Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chuy's Creamy Jalepeno Dip

This is my take on Chuy's creamy jalapeno dip.  I'm pretty sure this substance comes straight from the throne room of heaven.  There are many versions of this recipe out there on the interwebz, but I was bound and determined to learn how to make it without adding a ranch packet.  I could blame wanting to learn to make this glorious dip minus the ranch packet on the fact that I live in Haiti and ranch packets are kind of hard to come by.  That would make things easier, but it would also be a total lie.  The real reason I don't want to use a ranch packet is because I have a packet phobia.  I am completely convinced cancer comes in anything prepackaged, especially if it's powdery. There you have it.  Your daily dose of psychotic.

If you have this same recipe with the ranch packet, feel free to include it in the comments section.  Others might want to try it.  I live in Haiti with things like malaria, cholera, laughable healthcare, political riots, and earthquakes but I'm terrified of chili packets?  I'm completely aware that this is bizarre behavior.

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. garlic granules
2 tsp. dill
2.5 tsp. onion powder or granules
2.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup milk
2 jalapenos with seeds
2 jalapenos without seeds
1 lime
1 tsp. vinegar
1 bunch of cilantro

Put all of that in a blender.  Blend until liquidy.  Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or an hour.  It will thicken in the frig.

Haiti Version:

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. garlic granules
2 tsp. dill
2.5 tsp. onion powder or granules
2.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons jarred jalapenos and 2 Tbsp. of the juice from the jar
1 lime (or 2 citron)
1 cup of dried cilantro (I order mine from Frontier and bring it in with me)

Eat with tortilla chips.  My favorite thing to do with this tacos.  Grill or fry fish.  On a corn tortilla (or flour) layer fish, shredded red cabbage, cilantro, fresh squeezed lime and a generous spoonful of creamy jalapeno.  Delish!

Sing, Sing, Sing

Every week before prenatals and child development classes the maternity center erupts with beautiful singing.  Cherline, who works for Heartline leads the ladies in a heart-felt song to Jesus.  I could sit and listen to these ladies singing truth loudly over the babies in their laps forever. 

We know.  It's hard not to fall head over heels in love with these precious ladies.  Those of you who have read this blog for awhile will see Dalonne on the front row. Baby Job is doing well.  You can see Adeline in the back row with baby Kathryn.  You can see the teen moms who live in the Harbor House on the right.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sweet Victory!

Nine days after birth, we finally got baby Kathryn to the breast today.  This was a huge victory!  It only took medications (Reglan), a Medela double breast pump, Adeline searching for electricity so she could pump several times a day, her working to keep the pump and bottles sterile, formula to use while the breastmilk was increasing, sterile syringes to feed the baby formula as Adeline's milk increased, constant love and encouragement, and breast shields brought in from the United States (take a look at that baby, Gwen...we could not have done this without those shields.)

I stood clapping and doing a little shake-what-my-momma-made-me dance next to Adeline as we finally got this frantic child to the to skin...sucking..finally...sucking and here's what I thought..

There is no flippin' way this mom would be sitting here successfully breastfeeding if this tiny little maternity center staffed with people who feel like total dummies were not here in this neighborhood.

Which then made me feel overcome with gratitude that so many of you give and pray.  You support this work.  You support our family.  You love our moms.  You love these babies.  You give these women access to correct information, life-saving knowledge, the gospel, breast shields, crazy white ladies who cheer them on, formula when we need it, and high-powered, fancy, rich-girl breast pumps.

You give these oppressed ladies and helpless babies justice.  Once I saw that baby finally smiling...I could not help but clap.  Yes.  Justice.  Hope.  A fighting chance.  A future.  I got to see a piece of the Kingdom of God today.  It's beautiful by the way. 

Thank you.

Today with Adeline was one of the sweetest victories.  She worked so hard for this!  Score!  I kept saying, "This is so good, Adeline.  So good!"  She said, "Because people have prayed."  Yes.  I told her there were so many people praying.  She smiled.  Adeline's smile.  It melts me.

Breastfeeding is a life or death issue in Haiti.  Stay tuned for pictures of baby Kathryn as she gets bigger and bigger.  We are crazy proud that Heartline grows Fatty Mcbutter Pants babies.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Boys Who Live in Haiti Make with Legos

well, a clothesline of course

I hear lego pants are a beast to wash and the hot Haiti sun fries the elastic.

And you simply must have a UN Tank.  When Ashton made this I asked him what those soldiers were doing up there on top of the tank.  "Playing Go-Fish."

Yes.  That's exactly what some people think they are doing.

Epic Update


The Heartline MK's start school one week from today.  Although there is still work to be done on the building, it's encouraging to see it all coming together.  With hard work this week a spectacular beginning of school seems completely doable.  We're extremely thankful for this beautiful building that was donated to Heartline (you know who you are, and we love you).  This week the finishing touches will be completed, flowers planted, and the rooms decorated.  We are all getting very, very excited.

Anson is probably deciding what order he is going to read these books in this year.  He is our book-loving child.  He never leaves home without one.  Either he can be frustrated that one simple errand means he's in the car with his parents for half the day, or he can decide to be a voracious reader.  We're glad he chose the latter and jumps into far away worlds while we're all sitting still in slug-pace traffic.  Now to convince the other three kids...and their mother to take up reading in the car instead of whining. 

 The kids checking out their piles of curriculum and supplies.

 Hudson playing with scissors.  Of course.

I heard Tara laughing her crazy person laugh in the bathroom.  With births, drama, and what's going on with baby Miles, we're all sleep deprived and stressed.  I walked into the bathroom and Tara says, "This cracks me up."  I looked to see what was so funny.  We stood there and laughed.  Maybe you had to be there.  The fact that the bathroom sign had been hung on the door or that we even had one for the school was slap your leg funny when you desperately need sleep, have a mountain of stress sitting in your lap, and it feels like nothing is going the way it should.  Have no fear.  When all of life seems to be falling apart, we can always say our bathroom in the school is professionally labeled.

{Baby Miles}

Last night Miles was moved to a different "hospital" in Haiti.  He's under the care of American doctors at this point.  I was with Jared, Jalayne, and Miles last night at the new location, and they seemed a lot less stressed to be surrounded by people who speak their language and keep them informed.  I just talked to Jalayne on the phone to see how things are going today and to ask her how to update those of you who are emailing and asking how to pray.  She says Miles looks so much better today.  He is finally hydrated.  There is still some issues with his urine, and we can pray that God continues to heal whatever is going on in that department.  He has not run fever today.  Overall, Jalayne wants everyone to know how much your prayers have meant to them, and that today is a day to praise God for what He is doing in their baby's body.  They feel hopeful this afternoon.  Please pray that God continues to strengthen and heal Miles. He is a tad bit jaundiced.  They are still working on getting him to the US as soon as they can.  Please continue to pray that both governments involved would process the paperwork promptly.

