Thursday, September 30, 2010

goodbye september

  • Gwo Cheve hospital fund is at 79% due to another 3K in the mail ~ again, THANK YOU!!
  • We get to hear Francis Chan (the guy clinging to the balance beam in a previous post) speak tonight at Crowder's Fantastical Church Music Conf. we are super pumped. Thank you for the tickets Skalbecks!
  • Tomorrow we head to Austin for the Together for Adoption Conf. taking place Friday and Saturday ~ anxious to share and connect with friends there. Even more excited for the dinner with friends afterward on Saturday.
  • Happy Birthday to Dad/Grandpa Porter - 60 years (not that) old.
  • Sunday morning Troy is happy to get to co-lead worship under a bridge in Waco.
  • Best of luck to Tara's little sister Tina as she blows up yet another marathon in the Twin Cities on Sunday. Kill it Tina!!!! We're cheering from Tejas.
  • Lydia Beth Livesay is turning 3 Monday ~ we'll celebrate her fabulously unique personality and party with her on Sunday after church. She sat on my lap for an hour looking at fun cakes and kept saying "that my cake" to every cake photo.  I went to order one she liked today only to learn I waited too long. They didn't want my order. Instead I will create something fabulous and creative using the skills I don't possess sometime in the middle of the night Saturday.
  • We're finally reading books other than parenting books (not because we learned it all) ... finished A Grace Disguised  and really liked it. Now we're reading: The Hole in our Gospel and When Helping Hurts  - both are proving to be good/informative/thought-provoking reads. 
  • Have a great weekend.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Too heavy to carry, impossible to leave

    (Originally written and posted November 2007 while we were in the states having Lydia.)

     "The Long Defeat"

    Finally ... a way to describe the "place we are in" when it comes to the whole Haiti vs. America question.

    The Long Defeat is a Sara Groves song and when we first heard it we were all: "YES YES ... this explains it!!!"

    An internet friend wrote and said she honestly wondered if we would get back to America for our furlough and maybe change our minds about returning to Haiti. I appreciated her question. WE also wondered if being here would confuse us and make us long to be back in the States on a permanent basis.

    At lunch last Sunday my Uncle asked us if Haiti is home ... if we saw ourselves as lifers. I burst into tears, not because his question was bad, but because it is so hard to explain the place we're in when it comes to Haiti. I think I said something like, "Yes, I see myself in Haiti and yes it very much feels like home." I followed that up with, "and I hate feeling that way."

    I do hate feeling that way because it is not sensible to feel that way. So much of what we do in Haiti feels futile. Why love a place where you feel like you're treading water and never getting anywhere? Why choose that place over being where your family and close friends are?

    It takes someone much more poetic than I to explain this whole conundrum - loving a place that often drives you nuts. I know we're weird to some of our friends and family. I have experienced that people even take it personally sometimes that we choose to live so far from them. I understand it making no sense to you because it makes very little sense to me. I don't know what God is doing. I don't know how long He'll do what He's doing.  I just know that I am good with the long defeat.

    I have joined the long defeat
    That falling set in motion
    And all my strength and energy
    Are raindrops in the ocean

    So conditioned for the win
    To share in victor's stories
    But in the place of ambition's din
    I have heard of other glories

    And i pray for an idea
    And a way i cannot see
    It's too heavy to carry
    And impossible to leave

    I can't just fight when i think i'll win
    That's the end of all belief
    And nothing has provoked it more
    Than a possible defeat


    We walk a while we sit and rest
    We lay it on the altar
    I won't pretend to know what's next
    But what i have i've offered

    And i pray for a vision
    And a way i cannot see
    It's too heavy to carry
    And impossible to leave

    And i pray for inspiration
    And a way i cannot see
    It's too heavy to carry
    And impossible to leave
    It's too heavy to carry
    And i will never leave

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    A 3K gift came in by mail.  We are at 72% of goal on the Gwo Cheve Challenge.

    Thank you for your response! 

    John will be very chilly in MN for his board meeting this November.

    Ephesians Four

    ...Walk as Jesus walked. Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously extended to you. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. Make every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit has already created, with peace binding you together. 

     modern day paraphrase of Ephesians 4 from 'the Voice'

    I used to have a t-shirt that I wore about five years ago that said, "Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions" it is a G.K Chesterton quote.  

    While I still think quite a lot of good old Gilbert Keith; I just don't think I agree with his famous quote anymore.  

    You can have your convictions and still be tolerant of others. If you do it in an atmosphere thick with love, who knows what could happen? You might start to look a little bit like Jesus. 



    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The total update: More than you want to know

    Proud U.S. Citizen - Phoebe Joy

    Sharing (most of) the letter sent to our partners a couple of weeks ago...

    Sept. 2010 
    Greetings to you from central Texas. We hope you're easing into the routines of fall and that you enjoyed a great summer.

    We're writing to thank you for your love and support and to update you on our plans. We'd originally planned to send another snail-mail update but decided to get the information to you sooner by using e-mail this time around.  

    We're grateful to you for the grace you have shown us in 2010. Thank you for helping us tread through the unknown and giving us the space and time we needed to rest and to heal.

     We arrived in Texas seven months ago thinking we'd be here just a month or two. We only wanted to be here for a short time. While our hearts are in Haiti and we truly desire to be there; we know God has been working in us and on us during this time in America. 

    You did not sign up to support us in Waco, TX - yet you graciously did just that these last seven months. Thank you. You have offered us much love and grace. We are touched by it.

    So much has happened since the Earthquake - 
    • Tara traveled to Haiti in March for two weeks
    • Troy traveled to Haiti in April, May and June - Paige joined him in June.
    Paige's race-day
    • Our counseling sessions were a blessing, and have come to a close.
    • Paige ran a half-marathon and raised $52,000 for housing
    • We've done some traveling and speaking/fundraising/advocating for both ministries. We've seen God provide with new funding sources for our Haitian neighbors as a result.
    • We've had an opportunity to meet with a few families as they head to the field and to encourage and help them as they go. It has been exciting and humbling to see and learn that God is using our experiences to draw others to the mission-field.
    • Phoebe became a U.S. citizen on 8-9-10 :)
    Paige's baptism
    • We spent time with family/friends in Iowa/MN
    • Paige, Isaac, Hope and Noah started school in mid-August at a charter school in Waco.
    • Phoebe had surgery to correct her eyes last week.
    • We've applied to re-adopt Phoebe in the state of TX

    With all of that accomplished, and a time of rest, we feel more than ready to get back to the place we've come to think of as home. God has used each of Troy's trips to confirm in his heart a peace about returning with the entire family.  All of these things are good.

