{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

let’s get uncomfortable

“The poor will always be with you.” – Jesus

Quite frankly, I’m a little upset with Jesus about this statement. Why always? Why will the poor always be among us? One thing that has remained throughout the history of the entire world is the reality of poverty. And, I just don’t get why…

More than ever, though, do we have the technology, information, access and ability to change this fact. YET, more than ever are the rich richer than ever and the poor poorer than ever. It’s the truth, Google it if you don’t believe me!

I’m so broken by this. I have so many moments of hate and despise against the human race for this. I want to believe it is a righteous and holy anger I’m experiencing, but what if it’s not? I feel at moments it is judgmental and cynical. And, I am sorry for that, but I’m broken by it, too. So many of us are numb, oblivious and consumed while the poor go on so desperate, lonely and hungry. So many are plump full yet so many more are skin and bones.

Yesterday, I stood with a group of 8 college-aged kids from Iowa in front of a house made of tarp, sticks and tin. The woman living there is in the Starfish program at Tytoo and her and her children literally get drenched in their home every time it rains. We stood in front of the home with the hopes to “fix” it to stop them from getting wet. Rainy season in Haiti is only days away and the thought of this family sitting in a puddle of a home for the next two months is just beyond me.

Unfortunately, we were not able to help fix the house because we didn’t have the resources and truthfully it is too far-gone. They simply just need a new house.

I feel like I am starting to sound like a broken record with all this talk about needs for new homes, but I don’t sleep at night because of what my eyes have seen.

Last night, I sat in a circle with this same group of people and heard lots of talk about how much “excess” there is in America. How we are so stinkin’ spoiled and have taken so much for granted. And, I hear this a lot when people come to Haiti for the first time and have their eyes opened to poverty for the first time.

Northwest Iowa sheltered me and comforted me as I grew up. Not once do I remember being exposed or taught about poverty, whether it was at church, school or in my house. I think the thought of poor people crossed my mind at moments, but never once did I digest the reality of their lives. And as a result, when I came to Haiti for the first time it ruined my life. I was heartbroken for the people but also ashamed I had gone my entire life not even being aware of the poor’s existence.  Today, I no longer am able to live comfortably knowing about the masses and masses of people suffering from the reality of poverty.

And, sometimes the scary part about writing so honestly about poverty is that it may cause some of you to become uncomfortable. How dare I make you feel uncomfortable? Shame on me. But, I think it’s time for people to roll up their sleeves and get uncomfortable. I don’t want you to feel guilty about what you have been given; guilt is just another form of sin (taught to me by a dear friend) But instead, I just want to shake up your perspective a little bit. Because the truth is, you can do more. You can give more. Your priorities can change. And, you can stop making excuses. It’s time for a little come-to-Jesus moment: people are literally falling over from starvation; others are losing their lives to preventable diseases; moms are abandoning their babies at orphanage gates and we just can’t stop keeping up with Kardashian’s.

Uhh..my heart just can’t even.

But, my heart has been set on fire to fight for the poor. And, I realize it’s maybe not the coolest thing to be passionate about. Having a fashion blog with hip clothing would be a much more acceptable thing, but I’m just so over that. I want my life’s work to be writings of redemption, bringing the poor up and out of poverty not just physically, but spiritually and with dignity. I just wish more people were willing to fight this fight, too.

And, so yes, I’m angry, but righteously so. I sit in front of these homes and listen to women plead for their lives. One woman told me yesterday, “I have no life. My children are without hope. Please, let me come and just sweep your house, so I can find money to feed them tonight.”

While only a few hundred miles away, we obsess over celebrities, name brand jeans and Frappuccino’s. Seriously.


I look back at Jesus’s statement of the poor always being with us. It’s as if he was almost content by this.

Maybe it was because he knew he was coming to save us, the poor included.

And, a few days after making this statement he would hang on the cross. He knew what was to come.

I like to think He was even a bit confident in humanity at that moment.

Jesus knew how he was about to change the course of history.

His act would be so profound; it would lead all of humanity to reach out to all people. No one would go forgotten.