This couple has suffered through this beautifully.  We're all so proud of them.  Miles could not ask for better parents to love and advocate for him.  With very little sleep, in a country that is not their own, where Haitian nurses tell you to "stop crying" and "don't lay your baby down after you feed him or he will choke", Jared and Jalayne have handled this entire situation with an incredible amount of grace and trust in the Lord.

{Adeline and Baby Kathryn}

After several days of furious pumping, Adeline finally got colostrum and then milk.  This is the strangest breastfeeding situation I have ever seen.  I'm still not sure how a woman could have no milk...not one drop of colostrum or milk after giving birth to a baby.  Low milk supply?  Sure.  There are several reasons for that.  No milk?  Very strange.  Thankfully Adeline is a trooper.  She's an amazing mother who finds electricity every day to pump multiple times a day to try and get milk and then to try and increase her supply.  She's amazing.  Starting tomorrow we are going to work towards getting her baby to the breast and moving towards breastfeeding exclusively.  Please pray this transition goes well.  We feel confident, after a week of constant pumping that Adeline has enough milk to keep her baby healthy and content.  We're overjoyed for what this means for Adeline, baby Kathryn, and their entire family.  Breastfeeding saves lives in this country.  God has been gracious.

This week has been full of unexpected surprises and a great deal of stress.  In the madness, there was one overwhelming theme.  The love that God has given mothers for their children is magnificent.  This week I saw a momma holding her sweet daughter who was laboring at the maternity center.  She was worried.  She wanted to take the pain from her baby.  She was ready to fight for her daughter.  I've seen a mom defy her culture, choose to do whatever it takes to make breastfeeding a reality for her baby, lose sleep, work hard to build her milk supply for her baby girl.  I've seen a tired, exhausted mom cling to Jesus, begging Him to heal her son, grasping for faith, advocating for her baby in a place that's confusing and where not many people can be trusted.

These women have lost sleep.  They have worried.  They have prayed.  They have lost it.  They have had strength that only comes from heaven. They have fought.  They have worked.  They have given it all.  Every ounce of energy in their bodies.  All for their babies.

In the midst of all the madness this week, I was overcome many, many times with awe at the love God weaves into a woman.  Sometimes that love is beautiful.  Other times that love makes a mamma wild and crazy with passion.  But all of it is love.  Out of control, raging, tender, never-ending love. These babies this week have been adored with a love that comes straight from their creator as their mothers have sacrificed and given every last piece of themselves to nurture and support their babies.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Miles Update

I'm not a medical person so I'm not even going to attempt to explain what is going on with Miles medically.  What I can do is pass along what Jared and Jalayne are asking people to pray about for their situation and their precious baby.

Jared and Jalayne have made the decision to try and get Miles to the United States for care.  The problem is, Miles does not have a US passport since he was born here in Haiti and is only three days old.  Jared and Jalayne are asking that we pray that they are able to get Miles to the United States promptly and that whatever needs to happen with paperwork would be done in a timely manner.

Jared and Jalayne have been so strong as they have had to make difficult decisions for their son.  Please pray for Miles and for this sweet couple.  Navigating health care in Haiti is incredibly difficult even when you are not sleep deprived and have not just birthed a baby.  Throw into the mix embassy related issues and the fact that this couple is truckin' along is nothing short of a miracle.  Please pray that God's love and peace sustains them.

Please pray God heals this baby and that Jared and Jalayne feel God's presence and see His hand in every piece of what lies ahead for them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Urgent Need: Please Pray

Joanna just came over to check on Jalayne and her newborn son.  Baby Miles has fever.  He's being admitted to a hospital here in Haiti.

As you can imagine this is terrifying.  The family is asking for prayer.

Please pray for this couple, that God would heal this baby, and sustain this family over the next couple weeks as Miles is treated. 

We ask for God's peace in their hearts and that they would feel God's love and care for them through every step of this difficult journey.

They know the greatest weapon in situations like this one is prayer from God's people and so they are pleading for others to pray for their child.  Please pass along and pray.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Faith That Points Our Hearts Towards Heaven

 Jared and Jalayne
 photo credit:  Alyssa Shrock

Last night, Joanna, Beth, Tara and I helped welcome to this world a precious baby boy.  His parents, Jared and Jalayne, are a young, American, missionary couple here in Haiti.  They run a lovely home for little girls.  Our family actually shares a house with this couple.  A few short months ago, another young missionary couple here in Haiti, Rod and Brittany, had their baby at Heartline as well.

This is Jared and Jalayne's first baby.  All birth is beautiful, but there were so many moments last night when I was overcome with admiration for this young couple.  Being pregnant in a country filled with uncertainty, unbelievable heat, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and unreliable power is no easy task.  Delivering here is down-right hard to imagine.  Every part of living on this island requires faith.  Carrying and delivering a baby in Haiti requires a super-sized portion of it.

What would make a young, American couple decide to deliver their baby in a third world country, in a house with no air conditioning, far from epidurals, pain medication, and the comforts of the United States?

Rod and Brittany

What would make Rod and Brittany make that same decision?

We know these couples well enough to know that neither would consider themselves brave or strong.  I'm sure there were times when they were very afraid, frustrated, and really questioning whether or not they were making the right decision.  They are regular people.  I don't even think they would consider themselves risk-takers who are all that adventurous.  There is a tendency to turn people like this with stories like these into something "other than" flesh, blood, fear, and tears. When we do, we fail to see the mystery...the beauty...Jesus...His strength made perfect through broken, ordinary, needy people.  Wouldn't you say this is dangerous?

Watching Jalayne's long labor yesterday, how strong she was, how sweaty, tired, frustrated, yet how she gracefully leaned on Jesus, her husband, and her was an honor.  It was one of those moments when faith felt like something that could be held and touched.  You could look it in the eyes.  Hold it in your hands.  Hear its heart beat.  There are not many times in life when you get the opportunity to put all you believe...all that is precious in life into Jesus' hands, sit back, trust Him, wait on Him and then see all the provision of heaven...all the protection of a warrior God, all the grace of a caring Savior provide for your deepest needs.  There are not many times in life when you get the honor of seeing someone else live out heaven-sized faith right before your eyes.

I don't know what would make these young couples decide to carry a baby or deliver a baby here in Haiti.  I'm sure it has something to do with love, hope, and faith.  What I do know is that we have learned a lot from them as we've watched their story of faith in God and love for Haiti unfold.

Knowing Jalayne and Brittany, seeing them trust the leadership of their sweet husbands and watching them hold onto Jesus, His plan, His care for them will forever be a part of God growing our own family's faith.

We love you, Jared, Jalayne, Rod and Brittany and we celebrate the good that God has done through your lives and your homes today.  God's work through you has shown us a priceless piece of the Kingdom.  Is there any greater gift? We have felt God graciously teaching us as He's graciously led, comforted, and taught you.

