{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

Starfish : an update & opportunity to give

We are well into the year with our Starfish program up and running. We have been ministering to 35 women for the last five months and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be partnering with Courtney and Jimmy, who founded Ansamn (meaning Together in Haitian Creole). Courtney and Jimmy, along with their two staff members, Fefe and Daniel, have completed trainings in small business/micro-financing and parenting. They have also been trained to teach a 12-week spiritual foundation course, which they taught the first 3 months of the program. They have been using their trainings and knowledge to teach and invest in the women these last few months. It has been so great to show up every Tuesday and know the lessons they are teaching are applicable, appropriate and well done! With their help, I have personally been able to focus on other areas on the ministry (like writing and fundraising) and not worry about the week-to-week details with Starfish.

Last week, Daniel presented a lesson about the brain and how it develops from birth through childhood into adulthood. He talked about the importance of the brain’s development and how its development effects our emotions. A thirty-minute discussion occurred after the lesson and I loved seeing how the women were interacting and asking great questions! Be reminded, most of the women we are ministering to are illiterate and most of them have never had schooling pass grade school. The most basic of lessons dealing with parenting, hygiene and health are very important as most of them will be hearing this information for the first time in their lives.

As I mentioned above, I am beyond thrilled to have Ansamn and the resources they have as part of our program now! It has been a huge answer to prayers!

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We have also had a single middle school student and a VBS group from Iowa raise money in the last few months allowing us to buy rice, beans, oil, and spaghetti all locally and prepare packages of food to send home with the women each week. I love knowing that we are helping stimulate the local economy by purchasing locally and sending the women home with food their families will enjoy.

Courtney, in the past, had never sent the families she was working with home with food and she mentioned to me how much she loves that we send our women home with food because it gives them a hand-up and a way to get a bit more ahead. For example, if a woman has just started a small business in her home and is trying to save every little penny she makes to save up and pay off debts or pay a medical bill or whatever it may be, the food packs allow the woman to feed her children and use her savings in other beneficial ways.

Women will often comment and tell me how their children “eat their businesses” and that’s what makes them unsuccessful. So, another reason why sending them home each week with food becomes important is having the hope that we are giving them the resources to build a foundation to a successful business. We recognize the day will come when they are no longer in the program, so we hope that when that day comes, they’ve built up a good enough business that will not only generate enough income but also allow them to feed their children without the children “eating” into all their profits.

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It’s hard for me to still wrap my mind around the fact that these families are surviving off only dollars a day, so while we don’t believe in hand-outs and have worked really hard at not creating a culture of dependency, we recognize how aid with food is playing a crucial role in the success of these families.

Each week when we meet, we also serve everyone a hot meal. Because of this ministry opportunity, we have been able to hire a woman part-time to do all of the cooking. Her part-time job has provided a stable income for her and her five children as well!

As we are quickly approaching a new school year, we are beginning to register and help all the women pay their school tuition fees. One of the commitments we make to the women in the program is that we will help with the school fees for their children. This year we expect to pay school fees for 80+ students and we firmly believe that paying these fees alleviate a huge burden from the family for the year and allow the women to focus their energy on small business start-ups or other activities in order to start saving for the following school year. One of the largest debts most families have in Haiti are school debts, causing much stress and unknowns to the family. We love knowing that we are taking care of this for them and believe this investment helps us move toward our ultimate goal: a stable foundation and a future where families stay together!

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Lastly, back in May, we did our first business seminar with ten women and all ten have now received their first small business loan. We have women selling everything from gallons of gas for the motorcycle drivers in the village; to cleaning products for the home; to fresh produce in the market. We hope to do at least one more seminar with another group of women and give an additional 15 to 20 loans.

An area I have failed in the past with small business loans is the follow-up. Last year we gave 22 loans and today only 8 of the women are still running businesses and consistently repaying their loans. With our new partnership with Ansamn, they have made the commitment to do follow-up visits with all the women who receive the loans and we expect with these visits and more accountability, our “success rate” will only increase!

So…To sum it all, because Oofta! That’s a lot of information right there!…I love the direction Starfish is headed. At the beginning of this year, I was feeling nothing but discouragement and complete burnout when it came to this ministry. However, no matter how badly I wanted to quit, I knew that at the core of what I believe is everything the Starfish program is. It’s hard work and sounds good on paper, but lived out and hearing the personal, constant struggles and problems of these women is too hard some days, yet I wholeheartedly believe it’s right where Jesus would be if He was here. He would be all about the home visits and the sitting in the tattered huts. He would be all about loans because he was a carpenter himself and said multiple times in scripture how important it is to work with your own hands. I know He would be all about sending little ones to school and investing in their futures. I know that when He calls us to serve, love and take care of the least of these, He’s talking about the women and children in this program. These people truly are the ones who are going long days without food, sleeping and living in some of the worst conditions, and just trying to survive each and every day.  I know He would also be on the front lines fighting to keep families together.

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I also know that each Tuesday when Filane leads worship and the other leaders share their lessons, the Holy Spirit is alive and working in that space. Ultimately, beyond meeting the physical and financial needs, we pray these women always leave feeling seen, known and loved by our Heavenly Father.

So, that’s the work we are doing! Now, for the part where you come into play! Here are the needs that we hope you will prayerfully consider meeting…

We need thirty-five people to make a one-time donation of $150 to help us pay all of the school fees for this year. This money will also help us buy the appropriate uniform material for all the students and pay a local tailor to sew all the uniforms! If you choose to be one of these thirty-five people, we will send a picture of one of the women in the program with her story and how many children she has, so you will know exactly whom your donation went towards!

