{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

how redemption has come

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

If you follow me on Instagram (start now if you haven’t already @kaylainhaiti :)) or liked me on Facebook, you will see that I’m practically obsessed with my kids. Most all of my posts are about them and the adorable things they do. I may be bias but I think they’re the best.

What’s hardest about these three children of mine is that they’re actually not mine. I make them appear as if they are mine and take care of them as if they are mine and I set their bedtimes, feed them and clothe them as if they are mine, but the reality of it all is that they are not mine.

My youngest, Wishla, is officially a diva. She’s two and a half years old as of this week and she’s done a very good job becoming just that: a two and a half year old. From the first day I met her, I knew she was sick. Sick with a AIDS and HIV. Sick from malnourishment and not enough lovin’. But, it didn’t phase me. Not the medicine, not the diagnosis, not an ounce of her 8 pound self scared me. We fell madly in love and the last 18 months of role playing her mom has been my greatest reward. Surely the sleepless nights I could have done without, but those moments when she cuddles up so close and blows her snot all over my cheek…nothing better, my friends.

She has also recently discovered our water cooler. You know the ones with the five gallon jug on top and the two knobs below? Yes, well she is just at the right height where she can flip the knobs on and off and allow our kitchen to turn into a small lake. She thinks it is the funniest thing ever. We also have a new kitten. A one pound, grey kitten that Jeffte has named William. He is kind of physco, so he fits right into the chaos of our house. Well, Wishla and William have it out for each other. Whenever William is peacefully sleeping on the couch, Wishla will come up and start pulling him by the tail. However, he fights back and pounces on her back when she is crawling. Its a spectacle and adds for some entertainment.

In all seriousness, I admire Wishla’s entire being. I get to speak witness to the miracles that have happened for her to be here today. She speaks joy and charisma into me. It’s a beautiful thing.

Wishla was 8 pounds, 11 months old when I met her. We found out quickly she has AIDS and would forever be on medication. I made a promise to her one Sunday in church, after the Holy Spirit had spent enough time convincing me I would call her mine. I promised her I would take care of her, no matter what sicknesses, challenges or mountains we had to climb. I would see to it she would survive. She would quickly begin gaining weight and showing us her quirky personality. But, she didn’t want to ever walk. At she turned a year and a half, I began to worry why she wasn’t getting any closer to walking. At two years old, I noticed her feet never went flat and something was hindering her from walking. I went home to the United States in September and sought out a pediatric orthopedic. He diagnosed her CP and said she needed a surgery to fix her feet to make her walk. I returned back to Haiti with a mission to get Wishla a medical visa so she could travel to have a surgery, but after a few days I got word that some doctors from Canada were visiting a hospital in Port-au-Prince so, I headed in to get another opinion from them. They gave her the same diagnosis and said they could do the surgery the next day at 8 a.m.

I know, miraculous.

So, the week of my 25th birthday started with Wishla having surgery. They ended up lengthening her Achilles’ tendons in both feet to allow them to go flat. A surgery I never even imagined could happen in Haiti, happened AND I only paid $5 for it.

Wishla spent about 5 weeks in casts and I expected her to come out of those babies running. But, she didn’t. Around Christmas another doctor from Canada was visiting Tytoo Gardens orphanage, so I asked if he would do a physical on her. He became worried about a few things, recommended some physical therapy and suggested she have some tests done neurologically. Again, things that don’t just happen in Haiti.

So, we went to Wishla’s family and told them everything. Mind you, Wishla has been with me for 18 months and has seen her mother one time in this time frame. Her grandma visits frequently, but never the mom. The mom, for lack of better words and since it’s the truth, is a nutcase. She’s irresponsible and sadly could care less about Wishla’s health or well being. Enter the heart break for me.

The family agreed they would go to court to sign over all the last rights in order for us to pursue a medical visa for Wishla. Two weeks ago, we piled in the truck to do just that. We got to the court only to discover that Wishla’s mom has no birth certificate or national NIF number (their form of a social security number). I was devastated. But, this woman didn’t even seem to care. She even had the guts to ask us for money at the end of the day…as if caring for her child wasn’t a big enough favor.

I could go on and on here, I could vent and say ugly things. I spent three days crying about it and just am still not over it. I don’t get it and it’s just not fair.

And sadly, the situation is very familiar for my oldest son Jeffte and his family, except that Jeffte doesn’t have medical issues. Whenever we have contact with his family, all they do it ask for help, even though the mom has had time to bring two more babies into the world.

Most all of the children at Tytoo Gardens orphanage have parents. They are there because their parents couldn’t care for them. How broken and awful is that reality? Statistics actually estimate there to be 380,000 orphans in Haiti and most of them are not true orphans, but abandoned because of poverty. The one thing I have learned is that the answer is not in creating orphanages, but in providing sustainable jobs that will in turn stop parents from dropping their own children off at orphanage gates. Surely, we need to keep on caring for the orphans, but the focus should be on why they are there to begin with.

