“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
-Dr. Suess, The Lorax

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are You Thirsty?

During the summertime, I do pretty well at staying hydrated.   The weatherman always reminds me to drink plenty of fluids on those toasty hot days.  Health conscious articles are everywhere telling us how important it is to drink several glasses of water each day.  And if your mouth is dry, guess what?  It doesn’t mean that you are about to be parched; it means you are already somewhat dehydrated.  I think we all would agree – we should drink a good amount of water daily to be in optimal health.  Fair enough.

But what about when it’s not 95 degrees outside with humidity hovering around 100%?  It’s easy to remember to grab a bottle of water when you break out in a full-body sweat just from walking to your car – from your back door!  (I will never understand how I can get so sweaty just from taking 20 steps across my driveway in July.  Disgusting.)  I tend to forget about my need to stay hydrated unless my armpits remind me.  Can anyone relate?   Anyone?

So here we are entering December.  Quite chilly outside, and the heat index is waaaay down.  Almost every day lately I have come to the realization that I have barely had anything to drink, besides with a meal or my daily cup of Joe.  Why?  I haven’t been thirsty.  So it’s cool, right?


Time to do a quick self-check:  dry skin, chapped lips, moth mouth.  Classic signs of dehydration.  I don’t “feel thirsty” – but my body is aching for hydration.   Cold weather is deceptive like that, isn’t it?  And what feels best during cold weather?  Why, of course, things that dehydrate you even more:  hot showers, warm thermostats, and extra coffee (which, ironically, does nothing beneficial in hydrating your body).

 In fact, one of my favorite things to do when I’m fffffreezing is to sit directly in front of a space heater.  A couple of years ago I was huddled up next to my handy-dandy space heater by my desk at work, day after day through the cold of winter.  I started noticing that my hair on the left side of my head (the side I sat my heater on) was beginning to feel crispy.   Now, I’m no beauty expert, but crispy hair doesn’t seem like a good thing to me.  I realized that I had been cranking up the heat waaaay too much and had been toasting my hair.  I probably hadn’t been drinking any water, either.  (For the record, upon that discovery, I went out and invested in some extra warm boots to wear to the office.  My icicle toes didn’t need quite as much help from the heater after that.)      

Ok, ok.  We get it.  Drink plenty of water – even if we aren’t thirsty.  We need it, even if we don’t realize it.  Water is essential to life.  We like to live, therefore we should hydrate. 

Pretty simple, right?  Certainly!

Buckle up.  I’m about to throw this one at you. 

What about the Living Water?  Do I need to drink up the Word daily?  Even if I’m not particularly thirsty?  Because, I’ll be honest, some days I forget that I need it.  I don’t feel thirsty (for God).  I’m not aching for a drink (of Truth).  In fact, during nice, mild days….sometimes several days in a row….I don’t even think about getting a good, refreshing drink.  I’m fine, after all.

Oh, sure, when I have a day that burns me up….I dive right into a refreshing cup of the Word.  Sometimes, gasping like I was wandering in the desert, I crawl like a wounded animal to my Father to seek His Face.  To hear His Voice.  To feel the Comfort of my Lord.  The Scriptures are always there for me when I feel like I could wither up and blow away. 

The Word of God is my cool, sparkling, clear glass of water.  And it hydrates my soul. 

But I need to stay hydrated…even on nice, mild days. 

And then I think about how selfish I am.  How it must grieve my Father’s heart that so often I forget about Him unless I’m thirsty.  Why do I so often exclude the One whom all good things come from when I am content?  I am ashamed to say that often on the nicest of days, I don’t even think about getting a drink.  Or giving thanks for the fountain that never dries up.    

John 4:10, 14
Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water……..Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst – not ever. “

So drink up…..and let your cup runneth over. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

