{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

this |part 3|

img_1422

Our first batch of salsa served at Rosie’s!

Over the last six months we have started holding worship services each Sunday at Tytoo. It’s kind of like a house church, you could say. We are inviting, who we believe, are the overlooked in our community. Webert and his cousin, Blondino, lead the services. Another member from the community has really stepped up in leadership as well as one of our own security guards from the orphanage. We have seen a few of our orphanage children accept Jesus and get baptized. This past week-end Loveson and Jeffte also accepted Jesus! Stories of redemption are beginning to be told and it’s crazy what can happen when you ask for the Spirit to show up and work among a group of messy people.

Last week when ten women showed up at Tytoo’s gate all asking for me, I had no idea what to tell them, (see previous blog) so I extended them an invitation to our service on Sunday. This last week we also had a visiting team working at Tytoo and one of their projects was building us more benches for church. At first I didn’t really think we needed so many more built, but I was proven wrong as these ten women and their children filled our new benches.

It was the largest gathering we have had thus far and the Holy Spirit sent goose bumps up my spine as the shelter echoed with hallelujiah’s.

img_1468

At the end of the service Blondino asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus and a tiny woman made her way to the front. Tears welled in her eyes and her voice crackled as she told us all about her husband’s death and her struggle to care for her two young children. Before her husband passed away, he asked her to find a church so she could have a new family. So, on Sunday we held her hands and welcomed her into our messy family of believers.

This. This is the kind of holiday season I want to be a part of.

After church, a group of us headed to Minoterie to hand the keys to a brand new house over to Marie Marthe, a woman of the Starfish Program. As we clapped and celebrated, Marie Marthe reminisced on all the nights she didn’t sleep because the rain would fall inside on her and her five children. With the sweetest of smiles painted across her face, she told us how she couldn’t wait to sleep soundly when it rains.

How simple. How beautiful. How incredible. It’s amazing what $4,000 can do for a family, how their entire lives can be transformed by a simple concrete floor and a solid tin roof over their heads.

Sleep well, dear one.

img_1475

img_1477

Marie Marthe’s old house hides to the right of her beautiful new home!

Again, this. This is how I think Jesus wants us to celebrate his birthday.

This season, I commit myself to holding hands with the ones who feel unheard and forgotten. This season, I want to make a way for job creation and invest in something that will actually make a difference. This season, I want to have the faith to walk out the visions the Lord has laid upon my heart.

This season I’m also going to get a little crazy. So, brace yourselves, I’m about to reveal to you my craziest of ideas yet! I really feel like the Lord has laid a new vision on my heart and it’s time for me to go from praying about it and thinking about it and enter into a season where I put these thoughts into action. For faith without actions is dead, and I’m not about to be caught with a faith like that this time of year.

So, this is me, putting it out there for the world to see:

The vision of Rosie’s was given to me a little over three years ago. I was beginning to see the direct impact full-time employment could have for a family and I wanted to fight for that. At this time, I was also realizing Haiti wasn’t going to be a short-time gig for me. With an engagement ring on my finger, I wasn’t just making a commitment to Webert, I was making one to a life in Haiti as well. Rosie’s was a vision to continue making an impact on people’s lives by helping promote their goods and a means to have a business that would make my family sustainable.

Rosie’s has become a beautiful place, where people visiting can see all the beautiful things being made by its own people. It’s also a place to find rest and a cool, refreshing drink – who can’t pass up a cookies and cream milkshake or frozen lemonade when it’s 95 degrees out! Rosie’s income also allows Webert and I to have our family’s basic needs met (we are really proud of the fact that we do not have to raise support!)

About a year ago I started parking my vehicle in an empty lot next door. Many months passed and I never paid much attention to the space, but one day it was like the blindfolds had been taken off of me. All of a sudden I was envisioning a building standing there; a building so large I would have more space for retail, a café could be built and space for people to sit and hang out. The walls all of a sudden went from unfinished and grey to bright colors with elaborate gates!

So, for the past few months, any time any one comes to visit me, I pull my vehicle into this empty lot and tell them about my vision. Before I left for the States, a man randomly walked into Rosie’s and asked me if I was interested in buying the piece of land where I park my car. I joked that I would love to but I didn’t have the money. He offered me the land for $20,000 and walked out the door.

As I spent two months in the States, I thought about this space. I have lots of great ideas to expand Rosie’s, but I’m literally out of room to make any of them become a reality.