The three kids I now call mine are a part of this statistic and truthfully I hate it. I love this little family of mine that God has put together so graciously, but the earthly realities of it are just too hard some days.

Jeffte was abandoned at the age of one and a half and lived in a hell hole I personally witnessed. The children slept on the dirt, ate one meal a day and the woman who ran the orphanage ran it as if it were a business. When teams would bring donations, she would turn around and sell them in market. By the grace of God, Jeffte got so severely sick, she handed him over to Webert and I so, we could take care of him. Webert, again by the grace of God, was able to find Jeffte’s biological parents and gain full custody of Jeffte. Loveson at the age of two was also abandoned at an orphanage, one I have never been able to visit because it was shut down. We are told the children were held like prisoners, never allowed to leave, only fed once a day and babies were rescued with signs of rats having eaten their ears. After two years of searching, we located Loveson’s biological family and their testimony was almost predictable: no money to feed him and some weird stories about Voodoo. We have now obtained Loveson’s birth certificate and are waiting to set up a court date to gain full custody. Wishla, also abandoned at the age of 11 months, was just a baby.

My kids have already noticed I am white and look different. They know we aren’t a “normal” family and have begun asking questions. We tell them that God has a very special plan for them. They were once in very bad places, but God was good and put them in a house with a mama and papa.

I believe in these truths, and sometimes I have to tell the story all over again just as a reminder to me: yes, God is good and He has a very special plan. Even though it is very, very hard to see some days. I cry some days just over the thought of having to abandon them. That there was a day in the history of this world where their moms just couldn’t do mom and left them at an orphanage gate. I think it’s so sad and I get buried in that reality, because how do you change it? How do you shine light onto something so unnatural? Moms are suppose to hold their babies tight, teach them how to fly and see them to the end; not cut the story short, lose all hope and leave them in someone else’s hand.

I never dreamt of being a mom. But, now I am one. And I became one in the most miraculous sorts of ways. I am recognizing the hurt in the world through it, but allowing the beauty of it to soak in deep too. I think of all the orphans and how so many of them are hungry and without a bed. I pray for the country of Haiti every single morning, that today would be a day of redemption. And when I don’t think I have seen redemption or feel like giving up on a God who knows only good, I remember how He saved me. That in and of itself being redemption.

And then, how He turned me into a mom in the most unlikely of ways, to three children who desperately needed a mom. And now these babies have full bellies, a bed to lay their tired heads on and someone to kiss them goodnight.

Realizing all along, redemption has come.

The lesson has been that no matter how hard it hurts knowing they are not mine, they never will be. This whole time they have been HisThey are His. And, He is the one with the plan and it is my job just to raise them up in the right way, hoping not to mess up on the way there. Loving them every step of the way.

Please, though, keep on enjoying my cute pictures of them, because, let’s be honest, they are so darn cute. But, know it’s not all easy. There has been a lot of pain growing into the family we have become, but we are stronger and more alive and filled with more joy because of it all.fam1sm

fam2sm

Filled.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

So he began teaching them many things.”

–Mark 6:34

 

To celebrate Christmas I decided to read through the gospels to see what else I could learn about this guy we call Jesus and whom we celebrate on Christmas day.

So many of the stories are so familiar being that I have heard them since I was a child in Sunday school: the five thousand being fed by a few loaves of bread and fish, Jesus walking on water, the sick being healed and the blind receiving sight or the story about the paralyzed man being dropped through a roof for Jesus’s healing touch.

I remember many of these stories by pictures or skits or cheesy vacation bible school songs. What I don’t remember being taught is how upside down and inside out these stories really are. How Jesus’s actions went against the society He lived in and the society we now live in. I don’t remember words like radical or compassion. I don’t remember skits about Jesus belittling the scholars and taking sides with the sinners.

This time around I discovered a new Jesus. Time and time again, stories and passages describe Jesus being filled with compassion and in turn manifesting some type of miracle.

“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.” –Mark 8:2 (the feeding of the five thousand happened next)

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” – Matthew 14:14

 “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” – Matthew 20:34

“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” –Mark 1:40-41

The gospels in my Bible are now highlighted with passages that exploit a compassion Jesus had towards the crowds, the paralyzed, the lame, the sick, the sinners and lowlifes. Stories of compassion and miracles filled up the pages in ways I had never seen them before.

Sure, I’ve been hearing about the feeding of the five thousand since I was six. I’ve colored in scenes with my Crayola crayons of baskets full of leftover bread and a small boy who carries the baskets. The pictures were full of people sitting on a hillside, full and satisfied, with Jesus in the center. We were always taught about the miracle, but not the heart behind it.

The only reason Jesus fixed this meal was because His heart compelled Him to. He did not do it to gain fame or to have the headlines read “Jesus does it again; He feeds a large crowd with nothing but a few loaves and a leftover fish”. He did not do it to gain popularity or show them Pharisees wrong; he did it because his heart was filled with compassion. Bless him. In fact, after performing most miracles, Jesus tells the healed not to tell anyone about what has happened to them.


