Thursday, March 31, 2011

Paige pretends she thinks that this is abnormal behavior for adults.

We think:

1.) in the absence of a gym - make one.

2.) in the absence of of an amusement park - make one.

3.) in the absence of entertainment - make it.

We also think Paige is secretly beyond thrilled to have parents that bring the party when no party can be found. 

You're welcome Paige.

Life is Like...

Late Sunday afternoon we left "Spaghetti Day" hosted at the Hendricks home and thought we had a plan for the coming week. We knew that our plans needed to be flexible (because, well - duh) yet we looked ahead at the week and with confidence made some plans. 

Oh the folly of planning. 

Forest Gump once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get."

When she was pretty young our oldest daughter Britt paraphrased Mr. Gump and said, "Life is like that, you never know what you're going to get ... Maybe a box of chocolates!"

Since Sunday at 5pm - here are just a handful of the unplanned things that have taken place:
  • Andremene went into labor.  Labored for a few hours. Ran into big trouble. Was transported for c-section. Troy got home at 3am.  This set into motion a chain of events that led to zero of the plans we made happening.
  • Gas price hike causes manifestation, changes some of what was planned for Monday.
  • Four day old baby boy of someone special to us showed up almost dead to ECD program on Tuesday. It was so emotional and disappointing, writing about it in detail was left to others.
  • Paige got miserable.  Starting Thursday we called an unusually large bump on her eyelid "a zit". By Sunday we knew it was more.  We started medication then. Today at 2pm we were driving her to Cazale to have it opened up and drained.  But not until after we'd seen a brilliant, Harvard-trained infectious disease specialist in downtown Port au Prince. We met with her and had our consultation outside of a tent in the warm sunshine ... like you do.  The infectious disease brainiac spoke by phone with Paige's awesome babe of a Pediatrician in MN. An hour later we were gathering supplies to head to another accomplished medical professional, the revered and much loved Lori Moise
Forest Gump was right. You never know what you're going to get.  But that ain't the half of it.

It wasn't lost on me that Jen went to work finding Paige the best care available. It wasn't lost on me that we saw the exact type of specialist we needed to see this morning. It wasn't lost on me that not only was she the perfect specialty but she is no slouch. The woman went to Harvard. She was standing 6 miles from my house when I needed her. It wasn't lost on me that she cared enough to talk to Dr. Jen at length by phone.  It wasn't lost on me that Jen woke up very early after working all night and jumped into action to give instruction on the desired medicine to give Paige by IV.  It wasn't lost on me that Lori has drained about one billion abscesses in her life and is probably better at it than almost anyone in Haiti. It wasn't lost on me that my sweet friends were interceding for Paige and for me all day.  It wasn't lost on me that Jen called at a rate of way-too-ridiculously-much-per-minute to see how it was going for Paige in Cazale. It wasn't lost on me that Harold (Tex) and his sweet daughter Kristi were available to stay with Phoebe and Lydia all day long.  It wasn't lost on me that Corrigan was already scheduled to pick the kids up from school.  All sorts of people advocating for Paige. For us. That wasn't lost on me.

Maybe it is because I'm exhausted, maybe it is because it is warranted ... Tonight, mixed in with my awe of today's gifts and miracles is more than a smidgen of sadness. 

I'm sad because things here are so difficult.  They are so unfair.

Trying to find help in a timely manner when things get a little bit scary or a even very serious is so challenging. I dare say it is almost impossible for most people.  I'm well connected.  I know people that know people.  Therefore my advocates sprung into action. I am not experiencing what a Haitian mother would experience.  I realize this when I, a person with all of the privilege in the world, am given a chance to see a small piece of the life of my Haitian brothers and sisters.  As I waited for our Doctor connection to be made I glanced into the crowded and hot Tuberculosis tent and saw the worried eyes of another mother. Who advocates for her?

I recognize that I must be willing to engage in the complex issues that form the sub-text of the daily realities that affect the vast majority of Haitians. Engaging in it from my position of privilege is difficult, but it has to be my goal. 

I experienced something unique in Haiti today.

I sought care for my sick child and at every turn I found top-notch help.

I have so much to be grateful for tonight, and trust me, I am grateful. 

But I want that - what I got - for every mother of every sick child. 

I want life for them to be less like a box of chocolates.

Less unpredictable.

Less unfair.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

early childhood development class (tuesday)

Cookie and Agathe teaching

Sophia 6 weeks old

Heather working with Fedline

Some days are almost too complicated to write about.  Like today for instance.  

Good news:  tomorrow is a new day!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prenatal Program

For the last several weeks the midwives have been experiencing challenging situations and multiple odd occurrences.  There is no real rhyme or reason to why so many of the ladies in the program have run into such a tough spot - but honestly - we are slightly concerned and discouraged. We'd like this streak of odd and challenging to end now.

Many of our recent births have ended up needing emergency transport for cesarean section. This is not the end of the world by any means - we have a great ambulance that donors helped us buy and we have a partner hospital that will see/work with us upon request.  It is a little bit sad though, because it is not what we have in mind for the ladies when they enter the program.  It is not what we plan and prepare for with the months of teaching, nutrition, and training.

We'd love to be able to provide every woman with a calm, private, dignified birth in the labor/delivery room at the Maternity Center.  We'd love for their babies to be welcomed into the world with less trauma and stress. We'd love that for them, we'd love that for us.

The cases that need transport each cost a minimum of $750 U.S.D. at the hospital and we're not in a position financially to continue to sustain the current rate of c-sections.  Prior to the last streak of 6 to 8 births we rarely (very very very rarely) needed to transport anyone for a cesarean.

Due to some complications Andremene (pictured) was transported for a c-section late last night.  She is 34 years old and came to Heartline's program after miscarrying twins, miscarrying another single baby, and having lost three other children at 4 days, three months and five months of age.  Her two living children are now 11 and 12 years old.  She has obviously lost so much in her life. Thankfully she delivered a healthy baby boy (with a very very large head) at 2am.

We pray for and want to see this new life survive and thrive. I am sharing all of this in order to ask for prayer for the pregnant ladies, for the midwives, and for the program as a whole.
Decisions here are so much different than in the developed world.  We are not a short easy ride from the hospital should we need to go.  Standing still gridlock traffic is a real possibility most of the time. Sometimes you arrive at the hospital and wait longer than is ideal for the anesthesiologist to come. The variables are many and mind-boggling. The decisions are never made lightly. Whomever is in the primary midwife role, whomever is in charge of the birth - carries the weight of such a big decision and with that comes much stress.

Truthfully, if we could avoid the need to transport it crosses off about sixteen really bad possibilities. 

We're due for a string of event-free - normal - drama-less - happy - exciting-in-the-good-way - births.  We'd like that streak of happy to begin today.

Thank you for your continued love, prayers, and concern for the women of Haiti.

Monday, March 28, 2011

tet koupe

Hope and Phoebe's first momma  is doing well. We enjoyed a pleasant visit with her on Saturday.

In Haiti if you look a lot like someone they often say "tet koupe"  - or literally translated you can cut heads off and trade them you look so much alike.  We think Hopie and her first momma have a bit of tet koupe going on.

It was encouraging to us to see Hope genuinely want to love on and chat with her mom. She didn't feel awkward or afraid.  They compared their toes and noses and the shape of their hands. It was cute. As expected Phoebe gave her the stranger treatment but we didn't expect Phoebe to get it yet - so no one was stressed about it.

We are so grateful for our children. They are gifts to us.  

Imagining our family without these two spunky little girls brings instant sadness. We treasure them.

Even so, we've never come to a place where we can simply bask in our wonderful blessing without examining the other side of the story. We know God can and is making beauty from ashes but we're not at peace with the fact that poverty and injustice led this momma to decide she could not raise 5 of her 8 children - that grieves us.  

We want to ask ourselves hard questions about a world where this is commonplace and what we can do to change those systems and keep more families together.  Amidst the multiple unanswered and uncomfortable questions we are incredibly grateful that we can assure this first momma that her girls are well loved and well cared for, and that she can trust us to stay in contact for as long as she is able and willing.

Monday pics and haps :
more tet koupe

Kenny & Lydia at Harbor House
Lydie tried to feed Kenny Pringles today.  That did not go over so well with his very protective Momma.  Lydie is under the false impression that many, if not all, of the babies at Harbor House belong to her.

It works out pretty well that there are no parks, jungle gyms, or any sort of climbing apparatus anywhere near by ... we're totally indifferent about that because we have our doors!

The blue cord is the uber slow and unreliable internet running into the house from the rooftop.  Stay classy Port au Prince. 

Today there were all sorts of rumors of planned "manifestations".  A few took place. We had one person call in and say they couldn't get to work. The first time I heard that term I had no idea what the heck was being said, it sounded like a three headed demon might be coming to attack us in the night.  As it turns out manifestations are planned protests of some variety and are usually in response to some sort of price hike that people have no way to absorb. Today the manifestation was in response to a hike in gas prices.  Many of the regular kamyonnet (tap-tap) routes were not available. For some it meant they couldn't get to work at all.  For others it meant they could get there faster because traffic was lighter.

Friday, March 25, 2011


We never intended at the outset for our adoptions to be open.  Thankfully God intervened and gave us this good and unexpected gift.  The way it evolved is a long story that's been told in the past, so for today I won't retell it.

We're excited because tomorrow both of these two ladies will get to see their first Momma and at least one of their older sisters.

Hope is old enough to understand. Phoebe won't get it but we want her Mama to be able to see her and how beautiful and tall she is getting. 

