Saturday, November 30

celebrations & thanksgiving

Happy Birthday PAIGE!
Congrats BRITT!
We're celebrating Thanksgiving along with the birth of one Paige Noelle. She entered the scene 19 years ago this morning, in Minnesota. Our lives are all the richer for it.

We are also celebrating Britt's acceptance into a really great PA (Physician's Assistant) program. I am pretty thrilled that my old-age health care plan will involve my kid coming to do personal house calls and fix everything free of charge. She is learning of my plan with you.

Adult children  ...  Such and odd thing. We're wondering if it ever feels normal?  Two grown up kids living in their own spots all awesome and responsible. I wish they would teach us how it is done.

We have much to be grateful for, and on that list are those of you that stop here to read and comment and encourage and wrestle with the tough stuff with us. 

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you, and our prayers for a beautiful Advent Season. 

T & T & Tribe



Link: Yesterday we answered two questions at Matt Hansen's blog, find it here. 

P.S.
We are working on this year's (7th annual) Christmas extravaganza. 
Until the task is complete, here are a few years of history ...

First ever Extravaganza ...


 -Second year can be found at this link.

 2009 (Third annual)
 ... the add-on to 2009 to give the wise women their due

Tuesday, November 26

a beautiful soul




Paige wrote this after a day serving as a translator more than a year ago, she finally broke down (read: under intense pressure) to allow us to post it.



4

a beautiful soul, written by paige 

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget to see the good in people. 

Admitting that is embarrassing, because I sometimes allow things that do not matter at all to hinder my ability to truly see beautiful people. 

Today, I met a beautiful person; I met a woman with a beautiful soul.

She was sitting and waiting for her turn to enter into the dentists office...Waiting and waiting, as we often do in this country. 

As I was standing next to her, she looked up and said that she had been there since morning, and needed to get home to her children. This woman seemed to be at least 60, it was clear she had a few years of hard life under her belt. Curious, I asked her about her children. She told me she had seven children. We shared a little moment over the fact that she has seven children, and that I am one of seven kids. I asked her how old they were. She mentioned four older children, and three younger children. Because of my non-stop questions, she went on to explain that the last three were adopted. 

The oldest of her three adopted children is named Moses. Again, we shared a moment when we realized we both have a little boy named Moses near to our hearts. She explained that this little boy was abandoned in a toilet, and she went and pulled him out. We again shared a moment over our connection through abandonment. Moses has lived with her as her son since the moment she pulled him out. I asked her if Moses knows that he was abandoned. She said no, that he was too young and didn’t yet need to know the cruelty of this world. I admired her wisdom. Her second adopted child is the son of  her husband's mistress. The biological mother of this boy abandoned this little boy on the street as well. Knowing the connection her husband had to the child, people nearby brought the little boy to her; it seems many know of her beautiful heart. She willingly took him in as her son. The third adoption was that of a little girl who lost her mother in child birth. My new friend, with the beautiful heart, took her in as her daughter as well.

I admired her so much for the stories of adoption and pain and loss turned into service and love. I admired her also for seeing her children as equals. If I wouldn’t have kept the conversation going, and sought out information- I would have never known that three of her children were adopted. 

To so many people adoption seems to be a synonym for  “not real children/siblings,” or “charity cases”. None of those things were true for her though. These children were her children. They were just as much her children as her older four. She was so beautiful. 

Shortly after my exchange with the brave mother of seven, a woman on a short term mission team started asking me about myself and my family.  This is a confusing conversation for most people. I usually take a deep breath prior to answering. After asking how long I’ve lived in Haiti, how old I am, etc, the next question I often get is, “How many siblings do you have?” I answer, and say that I am one of seven. Each time, I get the same look. The "Wow!” look. It gets old after the first few times, because this is my family you’re “oh wowing” at, people. I get that we are weird, and different than most families, but still, come on, don’t act like I just told you that each of my siblings has extra limbs. Next, they ask how old my siblings are. I say, “23, 11,11,9,6,5” , without fail they ask if the 11 year-old siblings are twins. I answer and explain that no, they were adopted along with the six year old. Then, they get this “oh that makes sense” look and then comes the so you don’t really have seven siblings, because three are adopted comment. At times people have even verbally respond with something like — "oh so you have three real siblings?"  Also, "Do your adopted siblings travel with your family, or stay in Haiti?" 

