{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

baby Noel

I had begun a relationship with the Noel family during the summer of 2011, while visiting for most of my summer break. When I moved to Haiti full-time in the summer of 2012, I found a pregnant mama Noel. The family was already large, with seven children. The pregnancy was very high-risk as mom had suffered a recent stroke and was in her low forties. The family was living in a tin hut at the time, sleeping on the dirt.

I can remember one of my first visits with the family and Nashca, the youngest, having bugs swarm in her ears from a severe ear infection. The family’s situation was quite dire and I immediately started pouring all the resources I had into helping them. I wrote one of my first blogs and raised almost $10k to build them a new home. I delivered food to their house weekly, using my own money to feed them. I made sure all the kids were registered for the new school year that fall. I made several day-long trips to the hospital towards the end of the pregnancy to make sure mom and baby were okay.

The day finally came when she went into labor and as it would turn out, I had signed up for way more than I expected. We spent the first night at the hospital, pacing back and forth on a half-paved sidewalk, trying to make it through each contraction. The hospital only had two beds for delivery, so they make the laboring mamas wait outside on unbearably uncomfortable wooden benches until they were fully dilated.

I have a very vivid memory of myself lying on a wooden bench playing some type of game with shapes and colors on my Blueberry cellphone to help me get through those very early morning hours. The night sky was clear and you could see it lit with stars. I remember the humming noise of the hospital’s generator running and locals chatting late into the night outside the hospital gate.

The roosters started to crow as the sun began to rise. The doctor checked mama again and informed us that no progress had been made during the night so we might as well go home and rest and come back later. We returned probably ten hours later and I witnessed my first birth.

The birthing room had two tables with five gallon tubs at the end to catch all the blood and other good stuff that comes out during labor. There was an LED light that flickered above us and two Haitian nurses. I just remember it feeling so small in there.

Mama screamed and I’ll never forget the look in her eyes as she pushed and pushed. Baby was finally born and that little, new life never let out his first cry. The main nurse took him to an adjoining room and picked up his little legs and with a plop, they fell right back down. There were no reflexes. There were also obvious deformities and I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending.

We ended up taking an ambulance to a hospital in Port-au-Prince, over an hour away. I remember holding that little life in my arms, doing everything in me not to throw up because I was physically so hot, but also so unprepared for what was happening. Baby Noel was announced dead upon arrival at the hospital and we had to drive around the city for another hour finding a hospital to admit mom into because she had begun hemorrhaging.

i don’t know about you, but I think we all kind of romanticize the idea of seeing a baby be born. I think most people would jump at the opportunity to see a birth as it is one of life’s greatest miracles, am I right? I know that I had for sure romanticized the entire scenario, so when it all unraveled the way it did, my perspective of the world unraveled with it.

That first all-nighter at the hospital wrecked me. The pacing back and forth under a starry sky. The sitting on wooden benches that left me sore for days. The reality of what the hospitals really are like for the underdeveloped world. The lack of resources. Hell, the lack of running water! I peed in a dark, cement latrine that night.

Have you ever even recognized how lovely and clean and comfortable waiting rooms are here in America? I do every single time. It’ll wreck ya, if you let it.

That entire experience led me to not even knowing if I would have babies of my own for a couple of years. It’s actually why I believed God was giving me my first three, because I wouldn’t be able to carry and labor one into the world myself, not after all of that.

This last delivery with Zion was better because I went in knowing somewhat what to expect and wasn’t as nervous. Once we made it out of the delivery room and into the room on the birth floor, I felt so grateful. Another healthy baby. Another successful birth. Give this girl a pat on the back, would ya! Aren’t we women seriously superheroes?

And then I decided to take a bath in the jacuzzi and behind those closed doors, I wept. I looked at my naked, flabby postpartum body knowing what it had just done, yet knowing I would never know what my sisters in Haiti go through to have a baby. The flashbacks of baby Noel and that birthing room left me numb. How do we get to be so fortunate to even have access to the healthcare and hospitals that we have? I don’t deserve it, even for a second. I honestly would be ashamed if my mamas in Haiti knew what type of hospital I gave birth in: the type of care I receive; the food that gets to delivered to me as I rest in a self-adjusting giant bed; the ice packs for my butt and the warmed blankets for when I’m feeling cold.

I can’t even reason; it’s just so unfair. What a picture of God’s grace: we are all just sinners, deserving of dirty, dark latrines; yet we are lavished with luxury and jacuzzis.

The Noel story did not end with baby’s death, however. We were able to build them a new home, set mom up with a business selling dried fish at the market, get the oldest daughter a job at the orphanage and all the rest of the children into school. Today, I drive by their purple house on the way to the school, knowing they’re still okay.

