Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year from our Tribe

Five in Texas and Seven in Haiti wishing you & yours renewed hope and joy in 
2016 with this unflattering family photo

2015 was above average difficult, I thought.  It wasn't impossible by any means.  

It honestly just seemed tiring and more than the normal amount of emotionally challenging. Is that how this year landed on you too? 

I think I might need those glasses that help you read a paper in your hand without pulling the paper closer and then putting it real far from your face while trying to find the sweet spot where the words aren't all blurred. 

I guess this is what old feels like.

*   *   *

2015 was also beautiful, I thought.

Paige got married,  Michael landed a great job, Graham started walking and turned one. 

We got to vacation for a week with G & G Porter on a giant boat right after Paige's wedding.

Britt and Chris continued to chase hard after their big career dreams and wait on the right timing for beginning their family.

Isaac and Phoebe got super stretched out and tall.  

Noah learned how to deal better with the pain of life and became more skilled at being a very sensitive person.

Lydia and Hope stayed short, feisty, and awesome. 

Troy is transitioning into a leadership role, that's weird uncharted territory that utilizes all the feelings.

The Maternity Center aided in the delivery of dozens and dozens of miracles and new mothers felt loved and respected and honored. Plans to expand became a reality, that construction has begun. 

Friends were forced to leave Haiti unexpectedly to deal with the dreaded Cancer diagnosis.  

Women we met told us stories of their lives, of poverty, abuse and sorrow unimaginable and unfair. Even so, we watched many of them overcome.

We miss the kids in Texas and our aging* parents and our siblings - AND - We love our Haiti life. We wish we were not missing all the things with family and friends and their lives in the USA. Even so, we believe we are supposed to be here. Both. And. 

Always both and.

It's hard. It's wonderful. It's joyful. It's painful. It's confusing. It's clear.

I guess this is what life feels like.

Happy New Year to you - May 2016 bring us far more joy than sorrow, far more beauty than bifocals.

*we figure they must be aging too - logic led us to this conclusion

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Statistics - Heartline Maternity Center

a storm of first time moms and little ones born this summer

To each of you - Thank-you for following along, praying, giving, and encouraging this year. 

Your love is not measured in the statistics below, but we believe we have the top 10% of the world's kindest people standing with us. 

We are anxious to share with you what we learned when we pulled out all of the files and compiled some of the data.

~      ~       ~

Total of 104 women began the Prenatal Program in this calendar-year.
(60% of whom are still pregnant now and due to deliver in 2016)

Total of 96 finished the Prenatal program, and advanced to Early Childhood Development Program (and many later graduated when their baby reached six months of age) (this total includes both women that gave birth, miscarried, or left the program for various reasons shared below) 

Total Babies Born to women receiving care here -  81

Total Births at the Maternity Center  62

Total Miscarriage - 5
Total number that lost their spot due to poor attendance - 4
Total Risked Out to higher level care - 3
Total moved away - 3

Total IUFD  - 1 (intrauterine fetal death - this loss was late third trimester)
Total Preemies born - 6
(26-29 weeks is what we consider age of viability in Haiti these babies were all 26 to 35 weeks)   (4 lived - 2 died) 
.025% Neonatal Mortality Rate (this stat = died in first 28 days of life)
0% Maternal Mortality Rate 
.025% Infant Mortality Rate
(this stat = died in the first year of life and includes the neonatal stage, to our knowledge zero babies died after the six month mark, which is when we no longer see them regularly)

~   ~   ~

1,156 Prenatal Visits (average of 12 visits per woman) (we did not add up the prenatal visits of the 50 women that are currently pregnant - this number is those that have delivered this year)
  509 Postpartum Visits 
(average of 6 visits per woman - PostPartum Care is hugely important) 
1,700 women receive birth control here - this means about 70-80 women come every Friday (mainly for Depo Provera)

70% of women that delivered at Heartline in 2015 are in the Family Planning Program (meaning they chose one of the two forms of free birth control offered)

~   ~    ~

C/S rate 13% (The World Health Organization states that a 15% rate is to be expected)
Pre-E rate 26% (Pre-E is the number one complication for Haitian women)
We managed 57% of the Pre-E Deliveries  (did not transport)

