{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

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.

the expansion is finished

It’s finished, you guys.

The expansion. It’s complete.

The foundation is poured. The walls lay high. The rafters crisscross and the roof provides all the shade. There’s the outdoor patio and the office with so much space. There’s the extra storage room and a huge island in the middle of the kitchen where salsa magic happens.

It’s a dream that I get to walk into each day.

I can remember the day I launched this crazy idea of salsa & greeting cards & more space into the world. I had no idea how to raise $100k. I had no idea what I was really getting myself into at all.

But, I took the leap and I dreamt big and prayed bigger.

These magical, honestly kind folks rallied in my corner. On a summer’s eve last June, so many people walked into the Rosie’s in Rock Rapids, Iowa. They looked at floor plans and budgets and tasted our mango salsa. It was then that I knew God was going to do it A L L. The money started coming in and more people came rallying into our corner. Friends raised money over Facebook, another friend wrote a blog, others cheered us on from afar and others traveled all the way to Haiti to see this project through.

In Haiti, things take years. Literally. No project is ever done efficiently, effectively, or economically. It’s the opposite of our very efficient American mindsets. But, this expansion project could not have happened any more quickly. From the day the stakes for the foundation were set, there was no turning back. And I have to believe Satan was too afraid to even come close and try to disrupt the insanity of it all. Everything went so well. Sure, there were frustrations, miscommunications and hiccups, but nothing that ever truly set us back.

T O D A Y.

Today, Rosie’s is employing four Salsa Sisters. Now that we have a real kitchen and space to work out of, we hope to see this business grow quickly and employ more. Rosie’s greeting cards is providing jobs to eight other mamas. We have two boutique employees, a cleaning lady and a boutique manager, who helps me oversee salsa and card production.

Gertrude. Genese. Anise. Rosie.

Malette. Marie Maude. Juliette. Marie Marthe. Marilene. Mamoune. Guerline. Lenise.

Daphne. Christella. Elyse. Hermanie.

These women gathered together on opening day and we worshiped and prayed together on our front patio. They all signed contracts – not a single one of them have ever done so in their lives. And, they all have the opportunity to care for their families with dignity because of their jobs.

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I hope this list of employees only continues to grow. I hope we can continue investing into other companies by consistently purchasing their goods. Just in the last two months, we added three more companies to our boutique. I hope we can continue this conversation of orphan prevention and be brave enough to stand up for the injustices all around us.

I hope this place…this expansion…is a light in our community, a safe place for long-term missionaries, a highlight for visitors on their trips, and a business that changes the course of people’s future.

May people find their way through our doors and leave hopeful. Hopeful for a brighter future. Hopeful for a better Haiti. Hopeful for a better world.

Our purchases, our lifestyles, our choices are what will change the world. Choose wisely, friends.

Love from a grateful and humbled dreamer,

Kayla

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to the oval office

I can understand how some one might look at the country of Haiti and label it as a “shithole” – the moment you land here in the heart of Port-au-Prince, the smell of burning garbage, the loud noises of traffic, the intense heat and the sight of extreme poverty will overwhelm your senses. If you’re the arrogant, egotistical and narcissistic type, you’ll surely only be able to see shit and label it for what it seems: a shithole.

But, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll come to Haiti and have the opportunity to be a part of Haiti’s story, which is written with so much strength and fortitude. You’ll have to first jump off the high horse you so arrogantly ride, but if you’re courageous enough to do so, you’ll see people whose stories are full of redemption, resilience and spirit. You’ll be nothing short of breathless and inspired.

I have been thinking about the President in the Oval Office because of his recent comments and my heart aches for him a bit, actually. It must be so lonely up “at the top” where nothing but power and money and ego reside. There must just be a point where people “at the top” – not just the president, but all leaders, political or not – can no longer climb up, so they feel they have the right to only look down and degrade. They’re so small themselves, wayyyy up there, they need to make everyone below them feel small, too. I can’t fathom the amount of entitlement they must feel. Although we are expected to make it to the top, I imagine it’s probably a horrible place to be, because it’s the only reason I can come up with that would make a person so miserable to want to say such horrible things. I don’t know what else would motivate such constant hate and negativity.

To be in power and to have so much control, it must be overwhelming. To have so much money and come from such a prestigious place, it must create such a prideful environment. Seriously, think about how toxic it must be to all those around? The darkness. Ugh, it’s so deeply troubling and saddening.

