Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Photos

Totally gross, all-boy boys + mandatory white uniform tops + no hot water = what the heck?

This sounds like a laundry nightmare if I've ever heard of one.

Every Friday morning we tackle a giant pile of completely filthy, stinky white polos.

I would never attempt such a mission alone.

I'd like to introduce you to a few of the sweetest blessings in my life.

  Dominique and Soso (and family)

The husband (Dominique) works for us sometimes in the evenings.  He's the one that told me not to get too close to naked men.  The wife (Soso) is here with me during the day.  She does not speak English, so that's been a great incentive for me to learn Creole.  Even with the language barrier, I adore her.  Every day we work and laugh together.

One of Soso's many, many talents is helping me make sure our boys have clean uniform shirts for school.  Every Friday morning we start our laundry routine.  I sort the laundry.  Spray and Wash is used in abundance.  Soso starts scrubbing the white polos by hand.  She insists.  After I tried for weeks to get the stains out of the white polos, I finally asked her what I should do.  She yanked that shirt out of my hand and well...she totally schooled me.  Lesson learned.  I will always ask her for advice sooner.

While Soso is in the kitchen scrubbing shirts, I'm down in the laundry room filling washing machines up with a water hose.  I turn on the washing machine, see the tiny trickle of water that is intermittently starting and stopping, and I immediately diagnose the machines with urinary tract infections.  It's the only explanation for that thin sliver of inconsistent water.  It would take forever for me to get all our laundry finished with a flow that low, so I use the trusty hose.  

Wow.  Does this picture make anyone else need to pee?

I spend a lot of time in the laundry room.  Unfortunately so do the resident rats.  I will never get used to that part of my new life.  I'm not complaining...I'm just sayin'.

Me and the hose.  We're great friends.

Back at the house, we boil a giant pot of water.  Add bleach.  Soak shirts for about three hours.   Then we wash them in the washing machine.  Hang those suckuh's on the line in the hot Haiti sun to dry...and wah-lah.


Mama and Soso send the Hendrick boys to school in style.  Those boys promptly gross up their clothes (some days before the whistle blows).  Soso and I sigh and shake our heads when they walk in the house after school with their lunch and half the playground's dirt smashed into their shirts.  We a few days we'll start the laundry dance all over again.  Same time.  Same day. Same partners.  Thankfully, I couldn't have a better laundry partner.

In case you are wondering if I was kidding in the previous post...

I wasn't.  The birthing room got a face lift at Heartline this week.
It's a birthing blanket.  If you are pregnant, don't look at the picture too long.  Your baby might fall out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

As Simple As That

I went to Heartline yesterday.  The ladies learned about cholera.  They learned how to keep themselves safe, how to keep their children safe, and how important it is to keep nursing their babies no. matter. what.  On a normal day we have to hammer staying hydrated.  Most of our women do not drink enough water.  Now, with cholera in this country they are afraid of water.  It was important for the women to hear truth.  We are asking God to help the truth they heard keep them from being fearful, and keep them drinking plenty of clean water so they can continue to nurse their babies or stay healthy during their pregnancy.  We sent the women home with hygiene kits.  The room smelled good.  Maybe it was all that truth in the air.  Maybe it was the Irish Spring soap.

Later I helped hang a giant picture of a vagina on the wall in the birthing room.  No big deal.  I'm sure that's what everyone did yesterday.

Last night we're researching hotels in Haiti.  Our kids are about to have a pretty substantial break from school, so we thought we would leave PAP for a few days.  Head out.  See this country, fully prepared to add three hours onto any estimated travel time.

Looking at one hotel website, I said, "Oooh.  This one says they have electricity most of the day.  Most of the day.  Did you hear that?  Let's go there!"

I had to stop and laugh.

Heather Hilton.

My beloved, well-earned nickname in the States.  Least likely to ever, ever be a "missionary."  Worst I'd be the last person chosen to be on a team to leave the US.  No one would want me.  I like makeup and my toenails painted, and you know...stuff like WATER to come out of the faucet every single time I turn it on.  gasp.

And yet here I am in Haiti swooning about hotels that offer electricity "most of the day."

My how things change.

Makes me smile a little to think about what your life could look like one year from now.  Surely I'm not the only person that God loves this much to write a chapter entitled, "Haiti" into my story.

Anyone feeling like God might be ready to write an exciting chapter into your life?

I'm no expert on change.  The idea of it still makes my stomach hurt.  Maybe you're on the edge of that cliff and God is saying scary words like...Adopt...Sell the house...Give extravagantly...Forgive...Risk...Change your major...Resign...Apply...Say you're sorry...Get out of debt...Live for something bigger, something eternal.

Sometimes it seems impossible to take the first step.  Fear can be paralyzing. 

I just finished reading a book called, "Little Bee."  One line stood out to me.  I read it over and over.

"One phone call.  I realized it was as simple as that.  People wonder how they are ever going to change their lives, but really it is frighteningly easy."

Not easy as in a breeze.  Easy as in we've found that God generously makes up for when our faith is lacking.  He honors even the tiniest, shaky-legs, baby steps.

We get asked all the time..."How did you decide to adopt?  Did you always want to?"  We have to say, "No.  We didn't always want to.  We were really, really afraid.  We had never given much thought to adoption before a few years ago.  I was afraid I'd get an ugly baby that had webbed feet.  But we made a phone call.  We met with our agency.  We had to face a lot of sin and faithlessness that an adoption process has a way of tilling up.  And then we ended up with a beautiful baby boy.  We're not really sure how adoption became a part of our story, but we're glad it is."

We get asked..."How did you move to Haiti?  That seems so overwhelming. Did you always want to do mission work? "  We have to say, "  We liked our lives in the States.  If a missionary came to our church to speak, I'd volunteer in the nursery because I thought missionaries were total snoozers with pitiful power point slide shows.  We were terrified as we considered the move.  We begrudgingly put a for sale sign in our front yard.  I didn't even clean the house for it to show.  I didn't want it to sell.  Four days later it did.  To the first person who looked at it.  Aaron applied for a job he never thought he'd get.  They hired him.  A lot of other stuff happened, and now we're in Haiti.  We have no idea how God got us here.  We just know He did."

A phone call.  A "for sale" sign.  An online application. 

Looking back, as hard as it all was, our part was also frighteningly easy.  Maybe how easy it is to take the first step is what makes it so incredibly hard.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Invitiation to Redemption

When you hear reports like this one, about young Haitian girls being sexually exploited you can't help but wonder what this world is coming to.

Between reading about child trafficking right here under my nose, and the news reports about people suffering and dying from cholera right here in Haiti, it's been a rough weekend.

Our hearts are grieving for this country.  We sat with the couple that works with us last night and made sure that Dominique and Soso know how to be safe and keep their children safe.  We sent them home with some supplies and made them swear to us that if they get sick at all they will come tell us immediately.  They admitted to being worried about cholera.  Three days before, when I asked them about it, they said they were not worried.  I was having a hard time convincing them that this cholera stuff is huge.  "You poop out liters and liters of diarrhea a day!"  This did not phase them.  Thankfully, they said the radio here has been talking a lot about cholera, so the radio successfully freaked them out about how serious this stuff can be.

Cholera, sex trafficking...all things that point to a society totally broken and ravaged by poverty.  Almost everyone who lives in a place like Haiti will admit that there are some days when the sadness is too much.  It's difficult to know that children are being exploited within walking distance.  It's difficult to know that cholera is real, not just something people die from on the Oregon Trail game.  People get diarrhea in the morning and are dead within 24 hours.  Why?  Because they don't have access to something as simple as clean water.  Oh. My. Gosh.  Rage wells up inside of me.  Makes me fighting mad.

It's easy to get discouraged.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed.  It's easy for me to sit here in Haiti and wonder why I'm here when there is no frickin' way, with needs this huge and horrible, that we're going to be able to make a dent in the devastation all around us.  And maybe you sit where you are in America hurting for the poor, and feeling like you should do something but you feel helpless too.

