Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy 12: 3 Babies Born on This Day



12 years ago I knew I was enormous, my belly was tight, my legs were aching.  I knew that I was uncomfortable, that little feet and knees were kicking me all through the night, and that even eating something as benign as vanilla yogurt would give me heartburn.  I knew I was tired of going to the bathroom so much.  Maybe it was because I was young.  Maybe it was because it was my first pregnancy, but I don't think I really knew there was a baby inside of my body.  I'm positive I didn't know that this baby would quickly become a person...a real live person with hopes, dreams, fears, an imagination, his own issues, a personality, questions about this world and about life, favorite foods, struggles, a love for reading, an aversion to oatmeal, a sensitive heart, and a sense of humor.

12 years ago today we met you Anson.  We held you in our arms and marveled that you were ours.  It was you who first made us parents.  You who changed our entire world.  We sat there holding you, looking at all your features, knowing that everything was different now.  Everything was more serious, more important, more real, more moving, more magical.

We're so proud of the person you have become and the one you are becoming.  It's a miracle really.  That day I first held you I vowed many things.  Before leaving the hospital I made a long list of things I wanted to change about myself.  I wanted to be the perfect mom.  I wanted you to always be happy, for us to always get along, for us to always protect you, for your dad and I to always make the right decisions for you and respond the right ways.  And yet look at us.  You know we fail.  You know we don't always respond the right way.  It could be argued that we rarely do.  Yet look at you.   You are the sweetest, kindest, smartest, most responsible kid we know.  In spite of who we are...you are you.  This is grace, Anson.  You are a picture of sweet grace in our lives.  While God continues to grow us as parents, He has been faithful to grow you...to teach you...to lovingly lead you and call you to Himself.  Grace.  We do not deserve what God has given.

We love you Anson.  Your life has taught us more about ourselves, about each other, and about the Lord.  12 years ago you were a tiny baby...daddy and I were babies too.  We're all kind of growing up together.  Thank you for being patient with us and for being so quick to forgive us when we mess up.

Your love for your brothers, the way you lead them, look out for them, and seriously consider the example you are setting for them means so much to us as parents, and it's one of my favorite things that I've seen God do in your life this year.  We see Jesus in the way you love and care for kids who are younger than yourself.  You are kind, patient, and compassionate.  You take very seriously how important it is to protect the weak and to stand up for them.  None of that comes natural to us as humans.  God is at work.


We love you Throne Warden.  You were a gift 12 years ago, and you have been one every day since then. Except the day when you threw an awful fit at the public swimming pool, and I took you to the car kicking and screaming.  And the day you threw up Oreo cookies in my bed.  And all those days when you were learning to "go" in the toilet. We weren't so thankful for you those days...but all the other days...all the other ones...we've been thankful God saw fit to give you to us.

Happy Birthday Anson.

---  Mom and Dad

_______________________________________________

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but this is Haiti.  Not only did we not have internet at the house, all of THIS was going on.

Cliff Notes:  Two of our Harbor House girls gave birth yesterday.  It was frantic and insane. I have never been more proud of our team here at HL.  I saw God's sweet grace on grand display as He miraculously put each of us right where we needed to be.  It did not matter that this is Haiti, that the traffic is crazy, or that the hospital where we transported Lourdes Milla doesn't even really like us.  Two births.  One ambulance/hospital transport/Anson's birthday/all 7 school aged kids educated, picked up, and cared for....two healthy babies and moms who are doing well.  God provides.  He loves these ladies and these babies.  He gives us the privilege of watching...up close...how He declares justice...He provides care...He lavishes them with His mercy.  We are all in awe. 

For the full story of all that transpired yesterday go here.

I loved telling Anson last night...."Guess what.  You know how one of your favorite things in the world is babies?  Well...Alloune and Lourdes Milla both had babies on your birthday.  You all share the same birthday!  We will have a massive party next year!!"  Anson went to bed smiling.

I guess September 28th is a day God likes to show off.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guest Post Three: A Give-Away from Hill Country Hill Tribers


Hill Country Hill Tribers is giving away one of our new Sunbreak Collection necklaces! This beautiful necklace was designed and made by Huang Nan.


Huang Nan is a member of the KaChin tribe, originally from Burma. Her family escaped persecution to receive political asylum and establish a new life in Austin. When we met Huang Nan this time last year, she was pregnant with her third baby. She and her husband were chasing two toddlers in a tiny apartment, struggling to make it and desperate to earn a living.

