Monday, February 28, 2011

Enisse and Sophia

  • On the teaching position ...  Due to the living arrangements and the space we have available for the two teachers, the best case scenario is either a married couple OR two friends/acquaintances that can live in the same smallish apartment.  Families will be difficult to house. Two large families (like us) are not anti-family; we are simply anti-causing-you-to-divorce-and-go-insane-because-you-hate-your-life. We are accepting applications for the next two months. Thank you for telling others that you know about the opportunity and helping Heather and Aaron and Troy and I to spread the word. 

  •  Harold (Uncle Tex) has been helping us with the commute to school a lot lately.  It has made a huge difference in productivity and sanity for Troy.  We're thankful for Tex, his willingness to serve, and his friendship.  If you've driven here you understand that when you get to your destination you are usually totally beat. After taking Paige to the doctor a few weeks ago I came home to comment to Troy that we had not had any accidents or even any real trouble but the traffic and constant riding of the clutch and jockeying for position left me feeling like I'd run the 12 miles - not driven it.  How odd is it to need a ten minute nap in the parking lot after driving your kids to school?  Odd.  Very odd.  The traffic here is one of a few reasons I once declared "I will never live in that city."  I don't declare things like that any longer.

  • A lot of things went to pot today. Some funny, some not. Plans are a redonk concept here.  I don't know why we make them.  I won't bore you with the list of follies because I'd rather sleep.  G'night :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gift of Hearing

~     ~     ~     ~

A few weeks ago we heard about a nearby organization partnering with Starkey Hearing Foundation. The foundation asks the partner organization to identify and locate kids that need hearing aids.  Last weekend they asked if Paige would want to join them on the day the hearing aids would be delivered. Paige took them up on the sweet offer and was excited to be able to go along today to translate for Miley Cyrus and a few others as the Starkey Foundation delivered custom fit hearing devices to kids in Haiti. 

Paige missed a day of school last week in order to be with the midwives to help teenage mom Enisse bring Sophia into the world (per Enisse's request for Paige to be present) and she missed a day of school this week in order to go be with a famous teenager from America.

We've nominated Paige for the "Weirdest Life Ever" award.  Vote here if you agree.  ;)

Paige & Sophia
Isaac and Hope are much bigger fans than Paige, and were completely indignant that Paige got to meet "Hannah Montana" and are now totally certain that what we've been saying all along is indeed true: life is not fair.

We've always wanted to be sure that school does not get in the way of other ways for our kids to be educated.  Allowing them to be a part of work and ministry here as they are able is very important to us as parents. I've never been convinced that learning happens best in classrooms. When our older girls have been involved in helping with programs and projects they have learned much and benefited greatly. Britt learned a lot about her gifts as a direct result of being allowed to help with medical needs in our first few years here.

Occasionally we get an anonymous comment or an email informing us of what bad parents we are to bring our kids here and deprive them of the American lifestyle they are entitled to live. (Which is just odd since half of our kids are Haitian but I digress.)  We completely get that not everyone can come to a place of understanding our decisions, and we don't expect or need that.

The fact is, often times living here is not very easy or fun for Paige (or the other kids).  Without a doubt she misses out on some fun things.  There have been some difficult times in the last five years.  At times she really misses being "normal". We're not trying to convince anyone its all rainbows and unicorns raising kids here.

Here's the thing though ...  Paige is an amazingly well-rounded sixteen year old. She can relate to very wealthy people and she can relate to very poor people. She is comfortable standing and talking with both groups and currently practices both within the same week.  She can hold her own in a room full of adults or children, confident in who she is in either setting. She can wrap her arms around an illiterate teenager from Cite Soleil and she can interact with crazy-wealthy kids that can fly to Paris to shop at her school. Her friends don't all look and sound exactly like her.  She is learning things that cannot be taught by her parents or school or anything other than the diverse life experiences she is having while living in Haiti.

We are thankful for the opportunities we (and our children) have to learn and grow and discover what God is doing in us - in Haiti - and in the world - because of our being here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thanks to the Giver of friends

'08 Annie, Lydia, Tess, Tara - right after Lyd left hospital

We first met Jen in August 2006. Our friend Marcia E. introduced us all after finding all sorts of connections that we had in common. We liked each other instantly and became friends. We grew close in early 2008 when we all lived in LaDigue, Haiti together.  (Marcia's fabulous daughter Tess lived with us and helped us with our kids those first crazy months when we had Lydia and Annie and Phoebe all at once.)


Since the earthquake Jen has been spending a lot of her time in Haiti. We all love having her here. She is able to help all of us at Heartline as well as our friends in Cazale at Real Hope for Haiti and others. It has always seemed to me like she is available to us in some of the scariest situations we face.  


Troy and I are thankful for Jen's friendship and thankful that God used a silly blog to help us find such a good friend. 


Jen has to head back to Minnesota tomorrow.  Please pray for her transition time. I fully understand the crazy that happens when you live your life with a foot planted in two worlds and I know she'll have some adjustment in the next few weeks.  She is finishing up her fellowship this year. Please pray for her as she attempts to wrap up a lot of work between now and July.  We're already excited for May when we'll see her again.


Below is the reposting of the amazing story of just one way God used our friend ...

Today is Jen Halverson Day!!!!

I have no title ... no influence or ability to make it an official holiday ... but in the blog world I feel just a little bit empowered ... I therefore declare today"Jen Halverson Day".

Links to the stories -
Day Lydia was admitted
Day of sorting out anger
Jen's post before the seizure scare
After the scare

God provided in totally cool ways during this time. Jen needed a ride on a day that Lydie had a fever and needed to be admitted (but we did not necessarily realize her fever was very serious and we lived almost two hours outside of Port au Prince) - so we ended up bringing Lydie to Port because of Jen's advice - then admitting her - and then a few days later Jen came to spend the night with me at the hospital on the exact night she needed to be there to take charge and stop a seizure. There were tons of little amazing details that brought it all together ... all orchestrated by an amazingly detailed God.

