Saturday, February 16, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions


I want to adopt from Haiti. Ideas?

We don't have any one organization we recommend. Adoption has slowed way down post earthquake and we're uncertain about the process going forward. We suggest contacting orphanages in Haiti by email to find out more about specific programs. (A google search will bring you many results.)

Missions and NGOs have worked in Haiti forever - nothing seems to change, why are you bothering?
It is our desire to be where we believe God called us; even though it makes no sense at times. We don't need it to make sense as much as we need to be obedient. We don't believe that you quit just because you don't think you'll "win." For whatever reason we think God has asked us to love our Haitian neighbors, so that is what we are attempting to do. This question can best be answered by going to this post.

How long will you stay in Haiti? We moved here in January 2006 and we are trusting God to make our future clear, at this point we take it one year at a time and know we want to be here for the next few years at least. It seems quite feasible that we could be here long term, but we try not to get ahead of God. 2011 is a big year for us as we dig into some really exciting work and pray that God allows the Haitian people to be treated justly by their Government and by those of us trying to work along side them. We don't know what our future holds. Ask us again in a year. :)

Aren't you afraid - we hear Haiti is dangerous. What about illnesses and your kids? Sometimes we are fearful, yes. But most often we feel very safe. We believe that the safest place in the world to be is in God's Will - not easy - not "safe" in the traditional sense ... and we cannot deny that He brought us here. Could something bad happen? Have bad things happened? Yes, of course... But bad things can happen anywhere in the world and we don't want to live in fear no matter where God plants us. Yes, we do get nervous about Dengue and Malaria and some of the Tropical diseases, but for those of us who have had them, we have always recovered well after treatment.  There have been some incredibly challenging things ... our kids have been hurt and sick - we've wanted to run away at times. We are no different than anyone else - we fall flat on our face and cry and grieve and get angry over things that happen (and often cannot share them here) - but God seems to show up again and again and He provides healing and ways to keep going.

I want to move to Haiti/think God is calling me there. Please tell me what you think I might need to know.
We can only speak from our own experience. We are sure we cannot confirm or deny your desire or call.  We can tell you that you will face adversity.  We assumed wrongly that following God and going to Haiti might mean total protection.  In the five years since we moved we've faced assault, Dengue Fever (X3 cases) Malaria (X12 cases) Meningitis (x2 - 1viral and 1 bacterial both leading to hospitalization) trouble with understanding culture, stealing, curses placed on us, co-laborers hurting the cause (and their families and ours) by involving themselves in totally inappropriate behaviors ...  and the list goes on ...  

The point of this is not to gripe.  The point of this is - we STILL want to be in Haiti and we are still happy and thankful for all the good that happens in our lives each day. God carried us through every hardship and while it sounds trite, it is also true -- God is faithful. The point of that list is more to tell you that your call needs to be bigger than all the hardships you WILL face. Lack of electricity and bugs and heat will be the least of your hardships. Haiti is described by people who have worked all over the world as a very difficult and complicated place.  So many factors are at play, suffice it to say there are not many things that are cut and dried. An Ambassador to Haiti once said, "In Haiti I believe nothing that I hear and only half of what I see."  We suggest that you confirm your call by visiting for an extended time, by talking with your pastor and close friends and by reading and researching. Some of what we have done in Haiti (once considered helping) has actually not proven to be helpful. We ask that anyone considering coming to Haiti either full time or part time really examine their motives and expectations. Haiti will kick your butt either way, but honesty about what drives you to work with the poor can only help you as you prepare to come. If you wish to read a great book to understand more about the ways our good intentions actually hurt the poor - read  "When Helping Hurts" it is a good starting place.

How did you know you should move to Haiti ?
We met when we were 21 and 24 years old. I (Tara) was a single mom of two beautiful little girls. When we started dating they were 2 and 6 years old.

During that time of our lives, both of us were very much struggling and running from God. While our reasons for running from God were different, in some odd way they bonded us together and we tried to help each other figure it out. We were searching for truth, answers, and especially healing together.

Two years later, in the fall of 1998 we got married. Our focus in life was very much all about us. We spent most of our time and energy figuring out how to make more money so we could try to achieve status with new cars, a nicer/bigger house, and vacations - the typical things people in our age group wanted. We worked hard and were able to experience a lot of what we thought would bring us happiness.

By the time we celebrated our third anniversary we both desired to add to our family. We had experienced two painful miscarriages and had been denied an opportunity to adopt from Columbia. We were hurt and angry that children did not seem to be God's plan for us. (Which is now weird to say as we fall into bed happy and exhausted each night from the truck-load of kids that belong to us.)

We had never settled into a church, we always hopped around from church to church and refused to call one of them "our church." We did not connect with other believers. We used our anonymity as a way of not having to be accountable. We actually tried not to make church-friends. This also allowed us to easily stay stuck in our anger and hurt.

One winter night we were watching TV together and I asked Troy what he thought about getting on the Internet and doing some more adoption research. We spent the rest of that evening staring at photos of orphans from all over the world. God used those photos to stir in us a desire to attempt again to adopt. The next day we made some calls, most specifically to ask questions of an agency that helped place Haitian children with adoptive families.

At the time neither of us could locate locate Haiti on a map with any certainty.