    We had originally hoped to be back home in time for school to start in mid August. When that became impossible we prayed and hoped to be able to return in mid-October. We're learning a lot about waiting and patience. 

    Our nephew Porter
    The one thing holding us up from returning as a complete family is Phoebe's passport/adoption.  We need to finish her Texas re-adoption in order to have the documentation required and change her legal name. We're already well into that process and anticipate the court date will take place soon.

    We want to try as often as possible to keep our family together in the same country. Because we still have paperwork to complete and because four of the kids have started school and need some stability and consistency, we will delay our return to Haiti until the very end of the year.

    We are happy to share that we recently purchased eight airline tickets from DFW to PAP.

    In the next three months we're hoping for more speaking invitations. Troy may be traveling to Haiti.  We'll continue assisting/supporting both ministries whenever and however possible. We'll be finishing Phoebe's TX adoption by jumping through all the hoops required to make that happen. 

    In mid-December we will all get to celebrate the graduation of Brittany (our oldest daughter) and Chris (our son-in-law) from Baylor University, which is a huge added bonus. Our kids will be able to finish the entire semester here in TX and be back home in time to start second semester at Quisqueya Christian School in Port au Prince.

    We are so anxious to get home and we ask that you'll pray with us for all of the pieces to come together. We are very blessed to be able to work in Haiti and count it an honor and gift. The last five years have stretched us more than we could have imagined. We're grateful.  As always, we're amazed by your generous hearts and the love you show. Thank you for helping us be love and mercy to our Haitian neighbors, we are privileged to have your trust and partnership.

    With our love and respect,

    T & T & Tribe


    • A major argument over whether or not ALL the kids would get an "America birthday" has been settled.  Every kid will have had their America birthday by the time we roll out of here.  Crisis averted. In this one instance - life is fair. 
    •  At the beginning of the school year we had asked the kids not to obsess about the return date.  We suggested that until we know something for certain that they not worry about telling their teachers. Noah was incredibly quiet -uncharacteristically quiet. I said, "Noah, you already talked to your teacher huh?"  He said, "Yes, on the first day I told her in ten days I am going back to Haiti."  :) 
    • Isaac is worried Peanut (our Mastiff) won't remember him. "What if she doesn't know me!?!?!" I don't really know how he will determine if she does or does not remember him. 
    • Paige has been working her buns off in school and to pull her out mid-semester would have been very hard on her and her academic situation. We are super proud of the work-ethic she is rocking right now.
    • Hope remains our always-dependable kid that rolls with everything and quietly does her thing. With so many dramatic personalities around here Hope makes it her business to make us all look like spazzy freaks. 
    • Paige will attempt to become a licensed driver in the State of TX in about 60 days - a fabulous benefit to the timing of her year in America. We shall see how she does in late Nov. when she officially hits Sweet 16.
    • Phoebe will go before a judge and after almost four years as a respected member of this family she will also be recognized as such by the United States government. 
    • We'll travel to MN for WWV Banquet (See their site for tickets - Nov 6Megan H. is coming to Waco fill in as Mom/Dad/Taxi - she'll need prayer. :)
    • Britt and I are training together and spending lots of quality time together while logging our miles. I feel incredibly blessed to have this time with my eldest child.
    • Our goal of returning to Haiti with zero children wearing diapers may be impossible ambitious but when one considers that the last time there were no diapers to change the date was Sept 20, 2002 - Eight years. It seems like a perfect time to be done with this season decade of spending hundreds of dollars on absorbent cotton. Six+ diapers per day; Hmmm let me do the math ... that times two times 365 @ 28cents a diaper  ... yep, that equals us being obnoxiously wealthy very soon.  
    • Since we wrote the update (above) we're starting to think Troy may not get to Haiti. Not sure. This America life is busy. How do you people do this!?!?!?  Every day another event/meeting/school obligation.
    • We happened to glance at our stack of passports the other day and realized that three kids' passports expire soon. How dumb would that have been?  Phew. Crisis number two averted.
    • Our sweet friend Joanna has offered to help us with the trip home. (cleaning up and moving out of our borrowed home - 16 - 50lb bags, 8 - 40 lb carry ons and many tired/emotional children adults - a skilled helper/friend will be huge help!) Jo left Haiti with us in February and will return with us after Christmas.  That is true friendship!
    • leaving Haiti with our 8th baby in tow
    • There are a 100 reasons to be excited to go home and two not to be.  1. No more Tex-mex   2.  John McHoul has been feeding our dog for months and we'll never ever ever repay him. Even when we do repay him  - he will say we haven't. 
    • I had always thought that when the last of our (American) Hermit Crabs died, it would be a sure sign that it was time to move this tribe back to Port au Prince. Once when I wondered aloud if we could smuggle them out of the USA, Troy said, "Nah. They will all be dead by then."  It seemed to me like what Troy said might be a tangible and possibly even prophetic sign. "Verily I say unto you, This (crab) generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." 
      A few weeks back the last of the kids' crabs (aptly named "Lucky") died.
      We still live in TX. So much for prophetic signs. I guess we cannot judge our future upon the life-span of Hermit Crabs ever again.
    • We are thankful for the way God has given us things we didn't want or think we needed and that it has forced us to have this time of re-evaluating, counseling and refueling. We've never stopped missing Haiti but we have finally seen the value in many of the things that have happened as a result of us being here.   

    We head back asking God for more ... More opportunities to grow, to change, to see, to learn, to serve, to hurt, to trust, to heal, to love. 

        Sunday, September 26, 2010

        Things we learned this week...

