours we have ever experienced. I know that I blogged a few days ago about how furlough is not vacation. These 30 hours were the exception. Below is a short photo essay of our time together.


Above the clouds. This stunning view flying to Colorado was just the very beginning of the "eye candy" we'd see..


Andrew rented this TOTALLY amazing house in Leadville, CO for the night. It was a perfect spot to enjoy the views and relax.


He then surprised us with a short road trip to Keystone resort where he had an amazing dining experience planned.



We then mounted the gondola and arrived at the highest AAA Four-Diamond Diamond experience in North America, The Alpenglow Stube. It was a beautiful restaurant at an elevation of 11,444. We had a lovely 4 course meal, interrupted only briefly by my vomiting from altitude sickness.


We headed back to the house for a rousing game of Masterpiece before an unbelievable sleep.


We woke up to this view.


Then headed to the store to buy some stuff to make breakfast. Nick could hardly contain himself with the huge Tampico display, but we managed to draw him away with promises of french toast and sausage.


Andrew and I prepared the meal...



...while Nick set the table.



We had more games, which Nick, (0f course), won. (For the most part.)



It left Andrew with some faux grumpiness. :)



We had to be out by 11 AM, so we starting packing up at 10:50.



We took some goodbye pictures (thanks to the timer.)



We packed up and headed out.



A totally fantastic weekend in Leadville with a totally fantastic friend.

THANK YOU for SPOILING us rotten, Andrew Brown.

healing.

So this post is a bit out of order. I have a post gurgling around in my head about our AMAZING weekend in the Rockies with our dear, dear friend Andrew, but that's going to take a bit of time and some good bandwidth to cover. So, for the meantime, I just want to talk about where we are now. We are currently participating in a week of debriefing and renewal with other missionaries.

For the first time in two years I feel like I am around a group of friends who "get it." I feel like I am around a group of people who speak the same language as me. I feel normal. I feel like I can breathe and have room to decompress. These people here, they GET me. They get the paradox of my life. They get the high highs and the low lows. They get broken pieces. They get the cultural barriers we feel. They have third culture kids too and get that piece.

This morning I felt like I could freely cry in front of other people (for the first time in a LONG time) and THAT. WAS. OKAY. Every time someone says something I feel myself shaking my head in agreement. Every time I say something, a half a dozen other people shake their head in agreement.

I can't imagine a more appropriate place to be at a more appropriate time. Thank you to all of you who have sacrificed your time and funds to send us here, care for our kids in the states AND in Haiti. To give us the space to log off of facebook and email. To not be in "fund-raising" mode. To place us strategically with the perfect set of circumstances (after time of renewed relationships with family and friends and a week of seclusion and extended therapy) to be slowed down enough to HEAR the things we need to hear, and FEEL the things we need to feel in a healing and restorative environment.

This is EXACTLY what our souls have needed. We've been here less than 24 hours and I already KNOW that.

Bondye fidel.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

chips on furlough

So Nick and Andrew claim that the chips in Colorado do this because of the altitude on Colorado. I think there's a more simple explanation...

I think they are on furlough. Because even before coming out here the same thing has been happening to me and Nick. :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random bullet point post