Total Transports 19
Transport rate 23% 
Transport REASONS were:
6 of 19 transports were for "failure to progress" 
(which usually also means maternal fatigue)
1 of 19 for polyhydramnios
1 of 19 for post dates concerns 
3 for non-reassuring fetal heart tones in labor
2 for PPROM 
(Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) is a rupture (breaking open) of the membranes (amniotic sac) before labor begins. If PROM occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membranes)
3 for Pre-Ecclampsia
3 for other reasons
(6 of the above transports assigned a reason OTHER than Pre-E but ALSO had Pre-E but that was not the transport reason)

Other Interesting Facts:
  • We FREQUENTLY asked for you to pray on social media sites, you showed up! Thank you!
  • 1 baby born in the ambulance this year
  • 43 Girls  -  38 Boys
  • 44% of the women served were G1s
  • The youngest was 15 - The oldest was 40 
  • Babies come in bursts it seems - four in 48 hours in April and November and while we "plan" (it is silly, really) 6-8 babies a month, one month we had twelve!
  • 2015 none of the women we cared for were carrying twins, but now we have two women carrying twins that are due in 2016
  • Ultrasound training and much greater capacity to use U/S was a success of this year
  • Our BirthControl Program went digital (the rest of the medical records will too in 2016)

Madame John sending a young mom off with her vote of confidence 

KJ checking out the due date list with three curious Mommas

Great Grandpa of 93 meets his new family member

A Grandma praying and giving thanks in the PostPartum room while her daughter showers

late 2015 MC Staff- in September we had to let a long time friend & staff member, Agathe, go onto new things 

a little one that was born far too early, special keepsake photos were taken for Mom 

~     ~      ~

We meet women early in their pregnancies. We meet women that are living in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the western hemisphere, where 2 out of 3 of their friends deliver at home without a skilled birth attendant. Because of that, we meet women in a country where the risk of dying during child-bearing years is unusually high and the chances of losing the baby are just as daunting. 

We are able to spend 7 to 9 months of a woman's pregnancy getting to know her story, her needs, her unique situation. Prenatal care is rare for Haitian women, we are thankful to offer the same quality prenatal care in Haiti that our friends and relatives in North America are receiving. By the time a woman delivers her baby with us we know the details of her biggest challenges in life, and we know how to support her in a personal way as she delivers a new life into what oftentimes amounts to hardship and difficulty. 

During labor and delivery a woman is able to do the miraculous work of bringing her baby into the world in a calm environment where people offer nurture, gentleness, kindness, and love. If you have visited a Haitian hospital or walked through a crowded neighborhood in Port au Prince, you understand the vast difference our birth-center environment offers a woman.

After delivery we are able to walk with her as she does the work of bonding.  In cultures of poverty this doesn't come as naturally as it does for those of us living with material blessings galore. We love, encourage, and stand with the new mother while she begins to nurse her baby and bond to him or her in the process. We encourage mothers that God has given them the skills and heart they need to love, serve, and raise their children. 

We offer education and ongoing support for the first six months of her baby's life.  We teach about child-spacing and safe and effective methods of birth-control, in order to empower each woman to take the lead in their own health and future.

We are human and we make mistakes, we are not perfect, but we try hard to get it right when we're walking along side our Haitian friends. We work diligently to withhold any judgment and simply offer a place of safety and love and grace to a woman that is coming to us from a life of difficulties we will never fully understand. 

It's awesome and we are so grateful to have never lost a mother in our delivery room - but we are even more proud to share that the women that enter our doors feel valued and honored and loved --- and that is the reason we respectfully ask you to consider supporting Heartline Ministries and Maternity Center when you give this season.


To donate on line:

To donate by mail:

Heartline Ministries, a 501(c)(3) organization,
PO Box 898, Sunnyside WA  98944.   

(Tax Identification Number 91-2072330)

If you have questions about Heartline that you would like to ask before giving, please contact us at - we will do our best to answer with a few days.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

What began in '07 as a December 23rd last minute request, "Babe, please make this go on the Internet for me" - has turned into a tradition we all really (mostly) enjoy. 