        1. All the experts that write books about potty training are wrong.  Candy is a good motivator for potty training.  I waited a year to try it because I believed the experts about what a bad idea it is and I request that they send me $1,012.50 for the diapers I bought unnecessarily. As we approach their 3rd and 4th  birthdays something had to give.
        2. Fact: Candy is way cheaper than diapers.
        3. Being in the bathroom eighteen times a day with the candy stash increases the caloric intake of the parents enough that there will be noticeable weight gain.
        4. Fixing brakes on a heavy Suburban is not an optional repair.  Trust us.
        5. Getting a "free" carwash after a $700 truck-repair is not really getting it free. They're lying to you.
        6. People really love matching offers - proving that they give out of their goodness AND out of wanting more bang for their buck.  {$1,000 given and $1,000 matched and 66% of goal. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!}
        We are doing a study on the link between candy consumption and childhood obesity.  We'll share our results soon. ;)

        Friday, September 24, 2010

        New Life ~ New Challenges ~ New Opportunities

        In the pre-natal program we fast track all teens in as quickly as possible. We always have a wait list but when a teen-mom shows up she goes to the top of the list.

        This beautiful young woman named Adema joined us only 3 weeks ago; we haven't known her long.  According to the dates she gave us we thought we had quite a while to work with her and get her ready to be a mom.  We thought we had time for prenatal care, spiritual guidance and time for her to grow and come to trust us.  Her dates were wrong.  Earlier this week she came to the door in labor at 6:30 AM; we prepared for a preemie.  We called Doctor Jen and an OB nurse to join us for the labor and delivery.  We brought out all the "big guns" at our disposal.  We were extremely relieved when the baby was small but not premature.

        Mama and baby are both tiny.  Adema looks like she should be playing with dolls not raising a baby in a third world country.  Although both mom and baby were okay after the delivery we knew we could not send them home.  We added Adema and baby to the hospital population and started a mentoring program with our other teen moms,  including Djenie. (Many of you prayed for Djenie and her baby Kenny in the weeks after the earthquake. Thank you!)

        Djenie explained that her baby, Kenny, had been small as well and now he is chubby, happy and developmentally on target.  Djenie has taken her job seriously and is full of advice, help and friendship.  She knows how it feels, she was there eight months ago.

        This is exactly how our program was meant to work.  Women come and receive help, make positive changes in their lives and then help others.  They become examples in their own communities and make a difference.

        Adema is now part of our hospital community.  Other moms are gently scolding her for not breast feeding long enough.  Others are watching out for her.  Doctor Jen is tending to the baby's legs which are deformed.

        Together, as a hospital community, we will make a difference in this girl's life.  This four pound baby would barely have a chance if we let her go home prematurely.  Mom just doesn't have the skills to properly care for her baby girl.   By the time we decide she can go home most likely she won't want to.  Our patients have a way of doing that.  Our hospital becomes a home, a safe haven, a place of refuge.

        As I look over our prenatal files and check into our ladies' histories  I am astounded at the number of still births, miscarriages and the numbers of children who have died under the age of five.  How can so many women have lost so many children?  This program exists to help reduce those numbers.  Healthy pregnancies, safe births and a safe and educated post-partum are keys to saving lives.  Teaching breast feeding can save countless babies.

        Adema is one more teen mom who will be changed. Her baby is living because of coming to Heartline.  Her life will change because she is learning life skills and parenting skills with her first-born.  She will enter our child development program and come weekly for six months.

        Adema is one great reason for a post-partum ward and a permanent hospital.  Haiti is full of young teens just like her - we are out to reach as many of them as possible.  If you help us we will help them!

        Beth McHoul

        Match Offer - Gwo Cheve Challenge

        The meter currently reads 60% of goal at $26,800.

        If $1,000 dollars comes in by Sunday night at midnight central time there is an offer to match that $1,000. 

        We have 60 hours to raise the 1K. (Once the meter shows $27,800 the match will be received.)

        Beth is working on writing the story about a recent delivery of a tiny baby ... story coming soon.

        Thursday, September 23, 2010


        This video is a few years old ... if you have the time it is a humorous look at the tendency we all have to cling to "safe"

        Yesterday we met with a person of faith that kind of wanted to be convinced that Haiti is a safe place for us to raise kids.  She was struggling with our decision/plan to move back in a few months.

        Because safety is something she highly values, it felt a bit frustrating knowing that there was very little we could share to gain her understanding and the best thing to do was to just politely explain it as succinctly as we could.   The problem is, I've never figured out how to verbally explain this without offending the person that believes it is totally irresponsible to risk anything.

        I might start carrying Chan's video around with me. 

        Wednesday, September 22, 2010

        Bedtime Prayers

        Thank you for Chris and Britt and Noah Isaac and so my school I mmm and Isaac and Noah and Hopie and Dadddddyyyy and Nooaaah and Isaac. The end.  Amen.
        (Lydia almost 3)

        Thank you my God and my mommy and daddy love me and ?? and Paigie and Brittany and Chris and Lydie and Hopie Isaac and Noah and Paigie and mommy and dad love me and going in swimming pool park tomorrow. Amen.
        (Phoebe almost 4)

        Monday, September 20, 2010

        Managing expectations during an extravaganza

        Ike & Hope & our current abode ~ Feb '10
        We currently live in a lovely house in the middle of Waco and we only pay utilities, not rent.  I don't know what rent would be, but I'm guessing it could be a lot. It is an amazing gift to say the least.

        It is wonderful because we've learned that living in the USA it is much harder for our family to stick to a budget  ...  what with all the choices and the non-stop barrage of advertising convincing us of everything we need to own/taste/try/buy/experience.

        Target has super-top-secret-powers to empty a wallet of $50 just moments after the customer enters their store intending to buy only diapers.

        Let's just be honest, sticking to a budget in a place (like Haiti) that has close to zero places to spend money is really not all that impressive. So what we're saying here is that we are awesome at living on a budget in a place that it requires almost nothing of us. (but we're not afraid to celebrate mediocrity) 

        While living here, we've attempted to find a happy balance between:
        1. Treating our kids to things they will not experience or enjoy in Haiti   - and -
        2. Spoiling our kids and ruining their chances of ever being content with the limited entertainment options in Haiti ever again
        We don't actually know what the right balance is.  They don't either.