Right after the birth last night Jared had to kill a massive tarantula in the kitchen of the maternity center.  I guess delivering in Haiti requires faith and a flip flop.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Need a Place to Stay in Haiti?

This entire post was stolen word for word from Tara's blog.  
I'm too sweaty and Hudson is too Hudson this morning to string together an original thought.

Need a place to stay in Port au Prince?   Know someone that does?

A perfect location, open to the public, please check this out:

Meet our new guesthouse managers, Ryan and Melissa.

Staying at the Heartline Guesthouse offers you a safe, clean, convenient place to rest your head  - and it helps to fund the work of the Heartline Women's Programs  - serving moms and children in the Tabarre area.

It is a win - win !

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh How I Have Missed Them!

Today was my first day back at Child Development Classes.  I left the house excited to see the familiar faces.  So many of these ladies had their babies while I was gone.  They are no longer coming on Thursdays for prenatals.  Now they come on Tuesdays with their babies for child development classes.

I turned on the road where our Maternity Center is located.  As soon as I did I saw Djenie.  She started jumping up and down in the road.  I was squealing inside the truck.  I got the window down.  She practically crawled in the window to kiss my face.  Haitians know how to greet a person.  Moments later five other women in our program were running over to the truck with their babies on their hips.  They stood at my window.  I told them I missed them so much.  They asked about my family.  The boys?  And your husband?  They said I had been gone too long.

Do you think heaven will be like that one day?  That indescribable excitement, the joy of seeing faces that have been removed for too long, the deep down satisfaction of holding a familiar hand, of squeezing the people we love?  The squeals?  The "Let me look at you."  Holding a loved-one's face in your hands.  Kissing their cheeks.  Marveling at the baby you have yet to see.  Saying "I missed you" over and over again.  You can't say it enough.

I invited all those ladies to pile in the truck.  We drove down the bumpy road to the Maternity Center.  Baby Kenny in my lap helping me drive.  A grown woman sitting in Hudson's empty car seat holding her baby in her lap.  Everyone talking.  Laughing.  The ladies in the car saying "Ed-uh."  I have missed my Haitian name.  H's are sort of an ignored letter in Haiti.  Funny for a country whose name starts with an H.  Haitians call "Haiti" "Ayiti".  The H gets the shaft.  It does in my name too.  Oh and "th" is not a sound Haitians use in any words.  So what does that leave when your name is Heather?  "Ed-uh"  Yes.  That's me.  Nice to meet you.

I love these strong, courageous women.  They are inspiring, and I truly believe God is near them.  So near.

Please continue to pray for Adeline and baby Kathryn.  So far, the situation has not improved.  We continue to pray and ask God for a miracle and for milk.  We ask for God's mercy on this mother, this baby, and their entire family.  Successful breastfeeding does not just affect mom and baby.  It affects an entire household.  If God does not make a way for breastfeeding to be successful, it will negatively affect everyone in the home as they struggle to find the money to afford formula, a way to sterilize bottles in a less than sterile country, and buy the clean water they will need to keep this child alive.  We plan on driving God crazy with our requests for milk for Adeline.  Thanks for praying with us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weird: The New Normal

photo credit:  Joanna Howard

We had a baby born at Heartline yesterday.  Kathryn. She is beautiful.  Her mother, Adeline is precious, strong, smart, and funny.  Labor was long.  The birth was scary.  Our midwives are amazing, and I truly believe, given the issue that arose in birth that if she had not been in the hands of Joanna and Beth, this baby would be dead today.  After the birth breastfeeding was not going well.  It was going so poorly we decided Adeline could not be alone.  She and her baby spent the night with us at our house.

A brand new baby under your roof, a few hours old, has a way of transforming a home.  It's almost holy.  You can feel it.

Until that baby starts barfing up gunk and doesn't breathe for probably 30 seconds (which feels like 30 years).

Then it doesn't feel holy anymore.  As a matter of fact, it will cause you to lose all feeling in your legs as you turn that baby over, beat on their back, and yell for your husband to "Call Jenn...oh my Jenn!"

We headed over to the Livesays where our amazing pediatrician friend was already treating a patient (in the Livesay's living room).  It felt good to have Jenn look the baby over and hear her say it was not going to die at my house.  In a completely selfish, self-preserving way, I need to know those things.  On the way out the door this happened.

Now what could make grown women (and one almost grown woman) do this...?

You'll have to go see for yourself.

Yes.  I was peeing in my pants.  Young women...that's what having a bunch a babies does to you.  Can't wait, right?

Today we all worked together to try and figure out what's going on with this new mom and her baby.  It's complicated and confusing.  I don't want to get into it, but this mom and baby need prayer.  If it's not too weirdo for you to pray and ask God to give Adeline milk, will you do that?  I know.  That's strange.  But could you pray that with us?  Could you pray that this baby can nurse and breastfeeding is successful?  This mom is exhausted and is facing a lot of obstacles.  She is strong, determined, and she will need every ounce of those things to get through the next week.  It will truly be a miracle if breastfeeding takes off.  Breastfeeding is a life or death issue here.  I wish I was being dramatic.  I'm not.  Instead, this fact turns our team into a bunch of whack jobs who pray about nipples and milk and latch ons.  Then we ask you to do that too.  I'm with you.  That's bizarre.

I took Adeline home today.  She lives near the maternity center.  On the way to her house she told me she wanted me to come in and meet her family.  What an honor.  I met lots of sisters and cousins.  Her husband.  Her son.  They all stood in the driveway telling me how thankful they are for the women at Heartline.  In my toddler level Creole I assured them that we're happy to do this.  We love our ladies and babies.  God loves them even more than we do.  Standing with this family, I got all teary-eyed thinking of what a privilege it is to be "in this" with these ladies and thinking of all the people...all of you who pray and give...who allow us to have these relationships with these women and babies.  Life is fragile everywhere, but especially here.  As Adeline and her family were thanking me, I was overcome with gratitude for so many of you.  As I was pulling away from their home, the thought rushed over me that went something like this..."I would fight someone to the death for these women.  I'm convinced of it."  That was me being dramatic and most definitely a result of not having any sleep last night.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This Week in Review

I don't do a very good job of reporting the day-to-day things that go on around our home and Heartline community.  I'm usually moved to write when something big is happening.  Writing is like free counseling.  If something doesn't cause major deep thinking or move my soul, it usually doesn't get written about.  True story.  I'm going to try and rectify this because I think it will help people to know how to pray for us (we are always grateful for that) and it will make me feel sane.  I start to worry about my mental condition when the mundane (like losing power in the night, or a four hour grocery store trip) starts to feel normal and hardly worth reporting.  What?  Maybe writing about those things will help preserve their weirdness and keep me feeling normal.

This week....