The week after returning home from Haiti is my time for reflection; processing what I saw and felt, even smelled.  Smelled?  Let me explain that one briefly.  In Haiti, you experience a plethora of odors.  One moment you are inhaling the tropical aromas of ferns and flowers, the next moment your nostrils are infiltrated by some unknown ickiness.  Is that sewage?  Or something dead?  Oh, good, I smell the flowers again.  ((Sigh of relief))   The combo of dust, diesel exhaust, smoldering garbage, and odors from the general wet muck that lines the streets will allow you to take home a free sample of the essence of Haiti’s not-so-pretty side.   Actually, it’s downright awful.  A ride in the back of a truck through Port-au-Prince will assure that you will yearn for a shower as soon as possible.  From the comfort of my home in Kentucky, a swab of a Q-tip revealed that some of Haiti, in the form of black gunk, had hitchhiked home with me in the creases of my ear cartilage.  That makes a girl feel oh-so pretty. 
Now onto the subject of what I saw and felt.  I can’t possibly put it all into words; there’s just no way.  Some things you just have to experience for yourself to “get it.”  But I’ll try my best just for you, especially since you’re going to the trouble of reading this.  Thanks, by the way! 
Sadness.  I saw some real, raw sadness.  It made me sad.  (Note: “sad” is a very inadequate word, but let’s just roll with it.)  It made me say under my breath, “I am so sorry.  I am sorry you have to go through this.  I am sorry I can’t just make it all better.”  It made me pray for God’s mercy.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.  No magic wand or genie in a bottle will fix the hurt and suffering in Haiti.  At best, healing and improvement will come very, very slowly.  But some things will never go away.  Like the grief of losing a child or losing a mother.  Only God’s mercy will ease the pain in the aching hearts I saw.  I have no doubt that God can do anything, including bring Haiti and her people out of despair.  But I don’t know or understand God’s plan.  In His time, in His way.  Father knows best.  In the meanwhile, my best tool is prayer.  And so I will pray.
One afternoon in particular, the sadness made my heart ache so much that I just had to escape to a quiet place to grieve for a few minutes. That morning, a mother had made the heart-breaking decision that she had no other choice but to give away her child.  It was agony for her, clearly.  Some of the other volunteers passed her walking down the dusty, rocky road with her baby in her arms, tears streaming down her face.  She was, in fact, walking to GLA to find a place of hope for her frail baby girl.  Those were tears of grief and acceptance of what she must do in order for this child she so loved to survive.  Survival meant she must say good-bye.  So unfair.  So painful.  At home, she had more children, more mouths to feed.  This baby girl had special needs, needs which she was incapable of satisfying.  Best-case scenarios and healthy babies are difficult enough to provide for in Haiti.  Add some hard stuff to the equation and you’ve got a situation that is too overwhelming, even for a mother that dearly loves her child.  This mother, frail herself, loved her baby so much that she was willing to give her away.  Her hope for her baby’s future, a hope for improved health and a fed belly, a hope for education and a family that could give her baby things that she never could (as in: a roof overhead, medicine, clothing, etc.), this is what gave her the strength to walk this most painful path.  Just minutes before she said good-bye to her little girl, I passed her in the waiting area.  The mother, I’m guessing to be in her mid- 40’s (which is almost elderly, in Haitian statistics), was attempting to breast-feed one last time.  Next to her baby’s mouth, she held her shriveled breast, void of life-giving milk.  At four months old, her baby weighed only seven pounds.  Downs Syndrome had impaired the little girl’s ability to suck and swallow well.  Death was not far from her little body.  In the seconds as I walked by, a snap-shot of the mother’s face was ingrained into my memory.  Absolute sorrow.  Pain that only a Savior can ease.
Later in the day, I watched a new boy in the nursery struggle with the pain that was ripping him apart inside.  Just a few days earlier, his family said good-bye to him.  I don’t know his story, but does it really matter?  I asked the head nurse if he was experiencing physical discomfort from finally receiving nutrition after his starving body had gone without enough food for so long.  Was this the reason why he flailed his legs and cried in pain?  No, was my answer.  His heart just hurts that much, that intensely.  He misses his mother. 
I am so sorry, little one.  I am sorry that you are going through this pain.  I wish I could take it away.  I wish you could pour it out into me and I would carry it for you.  No child should have to suffer such heartache.  It isn’t fair. 
Jesus, have mercy.
In order to not end on such a dismal note, let me share this with you.  GLA is hope, with an incredible staff that is divinely blessed with the ability to nurse these children back to physical and emotional health.  A look around the nursery will show you this fact.  After a time of transition has passed, the kids begin to smile and play.  Bonding with their nannies takes place.  Bellies are fed, bottoms are cleaned, and some sense of normalcy is established.  Medication is administered, even for the deworming that is necessary.  (Yes, worms in the gut.  Such is life in Haiti.)  For those especially fragile, round-the-clock nurses work to mend sickly bodies.  And with God’s grace, most often, they are healed.  Sometimes He calls His angels home, despite the staff’s best efforts.  But His hand is holding each and every child that enters through the GLA gate.  Our Lord is in this place.  On a mountainside in Haiti, a light shines, giving hope of life.  Hope because of the one true God.  GLA – God’s Littlest Angels – where hope in Jesus gives more than life in this messed up, cruel world.  Through Him, a perfect life awaits.  A life where no tear will fall, no pain exists.  A life that is never-ending. 
Jesus.  That is the life-change that GLA ultimately offers.  Everything within the GLA walls is done in His name, for His glory.         
**Note:  GLA goes to great effort to keep families together.  The giving up of a child is never a sweet solution, but sometimes, it is the only choice.  We are thankful for the lengths that GLA goes to to ensure that the decision is indeed correct for each child that is accepted into their care and put up for adoption.  The child’s best interest is certainly followed.  Not all children are accepted into GLA, for a number of different and complicated reasons.  Some children are brought into GLA for medical purposes only; when their health is better, they are reunited with their family.  GLA maintains a reputation throughout the country of a place where miracle healings occur.   It is with great discernment and prayer, and of course, extraordinary favor of God, that GLA is so successful…in a land where everything is incredibly hard.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Appreciation