His sacrifice and what he stood for would change people.

The gospel would lead people to lives of service.

The poor would be taken care of because of what happened that day on Calvary.

People, I think we have forgotten about Calvary, because here we are 2,000 years later and the poor are poorer than ever.

And, I just don’t even know where to go from here…but, I can’t stop fighting and believing in the promises of the cross. I can’t stop believing that at some point it will change. Or stop relying on the fact that the Second Coming is going to happen and on that day all the captives will be set free. On that day I will be set free.


Dear Jesus, set our hearts on fire.

Let us be consumed with a holy and righteous anger, enabling us to be the change.

{Make us do’ers. Make us selfless. Make us holy.}

Turn us away from our society of materialism and consumerism.

Turn off the social media and notifications so we can focus on YOU and on THEM. No more me, me, me.

{Make us uncomfortable, Lord.}

Open the floodgates. Make money and resources appear in unknown and mysterious ways. Lead people to give. Make a way for homes to be built. For children to stay dry.

Make a way for redemption to be written.

Lord, soften our hearts. Make us compassionate. Work miracles in our lives.

Turn our gifts into blessings. 

Mold us into all you created us to be. Let us be the change.

celebrating coming home

Five months ago I came to you with a God-sized vision…today I celebrate, with you, how this vision has come true.

I am so humbled and amazed how all the pennies trickled in and amounted into a total much greater than I expected. How God used your dollars and multiplied them into answered prayers and new homes. How it only took days for us to reach our goal, when I thought it would take weeks or months. How compassion filled me and nothing but grace and miracles poured out into the occupants of these new homes. And, how so many more miracles continue to happen in these households and through the people inside.

Over the past five months, foundations have been poured, concrete blocks have turned into walls and keys to new homes have been given away.

Over the past five months, six beautiful families have been given a secure and dry place to call home.

And now the time has come to celebrate all of these homecomings.


Dear Nata,

You have broken me and driven me since the day I met you in your ragged blue dress. I’m sure you remember that day. You were hiding under a small tree, trying to catch a break in the shade from the hot sun. I was busy passing by on a moto and barely noticed you. You popped out and said you needed me. I said I was too busy. I told you to come to my house later. You came. I had nothing to give you and I was sorry I even told you to come. But, you came again. You came every week for about six months straight. I never had anything to give you. But, there you would be again, at my gate, hopin’ for a miracle. I could see the look in your eyes: you were tired. Tired of working so hard, but never having enough to feed your children. I saw the desperation and I wanted to take it all away. I saw your tiny frame and that blue dress became too familiar as you wore it every time you came to visit me at my gate. But, the miracle finally came. God built you a house and I got to be the vessel. We celebrated on the concrete floor as you danced like a child on Christmas day. I wanted to capture all the joy you resonated as you opened the door to your new home to show me inside. I wanted to put all that joy in a bottle and hold on to it for all the years to come. There wasn’t a glimpse of fear or hurt in your eyes and how I loved seeing you like that for the first time since I met you. Nata, dear, I can’t tell you how happy I am that God made a way for you to have a new home for you and your babies.

IMG_1774

Nata, with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning

old sitting next to the new

old sitting next to the new

Dear Viola,

I have cherished you since the day I met you. I will never forget when you raised your hand in the crowd of people to accept Jesus as your Savior and I learned your name. I have loved getting to know you and see you grow. We have had so many conversations about building you a new house and I never knew if it would be possible. But, the day has come and we celebrate in your new home. No more will we pray together in a house of blue tarp with dirt under our feet, but now we have a solid foundation to bow our heads on. And, I love how you have opened your new home to your sister and her four children. You are using your gifts to take care of others and I cherish you even more for that. We will pray for your sister and the unknown lump in her throat to be healed. Thank you for your heart. You inspire me to be a better person.