We have talked on the phone frequently since the earthquake but have not seen her since 2009.  We are hoping and praying for a peace-filled reunion and a sweet time together tomorrow. Praying for the heart(s) of the Mama and our precious girls.


Over the years we've learned much about our paradigm.

When it comes to the women we're working with in the various prongs of the Women's Program ...

Often times we hear statements and questions similar to:
~ Why do they keep having babies?
~ Why don't they just stop having sex?
~ Why doesn't she protect herself/use birth control?
~ She made the choice.
~ It's her fault/problem/consequence.

Those statements and questions are made from a presupposition of justice and equal power. Every culture has different rules and structure. It is much more complicated than we make it.

I often think back to the day a boyfriend showed up on our doorstep and told Troy to fire his girlfriend.  Troy said, "Why? She is a great employee. I have no reason to fire her."  The man said, "You've given her power and she won't let me beat her anymore."

After five years here, I know I still don't really get how it all works. I only know I personally wish to withhold any and all judgment of the women we work with and respond with mercy and love.

This blog post by Barbie (A Physician's Assistant working in Haiti) speaks to the imbalance in Haiti.  To read the full post go here.

The crumpled piece of yellow paper at my foot caught my eye. I bent over to pick it up. Then halted.

A flimsy piece of trash. Worthless. Discarded. Smudged. Walked upon. Crumpled. With the vague ink stamp of our clinic visible in the bottom left corner.

And above the stamp...a life altering scratch of an ink pen. A plus sign. Positive.

HIV positive.

With two scratches of a pen, a life altered for its duration.

I picked up the paper, quietly folded it, and stuck it in the back pocket of my scrubs.

Of course, I know this patient. I know this paper. Discarded trash from yesterday. That was my writing. A lab order for the cachectic, febrile twenty year old girl from a tent city. I'd ordered that test. I'd passed the paper to Sister Gloria, our nurse, and requested her to run it. She returned to me thirty minutes later, and with a stoic, kind-yet-grim look in her eyes, handed me back the slip. I'd met her eyes in silent, knowing, communication.

Two scratches of a pen. A life altering diagnosis.


The twenty year old girl, skin and bones, laid curled on her side in the next room of the clinic, staring blankly at the wall. A resident of one of Haiti's semi-permanent post-Earthquake tent cities. Mother of a 6 year old child. A quick calculation revealed she therefore became pregnant at 13 years old, and gave birth at 14. She breathed rapidly. She was fragile. Like a small bird, fallen from her nest.

I walked into her room, and through a translator, revealed her test results. "Your HIV test is positive," I explained. "This means you likely have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. We need to confirm this with another test. But I am very concerned."

She stared blankly at the wall.

"Do you have a sexual partner?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "Not since I got pregnant."

Another simple calculation. Last sexually active at age 13. Therefore, HIV positive at age 13.
Now, likely, AIDS. At 20 years old.

"Did you get tested for HIV when you were pregnant?" I asked.

"No," she replied. She got no prenatal care at that time. At 13 years old.

"Did you breastfeed your baby?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied.

Another mental calculation. Untreated HIV positive mother, never diagnosed or treated, subsequently breastfeeding her infant. Means child at risk for "vertical transmission". Transmission of HIV from mother to child, either at birth, or subsequently through breast milk exposure.

"We need to get your daughter tested for HIV, too," I said quietly. Mother stared blankly at the ceiling. The implication, and subsequent palpable self-accusation, was strong. The risk to her daughter's health. A mother's guilt. Finally, as the information was slowly absorbed, a quiet nod. Empty staring eyes.

I flashed mentally to the World Health Organization recommendations for HIV prevention. The "ABCs" of HIV prevention in sexual relationships:

A = Abstinence

B = Be Faithful to your Partner

C = Condoms

I suddenly remember the semi-angry rant of one of my Tropical Medicine professors -- an HIV and TB expert from India, who spent many years as a physician in the urban public health trenches before becoming a professor at Tulane. To paraphrase her highly-educated and evidence-based rant, in response to the ABCs:

Don't think that women of the developing world aren't aware of how they get HIV and AIDS. They know. They are not ignorant. They know about AIDS and know that it is sexually transmitted. The bigger issue is the ability of a woman to say "no". In many parts of the world, due to imbalances of power in the role of men and women, women have no power in a sexual relationship. Whether it is through physical dominance, or financial dependency. They do not have the social power to refuse sex. They do not have the social power to say no, to demand condom use, nor to demand monogamy of their husband/partner.

I look back at my patient, pregnant at 13 years old.

Infected with HIV. At 13 years old.

Was that sexual relationship an educated choice? Or any sort of choice?

