Friday, December 29, 2017

A Manifesto

Heartline Maternity Center Theology of Care 

At the core of the Heartline Maternity Center is our unshakable belief that every woman and every baby is created in the image of God. 

We believe their lives have unsurpassable worth and value. We believe every woman and child are deeply beloved. We believe that each of them deserve our respect as well as our care.

We believe God’s dream for humanity includes the women and children of Haiti. 

We believe God dreams of shalom - an all-encompassing active peace that is more than the absence of conflict but the life-giving presence of justice, wholeness, and flourishing. We are committed to participating in God’s heart for the women, girls, and babies of Haiti to grow and thrive.

We believe that lament and joy are sisters in this work. We are unafraid of the hard and challenging truth of life here in Haiti. We believe in holding space for the truth-telling of lament and grief. But we also believe in making a commitment to celebration, to life and joy as an act of resistance to despair, anxiety, hopelessness, and powerlessness. 

We believe God has called us to actively pursue peacemaking through birth. 

We believe in “stay and listen” because we are committed to faithfulness. We are stayers- we are not quitters. We have been here for more than a decade and we are committed to our friends and clients for the long haul.
We still believe in transformation - that God is still transforming the world and we are participating in that transformation, one safe birth at a time. 

We believe that maternal health care is vital to the rise of Haiti. We believe that it is the best and most long-lasting way to reduce the number of children placed in orphanages and effect change in our community. 

We believe the materially poor deserve access to Maternal Healthcare, & that Haiti needs more accessible care. We believe in tackling the root causes of poverty, oppression, and injustice by supporting and equipping the women of Haiti as mothers.

We believe that caring for women and babies is how we are experiencing and knowing God. Jesus said he was among the poor, the marginalized, and oppressed of our world and so we are there, too. 

We believe that the physical needs and the spiritual needs of our clients are inherently intertwined. 

We believe that maternal justice is holistic, - it includes the whole woman: her spirit, her soul, her mind, and her body.

We believe this. 

Your participation is key. 

To join us in this exciting work 

Thank you for your love and support in 2017.
Troy and Tara Livesay
Heartline Ministries

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

All the Christmas

"But this child was a new kind of king. Though he was the Prince of Heaven, he had become poor. Though he was the Mighty God, he had become a helpless baby. This King hadn't come to be the boss. He had come to be a servant."

-the jesus storybook bible

Written by Rick Porter, Spirit Lake, Iowa 
Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often. 

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

A tradition that causes some snapping (Troy) 
and joy and laughter every December ...

2008 is restricted to me only because of our internet restrictions or by something illegal we did with copyrights or something.

2010 is restricted (to us only) for the same reasons


GO HERE for 2014

HERE for 2015

and ...


Heartline Maternity Center, Port-au-Prince, Haiti 

 SARAH 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.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

The 11th Annual is here ...

In 2007 when this family tradition began, Britt was 17 years old and Lydia was 2 months old.  

Britt and Paige have basically aged out of this obligation. Soon we will need to start incorporating their offspring. 

The last five kids were given a chance to call this a dead tradition. Troy and I said, "Hey guys, we can call it if you want. Would you want to call last year's production the last one?"  

They would hear nothing of it. They are not too cool for this tradition yet.  

We had about 8 hours total to give to the project so it was a simple year. One-half day of filming a few hours of recording Hope singing and putting clips together, voila. At one point in the filming Troy was negotiating with some guys who thought we needed to pay them, while the kids and KJ and I quickly filmed what we needed. It is always good times and negotiation on this island. 

From our Winter Wonderland, we wish you and yours a most beautiful and joy-filled Christmas holiday season. Thank you so much for loving Haiti, Heartline Ministries, and us. 

Your encouragement and engagement has meant a lot to us this year! 

Troy, Tara, Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe & Lydia 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

pataje istwa ou ~ share your history

Time is hard to measure in Haiti. Surviving day-to-day does not allow for a lot of calendar awareness.  It can be difficult to remember dates of events.

Around the time of the solar eclipse, she was fighting with her brother a lot and her mother grew weary of the fighting.  

It was decided she would go stay at her aunt's house for a while, putting some space between herself and her brother.

At her aunts house she remembers that one night her aunt brought her something to drink that was a syrup and also a pill to take.  Her aunt told her it would help her sleep. She doesn't recall anything else until waking up.

She woke up "arranged in the bed" and her male cousin, the son of her aunt, was there with her.

She stopped getting her monthly cycle.

She is four months pregnant.

She is sixteen years old.