 IMG_2557

IMG_2568

IMG_2565

Dear Sonia,

You too, have inspired me since the day I met you. Remember when you abandoned your daughter Daphta at an orphanage gate because you couldn’t take care of her? We then gave you a job at the school as a cook and you have been able to care for your babies ever since. Three years later we celebrate all that God has done. You now have a home with a bed for you to rest your head on at night. I see how you have become so fragile from the tuberculosis and we pray for continued healing. I hope this house is a house of healing and comfort to you and your family. May you no longer worry about nights of rain, but are renewed every new morning.

 IMG_2582

Dear Clivianne,

I see this picture of you standing in front of your new house and am nearly speechless. You, too, came to my house looking for a glimpse of hope and on that day I had nothing but a jar of peanut butter and the change in my husband’s pockets to give you. I remember you telling me how the only food your children ate most days was what they were given at school. I appreciated your honesty, but your honesty also broke me. I wanted to put together all the pieces and have life give you a break. Today, we celebrate the break life has given you. I like to think that first jar of peanut butter was the start to something new and beautiful. I see you now, as you wash the dishes at the school and am so grateful you’ve been given that job. You teach me how joy can come from all circumstances, even when washing dishes for hundreds of school children. I loved welcoming you into your new home as you prepare to have your sixth baby with your husband. May this baby not know what hunger is. May this baby know how beautiful, strong and wonderful his mama is, too. Clivianne, dear, you deserve mother of the year.

IMG_2601

IMG_2592

IMG_2599

Dear Yolin, 

Your smile is so contagious. Your faith and joy, as well. God has taught me so much through you, do you know that? I remember how you came to me with nothing but a cooler full of Coke and 7-up, explaining you needed a better way to feed your six babies. The pop business just wasn’t cutting it. I remember how warm your hug was when I asked if you wanted to come on staff at the school as a cook. I’m so happy you won’t have to worry about rainy nights anymore, either. I won’t ever forget the innocence in your daughter’s eyes when she told me she gets wet every time it rains. Do you know how badly my heart ached for your family? Not knowing if I could help you in your disintegrating house. But, God showed up. I asked for five houses and He made a way for six. He has not forgotten about you, Yolin. You’re a daughter to the one true king and He loves you, even though I know you already know all of this. You may not know, but I watch you in church. I see how you leave it all at His feet. Your faith humbles and teaches me. Thank you for being you.

IMG_1778

IMG_1788

IMG_1790

IMG_1792

Dear Chrstiana,

You are one of those mamas I just don’t know what to do with. Life has been hard on you and I am sorry for that. But, today we celebrate the new home that has been built for you. For you and your four children. And, may they, too, not know what hunger means anymore. May their childhood be filled with memories of school and play. May they always remember how mama walked them to and from school every day, loving them all the way. Even when you had nothing to give, you stayed by their side. I see how you’re tired, too. My prayer is for this new home to bring you rest. May you feel comforted in this house and have the strength to carry on.

gabrius2

gabrius


Friends, stories of redemption have been written. Your faithfulness and giving has spoken measures and lives have been changed. What’s so awesome is that these mamas are going out and making a difference in their communities. They’re inspired by what’s happened in their lives and they want to touch people. They want to make this world a better place, too.

I’m a mama and this Sunday I’m celebrating that. Along with all the rest of the mamas in the world. So many mamas are hurting, but these last six mamas are relieved from so much of their hurt because a roof for their babies have been given to them. Thank you for making this mother’s day a day to celebrate for us in Haiti. But, before we go, there’s of course one more mama I want you to meet. Her name is Denise and I’m wishing for another story of redemption to be written for her and her babies. She lost her home in the earthquake five years ago, too. She then lost her husband two months later. She was pregnant with her fifth child when he passed away. She sold most all of her possessions to pay for his funeral. Denise and her five children now live in a broken home made of tin and cloth. Her children have never gone to a day of school. A new home would mean a new beginning.

Can we do one more? One more house? Write one more story of redemption?

We have no day but today to make a difference in this world. Denise is waiting. I need $3,500 to give this sweet family a home.