A week before traveling back to Haiti, my family and I made a road trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to get Rubie’s passport. As I was driving home, with everyone else asleep in the vehicle, I began to think about Rosie’s. I thought about all the women I would have to face upon my return. I thought about the need for jobs. I thought about salsa and chips.

As I drove, I envisioned this space of women making salsa. I thought of all the people coming through Rosie’s eating all of our salsa. I thought about the groceries stores that only sell imported salsa for a ridiculous price. I thought about canning salsa and selling it to the grocery stores and to the beach resorts. I thought about the plantain chips that I buy on the side of the road and how delicious they would be in salsa.

I recognized the fact that I’ve never made homemade salsa in my life. I have never canned a single can of anything in my entire life either. I thought about how insane I was in that exact moment for even thinking about all of this salsa.I feel crazy even typing this all out.

So last week after I invited these ten women to church – because that’s all I could do – I Googled homemade salsa, made a grocery list and went to the local market and bought all the ingredients you need to make salsa. I invited some friends over to sample. I made up a bowl and served it to our visiting team at Tytoo. I brought the leftovers to bible study and shared my vision with the women there.

img_1513

As I held hands with the woman who had just accepted Jesus on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think about her making salsa and that’s when the Lord gave me the name:

Salsa Sisters

just a bunch of Sisters, gathered around making salsa,

making a way to take care of our children one can of salsa at a time

This. This is only something my God could dream up. Now it’s up to me to walk in faith and watch Him work His wonders.

So, who’s up for some salsa!?


 

I’m praying for the Lord to open the doors for us to buy my dream piece of land and build a beautiful, big new Rosie’s where salsa will be served every day of the week. Interested in being a part of something…something crazy that may just pave the way and break the chains of poverty? Something that may just bring the change we have been praying for? Something a little untraditional this holiday season? Well, this. This could be it.

The price of the land has now gone down to $17,000 and we believe the construction of a new building would be around $35,000.

Donations can be sent to

Touch of Hope

205 Old Mill Lane

Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

*memo: Salsa Sisters or Rosie’s expansion*

Touch of Hope is a recognized 501(3)c and all donations are tax-deductible

OR click here to make a donation through PayPal

If you would like to hear more about my vision and learn more information about Salsa Sisters and Rosie’s expansion, please contact me directly at rosiesboutique.haiti@gmail.com

Love from Haiti

this |Part 2|

This.

This has by far been one of the hardest transitions back to Haiti.

I’ve been trying to go at the same 100 mph pace I’ve been living at the last four years but trying to also slow down and treasure this sweet time with Rubie Jo.

I’ve been whispering to myself “slow down” but at the same time I feel this new sense of urgency to keep going 100 mph in order to help all the mamas around me.

This past week ten women showed up at the Tytoo gate asking for me. I had planned a meeting with three of them, so when ten walked through the gate you can imagine how surprised I was. I had no idea what I was going to say to them. I knew exactly what they were going to ask for: jobs and help. And, I knew I really had nothing to offer.

The women filled a small wooden bench, each of them touching shoulder-to-shoulder. I sat down in a plastic chair before them with Mami Sarah (our head Haitian mami at the orphanage, who also helps me and Lindsay with the Starfish Program) feeling a sense of defeat settling down deep.

One by one they told me their name. One by one they told me how many children they had. One by one they told me they have no hope because they have no way to provide for their children. One by one they told me how desperately they needed jobs. One by one they told me about the tents they and their children live in. One by one I looked them right in their eyes.

The last woman answered all my questions; I closed my notebook and closed my eyes. And this…this is what the Holy Spirit led me to tell them:

“I have two things to tell you today: First, you all know I just recently had a baby. Having this baby has changed my life. I’ve lived in Haiti for over four and a half years and I’ve seen and learned how hard life is here. I look at my baby and I cannot fathom how any mother would ever be able to abandon her child at an orphanage gate because she couldn’t take care of him or her. I know how much I love my baby girl and I know you all love your children the same.”

They all nodded in agreement. Judelande, a mother to three, sat in the middle of the bench and locked eyes with me with a shy smile on her face. I don’t now anything about her past and she knows nothing about mine, but I felt this deep understanding between the both of us in that moment because we both knew how much we love our babies.