Troy and I don't go many weeks without revisiting the miracle that happened January 2008. Thank you for being there for us and allowing God to lead you to Haiti and then later to Lydie's side at the exact moment in time that she needed you. Thank you for your gentle bed-side manner and for being so humble in your service to Haitians. We love you so much.  Happy Jen Halverson day to you my friend.
May 2008

February 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. 

If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.

~Oswald Chambers~

Monday, February 21, 2011


Lydia is totally plugged into the Heartline Ministries Women's Program.

When we dropped Jen off the other day she said, "You goin to da Ma - ttor -ney house Jen?"

On Saturday she picked up a doll, shoved it in her shirt, grabbed a fetal heart doppler and tried to turn it on and listen to her doll's heartbeat.

Whenever Lydia decides to be pregnant, Phoebe gets pregnant too.  Here they are this afternoon ... slightly disturbing yet strangely cute.

Leoni is finally doing better.  She had a terrible case of Malaria.  We're really hoping that the others in the Harbor House remain Malaria-free.

Troy arrived back into Port au Prince this afternoon and all is well here. We love the man.

Bon nwit !

Sunday, February 20, 2011

that one saturday

If you struggle with prim and properness to the point of easily offended or uptight you should not read this post.  Consider yourself warned.

A few weeks ago Troy declared that his "life had become far too weird for description."  I beg to differ and am going to try to describe.  It might very well be far too weird.... But not too weird for description. ;)

Late morning on Saturday I arrived at Harbor House to pick the girls up. They'd been informed of my arrival time in advance but in true Haitian style they did not begin to shower, change, pack, get ready until they saw my face standing in their kitchen.  I walked around saying "an ale vit vit"  (go fast fast) while they proceeded to take their sweet time getting ready.

Eventually we made it to the car. At least one of us was annoyed. Five young women, three babies, and I packed into the truck.  We arrived at our house quickly, it is just a few blocks from where they live.

The girls and their three sons all came in and sat down.  No one talked. We all sat staring at one another. There were moments of awkward before I asked why the heck they were so quiet?  "We're not used to it here" replied Djenie.  I looked to Troy to do his comedy routine or lighten the mood.  He gave me a look that said, "This was your idea."

We got warm bread from the little bakery across the street. We all made sandwiches with the bread and the conversation started flowing a little more freely.  After we ate I asked the ladies if they wanted to swim or watch a movie?  Everyone squealed at the idea of swimming.  John McHoul would say I took my stupid pill that morning because it never occurred to me to qualify if they knew how to swim.  I figured if you are signing up to swim, even squealing about it, that means you know how to swim.  First world mistake.

The ladies don't own swim suits.  There has never been a reason for them to own suits. They are all size zero on bottom and something not so easily defined or described on top...  ample we'll call it.  Paige handed out running shorts to all five of them but we were a little bit stumped on the tops.  They all thought wearing their bra as a swim suit top was sufficient and since it was the only thing we had I didn't  disagree and we went with it.

We learned early in our time in Haiti that boobs (prim and proper just left the building) are not a thing here. No one cares if you see them, no one gets all worked up about them, they just don't do in this culture what they do in American culture.  Modesty or concern about what is showing is not on the radar. Showing a boob is like showing a foot - of no consequence.

In our first years here Troy regularly had female employees lifting their shirt to wipe sweat or showing him a boob rash or infection before he had a chance to run for cover.  More than once he found himself consulting on issues of the breasts. (A breast consultant as it were.)  Let's just say he saw some boobs in the early years.  One time when he was very sick a bra-less woman holding only a shirt around her front half showed up at our door asking to visit him.  Not gonna lie, my willingness to embrace the culture pretty much ended right there.  Sorry topless lady, you cannot visit my husband bedside.  All this to say, we've been totally desensitized to boobs.

So five teenage young women headed across the drive way in their shorts and bras to swim.  They climbed the gate around the pool because that is how we roll here. (One near drowning means we never unlock the gate so that we never wonder if we left it open - it is NEVER open.)  After they climb the gate, one by one they hop in.  The fourth girl into the water was Leoni.  Leoni is five months pregnant.  Leoni does not know how to swim. Leoni jumped into the deeper end.

What felt like four lifetimes (but was really five seconds) passed while I set Sergline's son Jobens down on the driveway and jumped in to pull Leoni to the shallow end.  There was nothing very heroic about it. I envision all good rescues starting with the lifeguard swimming expertly across open choppy waters, muscles glistening in the sun. This particular rescue was quite a bit less Baywatch. :(
I was instantly in contact with the drowning person. It took three seconds start to finish.  It was made much more dramatic by Geronne who was fuh-reaking out watching the whole thing.  She declared me a hero, showed me the goosebumps on her arms and wiped the tears from her eyes.

At that point we paused and called for a moment of determining who could swim.   That seemed wise what with five people already in the pool.  Enisse turned out to be the only one that knew how to swim.  Paige spent the next little while helping Djenie and Sergline hold on to the side and go around the perimeter of the pool. Once around they would victoriously declare they had done it, they had swum.  Ernege was too afraid to do that and got out quickly.  Leoni was shaken up and stood very still in the shallow end.

Troy and Geronne and Jen and I were helping with the three babies and our own small army of children and kind of chuckling about how dumb we are.  We were not surprised when two or three girls got out of the pool to check out Isaac and Hope's bikes.  Next thing you know they are riding the bikes around the driveway and what we call our yard.