We need twenty people to make a one-time donation of $100 to help us give out more small business loans. If you choose to be one of these twenty people, we will send you a picture of one of the women with her business and what she intends to do with her loan, so you will know exactly what your investment went towards!

{to make a one-time donation simply CLICK HERE and you can donate through PayPal}

Lastly, we would love to raise $5,000 so we can continue purchasing food locally and preparing food packages to be sent home with the women each week.

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Thank you for taking the time to read and thank you, thank you to those of you who choose to give. Your giving is never wasted and you can trust we are putting it right where we say we are putting it! We can’t wait to share more stories and how the Lord is working through this program.

Love from Haiti,

Kayla

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we were robbed

On December 14 I posted these words on my social media accounts:

“Yesterday.

Starfish participant comes to Rosie’s and says her small business we helped her start is “finished” and she doesn’t know how she will continue feeding her kids once she graduates from the program in two weeks. Enter doubts for everything Starfish.

Another friend comes in and asks for job because her husband has recently left her for another woman, who is rumored to be pregnant. Enter all feels of frustration.

Then a team came into Rosie’s for lunch and after they left two Haitians walked in and stole our entire money box and threatened my boutique staff with a gun if she screamed. She ran into the the office, where I was, after they left completely terrified and weeping. Enter total rage feelings at this point. 

Continue working and another friend walks into my office telling me how her marriage is on the brink of divorce, they have no money for rent and asking me to fix it all. Enter burnout feelings.

Lastly, to end the day, I find out someone crucial to our leadership in the ministry may be quitting. No feelings left to feel.

Today’s a new day. Thankful for those new mercies and that I can even sit here – day in and day out – loved and seen by a God who trumps all evil and promises eternity.”

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posted this picture with the words above

Surely, being robbed from sucked. But, yesterday I experienced something holy and I just want to write it all out before I forget about it.

I also want to say that being robbed from turned out to be such a blessing. The first thing I did after we all calmed down on that afternoon in December was look at all the ladies working in the boutique that day (there were seven of them!) and tell them how much I loved them. I told them that no amount of money was worth their lives and even if there had been thousands of dollars in that case, it wouldn’t have mattered. Their lives are so important to me. A sure reminder that I need to tell them how proud I am of them, how much I appreciate them and how much I value their relationships…not just on the days when life sucks, but on the normal, every day days.

Being robbed from also forced me to buy a new cash register that’s fancier and prints receipts and it makes me feel like a real boss. So, thank you robbers, for allowing me to have the excuse to buy fun, new things for my business.

The robbery was also the final proof we needed to hire a daytime security guard. We had been discussing hiring someone to begin with after a few incidents that had left the staff feeling uncomfortable, so this made our decision to hire someone that much easier.


Now let’s rewind a bit, so you can capture the whole picture.

It’s 2016 and I’ve officially started running the Starfish program. A woman in the program, Malite, was severely ill with HIV. She spent nearly eight months at a hospital to recover and gain her health back. When she returned back to Tytoo after all those months, our leadership could barely recognize her! She had gained nearly thirty pounds and you could tell her joy for life was back. A few months later another woman we worked with also started losing her health due to HIV and Malite helped get her admitted into the same long-term HIV program and would spend days at a time at the hospital with her.

Malite eventually met Sylvio and the two fell in love. I remember her telling us one day at Starfish how she’d never had a boyfriend take such good care of her. He’d help do the laundry and clean the dishes. We would eventually give Malite a job making our greeting cards and she would soon give birth to two beautiful baby boy twins.

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Sylvio would drive Malite to Rosie’s every Wednesday to hand in her work and I had the chance to see how caring he was and after sharing how appreciative he was for Rosie’s and all it did for his family, I knew he would go above and beyond to protect us.

So, we hired Sylvio as our daytime security guard just before Christmas. On the outside, he’s a little rough around the edges, but I think that’s what I love most about him. He’s small in stature, but super kind and helpful. He also won’t let me carry a darn thing out of my car into the boutique, he insists on carrying it himself!

Yesterday, I drove Sylvio home so he could show me their new home that was built this last month. Thanks to the Love My Tribe fundraiser we did last fall we were able to provide this safe home for their family. It was so filling and so holy to stand next to him, knowing the type of future their family will have now because of two sustainable jobs and a safe house.

Do you realize how very few families in Haiti have these things going for them? Sustainable jobs and safe homes? The fact that I get to witness God providing for people first-hand like this is beyond me still.IMG_0526IMG_1085 Malite and Sylvio are expecting to welcome a newborn baby girl sometime in the next month. Pray for their health and the health of the little boy being held by Malite in the photo above. He has failure to thrive and has had serious health issues in the past and is just the tiniest nugget. The two hope to marry this year and it will be such a beautiful day when they do!

As for Rosie’s, it’s a dream to do life with these people and I’ll never take for granted the jobs we get to provide here. If you ever get to visit our boutique here in Haiti, Sylvio will be the first to greet you at the gate!

To support these mamas and their jobs, shop our greeting card collection today: click here to SHOP!

As for the two guys who robbed us back in December, thank you. You made us step up our game and in the end we were blessed.