        While we were at Sea World in July Isaac asked, "So, what have you heard about Disney World Mom? Is that supposed to be better than Sea World?"  We laughed and told him we'd really only heard horrible things about Disney. ;)  They have no idea what they're doing Isaac. The place is supposedly a total dump. ;)

        It is fascinating to have such an obvious illustration of how our minds work.  He's never been to Sea World in his long and storied eight point five years on earth, but once there he is wondering about a place that might be even better. He's seen advertising. He's heard things. Even for a kid born in the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere there is some sort of innate desire to do the next biggest thing.

        So, all of that is to say ... While trying to balance all of that first world vs. third world expectation stuff we also found ourselves wanting to make up for numerous past lame birthday experiences for Isaac. We wanted it to be a special birthday party.  We were trying very hard not to end up at Chuck E. Cheese, the bane of every adult's existence and a place that makes me feel homicidal. We thought about bowling but realized that all the waiting you do for it to be your turn would mean a lot of listening to Noah whine and a lot of trying to keep Lydia out of the lanes.

        Isaac makes a wish
        Some moms plan their kids' parties weeks and even months in advance.  That is not how we roll here. On Wednesday I found a mobile rock wall. We called the guy. We rented it. The party was supposed to be Saturday but the rock wall was not available on Saturday so we moved the party date to Friday. We called the Ivey Family and informed them that we needed them to show up and make it a party and bam - 48 hours in advance an epic party was planned.

        I don't know who loved the rock wall most, Isaac (9) or Christopher (24) ... it was a total hit.

        The rock-wall came to our house. Grown-ups and kids could all climb. Four people could climb at once. It was awesome. We're hoping the wall will sufficiently meet all of Isaac's rock-climbing needs and that he never learns that there is a place called Colorado. We'll find a way to break it to Isaac that there will be no rock wall in PAP for 2011 ... But maybe we'll climb a pile of rubble and fondly recall our happy memories of Isaac's birthday extravaganza 2010.
        Paige, Hope, Noah
        Serious climbers, serious observers
        Isaac scaling the summit

        Happy Birthday Isaac!

        hay-uh, hospitals, help

        the situation as of 9.20.10

        Beth sent this of John photo from yesterday.  She didn't actually SAY this ... but I know it is a cry for help.  John now has about three times as much hay-uh as Beth does. 

        Beth needs us!

        I'm hoping you had the chance to read about Rosemond in the previous post.  The care that Dr. Jen and so many others gave Rosemeond is unique in Haiti. When they could not give him the very best, they found ways to connect him to the very best. The advocacy work to get him to the people that could help him is more than half of the whole picture that led to his healing.

        Often times in Haiti the care might be available but to navigate the system is not something most folks can do without a little help.  It is difficult for a poor population to even know what might be available. We've seen that sometimes you can stand in line all day waiting to be seen at a specialty "clinic", only to get turned away because they are overwhelmed with need. The patient has to be prepared to fight in order to get care. In the broken  "system Ayisyen" - the advocacy piece is huge.

        This is the level of care and concern that each patient will someday receive at the Heartline Hospital. When Dr. Jen and the medical staff cannot fully serve a patient they will work hard to find someone that can.

        We are so excited to build a hospital.  We're even more excited that you are along for the ride and helping us do it!  Thank you!

        Saturday, September 18, 2010

        Reposting Dokte Jen

        To read this post on Jen's blog with more photos and YouTube Videos, CLICK HERE.

        Rosemond and his grandma came to Heartline Hospital on January 25st. He's told me many times that he remembers that first day well. His injuries were severe, and he was a very sick little kid. With lots of antibiotics, dressing changes, skin grafting at MERLIN, and lots of TLC from his grandma (who rarely left his side for weeks) and hospital staff, he slowly improved. One of his injuries, however, didn't improve with time--it got worse.

        We knew as early as February that Rosemond would need specialized surgery to correct his hand/wrist problems. These problems resulted from a crush injury to his forearm, which lead to severe nerve damage. As you can see in the picture below, his hand and wrist were very deformed. Any movement of his fingers, hand, or wrist was extremely painful. His fingers and hand were essentially "locked" in one position. You can read more of Rosemond's earthquake story here.

        A plastic/hand surgeon from MERLIN assisted us with specialized splinting of Rosemond's hand. An organization in the U.S. generously offered to help us secure a medical visa, and an orthopedic surgeon offered to donate his services. For many (social and psychological--not medical) reasons, we didn't think that traveling to the U.S. for surgery was Rosemond's best option, but we continued to pursue it because we lacked any other options.

        In April, we heard (last minute) about a visiting team of surgeons operating out of L'hopital de la Communite (in Port au Prince). We made some phone calls and got permission to bring Rosemond to see their hand surgeon, Dr. Mike, the next day. Dr. Mike and his team performed a tendon transfer surgery in late April. Rosemond's arm was in a specialized cast (applied and re-applied many times by surgeons at Medishare and other facilities, along with Dr. Cliff).

        We all sort of held our breath when his last cast came off in early July. It took a week or two, but slowly, we could see that things were much better. Sendy (a young Haitian woman who's been working with us since March as a physical therapy assistant) worked with Rosemond day after day throughout July and August. When I left Haiti in mid-July, Rosemond was showing a lot of improvement, but he was still very hesitant to use his right hand. We had to remind him (and sometimes force him) to eat with his right hand. We were worried that he would continue to favor his left hand, and end up with a functional, but not very useful, right hand.

        Thankfully, he proved us wrong. When I arrived in Haiti in late August, one of the first things I noticed was how naturally Rosemond was using both of his hands. And to my surprise, he was also writing perfectly with his right hand. He'd improved far faster than I expected, and it made all of us really happy.

        Dr. Mike gave him a second chance at having as normal of a life as possible in Haiti. Rosemond will still face enormous challenges as he adjusts to his new life after suffering through incredible loss. He will now grow up in a Haiti forever changed by 45 seconds of the earth shaking. Nearly everything that he knew in his previous life is gone. But he will face all of these challenges with a healed, whole body, and an extended family who loves him.

        We are so grateful for everyone who's taken care of Rosemond since January, and I hope you're encouraged by seeing the end result of all of your hard work.

        (On a side note, Rosemond has gained about 25 pounds since January, and I'm guessing he's grown about 6 inches taller!)

        Jen is back in Haiti for the next few weeks and is partnering with another ministry to help coordinate a bunch of surgeries.  Please be praying for her, the other docs and those patients as they come to mind.  