  • Furlough- Rocks. (Mostly.) It has been ENERGIZING to spend time with people I know and love. It's been energizing to speak English. It's been great to see the fam. HOWEVER, my I am missing my kids back in Haiti more and more everyday and it's really troubling me
  • Seclusion- Restful. (Mostly.) I mean, we are sleeping a lot (or at least trying to.) We have no commitments in terms of childcare (because we have the most gracious family ever.) We just get to be still and process. That part has dug back up a lot of the trash we've been through lately, which is painful. But it's also really good because we're finally dealing with it. Pray that we could "go there" with our teams of therapists over the next two weeks. Pray that we could process in a healthy way and be able to put the events of the past in our past so that we are accessible to each other as husband and wife, and to our family and ministry. So thankful to have a ministry and home church that love us enough to care for our emotional/mental health in this way.
  • Pictures of the day-- I am still taking them and writing captions each day. However, (as was mentioned earlier) I am on a break from facebook/email during our therapy and so I won't be able to post them until I get back to Haiti.
  • Mad props for the story-telling events TEAM-- The other night we had a night of story-telling. It was so good for us in so many ways. It was a serious time to tell some stories of our last 14 months... earthquake, cholera, Pwoje Konekte, De Izin, our kids. It had a serious tone, but we also tried to keep it light at times. It was a special event for our supporters in the Cary area. Thanks to the TEAM of people who helped get ready for it. (You know who you are.) Thanks also to Stick Boy Bread Company for the AMAZING deserts and coffee that they provided for 150 people. We are so honored you'd come behind us in such a significant way.
  • Nick's hilarious slip. As I mentioned, the stories we told were heavy at times. But we tried to keep it light if possible. Nick obliged PERFECTLY with this. Here's the set up. Nick was telling a story about his birthday, December 27 of last year, and how he started up into the mountains on a hike and when rural Haitians' cholera fears presented themselves in a very real way. Okay, so this is what he meant to say:
"My beautiful wife gave me the best present-- a day off."

What he ACTUALLY said was this:

"My beautiful wife gave me the breast present... uh, (pause for eruptions of
laughter and Nick, though being embarrassed by his slip, goes on to say)...
"How about we just let that simmer for a while..." (More laughter.)

I know it was an accident and he felt embarrassed (and now, me bringing it up brings
more attention to it,) but DANG, it was HILARIOUS. The next day at church everyone
kept coming up with breast jokes for him. He's a good sport.

  • The Bose store-- A few weeks ago our Bose speakers stopped working. They are an amazing invention and keep our house quite cheerful, so thinking it was a power supply issue, we brought them back with us to see if we could get them repaired. The man at the store kind of made us feel a bit stupid about how banged up they were, but after explaining that we lived in an orphanage, IN HAITI, he kind of let us off the hook. It was just the power supply which, according to him, "amazed him" but one of the speakers was starting to go too. So, (and this is cool) for $99 you can have them refurbish it. It includes a new power supply and speakers-- the whole 9 yards. AND, we get another year warranty with it. So, I will just have to mark down on my calendar to let the kids start playing with it again in January, and then we can cash in on the warranty FOR SURE. Here's a little tip for those of you who live (or hope to live) in Haiti. With electronics, you need to go high end. You really need to purchase quality materials. That usually means more money and it usually means that they will get damaged and stop working at some point necessitating pricey fixes. BUT, cheap stuff lasts days (if you're lucky) in that harsh climate.
  • (Which brings me nicely to my next bullet...) The Apple Store-- 2 (semi-enthusiastic) thumbs up. I was a slow convert, but I can now (confidently) say that (while the climate is hard on them-- or any computer) a Mac is the way to go in Haiti. (And yes, I realize I just lost some supporters with that statement.) But I love the Genius bar. I loved that I brought my computer in with a problem, and left 20 minutes later with it fixed. Now, the barely-adolescent teen who was our "genius" was a bit condescending (which is the reason for the "semi enthusiastic" rating) and just typed things so quickly I couldn't follow him, necessitating further trips to the Genius bar if I ever have the same problem, but hey, he fixed it. It's nice to have Iphoto back. (As a post-script to this bullet point, I'd be HAPPY to host any "geniuses" in my home in Haiti to service all the Mac-missionaries in the area.
  • Trauma survey. Yeah, realized we have encountered a lot of trauma. Earthquake(s), civil unrest, death threats, riots, contact with dead bodies, witnessing accidents, serious medical conditions... Haiti is not for the weak. (*sigh, I just remembered how much I miss my kids, who, incidentally, are getting in trouble when I get back because they haven't been doing their homework... after I kiss them and hug them and (maybe) give them junk food.*)
  • One last thought. I remember Brian, our Director, using the phrase, "Trust is the only currency that can be spent in relationships." I love that thought. But later as I was thinking about it more, I thought, "No, actually trust and GUILT are the only currencies that can be spent in relationships." I have been digging into the idea of guilt and I have been chewing on this thought that one of our therapists brought up-- there is true guilt and there is false guilt. True guilt is something that comes from the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God convicting you of sin in your life. That kind of guilt is good. It is designed to bring you to repentance. False guilt is what people try to leverage in relationships to try to get their own way. It does NOT come from the Lord, it comes from selfishness, but it can FEEL like true guilt. The thing is, unless we ask the Lord for discernment, it can be hard to tell which is which. As we (Nick and I) examine the events of our lives that we're trying to process, submit them to truth and ask the Lord to show us where we have sin and where we are not experiencing true guilt, it's been FREEING. Right now I am doing the Bible study, "Breaking Free" and all of this is working together to accomplish some beautiful things in my soul. I am excited to see where I could possibly end up at the end of all this!
Okay... gotta run. Nick (the genius) only brought flip flops and dress shoes. So we are headed to Goodwill to see if we can find something a bit warmer for him that's not dress shoes. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things I would have thought would have been self-explanatory.