Ever notice how easy it is to be critical of someone other than yourself?  Well, actually, no….most folks don’t realize how easy it is.  Most folks don’t realize how much they criticize others.  That is, until they have the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes.  (Ouch!)
I am one of those folks.  And today I changed my perspective.   I walked in someone else’s shoes….or perhaps I should say, someone else’s flip-flops.  Thank you, Lord, for humility.   I needed a good dose of it.  Don’t we all? 
This is me:  a typical American.   What does that mean, in this context, at least?  Well, it means I am used to things being up to a certain standard (my standard).  Things should be done a certain way (my way).  Things should be done in a certain timeframe (my timeframe). 
I think you get the point.  And I think I’m pretty typical.  We Americans tend to believe that everything in  our little world…no matter where in the world we happen to be on any given day….should go according to the way we expect them to go.  Even if those expectations are unreasonable.  Shallow.  Short-sighted.  Uneducated.  Uninformed.  Ignorant.  Irrational.  Selfish. 
Note to self:  Get over it.  (And I invite others to do the same.)
I’m guessing you are wondering how I got my dose of humility today.  Well, here’s the scoop:
This morning there was a funeral for a long-time beloved staff member of GLA that passed away last week.  In order for the staff and all the nannies to be able to attend, someone had to take care of the babies, obviously.  (What?  Taking 40-something babies to a funeral doesn’t sound like a good idea?)  A solution was put into place: the volunteers would cover the nursery during the funeral.  Of course!  How hard could it be, right?  Riiiiiight…..
During my time volunteering at this orphanage (which is a top-notch orphanage, mind you), a few things have annoyed me.  Nothing major, but small annoyances gave me enough ground to grumble under my breath, justifiably,  so I thought.  And I’ve heard the grumblings of other volunteers as well.  Again, nothing extraordinary…..just a few things that didn’t fit our standards. 
You want examples, don’t you?  Of course you do.  You want the scoop.  The ugly stuff.  That’s what we like to flock to like vultures…..a big pile of nasty, stinky, ugly grumblings.  Grumblings that are usually worth their weight in poop.  And around here, poop just happens to be one category of grumblings.   When you are in a place that is home to over 40 babies….let’s just say, there’s plenty of poop to go around.
Dried snot and boogers as big as the nostrils they are nestled in.  Poopy diapers (bonus if oozing up the back or down the leg) that have obviously been plastered to a tiny bottom for a while.   Bottle sharing (or more likely, bottle swiping).  Outfits that don’t quite fit, or are stained or have a hole.  Crying babies.  Plentiful supply of crying babies.
Sound horrid?  Not a place you would even consider leaving your child at?  Just awful!  Tsk, tsk. 
Well, folks, get over it.
This morning, my fellow volunteers and I were in charge of the babies for a few hours.  To be accurate, we didn’t even have to tend to the tiniest and frailest babies, as they were tended to by their nurse.  And to be honest, we had one Haitian nurse in with us to help us out with bottle-making. 
So how’d it go?  How much more awesome were we at maintaining order and getting the job done “the way it should be”?  <Insert sheepish laugh here.>
Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.  We managed, but not gracefully.  We did it, but we were exhausted.  A few moments of panic/exasperation/frustration and a lot of clock-checking, wondering how long funerals last in Haiti. 
I lost count as to how many poopy diapers I changed, and the other volunteers were changing them as well.  Here’s how it went:
As soon as one bottom was clean, another was primed for changing.   Gross, stinky poop that, in no time flat, often had seeped through to the clothes.  Clean the bottom and then search for an outfit that will fit this kid.  Maybe this one will work?  Nope, try again.  Boogers?  No time for that….the next kid is in line for a changing.  Where did your bottle go, little guy?  Why does that kid have two bottles?  I guess I’ll take one of them and give it to you.  Problem solved…..well enough, at least.  Why is there a diaper in the floor?  Someone must have stripped naked, because here’s a puddle of pee.  Butt check!  After 15 bottoms patted, the naked one is discovered.  Sneaky, aren’t you?!  Now, where did my little guy go that had boogers?  Wait, which one was it?  I forgot.  Oh well, I’ll catch up with those boogers eventually.  Right now I need to go stop that kid from climbing on the furniture and nose-diving onto the ceramic tile.  Too late.  Thank goodness he’s tough.  No blood, no worries.  Turn around to see four crying babies at my feet, demanding my attention.  I sit on the floor to comfort them.  A shoving match for the prime lap seat begins.  More crying.  And someone smells gross…but who is it?  I don’t even want to look.  I don’t want to change another one…the smell of the last one is still stuck in my nose.  Oh, wait – it’s her.  I can tell because she just left a poopy smudge on my lap when she stood up.  Stand up to take her to the changing room, and the other six (more kids joined our party) now scream in protest of me leaving them.  I step over them, but one has a death-grip on my ankle.  I drag him a few feet across the floor until I manage to wiggle free, all the while holding stinky butt.  Stinky butt is joyfully waving “Good-bye!” as we head out of the room.  Then with disappointment of entering the changing room, instead of going to the play balcony, her own protest begins.  I try not to let poop smear all over me.   Talking to her in my happy voice, trying not to gag as I remove the poop bomb, she coughs in my face.  Awesome.  Guess that cold is why she has half-inch thick boogers hanging out of her nose.  But I only have two hands, I’m up to my elbows in poop, and someone is in the other room asking me a question.   Boogers can wait.
How do those amazing nannies do it?  Bless their underappreciated souls.  All day, every day, this is what they do.  And they do it with grace and love, all while frequently being critiqued and looked down upon by volunteers that have no idea how difficult a job they have.   
I have gotten over it.  And to all you future volunteers:  heads up.  Get over it before you even get on that plane to come to Haiti. 
GLA nannies rock.  And they love these kids.  Proof?  Happy, content orphans. 
A stinky diaper or a crusty nose DOES NOT outweigh the value of the love and nurturing given in this place.  Now I shall put back on my flip-flops and drag my exhausted body out of the nursery and get a strong cup of coffee. 
Humility.  I highly recommend it.   And a really thorough hand washing.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My new little friend