The things is, even when a bit odd or time consuming or even a little stressful, family traditions have a way of creating something that feels safe and reliable and stable in a world that doesn't often feel that way. 

We love traditions because they are something we can count on, am I right?  

If the tradition stops bringing joy, it is time to change it up. Until then, we bask in the simple pleasure and routine of "Yep, this is what we do for fun in December". 

We so hope you all get a chance to enjoy your own traditions this season. 

Like Noah said, it is pretty evident that we are a world hurting and in need of a little rest. 

We are aching for redemption, aching to be made new.  

May the gift of God's son and the hope He brings be something so real and near to us this year. 

May unusual peace settle in on us.

To those that pray for our kids/family, the work of Heartline Ministries, the McHouls, Beth Johnson, the Maternity Center, our teachers, our friends and co-workers -  we cannot possibly make you understand or believe what that means to us.  

If you were standing here, we'd grab your shoulders (or maybe even your cheeks) and squeeze you in a spazzy (somewhat violent) Lydia kind of way and say, "THIS SO MATTERS. THANK YOU!!"  

To those that shell out hard earned cash to help us pay our rent and buy diesel and feed and educate and raise these goofy kids, your generosity allows us to be here doing work we love - what an amazing gift. 

To Britt and Paige and Chris and Michael and Graham, our "TX kids" - We love you so much and we think of you This was meant to make you smile; we hope we achieved our goal.  

Merry Christmas,

Troy and Tara and Tribe

The sadness that comes with celebrating holidays abroad really isn’t that different from the sadness that comes with any kind of celebrating. The reason love terrifies us is because it is so intimately intertwined with pain. The reason gratitude makes us cry is because it hurts. It hurts to be thankful for people who aren’t present. It hurts to be thankful that when I’m lonely, my local friends love me well. Celebrations of holidays sting because the celebration ends, the families go home, we can’t hold onto it forever. We can’t keep our children in our arms and under our roofs forever. 
-Rachel Pieh Jones

Sunday, December 13, 2015

have yourself a very ticky Christmas

As I sit down to write this, Hope and Troy are in their make-shift recording studio with headphones
 example on the interweb of what our finished product might look like
and microphones (and superior attitudes toward all of us that don't sing) working diligently to finish recording the 9th annual Christmas production audio. Every so often they yell out to us "we hear you" - so those of us with average voices are not allowed to even speak while the singing happens behind closed doors.

The first batch of Christmas sugar cookies have been baked and frosted. Lydia, Phoebe and I started that project early this morning and have just finished the frosting.  (I spent a month making cookies that one Sunday.)  All the mad props to the mothers and fathers that bake with their children on a regular basis. You are beastly freaks of nature that we defer to on all matters of ninja patience and unusual kindness.

I enjoy slightly less than zero parts of baking with children. Do you realize how infrequently they actually get the stuff into the mixing bowl? Do you know how many times you can repeat the same instruction about rolling out the dough without the instruction ever being put into practice?

 actual cookies created by actual small humans that actually look 
quite dissimilar to advertised outcome

Besides all that amazing mid December holiday fanfare ... The tree is up, the lights are on, the cool crisp 78 degree air nips at our noses and forces us to shiver in the cool morning air.

The deadly carcinogenic chemicals have been sprayed (AGAIN today) all over the boys room in true Christmas fashion. Pesticides are the missing component of most beautiful holiday celebrations. Yes?

 ~               ~                ~    

About three weeks ago the boys began to mention to me that Chestnut, our tiny Shih Tzu dog guy, had several tiny ticks on him. After a few days of hearing that I decided to take a look for myself. Once I actually listened to my children and investigated, the severity of the problem was immediately apparent.  They were creating a full time home in the boys' room.  Egg laying momma ticks and community developers and city planners were all working hard to build a sustainable community at the first bedroom at the top of the stairs at House of Troy. I both wished for death and considered burning down our entire house.

The very last thing you want to do is google "brown dog tick" and the last LAST thing you want to do is have them and their 5,000 eggs per mother in the bedroom where two of your children reside.

We have what the interweb refers to as an "infestation" and we are now on our third attempt to end this once and for all.  We tried permethrin first.  That worked for six days. Those days brought hope and joy and the skin we had scratched off in disgust began to grow back during that time of falsely believing we were done with our problem.