Read the rest of Barbie's post here:

Thursday, March 24, 2011


blessed are the spiritually poor - the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

blessed are those who mourn, who weep about sin and long for how things are supposed to be - they will be comforted.

blessed are the meek and gentle - they will inherit the earth.

blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - they will be filled.

blessed are the merciful - they will be shown mercy.

blessed are those who are pure in heart - they will see God.

blessed are the peacemakers - they will be called children of God.

blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness - the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 

matthew 5:3-10

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tires and Motos

Yesterday we bought four new tires.

It had to be done.

There are a handful of boring purchases a grown-up type person might make in the course of their grown up life. I am one million percent convinced tires are among the very least enthralling of them all.

Driving with a safe vehicle is important though.  The driving here will always be stressful and less than predictable; our vehicle should be everything it can be ... Or something closely resembling that.

Troy lobbied hard for a motorcycle our first few years in Haiti.  I must have finally shed enough dramatic tears because he never suggests buying one anymore.  We made a deal in 2008 that once our youngest child is 15 he will get his motorcycle.  Don't judge.  That was a major compromise on my part. Until that day I prefer for his head to be intact and his limbs to be attached. The riskier people and those young and childless whipper snappers can jet around Port au Prince traffic on their motorcycles. Troy will continue to be forced to look longingly at them and wish for his youth.

Meanwhile we can remain a big family with a Daddy and a less neurotic and less worried Mommy. 

Last week one day a moto driver hit Troy.  When they got out in traffic to look quickly for damage and to talk  - the driver said, "WHAT!?!?- I WASN'T LOOKING!!!"  There was no arguing with such honesty.

This post is about the day we hit a motorcycle ... it is called 'Sometimes in Haiti you pay because you can.'  (click on title to link) It showcases Troy's well hidden thespian talents.

Besides missing out on marrying a wife that likes motorcycles, he may have missed his true calling.



John's blog about a recent loss

Beth's blog about a recent birth

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I am supposed to be visiting my kid on her birthday

Late Sunday night I went ahead and got my short but entirely necessary melt down out of the way. Troy did what he usually does and was predictably sweet. He tried to fix it and stop my tears by offering to put me on an airplane to Waco.

From birth  to  age 17  my oldest was under my roof on her birthday.

For her 18th Paige and I went to Texas from Haiti to be with her. For her 19th I did the same. For her 20th I was already in TX thanks to a giant earthquake.

This week is the first birthday I won't spend with her.  I suppose it was inevitable. At some point the perfect streak would have needed to end. No, I can't really foresee myself dragging by weary old lady butt to celebrate her 64th birthday when I'm 81  --- but missing her 21st birthday did bring some tears. It feels a little soon to let this tradition die.

HAPPY 21st Birthday Brittany Rachelle. You are loved and missed.  (And Chris too just four days later ... Happy Birthday Chris!)


The only bright side of not seeing my baby - I will miss out on the traveling ...

reprinted From March 2009:  

I used an "awards" ticket, which does not mean you're being awarded with something nice. It means to thank you for all the money you spent on previous tickets you will be offered really bad choices and get stuck with an overnight in Florida or Atlanta. They never award you with something awesome. When they give you something free, they want it to suck so you don't want more things for free from them ever again. 

Sleeping in the Fort Lauderdale airport is.not.possible. I layered all the clothes in my carry on (five shirts two pants) and still got hypothermia inside the building. I am 100% certain the area hotels cover the expense of dropping the air conditioning to 45 degrees to try to force more business their way. It is a conspiracy, I know it. I prevailed, though. No hotel got any of my money.

I slept from 1:15 am until 2:42 and it was totally relaxing and awesome*. The wood bench was so inviting, the massive industrial vacuum coming by over and over and over acted as white noise and the employees loudly emptying the trash and talking about me in Creole was super-relaxing too*.

At 3am I considered breaking the meat and cheese out of my cooler bag in order to lie on that and try to warm up. At 4am I gave up and just started walking in circles to stay warm. When I got in line to get rid of my bags again at 4:30 I learned that I am not very polite in an airport after no sleep. Some woman jumped my case for being in the wrong line and "cutting" -- I assured her there was nothing more in the world that I wanted to do in that moment than to BLESS HER*! Go right ahead ma'am.

It turns out that I could not cut in line because they don't check Port au Prince passengers in the main ticketing area. They do it downstairs off to the side. I can only speculate it is because there is much packing, unpacking and re-packing that happens when people come back to Haiti. No one in their right mind is coming back here with one ounce less than 100 lbs of something good.

I must have looked horrific ... the puffy eyes, the layers and layers of clothing ... something ... Because the guy that finally helped me re-check bags at 5:39am (not that I was watching the clock) decided to upgrade me to first class. It was then that I figured I would for sure see someone who supports our work and they would think I spend their money on first class airline tickets and other super fun things and they might think I went to Disney World too and I would fumble and be awkward trying to tell the story of how I got upgraded without even asking ... and it was a free ticket and I only went to see my kid because of her birthday but we hardly spent any money and ...

