{rice, beans & love}

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet" – Frederick Buechner


This post is for those of you struggling with religion. Struggling with the modern church and all of its issues. Struggling to see the gospel, while “Christians” blur and distort the real gospel.

This post is also a rant against the American church. Church, put down your pro-life and same-sex marriage debate signs for a minute. Let’s stop judging and criticizing for just a minute. I have some issues and I need to get them off my chest.

First off, to the struggling and hurt, I am sorry.

I’m sorry for any hurt the church may have caused on your fragile heart. I’m sorry when we didn’t love you or help you while you were down. I am sorry for all the times you have felt ignored, alone or abandoned. We “Christians” are called to love and help and I really believe we have failed you. Immensely.

By no means is this an excuse, but you must understand that Satan has a way of sneaking into our lives when we aren’t on guard. We mean good. We want to love and help. When we give our lives to Christ, we give up our selfish desires. We are suppose to die to our selves and pick up the cross.

Picking up the cross can mean a lot of things. For myself, it means living in a third world country, raising three children who are not biologically mine and answering to the plight of the poor. For others it means adopting, forgiving, selling their cars and homes, volunteering, donating, making hot meals, mentoring, sending notes of encouragement, fasting, or praying recklessly.

Picking up the cross is never selfish. But, Satan does a good job sneaking in to make us realize all of our selfish desires. He distracts us. He sits on that left shoulder and feeds lies into our weak selves.

When we give our lives to Christ, we also welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives. For a long time, I pictured the Holy Spirit as a wind passing through that gave me goose bumps, but He is so much more than that. He’s living and working in us every day. As a Christian, we are called to follow the Holy Spirit. He’s the good guy that sits on our right shoulders speaking truth.

This can sound magical, but it is really far from magical or comfortable. Paul describes accepting the Holy Spirit like crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. Again, we are to deny our sinful nature, which is naturally full of greed, immorality, and selfishness.

A life lived following the Holy Spirit should represent the opposite and bear fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 6:22)

Maybe this is a new concept to you, as the church has done such an awful job offering you the above traits. Again, I am sorry.

To the church, before we go about boasting about being Christians, can we do an inventory on the fruit we produce in our lives? How many lies are we telling? How many people are we hurting? How many people do we push away? How many hours are spent serving? Where are our dollars being spent? How many of our words are filled with gossip? What are our true intentions?

Before we tell people how to live, why don’t we check out ourselves first.

“…If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:7

Today, I write with such a heavy heart. I have been burdened by the lies told by so-called Christians over the past few months in my personal life. I am troubled because I see people misrepresenting Jesus so poorly, using Him as a cover to live a life full of lies. I see so many of you. You are seeking the truth, trying to find authentic believers and you come up empty handed. Again, I am sorry.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? I am here in Haiti and my heart is more troubled by the state of the American church than the poor in Haiti. In this moment, the poor actually give me more hope than the American church or society. I’m worried about my friends thousands of miles away, knowing they are not being reached or loved by the church.

My husband’s only complaint from his trip to America, in fact, came from his American church experience. He asked me, “How can they sit there like that? They have everything and they don’t worship!”

He expected to walk into our million-dollar sanctuary and have an amazing worship experience, but left empty and confused.

Every Sunday, millions of Americans pull into their church parking lots with their nice vehicles. We paint pictures that we have it all together with our designer bags, name brand clothing on our children and bright smiles. We sit in our pews, put in our time and consider it good.

Every Sunday, Haitians gather under tin roofs, with worn shoes and torn Bibles. We sit on hard, wooden pews and wave our hands high in worship. Some get on their knees, with their heads on the pews. Others pace back and forth, while another turns his face outwards towards the heaven. Worship can last for hours and we leave filled.

The Bible mentions how hard it will be for the rich to enter heaven’s gates.

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:23

And I see the hard reality of this truth as America fights over red Starbucks cups.

We are so far from the gospel.

We are turning people away from the gospel as we debate over these damn cups. People who are considering Jesus are now running away. Better yet, people are over here dying from starvation and preventable diseases, while we spend our time arguing about the real reason for Christmas.

The real reason is the gospel. And the gospel is simple. Serve one another in love. (Galations 5:13)

To my friends who aren’t religious, don’t know what to believe, have yet to hear the truth, and are looking for more; my only advice to you is to not turn to America. Her society is full of lies and materialistic priorities. She worries about her self and her dreams will not lead to satisfaction. America offers opportunity, but none of these opportunities promise eternal life or freedom.

Jesus, on the other hand, sought out the broken, sick and poor. Jesus loved the forgotten. He welcomed the outcast. He challenged the authorities and religious leaders. He didn’t have time for Starbucks red cups, because he was out performing miracles.

Jesus represents love. And love is selfless. With Jesus, love becomes our purpose and our hope. We come alive when our life is lived out loving and serving.

Jesus offers opportunities to witness miracles, to live in freedom and to have the promise of eternal life.

And while the American church consumes itself with controversy and red cups, I am here to tell you that you have not been forgotten. If I could, I would fly across the ocean to hug you, because, it’s obvious the church has no time to hug you dearly.

American church, please step up your game. Your girl down here in Haiti is distracted by your madness. And, it’s embarrassing.

The phrase WWJD keeps coming to mind as I write this, while it may be cliche and very elementary, it is provoking….and, all I have to say is, He would not be worried about those damn red cups. He’s filled this world with hurting people; it’s our job to serve them. That’s what Jesus would do: serve and love them.