I continued, “I want to be able to do everything I can to help you all take care of your children, because I never want to see a mom have to leave her child at an orphanage. Nothing breaks my heart more than this reality. Thinking about having to leave Rubie at an orphanage because I couldn’t take care of her is so unfathomable…”

I talked about God’s justice and how I don’t understand it sometimes. I talked about how I wanted to stay in America with my baby and not come back to Haiti because I knew it was going to be really hard for me. I told them the only reason I was sitting in that plastic chair before them was because I want nothing more than for them to be able to take care of their babies.

Tears welled in my eyes and they stayed quiet as I felt all of our mama hearts take a big ol’ sigh together, because, let’s be honest, the beautiful burden of motherhood is not always easy. And on this day all I could do was look these brave women in the eyes and share this burden with them, all the while having absolutely no idea how we would move forward!

I ended by saying this:

“I’m sorry I don’t have anything to offer to you today, but I have seen and I have looked all of you in the eyes. I will not forget you as I have seen you and have heard your struggles. I will continue to fight for you and your families every day to the best of my abilities.”

And while they may have been disappointed I couldn’t offer them anything physically, I did see a sense of relief in some of their eyes as I believe that sometimes all they really need is for someone to really see them. I felt like the Holy Spirit needed me to reassure them that they are seen and heard and never forgotten.

I say all of this because it’s Thanksgiving day and while we all count our blessings, I’m choosing to see the burden of these women needs as a blessing instead of an actual burden. I felt blessed as the Holy Spirit led me to share very honestly with them this past week, hoping that at least one of them, if not all of them, felt seen and heard by our Father.

People, it’s that time of year where I struggle so much. I miss celebrating the holidays in America, but I also despise our society for the amount of abundance we have around this time of year. The abundance of food. The abundance of gifts. The abundance of spending money on things we don’t really need.

Really, I just want to be a part of something bigger this holiday season…I want to be a part of something that involves these women who feel lost and unseen. Women who have to scramble each and every day to fill their babies’ stomachs. Women who live in fear each time it rains because a single rain could devastate all of their belongings in their tattered tents they call home. Women who are equally as blessed as I am with the beautiful burden of motherhood.

I want to be a part of something that changes the world. Something that brings that hope, the hope which gave us a season to celebrate to begin with. Something.

this |Part 1|

Little, perfect lines and wrinkles fall across the top of her fingers. And she folds these fingers into the tiniest of fists and shoves these fists into her little, chubby cheeks. And there she rests, with her perfect lips and chubby cheeks and baby fists with little wrinkled fingers.

dsc_0402

I sit there and stare, wondering how in the world did my body actually make a real human. An incredibly adorable human, for that matter. And my heart melts and my soul shakes and the reality of being a mama frightens me all over again.

I rock her to sleep and wipe her milk-drunk spit away. My house is quiet and I close my eyes as I listen to the sounds of the waves outside my bedroom window.

We’ve come home to Haiti and I don’t want to get up from this rocking chair. I want to stay here in my quiet house where it’s safe. Where the dark, harsh truths of home don’t get to come inside my gate.


When I traveled to the States in September there were five women just as pregnant as myself and I promised to cover them in prayer while I waited to deliver my own.

A few weeks into my stay I got news that one of the women’s baby didn’t make it. I met Marie Maude when she was seven months pregnant with her third child at the age of twenty-two. She was homeless and had yet to see a doctor when I first met her. We were able to put her in our rescue house, reunite her with her two older daughters and get her to a doctor. I left her for the States and couldn’t wait for my baby to meet hers. In my perfect world, we would snap pictures of our babies and us together and I would watch this little family prosper and grow.

Marie Maude would go into labor mid-September and was rushed to a hospital by our Tytoo team and hospital #1 would turn her away. She was rushed to a second hospital and it was there that the baby lost his life. She was then rushed to a third hospital for an emergency C-section and it was there that she almost lost her own life. Mom is okay today, but we lost a baby boy.

I would deliver Rubie Jo a couple weeks after hearing the news of Marie Maude and her face would come to mind as I pushed for my own to come. When my water broke at 3 a.m. we didn’t have to worry about being turned away at a hospital; we knew right where to go. A lovely lady checked us into the hospital and within an hour I had a delivery suite all to my sweet self. I had heart monitors wrapped around me: one for me and one for baby. A blood pressure cuff would go off automatically every few minutes as I was hooked up to monitors and screens. Doctors, surgeons and specialists were all at the tip of our fingers if something were to go wrong.

img_1030

Rubie Jo spent five days in the NICU after delivery; we are so grateful that God led us to the States for a safe delivery

I missed Marie Maude. I wish we could have switched places. I wish she could have had access to real medical treatment when she went into labor a few weeks prior. I will never know if there were more issues going on with her baby boy, but chances are he was healthy and we lost him because life in Haiti sucks and hospitals aren’t equipped to take care of their own.