But that did not happen. So that was wasted worry. I tend to be tortured when tired.

*not true
I drank 72 ounces of coffee between 6am and departure time ... which meant I could stay awake and enjoy my HUGE reclining seat in row 6 of the First Class cabin with the other fancy people - and the hot towel that came with it.
It. was. awesome.

Lastly ...
While I am operating on just a couple hours of sleep, as unwise as it seems, I am going to make a MAJOR confession.  I know I have friends I love that will be offended, but I feel the time has come to finally admit it publicly .... thus allowing me to openly mock aforementioned friends later.

I loathe matching t-shirts for traveling mission team members. Truly. A lot.  I feel sad for people every time I see it. These folks pictured here made me frown at gate F6 today. They went to Jamaica all yellow and matchy. So sad for them.

Troy likens it to what the late great Vince Lombardi said about being in the end zone: "Act like you've been there before!"

Aaaaaahhhhh. That felt good. Off my chest.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

grow together

While we were in Texas last year we got dozens and dozens of emails from folks planning or wanting to move to Haiti to do longer-term stuff. We answered as many as we could and gave advice while trying not to feel jealous of those that could go where we wished we were.

As the weeks in Texas became months there were times when things in our hearts were ugly and often times we found ourselves examining things and exposing unattractive truths. At one particular point toward the end of the year I found myself feeling disgusted with myself. I hated that I was jealous of someone in particular.  I forced myself to confess it to a few trusted people and to have accountability for what I knew was not pretty or acceptable to my Dad in Heaven. I asked Troy to pray with me that I would do the work I needed to do to remove that grossness.

By the time we got home to Haiti things were markedly better and I was ready to start "phase two" of our life here. (Pre EQ and Post EQ is and always will be the way we divide our time in Haiti.)

We have often heard that the failure of interpersonal relationships is the number one or two (depending on what you read) reason that people leave ministry/leave their respective mission field.  I knew this when I moved to Haiti.  I had read the articles and thought I was ready.  We recognized in advance that most people leave - not because they cannot deal with cultural differences and not because of other obvious things.  Rather, most people give up because of inter-personal relationships with their peers - because of conflict with their own co-laborers.

People cannot work well with other people. 

After I got here I witnessed this first-hand repeatedly.  I suddenly knew exactly what power, ego, jealousy, competition, and pride did in and among "missionaries."  People quit. Friends split.

I began to hate how people set missionaries up on a pedestal as if they are some big thing.  It's not true. We're all jacked up sinners saved by grace alone.  We don't play well with others any better than anyone else. If anything, the pressure cooker of the host culture makes us all more sucktacular at inter-personal relationships.

I recently read this:

"Equally important is unrealistic expectations. Books with nice formulas and not enough honesty, balance, and biblical reality often create this unrealistic expectation. A.W. Tozer urged us to develop skepticism in connection with some of the things we hear or read about. Godly, gifted leaders are still sinners saved by grace or will continue to sin or fail. We must be ready to forgive and grow together in repentance and brokenness"

Read that last sentence "We must be ready to forgive and grow together in repentance and brokenness."

That is no.small.thing.

I am the first to acknowledge that sometimes certain people cannot and will not work well together and a pleasant, mature, gracious split is the best thing for all parties.  Sometimes you can do everything in your power to honestly tackle issues and the parties won't come to a place that qualifies as "repentance" or "brokenness".  When that is the case the best thing to do is walk away and refrain from casting stones.

Troy and I have had conflict with people we've worked with in our time here.  Sometimes it ended cordially, even well ...  Other times not so much.

We're feeling like God handed us a humongo gift in our new co-missionaries at Heartline. We had a tight community and already loved the opportunities we had to work under John and Beth, but now we have friends in the same stage of life with kids at similar ages moving to work with all of us. We love the Hendrick Family.  It might sound like some stupid mutual admiration society ... And I willingly risk sounding that way in order to share our thankfulness.  The times we've been able to get our two families together have been so fabulous and fun. Yesterday we met to go over the teacher application stuff and all of a sudden we'd spent 8 hours talking and having a blast and it felt like we'd just sat down. We're so grateful for this gift.  We know there was just as good of a chance we'd all find each other totally annoying and unlikable. Or, maybe the husbands like each other but the wives don't. What are the chances of two random families with loads of kids being plopped together and clicking well and even loving each other? We don't know what sorts of prayers and petitions went up surrounding the specific matching of full-time staff/resident expats at Heartline but we're guessing some did.  We are grateful.

Working together in community in an intense place like PAP isn't always going to be fabulous.  Certain stressful situations put us at huge risk for problems.  Stuff is going to happen and conflict will come. Will you pray that when those times and situations arise that all of us will "be ready to forgive and grow together in repentance and brokenness" ?  