IMG_2571

IMG_2574

Dear Denise,

I know it’s hard to just keep praying when that is all you have been doing for the past five years. I’m sorry you lost your home in the earthquake and lost your husband two months later. My heart aches for you. I see your babies, their tiny frames and how they light up when I ask them if they want to go to school. I want that glimpse of hope to last. I want them to know God has not forgotten them. I see how your house is falling apart, how can we actually expect the tin and cloth to hold in the Caribbean heat and the hard rains? How your body must always ache from sleeping on a piece of plywood. I can’t imagine how tired and worn you must be. Sweet Denise, I hate that this is your reality, but believe me, God has not forgotten about you. Do you see my friends? Have you seen their homes? God did that. And, I believe it’s your turn for Him to do that for you and your babies, now. I’m praying for you. I’m praying for God to make a way. It’s time for your story to be heard and I can’t wait for the day when I write you to celebrate how He made a way. 

Until that day,

Kayla


Donations can be sent to

Touch of Hope, 205 Old Mill Lane

Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

or click here to donate through PayPal

leave a note or memo: house for Denise

*all donations are tax deductible*

p.s. Thank you Jennifer Lee and Lydia Lee for helping make this happen and joining me in writing these stories of redemption!

meet Chedline

For several months, Ali has been asking me to visit a little girl with her. She jokes how she has another child picked out for me to take in: a little girl who can’t walk and lies in the dirt all day.

I avoid Ali’s invitation and shrug off her jokes.

You all know of Ali, right? She’s my best Haitian, real friend, in case you don’t know of her. She’s been living at Tytoo Gardens orphanage for close to two years and she is the real deal. She runs the Starfish program at Tytoo and has desperate moms coming to her on a daily basis. Basically, Ali carries the same burdens that I do and handles them with grace while trying to find a solution. Ali sometimes tosses her problems my way and I toss mine her way. She’s the one friend who does poverty with me and I am truly grateful for her.

Anyways, Ali finds a way to get me to meet this little girl. When a pediatric, Michelle, comes from South Dakota to visit us, Ali has the both of us sitting in the dirt and on a bucket checking out this babe. She’s four years old, weighs around 18 pounds, does not walk nor barely talk. Her mom passed away when she was three months old and has been tossed around households since. For the past 8 months she has been living with a Starfish woman and that’s how Ali first met her. Michelle diagnosed her with spina bifida after assessing her and seeing the dimple at the top of her butt cheeks.

Her name is Chedline and she has had me since the moment I met her.

IMG_1691

From the moment I met her, it scared me how much she reminded me of my daughter Wishla. They don’t really look anything alike, but there’s this spirit radiating from the both of them that makes my heart tremble. Something so familiar, yet hard to recognize. And after a couple nights of thinking and dreaming of her, I know exactly what these feelings mean: God is at work again.

I find God’s timing remarkable. I love how He waited to introduce me to Chedline until Michelle came to visit, because Michelle and I both want to help her.

Michelle left Haiti four short days after meeting Chedline and has been busy praying and thinking about Chedline as well.

Tomorrow Chedline will become a part of my little, crazy family. Our first steps are to get Chedline legal guardianship over Chedline so that we can start working on a medical visa. Michelle and her family are working on finding doctors who can help Chedline and will be her host family, if God makes a way for Chedline to find her way to the United States. As I have been reaching out to people here in Haiti, learning how to obtain a medical visa, I am becoming more and more hopeful as I learn about several spina bifida cases that have gotten medical visas in the past.

IMG_1561

I sat down with my boys and showed them a picture of the little girl who will sleep in the new bed set up in Wishla’s room. I explain to them how she can’t walk and how I want to help her get better. I show them a picture of her sleeping on the dirt and explain how she doesn’t have a bed to sleep on. They ask me why she’s so small and I further explain how she doesn’t always have food to eat. And Loveson…bless him…says, “well make her come here so we can give her food and she can have big muscles like me!”

So, that’s what we are going to do: take her in so she can get big muscles. I am encouraged by the hearts of my own boys. How they want to take care of her as well.