He arrived at GLA just a couple of weeks ago.  He has been sick, but is now feeling better and has been cleared to go to the balcony for play time.  I have the privilege of being assigned as his first volunteer. 
James.  Tiny James.  He’s nearly a year old, but his body’s size doesn’t reflect his age.  I’m obsessed with his little legs.  With knees wider than his thighs, I can’t help myself but to rub the soft, loose skin on his legs.  I wonder how long it will take to get some meat on his bones.  Not long, I’m guessing. 
Wide-eyed with a meek personality, he is a Matthew 25:40 example.  The least of the least of these, even.  
But James has hope.  God brought him to GLA just in time.  The viciousness of poverty has not destroyed this child.  His belly will be fed, his body will grow.  He will receive the medicine he needs to be healthy.  Love and affection will flood his heart and mind; in this place of respite he will thrive.  Then one day, the plan that God has for him will come to fruition.  James will go to his new home where he will have abundant opportunities.  But he will know the precious place he came from, a land that will continue to fight against the dark forces. 
For the time being, he will live in this place – where the love of Jesus is shown in word and deed.       

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti
We went to Haiti.  Loved it. 
Came home.  Missed it.  Missed it a lot. 
After two weeks of being home, we decided to try to go back to GLA before summer’s end.  This time, with our kids.  If it was in God’s plan, He would make it all work out, even on a short notice.  He did.  We had four weeks to get our ducks in a row before we headed back.  Bri needed a passport.  Both kids needed some travel shots.  Plane tickets were still available, though barely.  So it was on: round two in Haiti…this time with kids.  For two weeks.  This will either be a huge blessing in our lives….or a major catastrophe.  But God is leading us, so I trust His judgment over mine. 
I know it must seem crazy that we wanted to return so soon.  I can’t explain our feelings about this in a way that anyone could possibly comprehend it to the degree that we were feeling it.  We didn’t just miss the kids and the awesome red beans and rice.  We didn’t just ache for being in a land with no fast food restaurants or Wal-Mart.  We aren’t even that big of adrenaline junkies that we are so desperate for adventure.  If I could put it into words, I would.  Suffice it to say, Haiti is in our blood and we were having major withdraws. 
We are addicts. 
We love the high of seeing God at work in a raw, miraculous way.  We love being around His servants who humbly serve the least of the least.  And we love being away from all our typical daily things that don’t mean a hill of beans to go serve in a place that is changing lives. 
Lesson I learned a few years ago from Experiencing God Bible study:  Find where God is at work, and join Him.
Well, folks….there’s no doubt that He is at work in Haiti. 
And so, my story continues……….

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My notes from Haiti

Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti

In case you missed it, here are the links to the notes I posted during our week stay in Haiti in May.  That was prior to my expert bloggingness, so note form on Facebook was the best way for me to share then.  How lame, right?  I'm so communications savvy these days....ppshhh!

Here's what I said on Tuesday.

And then on Wednesday.

Then I started getting so many thoughts and emotions in my head, it became more difficult to sort them out quickly enough to write logically about daily. 

Finally on Saturday, I was able to spill my guts in somewhat of an orderly fashion. 

Did I say I'm savvy?  I was kidding.  In fact, I hope these links work.  If they don't, well....sorry about that! 

Next: Back to Life....Back to Reality....

Part 6: Home away from home

Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti
Culture shock?  You bet.  For the first few hours after we arrived at GLA, I was a bit like a zombie.  It’s a little embarrassing, really.  I thought I’d be tougher and cooler than that, but the combination of sleep deprivation and being a newbie to Haiti took its toll on me that day.  Thankfully by the next morning, I was adjusting well and ready to roll.  Brennon and I began our routine for the next few days – we grabbed some coffee (Haitian coffee is the bomb) and headed our separate ways.  I grabbed my mug and went upstairs to start my day working with my assigned kids.  Brennon would join John and his sidekick Gus, a funny little wiener dog, and they would head up to Fort Jacques for a day of work.  Manly manual labor stuff….. and no dirty diapers to change.    
Fort Jacques is a community a few miles up and across the mountain that will be home to the future GLA facility.  I got the opportunity to visit Fort Jacques a couple of times during our stay.  It’s difficult to describe the beauty and atmosphere there with mere words.  In a nutshell: a few acres surrounded by a magnificent handmade mason fence, sitting atop a high mountain overlooking Port-au-Prince.  Lush green pine trees at the top of the property and a bountiful garden at its base.  Sandstone oozing out of every inch of the land – all the stone for the fence and buildings being constructed has come from the property itself.  Very self-sufficient.  The view, oh my, the view.  On a clear night, when no clouds have rolled in below the property, the view of Port-au-Prince is stunning.  The flickering of lights below from the city is a quiet reminder that in the valley are millions of people.  Now mind you, for a city nestled in a valley that holds so many people, the nighttime glow of light representing homes and activity is fairly dim. 
As I stood there on that mountainside with my husband, a few feet away from an occasionally mooing cow (because it’s Haiti…I have no idea yet as to why there’s a cow there), with a gentle breeze blowing, the flickering of the city lights below mesmerized me.  The realization of why the lights were so dim weighed heavily inside me.  Just a few miles away were thousands and thousands of people living in tent cities, where they have lived and fought for survival for more than a year since the earth so violently shook.  Gazing down upon that city, my heart further broke for the Haitian people.       
Then my focus came back to the land I was standing on.  As I looked around the property, I imagined what it would one day be like.  This very land will, Lord willing, be a temporary home to many Haitian children.  A place of respite from such intense suffering.  A place where bellies will not swell from hunger.  A place where medicine will readily be available.  A place where each child has a warm bed that is protected from nature’s elements.  A place where not only will sweet little bodies be fed, but minds and hearts will, too.  Love.  So much love will live on this mountain.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Hope for the future.  Broken hearts will be comforted.  Each child that enters through the gate will soon learn that he/she has value.  Not forgotten, not forsaken.  That no matter what circumstances brought him/her here, that child is loved and treasured by God.  Here on this mountain, so close to the stars, children will learn who Jesus is.                  
Oh, how I don’t want to miss being a part of such a beautiful thing.  Standing on a mountain in a foreign land, so far from all my usual comforts and familiarities, I felt strangely..…peacefully…..at home. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Part 5: May 16, 2011 - Departure Day