I have been thinking about what it would be like to sit in the Oval Office and have a conversation with the President of the United States and I don’t even know where I would begin. I would more than likely just sit there with tears in my eyes, but I hope I would eventually become brave enough to tell him about my life.

A life full of so many incredible experiences…really, daily experiences…where I’m humbled and privileged to live and work in a country he claims to be a “shithole”. I would tell him about all the beautiful people I serve and the ones whose lives were taken too early due to natural disasters, illness and starvation. I would tell him how I’m a stronger, more beautiful person because I’ve had the chance to live in a place he will more than likely never have the audacity to visit. I would hope to have the strength to tell him about the really hard days, where the problems seem unsolvable and the hardship feels too unbearable. I would also hope that my faith would be strong enough to tell him about the incredible opportunity I have to look up and out with faith, to a God who sees it all.

I also hope I could bear witness to him about the Jesus I know. I would tell him about my Jesus who dwelled with the sick and poor, who built no walls, and who welcomed all. I would hope that Jesus’s message of grace would soften the president’s heart and allow him the opportunity to see people for who they are. I would hope that he would begin to see past color and status and religion and nationality and start to see people as humans…for from ashes we are all formed and to ashes we will all return.

Really, I’m trying to understand what it must be like to be you, Mr. President. Maybe you’ve never been shown grace. Maybe you’ve never had the chance to experience real joy. Maybe your life has been built on earthly things that you’ve never had the real opportunity to experience true love. Maybe you’re so wounded inside that all you can give the world is pride and hate. I don’t know. I pray for you today, though, Mr. President.

I also invite you. I invite you to my home in Haiti. First you will meet the most incredible Haitian man who has forged a way for the people of his community. He’s my husband and some day I hope he will also be an American citizen. After meeting him, you’ll have the chance to meet my three adopted kids who have incredible stories of survival. They too have dreams of living in America and getting their educations there. I hope you won’t be the person to take that away from them. Then you’ll meet my Rubie, who has a white mama and a black papa and is nothing but a light to this dark world.

I’ll take you on a walk through the village, where you’ll meet the kindest of souls. I will ask my friends if we can be invited into their homes, where I know they will offer you a chair and a cold Coke. You won’t imagine the blessing it is to receive gifts from people who have literally no material possessions. We can venture to the mountains and I’ll watch as your breath will be taken away by the views. We can spend time at the beaches and as we head back to my home I will be sure to take you to the local markets, where you won’t even be able to the fathom the work ethic of the Haitian people. Their strength to provide for their families will leave you speechless.

Mr. President, I invite you to have your world shattered. I invite you to step down from your pedestal and come see these people, face-to-face. I invite you to be ruined, only to be redeemed with hope. I invite you, knowing you’ll experience a joy that only Haiti can offer.

I’ll encourage you to reconsider your words and think about all that Haitians (and so many other people from other developing countries) have to offer the United States. Their work ethic. Their ingenuity. Their beauty. It would be an honor for the United States to welcome so many of these people. I get there’s a place for screening and applications and interviews for visas, but let’s shine some light on all the things these people have to offer!

Lastly, I would end with the story about January 12, 2010. I had just finished spending a week in the hospital with my mother, who battled an acute case of Hepatitis A, which she had contracted in Haiti. As a 19-year-old, I faced the decision to be screened as a possible liver donor if it came my mom needing a transplant. I watched people pray over her in the hospital room and I watched Jesus heal her. I watched doctors tell my mom that a transplant would no longer be needed and they had no medical reasoning for her dramatic healing. I remember sitting in the hospital hotel’s room with my dad as he told me that if I wanted to believe in good, I also needed to believe in evil. I could no longer be the same person as God performed the most beautiful of miracles to save my mom. My mom should have been in Haiti during the earthquake that devastated Haiti, but instead she was in a hospital. She was suppose to be visiting a little boy she had rescued from an orphanage the month before. We will never be able to explain it, but God’s always had his hand on our story.

I believe in miracles, Mr. President. I also believe your heart and the Oval Office are in need of one. I think evil is reigning in that place and I pray for the Holy Spirit to storm in and take it back. May all things be redeemed according to His good and perfect will.

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

 

 

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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