Today we removed everything from the room (clothing and toys and trinkets and do-dads). We sprayed all wood, tile, and cement surfaces in the entire room. This most recent product we bought is not legal in 50 states and 145 countries, but Haiti is a functional anarchy and we like our deadly chemicals available to use without regulation.  The instructions beg you to cover your mouth, your nose, your eyes, your skin, and to basically spray down a room blindly while holding your breath for as long as that takes.  We are not sure when we can re-enter that room, but when it happens we may live to tell you if it worked and if it killed our 'Rhipicephalus sanguineus Latreille' - brown dog tick friends.

Well, the door to the singer room just opened and the singer exited triumphantly.  I think we will have a Christmas Extravaganza EDITION NINE ready to go by mid-week.

A few production photos:

Friday, December 04, 2015

Years One through Four - Christmas Extravaganza

A tradition that causes stress and laughter every December ...


A way to showcase the wise-ladies more ....

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Heartline Maternity Center, Port-au-Prince, Haiti 

bSARAH STYLES BESSEY originally posted on DECEMBER 14, 2011

If more women were pastors or preachers, we’d have a lot more sermons and books about the metaphors of birth and pregnancy connecting us to the story of God. (I am rather tired of sports and war metaphors.)
The divinity of God is on display at Christmas in beautiful creche scenes. We sing songs of babies who don’t cry. We mistake quiet for peace. A properly antiseptic and church-y view of birth, arranged as high art to convey the seriousness and sacredness of the incarnation.  It is as though the truth of birth is too secular for Emmanuel, it doesn’t look too holy in its real state. So the first days of the God-with-us requires the dignity afforded by our editing.
But this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places,  the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?
This is the stuff of God.
There is something Godly in the waiting, in the mystery, in the fact that we are a part of it, a partner with it but we are not the author of it. How you know that there is life coming and the anticipation is sometimes exciting and other times exhausting, never-ending. How there is a price that you pay for the love love love.
I was fortunate to give birth to three of my tinies without complications. I find myself thinking of those experiences often during Advent; they are still very fresh for me. My eldest daughter was born in the hospital in a fairly usual way. My littlest girl was born at home, in water, with midwives, a beautiful and redemptive experience for me. But it’s the birth of my son, my Joe, that stays with me in these winter months.  His was an unintended free birth in our building’s parking garage while we were on our way to the hospital. We were alone – no midwife, no doctor, not even in our own home with a clean floor but instead a garage filled with gasoline and tire smells. My husband was scared; a lot of things could go wrong in this scenario (he had the good sense to act like he was in control though). And we were surrounded by strangers – helpful, concerned strangers but strangers nonetheless – and they were witnessing me give birth.
And yet my body had taken over and all we could do, all I could do, was surrender to that moment fully. Every muscle in my body was focused, my entire world had narrowed to that very moment.  And then there he was, born while I was leaning against our old truck, standing up, into my own hands, nearly 9 pounds of shrieking boy-child humanity, welcomed by my uncontrollable laughter and his father’s uncontrollable relief-tears. A few people applauded.
There wasn’t anything very dignified about giving birth.
And yet it was the moment when I felt the line between the sacred and the secular of my life shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?
But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.  It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.
My entire concept of God shifted in that moment, leaving my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep. I could never see God as anything other than through the lens of the Incarnation, of his Father-Mother heart and his birth now. No theologian or counter-circumstance-experience can take away from what I know, what many mothers the world over know in their heart of hearts about loss and birth and raising babies and real transformation: it’s Love and it is sacred and it is human and it all redeems.  The very truth that God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood through birth, even – especially –  that experience of birth, now showing us what it means to be truly human.
Women can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God. There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.
God, Incarnate, Word made flesh, born of a woman. We can tell the true, messy stories of the Incarnation. Emmanuel, God with us. May we recognise the miracle of the Incarnation, not in spite of the mess, but because of the very humanness of it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Proposal Story (with a little history first)

Josh and Jen ~ January 2015 ~ Florida 

In August of 2006 I met Dr. Jen face to face for the first time.  We met for a couple of reasons. A now common close friend, Marcia, had asked Jen if she was reading our blog and if she had seen that I needed help with a horrible rash Noah had during our first summer in Haiti. Marcia invited me to her cabin and I met Jen and Marcia in NW Iowa when I was in the USA for a week.  