We thought she was a quiet woman; she let her husband talk most of the time, nodding and smiling but not much else. Something has happened to her this year. With her husband in a good job and the opportunity to help support her family, Huang Nan exudes a joy that is tangible. Huang Nan learned to tat before coming to the United States and her artistry is amazing. She is accomplished and confident when she speaks of her craft. She is now designing the jewelry in the Sunbreak Collection line and teaching other women how to crochet so they can also earn money for their families.

This necklace is not only beautiful, it represents an opportunity for an artist like Huang Nan be empowered and see her confidence grow as she supports her family and her community.


The necklace is made with deep red nylon thread knitted by hand around copper metal washers. It is finished with a copper-toned chain and a lobster clasp. The chain is adjustable between 16" and 18" and finished with a teardrop finding.

Get One Entry Every Time You...

• Share about HCHT products on Facebook, Twitter or email. You can go to our Etsy shop to share about specific products you like. Or you can link to this blog to give others a chance to win as well.

• Look through the products at HCHT and tell us what product is your favorite.

• Like our Facebook page

• Follow us on Twitter.


Leave a separate comment for every time you share on facebook or twitter. The more you spread the word, the more chances you’ll have to win this gorgeous necklace!

This give-away will end on Saturday, October 1.  We'll announce the winner on Monday, October 3. 

And even if you don’t win, go to our website to buy our products. Threads of Hope features handwoven bags or scarves. Eco 2 Go has bags made out of burlap rice bags and other up-cycled products. The Lil’ Tribers line are up-cycled bibs and baby products out of rice bags. And of course, the hand-tatted necklaces and earrings in our Sunbreak Collection are some of our most popular items.

 Bib from the Lil' Tribers Line
Made from recycled rice bags.
$10

Your help and support literally changes the lives of these Burmese refugees. Find out more about our featured artisans. If you like something an artisan has made, leave her a note and we’ll share it with her. Hearing from you gives them encouragement and excitement, as well as helping them learn English. Thank you so much for helping us spread the word about the amazing women of HCHT.

Recent Posts about Hill Country Hill Tribers and the work they are doing with refugees from Burma who are living in the Austin Area:

Part one

Part two 


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 

Advocate 

Shop for Clean Clothes

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


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

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

Refugees, Part 1 

Somalian Refugees:  Guest Post from Portland, Oregon 

Refugees from Burma living in Texas:  Guest Post, part one

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thank You


Can I take a moment on this beautiful Sunday and say "Thank you" to all of you who pray for our ladies...

who give sacrificially....

who wrestle every day, asking God hard questions about material possessions and how to be a good steward of the blessings God has given.  Asking those questions is never simple.


Thank you for giving away what God has given you for girls like Mirlene.
It is a struggle to take Jesus at His Word, look to Him as our example, and then know what to keep and what to give. I don't see this struggle ending until all of our struggles end, the glass is wiped clear, and we see the Author and Perfecter of our faith face to face. 


May we all continue to labor, to fight the good fight, and ask difficult questions about poverty and how Christ would have us respond. May we remember that there are people behind these theories and souls behind these theologies.


We feel your prayers.  Your words of encouragement are treasure to us.
Your love for these ladies is beautiful.
Thank you for being in this with us and giving us the privilege of 
being here for girls like Mirlene and her baby during their most vulnerable moments.

God has always chosen to use people to be conduits of His love, provision, and grace.  He's always asked others to give, pray, and advocate for people who have no way to do those things on their own.  What a risky plan...leaving the care of the vulnerable to sinful, broken, selfish people like you and me. May He be glorified in the giving, and the wrestling, and the asking of hard questions.  May we find Him in the friction, the dissonance, and may every single bit of it grow our faith and cause our hearts to groan for His Kingdom to come..His will to be done...on earth as it is in heaven.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hill Country Hill Tribers: Refugees from Burma in Texas: Guest Post 2


Meh

{Guest Post}
Please take some time to visit Hill Country Hill Triber's website to find out 
more about the hope they are bringing to refugee families in Texas.