Baby Noel’s grave was the first one to take up space in my heart and his death prepared me for Rosie’s, which was to come one year later.

the graveyard

In May 2018, I flew to Indiana to do a three day debriefing session. At the time, a good friend, who had spent the last few years living in Haiti, was living full-time with this couple who debriefed people as their full-time ministry.

One of the activities they had me to was look through a whole stack of magazines and rip out pictures. I was to glue all the pictures onto a large poster board, creating a collage that would tell a story about my life; I got to choose what story I wanted depicted. The collage ended up looking like a cluttered mess, but that’s what made it such an accurate description of my life.

That night, after dinner, a long walk and a glass of wine, I shared my poster and the stories it told to the couple doing the debriefing and my friend. On the poster was a picture of a big, grassy lawn. I shared the reason for having that picture:

1.) I hold a deep gratitude for my house in Haiti and cherish the fact that my children have a yard to play in. Green grass is hard to come by in Haiti and over the years we have been able to grow one. Almost every afternoon the kids run and play in this space; soccer being the most popular game played. It has held many intense games as the orphanage kids and village kids are always around to play.

2.) But, this yard, using it as an illustration of my heart, holds many grave sites for the people I’ve lost in the last seven years. At the time, I was still processing and grieving the loss of a very dear friend, whose life ended way too quickly, leaving behind two precious daughters.

Since losing her, I haven’t been the same. And just in this calendar year of 2019, there’s been six more deaths of people who have impacted me and been a part of my life in Haiti. As I spend this month writing, I know I need to tell their stories as their deaths have become a part of my story, leaving so much grief settled at the bottom of my heart.

I’ve seen people exploit Haitians and their lives as a way to bring in more money for their organization; a marketing scheme, if you will. I have a bitter taste in my mouth because I’ve seen it done so many times, so that’s why it is even more difficult to write these stories as I never want to cross that line. But, I’m feeling this gentle push from God to write, knowing there will be healing in the process. I guess I include this paragraph just to let you in on the fact that I’m sensitive to this whole matter. And at the end of the day, I just want to honor these lives more than anything.

So, tomorrow we shall start from beginning to end, a tour of my heart’s graveyard.

 

 

good things

Yesterday I wrote about the miracle of becoming homeowners in the States, today I’ll let you in on all my ugly, twisted feelings when it comes to those faithful provisions.

I’ve had many conversations with missionary friends who rely on supporters to do their work in Haiti. (While I don’t rely on supporters for my family’s income, we do rely on them fully for operations of the school, Tytoo Gardens orphanage, the Starfish program, the building of houses and basically everything else we do, except for at Rosie’s as that’s a sustainable business.) The conversations with these friends go around in circles, focusing on the pressure we feel from donors; the things we are sometimes ashamed to share, not wanting to upset any of those said donors; the lies we get sucked into and the unhealthy cycles we end up spinning in.

Since most of you reading this are more than likely on the donor side of things, I’ll tread slowly here as I try to write, but I also hope you’ll maybe reconsider changing the perspective you have for “those missionaries you support.”

I have several friends in Haiti who rely fully on support. They never post anything about them taking days off at the beach because they’re afraid donors will get mad at the way they are spending money. I had another friend once tell me a story of having a donor pull all of their support because she chose to take a vacation for the first time in 2 or 3 years to some other Caribbean island for a holiday, only to see said donor taking an exotic trip just months later. It’s a bizarre concept that we aren’t allowed to take a break, yet if you live in corporate America, you’re celebrated for taking breaks/vacations.

The idea is this: if you’re on the field serving the poor, you shouldn’t have nice things or relaxing breaks. Any form of self-care is believed to be donor money foolishly spent, resulting in burnt-out, unhealthy people. And from my experience, I would say every single person I know serving in Haiti, is burnt out and traumatized from one thing or another; but, we carry on because that’s what we are told to do. Or we carry on because we don’t have the resources to take the breaks, get the counseling, or get the help we all really need.

The home we have in Haiti is right on the ocean and was finished and furnished nicely. It’s nothing over the top as it’s a three bedroom home with comfortable leather furniture and a big dining table I imported from Ikea. There’s running water, with the biggest luxury being a water heater. There’s no dishwasher, air conditioning or Wi-fi. It’s really just the basics when you look at it, but it’s my sanctuary and place of refuge. If I didn’t have it, I seriously don’t think I would be able to do life in Haiti at all.