It occurred to me to ask Troy when Harold (Tex) was coming over to work on his computer.  Troy shrugged and said "any time".   Harold is new to Haiti.  I asked Troy if it might be wise to give Harold a heads up about the scene upon opening our front gate. Troy thought about it and said, "Yeah. Probably."

Troy called Harold and this is what I heard him say (roughly paraphrased) - "Hi Harold. You're still coming?  Okay. Well. Uh.  Here's the thing. We've lived here a while so maybe some really odd things have become sort of normal to us.  Uh.  Ok.  I'm just calling to tell you that there are teenage girls riding bikes in their bras in my yard.  That might be sort of alarming to you. So I thought I'd tell you."

I was laughing so hard by the time Troy finished his awkward explanation.  The absurdity of it all was hilarious.  Troy made is deceleration: "My life is far too weird for description."

(Now proven untrue by the way.)

The funnier part was that when Harold arrived he walked at champion race-walker speed across the driveway straight into the house without looking left or right.  He clearly wanted no part in the bizarre happenings at kay Troy.

That is what happened that one Saturday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

another week ...

Heather did a post introducing many of the prenatal ladies if you want to check it out, go here. 

My bright idea and big goals of doing detailed introductions of everyone at Harbor House and showing you the progress being made...  Yeah, still only a goal. This week went nutty on us.

For those that sent items to Louisiana to the container, it is on the water heading this way. We don't know how long it will take to clear customs but we will eventually get what you sent to help make the house a home.  Thank you!

Until I can better tell you about all these fabulous girls (and the two others missing from this photo) and share more in detail about them I will quickly speed blog some thoughts about the Harbor House.

  • Brit (the white girl in the photo) is doing a great job of creating order in the house for the girls.
  • Brit is holding her little brother (being adopted by her parents) and to her right is her little sister. She is caring for them while their adoption processes.  At the time of the earthquake all of the Heartline kids got out except these two. 
  • Leoni (argyle shirt) is currently very sick with Malaria.  She is pregnant, please pray for healing. She is feeling so miserable and sad.  I am thankful Dr. Jen is here. Jen moved her to our house for tonight because she is on IV fluids.
  • Ernege (turquoise shirt with white trim) had a Birthday Monday. We tossed together a quick celebration that night. 
  • Marjorie (green shirt on right) was not that thrilled that we wanted photos mid-hairdo but she is a good sport so she let us take her picture.  She works at Harbor House and was a former earthquake patient.
  • The girls got photo book gifts from friends in California. They loved them.
  • Djenie left to meet up with family and had major drama and a really scary night Monday. Troy wrote the whole crazy story down. Sometime we'll share it.  We are so grateful she is okay and was protected from harm or death that night. 
  • Troy's role is probably more important than we first realized.  None of these girls have positive male role models.  Just watching a guy that loves, disciplines fairly, sticks around .... this is HUGE and truly unknown to them.
  • We're aware that we need to be careful about the programs and choices we make at Harbor House. We are not trying to turn out Americans.  We're trying to help Haitian young women learn valuable skills that will allow them to live within their own culture.
  • Three weeks ago today we kicked one girl out.  It was horrible.  We still think we made the right choice. Did I mention it was horrible? Thankfully we still have a relationship with her and see her at ecd class on Tuesdays.
  • Enisse is back home with Sophia tonight.  Everyone is excited to have the first baby girl at Harbor House.

Ernege and her son Makenly

Paige and Sergline
Enisse did really well all things considered.  She was so scared and that certainly changed the game a bit. We found out that she had been told on Monday when she visited some family that women die in childbirth and that babies are born dead sometimes.   (True but not so helpful.)

Enisse has clearly been hurt in her short life. We are praying that Sophia will play a role in her healing.  My favorite parts of the day were when she perked up talking to Geronne and Troy on the phone after Sophia had arrived and when Paige told the Harbor House a healthy baby girl had arrived and it erupted in cheering and thanksgiving.

Family and community are being built there. 
Tired Enisse  - Thank you for praying for her!
Sophia - 5lbs 12 ounces of delicious baby
The last two weeks have been so intense.  We've not taken time to do much detailed story telling, mainly because we're just not up for it at the end of the long day. 

We realized today as we all talked after prenatal program that so many really high-emotion situations have piled on top of each other that we've almost not had time to really debrief or discuss before the next one comes.  Things are busy. I have not been running very much and I can feel it affecting my ability to cope and process.  We're all trying to figure out how to balance things better. 

The truth is, the women we're working with live incredibly intense lives. They are almost all anemic, unhealthy, and undernourished. Every single pregnancy is high-risk by U.S. standards. Many of them lack support systems, homes, jobs, husbands, and regular income. The majority have experienced abuse and rape. They all lived through a catastrophic event and wait for their country to heal. Entering into their lives means entering into some very sad (and intense) situations.  The best gift we can give them is just to walk with them and be their friend and advocate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Carrie's recent blog post after leaving China - 

Our story is perhaps a paradigm for every trusting disciple. The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity; not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.
-Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning

John weighs in ...


Posted: February 16, 2011 by johnmchoul 
I often receive e-mails from some that would like to come to Heartline to visit and help out.  We appreciate those that come with a purpose, they certainly make a difference.  Often, I will hear from someone or from a group who say that they would like to come and then they ask if it is safe.  I confess that I get rather irritated when I hear that question.

I usually reply back cordially and ask if God has called them to come to Haiti.  And if the answer is yes, then I tell them it is safe.  As safe as it was for Daniel in the lion’s den and for the three Hebrew men in the fiery furnace and even as safe as it was for Stephen when he was stoned and ultimately as safe as it was for Christ when He died on the cross.