I know without a doubt, that is what we all long for.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Li la

Photo by: Etant Dupain - (taken near our neighborhood)

The rumors turned into fact this morning. After seven years in South Africa, former President Aristide has returned to Haiti.   I don't think anyone knows what this will mean for the election run-off scheduled for Sunday. Maybe nothing?

As I read earlier this morning, "Everything is possible, nothing is certain."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thinking through STM

STM = Short Term Missions/Missionaries
LTM = Long Term Missions/Missionaries

Below are random (but true) examples:

A.) Team comes to visit.  They go on a walk through the small village they are visiting.  One boy speaks English in the village of hundreds. Everyone migrates to him because he can be communicated with easily. He asks for a bike. One man in the group tells the boy offhandedly that "maybe" he can have a bike. Maybe doesn't have the same meaning in the country the STM is visiting as it does in his home country. STM gets to be the hero and make promises.  For two years the boy asks the LTM why the bike has not arrived.  He does not forget that the white guy said maybe he could have it. The LTM has to field the requests for delivery on the STM promise. (bike can also be replaced with watch, TV, Ipod, trip to beach)

B.)  A bike arrives for one kid in a village of 700 kids.  A well meaning STM sent it because they really love their child they sponsor in the feeding/school program and they want him to have a bike.  The LTM begs the ministry partners in America not to force them to give that bike. The LTM fears the trouble it will cause.  The ministry wants to make the donor of the bike happy.  They say the LTM must give the bike and take photos.  The boy gets the bike.  The donor gets the photos.  The donor is happy.  The boy gets beat up and his bike gets stolen by bigger older boys that are angry that the mission did not give them bikes.  Insisting on giving a gift turned out to be a selfish request.

C.)  A STM group comes in wanting to help build houses.  The LTM suggests they work with Haitians and get their input. The LTM makes many suggestions based on the years in country and the things they have learned about the culture and its building practices. The STM wants to build the house according to their practices and styles of building.  They force their way of building onto the group of Haitians they are building the house for and refuse to believe that the Haitians way of doing it has any merit. They finish the house and take many photos of their good work to go home and show their church proudly.  The following Sunday the group is sharing their photos at church and the Haitians are tearing off the roof of the house and re-doing the way that they prefer.

D.) A STM group focused on medical care come to offer a one-day free clinic. Word gets out that the team will give out peanut butter if you say that you have a child at home that is anemic. Suddenly every child in the village is anemic.

E.) STM group comes in to host a VBS not having any cultural context or awareness.  Gifts are given all week. The kids continue to come to see what gift they will get. Songs are sung and taught in English.  The kids speak Creole. A large number of children are "saved" the group does not know that four other STM groups have come through that year and the kids now know that praying for Jesus to come into your heart equals a congratulatory gift. The group sends out news letters boasting (false) numbers of kids that made a choice for Jesus.

F.)  A STM comes to distribute food. They don't have relationships in the area they are distributing. They don't know what is needed. They don't know who else has worked in that area prior to them. They hand out food for two hours only to realize that there are 300 people that did not get food waiting outside.  Fighting starts between those that got food and those that didn't.  The group is forced to tuck tail and run before they get stuck in the middle of a fight. (Food can be replaced with many other hand-outs.)

These are just a few examples among dozens and dozens. Haiti is close and easy to visit from the USA. More STM trips happen here than any other country in the world. Since the earthquake teams have increased. Every week - all year long - team after team visits Haiti.  Some come to "save" and tell and some come informed and ready to learn and observe. Some come thinking that relationship doesn't matter and they walk around handing out $5 bills and gospel tracts and some come to sit and listen and learn. Some come trying to be aware of what others before and after them will do and others come thinking that what they do matters more to Haiti than any single thing that ever happened here.

A while back we went to a conference where one of the speakers was the author of "When Helping Hurts - How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself".   If you are coming to Haiti or Africa or Asia or Guatemala or Timbuktu we think it is wise to read it.

I don't believe the man who offered the bike ever meant to cause so much trouble for the LTM or the kid.  I don't believe the VBS group meant to pay kids with gifts to become Christians. I am fairly certain that many groups have not considered that they are one of thousands of STM groups that will come to Haiti this year. I don't think groups come here wanting to foster dependency and send a message that Haitians cannot do things for themselves.  Sadly, for many many years we've been doing just this.  Not because we wanted to - but just because we came in with the wrong attitude.

Many people, ourselves included, come with good intentions.  It is important for us to recognize where we have failed and attempt to learn from our mistakes. We need to realize that good intentions are often times not enough and in the end we might do more harm than good.  All of our pride needs to be laid down. Short or long term, we need to be completely open to learning from those that have been here even longer.

A few excerpts from When Helping Hurts:

It is crucial that North American STM teams move beyond ethnocentric thinking that either minimizes cultural differences or immediately assumes that middle to upper class North American cultural norms are always superior to those of other cultures.