I know there are a million reasons to complain about healthcare in America (I just saw the total of my hospital bill and it’s basically an entire college education) but, at least we have healthcare. Women in labor get to have entire teams of nurses and doctors to help them deliver their babies; people with cancer get to be cured; people don’t die of preventable diseases and illnesses and how this list could go on forever…

Our smallest aches and pains are taken care of by our healthcare system, while people in Haiti live and suffer their entire lives due to a lack of healthcare. I recently heard a story of a woman having a SEVEN POUND mass removed from her breast. She only carried this mass around for sixteen years. Seriously.

All this to say, I’m so grateful for the care I received in America, but there was a sense of guilt I carried as I pushed for Rubie to come. It didn’t seem right or okay that I could provide all of this to Rubie, but Marie Maude couldn’t for her children. I think it’s easy to read the statistics of how many impoverished women and children die in childbirth because of lack of healthcare, but when you know their names and faces and want to see their children grow it hurts. It hurts in the deepest parts of the soul.

I brought Rubie Jo to meet Marie Maude the other day and I felt an emptiness, like something was missing…and that’s because something was.

If only we could have done better for Marie Maude…

I’m want to do better for her.


image3

Antoinette is my Haitian mamni, it was such a joy to introduce her to Rubie

Haiti is different now that I’m back with a newborn.

A total of eleven women have come to ask me for help in the short ten days I’ve been back. One of these women gave birth to a baby boy, Peterson, on September 23. She explained to me how he is suffering in her care because she doesn’t have anyone to help take care of him and she has no work.

image2

A group of six women meet with Webert and I this past week at the school, all in needs of jobs and hope for the children

I go back to my little one with her perfect wrinkled fingers and tiny fists and chubby cheeks. And I think how I’m doing everything in my being to make sure she can go as long as possible to not know pain or suffering.

And now this mama – a woman just like me, trying to do all she can for her little – is tearing up as she tells me how much he suffers.

And what am I suppose to do. I can barely handle my own hormones these days. This. This is just too much.

But, this. This is also my purpose and as much as I want to run away – run fast away, run back to the safety and comfort I so enjoyed in the States – I can’t. Because, I’ve seen the dark and harsh truths of the world and I won’t run away from them. I know we can do better…for the sake of these mamas and babies. For the sake of our own babies.

To be continued…

image1

Peterson, his mama, Rubie and myself

10/11/2016 at 11:00 a.m.

img_1020

3:00 a.m.

I got up to go to the bathroom and my water broke. I yelled for Webert and so it began.

5:00 a.m.

We were checked into the hospital in Sioux Falls.

7:00 a.m.

My epidural had been given and I could breathe again.

11:00 a.m.

I was fully dilated and the nurse told me she wanted me to lie still for one more hour until we started pushing. She excitedly told me my daughter would be here soon.

That’s when the tears started to flow. That’s when the Holy Spirit swept through my delivery room. That’s when I reached out for my husband’s hand and he wiped my tears away.

For months, so many months, we fought so hard for this moment. I spent so many mornings searching for promises in the Word, looking for scripture that would reassure me that God did in fact hear my cries. In bright orange highlighter I have the words “He will reward our faith” written in bold under Matthew chapter seven. My soul would rest on promises made there and some days it would feel like that’s all we had as the future of our family was so unknown.

img_1105

And at 11:00 a.m. on October 11th, I felt so fully and truthfully rewarded. All I could say to Webert was “we did it, we actually did it.” We fought the good fight, we persevered, we stayed faithful and we arrived at the end of the battle with more than we could have imagined.

I remember so clearly the moments when I committed my heart to becoming a mama to Jeffte, Loveson and Wishla. Each of them has their own story and the way they came into our families was true divine intervention. God brought them to us and all it took was a moment of faithful commitment in both Webert and my heart. And at 11:00 a.m. on October 11th was when I recommitted myself to my children, to my husband and to my family once again. My faith grew and my understanding of God’s faithfulness grew all the more deeper.

God is good and He remains faithful to us, but we must also remain faithful to Him.

I would start pushing an hour later and Rubie would arrive at 4:20 p.m. weighing 9 pounds and measuring 21 inches long.