End of rant.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Galatians 5:13-15

“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified

in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of God.”

1 Corinthians 6:11

(This rant was particularly inspired by the book Forgotten God (chapter 4) by Francis Chan, which I am studying right now; lies told by people I thought were representing Christ well and the red Starbucks controversy)

what Webert’s visa taught me

Oh, and I seen many searching for answers far and wide, but I know we’re all searching for answers only You provide.

Cause you know just what we need, before we say a word.

You’re a good, good Father. It’s who you are, it’s who you are.

And, I’m loved by you. It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.

You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are perfect in all of Your ways to us.

(lyrics from Good, Good Father by Housefires)

As the world now knows, my husband…my sweet, sweet husband…finally was granted a visa to travel to the United States late August. usa

Today, I want to reflect on this, share some of our memories and remind us how our Father is so good.

Webert has been trying to obtain a visitor’s visa to the United States since 2012. We became boyfriend and girlfriend the summer before my senior year of college and my biggest wish was for him to see me on graduation day. But, he was denied a visa in March 2012, two months before graduation day.

I moved to Haiti full-time three weeks after graduation. Our relationship only grew from there and I dreamt of the day when I would show my love where I was raised.

My brother would graduate from high school in May 2013 and we tried for another visa to be there on his big day. At this time, we were also starting to talk about marriage. In the perfect world I had in my mind, Webert would get his visa; propose to me while in America, with friends all around and we would celebrate with chips, salsa and margaritas. Because, that’s just how I do things.

But, we were denied a visa again.

After this second denial, I began worrying this little fantasy of mine would never come true. We would get engaged June 2013 and marry January 2014.

Once I changed my name and had all the certificates, we decided it was time to try for a visa again. Third time’s a charm, so the universe says.

But, again we were denied.

I tried to be brave, but all I kept hearing at this point was arguments saying he would never receive a visitor’s visa because he had married an American citizen. When, before, we were given advice that getting married would help his case! Side note: I have learned nothing from this experience, except the whole system is whacked out and there really is no true advice to be given.

I began drowning in this fear of the unknown and resenting certain parts of God. All I could think of were selfish thoughts, which became ugly and sinful. Some days, I just wanted out.

Fast-forward to summer 2015 and three visa tries later. Whenever I would bring up the subject, Webert would get short with me and say he wasn’t applying again until 2017. And, in turn, I would be all about the drama and say things like, “you don’t care where I come from, and you don’t even LOVE ME!” Because, I could. And, let’s be honest, we all have to let the crazy out at some point.

This past summer, we started working on guardianship for a little girl in the hopes to get her a medical visa (this process, by the way, is almost complete and we hope to have a visa appointment scheduled for her by next week!) Our big plan was to make an appointment for Chedline and Webert on the same day, make a big case how we need to travel together to help this little girl and show papers on our other three children.

Well, because Haiti, Chedline’s paper work with social services took almost six weeks longer than we expected. I was planning a trip to go back to the States for a wedding in September and found myself daydreaming of Webert going back with me to meet all of my college friends and be a part of the wedding.

So, on a random Sunday night, when we knew Chedline’s papers were going to take much longer than expected, we filled out an application for another visa appointment. I literally stopped breathing for the next eighteen days.

One minute I would be fine and pumping my fists, saying, “God’s got this!” And, the next moment I would be hyperventilating.

During this time period, a friend spoke these brilliant words of encouragement to me:

“We give the ink on these papers (visas, diagnoses, applications, etc) way too much power. The only ink that has true power is the Bible. And, in the Bible, God promises good things to those who love and serve Him.”

During this time period, a book I had been given over a year ago magically appeared on my bed stand. Well, it probably wasn’t magic. I’m sure it was my cleaning lady who put it there, but I have no idea where it had been or where she would have found it. I also have a bookshelf in the back room, so I’m not sure why she chose to put it on my bed stand instead of on the bookshelf! I had started reading this book, but never finished it and I think God put it there as a very bold reminder of who He is. The book is called Sun Stand Still and it’s based on the story in Joshua, when Joshua asks God to make the sun literally stand still so he can win a battle.

“The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!” Joshua 10:13-14

In that perfect moment, I was reminded how we are allowed to pray for miracles and with an audacious faith we can expect them to happen as well.

That moment took my breath away as I was so certain the Lord would finally grant Webert a visa.

The day before the appointment finally arrived and that night we were busy organizing papers and ironing the perfect interview outfit. And, with the greatest look of confidence, Webert starting singing one of our kids favorite songs:

If Jesus says yes, no body can say no!

The next day, I waited in anticipation for two hours in the vehicle while Webert was in the embassy. The answer was finally YES!

As we went through the airport in Port-au-Prince, the perfect song was singing:

If Jesus says yes, no body can say no!

Friends, I rode that escalator with tears in my eyes, thinking my heart could literally explode in my chest. It’s funny, how when we open our eyes to Him, it turns out He is everywhere…even on the radio!

We had such an amazing trip! I got to stand up for one of my best friends on her wedding day and wink at my husband in the crowd. Webert got to experience American football for the first time as we watched my younger brother play for his college. My best friend Molly got to introduce him to Buffalo Wild Wings, he was blown away by our drive thru banking system and loved the darkness of our basement – where, we totally made out on the couch, it was like I was in high school again! We ate entirely too much good food, went to the zoo, spent a lot of money at Target and got to hug people who have been waiting to meet Webert for over three years. Blessed doesn’t even describe it.


wedding lovin’


welcome home signs!

loving us some American football

loving us some American football

God reminded me so many times through this process, as my testimony tells, that He hears us and wants good for us. I still do not understand why He made us wait so long for this to happen, but the timing felt ironically perfect as we traveled.

