{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

my christmas wish

I just spent three weeks in the America. Bless it.

America has all the goods, but it also has this incredible numbing power over me. I get trapped in the aisles of Target, thinking I need all of it but knowing I don’t. I walk the hallways of the mall, now filled with holiday vendors and find myself wanting to buy all of it when I simply came into the mall to help my mom pick out a pair of new glasses and eat Chinese from the food court (it’s my ultimate guilty pleasure while Stateside!)

As a graphic designer myself, I can’t even handle all the pretty packaging and store fronts. It is so pretty, you just want to buy it all. And at Christmas time, it’s all the more enticing. Don’t even get me started on my trip through Bath and Body works.

Literally, the only reason I don’t buy it all (minus the fact I can’t actually afford it all) is that every time I reach to buy something off the shelf that I do not need, I can hear my mother’s voice in my head saying, “and how do you expect to get all of that back in a suitcase?” Valid point, mother. Fine, I won’t buy it.

Two fifty-pound suitcases fill up quick!

But, that’s not the point. My point is I’m back in Haiti, coming off the high of an over-stayed trip in Americaaaa. Side note: I had strange sores all over my hands upon my arrival in the States and my doctor thought it was leishmaniasis, (google it for yourself, it’s a real thing) so after a biopsy and two weeks of waiting for negative test results I unexpectedly got to enjoy over-stimulating Christmas shopping for two whole extra weeks.

So, here I am…back.

Yesterday, a ten-year-old was brought to the orphanage. Her mom leaves her at home, naked in the dirt on a daily basis. She has clubbed feet, doesn’t walk and has never gone to school a day in her life. We’re considering placing her in the orphanage. And, I just keep asking God why he continues to bring children who can’t walk into my life? Like, what’s up, God?

I was handed a list of needs for the Starfish program as we will be graduating ALL of the women in the program next month. We are looking to refocus the purpose of the program and the only way I feel we can do that is to start from scratch. Some of the women in the program have been around for 2+ years. It’s time. But, with that I asked them all to write what’s the biggest need they still have. Ten of them asked for new homes. Ten of them still don’t have safe shelter.

There’s an opportunity coming our way to employ a few women and so I asked the other two Haitian women who help run the Starfish program who we should consider employing. And, how do we even choose? Lumane has 7 children and needs a job. Viginie lives with an abusive boyfriend and a job may be a way out for her. Eglitha just had a newborn and needs a job, too. Then there’s Carmesuze and Rosier, too. Don’t forget Calix, she’s trying to feed her five babies, too.

Oh, let’s not forget that I still have unpaid fees at schools for Starfish kids, too.

So, here’s my Christmas wish: I simply want to meet the needs of my neighbors. The needs of my mamas and the needs of the people who come looking to us for hope. 

We can be the hope this year.

Guys…here’s my point. And, I’m going to be blunt…you’ve already got it all. If you have a job that allows you to pay your bills and a vehicle to transport you, you’re so well-off. If your kids have clothes on their back and a bed, where you have the honor to tuck them into every night, you’ve got more than you’ll ever know. If your kids get to go to school and be in extra-curricular activities and if you have a doctor to bring them to when they’re sick, you’re killing it as a parent. If the rain falls and you don’t have to think twice about getting wet, you’re so fortunate. If you never go to bed hungry or never have to worry about where your food will come from the next day, you’ve hit the jackpot. If you’ve ever said the words, “I don’t know what I want for Christmas…there’s nothing the kids really need this year…”

Guys, you just don’t even know how good you’ve got it.

I always feel this way around the holidays. Giving gifts is fun. I love gifting people, it’s probably why I’m in this line of work to begin with. Today, in fact, I got news that a mama who makes greeting cards for Rosie’s gave birth to a healthy set of twins last week, and it literally felt like Christmas. I filled a whole bag full of new onesies and blankets for the babies. Giving gifts is a blessing, simple as that. I love buying special things for the special people in my life. There’s nothing wrong with gift-giving. But, I just feel like there should be more to it than just giving stuff.

What if we said to our kids, instead of gifts you don’t need anyways, we are going to sponsor kids to go to school? What if we don’t do family gifts and build a family in Haiti a house this year? What if we challenge our workplaces to giving money instead of spending so much money on a holiday party? What if our schools collected money this year instead of doing a pizza party? I don’t know, it doesn’t have to be extravagant, but what if we just started a conversation and it led to something different…

Friends, I write with hope…and with a pit in my stomach, because there’s this urgency when I face the needs…that we can be the light this year. Our givings can snowball into something so much bigger than ourselves. Our intentional giving this holiday season can be so much more…

As you gather with your loved ones for Thanksgiving in two days, take in all that you have. So much more than you’ll ever need. Have hard conversations with your loved ones and dare to do something different this year. Dare to be the difference for a life, a kid, a family in Haiti.