Love from Haiti.

level four

a quick recap through my experiences

leading up to July, 2018 : political tensions rising, you can feel it in the air

People start questioning where the billions of dollars are from the PetroKaribe deal made with Venezuela. Money that was suppose to be used for infrastructure and social programs, but no where to be found. The value of the gourde (Haiti’s national currency) continues to plummet and inflation keeps going up. People cannot afford prices in the market and gas begins to become scarce.

July. The Prime Minister announces there will be a dramatic raise in gas prices over night as Brazil loses the World Cup game (big deal in Haiti) and within hours the capital, Port-au-Prince is “set on fire”. Roadblocks and burning tires are set up everywhere within the hour. Somehow, by God’s grace, I was driving out of the city with friends as the game was ending. Had we stayed in the city for 30 minutes longer, we would have most likely been stuck in the city for days, unable to travel. The U.S. government raises the travel advisory to a level four, but lowers it back down within a month or so.

Prime Minister steps down within days and somehow Haiti moves forward.

Tensions stay high though, like I said, you can feel it in the air.

November. It’s Thanksgiving week and another country wide shut down happens. This too passes and rumors start up again that in December another shut down will happen over the holidays. Things stay calm. However, the value of the gourde continues to plummet, we go weeks at a time without being able to find gas and the president, Jovenel Moise, continues to stay silent.

February. I fly to Iowa on the fourth and another shut down happens on the seventh. This shut down lasts for eleven days (much, much longer than the past ones), which means the people go eleven days with no markets being open, no public transportation, no school and people begin to die because they cannot get to hospitals, find food or water and the president makes nothing more than a fifteen minute speech on national television that most of the public doesn’t seem to understand. My husband makes me wait a month before letting me travel back to Haiti with our two-year-old. The U.S. government raises the travel advisory back to a level four during the month.

It’s May now and the level four still remains.


I write carefully because first things first I’m not a political person. Never have been, probably never will be. My husband faithfully listens to the news every single night on the radio. It’s full of political talk and while it keeps us updated on what’s going on, I find it rather annoying. Any chance he has, he loves to talk politics. And yes, I find that to be kind of annoying too. Politics are the last thing I’d like to talk about, but I try to stay as informed as I can, but I’m still far from an expert when it comes to all the political situations in Haiti.

I also write carefully because I never want to paint a picture that the Haitian people are dangerous. The people I live in community with and work with are the most hospitable and kindest of people. It’s one of the reasons I stay. They want their kids to be able to walk to school safely and return safely just like any other parent does in North America. You wouldn’t believe how often I hear them prayer for people to come and go safely and how often I hear praises of thanksgiving for everyone arriving well at the end of the day (something I most definitely didn’t grow up praying for!) Surely, Haiti is dangerous and there are areas you wouldn’t drive through right now, but I also know there are areas of Chicago I wouldn’t walk or drive through either. We can be so quick to judge Haiti as a whole, but as a whole, they’re just simple, kind village people trying to survive. I think the better question to ask ourselves is what would we do if our government was embezzling billions of dollars and we were expected to live off of less than $2/day and feeds our babies? Riddle me that one.

I also write carefully because the political tension is still so very tense. Just last month we went a week without being able to find any gas. Just four days ago I was at the grocery store buying groceries and I exchanged some American money to only be stunned by the exchange rate; it’s gone up yet again.

When I moved to Haiti in 2012, the exchange rate was 40 gourdes to $1 US. I remember when the exchange rate when up to 50 gourdes to $1 and it was the best because $20 US was 1,000 gourdes exactly (the biggest bill they have) and the math on that was so easy! The other day at the grocery store the exchange rate was 86 gourdes to $1. Webert has also recently heard that the US Embassy is exchanging for 110 gourdes to $1 and that may be a sign of what’s to come.

And in my opinion, another country wide shut down is only doomed to happen again. The gourde clearly continues to lose it’s value, the gas situation is still unstable – Haiti unable to even pay for gas at times now because Venezuela is no longer exporting to Haiti, so we have to buy from the world market and we simply cannot afford the prices. Nothing in the political scene has changed since the last shutdown, so again, we are in the waiting…and it is tense, hence why I write carefully.

On top of these large issues, the gang violence seems to be more prevalent than ever. I had the joy (enter sarcasm and trauma) of seeing two murdered bodies on the road last month; the victims had robbed a local business and were killed in the streets as they ran away. The police were on the scene as I drove by, but I assure you, I felt no peace or safety as I drove away.

The level four travel advisory is real. And for that matter, it has stopped most all organizations from bringing teams down to Haiti. Which means our sales in the boutique are at an all time low. It’s hard to keep my boutique staff earning full-time wages when the business just isn’t there. Two of the ladies came to me a few weeks ago, saying how their pay just isn’t cutting it. They aren’t able to buy enough food and they need more work. I sigh and cry with them because I’m trying as hard as I can to provide full-time wages, but I can’t run my business into the ground either.

I regularly loan employees money to help them grow their small businesses they do at their homes or to help with medical emergencies and for the time being I’ve had to stop all of that due to a lack of cash flow. It hurts and it hurts even more not knowing when things are going to take a turn for the better.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s been the hardest to stay motivated. It’s hard to want to be here at all. With no signs of the political situation getting any better and living with a constant tension in my gut as I travel into the city, not knowing if it will be safe or not, the level four is emotionally exhausting. Lots of friends and expats left in February and lots of them just never came back. Their organizations have either decided that they won’t be hosting anyone in Haiti until the level four goes back to a three or they personally decided it just wasn’t best for them to return.