Well, we're not helpless.  Can I remind you of that, because really, I need to hear myself say it.  We may not be able to singlehandedly fight every evil on this earth, but we serve a big God who has graciously invited us to be a part of redeeming all things.  He has given us resources and power and asks us to steward those things well.  We can make a difference.  Maybe making a difference will look huge, like leaving the US to go serve in a foreign land where orphans and naked men walk down your street, or maybe it will look like changing the kind of chocolate you buy this Halloween.

With Halloween right around the corner, I wanted to be totally frank about a few things.

Maybe you read this blog and lots of blog like this one about people who left the comforts of the US to serve the poor, love the orphan, and advocate for the voiceless and oppressed.  I'm glad God calls people to do stuff like leave and go.  I wasn't glad yesterday when I didn't have electricity or water, but mostly I'm glad God has a way of uprooting perfectly happy people in the states and sending them to crazy, hard places to live and to love.

I hope you read this blog and leave here aware of things you maybe weren't aware of before.  I hope you leave encouraged to pray, to act, to ask God some hard questions about what it looks like to seek first His Kingdom and store up treasures there.  I'm asking God those questions, and it's nice to have you asking them with me.

What I hope never happens is that you feel like you can't do anything of value from where you sit.  I'd never want anyone to think that just because they are not living in some place like Haiti, they are powerless to live out the same convictions that brought our family to this country.  Worse, I would hate for someone to think that reading about injustice and fighting it are the same thing.  They aren't.  God wants us to be aware of what is going on in the world, to quit hiding from the truth, but I believe He wants our awareness to lead us to action.  Like get off our butts and do something kind of action.

No matter where you are, you can be a voice for the voiceless.  You can advocate for them.  You can rearrange your life, send money to ministries on the front lines, fighting injustice...organizations sharing the gospel in word and in deed.

You can make a difference.  Making a difference does not always look like selling your home, packing up your life, and moving across the ocean.  It can.  It may.  I'll be the first one to admit that a year ago I would have laughed in your face if you would have said that my family would be living in Haiti.  Maybe God has a similar plan for your family.  Maybe He doesn't.  What I think we can all agree on is that God wants to use each of us to fight injustice.  Because the Spirit of God lives in us and He yearns to redeem this planet, our hearts should likewise long to live out redemption towards this broken, devastated, world.

I love chocolate.  I love even more how the guy in the video says the word, "Chocolate."  Is it just me, or does he make it sound even more delicious and dreamy?

Here's a great post about chocolate and Halloween from the Mama Manifesto blog.

In a nutshell, most of the chocolate consumed in the States is made by African children who are trafficked and sold into slave labor.

The solution?  Buying fair trade chocolate instead.  Chocolate that is not made by children.  Chocolate that is made by adults who are paid a livable wage.  If this is the first you are hearing about child slavery and how it relates to a Snickers bar, I beg you to spend some time educating yourself about this tragedy.

Mama Manifesto lists some great companies who sell fair trade chocolate.

Remember...this goes for all chocolate.  Chocolate cookies, chocolate pudding, chocolate chips, etc.  I remember reading all about child slaves making my Hershey's chocolate chips, and standing in the grocery store realizing how many of the items in my basket had chocolate in them.  A lot.  I stood there wondering what to do with this new information.  Buy the stuff anyway, even though if I do, I know I'm participating in oppressing and abusing children, or put it away?

Do I oppress the poor, when scripture says not to?  Do I continue to buy chocolate, cause it's yummy, even though buying it results in harming children and scripture says God hears the cry of the oppressed?  He says scary things about the people doing the oppressing.

Standing in front of my grocery basket, admitting what a chocolate fatty I am, Isaiah 58 came to mind.  What if we have to fast from chocolate for awhile in order to live out the fast God is talking about when He says to live in such a way that we're loosening the chains of injustice?  What honors God?  He says to set the captive free, share our food with the poor, and break the yoke of slavery.  He desires for us to share the gospel, but He desires for us to live out the gospel in felt-board, visual, hands-on, Montessori school fashion.

Instead of thinking, "Crud.  I can't buy my favorite, cheap, child-labor chocolate anymore," let's rejoice that God is inviting us to be involved in fighting darkness, oppression, and slavery by doing something as simple as changing what kind of chocolate we buy.  Grocery shopping no longer is grocery shopping.  It's an opportunity to worship God, protect and value children, and use the resources God has given you (your money) to advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the voiceless.

Rejoice!  Stand in the aisle of your favorite grocery store, laugh, smile, celebrate, and worship God as you live out the gospel towards your fellow man.  Also remind yourself that buying fair trade chocolate doesn't make God love you more.  If you belong to Him, it's finished, you're declared righteous, we are free from legalism and trying to earn favor before God.  There are times when I end up with some sort of non-fair trade chocolate in my basket.  Sometimes I have to fight to not feel condemned (because I am a recovering legalist).  Once I remind myself of the gospel, I don't feel condemned.  I feel sad.  Sad because God gave me a beautiful chance, a wonderful invitation to live out His heart, to join Him in something lovely and good, and I chose something blah, base, and second rate instead.  Good thing there's grace, right...and mercy as we learn? 

I've read a ton about Halloween lately...who is for it, who is against it.  Blogland fills up fast with posts taking sides on this issue.  Halloween is as hotly debated as predestination.  But I just wonder, if maybe Christians are totally missing the point.  Here we are arguing about whether dressing up like a cowboy is satanic when the real issue might be that Christians everywhere will be buying chocolate in mass quantities this month, and the groans and the cries of enslaved children will be filling the heavens.  God promises He hears them when they cry out.  And who has those children's blood on their hands?  Us.  We can lick the chocolate off, but the blood is still there.  God have mercy on your people, we can be so incredibly stupid.

Here's good news.  God can use you this week to advocate for children in Africa.  Buy fair trade chocolate.

He can use you to advocate for children in Africa in your churches.  If your church is having a Halloween party that is not a Halloween party because Halloween parties are of the devil, so they are having a party on Halloween instead or a fall festival (got to love Christians, right?)  maybe God wants to use you to educate your church about fair trade chocolate.  Maybe next year your Halloween party that isn't a Halloween party, it's a party on Halloween because there is a big difference, (eye roll) will have fair trade chocolate to pass out.  Maybe your church can use your fancy projector and huge auditorium to host a free viewing of The Dark Side of Chocolate for your entire community (even the lost people, what?  what?).  Who is getting excited?

You can also organize a viewing of the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate in your own home.  Get friends together, watch, and discuss.  You can order a viewing kit here.

You can spread the word.  Use your voice.  Give others an opportunity to be a part of this invitation that God gives each of us to redeem how we eat and shop.

Don't ever feel like you can't make a difference.  You can.  Ready.  Set.  Redeem.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Having a Purse Party?

If you are hosting a purse party for Heartline and want to invite others from this online community of friends, feel free to advertise your shindig in the comments section.  Make sure to check the comments and see if there is a party near you, and then go!

Maybe it will be weird to go to a party at a house you've never been to, hosted by someone you don't know.  Maybe...but you know what?  It will make for a great story and a great experience.  Risk it and go!  Either you'll come home with new friends, totally blessed beyond your wildest imagination, or you'll come home with hilarious stories of major awkwardness.  I think both of those things can be equally fun.

One thing you can breathe easy'll already have several things in common with whoever is hosting. Whatever brings you here every day brings the host here as well.  Who knows.  Maybe you'll find your new bestie.  I feel like a matchmaker.  If you do end up becoming best friends, whenever other women are jealous of your friendship and talk about you behind your back, I'm not going to lie...I'll feel a little responsible for all the drama your relationship is causing and will have a really, really hard time not trying to take credit for it. Just sayin'.

Party night rolls around and either you levitate back to your house because it was one of the most wonderful nights of your life, or you come home with some real live pee pee in your panties from laughing so hard about your experience on the way home.  I'd pay 100 bucks for either scenario.  Sounds like one of the best cases of "win-win" I've ever heard.