Why in the World We Would Go (back) to Haiti

The day finally arrived.  After months of planning, it was here.  I was not nervous or scared, just filled with anticipation and a little anxious about how I would handle it all.  I won’t deny it; there was a moment as I sat on the plane in Miami, looking out the tiny window just before we began to taxi to the runway, when I thought to myself, “This is it.  I’m about to say goodbye to American soil.  In a minute, there’s no turning back.”  And then I just breathed.  My country, my comforts, my security….they will be right here waiting for me when I return.  No fear.  Just breathe…….just breathe.  I looked over at Brennon sitting next to me, who had the same expression on his face that I felt in the pit in my stomach.  And I realized that there was nowhere on earth that I’d rather be – sitting next to the love of my life as we together headed into the grandest adventure of our lives.  The cabin door closed, the plane began to move, and I continued to breathe. 
Our God is sovereign over all things.  If He is for us, who can be against us?  And He was right there with us.    
Riding on a flight to Haiti is like none other.  On any flight, I suppose it’s typical to look around you and wonder where your fellow passengers are heading to and try to guess why they might be traveling.  Or maybe I’m just a weirdo.  But nonetheless, that’s what I do on a plane.  So on this plane ride, I realized that it was much easier to figure out the details of the travelers’ intentions around me.  Two distinctive groups of people were on the plane: the native Haitians, and the white people going to Haiti to “help.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that sounds shallow.  There indeed may have been dark-skinned folks on our plane that were not Haitian and were going to help with relief efforts.  If there were, well, they did a much better job of not looking like tourists.  Kudos to them.  It seemed like Brennon and I were the only non-Haitians without matching t-shirts on.  Our attire did not declare that we loved Haiti.  I understand the value of matching t-shirts with the organization name and a cute little phrase or logo on the back that are commonly worn by short term mission teams.  I’m cool with that.  I understand the necessity of trying to keep up with your team, and the benefit of just being able to search for same-colored shirts in a sea of people in order to stay together.  What gets on my nerves is the logos that indicate the pride of organizations that screams, “Hey, Haiti!  We’re awesome and here to rescue you in your pathetic neediness!”  Ok, I didn’t see any shirts that said exactly that, but the emotion conveyed was very similar on some.  It’s prideful, degrading to the Haitian people, and makes folks look like a total goober.  Please stop acting like a hero, Americans.  Just humble yourself and go serve.  Let your works shout your love and compassion…not your t-shirts. 
Ok, I’ll step down from my soapbox.  But I don’t promise that I won’t return to it later.     
Focus back on me heading to Haiti, the “land of unlimited impossibility,” as John McHoul, a veteran missionary in Haiti, has stated.  Having done plenty of research, I knew what to expect to see on the ground upon our arrival.  However, I realized that I would never be able to totally prepare myself for the experience of actually being in Haiti.  I was fully aware that the airport experience would be nerve-wracking, that traffic is horrible, and I would see poverty to the degree of which I have never witnessed – tent cities, naked kids, severely malnourished bodies, restaveks (child slaves), rubble at every turn and garbage everywhere.  The people living in these conditions were just like me, created in God’s image.  They didn’t ask to be here, and there is no escape.  Non-existent are quick or simple solutions to the hard issues that plague this land.      
Oh, how I wished I could have take hundreds of photos of the things my eyes witnessed.  I will never be able to describe these things with my limited vocabulary.  But I purposefully left my camera patiently waiting on the seat next to me as we drove through Port-au-Prince.  I did not want to be a tourist, a gawker.  I did not want to further degrade this people who have been through so much, countless times photographed in the midst of their daily struggles by so many do-gooders and media personnel.  I was there to give and to serve, not to take away even an ounce of dignity….especially considering that an ounce is all some Haitians have left.  Haiti is not a zoo, and Haitians are certainly not animals there for our viewing fascination.  So instead of snapping photos, I just sat and watched this strange world pass by my door window, soaking it in.
Lesson one learned about the Haitian people: eye contact is the norm.  This is not the good ol’ U.S.A. where everyone goes about their business with the hope to not have to acknowledge that another person exists in their world.  I’m guilty of it.  I am conditioned to look away as I pass someone on the sidewalk.  I don’t know why.  It’s somewhat uncomfortable to make eye contact with strangers.  It makes me feel vulnerable…or something… I don’t really know what the whole eye contact thing invokes in me.  But there’s something to it.  Well, I had to get over it in Haiti.  Or more like, Haiti helped me get over it.  As you pass a stranger on the street in Haiti, eye contact is made.  Don’t fret.  It doesn’t hurt a bit.  Then the stage is set for a fascinating thing to happen: a shared smile.  Who’d have thought?!  When you make eye contact with another human, you may not share the same language, but a smile is understood by all.  So that’s what I did.  I shared smiles with so many people on that drive through Port-au-Prince.  Men, woman, children of all ages – I was a “blanc” (white) who wasn’t shoving a camera in their face, but instead offered to connect with them through the language of a silent smile. 
A memorable moment during our drive will stay with me forever.  Brennon and I were riding in the back seat of our SUV, driving at a maximum speed of about 15 mph through the city streets.  “Streets” being a collection of potholes of varying sizes (big and bigger) lined on both sides by buildings and rubble, the definition of driving is redefined in Haiti.  On one particular street ascending to the top of a somewhat steep hill, the crowds of pedestrians had thinned.  The homes were butted right up next to each other, entry doors just a few feet from the street.  That’s when something special happened.  A little girl, probably seven or eight years old, was fetching water to take inside.  She was obviously attentive to her chore, not caught up in being carefree as a child her age would be in our home country.  Carrying her bucket of water, facing our direction before turning to go inside, she looked up to see the SUV that was passing her by.  And then the eye contact happened, except it was not with me.  Brennon made eye contact with that precious little girl, and he smiled gently at her.  Her face lit up, and a wide smile emerged.  That was the moment that I witnessed the heart of my strong husband melt like butter.  Tears made my vision foggy as I savored the exchange, though it lasted for a mere few seconds.  We suspect her to be a restavek, judging by her shabby clothes and the fact that she was alone doing a difficult household chore (it wasn’t a small pitcher she carried, but more like a jug holding a few gallons of water).  This is Haiti.  Amidst all of Haiti’s harshness are people.  People that will make your heart swell with compassion and love.  People created in our Lord’s image.  People living in a land filled with lies and deception, where the thief (satan) has come to kill and destroy.  People that need to hear the Truth.
A little girl smiled.  It doesn’t sound like much of a special moment….but it was….and it was just the first of many.          