One thing we didn't include in our "America lessons" that we apparently should--

"In America we don't lick doorknobs."

Seriously.

I am not making this up.

My child LITERALLY licked the doorknob at church today. During FLU SEASON.

seclusion.

Hello friends,

For the next two weeks, Nick and I are in a seclusion of sorts while we are undergoing more therapy/debriefing.

During this time, we will not be checking email or facebook. I will continue to blog during this time (as I am an external processor and that's therapy to me too ;) however, I have turned off comments for the time being as we're just trying to focus on hearing the words of the Lord, our counselors, and a few trusted friends while we further process these last 14 turbulent months.

We are (essentially) unavailable at this time. However, if there are any urgent messages for us, you can contact our Director, Brian Williams at brian@joyinhope.org or 919-439-7038 as he will have contact with us if necessary.

I am looking forward to talking to you again on March 8.

With a grateful heart,
-Gwenn

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bajillionaires.

So, Nick and I are bajillionaires. Relatively.

We FINALLY got our taxes done today. That would be our 2009 taxes. (And our 2010 taxes.) I know we are way overdue on the '09 but perhaps you recall that there was a giant earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 and we couldn't get our mess together by April 15. And so we filed an extension. And then our world sort of fell apart another 6 months later too... But today... all of that came to an end and we paid H&R Block the $600 it took to get our taxes DONE.

For the first time in FOREVER we're getting a tax refund. QUITE a substantial tax refund.

How much, you ask?

So, remember that time we were all concerned because we felt like God was leading us to adopt again but we had no idea where we'd get the money?

Let's just say this-- we don't have to worry about that.

It is enough.

There was this thing that was swirling around as a huge concern. Feeling so conflicted because we know that adoption really doesn't "make sense" for us. But we also felt like this is where we were being lead. But we had no idea how to fund it. We didn't want to fund raise for it because yeah, our we LIVE because we ask people to send us money. It made my brain hurt to think about having to figure that part out. And we had no options to get a "side job" because there. is. no. time.

And so we were just stumped. But we were kind of charging ahead with it because we were pretty sure this was what was coming next, figuring that we could (for the meantime) include the child under our orphanage license until we had the money to adopt. And now (well, not now, but as soon as the refunds come in), it's done. We have what we need. (Or at least what we anticipate we will need-- who KNOWS what will come up?!?)

But here's the thing. I have confidence that even if unexpected expenses crop up, God will find a way to cover them. Because yeah, this morning, we had no idea he'd already made a way. Why would he disappoint now?