We still have a lot to work to do for our own three children in order for them to travel with us, but I am affirmed and confidant the day will come where I get to show my babies where their mama was raised.

Thank you to everyone who has so wholeheartedly followed this crazy, little journey of ours. So many of you showered us with love while we were in the States and the love we received when we got back to Haiti was just as warm and beautiful. It’s humbling being known, loved and accepted in two completely different worlds.

So much of this journey is complicated, hard, scary and so unknown…yet, so many of you encourage us, support us in so many ways, love us when it’s hard and press forward even with us when it’s unknown.

I thank you for that. You’ve made my life all the more beautiful. Thank you for cheering us on!

Until the day when three special little Haitians get their visas,

Love from Haiti,


in honor of the birthday

“How you live your days, is how you life your life.” – Crazy Love by Francis Chan

It’s the eve to my 26th birthday and I really can’t believe it.

For 9,489 days I have been alive now. A lot of those days have been marvelous. Quite a few of them have been disastrous, as I have tried to figure out how to be a human. But, here I am on the eve of my birthday, fully alive. And that’s something to shout about.

Today was full of responsibilities. Responsibilities, as it turns out, are not all they are cracked up to be. I remember a day in my youth when all I wanted was responsibility, because with responsibility came a driver’s license, a new cell phone, later curfews and boyfriends. If only older version me could have told younger version me that responsibility also means changing dirty diapers, paying for health insurance, and having to buy toilet paper (side note: I believe the universe should just bless us humans with toilet paper, it’s such a waste of money!)

And on the eve of my 26th birthday, I wanted to curl my hair. I wanted to feel put together – you don’t get to feel that way in Hait, btw. But, since my husband was busy with school responsibilities I had to get all three of my children ready for school all by myself. Single mamas and papas, bless you, seriously. This is a serious task.

Loveson had a meltdown because he couldn’t find his toothbrush. Jeffte could not locate his uniform shirt, alone and behold it was sitting on his bed the entire time. And Wishla was just being herself, which means you are already sweating. Sweating at 7:30 in the morning, when all you want is to feel put together is not an encouraging start to the day.

So, I didn’t get to curl my hair, but we made it out of the door in one piece – minus the bright red Kool-Aid stain on my brand new white shirt. Thank you Wishla.

I made my forty-five minute commute to work and fell into the routine. While there were some stressful clients I had to deal with, it’s safe to say that I love my job. Turns out some responsibilities can fill you up with dignity and self-worth. Good stuff.

My afternoon was filled with running errands. Turns out these responsibilities are not always fun. If anyone out there enjoys grocery shopping, there is a job opening here for you in Haiti! Official grocery shopper for the Raymond clan.

Today, I also found out my sweet Haitian sister-in-law had another miscarriage. Her third one, in fact. Her and her husband have been married for two short years and have gone through this three times. They work hard, serve the Lord and want a baby. I don’t understand why the Lord won’t give them one. You can be sure these will be the type of things I talk with God about on judgment day.

It’s the eve of my 26th birthday and the responsibilities of feeding the little ones who I am trying to raise; responsibilities of work and errands and being pulled in lots of directions and the responsibilities of taking care of the hurting carry a heavy load today. I wonder which day of my life was it exactly that led me to this life? This family? This adventure? This calling?

But, of course, it wasn’t a specific day I tell myself. This life has been full of days that have turned into years, which have turned into one grand story. How incredibly blessed I am by these responsibilities.

Grocery shopping may be lame, but it means my family eats. Driving around doing errands may suck – especially in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – but it means I have a car and the ability to travel. Dealing with e-mails, work and clients may be overwhelming, but it means I have a job that provides for my family and if I do a good enough job at my job more parents will be able to provide for their families as well. And now that I am turning 26, I will have to start paying for my own health insurance, which is really just going to cramp my style. But health insurance guarantees me health care if my body decides to go crazy.

Two small rants on this whole health insurance issue: first, my boss, Shelley at Papillon Enterprise was diagnosed with stage one cervical cancer this past July. She has now – praise Jesus – made a full recovery, but at the time of the diagnosis it was scary. Because of health insurance, she was able to have a full hysterectomy in Miami, which removed all of the cancer. A robot performed the hysterectomy, because that’s how America does things. On her trip back to Haiti, she came across an article in a magazine about cervical cancer being the number one killer of women in Haiti. Enter goose bumps. Cervical cancer is almost entirely treatable in the United States, but is an epidemic in Haiti. 700 miles away from robotic surgeries, cervical cancer continues to destroy and take lives.

This past week Shelley visited one of the only hospitals in the country that offers cancer treatment. They were not only mixing the chemo by hand, but Shelley told me the recliners were all broken. Only 120 people are actively in this program, as well. So out of 10 million people on a little Caribbean island, only 120 people are actively seeking cancer treatment with hand mixed chemo. And while the drugs run through their veins, they don’t even sit comfortably.

This is our world.

Even worst, my Haitian sister Viola had a miscarriage late in the night. At 9 a.m. the following morning three members from the community headed to the hospital to donate blood for her. At 7 p.m. tonight, Viola had still not received the blood. Why? We have absolutely no idea, except that we are in Haiti.