Let’s be the hope. Let us bring heaven to earth.

 

Make a donation to Touch of Hope with a memo: christmas wish

and we will be sure it makes a difference in Haiti

 

 

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this week alone

The alarm went off early Monday morning; I ran on the treadmill as the sun came up over the mountain behind me. Light began to shine across the still ocean and I began to make my mental “to-do” list for the week as my feet ran underneath me, taking me nowhere.

I’ve never been much of a runner. I threw the discus for the track team in high school; best way to get out of running, in my opinion. I inherited a treadmill from a friend last fall and I decided that maybe I would start to like running. I ran my first 5k this past summer, but still not sure I’m in love. I’ve been doing Jillian Michael workouts for the last four years, so the treadmill at least talks less than her (no offense Jillian, but I don’t necessarily feel at peace by the end of your work-outs!) There aren’t any gyms here and the idea of going out in public to work out also stresses me out, so the treadmill it is!

By the end of my Monday morning workout, I had a mental plan for the week and after a weekend off from all the hurricane drama; I was ready to take it on. Then, came reality.

This week alone…

I prayed over a friend who lost her husband Sunday evening. She is very sick as well and supposedly a “voodoo powder” was left at their doorstep and that’s what killed her husband. I have no scientific theory of what this powder is, except that I have a legitimate fear I may be burying my friend in the near future too if I don’t figure something out. She’s had blood work done and it all comes back negative. She wants to spend $150 on a medicine made by a “leaf doctor” but I’m not that quick to whip out cash to the leaf doctor.

FYI: voodoo doctors and leaf doctors are two completely separate things, I use to believe they were the same. Voodoo doctors use magic and witchcraft in their practices. A leaf doctor will use natural remedies (leaves and oils) in his practice.

Another woman who has diabetes was also critically sick over the weekend. We learned her caretaker “accidentally” gave her ten times the amount of insulin she needs and I now need to resolve this issue and potentially fire the caretaker. Someone broke into the orphanage and stole speakers that we use for church. We now have to consider letting a security guard go for not fulfilling all of his duties. A woman full on ugly cried to me because she couldn’t afford to send her child to school. Our school is at complete full capacity and unless I want my husband to divorce me, I cannot even consider putting another student in the school. I have zero extra dollars to help this woman.

I faced all of these issues by Monday afternoon.

By Wednesday my sister-in-law had her fifth miscarriage. Medical options were given to her, but for some reason she didn’t want them and has now lost another baby. I can’t even go into health care and illiteracy today, because…well, we would be here forever. It’s impossible, that’s all.

My heart hurts so deeply for her and I just want her to have a healthy baby.

By Wednesday night, I was gathered with a group of women and we talked about the “orphanage crisis” in Haiti and how the American church has done so much damage and how organizations run by people living in America can be so corrupt and how justice seems like such an impossible idea. Forgiveness? An even more impossible idea. How do you even fight for justice? How do you even face all of this?

I worked with my head down on Thursday, not even considering the amount of sorrow I’m dealing with for my Haitian sisters and brothers.  I burrow my head lower, realizing my to-do list isn’t going to get done if I sit around grieving. So, I work. I design invitations for a fundraiser that’s going to happen in November. I send out a budget to another person. I work on school sponsorship. I finalize orders for Rosie’s and then re-do displays at Rosie’s because as long as I’m busy, I won’t have to deal with all the emotional stuff.

But this week, this week alone, it is proving to me just how much of a marathon runner I actually am. Maybe I can’t run an actual marathon, but man, am I running some sort of emotional/spiritual one.

“I just honestly shouldn’t have to deal with all of this,” is what I pout and say to myself. How did people dying of voodoo and helping with their funerals become my reality? How are impossible medical cases in a system with no healthcare become my responsibility? How is it even possible that I am still moving forward in such a corrupt, ugly place?

I don’t write this for you to feel bad for me. I don’t write it for a pat on the back either. I write to tell you the truth, because the truth is hard most days. Facing the actual world is hard.

Tomorrow, I’m going out with some girlfriends to drink wine and get our nails done. I’ll probably cry to them and vent; it won’t make the situations go away, but I will more than likely feel better by the end of the day. So, see, you mustn’t feel sorry for me.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that this week alone was a test. It’s always a test, isn’t it?

Are we going to crumble under pressure or will we rise up?

Will we become paralyzed by bitterness and anger or will we move forward with grace?

Do we stop dreaming because the reality is too harsh or do we still get to dream up better tomorrows? What happens when we stop dreaming all together? I guess, I hope, I never know.