        We love you so much Jen!!!   
        t & t & tribe

        Isaac is joyful and also 9

        We cannot, no matter how hard we try, ever describe the love, laughter, joy, and hapiness this boy brings to our family. We simply can't do it justice.

        Meeting him is like meeting sunshine.  He is positive. He is caring. He is encouraging. He is complimentary.  He is inquisitive. He is quirky. He has incredibly long limbs. His smile takes over his entire face. 

        We don't know why we were so blessed to get to adopt him and call him our son. We only know we're abundantly grateful.  Thank you God for Isaac.  

        HAPPY BIRTHDAY sweet Ikey boy!!!  We love you!

        Friday, September 17, 2010


        A year ago many of you gave to the Medika Mamba Marathon effort.  To see more results of your gifts you can visit Licia's blog at Real Hope for Haiti -  click here to see healing.

        Introducing Winnie

        Written by: Gwo Cheve John

        Winnie came to our gate a few days after Heartline opened up its clinic to treat those injured in the earth quake.  She said that she was a nurse and wanted to know if we could use her help.  I told her that we would give her a try but I didn't have money to pay her.  She said that it didn't matter, and that all she wanted to do was help.  So the next day Winnie came to the clinic and by the end of the day some of the American medical personnel that had come to help came to me and told me that they were impressed with the quality of the care that she gave to the patients. 

        It was just a few days later that I sat down with Winnie and offered a job, a full-time position at the Heartline Field Hospital, which would probably be closing in several weeks, or so I thought.  I knew hiring Winnie would be good thing when she told me that she would like the job but she first had a commitment to another organization that she worked with when they came into Haiti every few months.  This was her only job and it was for about 10 days every three months.  Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising but she wouldn't just ditch the other group for Heartline.  She said that she had to keep her word and commitment.  I was glad to hear this as I thought if she would ditch them then the day would come when she would ditch us.  And truthfully, I wouldn't have hired her if she hadn't kept her commitment to the other group.

        She has been a blessing to us and especially to the patients in the hospital.  She also has been involved in the maternity center and even today she is teaching the lesson to the ladies. 

        Winnie recently was asked by the other organization that she works with, and who specialize in operating on cleft palates and lips, if she would be willing to travel to Egypt with them.  They would pay for all expenses but she of course would need a US visa so that she can transit through the States.

        Well two weeks ago she received her visa and Winnie, on Monday, will be leaving Haiti for her trip to Egypt.

        We at Heartline are thrilled for Winnie as she has this  opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in Egypt.  Please remember to pray for Winnie over the next three weeks that she will be away.


        Thursday, September 16, 2010

        Housing Update

        For those curious about the houses that Paige ran for in June ... remember that Heartline could buy 21 and then there were also 21 that Maxima S.A. agreed to match. To date 30 of the 42 have been built. The rest will also be built but land issues and logistics are in the works.  If you gave to this fund and would like a list of who got the first 30 houses we have that information and will email it to you upon request.

        House being built in Grenier

        From the Montreal Gazette-

        "Moving people out of the camps into more secure shelter or permanent housing posed multiple challenges -design, logistical, social and economic. Questions of ownership and land tenure added layers of legal complications. 

        She said most of those made homeless did not own the houses they were in but were paying rent. Homes piled higgledy-piggledy on Port-au-Prince's hillsides had collapsed, adding to the confusion of sorting out tenure and ownership. 

        "It's very hard to get people to go back to their houses after they've been in a camp ... they don't have to pay rent in a camp. The camps have services, entertainment, food distribution," Cox said. She added that at the same time no one wanted the sprawling survivors' camps to become permanent. Cox said it was a "sad" comment on Haiti's poverty that some occupants of the camps might now be living in better conditions than previously."
        Truthfully, it is easy to get discouraged with the progress in Haiti.  For every success story it seems there are multiple failures. We want to be people that hope.  We hope for more for Haiti and we hope and pray for the conditions the people live in as we focus on the small things that can be accomplished and can happen.   Keep praying for Haiti and if God nudges you, please keep giving.
        "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." T. Roosevelt

        Wednesday, September 15, 2010

        The days are long ....

        ... But the years are short.

        That is how the saying goes.

        Troy constantly quotes the first half to me.

        With each battle of the wills with Lydia he looks at me and says, "The days are long".

        The other day we ate lunch in Dallas after Phoebe's post-op appointment.  Lydia was embarrassingly rude to the waitress.  She set down the lemonade and Lydie yelled, "NO! I no want that lemonade!"  I asked her to say sorry for being rude. She refused.  The waitress walked away.  I took her to the restroom to talk about it and do the whole "You will choose discipline if you don't say you are sorry" routine. I returned to the table and said to Troy, "Prior to Lydia I was the parent that watched other people with kids like Lydia and slowly and disapprovingly shook my head at their misfortune and their cruddy parenting skills."

        See.  That is what I get for judging.   This is payback.  Is it a coincidence that the two strongest willed children in the house carry Troy's DNA?  no.  I think not. 

        Troy told me that he thinks it is weird (and not good weird) that after all these kids we now have one who refuses to let us do anything for her. If we do it, we pay.  She has an attitude that screams,  'I never asked for parents'. We literally take 20 minutes to load the truck and leave because we let her "Do it me self" and climb in on her own.  If you hand her her toothbrush, she will put it back in the drawer to take it out herself. When she would not hold my hand to cross a parking lot Troy said, "That Spirited Child book says to be sure to affirm her when she is being good ... which shouldn't be that hard since it is almost never."

        The odd thing is ... anytime someone else takes care of her they tell us how awesome she is.  They say she listens and cooperates.  Listens. Cooperates.  Two words we would never ever use to describe our last born.  We love her.  And... We no longer know anything at all about raising children.

        ... But the years are short.


        Gwo Cheve Update

        I cannot make it reflect on the chip in meter but I wanted to let you know that by mail we have received $5,425 for the HOSPITAL and Gwo Cheve challenge.  This means we are actually over the 54% mark and at $28,405!

        Please share the links to the serious stories that point out the need; let your friends and family and co-workers know about the Heartline Hospital and ask them to consider getting involved.