A woman from Iowa had once visited our home in Haiti and made the comment to me, “if I lived here, I’d want to live like the Haitians, not live like a princess like you do.” The healthy version of myself would have just easily shrugged that comment off, but seriously? I actually won’t even go there, except to say, if you think it’s so easy, come move here and do it yourself.

I believe in accountability and being transparent in our work; all of that I can handle. But, the guilt I carry for having nice things is something I want – actually, I need – to lay down in the new year.

Even as I share the story of us becoming homeowners, I feel the need to share the exact price we paid because I want people to know how cheap it was so you’ll never second guess the type of money we have. I’ve caught myself explaining all the great deals I found on all the furniture we bought for the house because somewhere deep inside I’ve come to believe that we just shouldn’t have nice things if we are serving the poor. Even the decisions to leave Haiti held feelings of guilt. Somehow I’ve come to believe this theology that if I don’t work 60 hour weeks and come home emotionally exhausted at the end of every day I’m not a good Christian. The choice to put ministry and work over family in the past years have become an idol in my heart, because if we can’t show the “supporters” our continued growth, then what will there be to show?

Even in the last month as Webert and I have gone and shared with multiple churches, the part of our testimony that always gets the biggest gasp is when show the before picture of the school – the one where Webert started teaching 30-some kids in a structure made of pallets and tarp – and then to show the present picture of the school ground – that’s the one where we educate 1,200+ students on a beautiful mountaintop with five school buildings. People can hardly believe the numbers, but would they be just as impressed and blown away if we only had 100 or 300 or 600 students?

We give God all the glory for what He’s done through the school, but there’s always this twisted, ugly side where we get caught up in impressing others and making sure the donors are happy.

And, what I hate the most about feeling this way about all the good things I’ve been given, is the inability to savor them and find joy in them. I allow Satan to take ground for what I know God has claimed sacred. How foolish of me to waste something so precious. I look at how quickly these darn kids of mine are growing up and how I hear God asking me to use this next season of my life to invest fully in them as He reminds me, “the poor will always be with us” (those words came from Jesus himself, literally, look it up in Matthew 26) I breathe in that truth in one breath, but in the next I’m carrying the burdens of running a business and ministry, knowing so many people in Haiti rely on the work we do in Haiti to literally survive and also knowing so many people here sacrifice so much to ensure Touch of Hope keeps going.

And, then I just get really tired at all the knowing, which sometimes leads me to bitterness, and dang it, I hate when I get to the bitterness feelings. But, hey, kudos to you, Satan, for allowing bitterness and unrealistic expectations and stupid lies to take away from what was intended to be holy and sacred and good.

So, again, here’s to life in limbo. Where it’s also a constant battle of ugly feelings. Where so many walls have been built up from years of work and trauma and a life lived hard. And, also where we begin to brave the process of tearing them down and letting God remold and reshape us for what feels like the millionth time. Because, in the end, I know He’s chasing after us and it’s always for His good.

our home

As the paperwork fiasco unraveled in Haiti, my parents made a big decision around this same time that added extra worry about the future of my family to their plate. This story, friends, has a good ending unlike yesterday’s story!

Their big decision was to buy the building that we have operated our brick and mortar Rosie’s out of since 2015 in Rock Rapids, Iowa. For those of you that don’t know much about Rock Rapids, it’s the small town that I was born and raised in. We have a small main street with several businesses and all the buildings are very old and big. My mom’s vision was to remodel the entire upstairs and turn it into a loft. The initial idea kind of shocked me as their home was always my refuge place when I would travel back to Iowa and I wasn’t sure I could handle losing that. But, more than that, I couldn’t imagine my soon-to-be family of seven staying in a second story loft on main street when we visited.

During the year of 2018 was when the Lord really started planting deep seeds and desires into my heart to be a soccer mom. That may seem silly to you, but our life in Haiti didn’t allow for many extracurricular opportunities for my kids. More than just fun activities, there were other areas the kids were struggling in and I always felt I was neglecting them one way or another. I would have busy moms Stateside complain to me about their kids’ hectic schedules with school, sports, dance, whatever and this desire to be a mom running around for my kids kept growing and growing. I would say to those complaining moms, “I only wish I could be doing half of that for my kids!”

As those seeds kept taking root, I kept dreaming of owning a house of our own Stateside as well. I can specifically remember driving past all the For Sale houses in Rock Rapids, envisioning a life in them. Weird, I know. I also remember driving past the very big white house on Carroll Street with the For Sale sign and thinking, “I would never be able to afford that house.”

That big white house was actually owned by the hospital in town and as a new hospital was built, the old one was planned to be torn down and all of its entities to be sold. The price dropped significantly and my mom said to me, “Kayla, I think we can do this!”

I traveled home for a quick week-end over Easter to surprise my brother for his engagement and also took a look at that big white house. The hospital board needed it off their books in two weeks from the time I saw it for the first time. A few of the hospital board members knew our family well and the work we do in Haiti; one of them advised my dad to make an offer, and make it low! So, we did. We offered almost $30k under the asking price and the offer was accepted almost immediately.

We ended up getting that big white house for essentially half off! I still can’t believe it, even as I sit at the dining room table and type this story out.

Even though I have so many unanswered, difficult questions about so many unfair, unjust, difficult things about both our family and about the world and its sufferings, God still occupies so much of my heart reassuring me He is good. The timing and provision of our house is proof that He knows and cares for the desires of our heart. I firmly believe He plants those desires there, because He intends to blow us away by providing for them. I never, ever would have given myself permission to envision a life in a big white house and now, here I am, having spent almost the last four months making it into our home; our refuge place. All the kids have expressed how much they love it and almost every time we pull into the driveway, Rubie will exclaim, “that’s my house!”

It sure is baby girl, it sure is.

This house is proof to me that God wants and maybe even needs us here for this season. My mom gifted us and hung a canvas in our dining room that reads, “May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be confident knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us. – Mother Theresa”

That second sentence gets me almost every time.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

What desires has God been planting into your heart? I’m here to tell you, they are there for a reason. Give yourself the freedom to believe in them and pursue them. Then, let God blow you away by his provision and faithfulness.

I really wanted to end if there, because darn, wouldn’t that have been a nice ending? But, the Spirit is also saying to me:

“But, remember, His timing isn’t always your timing. Sometimes you gotta go to battle for those desires. Sometimes you’ll have to face those fears and do scary things for those desires. Sometimes it may not go smoothly. Sometimes it may not go according to your plans. And, sometimes it may get so hard that you’ll consider defeat. But those are the times you need to remember where those desires came from – they’re there for a reason -and then never forget the kind of God you serve.”

A.K.A. I can’t give up on my adoptions and all the unknowns there. And you, my cherished reader, you can’t give up on your unknowns, either.

 

unfinished paperwork

Webert and I have literally been working on some type of paperwork since the day we wed. From his visa to a medical visa for Chedline to guardianships, passports, visas and adoptions for our three, we could write an entire book on it all.

What most people believe is that our adoptions have been finalized, but they aren’t and this blog is about just that.

To start this story we must go back to July 2016. We had spent the first six months of that year getting together all the legal papers to gain guardianship of our three kids. It was no small task as all the biological parents needed updated paperwork and one of that moms was MIA for a few of those months, no where to be found. We finally handed in all the paperwork for our guardianships and faced some roadblocks there, but that’s for a different day. We were finally granted and given guardianship of the kids in June. With the guardianship, we moved forward making passports for them.

Sidenote: I was pregnant with Rubie during all of this, so the goal was to have all of their visas by the time she arrived, October 2016.

Loveson’s passport was lost in the immigration system not once or twice, but THREE times! Yes, we paid for his passport to be made three different times; Webert spent a ridiculous amount of time at the immigration office waiting to receive it and when we finally were handed the document, his name was spelt wrong. Haiti at its finest, folks.

We were running out of time to get all the visas completed at that point, so we decided to apply for their visitor visas with a misspelled name. The kids were granted visitor visas and traveled to America for the first time, thirteen days before Rubie’s arrival and as hurricane Matthew made its way towards the island. If you haven’t learned this yet, we like to keep things extra stressful in our family, too!

Fast forward to June 2018. We completed an updated psych evaluation, home visit and a few other things in order to hand in our fully completed adoption dossier. Since, the Haitian government had made the mistake on Loveson’s passport, we didn’t think we would have an issue, but that joke was on us. The people reviewing our adoption dossier told us that all the documents needed to have the same spelling, but since the passport held Loveson’s American visa, we couldn’t risk losing that document, so we spent the next four months redoing Loveson’s birth certificate and his archives paper (a document that basically records the birth certificate a second time). We had to have his parents sign off on these papers and they live over three hours into the mountains and are not only hard to visit but just as hard to get a hold of over the phone.

We finally got all of his papers adjusted and on a Tuesday morning in March, we headed to social services with all of our kids’ biological parents to have them sign a final paper with social services, making our adoptions one step closer to completion.