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." -- Hebrews 11:1

Guys, I don't know when or who or if it's a girl or a boy. It might be next month. It might be in 6 months. It might be a year. But dude, we're gonna have a new baby! :) This is pretty exciting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

furlough

So we're on furlough for the next few weeks. Now, for those of you who are unaware of the work that missionaries do, let me assure you that the word "furlough" does NOT equal the word "vacation." There truly are pleasant parts of it. Amazing parts about it. We get to see family and friends we haven't seen in a long time. And we get to eat great food and be pampered. That part is fun, extremely fun.

But furlough is also work. It's trying to fit in seeing all these people, fielding all these invites-- invites you REALLY want to say yes to because you LOVE all these people-- but there simply is not enough time to get it all in. It's like making a wedding invite list... you know you will have to say a lot of no's. It's also missing your home and family in Haiti like crazy, and having a time/fiscal restriction on how often you can connect. It's also trying to keep up with emails, which come in a little more frequently because of how many people you physically set eyes on. It's trying to get all your shopping in (and stay in your budget) for the things you need back at home in Haiti. (Or thing your staff INSISTS you need-- like for example, a dust buster. I don't get it. Don't think we need it. But have been asked over and over and OVER again by one of our staff members for one.)

It's getting your computer looked at because Iphoto won't open. It's going to the Bose store with your speakers because the power supply seems to have failed. It's handing your broken BlackBerrys (2 of them) over to a friend who might be able to fix them and your crashed hard drives (3 of them) to another friend to see if she can recover any of the photos, etc. It's getting your taxes done. It's having your kids go crazy because of all the attention/sugar/culture shock they are experiencing. It's having food battles with Josiah who is refusing to eat delicious things like chicken fingers because it's not spaghetti with hotdogs and ketchup. And it's missing your kids back in Haiti.

It's trying to find time away from non-Kreyol speaking people to talk to our kids in Kreyol because Josiah and Nico really do speak Kreyol better than English, and they just need to TALK because their brains are tired from trying to translate everything all day long. It's being reminded that you need to do a better job of keeping your kids culturally relevant and work on them doing things like speaking English so that you don't totally isolate them from their home culture. And it's missing your kids back in Haiti.

It's living out of suitcases. It's getting the counseling and debriefing necessary to keep yourself emotionally healthy enough to stick it out for the next 6 months or year or however long you have until you come back again. And it's missing your kids back in Haiti.

It's getting well child visits done and Josiah's hearing checked because he talks SO loud (and kind of like a deaf person) and has had so many ear infections that it would be prudent to do so. It's getting a tetanus shot because you cut yourself on a rusty nail in church a few weeks ago and got reminded that you're due for that. And it's missing your kids back in Haiti.

It's going to see an eye doctor to get your vision checked and order more contact lenses because you only have one pair of disposable Dailies left and you're saving them for the event you have on Saturday. It's coordinating play dates for the kids. And events. And did I mention, missing my family in Haiti?

It's having a TEAM of people who make this furlough run. Our home church, our families, some close friends, our Director-- they help us with all these things. (We are so thankful!) This is a great time for us. We're used to the fast pace of things-- that's just how our lives are. But we're not used to doing it in a place that's becoming somewhat foreign.

I am sure I am missing noting several things we need to get done... I make Nick manage our calendar, (which I do not have in front of me,) and "approve" all my "yeses" because I can't be trusted not to over-schedule.

And most of all, it's missing our family back in Haiti.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where There is No Political Correctness: Re-entry Lessons

It's been nearly a year since our American kids have been in the United States. Because Haitians in our house outnumber Americans 3:1, our kids are more Haitian than American when it comes to their actions, speech, and attitudes. Because of yesterday's post where I explained that Haiti is "Where There Is No Political Correctness," Nick and I reasoned that a few "re-entry lessons" would be in order.

Here's our agenda:

1. We always flush EVERY time we go potty. Even if it's just pee. People get grossed out in America if you don't flush.

2. We know almost no one who speaks Kreyol in America. Therefore, it is essential you use, "your English" when talking to people in America. It is also crucial that you speak English to one another in front of English speaking people, because it's rude to be talking when other people can't understand you. Unless you are making fun of them, which then, please, use "your Kreyol." Which leads in well to the next several points.