If you are hosting a party, I wouldn't advertise your exact address.  Maybe just tell people what city and state you live in, date, and time of party then leave your email address so people interested can contact you for more details.

I'm imagining all the laughs, the sweet conversations, and the fun you will have as you learn more about Heartline and support the women and children of Haiti.

Thanks for loving Haiti's women.


New?  Don't know what a purse party is? Feeling left out?  Get caught up here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Liberating Ladies

photo credit:  Beth McHoul

"One of the cruelest effects of severe poverty is that you are 
denied access to information and to truth."
--Beth McHoul, (speaking in the Tuesday class to Heartline's women)

Our American minds simply cannot fathom not being able to immediately find information.  Want to know how to cook a certain meal?  What time it is in China?  How long breastmilk stays good in the fridge?  Natural remedies for teething?  Bible verses about worry?  The Headlines in the news?

A computer.  Five minutes.  Gorge ourselves on answers.  Burp.  Get up.  We're done.

I never realized that having access to truth and access to information is a luxury only the wealthy enjoy.

Every week at Heartline, I get to witness the beauty of fighting lies with truth.

There is something incredibly redemptive about teaching women why they menstruate, that colostrum is good not evil, that women have value and are dearly, dearly loved by God.

Without access to the truth, cultures make up reasons to explain natural occurrences around them.  Every culture has done this.  We want to make sense of what is going on around us, why the seasons change, why women get pregnant, why some people get sick and die.  Without access to truth, many of these explanations are wrong.  They are myths.  They are old wives tales.

Without access to the truth, a woman in Haiti would not have any way to know how the female reproductive cycle works.  If she listened to some doctors and nurses in her own country she would believe that she should pump and dump colostrum, because it's bad for her baby.  She would believe since she's a woman she is worthless.  She would believe that formula is better for her baby because it comes from the United States and a white person made it.

Until coming to Haiti, I thought when the Bible talks about truth it only meant spiritual truth, as if only some truth belongs to God.  How silly of me.

The exciting thing is, God owns all truth.  Every drop of it.  It belongs to Him.

I still believe that the women of Haiti need the gospel above anything else.  I'm just learning that teaching the gospel and living it out in word and deed looks a lot less like sharing a three point gospel tract and moving on, proud of what great Billy Grahams we have been.

Teaching the gospel in word and deed looks a lot more like teaching the truth of the gospel while we stick around and teach the truth about everything else in life as well.

Isn't one of the most beautiful elements of the gospel story the part where the Word, Jesus became flesh, came to earth, walked and dwelled among us, making visible, tangible to us grace and truth (1 John 1:14)?

I think that's why it's so moving to watch Beth, Joanna, and Agathe teach the women of Haiti about God's love, about sin, about Jesus paying a great price to redeem mankind.  The truth.  It's lovely.  It's good.  It sets the captive free.  It's just as beautiful to see Beth, Joanna, and Agathe join with God as they teach the truth about how babies develop in a mother's womb, or teach about nutrition and how God has provided them with nutrient rich foods in their country to eat in order to take care of their bodies and their babies.  The truth.  It's lovely.  It's good.  It sets the captive free.

Every speck of it belongs to God.

In those moments when I hear Joanna firmly defend unborn babies in front of a class of Haitian women I rejoice.

When I hear Beth dispel myths about breastmilk declaring that GOD has created a woman's body perfectly so a mother can feed her baby, it's a reason to rejoice.

Truth.  It's beautiful.  And yet without people like Beth, Joanna, and Agathe sharing the truth...all truth...with people living in intense poverty, there is little to no access to accurate information.  Poverty denies people like the women in Heartline's program access to truth.  It keeps them enslaved to lies, legalism, and darkness.  I can't get over how God uses a few women committed to teaching truth to the women of Haiti to combat so much evil and oppression every single week.

Tuesday and Thursday mornings I wake up eager to get to Heartline.  Eager to behold the beauty of truth going forth.  Truth that has the capability of capturing a woman's soul for eternity.  Truth that can change a woman's day to day life in Haiti.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are like rolling around in a big puddle of truth.  It's like we've washed these women in truth, soaked them down in it.  If we could hear the sound of truth it would sound a lot like chains hitting the tile floor. 

Redemption.  It's the theme of what happens at Heartline.  We get to redeem all truth as God's truth and boldly declare it over women's lives.  We get to laugh in poverty's face and piece by piece loosen its grasp on the souls and lives of the women who sit in class every week.  We render poverty, physical and spiritual poverty, a little less powerful every single week. (Can I say again how weepy it makes me every time I think about how I get to witness this every week?  Grace.  I drink a Sonic sized cup of it every Tuesday and Thursday.)

As we love the women at Heartline we get to join Jesus by doing what He did while He walked around on this earth.  One of His favorite things to say...

"I tell you the truth....."

"I tell you the truth...."

"I tell you the truth...."

"I tell you the truth...."

"I tell you the TRUTH." 


Many of you have emailed me and told me you are having a purse party for Heartline.  Get ready.  Tomorrow I'm going to give you an opportunity to advertise your party right here on the blog.  Thanks for supporting these women and this ministry.  I pray as you hold those bags in your hands you feel encouraged by how God is using YOU to live out redemption, to share truth, and fight poverty in Haiti.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The New Naked

There's a naked man who walks around near where we live.

In a minute we're going to laugh about this because in this country it's a challenge sometimes to find things to laugh about.

For one second, we should probably pause and agree how sad it is that in Haiti there's really no services or a real plan to help people who have psychological problems.  If you have people in your life that you love who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. imagine how difficult and heartbreaking it would be to see them hurting and not have any way to get them help. Sigh.  Haiti is hard.

Wow.  Now I almost don't want to continue this story, cause I feel so bad for this guy.

Okay...pouring ice water on my heart.

Wait for it.  Wait for it.

Ah yes.  My heart is now completely frozen.  We can continue.

A naked person walking down the road is something you mention.

Almost everyone on campus had seen Naked Man but me.

No fair, right?

One night we're walking home from the store. We walk around the corner. We're almost to our gate.  Aaron is in the lead.  The kids are between us.  I'm in the back.  I turn the corner and see all our boys stopped, staring at something, mouths wide open.  We have failed to teach them manners, so they are pointing and yelling, "That guy is naked!"

Before I can figure out what is going on, I almost run into naked man.  Right. Into. Him.

Since Aaron was the first one to round the corner and experience the nakedness, he had turned around, waiting to see the reaction of his wife.  Aaron is nice that way.

I turn the corner and bam.  I encounter the naked.

Want to know my first thought?

"My gosh, his butt is amazing.  Uh-Mazing."

 It is.  Who knew butt cheeks could live that high up on a person's legs?  My cheeks would instantly have a hard time breathing if ever forced to that altitude.  Naked man had zero overlap between butt and leg.  None.  His butt ended. Full stop. Then began his leg.  Go look in the mirror. Chances are, this is not the way anyone would describe your butt to leg transition.

Yes, fine. It would take a very long look to make all these observations about a naked person.

My eyes tarried. They lingered.  It's not every day you see a naked person on your corner.  My sons get their rudeness straight from me.

Standing next to a naked man on the side of a busy street was weird.  The next time you are out walking just imagine passing an all the way naked man who is not acting naked at all.  That's where the magic happened with this man.  It's one thing to pass a naked person who is embarrased they are naked.  It's an entirely different thing to pass a naked man who is standing on your corner buying a coke.

Your brain sort of doesn't know what to do with the information it's receiving.  Naked man.  Busy street.  Buying coke.  Great butt. No one but the white people are staring.  Where does the naked man keep his wallet?

A picture like this is not easily processed.  While my brain was trying to reboot and figure out if this is a time to run, fight, buy a coke, or do lunges, I simply stood there and admired his naked rear.

End scene.