Each of the questions seemed to aim at separating out my family by the adopted kids, and the non adopted kids. To them, there is some important difference to be noted. I don’t know the difference. I have six siblings, and each sibling is the same to me. I love each sibling with all of my heart, and would do just about anything for each of them. They also all each equally annoy me.. so clearly there is no difference between them.

I want to see beauty. I don't like that I don’t open my eyes up and see beautiful people every day. They are all around us. I met a beautiful soul today, and I’m so thankful that I did. She reminded me that it is more than possible to love and care for people that join our families by a less traditional route.  She reminded me of unconditional love. I hope people look at my siblings (all of them!) and see beauty too. I don’t appreciate people separating out my family, because really, nothing can separate us.

Wednesday, November 20

~ (weird) kid things ~


  • 16 hours in the van with the kids and the puppy getting back to TX from TN...The first hour was touch and go, Lydia was mad at everything and disagreeing with every positive sentiment being shared. The other 15 hours felt miraculous. Good road trip. 
  • When someone does Lydia's hair and she likes it, she says, "What a great saloner!"  Salon as a verb.  You're welcome.
  • We got to see a huge black bear in the Smoky Mountains. It ran across the road in front of us. It was the highlight of Isaac's 12 year life. Lydia said, "If that thing came near me I would scream out my blood."  (Screaming bloody murder is something entirely different.) 
  • In the homeschooling curriculum we use they have a "tin whistle" unit.  I believe that falls under "fine arts" - which, let us be honest, is a total misnomer.  Also, tin whistle is a new way of saying recorder and we all know that the recorder was added to fourth grade curriculum back in 1981 as a way of driving families apart. Giving it a new name changes nothing. I digress. So, Isaac, Hope, and Noah love their tin whistles. Lucky us, right? The other day they came to tell me that they would be going for a walk and practicing. Being utterly selfish I only heard "Tin whistles will be played away from your ears, Tara" and I said, "Great idea - GO!" The three of them walked in a line, playing tin whistles as they went all around the neighborhood. When people stopped them to ask why they were not in school they said, "We don't go to school." I assume the police will be here any minute.
  • Lydia and Phoebe had a real argument about what names they "call" for their future children. They both want Julianna.  Lydia got ticked when Phoebe insisted she'd be taking Julianna first and told Phoebe, "You need to name your daughter Dolphiny because you love dolphins."
  • At the doctor's office the doctor asked Lydia, "Do you read?" Lydia said, "Yeah, I read. I read, like, the letters of the alphabet, you know? I read ABCDEFG and the rest of them too." 
  • All five "little kids" - which just doesn't work anymore as a descriptor but is what we call them - are getting all caught up on exams and immunizations. We are perpetually behind on all that well child stuff. Some of my favorite moments are watching how people react to their funny innocence. Isaac's jaw dropped to the floor when he was asked about depression, drugs, gangs, and sex. The shock on his face when those questions were posed was really kind of precious. "What do you mean a gang?" he said.  Turns out he is in the 'vocab gang'.  Initiation is 5 quality adjectives, 3 strong verbs, and the use of both in grammatically correct sentences. 
  • The church that is allowing us to use their house is a historic and large institution in this town. We have been blessed twice with the use of their 3 bedroom brick rambler and have loved staying here. We remove all their fancy decor on day one and box it up until the kids are buckled in and headed to the airport. They came by to do a bit of an inventory on the house, see if anything needed fixing or upgrading.  Isaac was the only child home with Troy. In true Isaac fashion he schmoozed the two visitors including getting their names down and telling them how nice it was to meet them and they chatted about their common love of Tennessee. Troy said he went in for a hug at the time of the introductions, which seemed to surprise them a bit. Should this church decide to support the work of Heartline Ministries we will know it was due to our good will ambassador. 
  • "Do you think Sea World will still be going when I have kids?" -Noah 
  • "I hate covers. You wanna know why?"  (uh. OK.) "They give me a tummy ache." -Lydia
  • We went to Gatlinburg one night on our TN trip. We planned to walk around and see the Christmas lights. We ended up having pizza while we were there. The two youngest girls are big on having bowel movements in public restrooms. It's their thing or something. So, I took Lydia to the bathroom as per usual. The music was blaring in the bathroom and Rod Stewart was singing Hot Legs (circa 1977) at a high volume. The stall was locked so we waited by the sink. Lydia started dancing crazy to Hot Legs and mocking a hard rock head-banger. An older woman exited the stall to see  Lydia dancing and said, "Do you know Rod Stewart little girl?" Lydia said, "NO, but I.am.dancing!" The old lady started dancing with her in the tiny bathroom sink area. Lydia and a 70 year old stranger dancing to Hot Legs in Gatlinburg. That's not weird.
  • We started working on the 7th Annual Christmas Extravaganza. We all think that family tradition is more fun in Haiti than it is stateside. 