That’s another part of the overseas living they don’t warn you about: the revolving door of people in your life. The walls you’ll unintentionally build up because you just don’t know if you can let one more person in, knowing they’ll just “go back” sooner or later. The unspoken amount of bitterness you’ll unintentionally hold towards the people that are able to “get out” and the amount of distrust you’ll have towards “newcomers” – unintentionally held, of course.

The level four just makes it seem more extreme and the loss of relationships harder.

And there’s the other part where people “back home” will be quick to say, “just move back” or “we need to get you out of there” because they just cannot fathom how we could live here, especially due to the political nightmare. Maybe they even pass a bit of judgement for being here and putting myself in danger, because remember the part where I’m pregnant? Yeah, I get it. I should be putting myself and my family first but, it’s just not that easy!

Again, the level four makes it feel so much more extreme.

Curious of what other countries are at a level four these days? Afghanistan because of crime and terrorism. Iraq because of terrorism and armed conflict. Libya because of terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict. North Korea because of the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention. Somalia because of crime, terrorism and piracy. Haiti because of civil unrest, crime, kidnapping and robbery. These are just a few of the thirteen countries that are at a level four.

Again, I write carefully, because I don’t want to paint this awful picture of Haiti, but ya know, it’s just a hard season because of the level four and the tension.

I wish I could explain the tension and the power it has. Maybe it’s not worthy of the power I give it, but damn, it sure does have it.

The level four, in all its essence, is the devil himself. He’s tension. He’s crime. He’s corruption. He’s all the feelings of tension, chaos, and disruption.

The level four has stole Haiti’s pace. Satan wins every day when he steals all my peace.

The level four has destroyed businesses and the Haitian economy. Satan wins every day when he steals my motivation to move my business forward.

The level four means the government is still unstable. Satan has won by letting the government be run by corruption and function in pure chaos.

That’s what the level four is: Satan himself.

So, would you please continue to pray for Haiti and its people? That somehow the economy would see a breakthrough and the people in the markets would see their sales and efforts multiplied so that the least of them would have their needs met. Pray that the cost of food would somehow, miraculously, go down. Pray that the few dollars mamas have in their pockets would be multiplied as they shop for their littles and bellies would go to bed satisfied and full. Pray for our business and so many businesses like Rosie’s, that are fighting for justice and change. May our efforts and work make waves for the future generation. May debts be cancelled and chains broken. May Haiti be set free from all the corruption and injustice.

Pray for strength to just keep standing firm on the promises and callings God has put on our lives. May we be the light in the darkness.

Pray the work of the devil would surpass and that God would gain back all the territory in a land filled with spiritual darkness, voodoo and heaviness. Pray the level four would be reduced to a level three and we can feel the tensions reside and life somehow go “back to normal”

Love from Haiti.

just curious…

I’m just curious…

If one of your co-workers came in tomorrow to the office and told you their house had flooded during the night, would you be led to help?

If someone in your community stood in line with you while you both waited for coffee and told you how during last night’s storm she had to wake up all her children because the rain had rushed into their house and gotten them all wet, would you feel moved to help?

If a friend on Facebook started a fundraiser for someone you knew who had a roof that leaked every time it rained, would you contribute to the cause?

I’m just curious, you know…

Because, it’s rainy season here again.

And so many people I love and work with and fight for have all in the last week come and told me all of the above scenarios.

I feel pretty lonely as I stand in my office and listen to the one explain to me – with a smile on her face, mind you – how she had to literally pick up all three of her sleeping children off the ground because they were soaking wet on an old shabby rug that makes up their bed. The rain had rushed into their small home made of tent in the middle of the night and her and her children then had to spend the next two hours sitting up on her own bed – which I’ve sat on before and it’s set up on concrete blocks and made of plywood and old sheets – waiting for the rain to stop. This particular mama also has an almost one-year-old baby, so I asked her where the baby was during all the chaos? “Oh! The baby doesn’t sleep with us at night, my neighbor (who we built a house for over a year ago) let’s the baby sleep with her at night to protect her from the rain!”

So, what we have is a family who has to sit up during most of the night, shivering and waiting for the rain to stop and a baby who has to sleep a few doors away from her own mama just to stay dry and warm. We have a mama who finds a way to provide for her family by taping our greeting cards at the boutique every Wednesday; I don’t even know how she has the energy to get here after hearing about her night. And, before coming to work, she sends her children to school exhausted from a sleepless night in the rain. I wonder how they even can thrive with such realities? Are they even thriving?

I just really can’t deal with these realities.

But, here they are, those harsh and crude realities, in my face, every…single…day.

So, after a few more people come and tell me how the rain is causing havoc, I just begin to wonder…

If these realities were in your faces every day, would you act more promptly?

If the harshness could somehow reach your every day, busy, normal lives, would you be moved to move just a bit out of your comfort zone to keep these loved ones safe?

If the faces behind these stories became people that you knew and interacted with every day – just like I do – would you feel led to change some things in your life so they would be taken better care of? Would you financially give more? Would you set up a bake sale on Saturday? Would you go to bed with a knot in your stomach? Would your mind keep spinning and running a million miles an hour just like mine does?

Or would everything just stay the same?