3. We don't point out fat people.

4. We don't point out skinny people.

5. We don't point out tall people.

6. We don't point out short/little people.

7. We don't point out ugly people.

8. We don't point out white people.

9. We don't point out black people, nor do we assume black people speak Kreyol.

10. We don't point out people. Period.

11. We don't ever refer to people (black or white) in America as "neg." It doesn't work there.

12. We don't eat the bones when we eat meat. We don't ask people for their bones when they are done eating meat, because we don't eat their bones either.

13. We always wear our seat belt in the car and sit in a booster seat. And, without lying, we lead people to believe we do the same in Haiti.

14. We always wear helmets when we are riding bikes, scooters, roller skates or skateboards. And, without lying, we lead people to believe we do the same in Haiti.

15. When someone in America asks, "How are you?" You always answer with, "fine" even if you're not fine. They really don't want to know more than that.

16. We don't complain about the food served to us and say, "Mwen pa vle spaghetti mwen ak sos konsa, mwen vle li ak otdog, m pa renmen li konsa." (You just broke TWO rules if you do that because you are not honoring rule 2 OR rule 16.)

17. We wash our whole body when we bathe in America, not just "the stinky parts."

18. Mom and Dad have veto power on clothing choices while in the states. In the United States, we don't dress like orphans, unless we are at a fund-raising event. (JUST KIDDING!)

19. Just because we have a lot of food and entertainment options available to us, doesn't mean that we act like uncontrollable pigs. Do as we say children, not as we do.

20. America isn't Disney World all the time. Just because people are paying a lot of special attention to you doesn't mean you are special-- they just haven't seen you in a while.


*******
These are good reminders for Nick and I too. Except 19. That doesn't apply to us.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Where There Is No Political Correctness" -part 1

Haiti is a place where there is no such thing as political correctness. Well, that might not be entirely true, there are certain things that are not done or said, but it’s not the things that someone with a North American mindset would expect. All cultures have their own “rules” and accepted ways of doing things.


So Nick and I have decided to have recurring section of posts entitled, “Where There is No Political Correctness” (paying homage to the medical manual we so often consult, “Where There Is No Doctor.”)

In Haiti, it’s not an insult to call someone articulate—that might even be considered (gasp!) a compliment. It’s not wrong to point out someone is fat or retarded. It’s not wrong to point out crazy people or midgets (sorry, “little people.”) A Haitian person once told me that something they learned from me is that you can’t “catch” being gay by being friends with a gay person.


I find that kind of lack of “politically correct” filter REFRESHING. And usually, hilarious. Because let’s be honest. We all noticed the “little person” vending phone cards on the side of the road, or the unusually large size of the derriere of that woman on the moto in front of you. But we just don’t say it. Because we can’t. Or we’d be racist, or sexist, or insensitive. In my experience, Haitian people just say what they mean.


For some, it’s hard to get over the gulp—that twang we feel when something isn’t as we think it should be. But it’s all our own cultural baggage. So with a light spirit—we offer you this new feature.

To give you some examples, I would refer you back to THIS POST. Or THIS POST. Or THIS POST.


And stay tuned.


This might get fun.


Or I might get fired. We’ll see.

Monday, February 7, 2011

the least of these

I was down by the river today where they dump all the rubble collecting rubble for a project I am working on. It's also where they dump all the trash. It's strategic really-- if they dump the trash in the river or near the river, when there is a hurricane, it washes it all out into the ocean.

While I was down there I saw this old lady digging around in the trash for bits of food. And yet I did nothing to help her. Instead, I acted in the role of the stereotypical blan in Haiti and TOOK A FREAKIN' PICTURE. (But I rationalized it by the fact that I was using a zoom lens so she didn't know.)

And later I thought-- this is probably someone's mother.
What if that were MY mother?

This is (or was) definitely someone's daughter.
What if that were MY daughter?

And that made me feel sad for her that she didn't have a mother or daughter who was taking care of her.

A bit later, I happened to be listening to the Indigo Girls this morning and these lyrics hit my ears--

A distant nation my community
A street person my responsibility

If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring...


And I thought back to the lady down by the river and I thought-- it doesn't matter if she isn't MY mom or MY daughter. She's a child of God, the same God in whom I claim to be a follower. One by one these verses came rushing to my mind...

*"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." -- James 1:27*

*"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." -- James 2:26*

* "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ "--Matthew 25:42-45*

Wonder what that says about me?

Actually, I don't wonder.

I know what that says about me.

Today I am praying for the Spirit of God to invade my heart in an even bigger way so that I may be quicker to see and respond to the promptings He's giving me, so that I will not look back later and realize them only in hindsight.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Expecting.

So, we're expecting.

I am not pregnant (and nor will I ever again be,) but we've been praying for a while that God would add another baby to our family. We've been waiting on the "right" situation, not wanting to take a baby out of the hands of a family that simply lacks the resources to feed/care for a him or her. We're here to build families, not tear them apart. So, when we've been approached about taking babies in the past, usually our response has been to see how we can help that family to parent if they have the desire to do so. This has come in the form of education assistance, our small formula program, our small food distribution program, assistance with medical bills, etc. This has all been on an individual by individual basis and has given us great satisfaction because we believe that adoption should always be the last resort. If there is a way to enable a family to parent, all realistic avenues should be fully exhausted before accepting a child. That is true for our children's home and also for our family.

So, here's where I am going with this... There's a situation we're involved in now where we have been contacted by a very young woman, about 8+(ish) months pregnant, wishing to place her child after she delivers. I am not going to go into specifics, that this is the kind of situation where we would not try to talk a mom into parenting. She's been living nearby with a friend of ours, and says she wants to place with us after delivery-- probably sometime in late February or early March. We don't know if this will actually happen. We realize this is her baby and her choice. We truly want the best thing for this mom and this baby.

For whatever reason, God has put it on our hearts to enter into *this* situation. If I am transparent, I think it's because I have hope that this might be the baby we've been praying for, while at the same time acknowledging that there could be an entirely different reason for us to enter into her life. We just don't know yet. And we will not know until the baby is born and the mom makes the final decision, which we want her to do without any pressure from us.

So-- this baby is due within a month or so-- most likely while we are on furlough, which will give the mother some time to decide what she'd like to do. I believe God already has a baby chosen for our family. And so we can walk in great faith knowing that if it is not *this* baby, then that is okay.

Please be praying for the following things:
  • For the mother, "D", who is in a terribly difficult situation
  • For D's baby-- that he or she is healthy and thriving inside the womb
  • For a safe and non-traumatic delivery
  • For D to make the best decision for her and the baby
  • For our hearts to be patient and wait for the right situation-- and to abandon our will to God if this is not the right situation
  • For the funds to complete an adoption-- that part scares the pants off me
  • That we can negotiate the Haitian AND American adoption process here from Haiti-- finding a way to do our home study and the necessary paperwork will likely prove to be EXTREMELY cumbersome
Thank you for your prayers for our family and for this sweet life that God ordained before the beginning of time.

We are confident of this, no matter what happens-- that God plans to fulfill our desires with GOOD things.



Sa fè mwen sezi!

This past week we had to let go an employee. Not fun, but necessary.

This particular employee was in charge of cleaning the upstairs of our house, amongst other things.

Knowing we don't have someone cleaning up after us right now, we are much more conscious about trying to be more tidy. This morning Nick spent a few minutes blitzing the living room and a few minutes later Sanndi came up and sat down on the couch. She looked around the room, had a skeptical look pass her face and then this conversation ensued:

*******
Sanndi: Manmi Gwenn, ki es te ranje salon? (Mom, who cleaned the living room?)

Me: Papi Nick te fè sa. (Nick did.)