Saturday, November 16

November Heartline Newsletter



Link to full newsletter and sign-up to receive HERE.

November 2013 Newsletter

Hope Realized
by Tara Livesay, Heartline Maternity Center
As we meet with women, some young and some not so young, we often hear stories that leave us speechless. The women of Haiti that we serve have often experienced pain, suffering, and trauma that we cannot easily imagine. One such young woman, "Rebecca" came to us early in her pregnancy.  As Rebecca opened up about her situation we grieved with her over what she had lost and what she still needed to face.  At the tender age of 15, Rebecca had been hurt.  An older man forced himself on Rebecca and assaulted her right in her neighborhood.

The community was upset, the police were notified, and in a rather unusual turn of events in Haiti, the assailant ended up fleeing Haiti to hide in the Bahamas in order to avoid the consequences of the rape. Soon after, Rebecca learned she was pregnant.  The day we heard her story we sat quietly listening to her resolve and her strength and her plan of action.  "It is not the baby's fault that I was forced. I will love this baby," said the incredibly mature young woman sitting with us.

Rebecca came to our program at the Maternity Center faithfully all throughout her pregnancy.  She missed only twice, but both times she let us know she had a counseling appointment and would be absent due to that important prior engagement.  We had the honor of helping Rebecca through hours of labor and eventually welcoming a baby boy into the world.

Instantly Rebecca proved that teen-mothers often have the ability to bond, love, and serve their children every bit as well as an older, more mature mother.  Rebecca's baby grew fast and became a very sturdy little guy. He looked even larger in his Momma's thin arms.

When Rebecca's son reached six months of age we hugged, talked and said our temporary goodbyes on the day she graduated from the program. Rebecca graduated in January of 2013 and asked about going back to school in the future.  We encouraged Rebecca to spend the next six months focusing on parenting her son.  We told her that if she would come back after his first birthday in July, we would discuss school for the 2013-2014 school year.

Just as expected, in July Rebecca came to see us. She held her giant one-year-old baby boy on her hip.  In October of this year she returned to school. Her mother is caring for her son while she presses on toward the goal of finishing high school.  This is no small task in Haiti.  The testing process is difficult and the work load heavy.  From the first day we met Rebecca, we knew she had a unique spirit, one that would allow her to fight the most difficult battles and not give up.  It was clear to us that sending her back to school was the right thing to do.

Heartline doesn't budget for these situations.  When we meet a pregnant woman we are thinking about the immediate health-related needs.  We are thinking about nutrition and vitamins and blood work. We are thinking about education throughout pregnancy and building relationships.  Later we are thinking about emotional support during the difficult hours of labor and delivery.  We are focused on breastfeeding and helping make the immediate connections between mom and baby.  Those things are the core of our program. They are the core of what we do. 

When we enter into these stories with women, we often end up knowing that our commitment to encourage, advocate, love, and serve does not end on graduation day.  

While we don't technically have a "send teen moms to high school" program and therefore had not budgeted for the more than $1,000 in fees to make it happen, we knew that Rebecca needed to be given this opportunity.  We will continue to ask God for direction in the unique situations that He brings to our Maternity Center, and we will continue to ask God to provide for the needs of the women through your generosity and love. If you would like to make a special donation to The Maternity Center, please do so here. Thank you.

For a tour of The Maternity Center:

Thursday, November 14

remembering on this anniversary


1998

A family formed by the grace of a loving God on November 14, 1998.

Fifteen years have passed.

There has been triumphant joy and blessings unimaginable.
(grace)
There has been loss, grief, and mourning.

There have been mistakes and regret. 
(grace)
There has been healing.

We have celebrated and we have danced.

We have experienced more than we ever imagined we could.
(grace)
2013

~       ~       ~



It is April 1998 and you are down on one knee on a hillside in St.Paul.

Yes!

It is November 1998 and we are exchanging vows with one another and with the girls. I am so happy and I almost cannot fathom how blessed I am to begin life with you.