A couple hours after delivery my mom would hand me a Jimmy John’s sub and join my husband on the couch as they would ooh and ahh over the beauty of Rubie Jo. And all things would be okay in our corner of the world. Her bigger siblings would come to meet her for the first time a littler later with aunt Megan and grandpa Dell and all I would say was “we did it” with a deep resounding joy.

dsc_0193

dsc_0233

dsc_0271

dsc_0266

dsc_0298

dsc_0279

Happy one week birthday, Rubie Jo. You are our reward. You are more beautiful than we could have ever imagined and deeply loved by so many.

full-circle moments

Have you ever had one of those moments where everything seems to come full-circle? Life passes by so quickly, seasons come and go and then you come into a very specific moment and all you can find yourself saying is, “holy shit, this is really my life.”

These moments may be really beautiful…like the moment when I looked at my pregnancy test and it read positive. Or the moment when my daughter falls so soundly asleep next to me. These beautiful moments may happen only once in a lifetime or they may occur in our mundane daily activities, but they leave you short of breath, making you remember how life is in-fact beautiful.

These moments may be really overwhelming…like the other morning when I opened my gate and four women were sitting outside waiting to explain all their problems to me, expecting me to fix them all. Or the moment when my husband calls and tells me the news of our son’s passport being “lost” in the immigration system and we have to start all over again. Or the moment in the middle of the night, when I lay wide awake, thinking yet again to myself, “shit, this is really my life.”

I had this really crazy full-circle moment last week…it was beautiful and overwhelming. It took my breath away but I couldn’t tell if it was from its overwhelming beauty or the picture it painted telling the story of how overwhelming and chaotic my life really is.

A lot of chaos led to this specific moment. I suppose the first thing that happened to lead to this moment happened six years ago:

dsc_1491

We were painting our family house and I ended the afternoon by cleaning all of the paintbrushes in the ocean. A saw a man at the beach next door and thought nothing of it, but the man next door saw much more than just a girl in the ocean washing paint brushes. The next day, when he saw we were back to paint again, he made his way over to our house to see if he could help. The man at the beach next door goes by Webert and we’ve been on quite the journey since the day he saw me cleaning paintbrushes in the ocean.

Another significant moment happened a few weeks after meeting Webert:

My dad and I were coming through the village on our four-wheeler and saw Mr. Webert all dressed up. We asked him what he was up to and that was when he told us about his school for the first time. At the time, he was teaching 70-some students in a construction made of palettes and tarp.

The following spring we founded Touch of Hope in hopes to build Webert ONE new school building.

Lots and lots of life-changing moments have happened since that initial scene of washing paintbrushes in the ocean.

This past January I traveled to New York City for a tradeshow with my job. After the tradeshow, I traveled to Iowa to surprise my sister for her birthday. I called a friend as I was traveling home and told her how I was “late” and was slightly concerned. Well this concerned friend bought me a pregnancy test as a joke and after a night out full of surprises for my sister, I took my first pregnancy test in a hotel bathroom with my sister and three best friends waiting outside the door. The first one read positive and all I remember yelling was, “OH shit!” The second one read positive, so there I sat in the middle of a hotel room in the middle of the night having a very big and very real full-circle moment.

Before even knowing I was pregnant, Webert and I made the commitment in the beginning of January to work towards full guardianship of our three children and visas, which would allow them to travel to the States with us. I knew when we made this commitment to focus on attaining these documents there would be roadblocks, but I had no idea how hard and intense those roadblocks would be.

The home study for our guardianship papers took close to three months to receive, which took us to the middle of April. Mid-April we brought over thirty documents combined to social services, which would prove us to be legal guardians of our children.

(Why aren’t you trying to become their parents and fully adopting them, you may be thinking…In Haiti, you need to be married for over 5 years and also be over the age of 30 to legally adopt. Webert and I are coming up on our three-year anniversary and I will not be 30 for another three years. We have been told we will be able to start taking action to legally adopt after another 2 years, but they may also make an exception and allow us to start the process next year.)

Our biggest roadblocks happened at social services. One of the main directors literally accused us of child trafficking because we brought Chedline to the States on a medical visa and never brought her back to Haiti. We had doctors in the States and her host family write letters to prove to him how she was still receiving proper treatment in the States. This certain director told us we had to meet with the head director of all of social services before he would sign our papers. We went into social services office three times before finally being able to meet with her. Also note that getting to social services is over an hour’s drive to get there, as the office is located in the heart of Port-au-Prince. These trips aren’t just a quick trip to the local courthouse; we would spend at least half of our work day making these trips, depending on how long we had to wait to meet with the person at the office and on the city’s traffic. We made 13 trips (if I counted correctly) to social services before receiving all of the proper documents making us legal guardians.