(There were dozens of connections between Marcia and Jen and I - friends and acquaintances in common, three special places in our lives in common, adoption, etc, etc.) 

January 2008
Jen and I didn't instantly become besties, but we did instantly really like one-another. 

By the fall of 2007 Marcia's daughter Tess was planning to come to Haiti to help us with our explosion of small children for several months and Jen was working at a hospital in Port au Prince and was being invited for meals at the McHouls house from time to time.  

We heard updates about Jen from Beth McHoul and we looked forward to all being in Haiti at the same time once we were done with getting Britt moved to college and having the grand finale child #7. This photo was taken in January 2008 as Jen headed back to Haiti to work at the hospital after Christmas break and Tess and my kids headed south ahead of new baby Lydia and I because we still needed to say goodbye to Brittany and move her to Baylor University. 

Tess helped us do this.
Lydie, Annie, Phoebe - January 2008 - baby to adult ratio improved with Tess

One day in January 2008 Jen needed to leave the hospital - she called to ask us if we would come get her and I mentioned to her by phone that Lydia was sick.  

Long story short, she asked me to bring Lydia to Port au Prince to pick her up and then she could see how sick Lydia was and we could decide what needed to be done.   The end result of the need Jen had for a ride that day, was that Lydia was correctly diagnosed within 12 hours and hospitalized for bacterial Meningitis. Later that week when Lydia started seizing, Jen was the singular physician around (Friday night seizures in Port au Prince - not a good plan - Doctors go home) that could stop her seizure (speaks Creole!) and save her from hearing or brain damage or worse. 

Paige and her 2008 big sisters, Jen and Tess
Jen moved in with our family out in the village in late January 2008. We lived and worked closely together for five months and opened a clinic in the village in 2008. We also lived together a for a lot of 2010 and 2011.  

Whenever Jen is in Haiti she is with us, an extension of our family and a important part of us.  

We've loved and lived through some pretty rough days and experiences and some pretty amazing miracles and triumphant moments.  We have seen death and destruction and birth and healing together.

We love Jen dearly and count her among our most trusted friends. 

Thank you Internet, and Marcia, for doing your part to make us friends.

*        *         *

NOW ... The REAL reason for this post:

(written and shared with permission)

On October 30th Jen's boyfriend, Josh, got in touch with Troy to ask if we would like to possibly help him to come propose to Jen in Port au Prince.   

(DUH!!!! OF COURSE!!!!! Dumbest question ever.)

When Troy told me that Josh had asked that, we jumped in circles hugging in our bathroom at 5:50am on the 31st ... Because we love Jen and hugging and circles and jumping. 

Josh began by wondering what would be "most meaningful to Jen".  I cannot count how many times he asked and wondered that as we spent about two weeks chatting back and forth, planning, and preparing for the big day, which was set for November 15th.  

Several (dozens and dozens) messages were exchanged between Josh, Marcia, Joanna, and Haiti. 

The paranoia of being the one to mess this up in any number of ways was an excellent diuretic for whole two weeks. 

We are a trim group of friends going into this Thanksgiving meal.  

ring shopping/planning

In the Twin Cities, Marcia and Jen's Mom, Connie, got to go ring shopping with Josh. Joanna and her daughter Cassie decided they needed to be in on the surprise and booked their tickets for Haiti too.

The plans unfolded over voice messages and emails and Jen kept telling KJ and I that she did not know if she would have a hospital shift Sunday the 15th or not. We knew we wanted her in Port au Prince by Sunday afternoon or evening. 

At one point KJ told me that she had heard me ask Jen about Sunday on two occasions and Troy on two occasions.  She suggested that we were not very sneaky if we both hounded Jen about her return to Port au Prince when we would not normally need so much detailed schedule information from her.  

KJ bought tons of candles and I asked Troy to hang paper balls up on the upper patio once we determined with Josh that at our house was where he wanted to ask her.  