Our teachers/tutors/brave souls arrived in Haiti.  The first day Jimmy (the husband half of our educational combo) and Hayden sat in an hour of traffic in the back of a pick up truck in the middle of a deluge.  The two of them were soaking wet and cold.  I kept looking back to make sure Jimmy had not jumped out of the truck.  I was waiting for him to grab Becky out of the inside of the vehicle and the two of them start running back to the airport.  Our family would have been forced to sit there and watch our tutors run away since traffic was so dumb and stopped that we had no hope of moving an inch any time soon.  Thankfully they did not run away.  As of today, they are still here.  Wait.  I should probably text them to see if they really are still here.  Every day I see them, I find myself whispering a "thank you Lord."  This is a hard place to live and we're beyond grateful for this highly-qualified couple who have been given a good dose of things not going as expected in the few days they have been here...yet they remain!  You can pray for Becky.  She found out she is pregnant before coming to Haiti.

Our truck broke this week.  That's always fun.  It got fixed faster than expected.  When that happens in Haiti, it is cause for celebration.

Things you can pray about...


Apparently there could be a pretty significant storm hit our area on Monday (thanks for the heads up, Matt).  Don't waste your prayers on us.  Our family will be fine. We live in a sturdy home.  Please pray for the people of Haiti who will ride this storm out in a tent or worse...a structure made of a few sticks and some bed sheets.


 Paige and Moses

From Tara's blog...

"A little boy, probably two or three years old was left outside of the Maternity Center in the road. His mother had asked one of the gate guys if there was an orphanage around. The gate guy told her we were not an orphanage.  Later that morning he was found lying in the dirt on the side of the street. He cannot sit or stand or hold his head up for very long. We're not giving you a certain diagnosis, but he appears to fall under the umbrella of "cerebral palsy". He is not undernourished and it appears he has been very well cared for to this point. Because he was abandoned without explanation his name is unknown. We're calling him Moses. Oddly, when Paige asked what I thought we should call him I said "Moses",  later when Paige got over the Maternity Center she learned that Cherline, a valued Haitian staff member, had decided his name should be ......  Moses. We need to figure out what is next for sweet Moses. A report is being filed with the police today and John will be in contact with Haitian Social Services as we look for long term care for him. In the meantime the gate guy that talked to the mom will be searching our area and hoping someone knows something about her whereabouts. Until then Paige asked if she could care for Moses. Paige is quite tender and gifted at loving in these situations. They had a good night last night, he is doing well."

Our family recently took a turn caring for Moses.  It was good, exhausting, sad, and sweet.  How can that be? During the time he was here, I was overwhelmed at different points with a lot of emotion.  I thought about his family.  Someone took care of this child for years before he was left outside the maternity center.  It would be easy to judge her and think "How could she leave her child in the road?"  If you have ever lived in Haiti, that thought does not cross your mind.  Instead, I sat holding Moses all day marveling that a Haitian mother, or grandmother...someone was able to do this for so long without all the resources we, as wealthy white people, have at our disposal.  It took our entire family yesterday to keep Moses happy and meet his needs.  Our boys talked to him.  We took turns riding him around in the driveway in the stroller.  We held him most the day, even though we were soaked in sweat, and so was Moses.  It's truly miraculous what Moses' mother (or someone) did for this child.  They took such good care of Moses that he pretty much demands to be held at all times.  Although exhausting (since he weighs a lot and is very long) it speaks highly of how well taken care of he was before showing up on our radars.  Haitian women will never cease to amaze me.  Some woman loved this child with a love that is not of this world.  A selfless love.  She is a hero in my mind, and I keep selfishly praying that we get to meet her one day, hug her, and tell her that her love for her son or grandson has taught us all a kingdom-sized lesson.

At different times while Moses was here, our kids would say, "Why can't we keep him?  I don't want him to go away."  Kids.  They are so terrific..and awful at the same time.  When they would ask this made me think of something Sarah wrote in her posts.

"...I think Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, not just for our neighbors sakes, but for our own as well, because he knows what happens inside our hearts when we let in those who are vulnerable, needy and even repulsive near us. WE become vulnerable, needy and dare I say it, even repulsive too. Our own motives and shortcomings and entitlement and laziness come to the surface and stare us in the face. And that IS uncomfortable."

It is uncomfortable to hold a helpless child while your own children are begging to "keep him" and have to tell them, "We can't.  I just can't do this. I'm sorry"  knowing full well that I could do this.  A Haitian mother did this for years.  Who am I to say, with my wallet full of money and vast community, that I could not do this.  The honest ugly truth is I don't want to do this.  I can't tell you how hard it is to hold a child, knowing there are no truly awesome options for him, and come face to face with your own selfishness.  Fun times. I think I liked it better when the depth of my own depravity was a mystery to me.  Seeing how truly depraved we are and knowing Jesus loves us in the midst of it makes grace all the richer.  I get that.  I'm thankful.  It's still hard and uncomfortable.

Please pray that a good, loving, place is found for Moses.  Please pray for the Livesays as they serve and love him in the mean time.  Caring for Moses is hard.  He requires constant care.  Please pray that God encourages and strengthens the Livesays.  Please pray for Moses' family.  You can't take care of a child this long and not be grieving.  Aaron prayed last night that we would get to meet them, that they would be able to know where Moses is, and maybe even stay connected to him in some way.

To keep up with what is going on with Moses, you can read Tara's blog. 


 Winnie (our fabulous nurse) on the left
Adeline on the right.

Beth just texted to say that Adeline is in labor.  Please pray for a healthy, stress-free birth.  I'm heading up there as soon as Aaron gets home to see if I can be of any help.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part three

{Part three of the guest post by Sarah Dornbos.}
 If you missed parts one and two, you can find them here and here

I work with kids who by elementary school have stopped believing that their lives matter, that they have value and worth outside of their ability (or inability) to be #1, to get good grades, or to stay out of the principals office… Kids who have been living on the streets or in hotels/cars, who have been taken away from their parents, who have no parents, and even kids who have very caring and loving parents who are working two jobs just to put a roof over their heads and can’t help them with their homework…or parents who simply don’t speak English and cannot help their children with homework.

The elementary school where I work feeds into two local High Schools. At those High Schools, the attrition rate is 50%. So statistically speaking half of all the kids at my school will not graduate from High School. When I read this, I started applying for grants to fund an intervention program, and began a conversation with the leadership my local church. As a public school teacher, I was aware that public education is a justice issue. I am sad to say that I believe there is arguably no greater perpetuation of historical injustice in the US, than the public educational system.

In When Helping Hurts, there is a fabulous chapter, Chapter 8, titled “Yes, in Your Backyard”. Read this. In that chapter the authors point out, “Inadequate funding of schools in poor communities is one contributor to unprepared graduates, who then go on to earn low wages and to pay little in school taxes. And then the vicious cycle repeats itself.” (Page 187) The documentary Waiting for Superman paints a vivid picture of this inequality in our country.