Meh is one of our most artistic weavers at Hill Country Hill Tribers. She is a Burmese refugee living in Austin, a member of the Karenni hill tribe. In 1996, the Burmese Army launched a massive village relocation plan aimed at bringing the population under military control and eliminating ethnic resistance. At least 3,000 ethnic villages, including Meh’s, have been destroyed since 1996, displacing or killing over one million people.

When the Burmese Army came to her village, Meh’s extended family fled across the border into Thailand, across 25 miles thick with jungle. Meh had already lost her husband and her oldest daughter, and was fleeing with her five small children. But Meh Mo’s sister, Koe was in a much worse condition.

 
Koe

At eight months pregnant, Koe went into labor in the middle of the jungle. While the rest of the family raced on, Koe, her husband and sister Meh, found a refuge of sorts, a village that had already been destroyed by the Burmese army. Meh remembers their frantic search for anything to boil water in so she could clean the newborn baby since the Burmese army busted out the bottoms of the cooking pots. In an abandoned hut in the ransacked village, Koe gave birth to a tiny girl named Shay, now a fourteen-year-old high school student.

Koe weaving on her backstrap loom

 Two days later, Koe was up running through the jungle again. The family was reunited in a make-shift refugee camp in Thailand, a no-man’s-land they waited in for fourteen years. Unable to work because of their refugee status in Thailand, Meh pushed her family to apply to come to the States. Most of their family moved to Austin in 2009. Two of their brothers are living in Thailand and, through legal issues, will never be reunited with the rest of their family. Their father just died a few months ago of cancer. The brothers could not come to the funeral. We sent pictures of the family to their brothers who are living illegally in Thailand. A friend of mine tracked them down and took this picture of them holding photos of their sisters (we cropped their faces to conceal their identity). The family will not see each other again in this life.

Meh and Koe's brother and sister-in-law in Thailand, holding pictures of their sisters

Growing up in their tiny village in Burma, Meh stayed on their rice farm while her 8 younger sisters and brothers all went to a larger city to be educated. She learned to weave the traditional cloth, clothes and bags that women in her village had been making for generations. Meh perfected her craft; her weaving is exquisite and intricate. All of her sisters weave well.

The sisters in their traditional clothing at a weaving demonstration:  
Oo, Boe, Koe, and Meh

But Meh cannot speak English and is not literate in her own language; her employment options are limited. The agencies who brought Meh and the other refugees to Austin are fierce and amazing. Their creative and continuous support of the refugee community has literally saved lives. Refugees come to Austin to give their children a future. Meh is blessed to have a family that supports each other, so she is not as destitute as some of the other women we know, but she and other women like her are struggling to make it in their new homes.

In addition to selling the products Meh, her sisters, and the other HCHT artisans make, we also teach them basic English and other life skills to help them adjust to a new life in the US. Other economic development models we’ve seen help women become self-sustaining in their own country—helping them learn about a new culture and new homeland is an extra difficulty facing the artisans we work with every day.

The difficulty is that Meh and some of the other artisans have a hard time making it to our regular HCHT meetings, so we have a new Communications Director who is going to their homes to assess and meet the needs of our refugee artisans. You can learn more about Kelsi and the new English-on-Wheels program here. Meeting the daily needs of our artisans is a big part of what we do—the refugee agencies we partner with are amazing, but their commitments end after 4-6 months, leaving many families without intense help before they’re ready to be on their own feet. We work with agencies to help identify and work around gaps in their system. Economic and educational development is critical to their survival here.

Refugees need you. There are several ways you can help with refugees like Meh and her sisters. We have information on our website about refugee resources both in Austin and around the world.  Almost every large city in the United States has a sizable refugee population. Even a simple Google search could help you locate specific refugee agencies in your area. The refugee agencies we work with in Austin have ways to volunteer that are common—teaching ESL, adopting a new family, or having your church become involved with specific families or communities in crisis. If you find resources in your city, could you share them in the comments section to help other people connect with refugees where they live?

And, of course, you can always buy HCHT products. Next week we’ll have a giveaway to help you win one of our beautiful new necklaces. Spreading the word about HCHT is something you can do to support Meh and our other refugee artisans.

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 

Advocate 

Shop for Clean Clothes

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


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

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

Refugees, Part 1 

Somalian Refugees:  Guest Post from Portland, Oregon 

Refugees from Burma living in Texas:  Guest Post, part one

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guest Post: Refugees from Burma Living in Texas: Part One


{Guest Post}

Jessica Goudeau is the Co-Founder of Hill Country Hill Tribers in Texas.
Be inspired!