 

I have a hard time explaining how I feel some days when I stand in a home made of tattered tarp and floor made of dirt. Happy, sad, joyful, angry…I have never been able to find the right word. But, Jesus pinned this feeling of mine as I rediscovered Him this past month: compassion. Compassion that flows from the heart of our God and dwells in us because of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve learned and relearned that miracles are what follow when compassion is felt, embraced, dreamt up and lived out first. First, compassion. Second, miracles. First, going out and loving people. Second, God showing up and making His own miraculous moves.

At first glance compassion seems like such a beautiful word and feeling. But, I’ve learned its actually quite ugly and hard.

Jesus was filled with compassion when he saw the hungry, sick and sinners. I am sure he’s filled when he sees the happy, healthy and well off, too, but the stories in the gospels tell of him being filled with compassion when he saw something ugly and hard.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to see the darkness in the world, because He had the power to overcome it. He wasn’t afraid to be acquainted with sinners, because He had a message that would redeem them. He wasn’t afraid to surround himself with people full of sickness, because He had the ability to heal them.

Jesus taught me not be afraid, but to go into the world filled with compassion. I have seen my hurting neighbors. I cry when I leave their broken homes or when I don’t have another job to give or sometimes I cry for no good reason at all. I see poverty every day and it crushes me. But, I will no longer be afraid of it.

I will allow the Spirit to fill me with all the compassion my little heart can hold and breathe out life where it has been taken. Letting the miracles take place and allowing God to work His wonders.


 

Every single time I visit the “blue tent city” in Minoterie I am filled with compassion. I haven’t been able to describe what I feel for a long time, but Jesus has now taught me what it is. And I know compassion is what Jennifer and Lydia Lee felt as they walked the dirt paths with me, too. We dreamt up a better tomorrow and I’m honored, humbled and quite frankly blown away.

I am forever thankful for your generous and compassionate hearts. I am grateful to all of you who clicked “share” and got the word out about our friends who are living in such unbearable conditions. I can’t say thank you enough for those of you who followed through and clicked the PureCharity or PayPal link or donated through Touch of Hope. You are superheroes. Your donations mattered and they are going to manifest into something so very beautiful.

Today, I am honored to tell you that all the money has been raised to build the five homes for the five families who have been living in tents over the past five years. Today marks the 5 year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti 5 years ago, how appropriate we can remember it with such exciting news.

Additionally, I would like you to meet Yolanda.

YOl

Yolanda is the daughter to Yoline, a cook at our school. They have been living in a tarp structure for five years and it is where Yolanda has grown up. She is in first grade, has the sweetest smile and gives the most gracious hugs when I see her at school. Her mom started working at our school last year and this is the first real, reliable job she has ever had. I see them every Sunday at church and there is a glow that radiates from both of them that I envy. I visited Yolanda last week to deliver a Christmas present from her school sponsor. I entered through the twig frame and stood with Yolanda in the middle of her “house.” I asked her where she slept and she pointed to the bed behind her. I looked above and saw a very large hole in the tarp so I proceeded to ask, “Well, what happens when it rains?” Her reply, with a giggle in her voice, “I get wet.” Enter feelings of heart breaking and compassion filling every ounce of my body. Her mom gave me the grand tour, showing me around the back of her house where tarp was shredding and other pieces were sewn together with yarn. Yes, a house sewn of yarn.

Two days later, I totaled all the donations and discovered we not only had enough money to build five houses, but enough to build SIX. First, compassion. Second, miracles. Yolanda and her family will be the sixth family to have a new house built and I can’t wait to visit her in the near future and ask her what happens when it rains and her response be, “I stay dry!”

People, thank you for showing up and donating to this cause, I am forever humbled and grateful. May you be blessed tenfold. Updates to follow as the houses will be built in the month to come!

“Whoever claims to live in him, must walk as Jesus did.”

- 1 John 2:6

 

just throwing a Hail Mary here

Beach days are the way to my heart. I get 8 hours to escape from the kids, work and all the other troubles before me. I soak up the Caribbean heat; usually enjoy a good steak sandwich (it’s a beach day must) with a cold Prestige (also a must). We don’t get them often, but when we do, beach days are always the best.

Mid-November I found myself reclining on the beach reading a book. With the sand in my toes and no kids needing my attention, it was the perfect day. Except for the fact that I was feeling quite empty that day. Quite used up and washed out. Something had been missing and it was around the time I was looking for a way to cultivate my heart. The enemy was whispering lies in my ears and my heart was beginning to believe them.

Your time isn’t being spent the right way. You’re just not doing it right. Your work does not matter.