It is summer 1999 and we are decorating our first house and we are pregnant.

It is October 1999 and we are watching the ultrasound screen, seeing no heartbeat.

It is winter of 1999 and we're struggling to love each other well and we need some help.

It is April 2001 and we are pregnant, but not for long.

It is November 2001 and our Colombian adoption application has been denied.

It is April 2002 and we fly to Haiti for the first time ever, having no idea what lay ahead.

It is the end of October 2002 and Isaac and Hope are on our laps on and airplane. They are legally our children. We almost can't fathom it. Our family feels complete.

It is June 2003 and I'm in Wisconsin watching our nephew Aidan enter the world. (Fertility is in the air?)It is exactly nine months later, March 2004, and Noah is born in a dramatic and life-threatening fashion. Even so, he is going to be fine and we almost can't fathom it. Our family feels complete.

It is June 2005 and we start having regular conversations about moving to Haiti, "someday". We agree that it sounds improbable if not impossible.  We find ourselves talking to our Pastor and my parents in spite of the improbability of it all. 

It is September 2005 and we are in Port au Prince meeting John and Beth McHoul and realizing that maybe we are moving to Haiti.

It is January 2006 and I am kissing you goodbye at the Minneapolis airport as you fly off to prepare for us to follow you three weeks later.  I stand in the cold and I beg you not to go, and you mockingly remind me, "You started this."  We follow in February and while the five kids file onto the airplane, I think "What happened?" and I almost can't fathom it.

2006 Our first year in Haiti is incredibly difficult. Dengue Fever and Malaria and cultural baptism by fire. You are strong and you rely on God and your strength pulls us all along.

It is January 2007 and we are worried that Hope's birth mother died in childbirth. We have no word from her about her own well being or that of the baby she had been due to deliver in November 2006. A few weeks later, in ways we will never forget, you locate Phoebe in one place and her mother in another. It feels like a holy occurrence and we almost can't fathom it. Phoebe joins us when she is 10 weeks old.  Our family feels complete.

It is February 2007 and you have gone to buy lumber with my Dad, who is visiting us in Haiti. When you return I tell you I need to talk to you. We climb the hill to stare out at the Caribbean, I hand you a positive pregnancy test.  You throw your head back and laugh.  I wonder about you and I cry.

It is October 2007 and we are in Minnesota to have Lydia. You are hospitalized with Meningitis and I am pleading with you to be well enough to be at Lydia's birth.  You are, and Lydia is healthy and our family is complete.

It is late January 2008 and we are back in Haiti and we are afraid when we learn Lydia has Meningitis. A week passes and miraculous protection and provision take place and we almost can't fathom it.

It is January 2009 and you and Todd are walking Brittany Rachelle down the aisle. She's getting married and we wonder how the 8 year old at our wedding so quickly became the beautiful bride.

It is March, April and May 2009 and we struggle to work through a difficult thing. We need some help - and God provides it. 

It is January 2010 and there is an earthquake. No one can fathom it.

It is November 2010 and you lose your only brother to depression.  

It is  2011 and 2012 and we are not adding new people to the family and we are busy in Haiti with ministry and kids and life is never boring.

It is 2013 and we have had some challenges this year. Every last trial and every last heartache and every last gift - it has all been grist for the mill  - and I think it seems that by default or maybe by design, we are learning from all of it. 

It is November 14, 2013 and I left out 96% of the last fifteen years. The path has zigged and zagged and gone places we never imaganed. I cannot make sense of it all, but I know God is to be thanked and this day is to be celebrated. 



Troy,   
I love learning with you. I love celebrating with you. I love raising these loons together. I love taking risks together. I love attempting to grow in grace with you. I love experiencing God with you. I love never knowing what the heck will happen next but continually seeing God's faithfulness in the good and the bad, the sorrowful and the joyous. I love you.

Happy Anniversary, baby. 

tara




Wednesday, November 13


“We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty. We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys. We cannot profess our solidarity with those who are oppressed when we are unwilling to confront the oppressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly to fruitless sentimental commiseration." 


― Henri J. M. Nouwen Donald P. McNeill Douglas A. Morrison

Tuesday, November 12

romance, a subjective term


Our five youngest have joined us to celebrate our 15th anniversary this week.

We are enjoying the amazing home of friends in the mountains of TN.  We have school books, we have games, we have mountains, we have fresh air, we have fireplaces. We have these five fabulous fools to make us laugh.