Next: Home away from home

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Part 4: Looking Back

Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti
I tried this blog thing once before.  Last summer, to be exact.  I didn't get into the groove of blogging, and I don't really care for Tumblr.  That's why I started up my Blogspot at 1:30am the other night. Well, that, and I'm a goober.  But that's understood.  So anyway, I was looking at my old Tumblr blog (all whopping 4 entries), and I figured this entry was a good thing to post here.  Keep in mind that I wrote it last summer.  I intended on detailing my experience of working with Bola and her family.  Fail. But I'm giving the whole "I should journal my experiences" thing another shot.  Give me props for that, at least.  
Here it is, a little bit of a deeper look into my life last year that shaped me, ultimately, to end up ready to go to Haiti.

Aug 18, 2010
Looking back
I made a promise to myself to record my experiences this summer so that I will never forget them.  I never want to forget looking into the eyes of Jesus, feeling His spirit overfill my being to an intoxicating level, and learning how to really love.  I’m putting this out here in case you want to tag along.

How I spent my summer …. by Allison

Cheesy, I know, but I gotta start somewhere.  Let me rewind and set the stage for you.  Otherwise, it’s not nearly as entertaining.  It was early spring, and I was coming out of my winter hibernation…or at least my winter blues.  I was in a funk, and I wanted to get over it.  My relationship with my Lord was stale, and He was not the one at fault for it.  I decided to actively pursue knowing God on a more personal level, to fall in love with Him like never before.  You know the verse about the deer that panteth for cool water?  Yeah, I didn’t quite get it, and it bugged me.  It was time to do something.  The cool thing about God (one of the many cool things, rather) is that if you want to draw closer to Him, He will always help you accomplish it.  It makes Him very happy to help someone fall more deeply in love with Him.  His Word says so.  :)
It all started with a book.  Now I’m not much of a reader, as I tend to have a short attention span while reading.  Or I get sleepy eyes and zzzzzzz, I’m out.  But this book was different.  Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.  It’s intense, raw, and challenging.  Perhaps Claiborne is just a little more hippie than me, but I like his style.  It took me quite a while to read through it, not because it didn’t have my attention, but because I had to stop every few pages and read the Bible verses he referred to to “get it” myself.  I kept finding myself asking, “Does it really say that in Scripture?”  Wow.  What an eye-opener….and I was hooked.  I liked being challenged to live my Christianity out loud, “walk the talk,” so to speak.  Claiborne felt he needed to experience and do more….so he did.  What a great idea!  Why hadn’t I thought of that?!
Meanwhile, as a Facebook junkie, I had friended Leigh Gray, a Spirit-filled woman that does her own blog to share the Word.  Some of her messages had really been food for my soul over the winter.  I came across a conversation thread on her Facebook page one day, and I just had to suggest Irresistible Revolution to her.  She commented that she should check it out, as the author of the study she was doing had also mentioned it.  Really?!  What study are you doing, I asked her.  It was Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.  It would become the second profound book of my reading season.  I felt like I was onto something - but I had no idea what. 