I’m just curious…

I’ve been telling this same story of dirt floors, leaking roofs, tattered tents and frayed homes for years. It feels like it is a part of my actual DNA now. But, how do I not become a broken record to all of you?

How do we come up with the money to keep these brothers and sisters safe and dry?

I’m tired and point blank out of ideas, which is probably why my curiosity is getting the best of me. Yet, somehow I still hold on to hope and believe that each family who brings their piece of paper showing land ownership will one day have a safe roof to sleep under. God hasn’t made me a millionaire yet, so unfortunately, my bank account give any more than what it already does, but maybe someone out there will be moved by the Holy Spirit to show up for these families.

I’m here to do the legwork in Haiti, all I need is some creativity and resources from America!

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supply & demand

It was a Sunday in January and I was playing cards with my mom and friend, Paige, when I got the call.

The call carried heavy, heavy news. My dear friend Johanne had passed away. The call came from Marrah, Johanne’s younger sister.

I’d been working alongside Johanne since 2011. She was one of the original artisans I had worked with. She was one of the women who I just felt a deep responsibility for – it’s hard to explain that “responsibility” and it may be the wrong word to use as a description, but it’s just how I felt. It’s how I still feel today.

My two last memories with her are so engrained in my mind.

She had been sick for a while and she just never seemed to have answers for her illness. So, I went to her house one morning – it was November sometime – and there she lay on the ground, unable to sit up on her own. So, I literally picked her up, carried her on my own back to my vehicle and brought her to a nearby clinic. The blood results came back and they were pretty serious, but there was a treatment and I felt hopeful. A month later, her health seemed to be much better and Christmas was nearing. We were together at an event with many people around and she pulled me aside at one point and thanked me for taking her to the clinic and helping her find a treatment.

I remember looking in her eyes and just saying, “of course.” I told her how happy I was just to see her standing. I encouraged her to keep taking her medicine. She smiled, we hugged and I felt hopeful that her health was being restored.

Something happened though, because within one month, she was gone.

After I received the call about her passing, I went to her home. They had taken every single material item out of her small house – which we had built together through savings and hard word – and had her body wrapped in a white sheet in the middle of the small room. I wept on my knees next to her that afternoon. My heart still aches for her. For her two girls, who are now orphans. And for her sister, Marrah, who now carries the responsibility for her two nieces.

I struggle to tell this story. It seems unfair that Johanne isn’t here today to tell it herself. It seems unfair that she didn’t experience the healing we were so hopeful for. There’s just a lot about her death that seems so unfinished. Like, I never got the closure I somehow needed, not that I could even answer what that closure would be if you were to ask, but doesn’t it almost just take your breath away when you think about death? How sudden it can come up on you? Just when you’re not expecting it? When you’re caught being hopeful and then…death. So, so final.

I’ve made a commitment to Johanne that I will see her girls through school. That’s a personal thing I’m doing. But, since her passing, at least once a month, her sister, Marrah, continues to call me.

When I see her number pop up on my phone its as if I’m getting the call again. Reminding me of the sudden loss, the pain, the lack of closure. Yesterday, she called and said she had no food for the girls. She’s not even asking for money, she just keeps asking me for work.

So, without the demand in the business, I said, “Marrah, come to Rosie’s next week. I will give you some greeting cards you can make and it will help you be able to buy food for the girls.”

After Marrah’s call I went to Tytoo to run Starfish, just like I do every other Tuesday.

I was sitting in the office going through some receipts, when Andrelise knocked on the door. Andrelise was part of the Starfish program last year and she’s one of the few I feel like we just didn’t do enough for.

She hands me a green piece of paper and I ask, “what’s this?” Curiosity and a bit of annoyance run through my veins. She answers, “It’s my report card. I want to show you that I can read and write.”

I kind of laugh out loud at that point, wondering why a report card from the 80’s would mean anything to me. She continues to explain how she sees her friends making cards for me and how she would like to have the same work. She explains how her health is fragile, her kids are grown and are taking care of their own kids now, and she just needs a little job so she can buy food each week for herself. She adds on the detail that she hasn’t eaten since Saturday (it’s Tuesday) and if it weren’t for Jesus she would be dead.

Her words, not mine.

So, for the second time in the same day, I take a long, deep breath and say “Andrelise, come to Rosie’s next week. I will give you some greeting cards you can make and it will help you be able to buy food.”

A few more women file into the office and I meet their needs and problem solve through their requests and then Sentia enters with her two month old daughter in her arms. This baby, you guys, has the most incredible hair and smiles at me as I smother her in kisses. When you hold these babies in your arms and you know how highly the odds are stacked against their innocent little lives…you just can barely breathe.

Sentia was pregnant at the beginning of the year when we were giving out all of our small business loans, so she didn’t want to start a business then. We’ve paid a year’s worth of rent for her, but the year is coming to an end. Her eyes are filled with fear and I get it. Well, I don’t get it because I will never know what it’s like to be in her shoes and have to face the poverty she faces each and every day. But, I mean, I still kind of get…I begin to get it just by seeing it.

I sure do see her and those fear-filled eyes.

She continues, tears start to fill her eyes now, and says she just doesn’t know what she will do when Starfish is finished next month. Her rent will be up and she will have no way to pay that. The only food she eats most weeks is the food we send her home with at Starfish. She asks, “how will I eat and be able to produce milk for my baby when Starfish is finished?”