I strongly believe that “safe” is overrated if it means will I be safe physically.  The better question is, “Is it God’s will for me to go?”  If the answer is, “Yes” then how much more safer can you be than in God’s will.  This may not mean that harm will not come your way but what is that compared to being in God’s will.  Was Jesus safe?

BUT I HAVE recently been spending some time thinking about Haiti and have finally concluded after 21 years of living here, that it can be a very dangerous place.  Some may be saying, “Ah it’s about time John got his head out of the sand and admitted that Haiti can be a dangerous place.”
Yes, those of us who live here can be in great, grave danger.
We can be in danger of:
  • Becoming numb to the cries of the poor.
  • Not being moved to anger and compassion at the conditions in which many people live.
  • Looking but not seeing.
  • Hearing but not listening.
  • Seeing what is but not what can be.
  • Thinking that we need to change the Haitian culture to look like our culture and that the people aren’t doing it right because they don’t do it like we do.
  • Thinking that living here is a sprint, when in reality, it’s a marathon.
  • Being so practical about what we need to live that we limit God in what we do.
  • Not totally depending on God for God’s work.
  • Thinking that doing is more important than being.
Yes, it is true Haiti can be a dangerous place, perhaps as dangerous as where you live.
John McHoul

Enisse & Sophia

Beautiful baby girl named Sophia. Born at 12:32pm weighing 5 lbs, 12 ounces.
Thank you for your prayers!

Beach Day Photos

On Sunday Dr. Jen and the tribe all headed north to the beach was a perfect day together.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


7:15 edit/add - Moving Enisse to maternity house pretty soon  ... thankful for your ongoing prayers today for her and the baby and added request that Enisse will bond with her baby.  Rosena gave birth at 3:15 - Jonna and Beth trying to catch a few minutes of rest.
5:10am edit/add Sleeping between contractions, crying during contractions. 4-5 minutes apart.
2:25 am edit/add (early Wednesday morning 16th) - Contractions are getting stronger and closer together. Enisse is coping pretty well with the pain, crying softly on and off. Still guessing she has 8++  hours to go. Thank you so much for praying for her.

last Thursday prenatal visit

working with her tutor last week
We're asking for prayer for Enisse today and tonight and tomorrow.  She is 15 years old. She moved into Harbor House after her Mom got angry and started hitting her and throwing rocks at her. Her Mom asked her to leave the tent she was living in at the time. Since about a month ago she is basically totally estranged from her mother, and does not have family close enough that she wants to call them to come be by her side.  The aunt she trusts is out in the countryside.  

Her labor began early this morning. It will probably be many many more hours before her baby comes.

We've seen her come alive in recent weeks.  We have seen reasons to hope for healing.  We can act as her family but we cannot totally fill the places of loss and pain. 

Today she is shutting down. She is very afraid and withdrawn. We suspect we don't know the half of her story ...  

We're asking you to join us in focusing on asking God to redeem her deep pain. We're asking that God would give her the strength to trust us and listen to us while she labors. We're asking God to remove her fear. We're asking for a safe delivery of a healthy baby to a healthy Enisse.  We're asking all of this and more today.   Will you join us?

Monday, February 14, 2011

flashback valentine edition

These photos are from five years ago. They make me smile.  They also make me a little bit blurry eyed.  We'd been here less than a full month on this Valentine's Day.

Britt and Paige were 15 and 11.  Isaac and Hope were 4 and Noah was not yet 2.  No one knew there would be a Phoebe or a Lydia.  We had no idea how much we did not know about Haiti (or anything).  No idea.  We also had no idea how awesomely God would love us and carry us through some big stuff in the months and years ahead.

Mesi Bondye.

Troy spent the day struggling to decide what to do and finally came to the conclusion that he wants to go be with his Mom and Dad to try to walk with them through another hard thing.  I told the kids tonight that it was good to share their Daddy with his Mommy and Daddy because they are very sad and tired.

Isaac said, "It is the way we can help them, by letting Daddy go be there."  Noah said, "We can take turns sleeping in Dad's spot. That will make it fun." Hope sighed in her uber wise way and said, "I am sad for them. That's really hard." I smiled and nodded and thanked them for being so kind and understanding. ( I neglected to tell them how all day long I was wishing Troy did not have to leave and fighting my own selfish-jerky ways.)  How much of a butt kicking is it when six and nine year olds respond with more maturity than their mother?

(Answer: a big butt kicking)

Our Valentine's Day verse: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Sunday, February 13, 2011

sleep is for the weak

Heather and Tara attempting to help Asianne relax
Thursday night and Friday night were no-sleep nights as one of the prenatal ladies attempted to deliver a baby and we attempted to stay awake to help her do it.

Beth McHoul can put away some coffee. Something about drinking coffee at 2am just doesn't sit right with me.  Eating spoonful after spoonful of Nutella is an entirely different story.  The fuel of champions I tell you. 

Those two nights were insanely long. The day that passed between them was darn long too.  Jonna and Beth were thankful that one lady was not in real labor and was sent home, leaving us with just this one never-ending labor.

That labor gave the word labor a whole new definition.  Poor Asianne really had a time of it.  I have been strongly considering beginning formal midwifery training in order to one day offer more than just Doula and Nutella services ....  but wow ... that was an entirely new look at labor for me.  I don't think I could do two-nighters very often.

Find sleep when you can, on any surface you can

Once it was all over and I'd pieced together a few small chunks of sleep, the real evidence of fatigue reared its ugly head on Saturday night.  I might have been slightly dramatic and irrational and it might be true that I was crying about how unattractive, unworthy, unlovable, and downright hideous I am. Troy the ever patient and loving man that he is just disagreed and said maybe I was over tired and not thinking clearly. He suggested I sleep and see if I still hated myself and the entire universe in the morning.