Isn't the suspense just killing you?  No?  Well, I didn't really expect it to.  Because you already know that we ended up going to Haiti after getting pumped up reading all those Jesus-freak books. 

So that's all I managed to blog about last summer, but it at least gives a little deeper look into my head during that time period (which can be a scary place to look in to!).  My next entry will be about....well....I'm not totally sure yet.  I'm shooting for:   

Next:  May 16, 2011 - Departure Day 

My little girl

My girl&#8230;.because God chose her for me.
Foster parenting and adoption.  It&#8217;s something to seriously consider.
My girl….because God chose her for me.
Foster parenting and adoption.  It’s something to seriously consider.

Part 3: I’m not a good Christian. I’m just me.

Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti

It’s pretty simple, really.  When we repented of our sins and claimed Jesus as our Lord, the Holy Spirit came to live within us.  Literally!  How weird is that, right?!  But it’s true.  In the past couple of years, we have sought to know Him better.  As a result, with much more clarity and volume, we started hearing that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit within us, guiding us to do the things God wants us to do.  Oh, have no doubt, God doesn’t need us at all to do the stuff He wants accomplished.  But we’re His kids, and He loves to do things with us.  He’s our heavenly Daddy, after all.  We have FINALLY figured out that the greatest joy in life is not to live it for ourselves, but to live it pursuing Jesus.  We are seeking to deeply understand His heart, to love what He loves, to live like He lived in the flesh. 
And we will fail.  Miserably.  Repeatedly.  Because we are only human.  But that will not stop us.  The Creator of the heavens and earth hasn’t given up on me yet, so I’m going to keep on trying to do what He asks me to.  God promised it won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.  Other promises of His that I carry close to my heart: He’ll never leave or forsake me, He’ll never give me more than I can handle,  and He loves me like crazy (more than I can even comprehend).  One more little promise that I keep tucked away in my pocket: worst case scenario - if I lose my life serving Him – to die is gain.  This world is not our home.  This life is just a blink of the eye compared to eternity.  And it’s going to be one sweet ride once I get into that eternity seat. 
So why waste a minute?  Why waste an opportunity?  Why worry?  Why not just do what Jesus has asked me to do?  Why not pursue a life that is (now and eternally) fulfilling? 
Most certainly, I never would have heard His voice if I hadn’t pursued getting to know Him better and fallen in love with my Lord.  Sure, sure, I’ve had guidance by the Spirit many times over the years.  I’ve even heard Him call me to do some fairly radical things (like becoming a foster parent and adopting).  But until recently, I’ve not been in love with my Father enough to quit living my life for me.  Still, some days I get lazy and revert back to my selfish ways.  Again, I’m only human – and forgiven, thankfully.  Living a life in pursuit of Jesus requires intentional effort.  By His grace alone I am living intentionally.  I desired to pursue Him and asked for His help.  He has done the rest.
Why would God want me and Brennon to go to Haiti?  I don’t know.  Seriously.  But here’s what I do know: God has knitted us together and built a beautiful marriage in us.  He has shaped our hearts to be filled with compassion for the orphan, the oppressed, the hurting, and the lost.  He has given us sight to recognize beauty in things unfamiliar.  He has given us the ability to rest in faith, to know that He is in control.  He has allowed us to go through many trials and pain in order to strengthen us and to prepare us for the tougher challenges ahead.  He has given both of us spiritual gifts that are uniquely ours.  And He’s taken care of so many details to get us to where we are now. 
I can’t explain how I knew that God wanted me to go to Haiti.  It was not an audible voice, though that sure would have made it much easier.  It was like a gut feeling, but way more intense.  It was a passion that made no logical sense and had no obvious benefit to myself.  It was a consuming fire within my heart that I could not ignore.  And as the day of departure grew near, I thought my heart would burst open with anticipation and excitement.  What was I excited for?  I had no idea!  But by being obedient, God was assuring me that I was on the right path and flooded me with a joy like I’ve never felt before.

Next:  Looking Back

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Part 2: Honey, we gotta go to Haiti

Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti
The burning desire to go to Haiti and serve at GLA was too great to ignore any longer.  It was September of 2010, and my busy summer of commuting to Nashville to love on my Muslim family had passed.  Brennon and I went to lunch one afternoon, and I got up the nerve to spill my guts.  “I can’t ignore the call any longer.  I’ve got to go to Haiti.  And since we don’t do well apart, we just need to go together.”  I squinted, cringing, waiting for his eyes to roll and the dismissal to flow.  But that didn’t happen.  His response was simply, “Ok.  Let’s go.”  I nearly fell out of my seat.  We were gonna go to Haiti!  How crazy is that?!  My heart swelled with excitement and joy....I had no idea why.  I just knew God wanted us to go, and we were being obedient.  That’s how to live radically.  Pretty easy, really.  When you pursue God, He’ll take care of all the details.  And it’s a good thing, because I didn’t know a soul in Haiti, or how to go there, or what in the heck to do once I got there.  Bring it on!