        I cannot lose to John. I can. not.

        Tuesday, September 14, 2010

        counting down

        the gentlemen
        the ladies

        Isaac's birthday is this weekend.  Today on the way home from school he said, "I sure am going to miss being eight. Wow! (long pause) But at least I will have my memories."   I am hoping to do a quick year in review interview video to find out what it is he'll miss about being eight.

        We're busy scheming to give him something to remember.  His last birthday with all of us together was his 5th birthday in Haiti. On his 6th birthday the kids and I were in the U.S. staying at my sister's house, waiting and getting ready to have Lydia. Troy was two weeks from coming to join us.

        On his 7th and 8th birthdays Troy was speaking in Michigan and Britt had moved to Waco. I recall that last year we had no cheese for the birthday pizza (cheese is not something you find easily in Port au Prince) so I melted processed cheese squares on the pizza. It was thoroughly disgusting.  We did what we could and don't have massive amounts of guilt about it;  truthfully he has had some totally lame birthdays. This year is not going to be lame. We are cooking up something good for our family's number one encourager, elected ambassador of good-will, and almost nine year old.

        "Eyes on me!"

        Not so long ago, Paige and Britt and Troy went to an event to see some friends of ours play and lead the worship/music portion of the event.  After the music was finished they stayed to listen to the speaker as he addressed a crowd of college students.  When they came home they had very little to say about the actual message they heard because they had been so put-off and distracted by the speakers repeated use of the phrase, "eyes on me". Apparently there were numerous occasions during his sermon/presentation where he repeated, "Eyes on me college students. Eyes on me!"

        It has become a running joke at our house and with those friends to say "eyes on me" in order to gain the awareness of others when you're feeling you need some attention.

        On my run yesterday I ran by the location of the "eyes on me" event and was chuckling and thinking about it. What was annoying about that speaker coming right out and saying "eyes on me" is the same thing that is annoying about much of today's culture of self-promotion.

        Whether we recognize it or not, so much of what we do screams "eyes on me" even if we're not so bold as to actually say those words. We've all seen examples of people that are attempting to gain "followers" and multiply the attention they receive. Sometimes it is so overt that it is difficult to watch. American culture is driven by celebrity and the pursuit of fame and recognition and popularity.

        We know celebrity matters when we see that a big name can come into Haiti and get more attention for a four hour photo-op tour than a 70 year old woman that has worked with sick babies for 25 years ever gets.  Thanks to our cultural obsession with the beautiful people of Hollywood, Pamela Anderson stopping by a tent-city inspires (many) people more than a person like Pat Smith and her decades of service.  Pat had no time for "eyes on me" sorts of behavior, she is too busy quietly and faithfully loving the least of these.  Demi Moore stopped in and had more stories written about her than Gladys Mecklembourg and Henri Gaetjens have had since they began their labor of love in 1991. But they're not concerned, they are focused on the task at hand.

        Pat and Gladys and Henri are just a few doing good work without a lot of eyes on them or public acclaim. 

        Truth-be-told, there would be no point in writing anything on a blog or twitter or facebook if we had zero interest in being noticed. We've learned that social media is a useful tool to share our vision.
        There is such a fine line between promoting our cause and promoting ourselves.  It is definitely a precarious balance to strike. It has me wondering how those of us who follow Christ can do a better job of promoting our cause(s) while ultimately saying, "Eyes on HIM" - that's what we want our actions and words to shout. 

        We hope to share Haiti with you - we want you to see the beauty and the need  - and in sharing Haiti we also point you to the very best reason to care about Haiti (or any other place on earth) - because HE does.

        Eyes on Him.

        Sunday, September 12, 2010


        Today we opted for "family church".  This simply means that getting everyone out the door to an actual off-site church location was more than we could pull off.  Instead we got donuts and met in the family room for Daddy to lead us in a time of wuuh-sip and reading and prayer.  The way Noah says wuuh-sip makes us happy.

        In theory family church is a fabulous idea. I mean, what is better than bringing the teaching to the level of your children and singing and praying together as a family? So sweet.

        No. In practice it is a joke. Somehow the spirit of worship (wuuh sip) and the prayers are not so moving when interrupted by fighting toddlers and pouting highly distracted Noah. He got mad because we did not sing the song he wanted fuw-st. At times it was comical so I grabbed a pen to take notes. If you wanted a sermon today, you already went to hear one, so I won't give you the whole thing with context- just the highlights.

        Troy said:
        "The devil has plans to try to trip us up and he loves to see us upset, fearful and angry."

        Noah angrily said:
        "Yeah - and it is working on me!"

        Isaac said:
        "Daddy,  you should be a Pastor, you're good at teaching God-y things."

        While we were praying and I prayed for Lydia she yelled, "No, not!"  (The devil's plan is working on her too.)  Phoebe had to be removed from the room for a time-out midway through.

        Hope did a beautiful job of explaining why she thought we should not be fearful during the portion where we talked about fear.  :)

        Paige patiently participated with an occasional eye-roll at the people she is forced to live with and call family.

        When we were finished with what ended up being a long "service" due to breaking up fights and multiple issues with attention deficit disorders, Isaac asked if they could be given a memory verse. Troy said, "Sure, if you want."  Isaac suggested they memorize this verse - "Don't be rude to God's nature." He could not come up with the reference. You'll have to google it.

        Friday, September 10, 2010

        October 1 & 2

        The reasons we're attending the Together for Adoption Conference in three weeks are numerous.

        But probably the biggest of the many reasons -  is that we believe this is true.

        We're looking forward to the conference. We're excited to be leading a breakout session on Friday called, 'Honoring First Families".

        Registration is still open. We hope to see you there.

        Links for Friday

        In the last three months the posts written by Amie Sexton on trans-racial adoption were the most visited posts of the summer.  If you missed them you can find links to all three here.
        A Vision Test

        If you want to see a beautiful work happening in North Carolina - check out their honest and open one year anniversary post.


        Phoebe had her surgery yesterday. The Doctor felt like it went very well and said on Monday he'll be able to tell us if he accomplished his goal.  Phoebe decided to call-it-in Thursday and slept most of 24 hours post-surgery. The post-op nurse really wanted her to wake up before allowing us to leave.  Phoebe made it clear that she had no-such-plan. She got pretty ticked off at the questions the nurse was asking and let us know that she was not interested in speaking or opening her eyes.