In Half the Sky, they state, “childbirth remains deadly as ever, with one maternal death every minute. Some 99 percent of those deaths happen in poor countries.”

I realize, Viola has a very slim chance of passing away, but these statistics hit home when the one you love can’t get a blood transfusion when having a miscarriage.

You feel responsible when the ones you love, the ones you live in community with and the ones you care about are out there without access to what they need. Whatever it may be: food, health care, education, Jesus…you feel responsible.

And just like that, the responsibilities carry a lot of weight again.

But these responsibilities keep me real. They keep me alive. They keep me loving hard. They keep me struggling with real life stuff. They keep me aware of the world and of humankind. The suffering keeps me raw. The hardness keeps me honest.

And on the eve of my birthday day, I’m grateful for these heavy responsibilities. I like to believe they have given me the greatest gift in life, because, quite literally, they’ve taught me life. What a shame it would be to be walking through this life comfortable, in a bubble, unaware of humans and without the responsibility to leave this world a better place. The hard has made the life good.

So, as I turn 26, I’m grateful for where these days of life have led me. And, my prayers are for the future days that turn into years are easy on this soul of mine, but that they remain hard as well. May I take on my responsibilities with grace and gratefulness. And most importantly, have some fun doing it.

Love from Haiti.

P.S. my daughter just threw a cracker in my face and Jeffte just walked out of his room crying because Loveson kicked him in the face. Wishla is also fashionably naked. Motherhood responsibilities are so awesome. Enter sarcasm.

P.S.S. tomorrow is my birthday! Gifts can be sent in a glass bottle across the ocean or left on mother Renae’s doorstep in Iowa :)

Half the Sky is an incredible book if you are wanting to learn more about the oppression of women in our modern day world and the many struggles women in third world countries face.

an avocado a day


Tropical storm Erika made her way through Haiti late into the night last night. Although the wind wasn’t as strong as we expected, it is still always hard to sleep in my queen-sized bed when it rains. I picture the faces of the struggling moms instead of counting sheep. You pray their tarps will hold and the sticks will stay, but are those prayers even enough? Do they really mean much as I snuggle up next to my husband and eventually fall sound asleep?

I think of the families who have been blessed with new homes. How foundations were poured, cement blocks were stacked and a steel roof was put over their beds because we chose to do something about it. I think about them and peace runs through my veins.

Yet, so many, many more are waiting.

Early July a team from Sunnybrook Community Church from Sioux City, Iowa visited us. During their stay we delivered bunk beds to five of the families, who had received new homes. (click here on their stories) While it was fun to rejoice and pray with these mommas and their children, it was hard to look their neighbors in the eye. Because, their neighbors are still waiting.

We visited a single mother of two, while we were out installing bunk beds. She, too, has been living in a makeshift house made of weathered cardboard and dirt for over five years. She has two beautiful daughters, Roseberline and Roseline, who go to our school. She shared her story of struggle with Webert and we decided if there was money to build one more, we would build for her.

After the team visited her and returned back to the States, they were moved to donate.

Today, after a large tropical storm passed, I went to their house in confidence. We stood on their new porch – which was completely dry – and I looked the oldest daughter in the eyes and asked, “What do you think about this new house of yours?”

She replied, “I thank Jesus for it.”

I smiled, and asked, “What did you think when it rained so hard last night?”

She replied, with an even bigger smile, “I was so happy!”

Most people living in these conditions fear the rain. This little one now faces it with courage!

Roseline on the left and Roseberline on the right

Roseline on the left and Roseberline on the right


And while this is a heartwarming story and I’m truly grateful to the people who made this house become a reality, I unfortunately didn’t leave their home comforted. Several other neighbors were watching. One asked me to come inside her house and sit on her bed.

These people, these Haitians, are so gracious and always offer you a chair to sit on when you visit their homes. But, actually sitting on their beds and having them point out where the roof leaks rain is hard. She pulled back a piece of cloth and showed the very large tear in the tarp. She explained how she lays out a dozen cups to catch all the rain. Her bed, by the way, is a piece of cardboard stacked on cement blocks. I’m so uncomfortable; I can barely put together my Creole sentences.


Because, how do you respond to people who don’t get to sleep when it rains for fear of their entire house falling over? How do you react when they pull the sheets away and show you how their house is, in fact, just a tarp? How do you fake a smile when they joke and laugh about waking up to puddles on their floor? How do you give encouragement when they say they’re tired and have nothing for their kids?

I met a woman today. Her name was Lumine and before showing me her own house, she showed me her neighbor’s home. Tytoo staff recently repaired the neighbor’s home and we came looking specifically for the neighbor. I asked her about her living situation and she slowly directed me to her house. Inside her five children were sharing a single avocado and a few pieces of bread. It was quarter to noon and this was their breakfast and their lunch. A divided avocado and three pieces of bread, for five children. For both breakfast and lunch.

Can we let that sink in for just a moment?


One of the daughters bravely divided the avocado as the mother showed me a broken twig holding the peak of their house together. Bless them, Lord. As she showed me the broken twig, I asked her what they did last night as the storm passed through. Her response:

“Someone let my children and I hide under their shelter while it rained. We sat and waited for it to stop raining. This morning, I had to give them all of my sugar. We didn’t sleep last night.”

My guess is she had a larger sack of sugar she was using to sell to make a little income and she had to give it to the people who let her stay dry during the rain.