So as I was experiencing this inequity in my own neighborhood, and traveling back and forth to Haiti, I got connected up with an intervention program called Kids Hope USA. It’s a one-church, one-school model that helps make an impact in this one little area of injustice and poverty in the US. And do you know what they use to change the lives of kids? Relationships!

I coordinate and train a team of volunteer mentors from my church. They work one- on-one with kids who have been referred by their teachers. Each mentor makes a minimum one-year commitment to the child they have been paired with, but ideally they will continue with the child until they graduate from Elementary School.

My volunteers are ordinary people like you. They range in age from 16-80. Ms. Mavis, an 80-year-old mentor, is on a fixed income. She can’t give big money to overseas missions. She’s not going to get on a plane to volunteer in Haiti. But she’s doing what she can in the life of a little first grader at my school. And let me tell you—there is “kingdom work” going on—tangible transformation, in both of their lives. You see, Mavis only has an 8th grade education herself. She didn’t think she could make a difference in the life of anyone. But Mavis can read. And Andrea can not. And you put these two together week after week and something beautiful happens. Laughter and drawings and words being sounded out…and friendship.

I don’t mean to make it sound simple--there are deep and complex factors that contribute to poverty in the United States (or any country). So I want to point out that there is also something else that is happening in these mentoring relationships.

One element of endemic poverty can be a lack of access to “social rules”. Ruby K.

Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty is an excellent treatise on the cultural ‘language’/rules/habits of the poor, the middle class, and the rich here in the US. Unless you know the “rules” it is very difficult to successfully move between these classes in our country. One small example is that many of my students have never been taught manners. They are not by nature rude, but they have never had someone teach them to say “please” and “thank you” so it does not cross their mind to do so. Manners must be learned. It is difficult to get anything above a minimum wage job without manners, but some kids never have an opportunity to learn them.

Last year, at our 6th grade graduation dinner, I realized that one of my students had never used silverware. Can you imagine? At the restaurant, he was thoroughly confused by all that was going on: a waitress taking his order, staying seated, drink refills. But there was a real look of panic on his face when his plate of spaghetti arrived and others at the table began to eat. His mentor wasted no time helping him put his napkin on his lap and teaching him not to put his face to the plate, but to cut up his food and bring it to his mouth. He is an orphan being raised by his brother and all they eat is fast food. This little boy did not know the basic ‘rules’ of eating in a restaurant.

Was that an awkward moment for that mentor? Possibly. But she felt privileged to have been able to teach her little guy how to eat food with utensils. Does it cost Mavis something to be a mentor? Absolutely. Has it been challenging for mentors to keep their commitments? Most Certainly. Faithfulness can be one of the most boring parts of the Christian journey. But that is the beauty of our God, who models this faithfulness to us every day.

Has it been easy for me to live in Los Angeles? Absolutely not. I was living below the poverty line myself when my car was stolen and there was no compensation from my liability insurance. My apartment has been broken into. I will probably never own a home. But there is a joy I have in being part of these tiny redemptive moments—when a first grader learns to read, or an 11-year-old boy learns to use silverware--that I am certain no house or new car could provide.

I am 100% convinced that God loves every child in my Kids Hope program at the school. But he can’t hug them, he can’t play with them, he can’t read to them…he gives us (the people who know Him) the great privilege of doing that. And without mentors who will come and invest in the lives of my kids, there is no change.

I heard something in a sermon by Tim Keller several years ago that has stuck with me: “By staying in the city…we stay at the center of human suffering, and discover that God is there”. I share this not to insinuate that we should all move to the city (…though it certainly would change things if more people did.) I say it to make the point that wherever suffering is found, there is poverty. And THAT is something that God cares about. He does not say, “The poor will be blessed” because poverty is ‘good’ or because suffering is ‘good’…But because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. And it is quite possible that Roy and Ray and Andrea and my friends in Haiti know something more of this kingdom than I do or ever will—because there is a lot more “stuff” (literally) in the way for most of us living in the US. (We do our best to distract and insulate ourselves from suffering every day, but doing this ironically also keeps us from experiencing the Kingdom.)

“Loving the poor” doesn’t always have to be scary like “befriending the homeless” or “moving my family to Haiti”, it can be (and often starts as) something small; like teaching a child to read, to use silverware, or just to be present with someone who is suffering. I do believe however, that finding the poor inside us and around us will always stretch us and grow us. And it will do something else. It will begin to erase the borders between “us/them” and help us see that we are all human beings. (For an interesting example check out this link from my church’s Skid Row ministry and try to discern who are currently without homes and who are the volunteers…I bet it won’t be as easy as you think!)

At the end of the day, I don’t believe it is an “either/or” dichotomy. I believe that if we claim to know Jesus, that no matter where we find ourselves on any given day, we would seek out the people that matter most to him: the poor, the vulnerable, the hungry, the suffering; and LOVE them. What does that mean? That means first and foremost, knowing their names. That means getting our hands, and our knees, and our hearts, and even our theology dirty. If American Christians did this, it would be radical, and it couldn’t help but change the world.

Henri Nouwen has some pretty great thoughts about what it looks like to be this radical. So I’ll leave most of the last words to him:

“Radical servanthood does not make sense unless we introduce a new level of understanding and see it as the way to encounter God himself. To be humble and persecuted cannot be desired unless we can find God in humility and persecution. When we begin to see God himself, the source of all our comfort and consolation, in the center of servanthood, compassion becomes much more than doing good for unfortunate people. Radical servanthood, as the encounter with the compassionate God, takes us beyond the distinctions between wealth and poverty, success and failure, fortune and bad luck. Radical servanthood is not an enterprise in which we try to surround ourselves with as much misery as possible, but a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose the way of servanthood to make himself known. The poor are called blessed not because poverty is good, but because theirs is the kingdom of heaven; the mourners are called blessed not because mourning is good, but because they shall be comforted. Here we are touching the profound spiritual truth that service is an expression of the search for God and not just of the desire to bring about individual or social change. This is open to all sorts of misunderstanding, but its truth is confirmed in the lives of those for whom service is a constant and uninterrupted concern. As long as the help we offer to others is motivated primarily by the changes we may accomplish, our service cannot last long. When results do not appear, when success is absent, when we are no longer liked or praised for what we do, we lose the strength and motivation to continue. We see nothing but sad, poor, sick, or miserable people who, even after our many attempts to offer help, remain sad, poor, sick, and miserable, then the only reasonable response is to move away in order to prevent ourselves from becoming cynical or depressed. Radical servanthood challenges us, while attempting persistently to overcome poverty, hunger, illness, and any other form of human misery, to reveal the gentle presence of our compassionate God in the midst of our broken world.” -Henri Nouwen, Compassion

And if what 1st Corinthians 12 asserts is true…that we are ALL part of one body…it means that you and I cannot live without those we typically deem “poor” or “needy”. In fact, the astonishing truth is, we need them. If we think that those who are suffering or poor need us, and that we bestow honor on them by pausing from our busy schedules to give them a little time or money….not only is such thinking insulting, it is wrong. The poor in my own community as well as in Haiti have taught me wonderful, life-changing truths about God and his Kingdom. Things I may have never been able to learn any other way. My relationships with “the poor” have made me long for the kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven” with a level of passion I did not know I possessed.