        We convinced her to get up out of bed one time at about 3pm yesterday. She ate french fries with her eyes closed and commanded "mo ketchup - dip it a-gin".  We guided a plate of ketchup and fries to her mouth. Once she was finished she went back to bed and only woke for a little bit around 7pm.  This morning we finally convinced her to open her eyes. 

        She is now sitting with one eye open watching TV. Her left eye seems to be more painful as she is choosing to keep a cold compress there and not using it yet.  We're anxious to hear what the Dr. thinks on Monday. The total healing takes six weeks but if they don't like the  immediate results they can more easily go back and tweak things within seven days,  We saw again yesterday that deep built-in strength and toughness of Haitian people.  After the earthquake the expats called it, "Haitian up"  -or- get tough. She could have spent the whole day moaning (like the rest of us would have) but instead she hunkered down and gutted out the pain - she is one tough cookie.  Thank you so much for praying for our little cookie.

        Thursday, September 09, 2010

        A Key

        Before you read John's story let me coach you just a tiny bit. 

        If you know John it is very fun to read his blogs because you can "hear" him in his writing.  If you don't know him you likely read it thinking, "Does this man speak English as his first language?"  ;)  

        For example, while I might say: "Twelve years ago I began a relationship."  John would say, "I twelve years ago began a relationship."  Sometimes a single sentence may take you places that other writers cannot take you in an entire novel.  For this very reason it is an entertaining and interesting thing to see the inner workings of the heavily-haired-head of one John McHoul.  

        For as much as the teasing and irreverent mocking occurs,  let me clarify that I respect these people (John and Beth McHoul) as much as any two people in the Western Hemisphere. John can take the teasing. Trust me.

        I hope you'll enjoy reading John's words about the purchase of three acres of land as much as we did. 


        It may seem like an ordinary old key, but to me it is a key to the past, the present and to the future.  Sound grandiose? Perhaps, but let me explain.

        KEYI almost 12 years ago began a relationship with what is on the other side of the black gate that this key opens.  The first time I passed through the gate was to have lunch with a fellow missionary at the only western theme restaurant in Haiti. The walls were decorated with cowboy hats and boots, pictures of cowboys and a whip or two.  There on the grounds were saddles, a couple of wagon wheels and the office that was shaped like an old wagon that made up the wagon trains that I would see when watching the old western shows.  Oh and there was a old fashion dance floor for those who were so inclined.

        The food, well I suppose it depends of who you ask.  There usually was not much of a selection, but you could generally be sure to get chicken, spare ribs, perhaps a fried beef dish and maybe some fried pork.  It would be cooked on an rusted outdoor grill that may have actually come from the wild west era. 
        You would sit outside under one or two of the gazebos or at a long table next to the dance floor.  It would be important to come with patience, mosquito spray and an acceptance of  whatever would come out of the kitchen, even if it wasn’t what you ordered.  If there was electricity there would be a dim light to help you identify and eat your food.  If the electricity wasn’t working, then there were small candles that really didn’t help much.

        The food, I thought, was good and sometimes not so good, which in a twisted way makes sense after you have lived in Haiti for a few years, and was part of the allure of going there.  Would the ribs have any meat?  How tough would the chicken be?  Would you get what you ordered?

        I over the years brought dozens of visiting groups there and it is a good chance that some of you reading this ate there a time of two when visiting with us in Haiti.  And I’m sure you have fond memories of your dining experience or at least of your experience.

        Over the years I got to know the owner quite well and he would always take time to chat for several minutes or longer when I would go there to eat.  This, in part, was due to the fact that I can’t recall more than a few times that others were eating there at the same time.  The owner would often say, “John you should buy this place it would make a good…” Over the years I have not forgotten our conversations about buying the place and actually brought people there several times to look at the property.

        A few years ago the restaurant closed due, I am told, to a lack of business and I would see the owner only now and then on the street and at a gas station and he would ask when I was going to buy the property.

        Several days after the earthquake Heartline opened at its Women’s Center a clinic where we began treating those injured in the earthquake.  This was made possible by an amazing group of medical people that with just a couple days notice came to Haiti on private planes to set up this clinic.  And by the Heartline people in the States that facilitated the logistics of sifting through the thousands that wanted to come and help and who made sure that supplies and personnel got here even if we had to charter private planes.  After about two weeks we realized that we would need to provide a place for aftercare as many of the patients we treated would need follow up and could not return to their homes and for many they had no homes to return to.  So we turned what was our boys’ home into a field hospital where I can only say amazing stuff happening.  We had a regular stream of doctors, PA’s, PT’s, nurses and helpers come in to care for the several dozen patients that we had on the ground on mats and eventually on cots.  The injured were cared for, those needing addition surgeries were transported and then back to us for aftercare.  The quality of the care was so amazing that even some of the “Big Boys”  the well established and international health care groups would send some of their patients to us for aftercare as our reputation spread quickly as an organization that gave quality care and was building a loving, caring community.

        Clearly God through all of this was doing something at Heartline and we realized that we would be moving away from adoptions which we have been involved in for 20 years and into other areas.  We already had several strong women’s programs going and now after prayer and discussion and with the support and encouragement of so many in the medical field we believe that we should continue on and move forward in the area of medical care and that we will begin by building a small hospital or rather a 20 bed clinic where we can minister to the needs of the people, spirit, soul, and body. But where would we build this clinic/hospital?

        A couple of months after the earthquake I was at the home of a doctor and his wife that live in the area.  They told me that the owner of the now closed western theme restaurant, who they are related to by marriage, which I didn’t know, has been trying to contact me about buying the property.  About a week later I met with him at the property and we talked.  I struggled to stay focused and as I kept looking around seeing not only what was, but also what could be.   To make a long story shorter after several weeks of talking, waiting, and praying Heartline agreed to purchase the property and so the key pictured above.

        WHAT CAN BE
        Late last week, I actually received the key to the gate of the property.  The former owner is taking several days to sell what is he no longer wants or needs and so perhaps this week, Heartline will be take full control of this three acre, to which we are trying to negotiate the purchase of two more acres of land.  As I walk around the property I continue to have memories of the past but now I endeavor to see what can be, what will be.  I have spent several hours there, alone, walking, praying, listening, and seeing.