Sanndi: Mwen p' at konnen li konnen ranje chanm. (I didn't know he knows how to clean up a room.)

Me: E vre? Kisa ou kwe nou te fè avan nou vin viv ann Ayiti? (What do you think we did before we came to live in Haiti?)

Sanndi: (shaking her head) Mwen pa konnen. Mwen pa konnen... Sa fè mwen sezi! (I don't know. I don't know. That really surprises me.)

******

Really? She thinks we don't know how to pick up our stuff???

Jeepers!

Clearly we need to be spending more time on "domestic" responsibilities.

Friday, February 4, 2011

No freakin' way.



I really love my family. I really love and appreciate my staff. But there have to be limits as to what I will do out of love for them. I'd definitely die for Nick or for any of my children. Possibly for one or two of my staff members. But today I ran across something I would not do for anyone. Not even Nick.

Let me give you a little background.

Felecia is one of our staff members and just the sweetest lady you've ever met. While no one can replace my mom or Nick's mom as "Nana" and "Grandma," I am so glad to have someone of that generation on our live-in staff to help us negotiate life. Felecia is 55 years old, has grown children and grandchildren and is just as cool as you can get. She really doesn't get mad and she has a way of demanding respect from the kids. She's strong (physically) and an extremely hard worker. Since she lives here and all of her expenses are paid for her, she sends ALL of her salary back home to her children in Thiotte so that step by step they can repair their house that was damaged in the earthquake.

She came to us yesterday and her feet and ankles were very swollen. She was having a terrible time with her body itching all over and she had a random wound on her foot. She said every morning when she wakes up both her hands and her feet are numb and she has to move around quite a bit before she can get them working.

I immediately thought about diabetes. She doesn't fit the profile for adult onset diabetes, but many of her symptoms seemed to suggest it. So I dragged out my handy, "Where There Is No Doctor" book to read up on some of her symptoms.

(This book is a MUST for ANYONE working in a 3rd world setting...)

So it lists out the symptoms for diabetes (many of which she had) and then I read how you can test. Here's what it said:









Um. No freakin' way. I know that doctors here in Haiti are not up to 1st world standards, but there is NO way I am drinking her pee and the pee of 3 other people to diagnose her. And there is also no way I am soliciting 2 other people (read: future EX-friends) to taste four urine samples for me. Friends, real friends, here in Haiti are few and far between. Not gonna risk it on pee taste-testing.

So we went to the Cuban hospital where the offer free testing. It takes 30 minutes to get there, but it's worth it for free labs. But since the last time I was there, apparently all of the Sudest had learned of the free care and it was PACKED with people. I knew we'd be there all day, so we turned around and headed back to Jacmel.

We went to trusty ole' Dr. Bertrand. He ordered some blood tests. Everything is normal. For now we're just treating symptoms and keeping an eye on it.

And I didn't even have to drink her pee.

relational deficit

I tend to reference the Duggar Family a lot. They kind of intrigue me. Part of the intrigue is the fact that one woman would push out 19 babies-- on purpose. (Though, I am sure there are families within a 10 mile radius around me in Haiti that have Michelle and Jim Bob beat.) Another part of the intrigue is how they seem to have (albeit a bit sheltered) some really good kids.

There's tons of debate about their family-- some would call a family that big child abuse or at least neglect. Some would call it irresponsible. But yet the family SEEMS to be firmly grounded, they are debt free (so clearly not irresponsible in spite of the huge bills they have for food/clothing/housing, etc.) and all the kids seem pretty well-adjusted.

I just don't know how they do it. I have 11 kids and 3 fulltime live-in staff members and I still feel like I can't give each child the proper attention. Now, I get that their kids probably don't deal with attachment disorder. I get that they have had the privilege of raising their kids for their entire lives. But still I just don't know how they do it. I know families with 1 or 2 kids who can't keep their heads above water. (We used to be one of those families.)

We try to be proactive about spending time with our kids individually, but yeah, just doesn't seem to be working to "schedule" individual time when there are so many kids doing so many different things. So what we've resorted to is just sort of triage-ing it. When one of our kids is floundering, that's our signal they need more attention. It's been Nico and Wildarne this week.

I worry about this approach. I am afraid that it's just going to teach them to act out if they want something. But it's like we are treading water and occasionally the strength of one of my kids starts to give out and they slip under the water. What other choice do we have but to go to them and give them the support they need at that time? No, it's not fair to the kids who are better swimmers or who are stronger or just stubborn enough to keep going even after their body tells them it's too much.

I guess what I am saying is that we had originally said we were in for 20 kids (plus our 3 for a total of 23.) More and more lately, I am feeling like that number is going to be lower... maybe much lower. Maybe somewhere right around a dozen?

Could it be that our family is almost full? I don't know. It surely wouldn't be "cost-efficient" as far as a ministry is concerned. The average person who is not already bought into what we are doing always seems surprised when I say I have an orphanage with 8 kids. As if that's a disappointingly low number. (And believe me, missionaries are more shrewd about presenting flattering numbers than any businessman I know.)

But even if we're perceived as "small potatoes," I am not going to look at my kids as numbers.

I am going to look at them as:
Fritzie, Jean Louis, Yves, Sanndi, Jerry, Prisca, Nia, Wildarne, Nico, Manita, and Josiah.

These isn't a situation where we can't physically care for the needs of more than 11 kids-- we can get a bigger house and more staff. And that approach is needed here too. There are a lot of great facilities nearby who do this with excellence. But I am reminded so much lately that is not what Nick and I were called to. We were called to this way of doing things because we LONG to POUR our love into each of these kids so that they can not just live, but know LOVE. My kids have such a relational deficit because of the trauma and abandonment they've experienced. I will not be pressured by expectations or supporters to trade my children for a better name or a bigger organization.

But I am still gonna get a baby. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

collaboration.

One of the things that Nick and I have been striving for lately is seeing how we can work with other missionaries/organizations/government programs to maximize the impact we can have here in Haiti. Too many times NGO's "compete" and are all worried about their name being on something so they keep their ideas all secret so if it "takes" they get the credit.

I. HATE. THAT.

Let me repeat that in case you missed that.

I. HATE. THAT.

That is not what living in community is about. That is not advancing the gospel. That is NOT making any progress in a country with problems like Haiti has. It is the opposite. It is arrogance and pride.

So, in an effort to try to share any ideas we have, we've decided to be as thorough as possible in documenting our projects. This started with the De Izin project. We have kept excellent records and Nick has written an executive summary going into great detail about how we were able to accomplish what we did. He also spent countless hours developing spreadsheets that do most of the ongoing admin work for us.

And we did this because we really believe it's a good way to get people out of camps. It's a good way to put money into the hands of Haitian landlords (instead of international organizations putting money into transitional houses) and it's not a handout. It's a way to help people find a way to pay for their housing.

And this information is available to ANY organization (for free) who wishes to try to clear camps.

Well, after all this documentation was finished, we got a call from a government official in Jacmel. He is tickled to death with this program and is setting up a meeting between Joy in Hope and a major relief organization to pitch this idea on a grander scale.

!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is still all very preliminary. I have no idea if it will take off (that's why I am not mentioning the name of the organization or the government official.) However, it's really exciting to see government in Haiti WORKING to bring together small NGO's who "get" Haiti and large relief organizations with the big bucks to work hand in hand to impact real, long-term change.

Just some quick number crunching tells us that for the money that is being spent on building these transitional houses, houses in Jacmel could be rented for anywhere between 5-10 years. That's a lot of money into the economy and with good contracts, can give landowners the opportunity to rebuild because they know they will have a steady source of rental income for a decent amount of time.

Aack! I am so excited.

I hope this happens.

Isn't it fun when everyone plays nice? :)