We’re all walking through hard things. Life doesn’t protect us from that. I just hope the hard doesn’t paralyze you or stop you or kill your dreams all together.

And, if you’re stuck, my advice is to hop on a treadmill. Just walk, if that’s all you can do. Talk with God on that treadmill. Tell him why you’re hurting. Tell him why you’re angry. Cry if you have to. He’ll show up in those early mornings. He always does.

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a miracle in the mess

This story starts a year ago when I met Marie Maude: a 22-year-old, homeless mama pregnant with her third child. I was 7 months pregnant at the time and boy, did my heart break for her. We quickly admitted her into the Starfish program, found her housing and reunited her with her two beautiful girls who had been living with their grandma.

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Marie Maude a year ago with her vibrant daughter, Nedgie and her little shy daughter, Esther

I left for the States to go on my own maternity leave and prayed for a sweet reunion with Marie Maude and her baby upon my return to Haiti with my own new baby. Unfortunately, Marie Maude lost her little one during labor, but I still returned to find a hopeful, young mama.

Several months later Marie Maude started working with me at Rosie’s making our gift cards and this lady is full of sass and joy. Her little shy Esther now gives me lots of kisses and the two girls will start school up on the mountaintop this fall!

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Marie Maude, in the hat, proudly working with Juliette

Yesterday a twenty-one year old mama with a tiny, malnourished 19-month-old babe stood before me after Starfish had dismissed. Some of the women were still hanging out under the gathering space at Tytoo and this woman not only caught my attention, but their’s too. First, my always rambunctious friend, Filane, who is a mentor to the Starfish program, started asking her questions as we noticed just how little and sick this sweet baby was. She clung tightly to her mama as the mama would tell us we should take the child and put her in the orphanage. Quick to respond, Filane said, “Oh! Don’t you see how much this baby loves you! She needs you the most!”

Quickly other women would gather around us and before I knew it they all had a plan to take care of her. Some volunteered to make a special meal for the child, another went to the back kitchen and made them a plate of food and lastly, Marie Maude volunteered to house her.

My entire heart just about exploded.

This is it, people: if we empower one, how quickly they will be able to turn around and empower others. I whispered to God then, “is this what it’s suppose to look like…the gospel? Your kingdom coming to earth? Is this what you meant when you told us to take care of the widow and the sick? To take them in, just like that?”

I suppose it is. I suppose when you stop and just let the Holy Spirit work, He will indeed work and miracles will happen. Even in the mess, the really ugly mess of it all, miracles still get to happen.

This was my miracle yesterday and boy, am I clinging tight to it.

I’ve been somewhat drowning in the mess of life lately. Yesterday alone the security guard at Tytoo turned away nine women. All nine of them I’m sure having valid reasons to come talk to me. All of them desperate for some type of help. But, I just couldn’t face another need. This alone – the needs out side the gate – can kill ya and burden ya and wear ya down to just about nothing, but a sweet friend reminded me with these words just when I needed them most: “Remember that God is ultimately the one responsible for His children, don’t try to carry the burden. You can be part of the story, as God calls and allows, but don’t try to carry God’s responsibilities.” So, with those wise words, I moved forward with my day.

The needs of the twenty-two women in Starfish alone yesterday was enough to face as we prepare to register and send their combined sixty-eight kiddos to school in a month. But, the one who I allowed through the gate yesterday, showed me that God must have already set her and her babe apart, because it seemed all so ordained. I didn’t have to do anything. My sisters in Christ were there to ask all the questions and take care of all her needs; all I had to do was show up, love them and meet them in the mess.

Before going home at the end of the day, I stopped to see Afaina and her mama in their new place, making sure they were okay with the new living arrangements. A large bag from market full of food had been delivered, Marie Maude and another women in the community had already begun mopping and preparing a room for them and most sweetly of all, Afaina smiled at me and let me hold her. Boy, is it going to be sweet being a part of her story and loving on this precious child of God.

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Love from Haiti,

Kayla

waiting while He works: Rosie’s expansion project

Friends, I’m going to be honest. I’ve been scheming and searching and wrestling with the words I want to string together to tell you where I’m at these days. But, I’m so all over the place, it seems nearly impossible. But, I need to write. I need to get our needs out there.

So, here’s the deal. God’s at work. He’s so at work, in fact, that I can barely stand it. But, He’s also making me wait. And, in this season of waiting, I can’t find the words to say.

There’s a movement happening in the Starfish program. We are beginning to discuss what it would look like to completely revamp this program. I don’t have the final details yet, but God’s working on it.

There are three women who come to my house each week and we whip together some pretty awesome salsa. The word about this awesome salsa is starting to get out and people actually want it! I can’t grow this business until God shows up and gives me money to build Rosie’s expansion.