        There is quite a bit of work to be done before we start putting up buildings.  There is a partially finished cement building that was damaged during the earthquake that must come down and there are portions of the wall that fell during the earthquake that must be repaired and hundreds of feet where there is no wall at all.

        In addition to the hospital/clinic we expect to relocate our growing sewing/crafts/literacy programs onto the new property.  We expect as well to open a larger maternity center and we are praying for direction from God as to what else should be located on this property. We have architects coming in October and in mid November I and others will meet in Minnesota for several days to among other things determine a master plan regarding the development of this property.

        There is so much that can happen and our expectations are high as we look to God as we endeavor to be His hands in Haiti.  We are thankful for you and your prayers and support.  Please continue to pray for Heartline as there is much to do to make what is not yet there, there. 

        John McHoul

        Tuesday, September 07, 2010

        Saturday, September 04, 2010

        social skillz

        Thursday night we went to the elementary school campus that Isaac, Hope, and Noah attend.  It was "meet the teacher" night.

        I am positive there could not have been three more spazzed out children in all of Waco proper. There were zero children taking turns talking and zero children acting poised or well-mannered or even slightly aware of their surroundings.

        It was eye-opening as parents to hear how our children act while under the direction of someone other than us.  (Eye opening is code for - annoying.)

        Things that were said that do not match up at all with the little people we know and love:

        1. "Isaac waits his turn to speak."
        2. "Isaac stays on task and is not easily distracted."
        3. "Noah is quiet."
        4. "Noah does not complain/whine."

        Isaac is almost as tall as his teacher. Besides being short, she was also adorable and very sweet. We laughed when a tiny little classmate/girl named Faith came to give Isaac a little hug hello and goodbye. We tried to ask him about that, but then he played it off as if it was nothing and chicks hug him all the time.

        Hope had been telling us that her teacher looks like Tess and that we HAD to see her.  She was both thin and lovely.  That is like Tess.  Other than that we couldn't find the resemblance. But we could tell Hope wanted agreement so we shook our heads, yes yes she definitely looks like Tess.

        The Kindergarten teacher did say that Noah was acting (at meet the teacher night) like a child she had never met.  I told her that on Monday morning after numerous creative attempts to not go to school the very last trick he had in his pocket was to come into our room, throw himself on our bed, and proclaim "But my teacher is mean!"

        Now that I have met her, I will laugh in his tiny crumpled-up and freckled face the next time he tries that one.

        Isaac is struggling with knowing when it might be a good time to ask four billion questions and when it might not be.  Yesterday Troy was clearly on an important phone call.  If you watch reeeaaallly closely you can actually see Troy wave you off, stick his finger in his free ear, and leave the room you are in. Somehow Isaac missed all the signs.  He was interrupting as if to say the house was flooding. A flood would be a very important thing, but even more serious than that, Isaac needed to ask "Do Alligators have eye-lids Daddy? Do they do they!?!Huh, huh, huh???" 

        The child asks at least a dozen odd and random questions a day.  Several weeks ago I was washing dishes when he walked into the kitchen and said, "Mama, why are the tubes you have called Fallopian tubes?" directly followed up by, "Okay, Mama, if you could ride any type of shark which kind of shark would you want to ride?"

        This week's most pressing question:  "Daddy/Mommy -What is your very favorite reptile?"  (and surely we all have one)

        I went with gecko.  Troy went with turtle.

        This only serves to fan the fires of our burning desire to know - What is your very favorite reptile? Huh? Huh?

        Friday, September 03, 2010


        The people of Haiti need better/more options.

        I don't want to ask you for help so often that I become "that guy" - you know the one - the one you avoid in order to avoid yet another request.

        Truthfully, it is quite difficult to strike a balance in which we are not constantly bombarding you with the facts - especially when the facts look and sound like this:

        "The maternity hospital that we were to take her to was nothing I could have prepared myself for. Even outside, the cries were loud and heart-wrenching. Every woman I saw was by herself, crying in the dark in the rain as the pains of childbirth ravaged her. Every woman was without a hand to hold, without a calm voice to reassure, every woman was... alone. It only got worse as I entered the labor and delivery room. There were no less that 50 women in labor, on the floor, in the hallways, screaming, bleeding, by themselves. No family was allowed to enter. Five valiant doctors were running around doing their best to handle birth after birth, but it was obvious that they had become numb to the pain around them. I looked over at a lady on a dirty plastic covered piece of cardboard for a bed. She was hemorraging. Two babies would die that night. So this is hell I thought."
         "Since when was the miracle of childbirth reduced to something out of a horror film? This is life for the ladies in the developing world of Haiti. No education, no rights, no choice, no one to advocate for them."

        (quoting Shelley Clay/The Apparent Project)

        Because these facts grieve us we're moving forward in faith and praying for the big grant or the large donor to come along to help make this hospital a reality sooner rather than later.  We wait in hope and anticipation of what God can do with Heartline's Hospital. 

        We understand that one fund-raising project after the other gets a little bit annoying.  Maybe you've asked yourself, "What is with them? Do they think we're growing money on trees here?"

        A year ago you gave to malnourished kids and the Medika Mamba program of World Wide Village.  Last fall/winter we asked you to give to the ambulance fund, you gave. In May we asked you to give to build houses for Haitians living in tents and again -you gave.

        When you couldn't give you prayed. You told your friends. You told your relatives.

        The truth of the matter is not lost on us; generous, kind, and compassionate people sit on the other side of the internet connection and they respond. We are both humbled and inspired by your love and by your giving.

        You've continually lifted up the needs of the Haitian people.  We don't take any gift, $5 or $500 for granted. Each gift comes from the heart and we know that. We thank each and every person that has prayed and given of hard-earned dollars. 

        Thursday, September 02, 2010

        Let us be kind

        We cannot know the grief
        That men may borrow;
        We cannot see the souls
        Storm-swept by sorrow;
        But love can shine upon the way
        Today, tomorrow;
        Let us be kind.

        Upon the wheel of pain so may weary lives are broken,
        So may our love with tender words be spoken.
        Let us be kind.

        Poem from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman