Thursday, December 8, 2011

"When The Lord Closes A Door, Somewhere He Opens A Window."

Two posts in a week...I must be on a roll!!

I've been thinking a lot about "doors" and "windows of opportunity" in the past few days.  I think sometimes windows of opportunity get bad rap because of the nature of how they are presented. Doors are natural points of entry & exit, beginning and ending. Windows, not so much. They are smaller, less accessible, usually only used as a point of entry/exit in forced invasions or emergencies. But it is really all in the perception...

All this to say, on Monday of this week, the door of opportunity to invest in the lives of the children at the Hands and Feet Project was abruptly closed for me. I am SO disappointed, and heart-broken that all my little toddlers are left with no closure, no explanation, and none of the structure and education that they have been flourishing in for the past five months. I can only trust that God will continue to move heaven and earth for each of them to fulfill their incredible destinies. They are even MORE precious in His sight than they are in mine.

Although the door of opportunity at Hands and Feet has been closed, the windows of opportunity to invest in children in other parts of Haiti are wide open.  There is a tremendous need for accessible education, training, and job creation to ensure sustainable growth and positive change in the country. Early Intervention/Early Childhood Education is the perfect place for me to start. But starting/running a preschool takes a significant amount of preparation and planning, and planning takes TIME. My initial plan, which has been affirmed by a dear friend and veteran overseas missionary, is to take the next 6 months in Haiti to "scout out the land". Because of the unexpected turn of events, I have decided to celebrate Christmas in the US with family, and return to Haiti in mid-January. My three main objectives beginning in January will be: 1. Develop relationships with the people I had the privilege of meeting during my first five months in Haiti. 2. Enroll in language school to learn more Kreyol (speaking fluent "toddler" Kreyol only gets me so far...) 3. Gather as much information as I can from people involved in the education system in Haiti about the requirements and standards for running a school.

This is big step of faith, and I am trusting God to continue to direct me as I walk it out. I would love to invite my friends and family to partner with me in this next adventure. Please consider joining me in one of the following ways (and this is by no means an exhaustive list...If you have other ideas, please feel free to share!)
1. Prayer - for continued safety, health, direction, divine connections, provision
2. Resources/Materials - preschool classroom supplies, developmental checklists, adaptive OT/PT equipment, teacher planning materials, curriculum, etc.
3. People - In the future I would love to be able to coordinate teams of therapists (SLP, OT, PT, Audiologists, etc.), as well as Early Childhood Educators to come on short term trips to help assess children, provide feedback for setting/reaching goals, and provide professional development for Haitian teachers.
4. Funding - The initial estimated budget is $1000/month. This includes living expenses, travel, residency paper application fees, and ministry/education costs.

I am truly thankful for the door that was opened for me to begin my adventures in Haiti...equally grateful, and tremendously excited for the windows that have subsequently been opened to allow me to stay in Haiti until this adventure is concluded.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is

I've been back in the US now for almost 2 weeks, two unexpectedly early weeks. I got to have Thanksgiving with family, which was lovely. I take a hot shower every day. I go to the gym every day. I sleep in a "normal" bed...8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep EVERY night. It all feels great. And yet, at any given moment of the day, I suddenly get the urge to click my heels together three times and mutter under my breath,"There's no place like home...", hoping when I open my eyes I'll find myself in a much different (and much warmer) place. I've heard more than a few people living overseas talk about "going home to the States", which lately has struck me as an odd concept. If home is where the heart is, then shouldn't our heart be at home in the place where God has called us to be, even if it's unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and half-way around the world from what we used to know as home? All the things I mentioned earlier are often thought of as "the comforts of home", but they are not the things in which my heart finds comfort. I realized a few weeks ago that while I have talked about a few of the little miracles that have stolen my heart, I haven't introduced them to you properly. They are the reason I am homesick for Haiti:

Bekington, 2 years  11 months old
He is a natural problem-solver. Always an optimist, and a born leader. He's probably a future inventor or worship leader, or both! I miss his enthusiasm for reading books, usually first thing in the morning.

Davidson, 3 years old
He is non-verbal, but he doesn't need words to communicate his feelings. I miss his sweet smile, ear-piercing screech of excitement, and that infectious giggle when someone finds his perfect tickle spot.

D'Jolande, 3 years old
She is a jewel. Sensitive, shy, tender-hearted, dainty. I miss seeing her little face light up when I make direct eye contact with her (or when she is playing with baby dolls). 

Jameson, 22 months old
Mr. Funny Man! He makes everyone laugh. Despite having recurring asthma, he handles frequent breathing treatments like a champ and doesn't let that hinder his love of singing "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" all day (and night). I miss his full-speed-ahead bear hugs around me knees every morning.

 Jessica, 3 years old
My little butterfly. She does not walk, she "flutters about". A true fashionista. She is a little mother hen, always "fixing" people's hair and helping them however she can. I miss her endless imagination, and her endless reciting of "purple cat, purple cat, what do you see?" regardless of what book she happens to be "reading".

Luckson, 3 years old
He melts my heart! Sensitive and shy, but all boy, too. (He LOVES things that "GO".)  He is a thinker and an artist. I miss our daily walks down the driveway, when he holds my hand, points up to the sun and says, "Ky lo, li sho!" ("Kyle, it's hot!")

Mackenson, 23.5 months
Don't let that serious face fool you! He is full of joy and life and adventure. He is a walking miracle. I miss hearing him yell at the dog in English, "GO GO GO T-BONE!" (which is far cry from the hysterical meltdowns of before) and the way he so effortlessly transitions from "Hosanna" to "BINGO" and back again in the same spontaneous music set. 

Marie-Denise, 2 years 11.5 months old
She reminds me a lot of myself. Reserved, by not shy. An equal mix of silly and serious. Very studious, and creative at the same time. I miss hearing her little voice coming from the back room at bedtime, "Ky lo, mwen vle bo!" ("Kyle, I want a kiss!")

Rachelle, 2.5 years old
She's a tough cookie...or she'd like you to think she is! She is 2-going-on-15 years old.  She reminds me a bit of my niece. She likes to get dirty and play with the big kids, all while wearing pink, frilly dresses. She may be young, but she's definitely the leader of the pack. I miss her little mischievous smirk, and watching her dance with total abandon. 

"There's no place like home...there's no place like home...there's no place like home..."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Toddlers, Tiny Twins, and Transitions

This could easily be three different posts (and may indeed turn into that if it gets too long). It seems like months have passed in the 3 weeks since I last sat down to write. Such is the time warp that is living in Haiti...

School for the older kids started 2 weeks ago, and so did "preschool" in the toddler house.  We have circle time, centers, story time, recess, snack, and we follow a visual schedule. Sounds like a typical day in preschool, right? Until you throw in relatives of children (who are supposed to be in your class learning) coming to visit on the first day of school, a fellow missionary arriving with bullet wound in the shoulder that needs medical attention and prayer support, a mission team from another site who want to visit with half the kids in the house since they met on a previous trip, and a host of other inevitable and unavoidable interruptions to my "lesson plans". And somehow in the midst of all of it, the nine children in my house are flourishing...and learning! We are reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and learning animals and colors in English, Kreyol, and sign language. Jameson, the youngest one in the house at 23 months, is giving the older ones a run for their money. :) He remembers the animals in the book (in English) and knows what order they go in! His favorite one to say is,"Yellow duck!" So cute!! While all this is going on, we're also tackling potty training. We had a group from Franklin, TN, a few weeks ago that brought 2 cushioned potty seats for the toddler house. This was a tremendous blessing, especially since prior to that, Tabi (one of my nannies) told me that I shouldn't try to potty train Luckson, "because he is too skinny...he will fall in!" We are chugging along, with two fully potty trained and 2 more (who may or may not be wearing bottoms on any given day) in line. Last week Marie-Denise told Tabi she didn't want to wear diapers anymore because she liked panties instead. We don't have much to choose from, but I'm happy to oblige them with whatever motivates! So goes the adventures in the toddler house...

A Baby Story - Episode 2
Just a week after I posted about the tiny twin with no name who was brought and then left in a strange series of events, we had a mother show up in the driveway with a set of even tinier twins, a boy (Wendy) and a girl (Wendia), weighing less than 6 lbs put together at 16 days old. Another tragic story, but this one has a much more hopeful continuation. Christella, the mother, is a 23 yr old widow. Her husband died from cholera in June. The twins were born 4 weeks premature and very underweight. The doctor told her she couldn't have any more children, so she didn't want to give them up, she just wanted help. "What kind of help?" we asked, expecting the usual answer of diapers and/or formula. "Just help." She replied, with a look of total exhaustion and desperation. Upon further questioning, we learned that she has no family (her mother died recently as well) and she (and the twins) had been sleeping on the floor of a friend's house, eating only sporadically and feeding the twins sugar water because the doctor told her she was anemic so she couldn't breast feed.
We quickly concluded that the best (and basically ONLY) option for keeping this family together and monitoring the health of the babies was to invite them to stay at Hands and Feet temporarily, to give Christella the support she needed to care for her babies and help the twins stabilize and gain weight. She was so exhausted, she slept the entire first 2 days she was here. We took shifts checking on her, feeding both her and the twins at regular intervals. With nothing more than a portable bassinet on the kitchen counter, a portable oxygen machine, and a bundle of baby blankets for an "NICU", we prayed it would be enough to sustain these tiny miracles. Days went by and they ate, slept, and pooped just as they should. On October 12th, the twins turned 1 month old. As of today, they weigh 3lbs 12 oz (Wendia) and 3lbs 12.5 oz (Wendy) and continue to grow and get stronger and more alert every day. Christella is a wonderful mama and I have faith that they will live long, happy, healthy lives as a family.