And the truth is, until the Kingdom comes, we all have work to do. Until that promised day arrives, we can all do better. So lets start today…

Get to know your neighbors.
Learn their names.
Look inside yourself.
Order When Helping Hurts
Watch Waiting for Superman
Visit your local soup kitchen
Sign up as a foster parent
Visit your local elementary school

But most of all keep searching for God. You will find him in the most delightful and unexpected places!

(For more information on Kids Hope and how your church/community could be involved go to:, or

Other posts in this series on "Caring for the Poor While Living in the US":

Caring for the Poor While Living in the Good ol' U-S of A?

Who Are the Poor?

Looking for the Poor 

Hi, My Name is Heather and I'm a Modern Day Slave Owner

Helpful Links

Barn Burning 

First, The Purging 

The Better World Shopping Guide 

More Really Great Shopping Resources 

Running Hard After Redemption 

Seeko Sandals 

Batik Boutique 

Be Informed 


Shop for Clean Clothes

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part one

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part two

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Men in My Life

 post by Aaron

Fixing cars.
Hanging ceiling fans.
Building furniture.

For the past 2 weeks I've been busy working on the house where we'll be living for the next few months. I've also been working on the building where our kids will go to school and on the apartment where their teachers will live. Plus there's been some truck repairs thrown in as well.

Between now and the beginning of September we're really trying to get settled in our house and get everything together for the kids to start school. Of course we'll be involved with the work at Heartline as well, but we won't be able to devote ourselves to them full-time until the beginning of September. At that point Heather will be working with Haitian Creations and the other women's programs. I will be working with a group of men and trying to develop some discipleship and training programs.

We're not completely sure what the men's programs will look like. There's still lots of prayers, planning, and conversations that need to happen first. As I've worked for the last two weeks I have been reminded of just how blessed I have been to learn from some amazing men who took time to teach me.

As I hung ceiling fans I thought about how Andy Garner showed me how to wire and hang several fans in our old green house in Bryan.

As I built bookshelves I thought about the time I spent working as a carpenter with James Biddle and Melvin Batson.

Of course, I have my father to thank for a million other little skills I've picked up like welding, playing the guitar, and fixing cars.

There are plenty of other men who have invested in me and have taken the time to share their skills with me. Gary Shell who first showed me how to edit videos. Randall Karber & Clay Young who let me work with them and taught me to make and repair jewelry. Jason Kramer who let me ask him a million farming questions in hopes that I can use that knowledge to improve some of the agricultural-related projects that Heartline has.

I'm not sure exactly what the men's programs will end up looking like, but I certainly hope that, in some ways, I can pour into a group of men and share with them some of what has been shared with me. The men in my life took time to train me, and it's interesting to think that the skills they gave me, that piece of themselves lives on and in some ways is here now in Haiti.  Their gift of time and training has traveled with me and been something that is now a part of who I am.  It's an honor to be able to be a small part of passing on talents, knowledge, and information to the men in my life (including the four little men that call me Dad). If we can talk about Jesus at the same time ... well, that sounds a lot like men's discipleship to me.

"What you have heard from me ... entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:2

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tidbits from Today

I have missed this part of Haiti.
I have not missed the two hours of traffic we sat in today 
while only covering six miles of ground.
Road rage.
Never knew I had it in me until we moved here.

Our boys are back to being shirtless.

They have barely been in the house since we landed. The yard in the new house is covered with lizards.
These boys must catch them all. It's their destiny. The neighbor boys are helping by catching lizards in their own yard, sticking them in an empty water bottle then throwing the lizard-filled water bottle over the tall wall to our boys. Boys bond over lizards.  Proven fact.

The house where we are temporarily living is fantastic.  We have the most precious landlords who live above us.  Introductions coming soon.

This is the view outside my kitchen window.
It's lovely.
Those flowers.  The crisp Caribbean sky.
Well don't be.

This is the complete view outside my kitchen window.
The beauty. The toilet.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
This one describes Haiti perfectly.
It makes me smile every time I'm washing dishes.

Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part two

{Part two of the guest post by Sarah Dornbos.}
 If you missed part one, you can find it here.

As Heather has pointed out, there is a grand-canyon sized chasm between the poor in Haiti (or other 3rd world countries) and the poor here in the US. So let me give you some examples.

On the street where I live, every evening a homeless couple sets up their tent to sleep on the porch of a church, which is visible from my second-story bedroom window. This little protected overhang is a prime piece of real estate to LA’s homeless. They fight over it, and on rainy nights they crowd into it. But it is nothing like my Haitian friends experience after 18 months of living in tent cities in the capital. Mudslides do not generally wash away this couple’s tent, or their shopping cart of belongings, in the middle of the night.

Roy lives in his car on my street. He stands at the bank with a dirty squirt bottle and offers to wash the windows of cars as their owners go into the bank. I like how strategic he is…and if I am honest, I like that he is “working”. I feel good about myself when I “let” him wash my windows and tip him. I don’t even care if he’s going to use that $ to buy alcohol. He is rail thin but makes enough money to buy food with his window washing business and he is generally a content and happy guy.

Ray is a homeless guy who attends my church…all four services. Ray is no dummy. It’s air conditioned, dry and safe inside the church. When he got a terrible leg infection from sleeping outside, he developed staph infection and could have died. But he was treated in the ER and spent a few weeks in a skilled nursing facility before he was released again to the streets. Unlike many who live on the streets, Ray is “lucky” because he doesn’t suffer from a more chronic medical condition. He also speaks English and has enough education and friends to help him maneuver through the complicated medical system.

On the wall in my office, I have a list of places within walking distance of my apartment that offer a free hot meal every night of the week, except Monday. My friends living in the tent cities in Haiti definitely do not have this luxury. And if they did, I could tell you the names of their children who would not have suffered through Marasmus and Kwashiorkor and died because they did not have enough food. Side by side these are not parallel sets of circumstances. But I wonder if that matters to Jesus?

In my head anyway, Jesus is not making comparison charts of “who is poorer”. Instead he is asking another question. He is saying, “Where are my people? The ones who say they love me? The ones I have entrusted the work of my kingdom to…?” Jesus plan for poverty, in the US and all over the world, seems to be people. Relationship. You and I. And there doesn’t seem to be a plan B.