Asianne ended up needing transport and a C-Section. Thankfully both she and her new little girl are doing well tonight.  The next ladies due to deliver if you wish to pray for them by name: Dalonne, MontCarmelle, Enisse ...  Not that they always go in the order predicted.

We've been verbally preparing Enisse.  At 15 she is understandably afraid. She seemed pretty surprised when I told her next week could be the week.  Hopefully she settles into the reality of this prior to the first contraction.

This week I have a goal of getting photos of the entire Harbor House and every employee and resident and updating you on things there.  Goals are good.  We'll see if Haiti and laboring ladies allow for it. 

Troy with Harbor House Mom, Djenie and her son Kenny

We skipped church and headed to the beach as a family today.  It was so much fun.  The beach we went to is about five miles from where we lived our first two and a half years in Haiti and we used to go there a lot. The food was still sucktacular but the place is so beautiful we just don't care. Paige took some really fun photos, as soon as she gets them to me I'll try to share a few.  Haiti has mountains that drop straight into water, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Before I head to bed, quick request ... Please pray for Troy's Mom and Dad  - Bob and Karen. You remember that they lost their son, Troy's little brother in November.  About two weeks ago they had just arrived to Florida for a vacation/break when they got a call that Karen's Dad had suffered a major stroke.  They left Florida immediately to go to be with Karen's parents.  They were with them for about two weeks and just left IL and headed home yesterday.  Today they got a call that Karen's Mom passed away.  I cannot imagine how weary they must feel tonight.  They will head back to IL tomorrow and need strength for the journey ahead.

perception is reality except when it isn't

I fall smack in the middle of the extrovert/introvert spectrum.  That means that I can stand around and chat as long as I need to but when it comes time to be done I am pretty pumped to be done with chit-chat.  My cousin has appropriately labeled it "selectively social."

Troy can chat much longer than I can and is the more extroverted of the two of us. Dr. Jen claims he is chattier than 99% of the male population.  I've never checked her numbers, but she can't be too far off. All of that to say, Troy is much more awesomer  at answering questions and being social when groups are visiting.  Sometimes I just want to avoid social situations that force surface conversations and small talk. I find that I place more value on the authentic conversation that deep long-term relationships allow. I assume it is just a difference between the way God made Troy and I, but it could also be a major personality defect.

Not so long ago I stood with a few ladies in one of those social settings as we politely conversed and attempted to get to know each other.  I'm sure you know the dance where you are careful to take turns asking each other questions about work, home, family, and hobbies. She asks you, you ask her, back and forth it goes.

On this particular day the women I had just met asked about the usual things.  When we got to the part where I answered their questions about where we live the one woman said, "Oh my goodness.  I am so surprised you live there. Oh! That place. I used to fly in and out of there many years ago and I could just feel the evil each time we landed."  She went on to say, "It was like a darkness that came over us right as we descended each time." 

I listened closely to her intimidating description of this place we have lived for five years. I wondered how she came to her conclusion. I tried unsuccessfully to think of one time where I felt something as ominous as what she was describing. Her rendition made it sound like the pilot had to dodge multiple packs of demons and visible ominous clouds of evil in order to even put the plane down in Port au Prince.

She never asked me my opinion, or how I felt about her perceptions.  Once she finished sharing her thoughts about the lurking evil, we moved on to other topics. Had she asked I would have told her Haiti is a difficult place, a complicated place, but certainly not terribly dark or scary.  I would have told her that like every other place on earth - there are beautiful souls here and that sometimes - like every other place on earth - evil things happen.

It bugged me for days after the conversation. More than bugging me though, it got me thinking that most of my perceptions of places I've not yet been and people I've not yet met are based on someone else's experiences and opinions. Was Haiti dark and evil to her because she had actually experienced something terrible here or was Haiti dark because she read in the news and heard from friends that it was? How many people and places have I made unfair fear-based decisions about?

What if we all decided not to let someone else tell us what was evil and what was scary? What if we did not make decisions about large groups of people based on the thoughts of friends and relatives? What if fear no longer shaped our opinions about people and places and cultures that are different than us?  What if talking heads on television, driven by a desire to sell advertising, were not the ones forming our thoughts on our neighbors around the world?

Perception is reality, except when it isn't.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

a million this a million that

The troubles and pain in this world totally and completely overwhelm. The statistics are devastating.

Millions orphaned
Millions dying
Millions hungry

On the flip side the reports of the "successes" feel intangible ...  thousands of children fed, tens of thousands of lives saved, millions of orphans reached, tons of good distributed to bazillions of people.

All of that to me is just math. Numbers without names and stories without details feel abstract and untouchable. 

The reason I love what we get to do, is that we get to see individuals.  We get to know souls. We are privileged to know the name of almost every person we work with in a day. We're able to get to know them well over time. 

Why invest in relationship? Why toil at such time consuming tasks?

I cannot be sure, I'm simple in my approach, but I am guessing that God does not think of Haiti or any other place in terms of millions or thousands or hundreds.  He knows intimately each and every soul. 

The reason to build relationships and to share individual stories is because God is concerned for each one. Every story is known by Him and matters. 

The work is small and slow and truthfully not going to change much of anything in the grand scheme of things.  

But there is beauty in knowing these souls, in knowing their stories.

The lives and stories He allows us to enter into are His gift to us. 
We're grateful.

ABSTRACTION by Sara Groves

The girl looks out from the window of the airplane
20,000 feet up in the sky
she picks a rooftop in the middle of the town
and wonders what is happening inside

the tv in the kitchen flashes faces
the woman slowly pushes in the chairs
her neighbors son is fighting in the army
she's concentrating to remember where

who can know the pain the joy the regret the satisfaction
who can know the love of one life, one heart, one soul
at two you're at abstraction

The man is waiting for the bus into the city
He's grabs a drink slowly reads the Times
His heart is captured by a story of a child
Around the world/ miles away but always on his mind

a million this a million that
a mass sum of individuals
a million come/here a million go/there
made up of a million souls

We better share His love and compassion when we consider the joy, the pain, the regret, the satisfaction -  of one life, one heart, one soul.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Shoved in with the copious notes on the personalities of the bats, was this verse.   <------

Today we're working at Harbor House. We will get photos of the house changes and give you a tour very soon.