Time for Transition
Change is an inevitable and sometimes unexpected part of life. It doesn't get any easier as we get older, just more complicated. In August the staff here learned that Hands and Feet had chosen new leadership to oversee the day to day operations at the orphanage. Dr. Ken & Diane feel called to stay in Haiti and God has already opened new doors for them to start a surf ministry and infant rescue house. Their daughter Emi is returning to Hawaii this week to begin college. Tamara, one of the Hands and Feet interns, will be partnering with the Pierces when her 3 month term at HAF is finished. Cameron & Stacie, who have been interns here since January, have both decided to return to the States to finish school in order to have even more impact when they return to Haiti in the future. That's a pretty big chunk of our team leaving to pursue God's call for each of them individually.  It's bittersweet as we prepare for major changes individually, and at the same time welcome the new directors to Haiti next week. It reminds me a bit of the lessons learned from potty training...We have to be willing to face the unfamiliar, to balance the things we know to be true with the uncertainties of life, to celebrate small victories, and clean up and move on from the inadvertent messes we create along the way while letting go of the familiar. We can approach transition in two ways: kicking and screaming, or we can put our big girl panties on and deal with it. I choose the latter, and hopefully along the way I can teach a few more little ones to do the same.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Baby Story

If you're a sappy romantic like me, who loves kids, you've probably seen the TLC program "A Baby Story" a hundred times, and shed a tear or two at the end of more than a few of them. They always start the same: with the sweet back-story of how the loving parents met and whether or not there is a big brother/sister anxiously awaiting their arrival. Throw in a plush nursery, a baby shower, and a smorgesbord of delivery options, including but not limited to: home birth with a midwife, water birth, a good "old-fashioned" hospital delivery (with an epidural, of course) and the occasional scheduled C-section (just to make life a little MORE predictable) and that's pretty much the gist of every episode.

This is not one of those stories. It begins with heartbreak and will leave you (as it did all of us at Hands and Feet) in silent bewilderment, like there's a giant "TO BE CONTINUED..." sign written across the sky...

Shortly after 3pm yesterday, having just wrapped up the in-take process for our newest member of the family, 5-month old baby Rose, we were informed that there was a woman at our gate with a tiny baby, asking for help. We invited her in and began asking her the circumstances for her visit and the age/condition of the baby. "The baby was just born this morning."she said. Sure enough, upon inspection, the umbilical cord was still attached, tied off with an old piece of string. She was tiny, weighing just under 5  pounds. Dr. Ken checked her vital signs and decided she needed some oxygen, so the oxygen machine was wheeled in from the office and started, with the tube resting just outside the baby's open, bird like, mouth.

This is where the story gets heartbreaking. "Baby girl" (because she had no name yet) was a twin. Her twin brother died, then the mother died shortly after giving birth at home.  The woman who brought the baby (from a town NOT close by), is the baby's paternal aunt. She told us the father was in the countryside working on funeral arrangements and she thought that he would want to keep the baby after everything got sorted out. Dr. Ken called a Haitian doctor who works in the area where the mother died to see if he could come and check out the story. Diane called Sarah, a Canadian midwife, who offered to bring over an umbilical cord clamp and tend to the baby further.

Then the story got really confusing and slightly suspicious. After we had weighed baby girl, and put a preemie diaper and preemie clothes on her. We asked the aunt if the baby had eaten anything since birth. The answer was no. It was nearing 4pm, and according to the aunt, the baby had been born 12 hours earlier. On top of all the trauma surrounding her birth, the poor thing hadn't eaten all day. Thankfully, we happen to have a box full of preemie bottle nipples that fit directly on to the 2oz similac newborn formula bottles. After a couple attempts at sucking, baby girl latched on and sucked down half the bottle. A little while later, after eating a bit more, she spit up. The aunt came over to me insisting in Kreyol that somehow the oxygen made the baby spit up and that she was a mother, she had children and the baby didn't need that oxygen tube by her face. I nodded understandingly (not) and put the oxygen tube right back where it needed to be. The aunt then started getting agitated, saying she needed to get on a tap tap (pick up truck taxi) WITH the baby and go back to her town before it got dark. We tried to explain that it was unsafe for the baby, that she still needed to be watched and cared for, and that we were willing to help. The aunt became irate, saying she had to go home with the baby because nobody knew she had taken the baby, her 6 children were left at home, the family of the mom who died would try to kill her if they didn't see the baby, etc. etc... And that she had only come to get milk for the baby. (2 hrs in and this is the first we had heard that story)