By definition, short term missions have only a short time in which to "show profit", to achieve pre-defined goals. This can accentuate our American idols of speed, quantification, compartmentalization, money, achievement, and success. Projects become more important than people. The wells dug. Fifty people converted. Got to give the church back home a good report. Got to prove the time and expense was well worth it. To get the job done (on our time scale), imported technology becomes more important than contextualized methods. Individual drive becomes more important than respect for elders, for old courtesies, for taking time.

Ensure that the "doing" portion of the trip avoids paternalism. Remember, do not do for people what they can do for themselves.

Design the trip to be about "being and "learning" as much as about "doing".

Stay away from the "go-help-and-save-them" message and use a "go as a learner" message. We need no more STM brochure covers with sad, dirty faces of children and the words "Will you die to self and go and serve?" Such a message places too much focus on the sacrifice the STM team is making to change people's lives - a level of change that is simply not realistic in two weeks - and on how helpless the poor people are without the team's help.

Be careful how STM are presented as part of the larger missions movement. Statements such as "If you are serious about missions, then you need to take a short term trip" are common. This is a vast overstatement, as many, many folks serve in missions long term without the short term experience. Furthermore, such messages can give a false impression about what it really takes to do serious missions or community development work.

Make pre-trip learning a requirement, not a suggestion. Simply wanting to go and coming up with the money is not sufficient to qualify somebody to join the team. If people don't want to spend time to learn before they go on the trip are they really going to have a learner's mind-set during the trip? 

Edit to add 3/18/11 - 
The comments on this post are worth reading. 

A friend sent me a link to this article. It is worth the read.

Please know that Troy and I have jacked this up too. On the trip we made to Haiti shortly before moving in 2005 we did an idiot thing that ticked off the LTM. He had a right to be mad at us. The fact is people do things to make themselves feel good.  It feels good to hand a poor guy asking for help $50 but it is not wise.  In that instance Troy and I should have handed the LTM the $50 and let him decide how to disperse and use it because he knew a lot about the man and the situation. 

Edit to add 3/20/11 -
A handful of former and current missionaries wrote to say they agreed this issue is troublesome and needs discussion, yet their board(s) of directors won't allow them to say anything. (For fear of offending or losing support.) 

This is a 1.6 billion dollar a year industry.  If we are blessed enough in North America to spend that kind of money traveling to "help" the poor,  I so want to believe that we'd try to learn more and be sure we are actually helping.   

These are not easy issues and LTMs struggle to figure out the right way to do things too.  It is a learning process. Nobody comes knowing it all. Most of us struggle even years later but we're wanting to make it better. Please don't write off this discussion with a "it isn't Christ-like to criticize" stamp.  Hiding behind bad practices because we're too afraid to speak honestly has hurt enough people. It isn't Christ-like to trample on the poor because we want to do what we want to do. It is time to look hard at our own "church culture" and how we go about missions.  We don't examine this stuff to be critical, we're simply desiring to esteem the people we love in our respective countries and to stop doing hurtful things. 

Some Related Posts:

Respecting the Poor
A Boat that Needs Rocking

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where were you in '82?

Isaac and Noah performing their uber special version of the chorus of 'Eye of the Tiger'.  The best move of the performance is Noah at 23 seconds in as he channels his inner rock n roll star.

1982,  Tara 10, in MN.  Troy was 7, in KC, MO.  {Isaac was -19 Noah was -22}

Survivor's lyrics were not really much better than what Ike and Noah made up.

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream thrill of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger

Alien Will

Last summer while we were in the USA lamenting not being in Haiti, God gave us many good gifts.  One of them was a unique opportunity to meet a family serving Him in a risky place.  

Like us they found themselves on a longer break than they anticipated or even wanted.  Our surly attitudes and common struggles bonded us, and due to the instant connection we experienced in our short time together, we've been writing each other ever since.  I have the world clock on my phone set to their local time so that I can be reminded to pray for them as I see what time of day it is in their part of the world.

I wanted to share a recent post of theirs ... So many things to reflect upon and learn from these thoughts.   


The Alien Will of God

Many are the moments on this journey where we have looked at each other and said,  ‘this is crazy! We are crazy for doing this!’

Many more are the moments where other people have thought and/or said that as well. 

And yet, isn’t this what we are called to?  We talked yesterday in church about what it means to be a slave.  Today the weight of this term is lost to those of us in the Western World. If we were to ask any person in Jesus’ time they would have given you a serious answer. Today, ask any man, woman, or child the world over who is forced into labor, prostitution, debt-slavery, etc. and they will tell you that slavery is obedience to an alien will.  It means putting aside your thoughts, desires, plans, comfort, feelings, etc. for the desires of another. 

That is what we have been called to, people.  The Word tells us that, the Spirit tells us that, Jesus lived and breathed it.

Think about how often common sense is thrown out the window when it comes to serving the Creator.