Ben, a major rock star and a new staff member at Tytoo Gardens, went on to tell me this story, as we stared grimly at their house:

When we first met ­­Lumine, she introduced them to Andrelise, the neighbor. She made a way for the neighbor to find help before her. When Ali (another major rock star from Tytoo, who leads the Starfish Program) found out her specific living situation, Ali asked her why she had introduced her to her neighbor before asking for help. Her answer, “I see you pass on the road, but I didn’t want to run up to you like everyone else does. I knew if you were suppose to help me, God would show you me.”

People, there are good people in this world. There are good people. There are people who are feeding their children only an avocado a day, because that’s all they can do, but put their neighbor before themselves. And it is because they have a faith that calls them to. They don’t know where their food or shelter will come from, but they remain good. They die to self.

I stood in front of this woman – who was no more than 100 pounds, had a half braided head of hair, a ragged shirt but carried a message that really could change the world – and felt utterly hopeful. Although I could guarantee her no immediate shelter, her message brought me hope. I like being reminded that there really are still good people in the world.

All I could think of was, what if we chose to die to self and care for our neighbor first. It would be so different. We would stop building mansions and start housing our neighbors. We would build less for us and build more for the poor. We would stop indulging and start feeding the little ones going on only an avocado. Or worse, even less.

But, it’s not like this is anything new. After all, this character named Jesus came to earth to teach these exact ways. There’s this book, the Bible, that teaches us all about it. It’s been around for a couple millenniums.

And, I guess, if we really believed in this Jesus and took this Bible seriously we would be a lot more like Lumine and a lot less like our self. Oh, how the world would look if we started caring for our neighbor first.

I could do nothing more but pray for Lumine in that moment. I held her hand, it was awkward and spontaneous, but I could see how the clouds were still hovering and the potential in another sleepless night lingered. So, I prayed.

God, hear us cry. We are tired and the rain makes us restless. We long for rest in your arms. Make a way. Make a way for a house and for the children to sleep in peace. We are waiting for a miracle. We anticipate a miracle. Make a way.


So, it’s that time again.

Yup, I’m going to ask again.

Can we build another house?

Our neighbors need us.

Donations can be sent to

Touch of Hope

205 Old Mill Lane

Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

*memo: Lumine

for the sake of hard

There’s this saying:

“Help a Haitian once, they’ll say thank you. Help a Haitian twice, they’ll expect it. Help a Haitian three times, they demand it.”

Unfortunately, this saying is quite true. It’s what can make a heart calloused and it’s something so hard to explain to people who don’t live here full-time.

About a year and a half ago an orphaned teenage girl came to Tytoo’s gate. She was being kicked out of her house because she was pregnant. I’m not sure how she lost her parents, but at some point in her life she had. I’m not really sure the story of the baby’s father either. Regardless, this girl needed help and a place to stay.

And, because there still is a chance with humanity, we found a single woman living by herself who invited her into her house. They’ve been living together ever since. Once she had the baby, we employed her at the school to clean the classrooms.

It’s been a year and a half with really no problems. The baby is healthy and the mom never really gives me any trouble.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I was unfortunately sick by the end of the afternoon with a pretty bad migraine. As I was resting, there was a knock on the gate. It was the mom. Without asking how I was – my state of being obvious as I had to of looked like complete crap, with sweat dripping down my face – she started complaining about her living situation. After a few moments, she boldly stated, “you either build me a house or put my child in the orphanage.”

Guys, I about lost it.

The human in me gets really snappy when people expect things out of me. It’s more than draining, especially after finding her a place to live and giving her a job.

But, the compassionate, more patient person in me (which is harder to locate) hates this. It’s a righteous anger because I realize this girl has not had an easy life to begin with. She’s uneducated, orphaned and now a single mother. I get it. I see you, girl, I really do. I eventually explain to her how I will not allow her to put her child in an orphanage – even after she insists on telling me “how many problems the son gives her” – because, God gave her this son and it’s her responsibility to raise him.

And then, it’s kind of like, “well duh, the child is going give to give you problems.” It’s a baby! Babies are not easy. See that three-year-old over there, yeah, she’s mine and I think she wakes up every day thinking to herself, “how I am going to make my mom go crazy today?!”

It’s really frustrating and deeply saddening to see how quickly a mom is willing to give up her child here. And on a personal note, it’s all the more frustrating as I’m raising three children who have been given up and I fight to make them mine. It’s so unnatural that it’s actually impossible to even digest some days. Does the poverty and hopelessness really drain them this severely that they can’t even fight for their own children? Is it the illiteracy? Is it the oppression? Or even worse, is it our fault as the white people who just come in with open arms and insist on taking them in?

I don’t know what the answer is, but what I do know is that it’s not okay. Or good. Or right. Or healthy. Or normal.

Babies are supposed to be with their mamas. End of story.

I ended the conversation with this young mom by telling her she needed to make a plan. She needed to realize how important she is to her son and it’s her responsibility to take care of him. I told her I would talk to some people; whom I am going to talk to is yet to be determined.

I guess I am not sure how I want to end this post because this story is not yet finished. There has yet to be a come to Jesus moment. There is yet to be a happily ever after.

I guess what I needed was to just put it out there. This is the reality, guys. It’s the reality of so many people. It’s the reality of the poor. It’s the reality of brokenness and abandonment. It’s the reality of the mission field. It’s the reality of really hard situations that involve real human lives.

It’s hard. End of story.