That night, the Haitian man who works for our family (Dominique) came over.  Dominique is my one-stop source to get all my questions about Haiti answered. Maybe Dominique likes being my go-to person for questions.  Maybe he wishes I'd go read when he's here.  We shall never know.

Naked man was fresh on my mind. I could not get over that he was totally naked doing not-naked things.  By this time I've already imagined naked man riding a motorcycle taxi.

I described the scene on the corner to Dominique.  I left out how much I liked the guy's butt.  I told him everything else though.

After telling part of the story, Dominique interrupted me and says, "I don't know the word 'naked' you are talking about."

Dominique speaks pretty good English, but the word "naked" was lost on him.

So I said, "You means you don't have any clothes on."

Dominique's face lit up. He was getting it.  He says, "Oh, naked means when you are completely empty of clothes?"

Completely empty of clothes.

Is there a better way to describe naked? I think not.

I asked Dominique if he thinks naked man is crazy.

He enthusiastically said, "Yes!!  Yes.  You would have to be crazy to walk around outside completely empty of your clothes.  When you see this man, if you are by yourself, you should walk very far around him.  If a man is empty of clothes, you never know what he is going to do."

I decided I would listen to Dominique and toss aside any future conversation with naked man where I walked up to him and asked him how he got his butt to look like that.  Besides, if he busted out in naked squats in front of me that might be a tad bit too much.  Even for me.

Dominique asked me what our country does with people who walk around naked. I told them we arrest them.  He was deeply troubled by this.  "They go to jail, just because they are naked?"  We told him that they don't usually stay in jail.  Then we admitted that we don't actually know what happens to them in our country (cause we're real winners).  All we know is that you are not allowed to be naked and buy a coke.

Completely empty of clothes

Today I'm officially adding that to our Hendrick Dictionary.

Because of my niece, we erased the word, "wedgie" from our family's vocabulary and instead call the unfortunate incident when your undergarments are traveling to uninvited parts of your behind...a "washie."

Because of Ashton, we no longer say someone tooted.

Instead, when smelly air makes its way out of your behind we Hendricks now call that offense "pooting the cheese."

"Did you poot the cheese?"

I laugh every time I hear one of my boys ask someone that question.

That white stuff you put on your skin to keep from getting cancer will forever be referred to as summer screen.

Nun chucks? Oh no.  Those things ninjas use will forever be called Neck Chunks in our home.

We've now officially buried "naked."  Forever more, when a person is going au naturale they will be "completely empty of their clothes."

I'm hoping an opportunity presents itself for Aaron to get to really talk to Empty of Clothes Man.  I'm sure he has a story worth hearing. Or maybe he just really likes being naked, and he lives in the perfect place to be true to himself.  Maybe one day we'll find out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Markers Make Mommy a Maniac


Look in my eyes.

You can't play

Look in my eyes.

You can't play with markers, buddy


Look in mommy's eyes

You can't

In my eyes, Hudson

You can't write on the TV with

my eyes

look in my eyes

You can't write on the TV with markers

No. Look at me.

In my eyes


Look in my eyes

You can't write on the TV with markers. Mommy isn't mature enough

Look at my face.

In my eyes Buddy

I'm not mature enough to not let that make me lose my mind.

In my eyes

Look in my eyes

You can't color your legs with a marker, Hudson

In my eyes

No.  Look at my face.

In my eyes.

You know markers are a no no.

You have to knock it off with the markers, okay?

Can you say sorry, mom?

In my eyes

Look me in my eyes

In mommy's eyes

Thanks.  I forgive you.

Love you

Anson, Hayden, Ashton...

If I see Hudson with another one of these things, I will set every marker in this house on fire. I will make a huge bonfire, throw in the markers and have a wild rumpus while you all stand there and cry.  Except I won't even know you're crying cause I'll be doing the hammer so hard and singing, "Ding dong the markers are gone."

Got it?

(They seem unaffected. They know. I'd never really throw the markers away.  And they know I don't know how to make a fire.)


If you could put one of your kid's toys behind the wheel of the car and run over it, which toy would it be?

Surely we all have toys in our house like that.

We hate the toy's guts, but we'd never actually throw it away because then we'd probably ruin our children's lives. If our kid ever went to prison, or became a truck driver, we'd lay in bed at night and know it's all because we trashed their Polly Pocket.

Mother Guilt.  It's the only thing keeping Legos in this house. It wakes me up in the middle of the night and makes me worried that my kids don't have enough access to construction paper.

I'm sad to say I've actually lost some sleep over whether or not there's enough construction paper in the house.  Sheesh.

What toy makes you want to put it in the garbage disposal?

This is a safe place.  We won't judge you.  Even if it's the Noah's Ark Playmobil Set.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

 photo credit: Joanna Howard

Blessed are the poor in Spirit for there's is the kingdom of God.

We noticed a new woman sitting on the wicker chairs on the front porch of Heartline's women's clinic.

Beautiful.  Tall.  Thin.  Wearing a bright yellow shirt.

She said her name was Fabula.

I remember thinking her name fit her well, like expensive jeans.

She came to the clinic for a pregnancy test.

I sat with Beth and Joanna in one of the exam rooms as they delivered the news to this young woman.

"You're pregnant.  The test is positive."

There have been times when I thought I was pregnant.  My pregnancies are terrible, so the thought of being pregnant again terrifies me.  Given the choice, I'd never be pregnant again.  And yet, no matter how long Aaron and I have been having sex, and that we know exactly how to make a baby (even though people look at our four kids and annoyingly ask, "You do know how babies are made, right?")...there have been a few times when I thought I was pregnant.  My period was late.  I psyched myself into thinking my boobs were bigger.

One of those times that I thought I was pregnant I had five little kids in my home.  Three biological.  Two foster.  It always shocked me that even though my pregnancies were a nightmare, and being pregnant while fostering would have been a disaster, I was still so disappointed when the pregnancy test came back negative.

Odd, isn't it?  No matter how much I did not want to be pregnant and logically knew it would be totally insane for our family at the time, I sat on the toilet, holding a negative pee test, and cried.

I wonder if deep down I knew..."If I'm pregnant, it will be hard, but I have everything I need to get through this.  I live in strong community with other believers who will be by my side the next nine months. They will help me with my other kids, and they will help me with this new baby.  I'll have a love affair with the toilet for 25 weeks, but I have enough money to hire someone to come to my house and help me with my children.  I won't be able to cook for nine months, because I'll be in the bathroom trying not to throw up my baby, but my friends will bring meals.  Everyone will feel sorry for Aaron and the kids.  They will feed them.  My family will take care of me.  My husband can make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kids.  He has a great job.  A job that pays him enough to meet all our needs and take our kids to Jason's Deli for dinner several nights a week."

I would never inconvenience everyone around me on purpose.  My pregnancies were hard and difficult, so I wouldn't have walked into another one without counting the cost.  Pregnancy would have meant I was sick all day every day. It would mean I had to get help to do basic life.  Two lines on a pregnancy test would have meant total chaos in our home with so many little kids.

And yet I cried and Aaron held me for awhile when the test came back negative.  It's hard not to get excited about the possibility of new life, no matter how inconvenient new life might be.

Deep down, I must have may be difficult for awhile, but I have a wealth of resources at my finger tips to make this work.  I have money, friends, family, and a husband.  After several  months, my friends and husband may hate taking care of my life while I sleep in the bathroom floor, but then I'll have a new baby and will be too tired to care what they think.

"You're pregnant.  The test is positive."

You don't have to be able to speak Creole to know when the news you just delivered has sunk a woman's soul.  I was waiting for the sound effects..bombs exploding...water on my son's Battleship game.

Beth asked her, "Are you happy to be pregnant?"


She talked slowly.  Quietly.  Her eyes had glazed over.  Such sadness. 

"I'm going to abort the baby.  It's not a person yet."

She already had two kids and knew...she can't take care of another one. She had been taking birth control.  Something went wrong.