Christmas History ~ Year Three

(2009) This year will always and forever be my favorite year.  There was something tender about this year. It felt like we had a tiny piece of Bethlehem in our back yard. The kids totally enjoyed every bit of the making of the video.  The animals brought so many laughs.  Troy was convinced we'd all gone crazy, but in the end as he fought to get the borrowed donkey back into a truck, I wasn't necessarily disagreeing with him.  Britt and Chris gathered all the costumes and sent them to Haiti.  Troy wrote a simple song and Hope sang "glowy to God" over and over.

There is something about this that will always be deeply important to us all, in that less than a month after we put this together our lives were literally rocked as we watched and experienced our precious Haiti suffer the devastating effects of a giant earthquake.  This sort of represents the end of that stage  of our lives and our time in Haiti.

Saturday, December 02, 2017


Wouldn't it be so incredibly amazing if the world was able to provide our kids with fair and equitable treatment in the specific and crucially important area of "supply of sugar and junk food" as part of the minimum standard of operation?

Certainly our five children are entitled to a sustainable and more measured minimum provision of Poptarts, AppleCinnamonCheerios, Skittles, Cheetos, and Twix Bars.  

I know they are entitled to this because they tell me so. 

~ ~ ~

Observing them in their natural habitat instills fear. 

The deprivation they face on the regular leads to risk. They are in danger of extinction and have resorted to hiding, rationing, all varieties of dishonesty, and malfeasance. 

It opens up the age-old-question.  (You know the one.)

What is the minimum standard obligation for the universe and the parental unit to provide their dependents with a bilateral  investment in their felt and real need for junk-food? 

What approach is best? The Modern approach? The Non-Contingent approach? The Delayed Gratification Model? The Less is More wisdom of the ages? 


They are basically participants in a dystopian survival game and it appears that they will ultimately battle to the bitter end over candy and breakfast cereal. 

These kids need help.  An intervention.  Something.

Say for example, a friend visits and brings in a box of Apple Jacks.  The next morning, a kitchen that routinely does not have a single visitor until 7am, is suddenly transformed into a high-traffic zone with three of five children up at 6am to get their hands on the best choice for breakfast.  

When the fourth kid arrives the accusing begins. "WHAT? You had three bowls of Apple Jacks? That was for all of us!!!!" 

Then the defense presents a case: "I got up at six. You slept. You know the rules. The early bird gets the cereal."  After that there is general disgust displayed through jerky-angry movements to get the spoon and bowl out along with the use of heavy sighing over the bowl of dull and sugar free Haiti corn flakes. 

Dokte Jen showed up with cereal and several bags of candy the other day.  Every kid grabbed a bag and ran away to bury it in the yard or shove it inside of a hollowed out book for safe keeping. It caused a stir because Lydia arrived and grabbed first. The others quickly made a claim on their bag. They were behaving like animals afraid of starvation.  

At this stage of my life, I'm right on the edge of snapping at all times - sometimes I just do a little theatrical fake snap to practice for the day the BIG one finally comes. 

"THAT IS IT YOU GUYS", I yelled.


We made a plan to combine and share all of Jen's candy. This way everyone could sample a variety of options. I suggested four (they are small) pieces per day per child - until it was gone or until a new edict was issued. 

We placed the bowl on top of the refrigerator.

A few children grumbled that it wouldn't work out fairly.  I heard those complaints - - and promptly ignored them.

Foolish.  That is what I am. 

The next day Troy provided me with jarring video.  

Prior to 7:30am the world's premier most Twix enthusiast, KitKat connoisseur, and chocolate aficionado had taken three quick hits from the chocolate bowl. In total far more than the four piece allotment was consumed. No breakfast on that particular morning, just sugar hits. 

That night I said, "Lydia, would you ever have candy for breakfast?"   

She seemed bewildered. 

"WHO, ME?"   

Isaac created a new verb a while back.  He says when I get sick of seeing him wear and re-wear the same t-shirt too often that I "disappear it".  He recently told Jen, "That shirt you gave me, she disappeared it."

It turns out that Lydia disappeared the candy. Video footage don't lie. 

Going forward we have no solution except maybe to place her in restraints during the hours we cannot watch the candy.

We are trying to sober her up and working on some sort of accountability partner for her.  We are wondering how we can be a big family that is not freaky weird about treats and the distribution of said treats.

Once that critically important task is taken care of we hope we will be ready to present our 11th Annual Livesay Christmas Extravaganza.  

~ ~ ~

This year we ran into a bit of trouble when it suddenly became obvious that we don't have enough hours in a day to finish the video as early in the month as in all past years. 

Until the 11th offering, we would like to point you back to the past 10 years, available at our YouTube Channel.

We recently got to see the Baby Jesus from 2016, he is one year old now and doing well.  

Last year ...