For those familiar with Heartline, you know this house used to be the boys home (orphanage) prior to the earthquake.  Then it was a hospital after the earthquake.

It is really starting to be a home now. The ladies are settling into chores and routines and we're adding more to their schedules slowly.  Brit Gilbert, the young woman living with the girls reports that all of the young moms are taking ownership now and she is encouraged by what she is seeing. 

Our biggest challenge is clearly going to be conflict resolution.  Troy is a fairly patient man but I could see his patience leaving as a fight about nothing was described in detail (over and over) to him yesterday.  We've sort of implemented a good cop bad cop system.  Troy is playing bad cop.  I am not so sure they find him all that bad though. "Papi Troy" is not intimidating  - even when angry.  The girls think he is funny, not scary. :) I laughed at him last week when I said, "We always thought having five daughters was crazy, now you have ten!"   He jokingly replied, "Yeah, God hates me." ;)

The best thing about all of this Harbor House stuff is that we have no idea how to do any of it.  It forces us to accept that we're going to make mistakes and to rely on and trust God on the path ... in each step and decision. 

Psalm 16:11 (The Message)

 11 Now you've got my feet on the life path,
      all radiant from the shining of your face.
      Ever since you took my hand,
      I'm on the right way.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Last Saturday around noon I was in a hurry to pick up the Harbor House gals and their babies and get back to my house.  (You know, so people could get busy trying to drown.) Two women approached me and began to try to explain what they needed/wanted.  I made a quick decision that they were begging for food or money and decided not to listen.  I told them that our program is for pregnant women and women with young babies. I told them I did not have anything for them.  We pulled away and left them. 

On Monday the same ladies were camped in the same spot.  They asked if they could talk to me.  I was walking from Harbor House after just finishing a meeting, going over to the Maternity House where Beth, Jen, and Jonna were working with a woman in labor. I wanted to get over to the house to join them.  I was hurried. Again I chose not to hear the ladies out. I thought I knew what they were going to ask me for and I decided not to give it time.  I again quickly explained what our programs are for and that I doubted we could help them.  I did not try to hear their needs or questions.

Today as I left Harbor House one of the two women walked up at the exact right moment to catch me and asked if she could just explain her problem. Maybe we had a doctor? Something about the way her shoulders slumped told me I needed to just slow down and listen, even if we couldn't help her.  I went to find Jen to listen with me because Jen has wicked awesome language skills and I figured it was time to get the whole story and try to get it right.

She began to share with us. As she talked I felt a tremendous sense of remorse for ignoring her the first two times she tried to talk to me.  As she explained her health situation and how sick and awful she feels tears began to fall - for both of us.  She was crying because she felt frustrated with feeling sick all the time and not having health care that is properly addressing her issues.  I was crying because I felt like a giant jerk for refusing to take five minutes on the previous days.

While Jen referred her to another option and went to grab something, I asked if I could pray.  She said, "Yes please pray." While we prayed we both cried some more.

My prayers in Kreyol are pretty much "God we love you we need you we know you have a heart for us but please we need you - we need your help today." Once I've said all that I switch to English and it doesn't get much more complicated in my first language.  God. We. Need. You. Help!

In the end there really was nothing we could do for her.  We are not able to treat the complicated issue she has. My initial thought/judgment proved to be true.

We go about our days and we do the things we have set out to do. We have parameters and ideas and goals.  Those things are probably really good. My world is young moms and young children. I want to build relationships with them. These ladies were older and did not fit my criteria. There is something about the unending challenges and the large numbers of hurting people that can cause you to put walls up.  Some sort of self-protection measure I suppose. And truthfully, some walls are totally necessary but in this case I felt convicted that my walls were too high ...  And because I felt that as strongly as I did, I know it is true. I screwed up Saturday and Monday.  In this case I should have given them five minutes the first time they asked. I should not have been so hurried.

Lest you think we've got this whole 'loving God, loving others' thing all figured out ....  I thought I'd share this failure.  I think all of us struggle with knowing what to spend time on, what to listen to and determining what we should and should not do. 

Praying today that I might be led by the spirit and not by my agenda.

Monday, February 07, 2011

bulletpoints, babies, bats

I need more time and more caffeine and an increased desire to write in order to further expound upon these stories in the coming days:

Guerda & new baby girl
  • Teen mom attempts to drown on our watch Saturday afternoon. Tara jumps in to pull her to safety. Not necessarily what we had in mind when we invited them over. Exciting none the less.
  • Troy wonders aloud when his life got so incredibly odd.  There is a story here. It needs time to develop.
  • Paige takes teen moms to market.  Declares our plan to buy shoes for all of them at one time a massive fail.  Wonders how her parents got so dumb.
  • Paige talks Troy into getting a kitten. Tara wonders how Troy got so dumb.
  • Lydia intimidates John McHoul during church Sunday and seems to revel in it.
  • Sunday afternoon, a half day of fabulous people watching at up-scale hotel where an odd sub-culture of extremely wealthy, fairly grungy, European, and our tribe (uncategorizeable) collide. Lydia makes friends with everyone! Asks a French lady on the other side of the shower curtain in the restroom if she is naked? Awkward.
  • Five pound baby girl born healthy today just before 4pm. Our highest risk lady (currently) now seemingly out of the woods. Thankful. Look at that baby.  So stinkin cute.
  • Lydia starts speaking Kreyol again, first sentence: "Bo mwen chokola." (Give me chocolate)
  • Isaac and Noah keep detailed notes about the bats that live in and around our EDH/pump house. Each is given a name. I don't know much, but I know I am not going to mess with Blackie.