Hill Country Hill Tribers began when God interrupted my nap one Saturday in late October 2007. Despite the fact that we were tired and weren’t sure we wanted to go, my husband Jonathan and I took our 10-month-old daughter to a fall festival that our church puts on in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Austin. One of our ministers had asked us to come because we’re some of the few Spanish-speakers in a church of mostly gringos. The baby wouldn’t take a nap, meaning no one else could either, so we stuck her in a last-minute costume and went.

God interrupted my long-term plans that day. In the midst of all the Spanish, I heard another language and turned to see a group of people straight from the hills of Thailand. The scene was surreal to me. I spent two summers in Chiang Mai, Thailand while I was in college, but decided to focus on Latin America. Both Jonathan and I had both gone back to graduate school to prepare for a future of economic and educational development in a Portuguese- or Spanish-speaking country.

As I stood in a field of Spanish speakers, with a Spanish pamphlet in my hand, I’ll be honest that my first thought was, “Are you kidding me, Lord?” Because there on the rise was a woman adjusting her handwoven skirt as she squatted to spit in the grass. I saw children that looked so much like children I had seen in hill tribe villages in northern Thailand. They looked at me shyly from behind their hands or their mother’s legs. The smell on their clothes was one that was both unique and familiar, wood smoke and a rich combination of spices. I found out later they were Burmese refugees who had moved to Austin after fleeing persecution in their home villages. They lived in the no-man’s-land of refugee camps in Thailand before being resettled in Austin. All I knew then was that God opened a door in my life.

I made friends with a woman named Heh Ler who could barely speak any English. Her youngest daughter, Too Ti, had on sandals despite the cold weather. When we left, I told Jonathan that I was going to do something about Too Ti’s shoes.

I went back a few days later to track down Heh Ler. What I found was a large group of Burmese refugees living in an apartment complex nearby. We asked some of the refugees what they needed the most from us. Their response was English classes for the women. So we began teaching them ESL. We became great friends. And we learned that many of the women we had come to love were phenomenal weavers, desperate to earn money for their families.


We had a carpenter replicate one woman’s backstrap loom. We found a yarn supplier in Maine who made the right weight of thread. We handed out the looms and yarn and asked the women to make us some samples. It gives me goosebumps to remember that day: Handing us their new handwoven bags, their pride was visible. They had lost their homes and livelihoods when they fled Burma, sacrificed everything to live in refugee camps in Thailand, faced hardships and uncertainty beyond anything I can imagine, and now navigated a new life in a bewildering country. Everything was wrong. But weaving was something they knew—their mothers and grandmothers had been weaving for generations. And we were finally giving them the chance to do something at which they excelled. Their hardworking artistry inspired us

We organized a fair trade festival at our church. We prayed that if God wanted us to continue with this ministry, he would show us that day. In four hours, we sold over $3000 worth of products.


A few months later, we became a non-profit and launched our new business. Our products have changed as we’ve added new artisans to the group, but our commitment to helping Burmese refugee artisans make supplemental income to support their families is as strong as when we began four years ago.


God has continued to interrupt our lives in beautiful and holy ways. My co-founder, Caren George, and I have changed the rhythm of our comfortable middle-class lives because God has shown us these women living within a few miles of our homes. Our small children are growing up surrounded by refugee children; our kids are more comfortable in some of the shadiest neighborhoods in Austin than most adult Christians we know, a blessing for which I am constantly grateful. Caren and I have given of our time, our resources and our lives because it is impossible not to--once God gave us a heart for these women and we saw a way to help them achieve both independence and artistry, it was easier to turn our lives inside out than resist that call. I’ll tell you tomorrow the story of one of our artisans and you’ll understand why. They constantly bless and inspire me.

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 

Advocate 

Shop for Clean Clothes

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


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

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

Refugees, Part 1 

Somalian Refugees:  Guest Post from Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesdays::Success Stories

 Remember Dalonne and Job?