Two weeks after our lunch date, our Haitian Creole study guide arrived in the mail.  Brennon began to dive into studying the language, and I noticed his intensity.  “Gosh, you sure are working hard at that,” I noted.  That’s when he dropped the bomb on me.  I don’t remember his words verbatim since my head began to spin a little, but his reply was something like, “I wouldn’t do this unless I felt like it was going to lead to a long-term commitment.”  Huh?!  I had merely suggested spending a week or two serving in Haiti, but Brennon had already opened his mind up to the possibility that God was calling us to do something greater in that land filled with hurting people.  So we got serious.  We totally surrendered to our Lord.  Our answer was “Yes,” even though we still had no clue what He was going to ask us to do.  It’s crazy.  And boy, does it feel good!
It’s nothing extraordinary, it’s just obedience.
But why Haiti?  Here in our own country, our own state, even our own town, there are plenty of opportunities to help hurting people.  So why go to a dangerous country that’s plagued with famine, cholera, and who-knows-what?  Why go to Haiti? 
Because God said to.  That’s enough for me.

Next:  I’m not a good Christian.  I’m just me.

Intro: Why in the World Would We Go (back) to Haiti

In the few weeks since Brennon and I have returned home from our first trip to Haiti, we have had many thoughts and emotions to sort through, both individually and as a couple.  We both are very grateful that we were able to go on that trip together, because these past weeks would have been very lonely if we didn’t have each other to talk to about our experiences and insight.  It has been interesting learning how to contain our excitement and joy about that life-changing week, as we have learned that many folks just aren’t that interested in hearing about it or even trying to understand.  In fact, we’ve become very good at detecting the eyes-glazed-over signal that it’s time to stop sharing and talk about something more important, like which movies are playing at the theater this week. 

So for about a week, a little thought has been rumbling through my mind that maybe I should write down why we went to Haiti, and now, why we are going back.  Oh, and why we will probably be going back many more times in the future.  Whoever is interested can read it.  Whoever isn’t, well, doesn’t have to subject themselves to it.  And perhaps it will be a little therapeutic for me.  So we all win, right?  Sure.  Well, here it goes….

My eyes were opened
January 12, 2010, was my 35th birthday.   It was nothing special, but I pretty much had my full focus on myself, because that’s what we should do on our birthdays, right?  I didn’t really catch on that just a few hundred miles south of the tip of Florida, in a country called Haiti (which I actually had no idea where it was located), a massive earthquake of catastrophic proportions had occurred.  About the time I was preparing to eat my birthday dinner, countless lives were being lost in collapsing buildings as the earth shook violently for less than a minute.  Men, women and children were being buried alive, many of whom would never be rescued.  Families lost.  Orphans and widows instantly created.  Survivors would now begin their harrowing journey to try to survive in a country that had very little to start with, and now was total chaos.  Survivors – with broken bodies and devastated hearts – that I had no idea existed as I ate my birthday cake.  That is, until the next day, when I came out of my self-absorbed bubble and turned on the television.  That’s when it happened.  On January 13th, my heart was broken for Haiti.
The immediate focus of the mainstream media during the few days following the quake was the orphan crisis in Haiti.  The number of orphans in the country was astronomical before the quake, and now it was unfathomable as to how many children would be without parents or family to care for them.  As an adoptive parent and having a heart for hurting kids, I zoned in on this aspect of the crisis.  Brennon and I would certainly consider adopting a Haitian child if we were called by God to do so, so I started looking into the matter to find out what, if anything, we should do.  Where to start?  Google, of course.  First thing I found?  God’s Littlest Angels Orphanage (“GLA”).  Ok, so I found one orphanage; I knew I should keep digging.  So I dug.  I dug a lot.  Everything I found came back to one thing:  GLA.  Some lady named Dixie from GLA was being interviewed on the Today Show, my favorite source of news.  I found Dixie’s blog, as well as the blogs of some of the GLA staff, and began to follow them on a daily basis.  I quickly began to focus in on this orphanage, which I soon learned was a place of miracles and healing for broken children.  God was at work at GLA, without a doubt, and everything at GLA was being done for the glory of the Lord. 
My spiritual life went from lukewarm to hot in 2010.  I began pursuing a closer relationship with my Savior and sought to understand Him better.  I stopped vegging out in front of the television so much and replaced that wasted time with reading.  The books I began reading started a fire within me that I hope never fizzles.  Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel, Radical by David Platt, Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado, just to name a few.  I also started to read one other book that I hadn’t really invested too much time into:  the Bible….by God.  He’s quite an author.
I began to open my eyes to some concepts that I had toyed with, but never really examined too much in depth.  Concepts like:  the Creator of the Universe would love for me to join Him in His plan, God really meant it when He said to love and serve others, and my life would be so much richer and fulfilling if I stopped living it focused on myself and started living it modeled after Jesus.  Scriptures began to come to life in ways they never had before.  I studied the nitty-gritty teachings of Jesus that Christians like to say, “Oh, Jesus didn’t mean that literally.  He doesn’t expect me to live for him that hard-core.”  In 2010, Romans 12:2 became my pursuit:  Do not conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”   
My radical living began to blossom throughout the summer.  I met Bola and her family, a Muslim family that had relocated to Nashville from Somalia, where their people group faced near-genocide conditions.  For a few months my focus was lifted from Haiti and placed on ministering to these precious lost people, all in the name of Jesus.  This journey (an entire story of its own that I’ll save for another time) helped shape me and prepare me for what was next.

Next:   Honey, we gotta go to Haiti