Why are these guardianship papers so important? They are the only document that will prove to the U.S. government that we have rights for the children and the only document that make us qualified to travel with them.

We received the guardianship documents at the beginning of July.

In February we also paid a man to make the passports for the three kids. He promised to have them to us by the first of April. Well the first of April came and went and this pregnant mama got very concerned. We eventually were given Jeffte and Wishla’s passport in the middle of May. That was when we were also given the unfortunate news that Loveson’s passport had been made with a mistake and would need to be completely redone. Webert and I left Haiti mid-June to travel to the States for a couple weeks of rest and hoped the passport would be finished by the time we got back to Haiti on July 3rd.

By mid-July I was officially very pregnant and very hot, but I was also very stressed about that damn passport – it was the only document standing in our way to apply for U.S. visas. But, it would just not fall into our hands! Webert eventually went to immigration himself to try and find the passport but had no luck. The week after going, immigration conveniently closed down to re-do their systems and that was when Loveson’s passport was completely lost in the system, not once, but twice! We ended up paying for and re-doing his passport four times by the time we received it in the middle of August – only six months after paying for the original to be done!

There were so many moments in this process that left me so frustrated and overwhelmed. Working in a third-world country, with all of its corruption, is not for the weak or faint of heart. When we were working on the guardianship papers, all of the employees at social services hadn’t been paid in five months. Yes, five entire months. You can imagine how unmotivated these people are. The one office I was in had three people sleeping with their heads on their desks. And, this is the office fighting for the children of Haiti. My blood boils when I am there because my heart and mind cannot even begin to comprehend the amount of corruption that takes place there.

There were so many moments in this process that left me frantic and feeling like a crazy person.

There were also so many moments in this process that left me so lonely and dependent on God. There were times when I couldn’t even pray, because I didn’t even understand how it could be this hard. I would just let the tears stream down my face and think yet again to myself, “shit, how is this my life?”

I began circling all of the promises God gives in his word that he does in fact hear us and answers us.

“Ask and it will be given…everyone who asks, receives” – Matthew 7:7-8

“We can have confidence before God and receive from him everything we have asked because we obey…” – 1 John 3:22

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” – John 15:7

“Because he loves me…He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver and honor him with long life and satisfy him and show my salvataion.” – Psalm 91:14-16

“…the Lord is faithful to all of his promises…” – Psalm 145:13

(also see Lamentations 3:22-26, Psalm 120:1, Genesis 9:13, Nehemiah 1:4, John 9:31)

I cried and begged and pleaded with the Lord to give us Loveson’s passport and on a Friday afternoon Webert finally got it. Loveson and I drove up to the school to see it, because I wasn’t going to believe we really had it until I saw it. As we jumped and celebrated for the passport a beautiful rainbow stretched across the sky over the mountains. I have never felt such sweet peace. It wasn’t in my timing, but God remained faithful and showed off by letting me witness a rainbow just when I needed it most.

13962763_10208899667347206_4175526435699757827_n

I had spent a couple weeks circling and meditating on His promises and on that Friday afternoon it was as if He was making a whole new covenant and promise with me, thousands of years after making His original covenant with Noah.

After we received the passport, we made visa appointments. Wishla’s visa appointment is this Friday, September 9 at 10:00 a.m. The boys’ appointments are scheduled for September 19 at 12:30 a.m. We need this one last miracle of visas to allow our entire family to be together for the arrival of Rubie Jo.

I traveled home last week Wednesday and it was by far the hardest good-bye I’ve ever made. Not knowing if I will see my kids after three weeks or potentially 12 weeks is a really, really hard thing! There’s this peace that my heart has, telling me God has me right where He wants me and my family will be here before I know it, but there’s this human part of me that’s so afraid of the unknown.

Last week was when I had the biggest full-circle moment yet. My kids and I decided to go up to the school for the day to work with Webert. There was this moment when all five of us had paintbrushes in our hands and we were working together, painting the new high school building.

I could hardly believe it, but six years later our story still has paintbrushes in it.

img_0735

img_0738

img_0749

A full-circle, beautiful, overwhelming, holy shit this is my life kind of moment right there on the mountaintop.