I'm trying to find a nice, gentle way to say this, but I'm coming up short.
Here's the honest truth:
Early on I thought Dalonne was going to fail.
Job is one of the only HL babies I thought would not make it.
Every week I'd look at him and think, "She can't do this.  He's going to die."
I struggled with a lot of anger and frustration towards this mom and her situation.
I'd be doing laundry, Dalonne and Job would come to mind, and I'd say terrible things to God.
"Why does this world wreak of depravity and death?  Do you care?  Do you see this? Where are you for people like Dalonne?  For babies like Job?"
Yet here they are.  Both doing so well.  God was here.  I just could not see.
We all sat and marveled today at this baby and this mom's love and care for him.
Fat, healthy baby.  Proud, doting mom.
Success.


Babies who are most happy in their mother's laps.  Success.

Fat, fat, chunky, breastfed, rolley-polley babies.  Success.

Young mothers, living in the Harbor House, 
learning to be world-changing mothers, raising the next generation of Haiti.   
Success.


Loved, healthy babies.  Success.


Moms connected to other moms.  Supporting each other.  Talking. Laughing.  While babies breastfeed and play on their mother's laps.  Success.


Loved moms.  Loved babies.  Success.


 

I needed to remember God's faithfulness when I sat down to talk to this new mom.  We don't normally let new moms join our Tuesday class.  Tuesday class is filled with women whose babies we have delivered.  We did their prenatal care.  We know them.  We have a relationship with them.  We love them.  This lady had such a tragic story, we knew she needed to start coming on Tuesdays.

Her daughter is four months old.  In July, this mom was shot.  The bullet went through her abdomen.  She had to quit breastfeeding because it was too painful to hold her baby to feed her.   When I asked about her living situation Agathe said, "She doesn't even live in a tent.  She lives under a tarp."  She has not nursed her daughter in 26 days.  "What have you been feeding her," we asked?  This mother has been buying canned milk and cookies, mashing up the cookies and feeding her baby that milk/cookie mixture.  She came to us hoping to get some formula for her baby.

Formula.  It kills babies in this country.

The easy way out, the easy way to feel good about ourselves as wealthy Americans with access to "stuff" in this country would be to hand out free formula to this lady.  For a few weeks this baby would have food that was more healthy than canned milk and cookies.  But this mom has no way to buy formula once her breastmilk and her change purse are all dried up.  She has no way to keep bottles sterile.  She has no way to insure the formula is always mixed with clean water.  The result?  This baby would more than likely get diarrhea.  Something as simple as diarrhea kills babies every single day in Haiti.  Babies quickly get dehydrated and die.

If we would have handed this mom a bag of formula today she would have walked away smiling.  Thankful.  We could have felt good about ourselves and maybe even a little thankful that she was gone.  She has lots of poverty-related issues.  Moms like this require a lot of work initially.  Today she asked me to pay for her other kids to go to school.  She asked me for food.  She will do those things until she learns:  "What we are here to give you is education and information.  We're here to give you the opportunity to do things for yourself.  We're here to free you from needing people like us.  We're here to remind you that you can be freeYou can be a great mom.  You can change Haiti for the better."

She will hear us say those things hundreds of times.  One day those words will stick to her soul.  They will become a part of who she is.

The easy way out would have been that sack full of formula.  I'm convinced that the easy way out, disguised in sacks full of free formula, is killing babies in countries like this one.

Miraculously I was able to express milk from this mom's breast.  "You have milk!  If you have milk, why haven't you been nursing your baby?"  She went on to tell us that the baby wants to breastfeed but everyone keeps telling her not to let her baby nurse because it will poison the baby since the mother was shot.  This is what we're up against here.  Lies.  Myths.  Superstition.  This mother has life-saving food in her body for her baby and she's spending what very little money she has on cookies and canned milk.

We told this mom about God's care and faithfulness in sparing her life and in providing milk for her baby.  It's a miracle this mom has so much milk after not breastfeeding for almost a month.  So we labor this week to increase this mom's milk supply.  She needs love, support, and lots of encouragement.  She'll come every day to the Maternity Center to fill her water bottle.  We'll keep her body hydrated and give her medications that increase her milk supply.  We'll cheer her on.  We'll tell her she can do this.  We'll monitor the baby.  We'll pray for a miracle.

We're praying for another success story.  These women and these babies are slowly teaching this heart of mine what Mary spoke long ago.  "Nothing is impossible with God." 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guest Post: Refugees: The Strangers Among Us

This post is part of a series called, "Caring for the Poor While Living in the United States."
Not everyone has to leave home to care for the least of these.
Links to all the posts in this series can be found at the bottom of this post.