When you think romance, maybe you think candlelight and wine.  (We think of Lydia and whine and always wanting to do the opposite of everyone else.)  When you think romance, maybe you think music and dancing.  (We think Isaac's raucous laughter, which makes you feel like dancing.) When you think romance maybe you think uninterrupted time alone.  (We think 15 hours in a mini van with kids with tiny bladders that flare one at a time.) When you think romance maybe you think hours of gazing into your beloveds eyes. (We think, quick lock the door, we have three minutes before they figure out we're missing.)

We are playing a card or ten short of a full deck and we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the kids this week so we decided the only thing better than an anniversary trip together would be an anniversary trip with the tribe.  We did the, "How often will there ever really be affordable (free) chances like this?" thing, and realized that the answer was -  not often. Thus, here we are.

The oldest ones are jealous and slightly ticked off not to be along too.  (Work, School, Responsibilities) We explained to the younger five that long before they were sucking air there were vacations and trips for those two girls.  Isaac raised his fist in the air and proclaimed, "Yeah, it's our turn, now!" Then he said, "But man, I sure wish they were here."

We stopped in Memphis and thoroughly enjoyed visiting Beale Street and then the Civil Rights Museum. Standing at The Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was shot, is a moment I don't think we'll soon forget.  The quest for equality, freedom, and civil rights began 400 years ago when the first enslaved Africans were forced onto boats. Isaac and Hope are old enough to grasp it and they have a solid understanding of history and their ancestors struggle, for them this visit was especially sobering. (Full disclosure, we wished Phoebe and Lydia weren't with us for that few hours.) If you have an opportunity to visit this museum, we highly recommend it. 

Troy and I suffered from a unified total and utter mental collapse one day last week and we now have a tiny six week old puppy to prove it. I'd love to tell you the story about how this all happened, but total and utter mental collapses rarely go hand in hand with strong memory or recall.

This puppy decision eventually meant instructing Hope to hide the less than two pound ball of fur in her sweatshirt to get into the Holiday Inn Saturday night. Thankfully, a small kennel looks just like a suitcase. You think romance means nothing involving pets. (We think it means buying a puppy four days before an anniversary road trip and sneaking into hotels with it.)





But, here's the thing...How many Blues loving newborn Shih Tzus do you think have seen Beale Street and Sun Studio in Memphis? Really. How many? Chestnut Livesay has. He even took a moment on Beale to relieve himself while listening to the Blues. I then got to clean it up and use a bottle of drinking water and a towel to clean his bun-region and fur of the dingle berry that hung on for dear life. As I was doing that and Troy pretended not to know me, I realized that I am unrecognizable to myself. I don't even know me. Thank goodness nobody on Beale Street Sunday did either. 


The trade off for giving up our mental stability has been insanely happy children. Troy and I are on day five of being the most awesome parents in the world.  A little poop on Beale Street is a small price to pay for this sort of fame.

~     ~     ~


Our November submission at 'A Life Overseas' is up today.

Saturday, November 9

World Wide Village


Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. 

Bonhoeffer


It is with heavy hearts and disappointment that we share today.

We truly hoped to avoid writing this and hoped the situation could be turned around and redeemed somehow. 

We are passionate about advocating for the Haitian people we work with and love.

As uncomfortable as it is to share the information that follows, we believe that the Haitian people and the donors that care enough to give to Haiti all deserve better.  We regret that we did not share this information earlier when we suspected it was true; instead we waited until we had indisputable proof.  We have made repeated efforts to address and resolve the issue in question directly with this organization. After being unable to get resolution through direct communication, we have decided donors have a right to this information. 