Truthfully, I am amazed everyday when I wake up with the ocean in my front yard with the responsibility to care for three little orphaned children. I search for reasons on how to explain my story and all the miracles that have gone out before me. The growth of the school, the faith of the ViBella women, the trust of village kids, the provisions time and time again. There’s only one reason this happened: some time ago we decided to say “yes” and this is what God has done with our “yes”. But in the midst, I get selfish and prideful. I forget to say thank you and give praise. My heart hardens and I worry about all the day’s troubles.

In the midst of it all I believe all the lies and being amazed is one thing, living it all out is another.

And on this beach day, with a good book in my hands, beautiful and important words spread out on the pages before me and the Lord spoke a vision to me.

“Don’t think for a moment that bold vision is reserved for the next generation…audacity does not discriminate on the basis of age or disqualify because of wasted years. No matter how far behind you feel, or how many opportunities you’ve squandered, you can begin to ask God to do the impossible in your life right now…But audacious vision never cowers in the darkness. The darker it gets, the brighter our faith can shine. Audacious faith takes Jesus at his word. We are the light of the world: we cannot be hidden and we have no reason to hide.” – page 30

So, the vision of a large worship service was born.

The first purpose of the service would be to carve out a time and really thank God for all He has done on the mountaintop. We wanted the entire community to join and share how this is all been God’s work. I wanted this to be a chance for the community, students and staff included, to get together like they have never done before. An opportunity to also feed them both spiritually and physically. A time to give thanks for how Touch of Hope, as a non-profit and ministry, has grown in such a short time. For the ways, we as a family, servants and humans have grown and changed.

The second purpose of the service was to be a sacrifice of our time and money for something bigger than the both of us. Webert and I fasted and prayed the month of December for discernment of the future for the school, our careers, our family and our mission as we led up to the service.

So, we marked the calendars and began planning a large worship service for New Years Days.

I shared the vision with friends who were visiting on Thanksgiving Day and told them how we would need some funds to pull off the service and meal. The next day we would be handing out over 100 bikes to students who walked over a mile to school. Six children from Northwest Iowa has raised over $8,000 for the cause and they spent their Thanksgiving break in Haiti to see all of the students receive a new bicycle. The night of Thanksgiving they decided whatever money was left from the bikes would be given to help us with the worship service. And of course, the next day, after handing out all the bikes, we went to count the leftover money and it was $1,000 (the amount I had told them we needed).

I e-mailed my parents the same day, telling them of my idea and if any random donations came into Touch of Hope I would like to put it towards the service. Within 24 hours, a $1,000 donation came in with a note to use for evangelical purposes. And a few days later a $1,200 donation came in to purchase and hand out Bibles; the church that made this donation didn’t even know about the service we were planning!

Seriously, the vision was given to me and before I even told many people all the money for the service and meal was at my disposal.

And then New Year’s Day rolled around and it was time for the big show. We think close to 2,500 people gathered in our schoolyard and 8 different churches led worship on a stage set up on the basketball court. School kids ran around with a look of freedom on their faces, mamas lifted their hands high in the air and babies fell asleep on their laps. The worship lasted for over 3 hours and a meal was given at the end of the evening.

someone once told me they thought God spoke through the suns rays, I like to think they were right.

someone once told me they thought God spoke through the suns rays, I like to think they were right.

sun3

“where 2 or more are gathered in my name, I am there with you” – Jesus

sun2

It was crazy, but perfect…to me, it was a glimpse of what heaven will be like as the sun rays from the sunset fell upon the crowd.

For 2015, I don’t really have any resolutions but I am going to start praying for God to do the impossible more in my life. More for the people around me and more for the country of Haiti. I’m going to pray for miracles and expect them to happen. I’m going to throw my arms in the air and throw out some Hail Mary’s as I adventure through this life. And, truthfully, I think these are the kind of prayers God wants us to pray: prayers that could change the world and bring a little bit more of heaven to earth.


The book I was reading on the beach day was Sun Stand Still and it is based on the story in Joshua 10 when Joshua asks the Lord to make the sun literally stand still so he can fight off the Amorites.

“Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” Joshua 10:12-14

I have maybe read the book of Joshua once, but this was stunning to me. Who even has the audacity to pray for the sun to stand still? Seriously, I want some faith like that. So, I am challenged. Challenged to pray for things so much bigger than me. Challenged to pray with such a faith and belief that the impossible can happen before me.

So, the first big prayer was for the worship service. God showed up. Big time.

The second prayer happened on December 23 when I threw out another Hail Mary – literally, as I hit the publish button for 5 homes in 2015 I threw my arms in the air, kind of like you do when the quarterback throws one last long throw at the end of the game, and said “OK God, you got this”. It felt way out of my control, but I could already see the foundations of the homes before a penny was even donated.

Monday will be the 5-year anniversary of the earthquake and we will be announcing where we are in our efforts to build 5 new homes for 5 families who lost their homes in the earthquake. Please pray a sun stand still prayer with us for the final donations to come in for our goal to be met.