{Guest Post}
Danielle Mayfield lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, baby, and cat. 
She writes about living in an international community at her blog, Little Somalia.
Danielle is making her email address available for people who want further information 
about how to love and care for refugees.  daniellelmayfield@gmail.com

A question that has been asked on this blog has been this: who are the poor in America? I am assuming that many readers live in various places throughout America, and we want to get in on what the Bible says is our duty: to take care of the least of the these, the widows and the orphans and the strangers in our midst. The tricky thing about America is that these people are everywhere you look—you just have to know where to find them. Today I want us to look at and consider the situation of refugees, a group which with I have been working in Portland, Oregon for over seven years.

Refugees are people that have no home. Most of them have spent upwards of ten years in a refugee camp, a place of little information or opportunity, waiting for the chance to rebuild their lives. Even though I know refugees from many different countries, the stories are all the same: they are people that have experienced war, terror, death, and have been forced to flee their homes permanently.  Finally, they are people that through a long, often convoluted process, were told they could find sanctuary in America.

One distinction I find it is important to make is that refugees are not immigrants. They did not come to America with the sole purpose of bettering their lives, of taking a plunge in the capitalist system on the chance that they would live out the American dream. Refugees are stateless wanderers, people who have been told that they can never go back to their homes, their old lives. Refugees have no choice in their future, and no chance of changing the past.

Once this distinction becomes clear, it is easy to see why many refugees experience great difficulty upon coming to America. The trauma of a loss of a home country is compounded by the lack of opportunities in refugee camps, especially for adults. Many find themselves in America with no way to earn a living and very little English skills. They are battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) while struggling to provide for the basic needs of their families, often while watching their own children cast off the old cultural norms in a quest for Americanization.

All this is to say that many refugees find themselves in a precious situation in America.

And we can help.

As of now the U.S. Government gives refugees 8 months of financial assistance, at which point they are expected to be self-supporting. While this is sufficient support for some, many refugees find themselves at the end of the 8 months with no way to support their family. Can you imagine trying to learn English, navigate American customs, finding and securing a job, and becoming financially stable in 8 months? Neither can I. Add to this mix the realities of dealing with trauma, as well as the low levels of education and health problems that can accompany people who come from war-torn places.

Where there is a lack of support at the governmental level, the church can step in.

While not all of us can (or should) give money to refugee families, there are opportunities for support in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, refugees need friends. They need ambassadors for a culture that is rarely welcoming, and they need guides to navigate all of the radical changes that they are facing. When I started working with refugees I was placed with a family from Somalia. When the family first arrived in America, they had never seen a light switch, flushed a toilet, or even gone up or down a flight of stairs. There were many practical needs that I could help with, such as filling out forms, calling banks, making sure the children had their shots for school. These practicalities can be soul-crushing to people who are still in survival mode, and it is such an easy way to be a blessing.

I started working with refugees over 7 years ago, and they have become some of my best friends. They have been in my wedding, I have been to births and deaths and middle school soccer games and science fairs and through it all I have been enriched in so many ways by our friendship. This type of relationship is so much more beneficial than any sort of mentor/tutor/benefactor dynamic, because it is based in mutuality. Friendship, as you might suspect, requires quite a bit more time and effort than simply dropping off a bag of food or a check.

Two years ago, my husband and I moved into the low-income housing complex where many of my Somali friends live. While it hasn't always been perfect or easy, our ties to the community have only become stronger. While this may seem like an extreme example, I would propose that all of us have the call to become intentional neighbors wherever we are. And in many neighborhoods, there are refugees that are in desperate need of relationship.

Refugees also need English skills. Most of us reading this blog probably do so with a minimal amount of effort. You probably can also carry on a decent conversation, buy your groceries without worries, and express how you are feeling in any given situation. This is not the case for many refugees. Those who come from especially traumatic experiences often have little to no formal education, which makes learning English that much more difficult (the number one contributor to becoming literate in English is being literate in your native language—and vice versa).

Becoming an English tutor is one of the easiest ways to help a refugee. I was paired with a Somali family for this express purpose, and it opened the doors for real relationship to be established. After several years of working with Somali refugees I became passionate about the opportunities that English language and literacy skills could bring to my refugee friends. I became so inspired, in fact, that I went on to get my Masters in TESOL and now teach classes in my apartment complex and at the local community college, focusing on literacy. For all my education, however, I have realized that being a patient friend and a kind listener are two of the best skills for an English teacher. By the sole fact that we are native speakers, all of us can help refugees in this extremely tangible way.

Refugees need community support. New challenges come up all the time that me and my husband simply cannot handle on our own. Getting our friends, family, and church involved in working with refugees has been a vital part of our success. In many cities (like Portland) there are no evangelical organizations working directly with refugees. This is the perfect opportunity for churches to step up and care for the aliens in our midst. One of the more inspiring models I have seen is that of churches actively “sponsoring” several newly arrived refugee families and taking over all of their needs. From providing furniture for bare apartments to finding winter coats for children to helping navigate the bureaucracies of public school and health insurance and bank accounts—the church is that family's first experience with America. How wonderful is that?

There are so many more stories I could tell you, stories that are heartbreaking, inspiring, and devastating. But I would rather you find out these stories for yourself. If you need more of a theological push, look no further than the Old Testament commands to befriend and take care of the strangers and aliens in our midst, or the fact that Jesus himself was a refugee, or the myriads of times that the New Testament shows us a church that shares what they have in order that none might be in need.

If you would like to get involved in working with refugees in your city, here are a couple of organizations that I endorse whole-heartedly, and can help you get started:

1. World Relief. World Relief is the largest Evangelical organization that helps with refugee resettlement in the U.S. While they don't have branches in every state, if they are in yours—make sure to contact them!
 
2.  Catholic Charities. For more reading on the current U.S. Policies on refugee resettlement and ways to advocate for reform, I love Catholic Charities position.  For states and cities that don't have a World Vision office, I highly recommend contacting your local Catholic Charities branch. I have been volunteering through CC for over 7 years now, and it has been nothing but a positive experience.

3. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Another great organization. Check out their website and click on ways to get involved.

For those who nerd out over statistics, these are two great sites detailing U.S. Policies and other
information regarding refugee resettlement: The UN Refugee Agency and Almanac of Policy Issues: Refugee Assistance Programs.

For those of you living in a city/rural area that might not have refugees, I would encourage you to investigate other avenues to advocate for refugees. Many organizations like World Relief and Catholic Charities depend on donations in order to do their ministries. If you are unable to commit to the amount of time it takes to truly invest in a friendship with refugees, there are plenty of other creative ways to support this work.

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 

Advocate 

Shop for Clean Clothes

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


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

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

Refugees, Part 1

Monday, September 19, 2011

Help us Give Life to Women and Babies in Haiti



We are a couple of Ol' Ags who lived in College Station for 14 years. Ten of those years were spent working with students from A&M. 

Recently we moved our family to Haiti.  We work with an organization called Heartline that has been here for the past 22 years.  Our goal:  We labor every day fighting the orphan crisis in this country by empowering Haitian women with the skills they need to keep their babies.  We believe we're tackling this enormous, complex issue of orphan care at the root...by working to keep families together and rehabilitate their lives.

With a little bit of help, we could win a 50 thousand dollar private grant that would allow our program to expand.  All we need is your vote and your assistance spreading the word.    Please take two seconds (that's really all it takes), go to Giving of Life's website, and vote for Heartline.  It takes one click to vote.  Then will you spread the word and ask others to vote as well?

VOTING ENDS THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4


Heartline offers safe births, prenatal care, health teachings, and child development classes to women who would not have access to any of these basic services.  We also provide literacy classes, and sewing and cooking schools.  We have a teen mom house where young women live for two years, getting an education, studying a trade, and learning how to be attentive, loving mothers.  Our desire is to offer the women of Haiti respect, dignity, education, and hope.  Our heart for Haiti's babies is to keep them in the arms of their mothers if that is at all possible.  We are finding it is possible.  We are finding that the orphan crisis in Haiti is not because Haitian mothers do not want to parent their children.  The orphan crises is multifaceted, but one of the main reasons there are so many orphans in Haiti is because mothers in this country do not have the means or skills they need to provide for their children.  In desperation, they place their children in orphanages that seem to promise a better future than they can provide for their child.  Haitian women are strong, beautiful mothers.  They simply need life-changing information, job skills, safe births, encouragement, and support.  With those tools, we have seen women fight for their kids, sacrifice for them, and love those children deeply.



