{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

five years and a harvest

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

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

FIVE. YEARS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, I’m just like, YES.

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

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

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

For the harvest is great…

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

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

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

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

As always,

Love from Haiti.

come broken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live like your soul is eternal, because it is.

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

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

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

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


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

But, it doesn’t.

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

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

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

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


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

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

So, come…but, only come broken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

finding peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lazarus Fund: a shout out!

I just needed to write a post to let you all know how you make my ENTIRE – heart, soul and mind – life easier here in Haiti by making donations to the Lazarus Fund. I haven’t written about it in a long time, so maybe some of you have forgotten about it (click here for initial post about it), but the Lazarus fund is basically my life line and it saves not only me but members of my community all. the. time…

Living in a third world country, you’ll learn rather quickly that common things like ambulances, emergency rooms and 911 hotlines are no longer available and once you learn this you’ll come to the realization that if you own a vehicle in your small remote village you are now the ambulance driver and your phone number is now the 911 hotline.

So, when a worker at the bakery smashes his hand in a machine, your team shows up. When an employee at the orphanage suddenly loses her 22-year-old son, you show up. When a young mother has a premature baby, you’re there for her. When another young man in the community breaks his arm, you make sure he gets to the hospital and has it casted.

And while I type you here in these scenarios and you’re thinking it was actually me there, that might be right, but I tell ya, I was only the vessel. The only reason I had the resources to show up in the fist place was because there was funding in the Lazarus Fund. You may not realize it, but $14 (1,000 haitian goudes) can get a mama and her new baby to a clinic to get proper follow-up after babe is born in a dirt hut. Another $28 can get a broken arm casted and healed. And, $300 can ease a mama’s heart as she properly lays her deceased son to rest.

Those numbers may not seem like much to you, but here, in our corner of the world, in the reality of third-world livin’…it saves us.

Not a lot of words for this post, but just a shout out and a sincere thank you for trusting me with your money, for investing in our ministry and community and for helping save us.


 

How to donate:

through PayPal: click here

cash or check send to: 205 Old Mill Lane, Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

*make memo of Lazarus Fund for donations*

holy salsa

Three years ago we said good-bye to little Rosie. I can hardly believe it’s been that long already. But, it has. And somehow the world has kept on turning.

Here we are three exact years later and Judeline, Rosie’s mom, has just given birth to another baby girl, Gracie. Gracie was born October 29 and she makes Rubie look like a giant baby. Rubie has chubby, round features and Gracie has tiny, petite features.

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We had a scare as Gracie turned two weeks old. An infection settled deep into her femur bone and it took quite a while to figure out what was happening. By the grace of God, Gracie’s parents were able to find a hospital that could do the necessary procedure on her leg that would get rid of her infection. Pretty scary stuff for such a small infant, especially in this country. But, surgery went well and Gracie was able to come home last Friday.

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visiting Gracie at the hospital

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Judeline and Gracie have been resting and healing at my house this past week and I find God’s timing quite ironic that He would have them at my house on the anniversary of Rosie’s death. At first, I was questioned WHY? Why this week? Why this season, when it is already so hard. Why make us walk through so much again? I feared the worse for Gracie on surgery day as I relived seeing Rosie on life support at the hospital three exact years prior. But, as I have been processing, God is also showing me how He is always making a new work in us. How He continues to gift us with life. How Gracie is His perfect gift to us. In no way am I saying Gracie is replacing Rosie, but I’m seeing how He redeems us and breathes life back into us while also gifting us with new life.

I no longer work for ViBella Jewelry, but the artisans there are a big part of who I am in Haiti. They’re a huge support system to me and my family. And two days ago the entire gang was together at my house to hang out with Judeline. We started talking about Rosie’s and for the first time I told all the women about my new dream for a bigger Rosie’s and Salsa Sisters – Haitians aren’t very familiar with salsa, so explaining the phenomena of a salty chip dipped in a delicious concotion of vegetables can be quite difficult. But, it’s funny how they immediately saw my dream. One chuckled and confidantly said, “Only God could give you dreams like these!”

As sisters, who have been through so much in five years, we dreamt together that afternoon. We bounced chunky Rubie and petite Gracie on our legs. We “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” over them. We recognized just how profoundly blessed we are to have new mercies showered upon us each and every day.

They spent several more hours hanging out upstairs as Gertrude and Anise, the first two employees for Salsa Sisters, came to the house to make salsa. This week was our second week making salsa at my house. The group came down to say good-bye and I gave them a taste of our salsa. They were asking all sorts of questions and a few said they want to come some week to learn how to make salsa as well!

And what I saw in that moment was holy.

For five years these artisans have been working hard to make a life for themselves through their jobs with ViBella and five years later they’re confidant and so full of blessings… they’re overflowing, really. There they were encouraging my Starfish women in their new work. Telling them to pray for God to bless the salsa. To have the faith. To keep the faith. To trust the One in whom we have the faith.

It’s funny how a kitchen full of women laughing, encouraging each other all the while eating salsa can be so holy.

I have this vision of a kitchen full of women cuttin’ and slicin’ all sorts of colorful vegetables. They’re tossin’ and mixin’ all the vegetables and cannin’ them for all the world to eat. They’re sisters. They’ve got each other’s back and they’re finding freedom from poverty through a job and in Jesus. They’re more than just sisters, they’re sisters in Christ. They’re Salsa Sisters.

God gave me a glimpse of this vision the other day. I don’t know where the money is going to come from to make this all come true, but I know it will come and this kitchen, this salsa, this adventure…it’s gonna be holy. And, delicious. Because, who doesn’t love a good bowl of salsa!

Donate to the Rosie’s expansion project today to help make our visions of a Salsa Sisters kitchen come true!

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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

 

this |part 3|

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.