I had to blink fast to keep the tears from spilling.  Beth's tears were there.  Her eyes were full.  She gently reminded this scared mom that her baby is a person.

A decision was made.  Forget the waiting list for the program.  Let's get her in class today.  She'll see pictures of how a baby develops in the womb.  She'll hear the truth.  She'll hear about what God is up to in her belly.  She'll understand that her baby has a heartbeat.  She'll see that we're committed to helping her through this pregnancy.  She'll have support here.

She didn't stay for class.

So the three of us prayed.  We cried. 

There was this moment when we were trying to talk Fabula out of an abortion that I wanted to jump into a routine I'd use at a crisis pregnancy center in the States, complete with charts, videos, full-color pamphlets, tap dancing and jazz hands.

"Don't abort your baby.  This is a person.  This is your baby.  You can do the right thing.  You don't have to kill your baby.  There are plenty of places that can help.  We'd love for you to keep your baby, to parent your child, and if you want to, we can point you to great resources.  If you don't want to keep your baby, then someone will want to adopt your child.  There are families right now, waiting, praying for a baby.  You can give this child life, and a loving family.  This story can end well.  It can have a good ending.  Not a tragic one."

But this




The white people in the room sat in the silence for a little while, breathing in the difficult air of Haiti.  Sometimes the truth slaps you in the face, takes your breath away, and you're left to sit there with the sting for a little while...speechless.

The truth is, we have nothing tangible to offer this scared woman so that she can parent her child.  We have no idea how hard her life is.  We have no way of understanding how impossible adding another child to her home will be.  Does she even have a home?

Adoptions and caring for orphaned children in this country are incredibly difficult and complex.  The truth is, there are probably not any couples in Haiti begging God for a child right now.  The next Together for Adoption Conference will not be in Port-au-Prince. No one here is putting adoption tickers on their blog.  No one in the states can easily adopt this child right now either.

Silence and tears.

It was all we had to offer. 

To judge this woman we'd have to assume that she has friends that could help.  She has family.  She has a husband.  She has money.  She has a government that will work for her, serve her, educate her, and protect her.

The reality is...

She has none of those things.

None of those things.

Blessed are the poor in spirit?

It's tempting some days to think Jesus is crazy.

I'm finding that true poverty isn't about not having enough money.  Jesus was poor, after all.  He said He had nowhere to lay His own head.

Maybe true poverty is more about not having any way to ever, ever, work hard enough to ever, ever, have the slightest chance of changing your situation on your own.

True poverty, the kind we see here every day, looks more like hopelessness.

To wake up every morning and know, without fail, all of your days will be as hard as this one.

No opportunity for change.  No light at the end of the tunnel.  No pulling yourself up by your own boot straps.  Boots in Haiti don't come with straps.  Not even those have been provided for you.

No hope.  No hope.

I've never felt such hopelessness like I did yesterday with this woman.  Chances are...there's no one for her call.  No one to help.  Nowhere to turn.  No last ditch effort.  No great idea she hasn't thought of until she's in a horrendous pinch.  She has nothing.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit?

I know the poor were not put on this earth for the sole purpose of teaching me a lesson.  They don't exist so wealthy Americans can briefly see them, go home and be introspective for a week.  I know I can't hold onto my US passport, dive into the life of those in abject poverty, and then claim that the only reason I've gotten a glimpse into their life is so God could lovingly use their intense suffering to teach me some awe-inspiring lesson.  If that's the only reason I think the poor exist, for me to gain something from their oppression, that's a little sick.

But I'll admit.  As I sat with this lady and watched the scene play out in front of me, I was given a gift.  Which is a little twisted, since it seemed to come at this woman's expense.  Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about situations like these.  I don't really like them and don't really like God in the middle of them either.

Regardless of how I felt about God in that moment, I was given a perfect picture of what it means to be poor in Spirit.

The three of us in that examine room were forced to admit...unless God moves on behalf of this woman and this child, there is no hope.

Unless He changes her heart, she will not keep this baby.  It will die.  There is nothing this mother can do to fix her situation or make adding a child to her home possible.  There is no Rolodex of resources we can offer her.  She can't work harder.  You could read her "The Little Engine that Could" and she would laugh.  She hasn't been given the train or the coal.  She hasn't even been given the track.

Unless God breathes life into this circumstance that wreaks of death, there is no hope.

We prayed for this woman.  We wept for the baby.  We cried for Haiti.  We asked God to defend this country's women and children.  I have not stopped pleading that the church would hurt over this, that back home people would be asking God, "What do we do?  How do we help?  Make it clear, Lord.  Make it clear, but never ever let us sit here another day thinking all is well in this world."

May we remember the poor.  May we hurt with them.  Weep with them.  Plead with God to intervene.  Beg Him to return.  May we ask God what it looks like to care for the poor and defend them. To be used by God to redeem situations like these, show grace, mercy and above all else, love. For each of us. What does that look like?

In the midst of such sadness yesterday, I understood a little better what my life looked like before Jesus graciously intervened.  I saw my soul in Fabula's story.  The hopelessness.  Utter hopelessness before Christ stepped into the picture.  I saw how He rescued me when I didn't even know there was hope for rescue.  I saw how my best efforts, my attempts to be better, my righteous acts could have never saved me or gotten me out of the situation I was in.  I was enslaved and oppressed by a force far greater than Haiti's corrupt government. My sinful acts had condemned me.  And yet, my righteous acts condemned me as well.  They were like filthy rags before God.  Unless someone came for me, I had no way of climbing out of such a pit.

I hope that's what it means to be poor in Spirit.  Because then there's hope for Fabula.  The Kingdom belongs to people just like her...for the countless, oh God the countless women just like her in Haiti.  No circumstance can take that hope away from her.  No government can come against it or steal it.  That hope is stored up for her in heaven, and it's guarded by God Almighty who holds the hearts of earthly kings in His hands and turns them whichever way He pleases (prov. 21:1).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dat Baby Bite You?

My sweet aunt came and visited me in Haiti last week.  She is always a breath of fresh air.  While she was here, I took her to Heartline with me.

It was my first time to drive myself.  I felt like such a big girl.  I'm no longer a 14 year old waiting for a ride.  I wish everyone in the world could experience driving in Haiti.  It's like off-roading it, except oh wait...that is the road.

John and Beth McHoul have lived in Haiti for a long over 20 years.  At first they ran an orphanage.  It was a beautiful place with a very small number of children.  Their ratio of adults to children was very, very high.  They provided their children with a stable, healthy life and worked hard to get them ready to join their forever families in the States.

As I was taking my aunt on a tour of Heartline's sewing program, John was explaining some things to my aunt.  He said something like, "We kept taking in kids, but eventually we got tired of taking children away from their mothers.  Instead, we wanted to start helping the moms have the resources they need to be good moms who can provide for their own children."

Thus the Women's Programs were born.  Heartline has a sewing program where women are taught to sew, taught to read, and given skills they need to generate income for their family.  Heartline is fighting the orphan crises at the most foundational level.  They are preventing children from becoming orphans. 

On Thursdays pregnant women come to the women's center.  They are weighed.  Their temperature and blood pressure is taken.  They eat a high protein meal.  They receive their prenatal vitamins for the week. Then each of the women attend a class.  Beth and Joanna (midwives extraordinaires) teach a variety of classes about issues that relate directly to these women.

The ladies that are due for a prenatal checkup are then checked out by the midwives in the exam rooms to make sure mom and baby are doing well.  They listen to the women and answer questions.  Then we pray for each of the ladies.  Sometimes the prayers we're praying are so huge and hard and yet simple.  God help this mother to be able to eat protein this week.  Help her to get enough iron.  She's so anemic.  Lord help her to make wise decisions.  Help her to gain weight.  Help her to make good choices for her baby this week, even if that means it's hard and inconvenient for her.  Help her to drink enough water.  She's so dehydrated.  Help her to know she's loved.  She's not forgotten.  God help.  Please help.