If we win this grant the money will go towards building a maternity center where we can increase the amount of women we can care for during their pregnancies and deliveries.  Maternal mortality and infant mortality rates in Haiti are unbelievably high.  This maternity center will mean life for women and children. Every day women and children die needlessly in this country.  We believe that with you standing with us more babies, more women, and ultimately families can be impacted.


When you vote for Heartline you vote for life.  You vote for hope.  You vote for families.  You vote for protecting the vulnerable.  You vote for the least of these.

Heartline is a reputable, registered, non-profit organization in Haiti.


Thanks to so many others voting for Heartline, we are currently in fourth place at Giving of Life.  We know with you standing with us, voting, and telling others about this grant opportunity we can give women, children, and families in Haiti a fighting chance.

Will you vote?  Will you spread the word?

VOTING ENDS THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4

-- Aaron and Heather Hendrick

To vote for Heartline, visit the Giving of Life Website.

_______________________________________________________________________

1.  You can vote once from every computer, phone, ipad, or any device that gives you access to the internet.

2.  You can get four more votes if you register with Giving of Life.  They only ask you for three pieces of information when you register.  I have never received one email from Giving of Life.  I've asked around and no one else has gotten junk mail from them either.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mirlande's Sunday Morning Baby


We welcomed Baby Michele into the world this morning.

 
From Beth:  "Mirlande hemorrhaged and we are really grateful for life saving drugs.  Too many women here don't have access to a birth center or good care, and they would die in this situation.  Praising God this morning for Mirlande being in our program!"

Thank you for giving to Heartline.  It's difficult for us to think about what would have happened to Mirlande if she had not delivered here.  We love her, and we're incredibly grateful that you all pray and give.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Caring for the Poor While Living in the US: Refugees

 
Do you ever have moments when you learn something new, like a spark of lightening blows up loud and blinding inside your mind, and you wonder..."How did I not know this?  How have I lived this long and never come face to face with this truth?"  That was me when I found out about the plight of refugees living in the United States.  I had a Truman Show moment where I realized that the world is bigger and more complex than I thought it was one week ago.

"According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refugees are persons living outside their country of origin who cannot return to their homes due to fear of persecution based on their race, religion, or membership in a particular social/political group." (from Multicultural Refugee Coalition)

I never asked to be introduced to the truth about refugees.  I stumbled upon their existence by accident.  I asked a friend for a book to read last year.  She loaned me Strength in What Remains. At night I'd crawl into bed and open this book that would open my eyes to a whole new world of desperation, sadness, and hope back home in my own country.  I could not believe that large numbers of immigrants end up in the United States every year who have been offered asylum from war-torn and famine stricken countries.  These people have lived lives of terror, have experienced pain and abuse, seen scenes too horrific for any movie screen, and they are living right inside our borders.  Most show up not speaking our language.  They have no idea how to live in the developing world.  They need help and healing from witnessing their homes burnt to the ground, their loved ones brutally murdered, and their children starving to death.  Some of these people are brilliant individuals, well-respected, educated citizens in their own countries, but because they have very little help integrating into US life, they are living in poverty in slums in America. 



I began reading about refugees on The Big Picture website by the Boston Globe.  After reading Strength in What Remains, I ended up reading a fictional book (based on a true story) called Little Bee.  I was deeply moved by both books.

While in the United States this summer, I asked two people to write up guest posts about the plight of the refugee in our country and how others could be involved.  Both of these ladies are deeply connected to refugees in their communities and have graciously agreed to educate all of us about how we can love and serve this hidden group of people in our country.

But the stranger who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you; and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. -- Leviticus 19:34

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 

Advocate 

Shop for Clean Clothes

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


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

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday

Emmanuella was back today...

with this little peanut.  He peed all over my phone today.
Both mom and baby are doing well.


















Two of the Harbor House girls.  Adorable, aren't they?

Today was one of those days when prenatals ended and I thought, "How did that much stuff...great stuff...sad stuff...hard stuff...really, really tragic stuff, teaching stuff, learning stuff, redemptive stuff, make you sit and sigh stuff, and the laughing stuff happen in only one afternoon?"  A lifetime's worth of emotions held in only a few hours worth of time.

We have 8 ladies that could have a baby any ol' day now.  That does not include the little stinkers that like to mix it up and surprise us.  We're not expecting there will be much sleep over the next couple weeks but hopefully there will be a lot of healthy, natural births.