The following is a letter sent on October 16, 2013 to each donor we could locate: 


~~~~~
Dear Donor,
We are writing today with important information about a past donation you made.
In 2009 you gave a donation to a Haiti fundraising-effort.   We (Troy and Tara Livesay) were actively raising funds for malnourished kids in Haiti by running the Twin Cities Marathon.  If this doesn’t ring a bell, you can scroll to the bottom of this email for links.

At that time we asked you to give to the “Medika Mamba Marathon” in order for malnourished kids in Haiti to receive a fortified Peanut Butter product that would be produced and purchased in Haiti and given to very ill children to help them recover.  We shared before and after photos of children being treated with the Medika Mamba product at a recue center called Real Hope for Haiti.   We shared that the average treatment cost per child was $100.  For every $100 raised a sick and hungry child could be brought back to health.

At the end of the Twin Cities Marathon $62,200 was raised.  We were humbled and in awe of the generosity of donors. (13 months later another $7,100 was raised for the same cause.)  We were touched by your love for Haiti and by your gifts.
Today we are writing to share some discouraging news with you and to apologize for what we have recently learned.

The organization that we raised the funds with was World Wide Village, Inc.  This is a Minnesota based non-profit organization.  They promised us they would act with integrity and these funds were designated toward a specific cause. We were assured the funds would be used for the purchase of Medika Mamba for Haiti’s malnourished children.  Two weeks ago we learned that only $25,000 of the funds that were raised has been used for their intended purpose and that World Wide Village does not have the missing $44,000. We have written to Randy Mortensen, President of World Wide Village and he has denied any wrongdoing.

We know this is a disappointment and we join you in that.  Misusing funds intended for hungry children in Haiti is deplorable and we are sorry we trusted WWV to handle these funds. 
We share this information because we want to apologize for trusting Randy and Pat Mortensen and their organization; at that time we had not seen evidence of mismanagement of funds. In the past few years we have seen multiple cases and incidents that concern us. We resigned from their organization in early 2011. We also wanted you to have this information to inform your future donations to World Wide Village.

Regretfully,
Tara and Troy Livesay
Port au Prince, Haiti

LINKS TO OLD POSTS:
(the original post about the fundraising effort)

(after the 2009 race. Donation totals provided by Randy and Pat Mortensen)

(a short documentary about the fundraising and the amazing generosity of donors)

http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/2010/10/looking-back-looking-forward-medika.html (the 2010 smaller fundraiser for same cause, $7,100 went directly to World Wide Village during this short fundraising effort)

(END OF LETTER TO DONOR)
~~~~~~~~~

The company in Haiti that manufactures Medika Mamba is owed more than $8,500 right now that World Wide Village had not paid as of the writing of this post. There has been an outstanding balance for more than one year. That company has graciously provided the product to Real Hope for Haiti at no charge recently due to World Wide Village's failure to pay them.  

There is no perfect non-profit organization doing things perfectly at all times.  We are certain of this.  Most small and large non-profit organizations have made poor spending choices or developed programs that have failed.  Any organization claiming perfection is either in utter denial or grossly dishonest. 

We are certain that at times World Wide Village has done things in Haiti that were good and that in other cases they have used funds correctly.  No organization is all good or all bad; we are not claiming that nothing good has occurred over the last five years.  

It is, however, our personal belief that far too much money has been used carelessly and not as designated.  During our attempts to reconcile and resolve this issue, we have been told that many others have attempted to bring their concerns directly to Randy Mortensen (President of World Wide Village) in the past several years.  We have spoken with multiple staff and board members before we decided to go public with this information.

When we (our family) ceased our involvement with World Wide Village in 2011 it was partly due to our belief that Randy and Pat Mortensen had used our personal family support dollars to cover other ministry expenses. While we don’t think anything illegal happened with our personal support dollars, we do feel that Randy misled us and lacked moral integrity in his decision to use the funds designated for our family without telling us in advance. The funds were ultimately paid back to us over the next several months. We have been concerned about the handling of finances within this organization ever since. 

We believe that there are many other alarming situations regarding this organization and their operations in Haiti, including but not limited to: lost assets due to unpaid bills, staff turnover, an inactive board of directors without voting power, a lack of accountability and oversight, Haitian employees being paid late and/or not being paid in full, and debts with companies in the U.S. and Haiti. 

It is disappointing for everyone when Christian organizations operate without integrity.  Sadly, something as simple as a broken promise or an unpaid bill can damage the work and efforts of all Christians attempting to love and serve in Haiti. 

When we believed that World Wide Village mismanaged our personal funds it was something we easily chose to forgive and let go.  We are not, however, able to ignore and remain silent about this current situation. Tens of thousands of dollars that were raised for the express purpose of helping hungry children in Haiti have not been used for that purpose to date. We find this totally unacceptable and grievous, and believe that it constitutes a misuse of designated funds by this organization. Attempts to seek resolution and formulate a plan with which to rectify these concerns have failed. We apologize to any donor that may feel misled by our former endorsement of this organization.   