Joanna Howard (She's so young and is an amazing, gifted midwife.  I love watching her in action.)

Right here I'm feeling like the coolest, most blessed person in the entire world.

Once theses ladies have their babies they start attending the Tuesday class.  They bring their new babies.  Each week their babies are weighed.  Each woman eats a high protein meal and attends class.  She learns how to care for her baby.  She learns about early childhood development.  She is constantly encouraged to keep nursing her baby.  If her baby is sick, they are provided access to medical care.

Every week I'm honored to have witnessed something so beautiful and redemptive in this country.  The Haitian women are loved, treated with respect, educated, empowered, and cared for deeply by Beth and Joanna.  Watching Beth and Joanna do their thing has been one of the sweetest gifts.  I don't know how I've been allowed to be apart of something so beautiful.

Every time I'm with these ladies there is this moment when I look around and with tears in my eyes wonder how God made a way for me to be included in so much beauty.  I know I did nothing to deserve it.  I've told Beth..."It's like I've been allowed into some super cool club, that I know I didn't have the credentials to be a part of.  No one should have let me in.  There was a mistake.  I keep thinking, "How did I get in here?"  Grace. That's the only explanation.

I wrote all that to brag on this ministry.  But, I also wrote all that so I can tell a funny story.
I try to go to Heartline every Tuesday and Thursday.  I'll be at the Women's Center helping with breastfeeding issues and Hudson is usually next door playing with some other kids associated with Heartline.  However, there have been times when Hudson's been with me as I've worked hard with a mother to get her baby to latch on correctly.
So here's what's been happening lately.

Whenever he sees a baby, he does one of two things.

He comes over to me, puts his hand on my arm, and seriously warns me..."Momma.  Dat baby bite you."

Or, he whispers in my ear...more like a question, pointing to the baby, "Momma.  Dat baby bite you?"
I quickly say, "No.  That's a nice baby" and always hope no one heard him, or that for once, the language barrier is working in our  favor.

I kept thinking it was so weird that Hudson thinks all Haitian babies are vicious creatures who will bite him (or me).  Lots of times you can tell...he is genuinely worried about the safety of his mother and is trying to protect me.

We already have some pretty solid suspicions that our little brown bear is a little racist.  In the States we had black friends, but they were the minority.  We mostly had white friends.  We always wished that was different, but probably didn't work hard enough to MAKE it different.  Now that we're in Haiti, the white people (blans) are now the minority.  Hudson is usually out going and not very shy.  Put him in a room with mostly Haitians and the kid is trying to climb up my shirt.  He's downright rude to the lady who cleans our house.  We're working on that.  We've tried to find other reasons why Hudson is such a weirdo around Haitians, but we've had to confess...he's probably a little freaked out about being around so many people with darker skin.  It's new to him.  When we're walking  on the street, he's been known to bury his head in my chest.  It's like it's all too much, and he can't take it.

One day he'll figure out that he's not white.  For now, he doesn't know and that's okay I guess.  I googled, "When should you tell your son he is black" but nothing helpful popped up.  Trans-racial Adoption.  Sigh.  If only there was a reference guide for everything hard and weird that will come up in a family's lifetime.

I was wondering if Hudson thought the Haitian babies were mean, ferocious, biters because of some sort of racial judgment he was making.  He's never said a white baby will bite me, or worried about a white baby biting him.

I'll admit.  Racism irks me.  I haven't learned to deal with racist people in a very gracious way.  Aaron thinks it's hilarious that his wife (who will fight someone over racist thoughts and remarks) is now raising her own child with race related issues.  Go figure, right?  Aaron laughs and laughs that the woman who makes her kids sit and listen to speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. (and cries every time) is mothering a black kid who is not nice to black people.

I keep being a little irritated with Hudson for looking at a Haitian baby and then adamantly insisting that the baby is mean and will bite.  I've had to take him out of the room because he was so concerned and worked up about this.

It wasn't until we saw a nursing mother at church this weekend that it all clicked.

My son is not racist.  I mean....he is, but not towards babies.  Gosh, if there are levels of racism, being a jerk about a baby is the worst of the worst.

Watching that mother nurse her baby, and then having Hudson whisper in my ear, "Momma...dat baby bite you?" made everything make sense.

So that's what I have the privilege of doing at Heartline every week.

When people ask what I do, I can say with confidence..."I teach babies to bite their moms."

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hudson: Fighting Social Injustice at the age of Two

from the Toms Website...

"In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

As of September 2010, TOMS has given over one million pairs of new shoes to children in need through giving partners around the world."

I was in the car, looked out the window, and noticed a woman selling baby Toms on the side of the road.

We had to investigate.

We could not resist paying $4 to make Hudson officially the cutest kid on earth.

It's a little funny to be on the other side of the Tom's Industry.  We've bought a lot of Toms in our day.  It's one of the easiest, no brainer ways to be cool. Sign us up for just about any get-cool-quick plan.  We need all the help we can get, and we're too exhausted at the end of the day to try anything that requires a lot of work to be hip.

Want a great Halloween costume idea?  Buy some thick black glasses, grow a gotee, and wear a graphic tee.  Top the outfit off with some Toms and wah-lah...everyone will know you're a worship leader.  If I just described what you look like every day, chances already are a worship leader.  Don't go shave the gotee.  It's okay.  Embrace the truth.  Rest in it.

Buying Toms is kind of cool.  You buy a pair of shoes.  They send you a pair and a needy kid in a third world country a pair of shoes.  Never in a million years would I have thought that our own child would be walking around in the shoes that were intended for a kid in need.  Made me a little sad to see the Toms system breaking down in this country (probably due to corruption somewhere).

I have no idea how these shoes ended up for sale at a lady's "stand" right outside our gate...but they did...and I can't get over how adorable Hudson's little legs look in his baby Toms.

Oh, and yes...Hudson writes for Soujorners in his spare time (when he's not pooping his pants or picking up rocks and sucking on them.)

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Your response to the orphan posts have been overwhelming.

When I posted about going to the orphanage, my thoughts were all very raw.  That place wrecked me.  Let's all agree that even the best, well-funded, well run orphanage is still terribly sad.  Can we agree on that?  Seeing children without families is sad.  It's always, always sad.

Because I have spent my life sheltering myself from all things hard and painful, the whole experience was shocking.  To see how the kids were living was hard.  To see how the Haitian couple who cares for the kids was living was hard.

Surrounded by kids I stood there at the orphanage grieving the way I have lived my adult life.  How could I know what God says about the orphan and not have any idea that places like this exist...children just like this exist?  How could I know what God says about the orphan and be so clueless about how they are suffering?

How could the American church be so caught up in all things ridiculous while this sweet, Haitian couple is out here in the middle-of-nowhere-Haiti trying to take care of all these kids by themselves?

I stood there holding clingy children, hungry for touch and attention, and thought, "This is where caring so much about building a climbing wall in the student center, or a coffee bar in the foyer has landed countless children around the world."

God have mercy on us.

I promise I'm not bashing the church.  We served on church staff for a very long time.  It's like making fun of our sister.  We can be irritated with her.  We can hurt for how she's missing the point.  We know that by saying hard things about the American church we're point the finger right at ourselves.  But like that sister, if anyone else outside the family says something about her bucked teeth, I will go all Kung-fu on them.

We love the church.

When two babies get offered to me in three days, and Aaron and I have to make life altering decisions for these babies, it's kind of hard not to want to sit and bawl our eyes out that at that same moment, an American church staff is probably having a staff meeting and the biggest decision on the agenda is whether or not to buy chicken breasts from Sams or Wal-Mart for the back to school bash.

God have mercy.

So I came home from the orphanage.  It took days and days to process what I'd seen.  When the words finally started to break through the cloud of despair, I sat down and wrote the post about the orphanage.

I never thought past the post.  I probably should have.  In my former life I would have.  In this new life, all I can do is apologize for not thinking past those words and foreseeing the response.