A meeting was held with all of them that Webert and I could not be a part of. We patiently waited on metal chairs while everyone was inside. The meeting was to explain to the bio parents what the completion of the adoption meant and the way the social worker worded things led Loveson’s parents to believe they would never see him again. They were told they would never be able to talk to him and wouldn’t even know where he would be living after the papers were signed. Of course, in an international adoption setting, this would be true. But in our case, this was far from he truth. We have had a relationship with his family since we found them in 2014, which was two years after he came into our care. He’s been in our home since 2012 and we have gone to visit his family several times and they have come to see our home as well.

Loveson’s mom came out of the meeting with arms flailing, exclaiming she would never be signing any papers. As you can imagine, my heart shattered and our world collapsed a bit in that hot, empty hallway. I calmly tried to explain to her the difference in our situation and that she would always be able to see, talk to and know Loveson. She didn’t want to hear a word we had to say. We asked them if they wanted Loveson back and they were quick to respond “no” but they were adamant that they wouldn’t be signing the paper.

Them not signing this paper has resulted in a complete stalemate for our process. Over the summer, we were able to get final signatures from Jephte and Wishla’s parents, but their dossiers won’t be finalized until Loveson’s are. Social services gave us the ultimatum that we finalize Jephte and Wishla’s to only abandon and not adopt Loveson or we continue working towards Loveson’s completion and all three will be done together.

March, and the months to follow, were an emotional rollercoaster as we moved forward making decisions about the current season we are now in. I’ve chosen to keep this process private up to this point because it’s just too hard to talk about and I’ve never wanted the kids to overhear us talking about the situation and have them be fearful for their futures. The boys are aware of the situation, but we have been careful about what we share with them.

I continue to fight with God on all of this. Taking in these kids were life-altering, faith-abiding, scary decisions. From the very beginning of all the paperwork, we have faced constant roadblocks. The days we have spent going to the social services office and the resources we have had to use to get us to this point have been a much bigger sacrifice than we ever thought. The process has felt like an uphill battle against the system and has been beyond exhausting. I just want to know what is has to be so hard!

There were definitely days when I didn’t even know if Loveson would be able to remain a part of our family. After seven years of having him in our home, I can’t imagine my life without him. His bio family has never asked us for anything nor have they ever shown any interest in wanting him back. Why they won’t sign this paper is still beyond me as they have yet to give a good reason.

Their lives are so much different than ours as they really are “mountain people”. Their culture is much different than even the culture in Simonette, where we live. Loveson’s grandpa put him in the orphanage when he was less than two years old because he had fuzzy hair and there were voodoo threats being made against his life. I’ll never be able to understand any of that. I still look at him and can’t fathom what he went through just to survive to the day when we first met. He was four years old, sixteen pounds and I dressed him in 18 month onesies. I’ll never forget the first pair of shoes I gave him, a pair of brown tennis shoes with two white stripes. He basically wore them to bed. He was the goofiest looking kid and could barely run because he was so weak and small. But, he has radiated this light of joy since that very first day.

I have to believe there’s a reason to all the hardship. Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. Even now, at such a young age, Loveson makes an impact every where we go. The way he cares for people; the way he fills an entire room with his jokes and energy; the way his hips move; the way he will randomly just yell at me, “I LOVE YOU” – I can barely stand how much he has impacted my life nor can I stand the fact that after all this time he still is not legally mine.

I hate that I have no say in this. His parents still have the rights in how this story ends. I hate how broken the system is, not just for Loveson, but for all the kids in Haiti. I hate that I can’t pull together a whole army of people to testify for Loveson and how he should be a part of our family. I hate how every mama instinct in me feels, knowing I can’t do anything about this all except trust it will all just work out – which is just crap sometimes. I feel like a bratty teenager when I say that, but it’s true. All of it’s just crap and I don’t know why it has to be so hard!

Somehow, though, God does…He really does…I don’t just say this to wrap up a long blog with words that can leave us feeling better. He does stay faithful. I don’t know yet the ending to our adoption story. I know God didn’t call us to adopt or form our family in the untraditional way He did or provide for us in all the millions of ways He has for this to end up not working out. There’s a reason for all the crap, whether its a generational curse that goes back to the voodoo threats made against Loveson as a baby or Satan’s way of trying to defeat us and make us give up. We recognize that and continue to move forth, in faith, that God will pave a way to the completion of our adoptions.

Welcome to life in limbo. It’s complicated here.

Like I mentioned yesterday, we have decided to move forward with Webert’s green card application, which will give him residency status in the States and allow him to travel back and forth more freely. This was a hard decision for us to make as we still have these unfinished papers in Haiti. We continue working with two trusted social workers in Haiti who hope to meet with Loveson’s family before the end of the year to advise them to move forward signing the papers. If the papers do get signed, I may have to make a trip to Haiti by myself in order to get the papers signed by a judge and the thought of doing that without Webert about scares the crap out of me, but if that’s what it takes, I’ll do it. We may just have to wait until we go back next summer to do anything at all. We aren’t sure! It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but we think it was the right one since Webert’s visa expires next fall and we needed to prioritize that.