It’s hard hearing the stories. It’s hard always being expected to give. It’s hard being expected of. It’s just hard.

This isn’t a post to earn a pat on the back or to raise money to build a house for this woman. Again, I don’t know the point of this post except that I just needed to get it out there. Vent a little bit, ya know?

It’s hard to act like everything is okay, when things are not okay in this world. It’s hard to scroll through my Facebook feed, when everything seems so shallow and pointless. It’s hard to enjoy my kids when the mothers at my gate don’t enjoy their own. It’s hard to enjoy good food, beach days and television when so many people go on empty stomachs and live in such broken homes – physically and emotionally.

It’s hard to see God. It’s hard to believe He is good when there’s just a lot of bad. It’s hard to stay strong for the poor. It’s hard to stand for justice when injustice would be a whole lot easier.

And since I’m to the point of blabbering, I would just like to say that as Christians, I think we have really messed up. We have allowed people to believe that following Jesus is easy. We convince people – I grew up being convinced – that being a Christian is all about rainbows, unicorns and lollipops. What we have failed to mention is that if we are totally in with Jesus, like all in, giving our life and our good and comfort away for the sake of the gospel that, in fact, being a Christian is the farthest thing from rainbows, unicorn and lollipops.

Following Jesus is the hardest thing that you could ever possibly do. It will require sacrifice, lots of that. With doses of forgiving when you’ve been hurt, reaching out when you want to stay right where you are, loving when loving seems wrong and sacrificing. Again and again.

The words of Paul come to mind, when he rejoices for being persecuted, imprisoned, beaten and insulted all for the name of Christ.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful; yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 7:4-10

How often do our lives reflect Paul’s description as a servant of God?

Actually, how often do we even allow things to get hard for the sake of the gospel?

I think what the struggle is for me is that so many, many, many people cannot face the realities of the hurting, so we continue living sheltered and boring lives. We are afraid to know because once we know we have some type of responsibility. Better yet, we call ourselves Christians but our lives are the exact opposite of Paul’s words.

And, what I love about the verses above is how Paul makes me believe a hard life is a better life. He had something to live for. He really was doing hard the right way.

I think I just needed to share this story of the woman at my gate to shed light on how things are hard here. How, no matter what the circumstance, really hard situations have to somehow be conquered. And, once I am aware of the situation, I then feel the responsibility to conquer the problem. Some days I just feel really alone because so much of the world is worried about dentists killing lions, gays getting married, and how good we can appear to the world that we forget to love people.

Because, let’s be honest. Loving people is hard. It’s so much easier to criticize, judge and focus on self than love.

I have yet to decide how I am going to help this woman. In fact, I would be lying if I didn’t admit how upset I am about how she approached me yesterday and the ultimatum she gave me.

It’s hard, but I think it’s time I rise up and just love.

“A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:7-10

the redemption collection

Maybe you follow me on social media and have seen some posts about the Redemption Collection with #staytuned. Well, stay tuned no longer! It’s finished and I am so excited to show it to you all.

Basically, this is what it comes down to. I love Rosie’s Boutique. I love meeting new people as they come through. I have loved getting to know people who are here for the long run. I love treating people to milkshakes at Rosie’s. I love being able to continually support organizations by purchasing their product. I love how all of it is a full-circle thing: jobs, employment, community, support. It’s all mingled together in such a beautiful way. I love watching this God-sized dream of mine become a reality.

One of the biggest things I still fundraise for is the Lazarus Fund – I would love it if you would click here and read my heart behind the Lazarus Fund. I wrote this blog over a year ago and as I reread it to prep writing this post, I was strangely blown away by how my heart is still searching for contentment on these issues, how God has worked miracles and provided in big ways this past year through the Lazarus Fund and how I still feel God’s hand upon this all.

As I sit at Rosie’s, I am always dreaming up new ways to help people. And while the word and idea of redemption has been on my heart for several months now (I have written about it in several of my latest posts) I thought why not make a jewelry line that represents the works of redemption happening through the Lazarus Fund and works that are still to come. The best part is the profit from this collection will go directly back into the Lazarus Fund: to fund more stories of redemption.

Another beautiful full-circle thing, here. All of the jewelry in this collection was ethically sourced in Haiti. From leather and recycled aluminum to clay beads and birds, all of the pieces are unique and can be stacked together in fun ways. The jewelry was all handmade by artisans who are finding their way out of poverty.

In the past several weeks, we have already sold enough from the collection to proudly give our first loan to a woman in the Starfish Program (a program ran through Tytoo Gardens Orphanage and managed by Ali Treloar, click here for more information on the program) Her name is Dorci Manese and she has come so far since entering the Starfish program, in fact, with this loan, we hope to see her graduate from the program entirely.

Manese with her five children at school registration. All of them will be attending school this fall!

Manese with her five children at school registration. All of them will be attending school this fall!

She stands about 4′ 9″ but every inch of her small frame radiates encouragement to those around her. She has five chilren: a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, 7-year-old, 9-year-old and a 12-year-old. All of them are girls except the 9-year-old; he blends in well, however, as he is often sporting his sisters’ clothes. Clothing is very limited in their household.

If you were to see their living conditions, it would surely break your heart, as it broke ours. It was just as tiny as the mother’s tiny stature. Somehow her and her five children find a way to fit inside. To them it is home, a place where they can rest at night. To an outsider, not even a place you would want your enemy to sleep.

Ali met Dorci on the back paths of her village, Minotrie. Ali recalls her walking up to her with extreme confidence. She grabbed Ali’s arm and led her to her house.  Ali was led down an unfamiliar path and knew immediately upon arrival at her house that this woman needed help. Ali admitted Dorci into the Starfish Program by the end of the conversation.

Ali writes, “confidence is such a funny thing. I had complete confidence this woman needed help. Complete confidence this woman would work towards having a better life. Complete confidence that the faces of her five children would some day eat daily and go to school. I had complete confidence that the Lord was presenting Dorci Manese to me on that specific day for a reason.”

Dorci in front of her "home"

Dorci in front of her “home”

Dorci attends Starfish Program meetings regularly. She is always promptly on time and is very sweet. Ali once dreaded having to visit their home because it was such a horrific situation. She had no resources to help the family at the time and hated seeing the suffering. “I hated seeing how they lived and how the kids struggled to get by,” admits Ali.

Dorci’s house truly defies gravity. It tilts in one direction and tears in the other direction. It once rained for 24 hours straight. After the 24 hour downpour, a Starfish meeting was held and Ali remembers Dorci’s bloodshot eyes. She hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and there was no life to be seen in her sunken face. She had been rained on for 24 hours straight, simply because her battered, gravity-defying piece of tarp that she calls home couldn’t hold back the rain. Usually it rains in the late afternoon or night here in Haiti. The mornings are spent drying out your house and your possessions. But, when the rain starts in the night and doesn’t stop, you never get a chance to dry out your things.

During that Starfish meeting, Dorci pulled Ali aside and said, “Ali, I am being kicked out of my home.” She explained how she had built her tarp home on the land of a friend and the landowner now wanted his property back. She explained how the landowner would come to her house and throw rocks and yell threatening and horrible things to her and her five young children.

One of Dorci's daughters in front of the "home"

One of Dorci’s daughters in front of the “home”

When Ali first admitted Dorci into the program, she promised help, but knew in her heart she didn’t have the resources to truly help. For six months, Ali continued visiting the family and continued promising she would help. The very next day, after Dorci had explained to Ali the details of her living situation, a visitor came to Tytoo Gardens. Ali took the visitor to see Dorci and the visitor promptly made a donation so Dorci could have a new home. A home on her own piece of land, where threats would claim her no more.

The new home was the beginning. Dorci soon got to start a small business selling rice, beans, spaghetti, oil and other commonly used Haitian food ingredients. She got this opportunity because of the Starfish Depot.

The Starfish Depot was founded by Ali and our superhero Haitian mami Sara. Sara is the head cook at Tytoo Gardens Orphanage and helps Ali solve problems for the Starfish Program. I have personally seen Ali and Sara in action and they are basically modern day superheroes on motorcycles. Sara is full of wisdom, grace and integrity. She’s not afraid to take in the hurt and bring them back to life.

The Starfish Depot is right in front of Sara’s house and sits right on the main road (well, the only road) in Simonette. Ali and Sara buy all of the basic Haitian necessities at wholesale prices and sell to the Starfish women on credit. The women pay back their credit during their weekly Starfish meetings and Ali is able to keep them accountable as she visits them almost weekly as well. I think this depot is such a genius idea; I obviously had to make my own investment as well. The Lazarus Fund proudly donated enough money to the depot to provide 8 more women with businesses.

In order for Dorci’s small business to grow, Dorci came up with the idea to sell cold drinks. She has asked for a loan to buy a small freezer. She explained how there are no places to buy cold drinks in the area she lives and it could be a great business. If only she could get a loan for a freezer…

enter Redemption.


We hope to have the freezer bought in the next week and I am sure to be the first person to buy a COLD coca-cola from her.

Today, some of the pieces are now available on my blog! Click the Rosie’s tab above and browse the collection. Fill out the form at the bottom of the Rosie’s page. Once we receive your order, we will send you an invoice over PayPal. When we have received your payment, your order will be on its way!

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The collection is also available at Rosie’s in Haiti and soon to be available at Rosie’s in IOWA! My mom and a friend are opening a Rosie’s boutique and featuring “sit-a-minute” cafe. So, if you are ever passing through Rock Rapids, Iowa be sure to take a minute to stop by and shop at Rosie’s!

Love from Haiti

burnt-out or something like that


I really hate the term. I feel like it’s an excuse. Maybe it’s a real thing, I am not sure.

I think I may have come close to it, however.

It’s like I am really tired, but wide-awake. It’s like I have 100 things on my to-do list, but feel like there’s nothing to do. It’s like I am so glad to be here, but want to run away.

Last week Monday, I commuted to work in the city and found myself with a flat tire on the way home. Of course, as my dad was about to change the tire, sheets of rain fell on us. After waiting out the rain, my tire was fixed and we made our way home, with some delays, of course. The traffic was way backed up at one point because water was covering the highway. Further down the road children were running in the puddles with no shoes on. Water was running from all directions, trying to find a place to drain. Homes were being flooded as men were redirecting floating piles of trash with long sticks.

Tuesday, school registration started. Moms came with their children and presented their children’s report cards to me. Many of the cards had been soaked in the rain. Because, when you keep all your documents in a suitcase under your bed and the rain comes in a flash, the odds are your suitcase will get full of water.