And the point isn’t throwing more money or more stuff at “poor people”. Though that can be part of a development plan. But Lord knows that can’t fix everything. I believe the ultimate point of this battle is what takes place in the human heart (both the ‘giver’ and the ‘receiver’) when we come together. And as far as I know, we leave everything behind when we leave this world…everything but relationships.

David C. Thompson M.D. in his book The Hand On My Scalpel says,

“God has his own solutions to suffering. The first one is the most obvious: Jesus taught his disciples to share what they had with the poor. He taught that those who are called by his name are to help those who suffer and not to ignore them, blame them or exploit them. I believe that is one reason why God has given North American’s such enormous resources—not so that they can live 100 or 1,000 times better than the rest of the world, but so that they can share their wealth of money, time and expertise to lift millions of people out of poverty, sickness and ignorance.”

That kind of sharing is best done in relationships. And I have a little confession, I don’t work with any of the people that I mentioned above. I just encounter them in my day-to-day life where I live. They are part of my community here in Los Angeles.

A big part of answering the question, “Who are the poor?” is related to asking the question “Where do I live?” Heather has already brushed the surface of that conversation in her discussion with Aaron about location. But I would argue that there ARE pockets of extreme poverty in our country. Even Paul Farmer, in his new book says, ”We work in a dozen nations--including the United States—where the poor suffer disproportionately.” (p.23)We are just very good at insulating ourselves from the suffering of the poor…in fact we go to quite great lengths to keep the destitute poor from our every day lives. (An accidental wrong turn on to skidrow one day opened my eyes to this…and the suffering & injustice there were as desperate as any tent city I’ve seen in Haiti.)

More of Sarah's post coming soon....

Other posts in this series on "Caring for the Poor While Living in the US":

Caring for the Poor While Living in the Good ol' U-S of A?

Who Are the Poor?

Looking for the Poor 

Hi, My Name is Heather and I'm a Modern Day Slave Owner

Helpful Links

Barn Burning 

First, The Purging 

The Better World Shopping Guide 

More Really Great Shopping Resources 

Running Hard After Redemption 

Seeko Sandals 

Batik Boutique 

Be Informed 


Shop for Clean Clothes

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US, part one

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Home in Haiti

All blurry photos courtesy of my cell phone.
Hudson's undying love for Adele came in real handy for the marathon day of flying.

We left our hotel on the 4:30 a.m. shuttle.  6 fifty pound bags.  4 back packs.  1 over-loaded, heavy purse.  3 jam-packed carry on bags.  One giant stuffed dog.   All of us tired.  Me.  Alone with four sleepy kids.  It seemed like a recipe for disaster.  Turns out, it wasn't.  The day went surprisingly well.  I will go so far as to say it was almost easy.  What the what?  I know.  Crazy.


I cried myself to sleep the night before we left.  I wondered how I would feel when I got back to Haiti.
Seeing Aaron was wonderful.  He always feels like home to me.  Sorry Adele.  Aaron felt like home to me long before your talented lungs put the words to music.  Driving home I was overcome.  I know.  That's an overused word.  There is no other word to use. Overcome.  I was overcome with love for the moms and babies I saw on the street.  I realized how much I missed these beautiful people.  They have my heart in a vice grip.  Peace.  I felt it.

I am truly happy to be back.  The kids are like tiny little spaz balls.  Isn't that a gift?  We had our reunion with the Livesays, the McHouls, and so many other sweet friends.  It was bliss.

It is unbelievably hot.  I have been soaked in sweat since we landed.  I slept with two fans blowing on me last night so that no skin was without moving air.  What a weird life.

Thanks for praying for us yesterday.  Four tired kids, one mother, and 400 pounds of luggage (not exaggerating)...and the day went smoothly.  How could it not have been grace and prayer?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Load of Leaving

Just said good-bye to Lynsey in the parking lot of a hotel in Austin.  I'm sitting here on the bed with four little boys and lots of tears.  This good-bye hit us hard.

I've heard other missionaries talk with confidence about God's clear call and how they know that they know that they know that they are supposed to be where they are, doing exactly what they are doing.  Those strong comments spoken with such assurance make moments like this...the ones where it feels like an elephant is sitting on my soul and my heart might break into a thousand pieces very difficult.  Those comments leave me wondering if I'll ever get to the place where I can leave the people I love here, watch my children cry saying good-bye to the aunt that they adore, and the cousins they love and not feel this nagging doubt...what on earth are we doing?  Are we insane?  Is anything that we're doing in Haiti worth this pain, this much trouble, this much uncertainty, this much frustration?

Is it worth risking my kid's lives?  Is it worth parenting by myself for longer stretches of time than I would ever want to or have to if we lived back in the States?  Is it worth weeks of exhausting packing or intense travel days alone with the kids?  Is it worth never feeling settled or like life makes much sense?  Is it worth the enormous amount of sadness we see every day, and yet feeling like there is so little we can actually do to help?  Is it worth falling asleep every night exhausted, hot, perhaps celebrating the one tiny victory that day, yet lamenting about the months worth of feeling overwhelmed and defeated?  Is it worth never feeling "good" at what you "do" or like a task has been completed?  I miss that feeling.

I don't know the answer to any of those questions.

What I do know is that I'm going back as unsure as I've always been.  I go because I'm married to a man who feels a lot more certain that I do or ever have.  I find my comfort in his assurance.  That may seem small, like it's not enough, but following Aaron in his assurance brings me peace.  I go because I've seen the suffering and injustice with my own eyes, and although going seems strange, staying here seems downright crazy.

I'm not sure how many times you've heard a missionary talk at your church and say things like, "I hugged my sister-in-law good-bye in a hotel parking of my dearest friends...while crying I actually considered telling the kids to get back in that car and begging my sister-in-law to take me away...not to the farm...but to that place in my mind where I lived several years ago before I knew the truth...before I saw it...before I knew that babies die for no good reason, they get left in the muddy road outside your gate, women are raped and have no value, and governments oppress their own people.  I don't think my sister in law's suburban could drive me that far, and I would have no idea how to type 2009 into her GPS.  So I hugged her, said good-bye, and we all cried our way through the lobby of the hotel.  I sat on the bed, holding my sons, trying to comfort them, all of us...a big pile of swollen eyes and wet faces wondering if we'll ever know if we're making the right decision."

I'm not sure we're ever going to be cut out for this missionary stuff or get frequent invites to talk in front of many churches with a story like this one.  The missionary stories I heard growing up seemed to come out of the mouths of people a lot more confident, a lot more sure, a lot more bold and brave.