    Baby Stuff

    An odd man and a cute baby.
    Normally men are not allowed anywhere near the maternity house, but tonight John and Troy were summoned for generator help.  John fears babies almost as much as babies fear him. We forced him to hold the baby long enough to get this shot.  Then Beth sent him packing.

    Saturday, February 05, 2011

    no sleeping in, no job

    Saturday morning blurry phone photos courtesy of me; for the grandmas to enjoy.

    We asked everyone to sleep until 8am today.  Paige is the only one capable of sleeping in. The rest made it till 6:15. Thank goodness for coffee.

    Yesterday we had an appointment for Paige. With one vehicle and the work Troy had planned we decided not to send our kids to school because it was only a half-day and we couldn't figure out how to get them home.  Going to an appointment in PAP is a guaranteed all day event.  For example, we got there at 11am. They told us we would be seen at 1pm. We walked into the appointment at 3:10.  The traffic for a ten mile drive got us home at 5:20.  I told the kids to let their teachers know they were missing the half day.  Noah's teacher emailed me this:

    From: Jodie Ackerman
    Date: February 3, 2011 9:12:28 PM GMT-05:00
    To: Troy and Tara Livesay
    Subject: Troy's employment

    So Noah sidled up to me this morning and let me know that he wouldn't be at school tomorrow because it takes his dad two hours to go to school and back and he just couldn't do it tomorrow.  So I said, well, maybe he could just find some business to do in the area so he wouldn't have to go home in between.  Or maybe he had some other things he needed to do for his job.  To which your son replied, "Oh, my dad doesn't have a job."  I will not be the one to leak this to your supporters.

    Have a great weekend!

    This led me to ask Noah this morning
    "Noah, does Dad have a job?"
    Noah- "No Dad does not have a job."
    Me- "So what does he do all day?"
    Noah- "I have no idea."
    Isaac- "Nu-Uh, Dad has a job. He helps people."
    Noah-  (stated as a matter of fact) "Helping is not a job."
    In the news:

    ~ Antoinette and her family moved to their new home yesterday.

    ~ No babies have been born for two weeks. Things could get crazy with more than a couple due and overdue in the coming days.

    ~ Troy is leading worship at church tomorrow. In an effort to bring Texas to Haiti I put my request in for one of my favorite Aaron Ivey songs.  

    ~ My (Tara's) sister is coming in early March.  So stinking excited - I cannot even tell you!

    ~ Britt booked tickets for May. We're giddy to have two family members on the calendar.

    ~ Our Minnesota friend Joanna T. is back for a few days. We love when she is here. There is not a cheerier person (except maybe Isaac). She brought coffee and creamer and cheese and chocolate.  (Thanks Connie!)

    ~ Tex is taking Paige for five speed driving training session number two today.  They are not ready to try hills yet.

    ~ Go here to read an article written about politics and fatigue in Haiti. 

    ~ The Harbor House gals are coming over to hang with us for a while today.

    ~ We're hearing about all your snow and record cold temperatures. We're not gloating ... just sharing ... it is headed to 85 and gorgeous with a light breeze here today :)

    ~ Go here to win a free vacation and help support Heartline.

    Thursday, February 03, 2011

    Viv Kenny - Bon Fet

    Today we gathered to celebrate the life of a beautiful little boy named Kenny. His mom cried as we sang happy birthday in Kreyol and English. Her tears were tears of pure joy and deep gratitude for the life of her son.

    It was a beautiful thing to witness.

    Born after the earthquake in one of the most intense places on the island this premature and tiny little boy was plucked out of the slums by earthquake medical relief workers and brought to the Heartline field hospital where many volunteers went to work saving his life. He was transported to another hospital that possessed necessary equipment and there he remained for a time getting stronger, beating the odds, fighting for his life - while many of you prayed.
    Today he and his brave momma are treasured friends. They are part of our family. They live in the safe place called "Harbor House". We believe in them and we love them. Most of all, we know God has only just begun to work miracles in their lives.

    There is no shortage of difficulty or hardship in Haiti.  Kenny reminds us that there is no shortage of God's breathtaking provision either.  Mesi Bondye.  Thank-you God.


    Kenny three weeks old, very near death

    Written February 19, 2010 By Barbie B.  (Take time to click over to Barbie's blog. You won't be disappointed. She is currently in Haiti again and has a beautiful & unique way of sharing her experiences working as a Physicians Assistant here.)

    Djenie and Kenny Feb 2010
    "Today our medical team found a young woman with a 17 day old baby in the field. A three pound baby. The baby was dying. Dehydrated. Heart rate and oxygen level and glucose dangerously low. Small red spots of petechia -- meaning life threatening infection -- appeared on his body in front of our eyes. Together our team, led by our physician, a volunteer pediatrician, with innovation and urgency, were able to stabilize him with our limited supplies. We packed his fragile body into a truck and drove to Miami tent hospital, begging them to take him to stabilize him with their more advanced tools and supplies. The tents have perhaps a hundred patients each. The staff are exhausted. They take the baby. Overwhelming.

    The world needs to hear the strangled, sobbing wails of a young mother, who fears for the life of her dying infant, one final loss in an intolerable string of losses. The deep, soul baring sobbing wail of a mother losing her only child, going on and on in a darkened truck, street after crumpled street in the tropical smoky night. Infatiguable fear and grief. Child's prognosis grim. But a small spark of hope remains. So is the sound of the devastation of Haiti.