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As I type this out, three women are working behind me, finishing up the gift cards we are making through Rosie’s. We are crammed in a small back room at Rosie’s, but we are working and there’s worship music playing and it’s beautiful. We have been selling our cards like crazy, but we seriously need more space. This morning a friend stopped by to buy cards and two of the women greeted her and cheered her on as she picked out cards. These women are so happy to be working. God, make space for our dreams.

I sat in the office at Tytoo this last Tuesday with a 21-year-old mama and her 18-month-old babe. Both of them were severely malnourished and I could see it in her eyes how distressed she was. I asked her why she came to talk to me and she told me how the father to the baby just recently died in a car accident and she didn’t know what else to do. She said she just knew she needed to come. All I could provide her on Tuesday was some food, but I told her to come back. She’s gotta come back and I’ve got to believe that God will show up for this one. He’ll make a way.

Philippians 4:19 reminded me how God will supply all of our needs, according to His glorious riches. And if this promise is true for me – how He will meet all of my needs – then it must be true for this mama too. And all the other mamas.

I rock my sweet babe Rubie to sleep after a frantic Haiti-day and I just sit there and cannot fathom what it must be like to not be able to rock your baby sound asleep, knowing his or her belly is full and the night ahead will be sound. I just cannot fathom it.

I know God wants Haitians to have jobs. He wants there to be dignity in the way we walk and in the way we work. There shouldn’t have to be brothels where women sell their bodies so their babies can eat. There shouldn’t be institutions where babies are left and abandoned – separated from their mamas – just so they can eat.

And, so while I cannot fathom it or comprehend it, I know God does. He’s just and He’s making a way for mamas. He’s setting our hearts on fire and giving us such ridiculous ideas to pave a way for more jobs and less babies in orphanages. He’s doing this through Rosie’s and through so many other beautiful companies that I get to partner with here in Haiti. He’s allows me to keep looking these women in the eyes. It’s the hardest thing I do, but it keeps this fire inside me so very alive. Their desperation moves me to action and I just plead that you would join me and move with me. That we would work towards a day where less mamas come knocking on the gate, desperate for help, but instead get to rise each morning, knowing they have a job to go to and get to walk there with dignity. Proud to support their babies and send them to school.

There’s got to be a way to break this cycle of poverty and I believe it begins here: job creation.

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blue print for Rosie’s expansion

Rosie’s Boutique currently employs two girls who have transitioned out of Tytoo Gardens orphanage. They help run the boutique and serve our teams. Rosie’s employs Elyse, a mother to six, who comes and cleans the boutique twice a week. Rosie’s employs seven women through its gift card collection and we are looking for more boutiques and gift shops to sell our cards. Shoot me an email if you know anyone interested in selling our cards! Lastly, Salsa Sisters is operated under Rosie’s effort to create jobs and is currently employing three women.

Rosie’s expansion is a dream to allow Rosie’s boutique to grow and to continue reaching and employing more mamas through our all of the above efforts.

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the Salsa Sisters team!

Our goal is to raise $100,000 for Rosie’s expansion. We have the first $25,000 raised + we have finished purchasing the land in Haiti where we will build the expansion. We are now looking for 75 people to come together and commit to raising or giving $1,000 each to meet our goal. If we join hands, I know this goal will be met. I pray for hearts to be moved, knowing this is God’s work and He’s got it!

If you would like to DONATE to Rosie’s expansion today, click HERE to donate through PayPal *please add a Rosie’s expansion in the “add special instructions” box*

or send donation to

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

*memo: Rosie’s expansion*

If you would like to be one of the seventy-five people commited to raising or giving $1,000 towards the expansion, please fill out the form below so we can keep track of the commitments!

Downloadable PDF about Salsa Sisters and our card collection, please share and help us spread the word!

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Love from Haiti,

Kayla

five years and a harvest

This week, I celebrate – not sure if that’s the right word, actually – five years in Haiti. It feels like yesterday when I packed all my knit Old Navy skirts into a suitcase and said I was going to be a missionary. I laugh at those skirts now as the Haitians think I’m actually more Haitian because I wear jeans every day. I was so naïve then. This place, it has taught me so much. So damn much.

I can’t fully grasp it, actually. It’s been five years.

FIVE. YEARS.

I don’t know why that feels so heavy. I guess you grow up living in the world around you and one day God calls you away from that world and into a whole new one. You never intend to stay there forever, because it’s not the world you’re familiar with. But, here we are and forever doesn’t really seem that long anymore and I really begin to wonder: will I spend the rest of my years here?

I’ve learned a lot these past five years. Really, I’ve learned more than earning any college diploma could have taught me. Really, there’s a part of my soul that still wants to be twenty-one and in college again. I made some of my best friends there and made some incredible memories in college – none of them including class. I would pay so much to go back to my old college apartment to only wake up to my roommates in the morning and die laughing on the floor as we talk about the funny things we did the night before.

But, the reality is that I’ve officially lived in Haiti longer than I went to college. It’s weird.

I wish I could say I’ve become an expert on Haiti, but she’s truly a place that could never be fully captured or understood. Can a place of poverty and oppression and corruption ever truly be legitimized or defined?

I think what actually bothers me the most is that the longer I live here and the more I learn; my soul actually becomes more unrest. You would think it would be the opposite. You would think five years would have created some type of contentment or finished work. You would think five years of work would have by now paved a way towards justice and freedom. And while freedom has been found for some and stories of victory have been written, there’s always seventeen times more the workload.

I graduated five women from the Starfish program last month. Victories. Five of them. But, then the following week THIRTEEN women showed up to enroll and the week after that TWELVE more. For every victory, it feels like a boat washes ashore dumping vulnerable, at-risk, desperate mamas at my door. They’ve washed ashore, looking for relief and it only makes me like I’m drowning all the more.

I call home to my dad asking where we sit on finances for Starfish and housing and everything else. I’m overwhelmed by the needs and my voice cracks and I say, “we need more, dad.” We need more partners. We need more sponsors. We need more churches. What more can I do to make people realize just. how. desperate. we. are.

I want more victories. But, it’s funny how victories are becoming a catch-22 because when I graduate one, I have to decide off a list of SIXTY-FIVE, who will be next. I discern and say, “God, lead me.” And, so He leads me…

He recently led me down a dirt path. Inside the broken metal gate that simply locks from rusty nails folding together, I was offered a 5-gallon bucket to sit on. I would watch a 6-month pregnant woman converse with Mami Sarah (director of the Starfish program). I silently sat as she swatted a dirty t-shirt above her sleeping two-year-old boy, who innocently napped on a piece of worn cardboard. They talked for what seemed like hours as my world stood still.

“Five years,” was all I could think to myself.

You’ve been facing this misery for five years. When will it be over? All of the misery.

I felt super alone in that moment. I could feel Satan’s power in that place. How lonely these women must feel as the day drags out and relief from hunger and thirst never quite fully quenches them. How desperate they must feel as the night drags out even longer and they soothe their hungry babies to sleep. How the rain must make them shiver as it soaks all of their possessions. How it must. just. be. so. hard.

I’ve been looking this misery in the face for FIVE YEARS and I still. cannot. fathom. My heart. It’s so broken.

Just down the road from where I sit on this gallon, is an orphanage being built. I’ve been hearing stories of a Haitian pastor who is running it and an innocent white pastor in the States who is believing all stories from Haiti. I actually believe the pastor in the States has the best intentions, but for the pastor in Haiti it’s just a business. The orphanage is a business. That’s the reality.

And, this mama that we are talking to, well, she’s considering putting her baby in an orphanage once he or she is born. She’s not even ashamed to say it, but “that’s her only option,” she explains. I don’t know if it will be the orphanage just down the road or one of the other TWENTY orphanages that are up and running in a five-mile radius of me on this 5-gallon bucket.

The reality agonizes my soul. I’m so damn lonely on this bucket.

The scripture from Luke has been coming to mind a lot lately:

“For the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

And, I’m just like, YES.

So, here they are…the top five things (I believe) I have learned in the last five years:

  • I need people. I need American people. I need Haitian people. I need people who are like family and people who keep me accountable. I need people who let me be real. I’ve learned that it can be really hard to work with people in ministry. I’ve learned that people you try to help, people you respect, people you thought would be there for you for the long run, will all but turn around and try to take you down. But, I’ve learned and the community God has given me is beautiful.
  • Poverty is not a surface issue. In the beginning of this adventure, I thought I would be able to figure it out. And, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never be able to. I won’t ever be able to comprehend the Miami airport only being a one and a half hour plane ride away from my reality and me on a 5-gallon bucket. I won’t. The world just shouldn’t be this way in 2017. Poverty is complicated, full of hurdles to overcome. Obviously, if it were easy, it wouldn’t exist.
  • God never changes but He is always revealing a new work in me. I’ve learned the need to be creative and innovative and to be a go-with-the-flow kind of soul person to do this work. If you come here with a flow chart and a defined purpose, it will fail. Your work in this realm of things should always be open to change. You should constantly be having conversations about change and be willing to change. Being a part of the conversation about job creation and orphanage prevention and ways to make that happen encourages me. For the past few decades the conversation has been about orphanage creation and handout institutions. The North American church and short-term mission mindset has allowed a culture of dependency on the white person and we have deemed it acceptable to put children – who have parents – into orphanages. This shouldn’t be. The conversation is shifting. I love that. If your heart isn’t open to change, I suppose you need a good heart-check with Bondye. I’m always asking God to soften my heart and open my eyes to His plans. His plans currently include salsa and babies being raised by their mamas; I’m humbled because He has entrusted me with these visions. I some days fear what else He will bestow unto me and ask of me, but, on the other hand, I can’t wait to see what else He will allow me to see and do.
  • Being a believer in Christ is not all it’s cracked up to be. Haiti didn’t really teach me that; life did. But, regardless, it’s hard. We really need to support and love each other more. Doing so on a deeper, more sincere level. But, we really need to be more serious about this commitment we make to Christ. If you claim to believe in Jesus, how are you being a part of the harvest?
  • THE HARVEST IS GREAT. We can all be a part of it. Whether it’s in our own backyard or across the ocean. There’s work to be done. I long for Jesus and I can’t wait for Him to return.