Again, we like to keep things stressful and complicated!

So, if you could just pray. Pray that Loveson’s parents would have a change of heart and decide to sign the papers. Pray Webert’s green card application can go through quickly so we can make plans to travel back to Haiti for the summer vacation. Pray our summer vacation would result in finished adoptions!

 

living in limbo

If you’re a parent, I think you’ll agree, one of the most important things to create for your child is routine. From a morning routine to a bedtime routine, it creates trust and stability and kids just need it. This is a post reflecting on my lack of routine and how it’s affected me, plus some advice for you, my cherished reader, on how to love those in your life who are living a life in limbo.

Last February I traveled to Iowa with Rubie for what was suppose to be a quick ten day trip. Three days after arriving Stateside, Haiti had a very intense country-wide shutdown for two long weeks. Many people, including my dad, had to be evacuated out of the country. Webert had me stay Stateside for the entire month before agreeing it was safe enough for me to go back. While I made the best of a month in the States, it was a weird space to be in, not knowing when I would be back in Haiti with the rest of my family, not knowing when things would be safe again and then navigating a way to be productive and positive while Stateside. Creating a routine during that time was impossible.

Sidenote: I also found out I was pregnant during this month away from my family.

People kept saying to me during this time, “we’re so glad you’re here” and I smiled on the outside at their kind remarks because I knew they were well intended, but on the inside, I was in total conflict with myself.

I felt guilty for being here, safe and sound. I felt like a bad mom being away from the other kids for that month. I felt like an even worse wife, knowing the reality of my husband’s life while I was away. I felt like a bad boss being away from my business and employees for such a long and unexpected time period. But yet, I wanted to be in Iowa during that time. There were friends to see, meetings to be had and plenty of good food to indulge in. The intense tug-of-war between wanting to be here but wanting to be there but knowing the reality there so just wanting to stay here and then feeling guilty for wanting to stay here led me back to wanting to be there.

I kept buying supplies to bring back to Haiti, slowly packing and preparing to leave for Haiti, yet I had no idea when that day would come. It could have been the next day, it could have been another two weeks. I filled my schedule, but always added a note, “if I’m still here.”

The if’s and the unknowns just in that month left me feeling out of place and out of sorts. The well-intended “we are glad you’re here” reminded me over and over that I wasn’t suppose to be here. The half packed suitcases reminded me of my family I was so far away from and the positive pregnancy test made me thrilled yet nauseous all at the same time. Living in limbo means a lack of routine which leads to a lack of trust in just about everything.

I found my way back to my Haiti home the first week of March and one of the first things Webert and I decided was that we needed a longer break outside of Haiti for the arrival of our new baby. We had brought Rubie to Haiti when she was four weeks old and I learned very quickly how bad of a decision that was for me, so now here we are, in the middle of that long break and things still seem out of sorts as the future still remains so unknown for our family.

I’ll sort through all of that tomorrow and let you in on what we do know for sure concerning Webert’s green card application and the kids’ visas.

What I want to leave you with is some of my own advice when it comes to loving and supporting someone living in limbo. Instead of asking questions like, “how long are you here for?” or saying things like, “I’m so glad you’re here where it’s safe” try the following:

Is there anything you need while you’re here?

Almost every time I travel, I need to buy supplies to bring back to Haiti, whether it’s for my family, Rosie’s or something in the ministry. Some trips I honestly just really need new underwear and sandals. Whatever it may be, make this an opportunity for you to help financially with the person’s needs. The person may just need emotional support and this could be an opportunity for you to cover him/her in prayer.

How’s God been working in your life lately?

It gives us, the person in limbo, an opportunity to reflect on how God has been working and share a story we might not typically share. It also allows us the chance to not think about all the unknown and rest in the peace of knowing He is still at work in our life.

How can I be praying for you?

Take it from me, when you’re living in limbo, you mostly just want to be seen. All of the limbo makes you feel pretty lost and confused inside. It’s mostly an internal battle that’s easy to hide on the outside. When people intentionally ask me this question, it’s when I feel the most seen and typically when I open up the most.

Other things that are not beneficial to ask:

What are you back for?