    In the dark, we returned from our journey to our field hospital, soul filled with the mother's devastation. As I opened the metal gate from the dirt road, in the darkened tented courtyard, we found all of the patients singing loudly in deep prayer, arms raised over their heads. They had called the medical staff to the courtyard...and were singing to them. A deep soulful harmonious blessing. Nurses stood, stunned, eyes filling with tears, as their patients rose up in song, honoring them, praying for them. So is the sound of the soul of Haiti. The sound of hope, and joy, and love, and strength. Haiti...Such a strong word."

    Written February 20, 2010 by Barbie B.
    "We arrive at the hospital and the question of the morning is, "How is the baby?" -- the 3 pound dying infant from the night before. "He's alive, and breathing on his own..." are the words that create a good start to the day. The sick child was found in the arms of his mother in the crumpled slums last night by our astute medical team, who had spent the day in devastated neighborhoods looking for ill patients unable to access care. If he had not been plucked from the streets, he would now be dead. And now, he will live. I wonder what he will become. And, what will become of so many of these children...the fragile future of this country."

    Written in July 2010 by Beth McHoul:

    Djenie, Kenny, Beth February 2010

    We met Djenie when baby Kenny was 3 days old, weighed 3 pounds  and was very sick.  Our big, white truck was doing its rounds in lower Boston, Cite Soleil and found them among several others who were wounded and sick.  Kenny needed to be treated and Djenie who was in the midst of post-partum  was frightened of us and  wanted to go home.  She didn’t know what to do with this baby and didn’t know what to make of us.  Our doctors treated Kenny, we worked with her on breast-feeding and sent them home as soon as possible since she was so despondent being with us.
    Three weeks later they returned on our big white truck.  He still weighed 3 pounds and Djenie had a raging breast infection.  I was attending to Djenie while nurses took Kenny who was wrapped in a blanket.  He was near death.  Our medical team jumped into action and life saving measures were taken for this little guy.  We sped him to Miami Field hospital where he stayed for several weeks.  That first night we were sure he would die.  Djenie was sure he was fine and kept wanting to go home.  When it finally sunk in that he wasn’t fine she wailed with a wail that broke our hearts.  God hears.

    Day after day we brought Djenie to the field hospital to visit.  They bonded.  Breastfeeding finally took.  Love was born – a love that is continually threatened.  The odds have always been against her being a successful mom.  Her family is violent and there are many of them living in a small shack.  The baby’s dad died.  First we heard he was dead by gunshot and then he in fact died in a fight by a crushing blow by a cement block.  Djenie wailed that gut wrenching wail again.  He too was a teenager from one of the most violent neighborhoods on earth.

    Djenie and Beth visiting Kenny at MFH

    Over the months Djenie and Kenny became part of our hospital and lives.  We (Beth) kept saying he could be discharged when he weighed five pounds.  Then ten.  Then fifteen.  He’s over 16 pounds and they are still with us.  He is chubby, breast fed and permanently hooked to his mom’s hip.  She runs to his every whimper.  Parenting skills have been gained.  Her teenage responses to his cries have vanished and a real mom has emerged.  The mom who wouldn’t rouse to feed him now jumps to his every cry.  She’s grown.

    Djenie goes home to Cite Soleil every now and again for a few days.  Her mom and mom’s boyfriend tell her she can live at home but not with a child.  They continually advise her to give him to an orphanage.  The dad’s mother has offered to take Kenny but not Djenie.

    Orphanages can be wonderful places of refuge for the abandoned child and when a mom dies.  We ran a crèche for many years.  There are times when this is the best answer.  We love adoption and gave many years to making adoptions happen.   There are also overcrowded, understaffed orphanages where children do not get the care and parenting that every child should have.  Haiti is loaded with these places.

    Djenie helps us at the women’s program.  She is a comic and makes us laugh.  She is moody, fights with others patients and then comes running to me to bail her out.  I always do.  One of her jobs is to help with pregnancy tests.  We give a lady a cup, tell her to give us a urine sample and then we give her the news.  Eager to help Djenie told a woman to go pee in a cup but told her to pee in the yard instead of the bathroom.  We all laughed.  Djenie giggled.  The woman didn’t realize what was funny – this is Haiti after all.  Bathrooms aren’t always available.

    Yesterday some of our patients took their babies to a local Haitian  orphanage for a government vaccination program.  I watched them take kids hand in hand down the street to do their motherly duty.  They know vaccinations in Haiti are important.  They want to be responsible.  Djenie carried Kenny and off they went.

    A few hours later Djenie came to me and said that the woman at the orphanage offered to take Kenny into the orphanage seeing that she was a teenager.  Djenie said,  "no thank you".
    Then the woman offered to buy Kenny saying she would give Djenie a lot of money for him.  Djenie again said, "no thank you, I have people that are helping me".   I listened and told her what a great mom she is and how correct she was not to give Kenny to this woman.  I was calm.  Inside my blood was boiling as questions raged.  Why did this woman want Kenny?  Don’t they have enough unwanted children?  Why was she singling him out and wanting to buy him?  Would she turn around and sell him for more money?

    They are a team – Djenie and Kenny.  With help they have made it this far and are well connected.  He is healthy – and she is growing as a person.

    A few of today's photos ...
    Lydia helping Antoinette get ready for the party today

    Lydia helping Kenny get ready for the party today.

    Amanda helping Djenie get ready for the party today


    More celebrating

     Djenie headed out after the party to go see her Mom and Grandma. She was excited to visit them with Kenny and bring them left-over birthday cake.  Just as the party broke up she asked if we would pray for her before she returned for a few days - back into the complications and challenges of her life in Cite Soleil.  We were honored to be asked and honored to pray with her.

    Bondye Bon.  
    God is good.