Two months later, in April of 2002 we visited Haiti for the first time. We found it to be a beautiful, sad and difficult place. God made it clear to us that two children in the orphanage were to become OUR children. We began the process of adopting Hope, then three months old & Isaac, who was seven months old at the time.

During the adoption I (Tara) went to Haiti six times in six months. Troy was able to travel three times. Each time our love for the people and the country grew a little bit. We started to feel much less nervous and worried about our safety and way more excited and at ease/peace. At the same time we began to seek God more. Our faith was tested, we grew. We began praying together regularly. We started looking for a church to settle into and desired the accountability we had run from in years past.

Hope and Isaac came "home" to Minnesota late in 2002. We continued to think often about Haiti and the impact the things we had seen had made on us. We talked about wanting to go back and serve there "some day."

When we adopted our children God also planted the seeds for our future here. We just did not know at the time that the future was not too far off.

Over the next three years our conversations often brought us back to Haiti. We had a surprise baby (Noah) in 2004 and determined that we would probably be smart to wait until our kids were grown before we could even try to visit Haiti again.

Each time something would stir up the Haiti discussion we would simply tell each other that parents of five children do not belong in ministry in Haiti. Rationally we knew that there are plenty of empty nesters or newlyweds that could go to Haiti. We would also reason that we really had no formal training. Troy is not a pastor, neither of us had done any sort of cross-cultural coursework in college. We talked about trying to take some classes that would help us in the future ... Because certainly God could not use a telephone man/Dad and a sales manager/Mom in Haiti.

We thought our excuses for putting it off were very solid -- and honestly they were, but God made a point of getting our attention and at least asking us to test Him on our rationale for waiting.

One day I got an email from a friend, this friend had no way of knowing anything about our desire to go to Haiti OR our excuses for not going. Her email said, "Hey check these people out. They are moving to do ministry in the Ukraine with TEN kids."

I showed the email to Troy. He reluctantly said that yes, maybe if that family could drag ten kids across the globe, we could at least test God on our "Haiti thing."

Slowly but diligently we started researching ministries that might need help. We sent dozens of emails to different agencies on the ground in Haiti. We asked what they needed, what sort of training they required, what sort of specialized degrees we might need. We wrote to families that were already serving in Haiti, especially if they had more than a couple of kids. We asked 100's of questions of many people.

I was training for a marathon at the time and was involved in a on-line running group. I had been reading the posts from that running group for months. One day during that time a lady posted about running in the heat. She said, "I hear you - that you're experiencing lots of hot weather this summer in the USA and that makes training difficult. I have been training for marathons in Haiti for many years. Our weather here is only hot."

I contacted the woman who wrote that post, I told her that we had been praying about Haiti and that we had a connection through running too. She was excited to hear from someone who loved running and Haiti. She said she had never posted a comment on the running group before. The connection was instant between us. She invited us to meet them and stay overnight with them if/when we decided to come to Haiti.

All of the research led to a fact-finding trip to Haiti in the fall of 2005. We saw the mission where we now work and we met the marathon runner, Beth, who God placed in our path for a reason. Our friendship has been a blessing since day one. Lydia is named after Beth. (Lydia Beth)

When we returned home we knew God would need to clear some pretty significant obstacles if we were going to move. We wrote a list of those obstacles. It was a LONG and complicated list. We said, "If God clears these things, that means we are supposed to go." We fully expected most of them would not happen. We never thought He would make it possible. We actually thought it was dumb to even move on the first few things because to us some of the middle things seemed totally out of the question.

In the next four weeks, one after another, the list began to dwindle. In less than 60 days we packed, sorted, and cleaned. Our house rented for the full payment amount, our small credit card debt was paid off, our oldest two daughters got on board and wanted to go, we got permission for them to move from their biological dads, our stuff got moved and stored, and the full dollar amount we needed to live in Haiti each month was raised. All of this happened in 58 days.

At that point it was hard to deny that God's timing was not "when our kids are grown" but rather "now." The list of obstacles had nothing left on it. The only remaining obstacle at that point was our own fear of stepping into the unknown. We knew we needed to do it afraid. For us it was less about some great leap of faith and more about being obedient to what was so clearly a "God thing" --- we're not all that faithful.

We moved to Haiti in January of 2006. It has not always been easy, at times it has been terribly daunting -- but it has been exciting and it has been filled with God's provision.

The number one thing each one of us can say - God is stretching us - individually and as a family. We have all grown and changed a lot in the past five years. We have much more learning to do and we're blessed to get to do it in Haiti for this season of our lives. We're excited to see where He will take us next. We feel privileged to be here, it is no sacrifice to be where God places you.

You mention 5 kids. We count more than that. Explain.

We moved to Haiti when Britt was 15. Noah was 21 months old, he was the baby of the family. After we had been in Haiti a year we took placement of Hope's new-born little sister (Phoebe) to adopt her and keep her with Hope.  Within a few weeks of that we learned there would be another baby coming in October of 2007.  The same fall that Britt left Haiti to start college in Texas we had Lydia and became a family of 9.  Since that time Britt has married Christopher Bernard, a great young man that she met in Haiti in our first year there.  That makes Troy a Father-in-law, which is pretty hilarious and fabulous. It also makes us a family of ten.  

Questions not covered here? Write us at - we'll try to answer within a week.