From my experience, this causes me to feel self-conscious and like I have to have a reason to come “home.” I’ll then find myself listing every little excuse I have for traveling, making a case for the legitimacy of my trip. Remember, we are a people in limbo and we lost our trust in knowing where we belong, where we are going and any future plans we may have had can’t be trusted either. The last thing you want to make us feel is like we don’t belong or that we have to have a reason for being here. All we are looking for is a space to just “be” in.

How long are you here for?

We may not know, which leads to another uncomfortable search inside for answers that we try to come up with to make you feel more comfortable. Odds are, you aren’t comfortable with our reality of living in limbo. You like plans and knowing what the future holds, hence why you’re asking the question in the first place. But, since our life is a balancing act and limbo has become our life motto, our answer to this question is hard for both of us to swallow, so it’s best if you just avoid this one altogether!


A few week-ends ago I had two really great friends come visit. The three of us lived in Haiti together for a few years and they have both fully transitioned back to the States now. The one friend spent her first six months back in the States debriefing and just taking a whole season to heal from all she had gone through. She’s now passionate about debriefing for people coming off the missionary field, people who have experienced trauma, etc. She’s opened my eyes to the importance of healing and processing and how valuable my story is. She’s actually a big reason I’m taking this month to write every day.

She’s also one of the reasons why my last piece of advice to you is this:

Invest in the people in limbo. Whether it be financially, emotionally, whatever. Invest in them. The longer we (mostly speaking for myself here, but I’m thinking of so many other people as I write these words, too) stay broken, lost and confused, the longer we go not being who we were created to be. I know my purpose, guys. I know I’m my truest, most joyful self when I’m creating, loving and advocating for my mamas in Haiti. I know being a mom to my five kids is the holiest responsibility I’ll ever hold. I know God has entrusted me with so much, but man, I’m also in the weirdest, longest season of limbo, and I just need  t  i  m e . I’m anxiously awaiting the day I feel whole enough to excitedly get back on a plane and fly to my beloved Haiti, but today, there’s not a fiber in me that wants to go back. I hate feeling this way, I hate admitting that I don’t know the last time I excitedly boarded a plane, I hate not knowing when I’ll be ready again.

Like I said, people in limbo are a lot more broken than you’d think.

The people you’ll be investing in are more than likely very aware of their purpose as well. Their season of limbo is a result of so many factors; maybe it’s past trauma or it’s an unknown future due to complicated factors, whatever it is, it more than likely can’t be fixed overnight. So, don’t invest expecting a quick process. Actually, don’t invest expecting anything at all. Limbo is complicated. Limbo is unchartered territory. Limbo can’t be trusted.

What I do trust, though, is that limbo won’t last forever. God will use our limbo for good and the wandering in the limbo won’t be wasted.

FAQ’s

It’s seems with all the transitions, people are asking and wondering what’s next for us. So, I thought before we get into writing the hard stuff (avoidance is bliss) we would cover some frequently asked questions.

1. How long are you here for / when are you going back?

We don’t know! Our initial plans were to spend the fall in America to welcome Zion and stay through Christmas, but with all the unrest in Haiti, it wouldn’t be safe nor wise to go back at this point. Two weeks ago we actually met with a lawyer and we have decided to move forward with Webert’s residency process by applying for his green card. During this application, while waiting to receive the green card, Webert will not be able to travel to Haiti. We hope to receive the green card by May 2020. As for the kids, we will be able to get extensions on their visas, since they are here on visitor visas as well, so the plans are to see them finish the entire school here!

2. How are the kids doing at school?

Amazing! Of course, there have been some hiccups and frustrations, but overall they’re thrilled to go to school every day and are growing in so many ways. The boys have done a great job making new friends and Wishla is speaking mostly only English at home, which blows me away as she was speaking very minimal English before. Their biggest complaint would probably be all the vaccinations they have had to get; I believe, combined, they’ve had 28 shots since August! Jephte and Loveson are in the fourth grade, but in separate classrooms. Jephte’s favorite subject is recess, naturally. Loveson’s favorite subject is math. Wishla is in the first grade and she loves writing and art! They all have amazing teachers, who match their personalities so well, and it’s been a culture shock even to me at the resources they have access to. All three of them meet one-on-one with an ESL teacher every day for twenty minutes and Wishla even meets with someone to work on sensory and coordination. Seriously, I grew up taking for granted the education I had access to and I’m beyond grateful to be back in my hometown dropping my kiddos off at the same elementary school I went to!

3. How is Haiti?

Not good.

4. When will it get better?

There’s no end in sight at the moment.