Thursday, a visiting group and myself delivered bunk beds to families who received new homes back in March. We came upon Nata’s house. Oh, this lady can get excited! When we came up to her house, she was sitting on a rock washing her clothes by hand. She started jumping with excitement when I told her we were there to bring her a new bed. She showed us inside and kissed all of the team members as they entered. She continually raised her hands in the air saying “Mesi Senye” (thank you Lord). We put her bed together, snapped a picture on the bed as she hugged me and then, I looked up.

Nata, I love your smile.

Nata, I love your smile.

In her roof were large holes and dents. I asked where they came from and she explained how people throw rocks at her house at night because they don’t believe she deserved a “new home.” Like, seriously!? This woman has a childlike faith, a contagious joy and has raised 7 children on her own. What she deserves is a pat on the back! But, people in her neighborhood think she is “dirty” and undeserving.

My heart breaks.

Like, can’t these people just catch a break?

I think of how ridiculous I am for always being tired. The thought of making excuses for being burnt-out seems so foolish as people are living in such horrific situations. Their lives are always at risk when the thunderclouds come lingering over the mountains.

There’s the heat. The carrying of water. The washing clothes by hand. The not knowing if they will fill their babies’ bellies. The coughs, infections, fevers and illnesses that hover. The access to no clean water or convenient healthcare. The walking miles every day because they don’t have cars. The sleeping on the floor or pieces of cardboard.

Then there is the injustice. The illiteracy. The bullying. The oppression. It’s like there is just some universal fist just pushing and holding them down. It makes me hardly breathe.

Their strength, though, is that of a superhero. How do their bodies do it?

And because we are educated, have access to everything at the tip of our fingers and come from America; we can use the word burnt-out while serving the poor. Because, how I see it, we think and believe we are giving up oh, so much to serve. So, we can consider ourselves over it when we have had enough.

How fortunate we are to have a way out. A passport. A savings account. A way to go back.

I can only imagine how truly burnt-out we would be if we were the poor.

Yesterday, I had a day out with my husband. I hadn’t spent “quality” time with him in over a month and we thought it would be wise to spend time looking at each other and conversing. It’s usually good to do that, for the both of us. We had lunch, bought groceries and held hands. A date in Haiti doesn’t get much fancier. But as my husband would say, “it is what it is.” And, I’m fortunate to have a husband who can drive me to the city and buy a nice meal for me.

He’s the only person who knows how I tired I get. When people knock on the gate, it’s our gate they are knocking on. When someone asks me for something, I send him or her to Webert and he sends him or her back to me. We are a team. I complain to him and he sometimes complains back, but usually he shrugs it off. When I cry from all the pressure, he wipes the tears.

Yesterday, as we left the grocery store together, with our back seat full of food (I know, the irony. I can barely buy groceries without feeling guilty), I watched an elderly woman on the corner.

Traffic was moving slow, so I had enough time to embrace her existence. She stumbled with a walking stick in one hand and a small cup to wave in front of people for their spare change in the other. Her shoes were old and her burgundy dress was worn and faded. She had years of untold stories in her wrinkles. I could see the calloused hands from where I sat. Maybe life had been good to her at one point, but it looked like it had been hard. Maybe always had been. It took her five seconds to take each step and I couldn’t help but wonder where she laid her head at night.

Her entire being read burnt-out as the Holy Spirit fueled my veins.

After watching this woman, I squeezed my husband’s hand a little harder. We didn’t talk about her. He probably didn’t even notice her. I think she was there just for me.

I later made a promise to God. Because, these past couple weeks I haven’t felt alive. I’ve been pondering this entire idea and the state of being burnt-out. Because, what if that’s where I am? I’ve let to-do lists, emails, flooded homes, the lack of resources, the state of the poor and the state of the rich consume my spirit into a state of burden, unrest and, dare I say it, anger.

I promised God I would stop. I would stop doubting His plan and His future for my family and me. I would stop complaining. I would stop relying on my own strength. I would stop judging His justice for who gets what and how much of it, because He’s God and who I am to question that? I promised I would stop judging people for how they use their resources. I need to let it go. I have got to let it go.

Because, I need to. I have to if I am going to finish this race.

I keep thinking of this little old lady on the street corner. She led me to this prayer. She made me see something that I have yet to understand. She made me realize I am far from being burnt-out and that what I have “given up” is nothing in comparison to what she has never had. She has inspired me to cling tighter to what I have been given as well.

I saw her as a human in that moment. I wondered what it would be like to walk in her shoes. I wonder how hard it must be each day to wake up and the reality of your life be sitting on a street corner, shaking a cup and looking for change. I wonder how much pain she is in. Both physically and spiritually. Is she ready to go home? You know, to the eternal home.

This woman. This tiny, slow, wrinkled woman made me look towards heaven in a very real way yesterday.

I don’t think it is burnt-out. If our strength comes from Lord, He wouldn’t let that flame burn out. I think burnt-out is still an earthly excuse. A selfish one, even. A reason to quit. If our strength comes from the Lord, He won’t allow us to quit until He calls us home.

This woman, she reminded me where we are headed. All of us. We, humans, are all headed home, it is just of matter of time until He calls us.

Am I ready to go? Yes.

Am I ready for the suffering and pain to be over? Yes.

Am I ready to spend eternity in a perfect place? Yes.

But, until I go, I am going to live busy and tired. I am obligated to make this place better. I am going to try and make a difference. Small or big, I don’t even care. I will live joyfully. I will stop seeing the poor as a burden and start seeing them as people. I will stop using excuses and being burnt-out.

I promised I would live zealously. So, here’s to living it.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  -Romans 12:11


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