At this point, we don’t know the long term plan for Chedline. Our main focus is to get her the proper medical attention. If it’s God’s plan to have her stay in the US and be adopted, He will make a way. If it’s for her to come back and be reunited with family, He’ll make a way. If it’s for her to be a part of our forever family, He’ll make a way and be sure to do a lot of convincing in my husband’s heart ;)

So, will you pray with us as Chedline transitions into our home this week. Will you pray for all the papers to be retrieved quickly as we work towards custody and a medical visa. Will you pray for Chedline’s spirit and health. Will you pray for my family as our home will change with this addition. Will you pray for wisdom as we make decisions about her life.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,

you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.

Nothing will be impossible for you.”

– Matthew 17:20

reflecting love

As in water face reflects face, 

So one’s life reflects the hear. Proverbs 27:19

My daughter sits on the ledge of our shower and watches me in the mornings, as I get ready for the day. When I brush my teeth at night and wash the dirt off my face, she’s there again. We chat and she giggles. She rushes me some mornings, but some days she’s patient with me. I enjoy having her at my side. We are always laughing with each other.

  

 

For a two and a half year old, the girl has got jokes. 

But, she’s growing up. She’s watching what mama does. When I put deodorant on, she raises her arms in the air right alongside me and isn’t happy until her tiny armpits are smeared white. She puts her lips out to have Chap Stick on as I apply some to my own lips. And she obviously needs a spritz of perfume whenever she sees the bottle. 

She’s watching me and I know she loves me, but now I begin to worry, will I be enough for her? Will I own up to her expectations she has for a mom? Will I be confidant enough to show her how to have strength and courage as she grows. She’s going to look to me for that in a different way than my boys, because, well…they’re boys. 

She’s my baby girl and I just want to do it right for her. I want her to feel beautiful. I want her to know and believe how perfectly made she is. 

I want to reflect these truths to her as she watches me look at myself in the mirror. 

Will she believe in these truths because she sees her own mama believes in them for herself as well?

 

  

And as I think about this: my baby girl growing up and how I will be the person to help her grow into all she wants to be, I think of how much bigger this is than just me and my daughter.

As Christians, how important it is for nonbelievers and believers to see how we perceive ourselves and live in this world. How actions speak so much louder than words.

I think of some really close friends in the United States who aren’t believers and how hard it is for me to witness to them, hoping deep down in the deepest parts of my soul that my actions are true to my words, my beliefs. 

I think of the popular saying, “You may be the only Jesus some people see.” Am I reppin’ Jesus good enough? 

I think of my close friend who confessed over dinner how hard it is to believe in God when all the “Christians” at her workplace are the most judgmental people there. What does that say? How ugly religion can be.

I think of the Haitians who believe “white” people are in Haiti just to make money or to elevate themselves. Do the Haitians think this of me? Am I being transparent enough? Can they see my heart? Do they see Jesus?

I’m humbled by the words written by Paul in the book of Romans that I read this morning at my kitchen table:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

– Romans 15:5-10 –

 

I think of how human and messy I am. It’s not my place to judge, tell or condemn. The greatest commandment I have been given is to love and am I loving deep and good enough? Loving not out of convenience or ease, but instead loving when it’s hard and against the status quo?

What it dwindles down to is Jesus. The sacrifice He made for all. The Jews and Gentiles. The rich and poor. The educated and illiterate. The weary, the broken, the sinful. All of us undeserving, yet, He chose to die for all.

Do we allow that kind of mercy to overflow? Do we allow grace to humble and love to shatter the darkness?  

My prayers are that as my children grow they will see a mama and a papa who lived out lives doing just that. A mama and papa who spent their lives being love. Children who grew up knowing their identity in Christ and never went a day without knowing about the place that is being held for them in heaven. 

My prayer for my little Wishla is that when the day comes for her to look in the mirror and get ready for the big, big world she will know what confidance and real beauty look like. She will know what authenticity and real love act like. She will know because she grew up watchin’ her mama.

That’s my prayer, which is way easier prayed than lived out some days, but it’s my prayer. 