Josh let us know his plan included writing a letter to Jen in a book and having the kids involved in some way.  We kept it quiet from the kids until a few days before hand.  Once we told the kids I wondered what was wrong with us because the stress of them spilling the beans caused several extra tummy problems for Troy and I. 

All of our kids were super excited, but Noah and Isaac celebrated with the most zeal.  Noah managed to break his bed while enthusiastically punching his mattress in celebration. 

Sunday morning the 15th - KJ and I were coming off of a birth explosion of the four babies you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram.  I was on edge and KJ was exhausted too. Jen had to get a ride into town because we couldn't go pick her up as we had planned and wanted.  She arrived at our house early on Sunday.

The morning of the proposal, Jen returned to Port au Prince and
was super crazy happy which made us nervous she knew something

Once to Port-au-Prince Jen made my kids breakfast and hung out with them.  I was still at the Maternity Center not wanting to be present when Lydia blurted out that Josh was in the sky or ask "When are Joanna and Cassie getting here?!?!"  Lydia and Isaac were the two we were betting would blow it.  Hope, Phoebe and Noah are stealthy and did not concern us quite as much.

Happy fools, Haiti-and-proposal bound

As it turned out, zero of our kids messed up. These are some happy secret lock-boxes we are raising.  Isaac moved his limbs and eyebrows in an excited and exaggerated way all day, but Jen did not notice it.

I arrived home around eleven in the morning and went upstairs to "nap" which really meant texting with KJ, Marcia, Josh, and Joanna as they all had nervous tummies in their respective locations.  

Around 1:30pm Sunday, Troy said he had to go "to a meeting" and left as Jen was just going swimming with our kids.  

Troy went to the airport and picked up Josh, Joanna, and Cassie. He delivered them to KJ's apartment to rest, shower, and try to chill out for a bit.   

I texted Jen from my room and asked if she would want to go grocery shopping with me later in the afternoon when Troy came back with our truck. No surprise, Jen said yes, she would. We had no plan B on that, so it is good she is so agreeable about grocery shopping.

At 4pm I came downstairs to go to the store with Jen.  I made up a lie about why I needed to go to the store that was further away.  (Can't get good bread just anywhere!)  I grabbed the keys and said to Troy, "Need anything - should I get apples?"  Troy said, "No because J ..."  


He was about to say "Joanna brought us apples" --- but then I overcompensated for him and made it a very awkward moment where Jen determined that we were being very weird about apples and maybe needed psychiatric help.

Jen says I shopped slower than she has ever seen.  It is odd for me to do our shopping in the first place, but to take a long time and be purposefully dragging my feet in order to keep the bride-to-be AWAY from my house while Josh got settled and made his final plans, was the entire point of the trip.  We got finished too quickly, so I asked Jen if we could stop at one more store. The point of going to the other store was made up too, the real thing I was trying to accomplish was to get her back to our house after the sunset for the big moment.

While we shopped KJ moved the Minnesotans into the house and the kids got to reunite with Jo and Cassie and hear from Josh.  I am told that Josh did some practicing his proposal with Lydia during that hour and a half.

We pulled back into our driveway at 5:30pm.  As Jen and I unpacked groceries in the kitchen with Geronne, everyone upstairs was at work. They lit 100 candles and four of the kids (all but Lydie) climbed onto the roof above the patio with confetti in hand. 

Once all the candles were lit, Joanna and KJ and Cassie and Troy hid in our bedroom, which has a window facing the patio. Josh hid around the corner of the patio outside.  

Lydia was tasked with getting Jen upstairs.  

Lyd ran into Jen's room downstairs and said, "JEN JEN - I GOTTA SHOW YOU SOMETHING!!!" Jen was putting something away or being her overly organized self and pushed Lydie off for a second, on the third ask Jen said, "okay okay, I'm coming!"

Lydie led Jen to the lit up patio and holding Jen's hand brought her to the book on the glass table. 

Lydia said, "Here. This is your book. Read it."   Jen said, "WHAT is going on here?"   -  Lydia said, "SOMETHING!!" and ran like a track star out of the scene and into the bedroom with the others. 

Jen sat and read Josh's words for several minutes.  All of us were watching and stalking and being utterly creepy.  