In the best interest of the baby, Dr. Ken called children's services and asked their advice. They spoke to the aunt and through a translator, told us to go ahead and allow her to take the baby home. We had done all we could do. As she walked out the front door, another woman came walking up telling her she needed to go now. She had come from the town where she had gone to the mayor to tell him that this woman had taken the baby....Wait, what??!! EXACTLY!! It was so confusing, but all we knew was that we had cared for the baby as originally requested, clothed her, fed her, and made sure she was breathing without difficulty before putting her back in the arms of her aunt and watching her walk out the front gates.

There is no documentation of her birth, no delivery caught on film for audiences around the country to enjoy. Just a couple pictures taken in the brief time we had the privilege of being the audience to the miracle that is her little life. I'm reminded of the the verse in a song I sang in Sunday School as a child,"He's got the little bitty babies in His hands..." And that gives me peace and hope for "Baby Girl's" future, even if I never see her again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love Your Neighbor...Hug a Voodoo Priest

We came up with this slogan (which I think would make quite a catchy bumper sticker) as I was walking to the cove down the street from our compound with several of my fellow missionaries. It's easy to say the first part without much thought as to what it really means...

Everybody's heard the story of the Good Samaritan. It was Jesus' response to the "holier than thou" Pharisee who wanted to know the precise definition of "neighbor" in order to make getting into heaven a little easier. "Neighbor" is less about geographical proximity and more about relational proximity. Jesus modeled this in many ways: he touched the untouchables (lepers), befriended the friendless and unfriendly (prostitutes and tax collectors), and forgave the unforgivable (the ones who crucified him). Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (John 14:12)

So how does that translate to everyday life in Haiti? Let's be honest, it's not the safest, healthiest, friendliest place in the world to live. The water is contaminated, the pavement along the road (if there is any) is unsafe, and the culture is unfamiliar. There can be a tendency to be less neighborly in favor of maintaining a sense of safety. We can feel good about the work we do with orphans on our self-sufficient compound with our clean drinking water, high security walls, and double-layered metal gates. But what good is any of that if we don't show love to our neighbors? How can we do that if we don't get out in the neighborhood? What if our neighbors happen to be restavek owners, or unmarried women with multiple malnourished children covered in scabies, or a voodoo priest/priestess who hosts gatherings with loud music, chanting and animal sacrifices that keep us awake until all hours of the night? How do we love them? Some things we do, even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone (or our perceived safety zone): food for the hungry, clean drinking water for the little restavek girls to carry back to their "owners", medicine for the sick, and every once in a while, a hug for the voodoo priest who lives across the street. Why? Because if Jesus lived in Haiti, that's what he would do...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saintana Smiles

restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, "one who stays with") is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child.

Saintana is an 8-yr-old girl with a smile that lights up her whole face.  Every day for the past few months, we would see her carrying a water jug to and from the public water station a few doors down from the Hands and Feet compound, wearing the same dirty, tattered dress...and always that bright, beautiful smile.  Stacie, one of the other missionaries here, took a special interest in her, and began talking to her and getting to know her.  Stacie's girls spent an evening praying for her and trying to come up with a plan to rescue her from her situation. They decided to give Saintana a new dress. A few days later, she was seen, once again carrying the water jug, but this time wearing the new dress she had been given.  

We began to pray for opportunities to speak to Saintana's "hosts" and for the ultimate outcome that somehow she would be freed from this forced servitude.  Stacie asked the woman of the home if Saintana could come and play for the day. One play date turned into several, with even a sleepover or two over the course of several weeks.  Stacie contacted Tina, who runs the school that all of our children attend, to see if we could get scholarships for Saintana and another little girl to attend school this year. What a happy day when both "host homes" gave permission for the girls to attend school!! Saintana was so excited the day she came over to get measured for her school uniform! 

Then came the miracle we had all been praying for...One day last week, early in the morning, Saintana showed up outside Stacie's bedroom door, asking her to come meet her parents. Saintana's family lives in Cap Rouge, up in the mountains about an hour and a half from Jacmel.  They had come to ask Hands and Feet if we would take Saintana and her younger brother, Renaul, the two youngest of seven siblings because they were unable to care for them. They had already sent two other siblings to Port-au-Prince, and the father was preparing to leave for the Dominican Republic to try to find work. 

So, on Friday Saitana and Renaul officially became part of the Hands and Feet family.  Stacie had the privilege of doing the intake for both children.  She asked the dad what his dreams would be be for his children. He answered that he wished for them to grow up and do good, to make a difference.  That is our hope for all the children here at Hands and Feet! And it our honor to be part of making a difference in the life of one little girl with an unforgettable smile...

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Orphan Spirit - An Illustration

A couple days ago I was listening to the Grace Center podcast "Son or Orphan" again. It's SO good. If you haven't heard it, I highly encourage you to go to the website and download it. I've heard it probably half a dozen times since I have been part of Grace Center.

The message gives me new insight into the behaviors of children I have been working with at the Hands and Feet Project for the past 3 weeks now. Yesterday I spent a good part of the morning organizing the playroom in the Toddler House: switching out toys, pulling old or broken ones and putting new/different ones on the shelf. I had 2 piles of  toys: one pile that was salvageable with minor repair or new batteries, and one pile that was destined for the trash. Later in the afternoon, I saw one of the preschool boys playing with a broken See 'N Say, one of the toys I had put in the trash can in front of our house.  I took it back, telling him it was broken and didn't work, and returned it to where it the trash.  He got mad and stomped off to sulk, thinking I was so mean to have taken away his toy... What he doesn't know is that in our depot, the entire back wall is filled with toys, some still in the original packaging, waiting for the opportunity to be used.  

We are all like that sometimes. We hold on to things that might look nice, but they don't work or do us any good: unhealthy relationships, miserable job situations, and wrong mindsets because we think we're better off having something broken than not having anything at all. What we don't realize is that if we would just let go of our tight grip on it (whatever it is) and allow God to "fix it or toss it", we would receive something so much greater in return. We forget that our loving heavenly Father has a "depot", a heavenly storehouse filled with every good and perfect gift that is our inheritance. It is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom... (Luke 12:32) 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events

In the two weeks leading up to my departure for Haiti, I experienced several unexpected and unpleasant circumstances, which prompted someone to say,"Maybe this is a sign that you should not go to Haiti." Which got me thinking...Where would I be, where would any of us be if we stopped doing the thing we are called to do because we experienced failure, unexpected loss, inconvenience, disappointment, even pain? What about all the scientists, doctors, athletes, inventors, etc. that kept going against all odds? What about Jesus? I'm thankful He didn't lose sight of His calling in the face of incredible opposition and pain, even death. 

Despite a car accident, a stressful move out of my apartment, the unsuccessful transfer of the care of my cat to my brother's house (she peed on his carpet after he yelled at her so I had to find alternate arrangements),  my dad's hospitalization for food poisoning, which led to a shortened stay in Pittsbugh, AND the airline refusing to allow me to check the suitcase full of all my teacher stuff...I, and my luggage, finally arrived at the Hands and Feet Project in Jacmel on Tuesday afternoon. It feels so good to be settling in "at home" here. I love every minute I spend with these precious kids.  I spent all day today gathering supplies to start "school" with the toddlers on Monday. I can't wait! But for now, I should head to bed. It's "late", almost 10pm, and nearly all the lights in the houses are out. Tomorrow is Sunday, which means nursery duty bright and early...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Letting Go and Saying Goodbye

I'm not entirely sure where the month of May went, but suddenly it's the middle of June and I am way behind in my updates! I spent a lovely weekend in St. Louis with my aunt's family for Memorial Day.  It was great to spend time with my cousin Jenny and celebrate her recent college graduation.  Time sure flies!!

The last week of school (or should I say the last 1 1/2 days of school, thanks to the snow days) was crazy, as usual.  I spent better part of April and May in meetings making sure my students were all set for next year's transitions.  So, it's no wonder I put off the things I need to do for my own transition (i.e. packing) to Haiti.  I truly enjoyed the year at my school, and it was really nice to feel loved and appreciated by my students AND colleagues. :)

I've been thinking a lot lately about the story of the rich young ruler in the Bible. What was the difference between him and the rest of the followers of Jesus (myself included...I hope)?  Basically it comes down to one thing: he was more committed to his "stuff" than he was to Jesus.  I had a conversation with an acquaintance about moving to Haiti recently and he said,"We don't really NEED 90% of what we have." But most of the time we THINK we do! The flat screen TV, the microwave, the coffee grinder, the Christmas tree, the 20 different colors of nail polish, the never-ending assortment of clothes and shoes...These are things I've acquired over a good many years, because at the time I "needed" them.  Now they are the things that hold me back from this great adventure I'm about to embark on. That 90% will not fit in 3 checked bags and 2 carry-ons, and it certainly won't do anything for orphans in Haiti! Oh, what I wouldn't give for a magic wand or a Mary Poppins song to make this mountain of stuff just disappear!! But that's the beauty of this journey, it takes deliberate thought and effort to let go of the things we thought we needed, to go after the things that REALLY matter.  That is my task for the next 3 days...Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Countdown

Well Folks, it's official...My departure date (from Nashville) is set, and ticket bought for June 20th.

Just incase you missed my FB note, here is the latest update on my adventures:

...I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by, and at the same time feel like June can't come soon enough! As the saying goes,"So much to do, so little time..."  I am so humbled and grateful to all of my family and friends, old and new, who have affirmed me in this new adventure.

As the babies (and the numbers of babies) in the nursery at The Hands and Feet Project have grown, so has the possibility of fulfilling the vision that God gave me several years: to bring light and hope through love and education to the littlest ones in the developing world, who are the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, disabled, neglected, and forgotten. What better place to start than the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere??!!  In addition to supervising the newborn nursery, I have also been given the opportunity to create a "Learning & Play Space" for the toddlers and young preschoolers at HAF. This will be a place where they can be nurtured and taught in a small group setting with lots of 1:1 attention to meet their individual over-all developmental needs.  I have also been extended an invitation to teach in the preschool class at the school where the older children attend, and I haven't even met the director of the school in person! The favor of God is so amazing!

But, I need your help... It takes both money and materials to create and sustain a project like this long-term.  If you have donated materials already, THANK YOU!! Some things have already been transported to Haiti, but since shipping is currently limited to the space in 2 checked bags, it may take a while to get everything there. (Unless I can recruite a few more willing souls to come bring light and hope to Haiti...and carry a few extra bags!) :)  If you would like to partner with me financially, you can find out how at I would also be happy to provide a hard copy of my card for any one who is interested.  Also, if you live in the Nashville area, and are in need of household items of any kind, please let me know. I probably have it, and I need to get rid of it! ;)  I am so blessed to have all of you in my life. Thank you for giving me the support and courage to pursue my dreams to change the world, one child at a time!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nothing "Typical" About A Typical Day In Haiti

It's Friday, and the day begins like any other...There's really no need for alarm clocks in Haiti. If the roosters aren't exhausted from "cock-a-doodle-doo-ing" all hours of the night, they are up with the sun and determined not to be alone. Baby goats, the neighbor cow, and the workers digging out the cistern on the compound join in the cacophony. 

First things first: Babies, then coffee! I usually head to the nursery between 6:30-7am, about the time the day shift nannies arrive to relieve the night shift.  The babies are just beginning to stir, and they are HUNGRY! Especially little Jeziman, who is determined to catch up with the "sumo-wrestler" status of the rest of his nursery mates, just as soon as he can get those long fingers out of his mouth and figure out how to drink from the crazy looking bottle we brought for him! (the haberman feeder is specially designed for babies with cleft palate) Once the babies are changed, fed, and dressed in cute, preferrably matching, outfits, I head back to the main house for a much needed caffeine boost.  Haitian coffee is the best!!

After breakfast, Kerby (who is deaf) and Sabrina are gathered up and put in the truck to head down the street to the special school for children with disabilities, where they attend 3 days a week.  On this day, however, they return only a half an hour later because there is no school...It is strangely reminiscent of the mile long walk I used to take with my brother to get to school in China, only to find out on arrival that it was a "very important holiday" (but not important enough to tell us beforehand) and therefore school was cancelled for that day. Rule #1 in a foreign country: be flexible!  Diane asked Amy and I if we could work with Kerby 1:1 for part of the morning, so he wasn't totally thrown off by not being at school.  So, after I got Jeziman securely tucked in the moby wrap, we caught up with Kerby and headed up to the "tutoring room", armed with sign coloring book, preschool computer games, and plastic sorting/lacing frogs. Kerby was a model student for almost 30 minutes! He imitated color signs and was putting 2 signs together to request the frogs.  Then came the inevitable meltdown when he didn't get his way. I must say, though, that given the fact he had probably never even been in that classroom before and certainly had never worked at "home" with the sort of expectations Amy and I put on him, he did exceptionally well! Once we got through the tantrum, we went back downstairs with the intention of returning him to the oversight of his nanny.  We didn't make it all the way back to his house because 2 of the toddlers, Marie Denise and Jessica, wanted in on all the learning fun. Amy sat on the steps with the three of them and modeled color signs, simple songs, and sharing. :)  They absolutely ate it up!!

Next on the agenda: back to the nursery for another round of feedings and a little "baby circle time" in the bumbo and bouncy seats. They were mesmerized by my overly-dramatic rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider".  It always does a teacher's heart good when there is full engagement by the audience, no matter the age. The attention didn't last long, given that all of the babies are 7 months old and younger.  :)  I tried in vain to regain the attention of one of the boys by calling his name repeatedly.  Finally, I was resigned to use one of the few Kreyol phrases I've learned in the past 2 months.  "Gade Mwen!" (look at me!) Instantly 3 babies' heads turned as if on a swivel and I momentarily had full eye contact and undivided attention! Rule #2 in a foreign country: any attempt to speak the native language is highly encouraged and usually met with a favorable response. 

Before lunch, Josue (the spiritual director for the kids at HAF), walked us over to the school where all the children 3 yrs and older attend.  Amy and I observed the 3 yr old class for about an hour until their dismissal at noon.  50 kids all seated quietly around 3 large tables...Amazing! And cute as can be in their little uniforms. They all got up to sing a funny little song, then joined hands and repeated after the teachers in a prayer, thanking Jesus for the day and blessing their moms and dads.  We were absolutely mobbed in the school yard and tried unsuccessfully to distingush "our kids" from the others.  Three adults trying to keep tabs on 18 preschools while walking down a busy Haitian street gives a whole new meaning to "herding cats". Once we all got safely back to the compound, everyone scattered for lunch and play time. 

The afternoon was relatively uneventful until 2 of the older boys were rough-housing and Junior fell down and ended up with a nasty little gash on his forehead.  This is the point at which it comes in very handy that the field director at HAF happens to be an ER doctor.  One of the two dining room tables in the main house is quickly covered with towels and transformed into a triage unit.  Dr. Ken injects a local anesthetic after setting up a sterile environment and stitches up the cut while Cameron and Emi stand by to comfort Junior.  And just like that, the procedure is finished and the "ER" morphs back into the dining room. 

Amy and I were included in the newly adopted Friday night tradition of dinner out at a local hotel restaurant on the beach...for pizza! Not exactly Papa John's, but nonetheless it was delicious! The weather was delightful, as was the company. Dr. Ken and Diane are such incredible people. I feel truly honored at the prospect of working alongside them in the coming months!

The rest of the evening was chronicled in my note "Facebook and the Power of Prayer".  After all the drama and struggles of the day, which didn't end until well after midnight, all I can say is the hand of God is clearly at work in Haiti and in the lives of each of the beautiful children I spent my spring break with.  I miss the typical day in Haiti already!

Wow!! Two hours later, and I just realized and left out a major chunk of the afternoon.  That's pretty much how the day went any ways. Amy and I kept looking at each other, saying,"Did that really all just happen in one day??"

Somewhere between the dining room/ER and dinner, Dr. Kyle arrived from up in the mountains with little Jameson and his grandmother.  At first we thought he was a girl, because of his absolutely beautiful features, long braids, and pink onesie. Jameson is 13 months old and weighs only 13 lbs, the same as Martiline, who is only 7 months old.  His mother died shortly after giving birth and the father is nowhere to be found, so the grandmother has been caring for him all this time. Except now her husband is sick, too. So she had to make a choice. I sat at the table as Diane did the in-take questions and I could see the sadness in the grandmother's eyes. She didn't know what else to do, so she came to HAF. She was embarrassed that she didn't know how to sign her name, so with gentle reassurance she simply made an "X" on the paper.  She reluctantly admitted that she was hungry from the long drive down the mountain, so while she ate, we took Jameson to the nursery, bathed him and changed his clothes.  When we came back out, she was gone.  Jameson reminds me of a baby monkey, the way he wraps his legs around and clings to whoever happens to be holding him.  He had some serious transition and separation anxiety that first night, but I'm happy to report that the older girls have taken him under their wing and he has been reported to smile often now.  He's a good eater, so I'm sure he'll be just as chunky as the rest of the little ones in no time at all. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Left My Heart In Haiti

     This may not surprise many of you, given the frequency with which I have been acquiring stamps in my passport at Haitian immigration for the past year. What may surprise you is that the first piece of my heart was actually left there in 1997.  Just a few weeks after I graduated from high school, I traveled as the youngest member of a team from my then-home-church, Greater Works Outreach, to the Greater Works Home for Girls in Port-au-Prince. That was the week I met the sisters I always wanted....all 30-something of them!! The thing I remember most about that trip (besides the 6 girls x 8 hrs it took for them to braid my waist-length hair) is the night we arrived and it was pitch black outside. All the girls stood on the steps and sang to us in Kreyol. They sounded like angels!
     I left another piece of my heart in Haiti the following year, when I went on a Christmas mission trip with Teen Mania Ministries as a missionary advisor.  The last night we spent at an orphanage with about 150 kids of all ages. There was one little girl, about 3 years old, who clung to me like a little monkey and kept wiping off the mime make-up from my face and smearing it on herself.  She did not want to let go of me when it was time for us to leave...I felt the same way, it broke my heart to see little war-painted, tear-streaked face as we loaded up the van and drove away.  Another year, another piece of my heart left with some of the most precious children in the world...

    This is where the story picks up on recent events.  In the fall of 2009, I contacted the director of the Hands and Feet Project, after reading a newsletter in which they put a call out for Early Childhood and/or Special Education teachers who could come help some of the children get caught up in their academics.  Sounds like the perfect job for me, right?  So, we had been talking back and forth and tossing around dates for a possible trip when suddenly, January 12, 2010, the earthquake hit and changed everything....or did it?  Because of the semi-remote location of Jacmel, along the southern coast of Haiti, it was virtually impossible for anyone to get in or out immediately following the earthquake.  I knew in my heart, I NEEDED to be in Haiti, so I researched options on the internet until I found Adventures in Missions, who happened to have a trip scheduled for the week of my spring break, March 2010, just 2 weeks after they re-opened the PAP airport.  After I returned from that trip, I immediately signed up and began planning a return trip for June 2010.  My wonderful Thai-sister, Joanna Samuels, came with me for that trip and it was life-changing! That is where I met Jean Bernard. If you haven't heard that story, for now I will save it for another entry. He is a 10-year-old boy, orphaned by the eathquake, who absolutely stole my heart.   I returned to Carrefour, Haiti, in October 2010 to accompany Jean Bernard to a nearby hospital for some tests and medicine to address an acute illness. Please pray for him!

     After I got back from Haiti last fall, I contacted the Hands and Feet Project again, to see if it were possible for me to come visit, and maybe enlist their assistance in finding a permanent home for Jean Bernard.  That is when I first started corresponding with Diane Pierce, who along with her husband, Dr. Ken and their 18-year-old daughter Emi, has been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the orphanage in Jacmel.  They are AMAZING people! I was so excited at the prospect of going to help with the newest additions to the HAF family, three baby boys, over Christmas break. Those plans were halted when rioting and protests broke out and shut down the airport in Port-au-Prince folliowing the disputed election results in early December.  I still felt the tug to be there, and thought waiting 3 months until spring break rolled around again, would just be too long to wait. So, on the off chance that my boss might approve a mid-January trip, I went and and spoke to her about it and she approved!! The grace and favor of God was totally on that trip! I planned to be there on the day that was originally scheduled for the run-off presidential election, which was expected to bring more unrest to the country.  As it turns out, the elections were postponed, pending a recount, so all was peaceful the entire week I was there.  Thank you, Jesus!

     It seemed like there were more babies everytime I turned around. First the 3 boys, Woodley, Jacob and Kevin, then little Esther came a couple days before me. And Martiline, my ti soley briye, (little sunshine) arrived a few days before I left. I was in Heaven, spending just about every waking minute in the nursery with these precious little ones!! As the week progressed, I felt more and more "at home" and began talking with Ken and Diane about what possibilities there might be for me to come long-term.  With the rapid addition of so many newborns, they are in need of someone to oversee the nursery and provide training for the Haitian nannies.  In addition, with 9 toddlers roaming the compound, they need a "space" for play and typical toddler activities.  Talk about my dream job!  I love babies, and the passion God has put in my heart for the past several years has been to reach the littlest, most vulerable children in developing countries who are at risk for developmental delays on one level or another.  It has truly been an amazing and humbling experience to see how God has begun to put the pieces of the puzzle together for the next incredible adventure of my life! 

     I have made the leap of faith, and officially put in my notice of intent to resign from my current teaching position at the end of the school year.  Tentatively, I will be moving to Jacmel in mid/late June. I will update often as I continue in this journey, so stay tuned!  If you have made it to the end of this post, I hope you will stay and join me on this adventure in some way. I cherish all the love, friendship, support, prayer, and encouragement I have already gotten from so many of you along the way!