  

 

the beauty of redemption

The word redemption has been on my mind and heart lately.

redemption: 1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. 2. deliverance; rescue. 3. deliverance from sin; salvation

I wrote about finding redemption in my family and through my kids over a month ago, click here to read that specific post. So, it started then, this search for the real meaning of that word.

You see how I have been redeemed – set free – by the truth of the gospel. Before marriage, before kids, before our non-profit, before Haiti, I was lost from this truth. The world had shown me its ways and I believed in them. Walked its ways, talked its ways and believed that happiness could only be found in the American dream. What I really believed in was the truth at the bottle of a tequila bottle.

But, the gospel set me free from these lies.

Jesus taught me – little, lousy me – what its really meant to be set free and to be redeemed in Jesus’ name. He set us free on the day His hands were nailed to a cross and how can your life not be changed and renewed by this act.

I stopped believing I had to meet all the protocols of our society and my heart was set on fire for the poor as my eyes were opened to the realities of the poor in Haiti. I never meant to move to Haiti, but the Lord does crazy things with people who find redemption.

So, having myself found this redemption through the gospel, I set out for the Caribbean. I settled in a home with a handsome man and we took in three children. These three children, again, painted a clear picture of what redemption and being set free from evil looks like. My faith grew as our family did.

The first initial dreams were dreamt up on the mountaintop, where our school would be built. I learned, realized and concluded that the only way to raise a generation out of poverty was to educate them. Webert was already at work on this and our non-profit Touch of Hope was founded to help Webert grow his school. I have a notebook full of stories (obviously, this is a figurative notebook in my head, because I’m too lazy to actually write them all out) of children whose lives have been changed because they have found a school to go to for free and are no longer bound by their poverty to abstain from getting an education. After 3 years, nearly 900 children enter through our gate. They sing a hymnal by the flagpole each morning before the school session begins. I stand in the kitchen, which is full of women cooking and humming along, and see how redemption has come.

Another lady announces to me she will be getting married in October. “Will I be her godmother?” she asks. Of course.

Another ViBella employee starts the foundation to her new house – with the help of over 30 people – and I wrap my arm around her, boasting how I am so proud of her. Over lunch break, the rest of the artists stand in a line and toss rocks into the foundation.

Don’t you see, we are being set free. Marriage, jobs, houses. Poverty no longer reigns, redemption has come.

And in God’s perfect timing, I have been offered a new job that will require me to go to the city twice a week. After a year of also searching for a new car, God plopped a car made just for my family on the side of the road the same day I accepted this new job. What’s the new job? I will be working with Papillon Enterprise in Port-au-Prince, managing all of their loose clay beads. Sounds boring, maybe, but not at all! Shelley, the founder, has redemption seeker written all over her and I can’t wait to learn from her. Papillon Enterprise employs over 200 artisans, making jewelry from cereal boxes, clay and aluminum. There’s a pottery project, sewing project, a boutique and a daycare. The managers at Papillon also have the opportunities to learn english, typing and excel.

As Shelley shows me the daycare and computer lab for the first time this past week, a woman walks out of the lab with a printed out chart of something. She shows it off to Shelley and is literally glowing with dignity. Redemption has come.

I will be working alongside the artisans at Papillon and also working with all the customers who place orders. I’m going to be challenged and the opportunity is going to allow me to grow in so many ways. I see it everywhere, people being set free from the poverty, and I am excited to get my hands into this with the hopes I can provide more jobs and bring redemption to more people.

I see how redemption is first and foremost found through Jesus as He offers us eternal salvation. But, I am also seeing how redemption comes as we relieve people from their sufferings. For me, it is relieving them from their dire needs caused by poverty. For you, maybe it means breaking an addiction, clearing all debts, recovering from depression – evil wears many masks – but redemption has one name and one face: Jesus.

I believe Jesus has not forgotten about the poor. I believe His heart is for them and as believers our hearts should be for them as well. I believe He will bring redemption to all people who believe…someday. I think He could easily overlook the village of Simonette and its occupants. Tucked down off the main road, right by the ocean, there just isn’t much to our little village. There has to be much bigger problems out there than the hurting people down here. But, He doesn’t forget about us.