After reading the end of the letter Jen said, "Will you come out here?"   

Then, Josh appeared and got down on one knee.  It was hard for us to hear what was said so we waited until invited to come out.  Once Josh announced, "She said, YES!"  the kids tossed their confetti from above and we started toward our friends for hugs and high fives. I perhaps jumped the gun by a few seconds, but she had in fact already replied to the big question. (Yes, indeed - I was already celebrating with a beer in hand. Not messing up was reason to start celebrating while spying.)


The next part of the surprise was delivered when Geronne came out onto the patio holding baby Cassie.   Jen had a "what tha?!?!" moment and look on her face and then Joanna came waltzing out too.  

We celebrated together with wine and an amazing Haitian meal Geronne made especially for Jen.   

The next day we played hookie from all responsibility and went to the beach together.  

It was truly beautiful to see how hard Josh worked to make it exactly what would mean a lot to Jen  - and it was fun to get to be a part of surprising her. 

all but Troy and Marcia from engagement extravaganza 2015

There are of course, many amazing people doing things to love our world and people.  I get to meet people like this often.  HOWEVER, there is only one Dr. Jen. There is only one person that I have seen save my own child and love and impact the lives of scores of others.

We are so very grateful the Josh and Jen found one another*.  Mr. Dr. Jen is truly wonderful and perfect for Jen and vice versa. We are so so so happy for them and excitedly anticipating the day they make this big commitment.
 *       *       *

Lastly, the top photo on this blog post ... In January we were all at Paige and Michael's wedding in Florida. It was an a busy time, but our kids got to meet Josh and we all wanted to get to know him as best we could in a busy few days. 

Noah and Paige's Pastor, Josh Carney, took this photo. Noah told Josh he would be needing it some day. Right when Noah learned that Josh Dwyer was coming to Haiti to pop the question, Noah asked me to get this photo from Carney. 

*(Josh and Jen were introduced by Joanna and her husband John. If your name starts with something other than J, sorry about your luck.) 

A note from Jen:

I don’t even know how to adequately express my thankfulness to everyone who was involved in this epic surprise, but I will try. 

First to Tara and Troy and the kids—You guys have been like family to me since the very beginning. I honestly can’t imagine my life without y’all in it. We have been through so much together and you have always been so kind and supportive, especially in the hardest times. Thank you for always cheering me on, and making me laugh, even (especially) when life has been shitty. I love you all so much. 

Marcia—You’ve been one of my best friends for more than 15 years. I love that you were such a big part of this surprise and I love knowing that Josh was in contact with you almost every day leading up to it. Your influence shows because you know me so well! Thank you for being such a good listener and for helping me through some really hard years. Love you tons!

Joanna (and Cassie and John)—I will never forget that moment when Geronne walked out onto the porch with Cassie in her arms, and then you walked out after them. As if the shock of getting engaged in Haiti wasn’t already enough! :) I am so honored that you made the trip with Josh and we are so incredibly grateful to have you guys in our lives. Oh, and thanks for that whole introduction thing too! Josh & I as a couple wouldn’t exist if you guys hadn’t told us to just “have the conversation”. Much love to you all!

KJ—It is crazy to think that we only met a couple years ago (and even then it was over Skype). You have been such a perfect addition to the maternity center team and I can’t imagine Haiti life without you there. Thank you so much for coordinating so much of this surprise behind the scenes, and for letting Josh pace around your apartment for a few hours while I was blissfully unaware :). I love you so much! 

Mom and Dad—Thank you so much for all of your love and support over the years and for being so kind and welcoming to Josh. Thank you also for passing on your beautiful engagement ring to us. It is so special to be wearing a ring that you wore for so many years. We love you!

And to Josh—Sometimes you know me better than I even know myself. You knew exactly how to make this whole engagement surprise so special and meaningful. I will never, ever forget the feeling of walking out onto that porch and seeing our journal and the candles and knowing that you were so close by. You are the love of my life and I cannot imagine my life without you in it. Thank you for being so kind, funny, generous, sweet, giving, and all around amazing. I waited a long time to find you. And vice versa. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am that life brought us together (well, life, and Dols…we will always be indebted to him!). I love you so very much. Shit definitely got real :)