I wrote the post hoping that people's hearts would be broken for these kids and the thousands and thousands and thousands of children just like them who are unseen and need love, families, stability and a voice.

I wasn't expecting so many of you to respond and say you wanted to help these particular kids.

Like I said...I should have expected it.  I just didn't.  Not because I think no one would care.  Now that I think about it, duh.  You'd  have to be dead to not be moved by these children.

I just didn't think.  That's all.

I wrote about what we saw and pushed publish.

So now what we're left with is so many of you who are hurting for these kids and wanting to help.

You've looked up tickets to Haiti on the internet.

You've left comments and flooded...literally flooded my inbox.

"How do we help?"  "What do we do?"

The truth is...we don't know.

I didn't write the post because I knew what to do.  I wrote because this is the reality for lots and lots of children around the world.  It's the reality for these kids.  I wrote because I didn't want to experience this alone.  I wanted you to have to hurt with us. I don't know what to do about this reality, but thankfully God didn't say I had to know.  He said this is the church's job.  It's our job.  Yours and mine.  Together.

When I published the post, I had no idea that we'd be thrown in, feet first into trying to help you help them.

We want to help these kids.  We definitely want to help this baby girl.

But that doesn't mean we know how to do that.  We're working on trying to figure out how.  In Haiti, everything takes a lot longer than it does in the US.  This orphanage is far away from us.  We're already involved neck high in ministries here in Haiti.  On top of that, we don't even know enough about international adoption or how a super healthy orphanage should function.  We're not even sure super healthy orphanages truly exist.  We wish orphanages didn't have to exist at all.  In a perfect world they wouldn't.  But if they have to exist, what should they look like?  What should be important?  What is best for the kids?  What gives them the best chance of being able to grow up healthy and know how to relate rightly with their adoptive parents and siblings?  We have absolutely no idea. We only know enough to know that these are really, really big deals.

We want you to be able to help these kids.  We as a couple want to help these kids and help lighten the load for the Haitian couple and the American couple working to improve things at the orphanage.

But the truth is...we don't have any answers yet.

We came to Haiti to connect you with responsible, gospel centered, sustainable ministries in Haiti.  Many of you have read this blog for years.  Many of you are supporting us financially.  You've said, "We want to help the orphan.  We want to care for the poor."  "We just don't know where to send the money or where to offer our skills."  So you sent us...our family here to find answers to those questions.

We came to Haiti to be a bridge between ministries in Haiti doing incredible work for the kingdom and you in America.  There are amazing ministries in this country doing amazing work.  Many of you who are supporting us financially and who have read this blog for years and years have trusted us to identify ministries that meet that criteria so you can know how to respond to the needs in Haiti.  So far, Aaron has written about a few of those ministries on the Mosaic Village blog.  We've had time to study those see them in hear the hearts of the people running them.  In full faith we can say...."Send those places your money.  Volunteer there.  Send supplies.  This is so important, you should rearrange your life back home to support these ministries."

Before we'd ever tell you guys to start sending money or supplies or coming to help the orphanage I wrote about, we feel some sort of responsibility to make sure there is an open door at this orphanage for us to help these couples and these kids. We need to make sure they want and/or need our help.

Most importantly, we'd want to make sure that if we're asking you to send aid in any form to these kids that everything is on the up and up.  We'd want to know how to help in a way that is actually helping these kids and helping Haiti.  If we're going to be responsible for pointing you to ministries in Haiti, we'd like to know that these ministries are gospel centered and that there is a healthy foundation.  That's what Mosaic Village is all about.  That's why we're here.

Specifically, if we were asking you to support an orphanage, we'd like to know that the people running it are well educated in adoption issues, that the children are learning to bond, that there is a very high ratio of adults to children, and that all adoptions are done legally so as not to add to the corruption in this country that is oppressing the people of Haiti.

Let me be super clear, because I don't want any misunderstanding.  We have no reason to believe that the work going on at this particular orphanage isn't 100% healthy.  So far, everything we know about what's going on out there seems great.  The honest truth is, we have not had an opportunity to find out enough about what is going on out there or to fully hear the hearts of the people working hard to get things moving in the right direction.  We haven't had time to sit down and ask a lot of questions.  A lot of the questions YOU want us to ask ministries in Haiti.  Hard questions you are trusting us to ask.

We're hoping to do that soon.  Although it's far away, we're hoping to spend more time out at the orphanage learning about the ministry taking place there.

But until we do those things, we can't (in good faith) start asking people to respond to the physical needs of these kids.  For now, we rest in knowing that people in the US and people on the ground here in Haiti are working hard on behalf of these kids.  Sweet people who love these children are helping.  The Haitian couple who are caring for these kids want the very best for them.  Like I said, resources are simply limited for now.

We'd like to help as a family.  Until we have some questions answered and can say to all of you with total integrity that we've studied this ministry and know it's something to get behind with funding, we can't ask you to send money.  We can't be responsible for that.

In the mean time we hope you will continue to pray for these specific kids, this specific orphanage, and the precious couples serving these children in Haiti. 

Most importantly, I pray we will go to God and ask Him to break our heart for the orphan. I pray we become educated about the plight of the fatherless.  I pray we consider adoption...and my word, not the glamorous, make believe picture of adoption.  To adopt a kid out of most orphanages in Haiti you are signing up for a long, hard process.  The child you bring home will probably be damaged and hurt beyond belief.  Adoption is beautiful, but adoption always means pain and loss.  At its root level, adoption is messy, complicated, and hard.  I promise I'm not trying to talk you out of adoption.  I swear, I'm trying to talk you into it.  So many of you are hurting over these children and may be considering adoption for the first time.  I pray love always wins, but that we won't be naive or uneducated about adoption issues.

I hope we all remember that we don't adopt because our hearts are stirred by some pictures on the internet.  We adopt because our hearts have been stirred by the gospel.  We adopt because Christ invites us to play a part in redeeming all things on this earth.  He enables us to extend love, forgiveness, and grace to children who have been hurt, abused, and neglected.    Sometimes that's not easy, and it doesn't come natural.  Sometimes it takes a lot of work, a lot of repentance, and a lot of forgiveness. We adopt because God loves adoption, and He says to care for the orphan.  He says children are a blessing.  He says to imitate Him, and thankfully He's adopted a whole heck of a lot of children.  We adopt because we have been adopted in spite of all our dysfunction, our rebellion, our anger, and our insecurity.  We've been shown grace and mercy, and so we extend grace and mercy.       

I pray we ask the Lord what it looks like for each of us...each family...each church to love and care for the orphan in distress.  Regardless of how hard it can be, when we care for the orphan, God is inviting us to come face to face with the gospel.  He's inviting us to hold it in our laps.  Is there any greater gift?

We'll keep you posted, okay.

Until then, let's seek the Lord.  Let's find ways to defend the fatherless, to care for the orphan, and to be a voice for the voiceless.

Let's be honest.  Let's face the truth.  Countless children are sitting in orphanages.  Many of them need better care.  They all need families.  God has commanded His people to respond.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Reality is a Weighty Thing

A friend recently said to me, "When your blog gets quiet, I start to worry."

It's true.

When nothing gets posted it always means things are such a mess that there's no way to capture all the words and emotions to make sense of them.

At this point I'm still not sure I'm able to sort through what I've seen and put it into words that mean something.

Remember the four week old baby whose mother died?

Remember how she was offered to us?  We were asked if we wanted her?

Remember how I said we cried over her and then sent her back to the orphanage?

An orphanage we had never seen.

Part of coming to Haiti for us is facing the orphan crisis in this country and hopefully in this world.  We'll also admit that we're big wienies who don't like to face this stuff alone, so we are making you face it with us.

The moment a woman at your gate hands you her baby and begs you to take her is the moment when there's no more pretending.  We had spent most of our life trying to insulate ourselves from pain, honesty and suffering while living in the US.  When someone hands you a four week old baby and says, "Do you want her?" all that padding and insulation suddenly falls apart.  The surround sound airbags explode, and the substance you're left with is cold, hard, and uncomfortable.