The woman who offered me her 5-gallon bucket to sit on in front of her tattered tent is named Eglita. She’s one of our newest admits to the Starfish Program. She’s broken my heart all over again. I’m anxious to get to the States and put together a newborn baby kit and help her welcome her baby, due in August. I’m praying that our efforts through the Starfish program will keep mom and baby together. I’m praying for people to come alongside us. I’m praying for workers.

For the harvest is great…

To say the last five years has been a ride would be an understatement. The Lord gave me the word steadfast last week. I wanted to through in the flag a few times last week and then He spoke steadfast.

I want to thank you all who have stood steadfast with me these last few years. Thank you to everyone who has said, “yes” to our efforts in Haiti and supported us. Thank you for changing and evolving with us. Thank you for being a part of the conversation and helping us create jobs through our efforts at Rosie’s boutique. Thank you for sponsoring kids at the school. Thank you for helping building houses and keeping families safe. Thank you. Thank you. I couldn’t have stood steadfast and endured this all without you all.

And while I could go on and on giving thanks, I also stop in my tracks, because there’s still so much work to be done. I’m so far from being finished asking for more. More sponsorships. More Starfish support. More houses to be built. Projects and expansions and visions to see fulfilled. All to give Him glory. Our work is so far from being done…

God, prepare their hearts. Send the workers. Open the gates. Let is rain. Holy, holy rain.

As always,

Love from Haiti.

come broken

A complete stranger messaged me the other day asking me about Haiti. She’s preparing to move here and she wants to know what it’s like. If I have any advice.

I’ll be honest I didn’t respond. I was being a big negative Nancy the day I received the message and there wasn’t much positivity I could send her way.

Another young man is graduating from college in May and he is considering moving here to work with Tytoo.He would be perfect for the opening we have at the orphanage plus could be a great help with Rosie’s and Salsa Sisters. He’s energetic, organized and positive – all the things I seem to lack on a daily basis. And I want to scream, “yes! please come!” but I know what Haiti can do to a soul and a part of me wants to protect him and push him away.

One of my closest friends left Haiti back in February because it was “time”. Haiti had been so hard to her and she just needed out. I was thankful the Lord opened doors for her go, but I miss her. I hate seeing the pain she has to bear by the stuff she experienced in Haiti.

Other friends are fighting for justice and change to happen in their ministries. But the ministries aren’t willing to change, so my friends’ voices are being quieted. Orphanages continue to open all over the countryside and just last week a woman held her little boy in the air, begging, “pran li, pran li.” Take him. Take him.

Every Wednesday I meet with an incredible group of women and we find ourselves going on and on about how much Haiti sucks, we have now set boundaries to not get stuck on Haiti and her suckiness.

To the stranger who asked me about Haiti and the hundreds of other visitors who come through Rosie’s asking me if I like living here…I don’t. Who really would? Who actually chooses third-world-living when you could have North America?

You move here and you’re advised to bring all the right things: bug spray, peanut butter and beef jerky. Bring all the good snacks. Bring sun screen. Bring oreos. Bring a mosquito net. Get your vaccinations. Bring more snacks. Make sure you have enough water and enough snacks. Always have snacks.

But you’ll get here and you’ll have gone without warnings of the physical exhaustion from the heat, the emotional exhaustion from all the need and the spiritual exhaustion because there’s no outlets to be filled. You’ll get here and you’ll learn (more than likely) what it’s like to be a minority for the first time in your life. You’ll come and you’ll realize any plans you had made, everything you thought you knew and anything you had dreamed up was, in fact, all wrong. You’ll be proven wrong time and time again. You’ll have to start over one hundred times before you get to take one step forward. You’ll be sued by people you intended to help. You’ll be lied to by people you go out on a limb for. You’ll be stolen from. You’ll be manipulated. And you’ll never get a good price…for anything!

You’ll want a day off and you’ll realize you’re never actually off. Ever.

You’ll drive to the city for a girls’ day out and there’ll still be people begging on the side of the street. You’ll always be on guard for people grabbing stuff out of the back of your vehicle or for the threat of violent demonstrations. You’ll decide to go on a walk to relieve some stress, but you’ll be harrassed by motorcycle drivers as they fly by and some may even accuse you of stealing children because you walk with your three adopted kids. You’ll decide to hide at home for a day, but there’ll still be knocks on the gate.

You’ll host visitors and some will come “knowing everything” and they’ll leave you even more exhausted. Some will come and it’s as if you were just a check on their bucket list. You’ll let them into your entire life and ministry, but never hear from them again once they board the plane back home. There’ll be some that come, though, and they’ll meet you right in your mess. They’ll go home and fundraise for you and encourage you and they’ll fight for you (hold those ones close and never let them go!)

But then, you’ll want to travel back to your hometown in North America for a break, but people there will be full of questions. They’ll want to hear all about Haiti and all about your work and they’ll fill your schedule right up and those ideas of sleeping in and binge watching Netflix quickly disappear. You’ll realize, even there, the place where you once belonged…you no longer do. You’re officially an outsider and no one really gets your third-world-livin’.

I write this because, yes, some days I just feel like a big black cloud going through the motions. I get stuck in slumps and heavy feelings of anxiety settle deep. Some days I want to scream “I’M DONE” and fill a 50-pound suitcase, while flipping the peace sign, saying see-ya lata, Ayiti.

But, I write because I need this place to be filled with honesty. I need you all to know it’s not easy. I need us to learn and to recognize that a life of serving and obeying the call to lay it all down and carry that heavy, wooden cross is not something to be taken lightly. I need to remember, in every breath, that life is made for giving.

This week in bible study we read the words of Ann Voskamp from the Broken Way and she poses the question, “How will you spend the rest of your days?”

Live every day like you’re terminal, because you are.

Live like your soul is eternal, because it is.

And while these days seem long and hard, they’re worthy days. They’re slow kingdom coming days. I sow and sow and sow and slowly I reap. Most days go without reward, but slowly I know those rewards will be received. I know the small seeds we plant today will be reaped in full…some day…

Haiti, she’s never easy. Third world countries are third world countries for a reason: they’re pretty awful places…full of corruption, oppression and poverty, full-blown poverty.

But, I let Ann’s questions sink deep because I don’t want Haiti to be my excuse. I don’t want my rants and complaints of Haiti to fill this space. I want this life – the only one I get –  to be hard because Jesus’s calling is hard. Jesus’s whole mission was spent serving and loving and giving. Jesus’s last moments were the farthest thing from beautiful, comfortable, American dream-worthy.

I want to be spent…empty and broken…for the sake of Jesus. Whether that’s in Haiti or not, I wanna be broken for the sake of the cross. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what we sign up for, right? When we proclaim, “we’re all in, we believe in you Jesus”…we’re signing up to die to self. Every day. Over and over again.


We found a second piece of land for Rosie’s expansion project. It’s cheaper than the first piece. It is larger. It is closer to a community that has a lot more power than the community I’m currently in. It will be quieter and more than likely safer. It should feel right. Everything about it should.

But, it doesn’t.

The devil sits on my shoulder and whispers, “if you do this…this means forever.”

If you truly commit to this vision that will mean many more third-world-livin’ days. This, my little friend, is crazy. You cannot do this. You should not do this. You shall not do this – it almost becomes a command as I let him sit there, nestled on my shoulder.

I really shouldn’t even be writing this because someday soon I’m going to ask for a bunch of money to make this vision come true and who wants to invest in someone who just isn’t sure. But the thing is…I am sure. I’m so sure, in fact, that I let women come take over my kitchen every Wednesday so we can make salsa. I’m so sure that I spend hours thinking about it, praying and dreaming up ways I can actually make this work. The whole idea of Rosie’s expanding and salsa being the means to provide jobs, it’s a vision…a holy, holy vision. And, I can’t let it go.

I just know it’s going to be hard. So, I say that here, right now in this space. It’s going to be hard. I say this knowing I need people; people who will walk alongside, dream with me, invest in this and donate to the dream. I need a body to make this happen. I need God to work His magic and make miracles happen. I say this knowing it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I say this knowing God is calling me to this place, even if my selfish, human desires just want waffle fries and America. I say this commiting to a future unknown, but a future full of women whose lives have been transformed from the small, small seeds I plant today in this commitment.


So, to the stranger who asked me about Haiti? I say “come” but only come with a broken, open and willing heart to be transformed. Don’t come thinking you know it all, in fact, come only to learn. Come with a mind-set to change – to change your way of thinking, your way of seeing the world, your way of living in the world. If Haiti doesn’t ruin you and inspire you to be a person who brings change to the world, a person who fights for the orphan and the family unit, a person who lives wasted in service…then you didn’t come to Haiti for the right reason. And if you didn’t come to Haiti for the right reason, just don’t come at all. Because Haiti doesn’t need another “I can save them all” missionary. She doesn’t need another orphanage or someone who has come to hug the poor orphans. She doesn’t need another hand-out or another painted house. She needs grace…so much grace, and compassion. She needs commitment. She needs people willing to say, “I can do hard.” She needs warriors. She needs reckless. She needs loud voices who speak truth. She needs people who fight to bring change.

Haiti, as well as the entire world, needs broken people. Broken people willing to live broken…willing to live given.

So, come…but, only come broken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

finding peace

My oldest Jeffte struggles in school and I wish I could provide him with all of the educational resources in America. My other son, Loveson, loves every sport out there, so I wish I could provide him with opportunities to play on organized sports teams. My little one Wishla has HIV and her one blood count is always high so I wish I could provide her with better healthcare. My littlest, Rubie Jo, doesn’t even know it yet, but she’s growing up in the poorest world in the Western hemisphere and things can be a little crazy here.

As a mama to four, I struggle knowing I could be providing my children with better. Better education opportunities. Better extracurricular opportunities. Better healthcare. I could be raising them in a safer environment, where threats of unsafe demonstrations don’t knock on our door. Where the roads are paved and people have real rules for the road. Where there are playgrounds and sidewalks and zoos and fairs. Where there are sporting events and concerts and movie theaters.

This last November I was traveling down a national highway with four friends. We came upon a one-vehicle accident that had five fatalities and several severely injured victims. It just so happened that my friends were all medical personal, so we jumped out of the vehicle to help. I was the only non-medical personal, but the only one who spoke Creole. I sat in the dirt next to a man with a severe laceration on the back of his head, appearing to have a broken leg and arm. I tried keeping him awake by asking him his name and telling him everything would be okay – not knowing if it really would be. Five feet away from me lay a man covered in dust. He didn’t seem real. But, he was and he had just lost his life. In the background I could see my friends scurrying to the other victims but everything seemed so blurry. So unreal. I continued to sit in the dirt, pressing the back of his head. I learned his name; it was Renald.

I would eventually look up above me and notice the presence of the police. But, I would quickly learn they weren’t there to help. The police officer standing above me was in fact taking a picture of Renald and me. Many more people would come running to the scene and they would step over the body of the man who laid just five feet away from me. It was as if he wasn’t even there.

Eventually the injured would be put on public transportation and transported to a hospital. There were chances they would be turned away from whichever hospital they would go to and I would never know if Renald would be okay.

A few days later, Rubie and I went to Rosie’s and I had my first real anxiety attack of my life. All I could see was her and I getting in an accident and people just standing over our bodies as if we weren’t even real. Police would show up to the scene only to take pictures of us, not to help. I pictured Rubie in critical condition, being rushed to the hospital, only to be turned away.

A week would pass and I would see Renald in my dreams. I would dream of the accident scene and see the dead man covered in dust. I would drive with a constant knot in my stomach for the next month. Fear and anxiety would rule over me.

I went home in January an emotional hot mess. I sought out counseling and the wise counselor told me I needed to dedicate my kids to the Lord. I came to the realization that I can’t save my kids from the world. The cons definitely outweigh the pros for raising kids in Haiti, but I know this is where we are suppose to be for this season of life. The Lord has put so many dreams before us and they’re to be lived out in Haiti. So knowing this, I knew I had to give my kids to the Lord.

Jeffte may struggle in school, but I believe the Lord will provide a way for him to succeed. Loveson may be a leader and a sport-enthusiast, but the Lord will provide an outlet for his talents. Wishla may have HIV, but the Lord has provided us with free medicine and a doctor in Haiti. Rubie may not know it yet, but the Lord is making a way for her as well.

I also accepted the truths that accidents are going to happen no matter what country we live in. Sickness and illness will take over our bodies and not even the best doctors in America will be able to save us. I trust the Lord will protect us as we walk in his will. And lastly I believe Jesus is going to come back, so I put my hope in that.

I personally gave my anxiety and children to the Lord in January and this last weekend we publically dedicated them before family and friends. I haven’t had the knotted pit of anxiety in my stomach since January and for that I praise the Lord as well.

Thank you to my family and friends who stood beside us last weekend. And thank you to everyone else who walks beside us on this journey and loves us for where we are at. And thanks to my awesome friend Jamie for capturing these beautiful photos!

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