There’s a lot of mundane that goes into our lives. A lot of hard work and a lot more sweat. There’s a lot of corruption and brokenness. There’s a lot of unknown and a whole lot of worry and stress. But, there’s hope. And in that hope there lays beauty…the kind of beauty that reminds us of the big picture and brings everything full-circle…the kind of beauty that will bring redemption and fulfilled promises and breaths full of fresh air and lightened loads and salvation and goodness…so much goodness.

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living

Wait for the Lord;

Be strong and take heart

And wait for the Lord.

– Psalm 27:13-14

img_0753

known by name

For she is more precious than rubies… – Proverbs 3:15

It took Webert and I a while to find the perfect name, but we think we have found the name for our daughter, due October 10. We are going to name her Ruby Jo. I wasn’t going to tell social media the name but then I met Peterson on Wednesday.

IMG_0426

Mami Sarah with little Peterson

Peterson is six-months-old and lives in Haiti. He was born into poverty. If Peterson could talk, I think he would say life has been hard so far. He has four older siblings and a mom who is struggling to get by. They live in a tattered blue tent with a rickety tin roof and absolutely no material possessions inside except a suitcase of clothes. The day I met Peterson, all of the clothes were being washed and hung to dry on the nearby cactus fence. We brought them a bed and it twists the bottom of your stomach knowing a handbuilt bunk bed frame and two second-hand mattresses will be Peterson and his siblings first bed. The kind of stomach twisting that makes it hard to breathe and move forward. I’m sure you know the kind.

As we walked up to Peterson’s house, I found him sitting in the dirt with only a piece of cloth on his bottom. He was covered in dirt; his brow was lined with sweat. His mom poured a small bucket of water into a basin, so I could wipe the dirt off his body. We splashed in the water for a few minutes. One second he wanted to laugh, but he also wasn’t sure what to think of the strange blan visiting his house. I picked him out of the water and minutes later we were sitting on a five-gallon bucket of water as I rocked his naked self to sleep.

IMG_0428

Mamoune with a sleeping Peterson in the background

His mom eventually laid a worn sheet on the dirt in the shade and laid him to rest there as we talked about her situation. What a situation it is. The children’s father is no where to be found and she seems hopeless. We talked about her starting  a small business and registering the older girls in school. We built the bunk bed inside and the girls laughed as I threw them on top of the bunk.

IMG_0443

 

Peterson has been in my dreams since I met him on Wednesday. His name has become engraved on my heart. It’s funny how a name will do that.

I haven’t even met my baby girl yet, but since we decided on a name, she’s become so real and known to me. Before, it was almost just this idea of a baby coming, but it became so much more real once there was a name. Now that you can call her by name, isn’t she so much more real to you as well?

The same thing has happened with Peterson. He’s become so much more real to me. Before he was just a number on a sheet. I read Mamoune’s intake form for the Starfish Program: five children. At the time, those children didn’t have names or faces. It was just a statistic. But, then you meet them and see their faces and learn their names. Everything changes. Your stomach twists and your heart breaks. Once you learn their names, there is no going back. Once you learn their name, you can’t not fight for them.

I’ve been wrestling with God since meeting Peterson. I just don’t get it, I say to God, as if He owes me any explanation. Why was Peterson born into poverty and why will Ruby be born into opportunity. Why do some women not get to have the babies they dream of raising and other women have too many kids they can’t take care of. How can one woman cry out for a child and another woman abandon hers at an orphanage gate. Why does Peterson have to sleep on a dirt floor and I get to sleep in this comfortable bed. 

I only spent 20 minutes with Peterson but I want him to have the same opportunities Ruby will have. That isn’t to say I know life won’t throw curve balls at Ruby and I as I raise her, but they won’t be anything like the curve balls life has already thrown at Peterson. Ruby will never go to bed hungry. Ruby’s first basinet is already picked out and registered for a friend to buy on Target’s registry. Her first crib is already made and a stuffed whale sits there waiting for her. Ruby already has a dresser full of clothes. Ruby isn’t even here yet and she has already accumulated more possessions than Peterson’s entire family. Stomach twisting.

I think about redemption for Peterson. I want to help write a beautiful story for his life. I want to be a part of the kingdom coming in his life. I want Ruby to be a part of his story as well. I want her life to stand for redemption. I think of how hard that work will be, but how beautiful it will be some day when he goes to school or moves into a new home.