So, for the third time in the same day, with an even deeper sigh, I say, “Sentia, come to Rosie’s next week. I will give you some greeting cards you can make and it will help you be able to buy food and pay your rent in a few months.”

I know, not a good business move, guys.

I took an economics class in college and I can clearly see that supply and demand chart drawn out on the chalkboard in the big university lecture hall. To be a good entrepreneur, the trick is to be able to buy and meet the demand but somehow be able to read into the future and not overbuy or overproduce and get stuck with extra inventory. The wise entrepreneur move right now is to not hire any new mamas for at least the next six months.

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We just trained a handful of new mamas in this last season to meet all the demand for Christmas and that was great. We’re still riding out that excitement by building up our online inventory and filling other orders, but to hire more mamas, right now? Nope, not a wise business move.

But, what did Kayla just do yesterday? Hired three more mamas.

So, I went to bed last night with a million ideas swirling in my mind, a big ol’ pit in my stomach and Satan sat right there with me and just kept affirming, “GIRL, you’re so dumb. You are going to make this all burn up in flames. All these ladies are depending on you now and you’re going to fail them.”

But, then this morning, I woke up and a peace somehow resided in me. I let God take his place on my other shoulder and He said, “Tell their stories. Use your gifts. Spread awareness. Be creative. You were made for this.

Man, I love it when I choose to listen to God. That’s what this whole journey has been all about that. Listening and following. Listening to the stories of suffering, choosing to see through His eyes, and following His direction to meet their needs.

The needs? Obviously astronomical.

How do we even begin to meet the needs? Well, it starts with a zip-lock bag of forty cards with string bundled inside. The string gets stitched into the cards with beautiful designs and the beautiful hands that do all the stitching? They get paid. They take their earnings and buy food, pay rent and send their kids to school. Every Wednesday these women walk into the boutique and we get to hug them, wrap our arms around them and love them. That’s my favorite part, because that’s where the gospel gets put into play.

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Then, literally like children, all filled up with love and dignity, we get to send them out into the world, zip-lock baggies in tote, with the means to take care of their babies.

That’s the part when I get to breathe again. It’s the most beautiful thing to see it all in action.

Because, here’s the thing. Poverty? Oppression? Corruption? So, so complex.

The suffering? The pain? The trauma and tragedy? So, so hard.

But, these cards? This product? So, so simple.

Seriously, I don’t know what else to say except that it is changing lives, AND has the potential to reach and change SO many more lives.

All we have to do is create the demand. So, would you help me do just that?

Here’s four simple ways we can create more demand:

  • S H O P – all of our greeting cards are available online: https://www.rosiesboutiquehaiti.com/collections/gift-cards
  • S E L L – we have a great wholesale rate! Maybe you have a friend with a boutique or coffee shop that could sell the cards? Maybe your church could sell the cards as part of its ministry? email me for instructions on how to purchase wholesale: roseisboutique.haiti@gmail.com
  • F U N D R A I S E – we’ve all got reasons to fundraise! Receive our wholesale rate and sell the cards to go towards your fundraiser!
  • C U S T O M I Z E – maybe you work for a business or organization that is constantly sending out cards & thank-you’s. Let’s team up and create a custom card!

Thanks for believing & fighting for a future where families stay together and mamas can feed and care for their babies.

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time : all things, good & bad

Time is such a weird concept. Six months have flown by since I’ve last written a post. I’ve had so many things to write, yet time always gets away from me. Or maybe it’s me letting time get away.

I’m not sure.

I remember embracing the month of June with much excitement. In the month of June, I felt super accomplished. Super bad ass. Just super on top of things. In the first six months of 2018, we had built – from the ground up, every square inch – Rosie’s expansion. My dad, mom, Paige and I were basically superheroes during that project. Not to mention the two teams from Iowa who came down to help with the roof. Literally, there was no stopping us. There was a two week span where I actually believed I would just be painting for the rest of my life. We just painted, non-stop, for days on end. Superheroes.

We opened the doors on March 7th and it was a complete whirlwind from then on out. We had record breaking sales the month of June and I just felt…good. I truly am living out my dreams when I’m in that space.

The Lord worked in so many other ways those first few months. I had revamped and completely re-started the Starfish Program. I felt really confidant in all the decisions I had made for the future of the program. I felt good about it.

Our greeting cards ministry through Rosie’s continued to grow. Holiday orders were coming in, I was training more mamas and seeing the impact of those jobs be truly transformational in these women’s lives. Everything about that work and those relationships felt good.

(Side note, I studied graphic design in college. In my very first graphic design class as a sophomore I was asked what my dream job would be and my answer then was to design greeting cards. I’ve just always loved a well-designed greeting card + I believe in the power of a word of encouragement. Fast forward to 2018, I now design all of the greeting cards our mamas make + I do it with an amazing tribe of women both in Iowa and in Haiti. That’s how cool God is; He never forgets our heart’s desires. Greeting cards and all.)

Another exciting thing that happened in those first six months was God opening up doors for us to partner with Beljoy jewelry. The founder of Beljoy came to visit in March and everything just felt good. I’ll be honest, I went into the meetings with walls up, but the Lord tore them right down and allowed me to be transparent, comfortable and peaceful as we made decisions to partner together. Five women started working for Beljoy in Rosie’s kitchen in May and it has felt like the perfect answered prayer from all my pleas for God to just give opportunities to Starfish mamas. Jobs, as it turns out, are the answer to…well, everything.