And, what I am most humbled by is that He allows me to live and work where I do and be witness to His many works of redemption. He allows people to be set free even by my works. He places specific visions on my heart and He remains faithful, allowing redemption to come yet again. I come asking and seeking, time and time again, and He, the God of the universe, hears my cries and He provides. I ask for school buildings, people to sponsor our kids, houses for families and jobs for the hopeless. I seek wisdom, peace and contentment. He remains faithful as He has worked wonders on the mountaintop providing so many children with education. He has sent many new families to sponsor children this past month for our sponsorship program. He provided all the money for me to build six new homes for families (three of them are officially finished, the final three to be finished this month.) He has created jobs and ministries like ViBella and Papillon Enterprise, and so many more people I could list here as I have ventured with my boutique, Rosie’s, for a year now.

*enter here another figurative notebook full of miracles, provisions and stories*

And what amazes me is that He continues opening doors, always allowing me to grow and discover Him more. Learning that redemption is never a finished work. It will always be showing up in new ways and at work.

My prayer is that my heart will never be hardened to the truth of redemption nor my eyes blinded by the beauty of redemption. May I see the wonders of His works in the smallest of details in this life; may I not take them for granted; and may I always give glory to the Creator of all things good, the one who makes redemption real and new everyday.

stoop church

“The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.” – Proverbs 34:15

I am always asked questions like “what do you miss most from America?” or “what’s the hardest part?”

After nearly three years of living here, hands down, the thing I miss the most is the convenience of going to the grocery store or running to Target. Not only is the nice grocery store over an hour away from my house, it is also not necessarily safe to go there by myself. So, everything becomes a spectacle. Much planning goes into grocery runs and it just sucks (sorry mom for using that word) some days.

That would be the biggest thing for the day-to-day stuff.

For the life stuff, though, I miss church the most. I’m exhausted by the church. I’m tired of the politics and the people asking for money in the house of God.

Haitian worship is so beautiful and it fills me up with all the good stuff. The sermons are hard because they’re in Creole and I have to use too much of my brain to understand it all. There’s a two-year-old who sits on my lap during church; she requires a lot of attention. There’s shaking of hands and kisses on the cheeks, but mostly from strangers or from worn out moms who offer a begging hand. Teenage boys ask me for one dollar and I tell them – in not a very pleasant tone – how I come to church to worship God, not hand out money. Call me what you want, but the Sabbath is my day off as well.

Maybe this is hard to understand and maybe I am just being too harsh, but it’s the truth of my heart and it’s hard.

I miss real fellowship. I miss grandma serving me cookies after church and handshakes from familiar faces. I miss being honest with people and having conversations that include laughter and sometimes tears.

It’s hard to always be the person who gives, the person who always has the one dollar.

stoop1

So, I’ve been searching for a new altar to lay it all down at. A place to sit and be with the Creator. A time to tear off the masks, show the burdens and come as I am.

I’ve been waking up as the rooster crows and finding myself sitting on the stoop in front of my house that leads to the ocean. The quiet ripples of the ocean, the promises of a new day and the fisherman at sea warms and settles my heart.

I go and He meets me there on that stoop. I am certain of it. I ask Him for things: peace, redemption, justice. I pray for things: provision, new chances, forgiveness. I lay it all out there. The ugly and the good.

He has been showing me how church doesn’t have to be a Sunday morning thing. Church can be an anywhere thing. He shows me scripture and turns them to life. He walks with me through the day. He’s brought church to ViBella, where we gather each new morning to pray together. He’s shown me church in the small huts, where I pray for my elderly friend. He shows me church on the mountaintop where the children’s laughter fill my empty cup. The little school boy grabs my hand to walk me across the schoolyard, the walk reminding me to have a simple faith like a child.

Yes, it would be best if I could find a church that I felt a part of. Would be even better if they offered a nursery, children’s programs, and a Bible study for little worn out me, but for today the stoop is going to be enough. The church shall be on the stoop and the stoop shall become the church.

stoop3

stoop2

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” John 17:20-23

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,237 other followers