I will fall asleep tonight thinking about Jesus...His words, His heart, His life. He left more than a farm and a loving family to come to this broken world.  He knows this pain. He knows what it means to go.  He knows what it means to long for home.  He knows we're broken people on our way to a broken country.  We worry.  We fear.  We doubt.  We question.  He knows.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guest Post, Wrestling with Poverty in the US (part one)

A few weeks ago the pastor at our church here in College Station was talking about some issues surrounding the poor.  He said something very interesting.  I wasn't there, I heard it second-hand from Aaron, so this isn't a direct quote.  The gist of what he said was that it may sometimes be difficult to figure out how to serve the poor.  We may have to go out of our way to live out Jesus' heart towards those living in poverty.  In the city where our home-church is located, if a homeless person slept on a park bench, that person would be arrested.  The poor are not allowed in our city.  This makes College Station a very "safe,"  beautiful place to live, but for believers living in a city that has "outlawed" poverty and homelessness, this can make it easy to forget that the poor exist.  Out of sight, out of mind.  As Aaron was telling me what our pastor said, this thought ran through my head, "Although a city like College Station seems "safe" maybe in reality it's very dangerous when we consider Jesus' commands to love and care for the poor.  Isn't that just like Jesus' upside kingdom?  What if the most "safe" places, free of any trace of poverty, are in fact the most dangerous."  I used to live in College Station, so that's obviously not a judgement on anyone living there.  It's just a thought...

Although I will continue to think through "Who are the poor and am I caring for them," this fact remains while I am and will be in the midst of that difficult struggle:  the poor, the destitute, they are here in America.  Right here.  They walk our streets.  They sit in half-way houses.  They run in gangs.  They sit in battered women's shelters.   There are people right here in our own country who are suffering and living in absolute poverty (financial, spiritual, relational poverty).  I'm thankful to know people who love and serve those living in poverty within our borders.  They teach me a great deal and inspire me to continue fighting for solutions and answers. They keep me humbly asking how Jesus would have us respond to the outcast, the broken, and the unlovely.  I've asked a few of these people who live and serve in the US to write guest posts to give us all some ideas on how to get involved and live out Christ's heart in our own cities, neighborhoods, and states. The poor are here.  They are nearby.  I pray these posts inspire us to hurt, grieve, respond, and live out the gospel towards those living in our own country where there is no language or cultural barrier to overcome.

{{Guest Post by Sarah Dornbos}}
I first met Sarah in Haiti.  
She comes to our favorite island frequently and serves with us at Heartline.

I have been traveling to work in Haiti (short-term) for 11 years. I speak Haitian Creole. I absolutely love the Haitian people. And I am employed by my church to work as a “Local Missionary” with the at-risk population of kids in my immediate neighborhood in Los Angeles. So this is my story, (and not a proscriptive post) as I have tried to live my life between these two beloved places.

Since I don’t live in Haiti full time, I have wrestled through what it looks like to still serve God and the people he loves who are my neighbors. When Heather asked me if I would be willing to share my perspective on working with the poor here in the US, my immediate thought was, “I have nothing to say, I am still figuring this out”.

But, I believe the tension that Heather has asked us to wrestle with in her post "Looking for the Poor" is a good one. When I go to my grave, I hope I will still be wrestling through the questions of “who are the poor”, and “have I loved them”?

I have had people say, in response to my trips to Haiti, “Why go so far away when the poor are right here?”—and if I’m really honest, in my own brokenness and judgment, most of the time I have seen that as a smoke screen for a desire to ignore the larger population (the “majority world”) of people living in extreme poverty, and a way to change the subject to avoid acknowledging the pain and suffering outside of the good ole US of A. And I have lost out on the possibility of deeper connections because of it.

A simple question, instead of judgment, usually works better to expand the conversation, “You know, that might be true, can you tell me their names?” Not only because all of us (rich and poor alike) respond better to acceptance and invitation than judgment; but because when you know “poor” people by name, whether they live in Los Angeles, or Port-au-Prince, something changes inside you. In fact I think Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, not just for our neighbors sakes, but for our own as well, because he knows what happens inside our hearts when we let in those who are vulnerable, needy and even repulsive near us. WE become vulnerable, needy and dare I say it, even repulsive too. Our own motives and shortcomings and entitlement and laziness come to the surface and stare us in the face. And that IS uncomfortable.

I think that’s partly why Mother Teresa said, “Come and See”. She knew that writing a check doesn’t change our hearts in the way holding an HIV+ baby does. Even though writing checks is necessary, it isn’t the whole story. She was a smart one, that Mama T.

I think it is hard for “us Westerners” to look at poverty as something other than lacking material wealth/resources. But poverty is much more abrasive and harsh than that. Bryant Myers in Walking with the Poor(p. 86) says, “Poverty is a result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable.”

And the authors of When Helping Hurts say, “If poverty is rooted in broken relationships, who are the poor?” And their conclusion is: We are. Until we realize this and start there, we risk doing great harm, not only to the poor but to ourselves as well. There is a great poverty of spirit here in America. But this is only the beginning—not the whole story.

Let me give you an example. When my apartment manager puts the trash cans out on the street every Sunday night, I get frustrated that homeless people are digging through the trash so loudly, right under my bedroom window, at 4am. Please note: I don’t get frustrated that they are digging through the trash or that they are currently without homes. I get frustrated that they are waking me up. Every. Sunday. Night. Do you see the poverty in that statement? The brokenness of relationships/ harmony, the addiction to comfort, in ME? Have any of you seen the trash in Haiti? Even dogs have trouble finding something to keep them alive in Port-au-Prince. The trash outside my apartment each Sunday night could probably feed an entire tent city. But this post is NOT about relocating our trash. Well-meaning Americans already do that, in the name of “missions” or “charity” at an alarming rate.

I would venture to say that most of us reading this blog (since you have computer access, internet, and the ability to read) are among the wealthiest and most privileged people in the world. Frederick Buechner says to us:

“Hunger in a literal sense is unknown to you and me. In a world where thousands starve to death every day, we live surrounded by plenty…we hunger to be known and understood. We hunger to be loved. We hunger to be at peace inside our own skins. We hunger not just to be fed by these things; but, often without realizing it, we hunger to feed others these things because they too are starving for them. We hunger not just to be loved, but to love, not just to be forgiven, but to forgive, not just to be known and understood for all the good times and bad times that for better or worse have made us who we are, but to know and understand each other to the point of seeing that, we all have the same good times, the same bad times, and for that very reason there is no such thing in all the world as anyone who is really a stranger. …Not to help find some way to feed the children who are starving to death is to have some precious part of who we are starve with them. Not to give of ourselves to the human beings we know who may be starving not for food, but for what we have in our hearts to nourish them with, is to be ourselves diminished and crippled as human beings. “

So that is the starting point, acknowledging our own poverty. Our own selfishness and greed and desire for comfort--which is at war with the advancing of God’s Kingdom. But if we stop there we do ourselves, and our world, a great disservice.

part two, tomorrow...

Other posts in this series on "Caring for the Poor While Living in the US":

Caring for the Poor While Living in the Good ol' U-S of A?

Who Are the Poor?

Looking for the Poor 

Hi, My Name is Heather and I'm a Modern Day Slave Owner

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