I couldn’t be more excited about this partnership. You wouldn’t even believe the personal full story of redemption if I told you…but, that’s for another blog. Anyways, it just feels good. The artisans are now working in a great space in Simonette.

So, in June I wanted to write a blog post. Talk about how good the first six months of the year had been. How on fire our business was. How on fire my spirit was. But, then, they actually just lit Haiti on fire for an entire week-end and things kind of just fell apart, both in Haiti and in my spirit.

The world cup was happening at the time and Haiti’s favorite team is Brazil. It was a Friday afternoon and Brazil wound up losing their game as the Prime Minister made announcements that the price of gas would be raised significantly over night. There’s a whole back story to this mess, just google “Petro Karibe Haiti” to learn more. But, essentially the country just lost it. Entire businesses were set on fire and looted. Every corner had burning tires and road blocks. We had a team of 16 people visiting and we barely got them to the airport Monday morning.

It was complete drama and chaos.

My family would fly out of Haiti on Tuesday (this was always our planned itinerary) and because I’m naturally a mess, I spent Monday throwing up and on an IV. No better way to pack your family of six and prepare to leave the country than spending the day in bed sick. So much sarcasm there, guys.

Anyways, we made it out in one piece. We spent five glorious weeks in America, doing all the American things. We had precious time with my brand new nephew, made memories with cousins on the lake, had sleepovers with friends & ate so much food. It was beyond good.

We came back to Haiti mid-August and that’s when things went from good…to well, epically bad. I just fell apart on the inside. Business was bad because when a country decides to light itself on fire, people will in fact stop going there. It took a two full months before things felt “back to normal”. August is also “back to school” time, which means everyone – and I mean every one – needs money and help. I worked really hard those first three weeks back prepping all of the Starfish kids to go back to school – all 113 of them. I also had hundreds of hours of work to do on my computer to make all of our updated sponsorship cards for Touch of Hope. And my lab-top decided to have a meltdown in the midst of all that, too. I felt super overwhelmed, super alone and super not good.

My high in June was so far gone and I didn’t know what to do. I remember crying to Webert one night and just saying, “I hate that I hate Haiti. You’re not suppose to hate the place you live like this. I just hate it.” And, I felt trapped. I felt like I was drowning. I questioned everything. I even had a meltdown about pistachios.

I went back to America a month later with Rubie, because God is also gracious and I had enough free miles for a free trip. I healed and pulled it back together quite a bit on that trip, but here’s the thing…

The year is almost finished and the burdens of the unmet needs still feel unbearable. I turned 29-years-old this month and I’ve lived most of my days this year totally on fire. I’ve built what seems to be my dream business, I’ve watched the ministries I run grow into things far bigger than what I could have ever imagined and yet, I feel like I’m a day away from quitting most days. It’s just hard.

It’s hard to hear the continual stories of hungry babies and unpaid school fees. It’s hard to hear how people can’t afford to sign up for a $35 month sponsorship commitment because they’re in too much personal debt. It’s hard to see where the poor sleep, knowing every time it rains they’ll be drenched. It’s hard to see the garage sales, storage units and houses just full of so much stuff in America. It’s hard knowing that for $4,000 a family in Haiti could have a safe, new home. It’s hard knowing how quickly we can spend $4,000 on earthly things. It’s hard to see how little the poor have. It’s hard to see how much people have in America.

It’s hard to be a part of superficial conversations. It’s hard to fake it. It’s hard when people just don’t get it.

It’s hard to always have it together for the Haitians, who expect basically everything from you. It’s hard to be seen as their only hope. It’s hard to be seen as the “girl who lives in Haiti” and to keep it together for the donors.

It’s hard to always be good.

It’s hard to be wise. It’s hard to know when to ask and when to just let the Lord show up. It’s hard not to get angry. It’s hard not to think about the mom who also just lost her three-year-old this past weekend because she had no emergency room to take her to in the middle of the night. By the time dawn came, it was just too late.

It’s hard not to go crazy. It’s hard not to just be bitter. It’s hard to just get up and go out some days. It’s hard to stay good when everything around just seems to stay so hard.

Yet, I have to believe that God’s still doing a good work in me, even if I don’t see it yet. He’s also just always refining me. And to be refined, we have to work through all the hard stuff. And maybe, for right now, that’s why I’m not good. Because, I’m working through the hard stuff. I’m asking the hard questions. I’m doubting the good. I’m questioning the systems and believing there’s got to be a better way. But just wondering, how do we find it? I’m feeling all the feels and I’m crying when I need to cry (which is a lot!)

So, here we are, at the end of the blog and I don’t know how to pull it together necessarily. So, I’m just going to end with some unspoken needs:

1.) I have two super sweet girls whose mom’s are in Starfish this year. They both have CP and both mom’s are constantly requesting XL diapers. Would anyone out there like to sponsor either girl for $20/month so their moms can buy diapers? I’ll send you super sweet pictures of them.

2.) I have a pile of 15 papers that I’ve been praying over for months now. Each paper is from a mama who is need of housing for her and her children. I have funding for 8 homes, would anyone out there like to raise $4,000 to build a home for a family in need? I need seven more!

3.) I have a new stack of sponsorship cards printed. Each child needs a sponsor. In order to keep our school open and running, we need 50 more sponsors to cover our monthly budget. So, who’s into investing in a child’s education? You’ll play a major role in the future of Haiti’s next generation, pretty powerful stuff, if I don’t say so myself.