Troy and Tara Livesay 

Thursday, November 7

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. Bonhoeffer



It is with heavy hearts and disappointment that we share today.

We truly hoped to avoid writing this and hoped the situation could be turned around and redeemed somehow. 

We are passionate about advocating for the Haitian people we work with and love.

As uncomfortable as it is to share the information that follows, we believe that the Haitian people and the donors that care enough to give to Haiti all deserve better.  We regret that we did not share this information earlier when we suspected it was true; instead we waited until we had indisputable proof.  We have made repeated efforts to address and resolve the issue in question directly with this organization. After being unable to get resolution through direct communication, we have decided donors have a right to this information. 

The following is a letter sent on October 16, 2013 to each donor we could locate: 


~~~~~
Dear Donor,
We are writing today with important information about a past donation you made.
In 2009 you gave a donation to a Haiti fundraising-effort.   We (Troy and Tara Livesay) were actively raising funds for malnourished kids in Haiti by running the Twin Cities Marathon.  If this doesn’t ring a bell, you can scroll to the bottom of this email for links.

At that time we asked you to give to the “Medika Mamba Marathon” in order for malnourished kids in Haiti to receive a fortified Peanut Butter product that would be produced and purchased in Haiti and given to very ill children to help them recover.  We shared before and after photos of children being treated with the Medika Mamba product at a recue center called Real Hope for Haiti.   We shared that the average treatment cost per child was $100.  For every $100 raised a sick and hungry child could be brought back to health.

At the end of the Twin Cities Marathon $62,200 was raised.  We were humbled and in awe of the generosity of donors. (13 months later another $7,100 was raised for the same cause.)  We were touched by your love for Haiti and by your gifts.
Today we are writing to share some discouraging news with you and to apologize for what we have recently learned.

The organization that we raised the funds with was World Wide Village, Inc.  This is a Minnesota based non-profit organization.  They promised us they would act with integrity and these funds were designated toward a specific cause. We were assured the funds would be used for the purchase of Medika Mamba for Haiti’s malnourished children.  Two weeks ago we learned that only $25,000 of the funds that were raised has been used for their intended purpose and that World Wide Village does not have the missing $44,000. We have written to Randy Mortensen, President of World Wide Village and he has denied any wrongdoing.

We know this is a disappointment and we join you in that.  Misusing funds intended for hungry children in Haiti is deplorable and we are sorry we trusted WWV to handle these funds. 
We share this information because we want to apologize for trusting Randy and Pat Mortensen and their organization; at that time we had not seen evidence of mismanagement of funds. In the past few years we have seen multiple cases and incidents that concern us. We resigned from their organization in early 2011. We also wanted you to have this information to inform your future donations to World Wide Village.

Regretfully,
Tara and Troy Livesay
Port au Prince, Haiti

LINKS TO OLD POSTS:
(the original post about the fundraising effort)

(after the 2009 race. Donation totals provided by Randy and Pat Mortensen)

(a short documentary about the fundraising and the amazing generosity of donors)

http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/2010/10/looking-back-looking-forward-medika.html (the 2010 smaller fundraiser for same cause, $7,100 went directly to World Wide Village during this short fundraising effort)

(END OF LETTER TO DONOR)
~~~~~~~~~

The company in Haiti that manufactures Medika Mamba is owed more than $8,500 right now that World Wide Village had not paid as of the writing of this post. There has been an outstanding balance for more than one year. That company has graciously provided the product to Real Hope for Haiti at no charge recently due to World Wide Village's failure to pay them.  

There is no perfect non-profit organization doing things perfectly at all times.  We are certain of this.  Most small and large non-profit organizations have made poor spending choices or developed programs that have failed.  Any organization claiming perfection is either in utter denial or grossly dishonest. 

We are certain that at times World Wide Village has done things in Haiti that were good and that in other cases they have used funds correctly.  No organization is all good or all bad; we are not claiming that nothing good has occurred over the last five years.  

It is, however, our personal belief that far too much money has been used carelessly and not as designated.  During our attempts to reconcile and resolve this issue, we have been told that many others have attempted to bring their concerns directly to Randy Mortensen (President of World Wide Village) in the past several years.  We have spoken with multiple staff and board members before we decided to go public with this information.

When we (our family) ceased our involvement with World Wide Village in 2011 it was partly due to our belief that Randy and Pat Mortensen had used our personal family support dollars to cover other ministry expenses. While we don’t think anything illegal happened with our personal support dollars, we do feel that Randy misled us and lacked moral integrity in his decision to use the funds designated for our family without telling us in advance. The funds were ultimately paid back to us over the next several months. We have been concerned about the handling of finances within this organization ever since. 

We believe that there are many other alarming situations regarding this organization and their operations in Haiti, including but not limited to: lost assets due to unpaid bills, staff turnover, an inactive board of directors without voting power, a lack of accountability and oversight, Haitian employees being paid late and/or not being paid in full, and debts with companies in the U.S. and Haiti. 

It is disappointing for everyone when Christian organizations operate without integrity.  Sadly, something as simple as a broken promise or an unpaid bill can damage the work and efforts of all Christians attempting to love and serve in Haiti. 

When we believed that World Wide Village mismanaged our personal funds it was something we easily chose to forgive and let go.  We are not, however, able to ignore and remain silent about this current situation. Tens of thousands of dollars that were raised for the express purpose of helping hungry children in Haiti have not been used for that purpose to date. We find this totally unacceptable and grievous, and believe that it constitutes a misuse of designated funds by this organization. Attempts to seek resolution and formulate a plan with which to rectify these concerns have failed. We apologize to any donor that may feel misled by our former endorsement of this organization.   


Troy and Tara Livesay 

Tuesday, November 5

written for National Adoption Month 2013

Adoption  

The word means different things to different people.  

It is loaded.  

It means pain for some. 

It means redemption for others.  

It means healing. 

It means wounding.

It means sorrow.

It means joy.

It means loss.

It means gain.

It is complex, anyone that tells you otherwise is fibbing. 






~           ~           ~


When it comes to this topic of adoption, 2013 has been a bit difficult. 

In late February we took a little guy into our home to provide foster care for him while his legal guardians and adoptive parents bravely stood up for their soon-to-be-son. They were the first to quite publicly step out against a corrupt and incredibly deceptive organization that had become somewhat popular in Haiti. 

Because we had their son in our care, their battle against injustice and unethical practices in adoption became our battle too. We have done foster care before, but never in such a tumultuous situation. We wrote this and this and others, far more eloquent than us, wrote a lot on the topic this year too.

We were in a very personal struggle that led to public outpourings of our grief over things we were seeing and experiencing.  

We received emails peppered with Bible darts and incorrect assumptions about our motives. Some people became angry. They said, "Christians need to be for adoption. You are hurting adoption. You are anti-adoption. Who are you to question God's sovereignty?" 

It was painful because it wasn't true. We are for adoption. We know our hearts and we know that very unique experiences and some unusual insight into corruption and manipulation of the poor, as well as close personal experiences with all sides of the triad, are what form and shape our views.  

We had to choose to stand with the oppressed and the powerless first. We had to choose to allow those incorrect conclusions some folks were drawing. 

In the middle of all that turmoil, I wrote this: 

"As followers of Jesus, if we are to pronounce just judgment, we’re going to have to be willing to examine some uncomfortable things and be less fearful of things we don’t understand. As followers of Jesus if we are to be guardians of the poor and afflicted, we’re going to have to ask harder questions and do more research.  As followers of Jesus we should all want to complete adoptions where at the end we can say that the rights of the poor were maintained. Justice doesn’t come easily, but we should be willing to work for it."

In recent months I have been inspired by multiple families and couples that have been choosing the more difficult path. They are entering into the adoption arena having done exhaustive research. They are turning back when they see red flags. They are choosing painful things in order to stand up for others. I am cheering for these families and their bravery and desire to stand up to injustice is a refreshing encouragement to us all.

This quote below wraps up most of the "awareness" issues quickly into one compact statement- 

“My view of National Adoption Awareness Month: 'Awareness of adoption' cannot be limited to making people aware that children need familiess. It has to cover a much larger scale, including awareness of issues such as grief, trauma, and loss, as well as racial identity, cultural realities, search and reunion issues.”
- Maureen McCauley Evans


Adoption is not about finding a child for a family who really desperately wants one. Adoption is about finding a family for a child who really desperately needs one. 

There are so many children in foster care in the USA, so many truly orphaned and in institutionalized care around the globe. They need healing, they need love, they need freedom, they need families. 

We are for ethical adoption. Join us in praying that this National Adoption Month will lead to adoptive families and beautiful things for children gravely in need of family, love, and restoration. 





National Adoption Month History