5. Why is Haiti so bad right now?

The current issues are beyond complicated and messy. I’m not very good when it comes to politics nor would I consider myself a great history teacher, but to fully understand what’s going on in Haiti, you need to be aware of the common theme in Haiti’s history, whose government has always been corrupt and unaccountable to its people. I think it’s also important to point out the young in Haiti right now is Haiti’s first somewhat educated generation. Their access to the internet and social media is allowing them to call out the government and its leaders on its corruption.

The biggest question they are asking today is “kote kob PetroKaribe?” Where’s the PetroKaribe money? In 2008, Haiti made a deal with Venezuela to receive oil at discounted prices on conditions of preferential payments. The purpose was to allow Haiti to be able to make a profit on the oil and use those profits to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Instead, Haiti’s leaders lined their pockets with the money.

When Webert explains the situation, he always tells the story of the president building a $9 million home during this time period, an example of the true reality of how these funds were used.

The current president, Jovenel Moise, is accused of embezzling a large amount of money as well and misappropriating funds through his construction businesses. Again, with the population having access to all of this information and the ability to reason and call out these crimes, Haiti is essentially at war with its government.

I used the word ability and I just want to explain. Because, think about it, in all of Haiti’s history its been oppressing an uneducated population. Statistics say today:

  • Haiti’s literacy rate is 61% – 64% for males and 57% for females. (CIA Factbook Nov 2015) The average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean developing countries is 92%. (World Bank 2015)
  • Only 29 percent of Haitians 25 and above attended secondary school. (USAID 2015)
  • 50 percent of children do not attend school at all.

But, even with those staggering statistics of today, ten or fifteen years ago it was far worse. So, if you have a population that can’t read, let alone use the internet to research current issues, how would you ever be able to hold your own government accountable? Just in forming these last three paragraphs, I opened three new browser windows and performed three individual searches and read two full articles; our ability to access information and have a voice and/or platform to use that information is a privilege. It’s kind of mind blowing to think that if I were to hand all the women in the village I live in a smartphone with this blog pulled up, less than half of them would even be able to read it!

On top of all the stolen money and corruption, the economy itself has been plummeting for the last 18 months. Inflation has increased significantly, the prices in the markets are skyrocketing and the availability of gas is minimal. All of these factors are what’s driving the people to demonstrate and riot in the streets….and can we blame them?

Just for a second, imagine if you woke up tomorrow and on your way to run your errands you stopped at the gas station, only to realize they were out of gas. You’d then spend your entire day searching for gas and not accomplishing anything on your to-do list. Imagine how quickly you’d lose your patience and how long the line would be at the gas station as so many other people rely on gas as well. I think it’s safe to say there’d be a widespread panic and more than likely a few choice words would be said and maybe even a few physical fights happening at the gas pump.

You finally find gas at the end of the day; tomorrow you’ll run your errands. Tomorrow comes and you arrive at the grocery store with a long list of the things you need, but you notice all the prices have gone up 30% – you’ll only be able to buy half of the things you need.

You’ll also have to take a long detour on the way home because the main highway to your house is blocked with people protesting the rise in inflation; they’re just as upset as you are.

You’ll get home late. You’re upset and ashamed to tell your children you didn’t have enough money to buy all the groceries they had asked for. You’ll stay home with them tomorrow because their schools have been closed for weeks too, due to all the violence and protesting in the streets.

You’re going a bit stir crazy, having to stay home every day, unable to answer the hard “why’s” your children are asking; unable to understand why there’s no gas, expensive market prices and no school. You don’t have access to nightly news or google to look up why this is all happening, but a few days later you hear some people talking about all the money the leaders of your country stole and because of their crimes, you are now the one suffering. I’d imagine by now you’d be more than angry; the need for justice would come to a boiling point.

Tomorrow, you choose to use your voice the only way you know you can:

You join the protestors in the streets.


 

While typing this scenario out, I quickly opened another web browser and searched, “what happens when the government is not held accountable?” which led to “what happens when there is no order in a country?”

…because, that’s what it feels like: the Wild, Wild West. Late this spring, there were containers filled with artillery and guns that had all been imported. The local judge reported this over the radio after seeing the containers and was then removed from his position of authority the very next day. You see, the corruption is so engrained in the government, the people with the money control everyone from the gangs (who they pay at times to be violent in the streets) to the local judges. Imagine how easily the oppress and control the poor and illiterate in the nation.

Google’s answer to this question:

“If a country will not have laws and order then it will be real hard to govern. People may kill each other as there will be no reason to arrest him or something. A place without any law and order could be dangerous for anyone as his/her rights can easily be violated.”

So, there you have it, my personal explanation of why Haiti is so bad right now.


 

I think that covers our most frequently asked questions, if you have more, please leave them in the comments!