4.) I have 18 mamas working full-time on our greeting cards. They’re the best. But, I have a vision to see this number double by 2019. It’s simple, all you have to do is buy more of our cards. We have a great wholesale rate, so send your friends with boutiques or businesses our way. Also, for the churches, our greeting cards are a great avenue to do ministry. Let’s become churches who encourage; use our greeting cards + employ mamas. It’s one of the most beautiful things and is making the biggest impact here!

5.) Lastly, I have a hunch a bunch of you are playing the lottery, so if any of you by chance happen to win the 2 billion dollars, just remember me. All I want is 1 million dollars. So simple.

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And, if you made it this far. Thanks for that. This was a long post. Here’s a beautiful picture I snapped the other night on my porch. I hope you’ll have the chance to watch a sunset on my porch, drink a cold beer and talk all the hard things with me some day. I think together, we can make this world a little bit more wonderful. It’s a slow kingdom coming, but it sure is a beautiful coming.

Love from Haiti,

Kayla

 

 

 

 

 

 

hidden idolatry

I’m just going to be honest for a second.

I think about moving to America. Like, a lot.

I ask my husband at least once a week, “so…when do you think we will move to America?” I’m like a five-year-old child when it comes to the subject.

The reality is that we are no where close to being able to. We are handing in final adoption papers at the end of this month and we were told it would be one full year before it’s finalized. So, we have a least one full year of Haiti living left.

But, I still think about it. I won’t even lie, I found myself looking up floor plans for small farm houses on Pinterest the other day. I want to build my family a home of our own.

I want to sign my boys up for summer baseball. I want to sign Wishla up for gymnastics. I want to go on evening walks with Rubie and play with her at a park. On the week-ends, I want to do activities. I actually just want to be a soccer mom, running my kids around to all their activities. I want to see what my kids love and what they don’t love.

I tried learning how to play the oboe in fourth grade. It was a complete disaster. I wonder what instruments my kids would sign up for. I wonder if they would fail or if they would soar.

It’s not that I obsess over this whole idea. It doesn’t stop me from working each day. It doesn’t stop me from reaching out to my neighbors or from making commitments. It isn’t that I live with the mindset of “oh sorry, I can’t, because I’m moving to America.” It’s none of that. But, I find myself just thinking about it a lot. Daydreaming, if you’d like.

And, here’s what happened the other day. I kept thinking of all these reasons why Haiti will never be enough. I realized that I had somehow put my imaginary life in America on an imaginary pedestal and no matter how many blessings of joy or peace or abundance God sent my way that day, it wouldn’t ever be good enough because it wouldn’t be the life in America I dream of. And I realized how I was beginning to take so many breathtaking, beautiful moments for granted.

For example. I’ve been given this chance to run a non-profit with my family. And this non-profit educates over ONE THOUSAND kids. Every day these kids walk from miles away to sit on wooden benches and learn their ABC’s. They run around our schoolyard with a joy that can’t be mistaken for. I have the opportunity to photograph these beautiful kids, ask them their names and their birthdays. They tell me their favorite colors and we hold hands as I take them back to their classrooms. Then, I sit there, for hours at a time editing the pictures and making them into sponsorship cards so the kindest of people can sponsor them, allowing the entire operation to keep going.

I’m the person in the background. I do some really boring and time consuming stuff to make it all look pretty. But, would you look at these faces? I’m the lucky one who gets to interact and play with all these little ones.

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And then you hear stories like Dordjy’s and realize just how big of a blessing it is to be living out this wild life. Dordjy lost both his mama & papa as a babe so some brave woman from the community took him in. Now he’s a preschooler at our school and when I heard his story, my heart broke. Then he smiled at me and gave me a high-five and I wanted to squeeze his cheeks forever. I immediately adopted him in my heart as my own village kid. You wouldn’t believe the number of village kids I have adopted in my heart. What a life.

So, here’s what I’ve learned. A lot of people make money or success or a million other things idols in their lives. I’ve made a life in America mine. Satan is so good at his game that we don’t even realize we have stored up these idols in our heart. It starts with a simple thought, like, “oh yeah, some day when we move to America…” and then the next thing you know you have an entire Pinterest board about a fake, imaginary life.

I’ve allowed this idea of raising my family in America to become something so fabulous that nothing in Haiti will ever be good enough. And when I do this, Satan triumphs.

He stops me from enjoying the laughter on the playground. He stops me from seeing the miracles. He stops me from being filled by all the ways Haiti knows how to fill me right up. He keeps me feeling all sorts of empty. He makes me bitter. He makes me envious. He makes me dwell in that good ol’ sinful nature that we are all so good at dwelling in.

So, I am going to keep dreaming of America. I am. I see how these desires and dreams for my family are just fine. If anything, I’m seeing it as God planting seeds today to grow into something for tomorrow.

But, I am going to stop idolizing this American dream. Because, no matter where my family is living, there’s beauty to be captivated by. There’s still so much to enjoy, here in the present. Maybe God will never give us America, I’m sure I’ll get over it one way or another, but I’m sure whatever He does give us will be nothing less than good

And, I want nothing less than the good that God has in store for my family and I.

I want you to experience the good He has for you, too. But first, we must tear down those idols we have built up in our hearts. What’s yours? Don’t let Satan get in the way of embracing all the good God has in store for you today.

Love from Haiti.