I don’t want to this to come across as self-righteous bragging or holier-than-thou at.all. but this is what it currently looks like for us:

We give up a nice house and a secure future in the States to come here…to a country at war.

Carrying on the family farm is replaced with teaching people where to poop properly.

Having our kid grow up with cousins and grandparents and friends and family is replaced with a handful of (wonderful) friends and angel khAla who pulls him around the house on the vacuum cleaner. 

Instead of packing for a weekend trip to see family and friends, we pack an evacuation bag and leave it by the front door…just in case.

Instead of weekly reports on crop prices, we get weekly reports on roadside bombings across the country. 

Instead of going for long, leisurely runs through cornfields, we lift weights in our kitchen. 

Instead of asking Dad to bless our kids as they go to school, we ask Dad to provide a teacher so they can keep going to school…so that their parents can keep working here.

Our weekly gathering consists of very loud off-key singing and a traveling bag of song books.

Ice cream is a figment of our imagination.

There are times when we look at that list and look at each other and ask, “what are we doing here?!?”   Why are we in the middle of a war-torn country, working with people with hard hearts and blind eyes, wondering if fruit will ever come or if people will ever learn how to poop right? 

The obedience to an alien will.

We have wrestled and wrestled with these questions. We have asked and sought and reasoned and pleaded with the Most High (as have our families) about our place in His plan for this country and these people.  We have suggested other people would be better. We have tossed in our nominations for other countries (always with better food and beaches of course…). We have asked noisily and delved into long periods of silence. 

The alien will…

So scary

So beautiful

Like a moth drawn to light are God’s children drawn to His ways when they earnestly set their hearts after His ways.

We don’t always know

We don’t always want to follow

But we can’t help but move where He leads.


Matthew wrote it this way….

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One who is most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
- Matthew 5 Sermon on the Mount  from The Message Bible

And so blessed we are.

We have plenty to eat and a roof over our heads.

We have a great team here who are dear friends, great support, and our biggest cheerleaders (as well as wonderful babysitters).

We have family who sees the value in the work we are doing and love and support us in it. 

We have a beautiful little boy who makes us smile…a lot.

We have the love and friendship of each other that gets sweeter as the days go by.

We have work here that is challenging and meaningful.

We have a yard full of crazy kids who are amazing role models for little t and are so good to him.

We have angel khAla and kAkA who make life easier and help us find joy in the simple things.

We have HOPE and TRUTH and LIFE.

Truly we are blessed in these days.

Is life easy? No

Would we want it to be? No

We are so thankful for the things that Dad is allowing us to be a part of, to see, to experience, to smile at and to grieve over.  How could we turn away from being a part of His work?

The alien will of God can be painful, or frustrating, or mysterious, or intangible. But, it will ALWAYS bring blessing.  ALWAYS.

It may not be the blessing the world would place their money on. But like Matthew describes:

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Everything that can’t be bought: HOPE and TRUTH and LIFE, MERCY and GRACE and PEACELOVE THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO.

This is the alien will of our great God. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

No more brace-face

Before - April 2009
After - March 2011

The big haps at our house this weekend:

1. Paige got her braces off Friday
2. Paige had some sort of crazy allergic reaction and was totally miserable Saturday and Sunday
3. Paige was put on steroids and other drugs by her fabulous personal pediatrician Dokte Jen
4. Paige got hungry and irritable and remains so
5. Paige stayed home from school today to continue recovering from unknown allergic reaction

In non-Paige news:
1. Saturday Hope and Isaac went to the beach with the Hendrick family. They had a blast.
2. Noah is all better, no more puking of fever. Thursday and Friday were not fun days for him.
3. Harbor House ladies came over to play basketball, swim, and watch the movie Annie Saturday afternoon ... they were not too into that movie choice.
4. Church on Sunday followed by a time of prayer and discussion at the new Heartline land as we all try to determine the timing for each family moving there.
5. Geronne loved seeing the land. She is totally annoyed with the amount of rent we pay at our house. (We are not nearly as annoyed as she is.) So she thinks moving to this new property is the way to go. We probably won't move for another year though.
6. I told Geronne every woman in America wants her fabulous arms. I asked her if she wanted to give any tips... maybe create a workout video?  She said "sweep".  There you go.  You're welcome.

Photos below compliments of Beth McHoul/Jonna Howard.  (Jonna took these with Beth's camera, therefore she is missing from most photos.)
Those that were baptized last Sunday
Lydia likes to sit by John - because she knows it bugs him
Forget your personal space bubble
Ike and Geronne at the new land
Our first party/meal at new land
Melissa (visiting) & Beth
Troy tweeting about Aaron
Heather and Tara

Barry (manages guesthouse) and Jonna (midwife extraordinaire)
Brit, Collins (visiting), Becca & Barry (guesthouse)
Pierre & Junior
Ready for another unpredictable week in Port au Prince! Here we go.