There is nowhere to hide.  There is no buffering this much tragedy.

Reality sits in your lap and it's heavy.

As painful as reality is, we are tired of lying to ourselves.

One reason we came to Haiti was to face the truth.  See it with our eyes.  Hold it in our hands.  Quit denying sadness on this scale is real.

When you look at the amount of suffering in our world, count up the number of orphans rotting away in crummy orphanages, and consider how poor the majority of people are on this earth, as a whole, I think we can all admit...the response from American Christians and the American church is ridiculous and embarrassing.

We live in Haiti right now, trying to learn how to fight these things, but let's never ever forget that just one year ago we were living in the US in a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood living the American dream ignoring the poor, the oppressed, and the orphan.

I don't think any of us want to be heartless jerks.  I think we love this world and our stuff too much, but I think many believers long to be free from such bondage.  I think it's easy to ignore the orphan and the poor because we don't have to face it.  Maybe we don't want to face it.  It's ironic how global our world has become, and yet it's still incredibly easy to shield ourselves from what is going on around the world when it comes to orphans, the poor, and the oppressed.

If each of us had to hold that four week old baby in our arms...a true orphan...truly in distress...if we had to look her in the eyes and then reject her, I don't think many Christians would do that.  I think all the excuses we have for not adopting, or not giving would suddenly seem insane.

Yes, God needs to soften our hearts toward the poor and the orphan.  He needs to do a lot of work in our souls, teaching us what it looks like to live for the Kingdom of God.  I think we can all agree on this.

But I believe we also must do whatever it takes to come face to face with truth...with reality and what that looks like for millions of people living in devastating poverty and the vast number of fatherless children who are living in terrible conditions.

Truth seekers.  Are we seeking the truth?  Yes, the truth can be found in thick, old, theology books.  It can be found in the Bible.  But truth is also found in a smelly, dirt-floor orphanage in a third world country.  Finding truth in the Bible and in world-famous theology books is a lot easier to find, I think.  I've been guilty of only seeking after the truth that is convenient to find.  Truth that is fun to argue with all my smart friends over coffee.

The kind of truth I found this week is so troubling, I hardly want to talk about it.  And yet, I believe we are to be people who rejoice in the truth...who look for it and deal with it, who expect goodness and grace to radiate and Jesus to be found and glorified even in the darkest of situations.

We sent that baby back to the orphanage a few weeks ago.

Honestly, it took me a couple weeks to recover from such a rough weekend.  Two babies were offered to us within three days.  It was tragic.  Did anyone prepare us for this before coming to Haiti?  No.  Could anyone prepare us for something like this?  No.

Did we feel ready to take these kids in and raise them as our own?  No. For lots of reasons, no.  Some good, right reasons.  Some selfish and faithless reasons.

So we cried a lot and sent both babies away.

For the four week old baby whose mother died that we sent back to the orphanage...well, the only way I coped was to imagine her in a nice place.  We were not ready to take in a baby here, but when I thought of her, I'd think of her in a cute little orphanage with loving nannies.  Her needs were met in my imagination.  She was loved.  She was being well cared for in the imaginary world I had prepared for her.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to do this for long...lie to myself.  We came to Haiti to stop lying to ourselves.

We knew we were going to have to face this...all the way face it.

We had to go out to the orphanage and see where she is living with our own eyes.  We had to know what saying "No, we can't take you" meant to this child.

Saying "No" in Haiti is never neutral.  In the States, saying "No" can be neutral at times.  In the States if I said, "No" to a four week old baby whose mother died at birth, someone else would snatch that baby up and raise her.  The chances of her being adopted by a loving, excited couple would be pretty high.

Saying "No" to a baby in Haiti means there is a huge possibility that you are dooming her to a life filled with sickness, attachment disorders, abuse, neglect and inescapable poverty.

I did not want to go to the orphanage where this baby is living.  I did not want to see the truth.  You can judge me if you want to and wonder why on earth we didn't say yes to this kid if we love adoption as much as we say we do.  You could judge me, or you could admit that you don't live in Haiti.  You have no idea how hard this is or how complex adoption is in this country.  You could judge me, or you could be honest...unless you're holding a baby from a place like Haiti or Uganda or Ethiopia or Russia in your arms right now, you too are saying no.  If you're pretending that kids aren't suffering every single day in orphanages, then we're in the same boat.  My boat is just a little further from the US at the moment.

Somehow God gave us the strength to get in the car and drive towards the find this baby and see for ourselves where she was.

I needed to face it...all of it...every ounce of it.  I held this baby in my own home and said, "I don't know how to do this right now."  I also needed to go see where saying those things to that child landed her.  Until I had faced every speck of this situation, I felt like I was still hiding.  I was still in denial.

So we went.

I was nervous all the way out to the orphanage.

It was very far away in the middle of nowhere.  A typical Haitian orphanage.  This one is run by a Haitian couple who thankfully love the Lord and genuinely love the kids in their care.  They are trying their very best.  Sadly their best is still not enough.  That's the story of Haiti.  No matter how much this couples tries, with the limited resources they have, it will never be enough to adequately provide even the basics for these kids.

No running water.  Very few toys.  No swing set or slide.  Nothing but dirt and kids.

We found the baby girl on the floor in a room by herself.  She was covered in spit up.  Her diaper weighed about as much as she did.  She had her fingers in her mouth, trying to soothe herself as tears ran from her little eyes down her cheeks.

I'm going to tell you more of her story and what we've been up to this week to try and help her.

Thankfully an American couple here in Haiti is working hard to come alongside this Haitian couple, offering relief and support.  We want to be clear that a lot of good things are starting to happen at this particular orphanage, but we want to be just as clear that there is a lot left to do.

But for now this story must pause.  It must.

I believe we all need to sit with these images for awhile.

We found 43 kids in this rundown orphanage.  43 breathing statistics.

A couple of them may be adopted soon.

The vast majority of these kids have no one coming for them.  No one writing a blog post about them.  No one sending emotional, "I'm a wreck, pray for me" emails about them to their friends and family.

The truth is, there are many, many more orphanages in Haiti with countless kids sitting in them who are unloved and unwanted.  The streets are filled with kids just like these with no one to care for them.  They are Vulnerable.  Hurting.  Alone.

While many American churches are worrying about the lighting on their stage, or fussing over the displays in their foyer, children are suffering in orphanages, groaning...aching...for someone to come redeem their lives.

This is the truth.

These are the pictures of truth.

I pray seeing the truth will set us free.

Free from excuses.

When you look into a child's dirty face, hold them in your arms and realize "If I leave this kid here like this, no one else is coming.  There is no plan B.  If I punt this one, no one is gonna pick up the ball and run with it" everything changes.  "I'm not called to adopt" or "I have every right to spend most of my money on myself" seems beyond stupid.

I pray that seeing the truth changes us.  I pray it causes our excuses to look silly and lame.

The reality is there are kids just like this baby girl all over Haiti who either need to be adopted, or need to be cared for in Haiti better.  This will either take opening up our homes, moving to Haiti, or rearranging our lives in order to fund better care for these kids.

I want us to hurt over the truth today, but I also hope we can get excited.

Ministry to the least of orphans in distress...that's pure religion.  There's never any fault in it.  You never have to worry if asking God how you should help the orphan is the right thing.  God says it's always right.  It's without fault.  Tricky?  Yes.  Hard?  Absolutely.  Should we face it, be honest, and let faces like this keep us awake at night asking God what He wants us to do to live out the gospel towards these kids?  Without a doubt.

Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act... Proverbs 24:12

Can I just suggest that maybe God wants to use your life to write a bigger, more beautiful story than the one you're living right now?  It might be a story filled with drastic life change, or suffering, or sacrifice, but it will be a lovely story of rescue, love, sanctification, redemption, and ultimately God's glory.

We all know those are the best stories, don't we?  Those are the stories that will be told over and over and over in heaven.