I don’t know how God will provide all these things for Peterson yet. I wrestle with God as I don’t have the perfect plan to help Peterson yet. I struggle with the responsibility to give and when to set boundaries. But, I know my life is different now that I know his name. I can’t not forget him or the image of him sleeping naked on a sheet in the dirt. I want better for him. I want better for the world. I want Ruby to know better.

Maybe that’s where my fear lies: I’m bringing a new life into the world and I don’t want her to know the world I see. I don’t want Ruby to see babies sleeping in the dirt or know kids who go to bed hungry. But, maybe at the same time, I’m glad she will know them by name. She’ll see the harsh truths of the world and have a chance to fight for the poor.

Regardless of what my unsettled heart fears, I find comfort in knowing a day of redemption is coming for all of us. For any of us who call on God, will also be called out by God and we will be known by name.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 20:3-4

working through tragedy: a week later

DSC_3247

I took the picture above with Webert over five years ago. I had just spent my spring break in Haiti and was on my way to the airport when we took this picture. At the time, I had just broken up with my boyfriend of five years and had no idea what my future looked like. At the time, Webert was teaching 160-some students in a palette-constructed school. We had spent the week repairing the tarp roof, hoping it would hold through the rainy season. We were just friends at the time. Every Thursday he would go to a local Internet café and e-mail me while I was in class at university thousands of miles away.

When I look at this picture, I see an overweight Me, who was so naïve and had no idea what God was about to do in her life. I see an innocent Webert, who had yet to steal my heart.

This was before the mountaintop. Before kids. Before Touch of Hope. Before Tytoo Gardens orphanage. Before hardship and tragedy. At this point in our relationship, we had formed a friendship over painting a house, buying pineapples at the local market and playing cards together.

We took this picture on the front porch of what has become our home. At the time of the first picture, to me, it was just my parents’ Haiti house. But, over the course of five years, it has become a house that Webert and I now raise our kids in; where we welcome our community in; and where we allow people to ask for their deepest needs. I sit on the front porch most mornings and that’s where God meets me. At night, we come to this home exhausted and it becomes our safe sanctuary. This house on the ocean has become our home. And, on the front porch is where we take all of our cliché pictures. Everyone who comes to visit takes a picture there. Whenever aunt Megan comes to visit, she’s sure to get a picture there with the three kids. There have been so many Sunday mornings when I snap pictures as we head off to church with our Sunday best on.

This morning Webert and I matched, so we decided to take a picture on the porch in the typical corner. I looked at this picture all through church and tears welled in my eyes. It’s hard to believe all that has happened from the first picture to the one we took today.

IMG_0349

Last Sunday was probably one of the hardest days Webert and I took on together. We left our bed at 3 in the morning to bring Renato home from the hospital. I broke the news to orphanage mommmies, the women who cared for Renato like he was their own, as Webert found a judge to make a death certificate. We led an orphanage tribe through a prayer service to say good-bye to Renato. Webert prayed as I held weeping young boys in my arms. We led so naturally. It’s kind of weird actually how we can make decisions together so quickly in emergency situations and act upon those decisions and somehow come through the emergencies stronger. By the day’s end last Sunday, I realized how we were just meant to do this all together.

And a week later, we stand together, snapping another picture different people. Different, but stronger.

I look at the two people in this picture and I’m proud of them. I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else. We’re 11 weeks away from meeting our baby girl and I can’t wait to see how this little one will change our lives again.


Today, I cried for Renato. I wasn’t responsible to lead today, so I sat back and grieved. It’s still hard to believe he’s really gone. It’s hard to understand why God chose to take Him the way He did. It’s hard to know we won’t ever know what illness took him from us to quickly. It’s just hard.

The children at Tytoo seem to be doing well. Monday morning we took time to write letters and color pictures to give to Renato. We took all the kids to his grave and buried our letters and pictures next to his grave. Two of the older boys played their guitars as we sent lanterns to heaven for Renato. Over the week, we’ve prayed for wisdom to have the eyes to see which kids are struggling and have been able to spend one-on-one time with some of the kids who seem to be struggling the most. Our Haitian nurse has been able to answer some of their questions. Last night, Saturday, all the kids came over to our house for a bonfire and we introduced them to the phenomena of a s’more. We showed a movie on the sidewall, as they all stretched out blankets on the yard to watch. It felt good to do something fun and create good memories together.

We’re all grieving together. We’re all moving forward together. We all experienced a tragedy last week, but together we are fighting through.

I feel different today. My soul feels old. But, I feel stronger as well.

As always, love from Haiti.