See you all on Monday,

Love from Haiti.

Reference: Sun Stand Still. Steven Furtick. Page 30.

clinging to the hope of a Savior

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” -1 John 3:17-18

Sometimes I wish and wonder for this all to be a dream. That the day will come when I will wake up and all the suffering and poverty will be no more.

People will live in sound houses, with yards to play in and sidewalks to ride their bikes on. All children will go to school and have opportunities to prosper, challenge themselves and succeed. There will be playgrounds, organized sports, noontime lunches that serve more than rice and beans.

Their homes will no longer be tilted and falling, they will be concrete and secure. They won’t be made of mud and straw or tarp and dented tin.  The rain won’t leak through their roofs and everyone will sleep sound through the night. They will feel safe. Mom and dad will have careers, which will not only provide stable incomes but also give them a shot at some real dignity in life. Moms won’t abandon their children at orphanage gates and dads will stick around to watch their kids to grow.

The electricity will always be on and safe water will run through the faucets in their homes. Children will no longer have to exhaust their energy carrying water to their homes. There will be comfortable beds to sleep in and shoes for their feet in the morning when they rise.

Bellies will be full, the signs of malnourishment will fade and treatable diseases won’t take their lives any more.

You won’t see people begging in the market on Christmas day or see the little girl leading her blind father through heavy traffic begging at each driver’s window. You won’t see the mother on the side of the street with an infant in one hand and the other hand outstretched taking whatever is handed to her. Little boys will go to school instead of begging on the streets.

You won’t hear stories of hunger, abandonment, homelessness, oppression, and loss no more.

Unfortunately, God said the poor will always be. Always.

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” -Deuteronomy 15:11

And, He made it our job to set them free. Whatever that may look like, He give the task to you and me.


On Christmas day, I really struggled as I walked through the local market. I was out shopping with the husband looking for new shoes for the boys. Those darn kids go through shoes like you wouldn’t believe and we have a wedding today, so new shoes were a must. As I zigzagged through the market, I came upon an older man dressed in only a shirt, sitting in the dirt path begging with a small dish. On any other day, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much, but it was Christmas day and Christmas isn’t supposed to look like this.

The world shouldn’t look like this.

I thought of so many loved ones cuddled up at home, in cozy homes around Christmas trees with presents stuffed underneath. I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed after market, and saw all of you celebrating, seeing how Christmas should be.

And I remembered the One who we were celebrating, that little baby born in a manger. Born in the most humble of ways. Born of a virgin. Born in a barn, the world anxious to meet its Savior.

And because of this Savior, I will keep on dreaming. I will keep wishing and wondering for a day when all the suffering and poverty will be no more. For one day I will arrive at the golden gates and I will see all these dreams come true. For it was because of the Savior we were saved; because of Him we will one day enter through heaven’s gates. It is there where poverty and suffering will be no more and for this fact and this fact alone I cling to the hope I have in Christ and keep on with good faith.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9

But, for now, as we live out our lives here on earth, we are commanded to help the poor here in this dark and broken world.


A few days ago, friends Jennifer and Lydia Lee along with myself launched our #lastblueChristmas fundraiser. We are hoping to raise $15,000 to build five new homes for five families who have been living in tattered blue tents for five years. We are motivated by the five-year anniversary of the earthquake that took hundreds of thousands of lives and left thousands more homeless. We recognize it is such a small act as a large percentage of Haitians live in structures made of tent, tarp and scraps with dirt floors. But, we are hopeful this fundraiser will be the beginning to something beautiful and new.

We are given the promise that whatever we do for the least of these brother and sisters, we are also doing for our King and Savior. And what an honor it is to serve him. To bring a glimpse of His kingdom to earth. To shine light where it has been without for so long.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” – Matthew 25:40

Friends, beautiful and gracious donations have been made in the past couple days but we are still far from reaching our goal. Consider today to join this campaign for a #lastblueChristmas

WAYS TO DONATE:

1.) Directly to Touch of Hope, by sending a check to:

Touch of Hope
205 Old Mill Lane
Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

2.) Through PayPal by clicking here.

- leave a note on your check/PayPal donation that your donation is for “5 homes in 2015″ – 

(Touch of Hope is registered 501(3)c non-profit and all donations are tax deductible.)

3.) Through PureCharity, by clicking here.

 “For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall.” – Isaiah 25:4

5 homes for 2015

Five short years ago the country of Haiti was shaken to its core. An earthquake struck the country’s capital in the late afternoon, about an hour before dusk. Buildings crumbled, homes and businesses fell, and bodies were trapped in the rubble as the sun set that January day.

The country of Haiti would be forever be changed as the world’s eyes turned its focus to the small Caribbean island which is home to around 9 million people.

I had made my first trip to Haiti that summer before, but by Christmas 2009 my parents were taking the leap and purchasing our second family home on this little island. Three weeks before the earthquake, my parents had visited and rescued a small, dying boy from an orphanage. His name is Matthew. He stole my heart the second I saw the first picture of him.

 

Matthew and my parents at my wedding nearly one year ago. When Matthew was rescued, the doctors estimated he was within 48 hours of dying. God's timing was perfect and Matthew reminds me that miracles still DO happen.

Matthew and my parents at my wedding nearly one year ago. When Matthew was rescued, the doctors estimated he was within 48 hours of dying. God’s timing was perfect and Matthew reminds me that miracles still DO happen.

My mom was suppose to return to Haiti the day before the earthquake but was instead fighting for her life as Hepatitis A was attacking her liver. My mom had contracted HepA while in Haiti. In a huge snowstorm, mom was flown to Rochester, Minnesota where specialists put her on a waiting list to have a liver transplant. By the grace of God, a miraculous healing happened in that body of hers and my family began breathing again.

I returned to college to start the spring semester of my sophomore year. A week later, I was babysitting and watched the news while sitting on their living room floor on that January afternoon as the world was informed of the earthquake. All I could think of was how God knew how stubborn my mom was, so He had to make her deathly sick to stop her from being there during the earthquake. But, I was also worried about Matthew and all of our new Haitian friends.

We would later get word that everyone at the mission was okay, but the amount of damage would forever change the country.

I would move to Haiti fulltime two and a half years after that January afternoon. I would meet so many people who were still living in makeshift tents and tarps, because they had lost their homes in the earthquake.

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Sonia, on the right, is a full time cook at the school and we hope to build a new home for her and her beautiful daughters.

 

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The five-year anniversary date is coming and those people I met at the beginning have become like family to me. Some work at the school, some go to church with me, some are students at the school. They’re my neighbors. We hug and care for each other.

It has been five years since that January afternoon and they are still living in tents and tarps. Everyday in these “temporary” structures is a reminder of that day which shook their nation to the core. The day when hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and thousands more left homeless. The day that allowed cholera to sneak in and kill many more innocent lives. As shockwaves followed, the side effects this earthquake caused were monumental. I don’t think we will ever be able to grasp the effects mother nature caused on that afternoon in January five years ago.


 

Yesterday, I stood in downtown Port-au-Prince as I shopped for Christmas gifts. The streets are filled with vendors, covered by tarps to keep them hidden from the sun. The paths are narrow as people push their way through. I took a moment to take in the scene, trying to grasp the reality of this market. Above me were broken buildings, remains from the earthquake. I tried to imagine for a second what that place must have been like on that January afternoon, I simply cannot fathom it. Piles of garbage fill the street corners, a stream of black water runs alongside the curb, and beside and above the filth sit the vendors. So many people trying to make a living on top of the rubble and garbage.

As I sat in the truck, eating an orange, waiting for Webert to finish paying for the Bibles, I watched a teenage boy wash his clothes in a small blue bowl. Next to him, a little girl, no more than 8-years-old, filled two water jugs and walked away. Behind the water hole, was a man who washed a rug by hand, he more than likely makes his living by washing rugs for people. The teenage boy finished his laundry and set it on top of a garbage pile for the clothes to dry. Another man passed by me and asked me for money to go to the doctor. The background of this scene, rubble and broken buildings. The only question I could ask myself: How will they ever be able to rise above the rubble if they continue living below and amongst it? There surely was no glimpse of hope in that scenery.


After yesterday, I have such an even stronger to shine some light in the darkness. I call it the “blue tent city of Minoterie” and when I walk the paths I feel as if I have glimpsed hell on earth. As I remember the fifth year anniversary I want to bring redemption to some of these families. Give them a place where they won’t have to wake up and remember the day their lives crumbled. Build a home that represents hope and a future, not a past of lost.

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Today I am writing to you all because I want to build five homes…one for each year. Five homes for five families who are now my friends and will forever be my family in Christ. And, I have come to believe that if we truly want to be the hands and feet of Jesus it requires a lot of actions. Surely, I could walk these paths and pray over these neighbors, but talk is only so much. I have the resources to tell the world about these people. It’s happening right now as you read this. Social media will allow me to share, retweet, copy and paste and post this baby all over the world wide web. These words and stories will creep onto your computer screens and will hopefully shed light on the conditions the poor are living in and call you to make a difference. Making a difference requires change and the change I want to make is providing sound structures for FIVE families, which will allow them to finally rise above the rubble.

Will you join me? Will you help me bring heaven to earth in a place where hell has been for far too long?

Each house is going to be approximately $3,000. A single block for each house is around $1 US. So, even if you can only make a donation for one single block, know that it will matter.

You all probably know this already, but I am a dreamer and I am dreaming up a better tomorrow for these dear loved ones of mine. After five years of living in wreckage, let’s make a way for heaven to make its way on earth. Let’s show them how the future is full of hope.

Sabrina and I. Sabrina is in fourth grade at our school and has been living in a blue tent since 2010. Her family will be one of the families to receive a new home.

Sabrina and I. Sabrina is in fourth grade at our school and has been living in a blue tent since 2010. Her family will be one of the families to receive a new home.

What do ya say?

My friends Jennifer Lee and her daughter Lydia Lee are also helping me with this cause. They visited Haiti over the Thanksgiving week and walked these same dirt paths with me. Lydia sponsors a boy who lives in one of these tents and Jennifer laughed with and loved on the cooks who also live here. They will be sharing their experiences over at their blogs, so please check it out: jenniferdukeslee.com and lydiamlee.wordpress.com


 

Please forward, share or retweet as we begin to raise the funds for five beautiful new homes!

 {We have several options for you to donate through}

Please send check or cash donations to:

Touch of Hope

205 Old Mill Lane

Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

- leave a note that donation is for 5 home in 2015 – 

OR click here to donate through PayPal

*Touch of Hope is registered 501(3)c non-profit and all donations are tax deductible

We have also set up a fund through PureCharity for this event, click here and be a click away from donating to this cause.


Christmas is here

It’s finally Christmas week. And my heart is about to explode.

In the October Touch of Hope newsletter, we invited sponsors to send 20 extra dollars in order to give their child a Christmas gift. Enough money from sponsors came in that we will be handing out 150 gifts in the week to come.

Another donation of $500 was made so I chose to put it in the hands of my ViBella artists. Each morning at ViBella, we begin our day with a short devotion and prayer. Our devotions as of late have been about allowing others to see our light and love for God. The message boiling down that actions speak louder than words.

faith without actions is dead

So, instead of just praying and reading about this, I wanted to give this special group of people I call family a chance to serve outside of our work center. I told them about the donation and said they can choose how we use the money as long as it is spent blessing people.

So, today we purchased many different things that will pack into care packages and will be delivering these packages to patients in a Tuberculosis hospital in the week to come.

Webert and I have also had a calling to bring the community together for a celebration at the school on New Year’s Day. We will be having a worship service that will be led by multiple churches in the area and provide a meal for all those who join. A donation was made for bibles to be passed out at the service and today we purchased 180 bibles and we also have another 40 children bibles that were donated at an earlier time.

All of this is going to be happening in the next week and like I said, my heart is about to explode!

So will you please pray for these gifts? For the hands who will pack and deliver them? For the children and patients who will receive? And an overwhelming blessing on the ones who have given and will give?

Pray for the hundreds, possibly thousands, who will receive a meal on New Year’s Day. Pray for the planning as it will come together this week.

I hope to tell you stories full of joy, giving and miracles as all of these things unfold. But, as for today, we had a more than successful day buying all the gifts, supplies and bibles and this mama is just quite tired now!

So many good things to come, my friends. Stay tuned. I am also going to be writing soon to tell you about some plans which include five small blue tents and a chance for some real hope.

Merry Christmas from Haiti.

a strawberry milkshake

It’s not that my day is anymore important than yours, or that it’s any more glamorous or that it is even worthy of a blog, but I’m going to make it into one.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 to the cries of my baby girl. Do not for a moment think this is sweet. This child of mine is an awful sleeper. She will go a week sleeping beautifully through the night and then go back to acting like she is a newborn infant, who has to wake up two times a night. For a while, she was putting herself back to sleep, but this past week, not so much. I will get her out of bed, give her some milk and think I have her rocked back to sleep, but the second her head hits the pillow, she’s back to crying. So, I give in, because I am a sucker for sleep and don’t want to fight her. I let her get her way as she falls asleep between Webert and I.

This morning, though, we weren’t just up at 5:30, we were up and we were throwing up our milk everywhere. Not a great way to start the day. I also discovered, as the boys got ready for school an hour later, that they had discovered a small red craft scissors and decided to cut the seams on some of their underwear. Talk about a major chew out session. There will be no movie tonight!

But, we made it to work and to school on time, which in itself requires many miracles to occur in order for that to happen.

I think I took my first real deep breath as I sat down to pray at ViBella. Then, we did some deep cleaning, as we are preparing for the Spring 2015 production to begin. I sat down for a bit to check out a necklace that was being made by two of the artists and somehow the topic of babies was brought up – after this morning, NO babies in the near future! The ViBella ladies nag me as they have wished for me to have a baby since last January, when I was married.

Anyways, I am just so grateful for my family at ViBella. I just feel so at home in that place working with them all.

But, the noon hour arrived and it was time for me to take the hike up the mountain to the school.

I love walking through the village. I love being a part of the rhythm and everyday activities. I meet a man on the way, who is singing a praise song, stops to say “good morning” to me in the most joyful tone ever, and continues walking on by singing his song. I passed an elderly woman, who spends her days laying out on her yard on a piece of cardboard. Whenever I stop by to ask her how she is, she responds with, “I am good by the grace of Jesus.” I pass by a lady who is serving rice and beans to a group of people and I see madam Israel, an elderly lady who always calls me sweetheart. She is sitting on a rock, in a nightgown, eating a pate – a deep fat fried piece of dough stuffed with onions and meat, a Haitian guilty pleasure of mine.

It’s hard to explain how a crippled woman, who lies on a piece of cardboard all day or a man caroling worship songs down the village’s way can bring such a deep sense of joy to this heart of mine. But, it does, people. It really does.

And, so, my day has gone from mass chaos of vomit and shredded clothes, to prayer and joy followed by, well, more mass chaos.

I’m hiking my way up the hill, as a teenage boy catches up to me. He wants a phone. No, I don’t have money for a phone. He wants new pants because his birthday is on Saturday. Um, no, again. Literally, these people know how to suck the joy right out of me, too. Because I am the white lady in the village, people find it acceptable to ask me for ridiculous things like this. This kid is dressed in another school’s uniform and I don’t even know his name. Seriously, I don’t even buy my own kids new pants on their birthdays.

Out of breath now, because I have just climbed an entire hillside.

I enter the kitchen and greet all of the cooks and the fourth grade class, who has just sat down to eat. Heart is filled with joy again and I have by now caught my breath.

I take my 25 goudes, aka 50 cents, to the vendors who sit by the school selling drinks and candy to the students. I buy myself an ice cold Coke. Nothing beats an ice cold Coke in Haiti’s heat. Welp, next to the vendors is a dad who wants money because his son is sick. And, behind him, is another lady looking for money to start selling stuff at market. I tell them to wait for Webert (it’s my go-to line!)

On my way back to the kitchen, I am stopped by another mom, and this mom, I really have a soft spot for her. She’s the lady I wrote about who comes to my porch every once in a while, because she has a hard time feeding her kids. We have been able to give her a job at the school working in the kitchen. And, although, she’s getting a fair wage now, she lives in a four-year-old tent with her three kids. The tent has begun tearing and when it rains they all get wet. She’s asking if I have any extra tarp to cover the holes. Uhh, heart is now shattered. I love this woman. She glows with strength and courage. She doesn’t deserve to be living in a mud puddle.

Lord, Lord, why does it have to be this way?

I eat my plate of rice and beans that my mother-in-law has so graciously given me and wash it down with my now not-so-ice-cold Coke.

Webert and I end up giving around $50 US to the dad with the sick son and turn the other woman away. We talk about Clievianne and wanting to give her not just a new roof, but a new house. Lord, make a way.

Then, I hop in the truck and head to Cabaret. I go to the Western Union to get money that was sent to buy medicine for the clinic. School kids point and laugh because I am a blan white person. I will be honest, it gets really old after awhile being the minority, the one who always sticks out! I am questioned and scanned by the security guard just to get inside. Yes, security guards sit at every door at every business in Haiti, it’s a bizarre thing, but you eventually get used to it. I get the money and make my way to Rosie’s.

I take my second deep breath of the day. And, help myself to a strawberry milkshake. Sometimes this broken heart just needs a milkshake to get through the day.

I guess I am not writing out my day in detail like this to get a pat on the back from you all. I didn’t solve any big world problems today, in fact, I feel like more have been laid out before me. Really, besides organizing a bunch of beads and listening to people’s problems, I feel like I haven’t done much. So, now it’s kind of like what do we do? You and I, together. I’m not sure.

And, just so you know, I am now making you somewhat responsible for these problems of mine, because you are now aware of them.

And that’s it, right there: the awareness of this all. I could go on ignoring them and acting like there are not elderly women on pieces of cardboard or families being drenched in the rain because there is literally no roof over their heads. I could, but I won’t. I feel so responsible to make a change and bring hope to these sweet, sweet people (minus the boy who only wants pants for his b-day, forget him!) Whether it is through a new roof or a new home, a paid medical bill or a loan to start selling goods at market, a meal to get a hungry child through the day or an entire education, a trip to the dentist’s office or just a trip to their home to pray over them, I want to bring the hope that lies in all of that.

And, you could go on ignoring this all, too. Actually, it is so much easier for you to do that because you are physically so much further away from me, them, us. The only thing connecting us is this silly world wide web at the moment. Close your browser, act like you never read this, I won’t know the difference.

Or keep it open, allow the reality of this world to sink in. Maybe God is speaking to you now, embrace that. Soak it in. Then, close your browser and do something about it. Send money my way so I can build a new house for Clievianne or pay more medical bills or whatever it is the Lord puts before me down here (except buy new pants for a random teenagers birthday, I will never do that) OR take your money, your resources, your knowledge, your time and use them for whatever the Lord has put on your heart. Turn those thoughts and dreams, into a reality.

Make some type of difference, it doesn’t matter how big or small.

We need you. The world needs you.

And, when you can’t figure it out or you’re completely worn out or have no idea how you can make a difference, treat yourself to a milkshake. You can’t ever go wrong with a milkshake.

Love from Haiti.

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