Friday, October 25, 2019

Come On, Let's Go

Port au Prince Airport 
Chestnut, the tiny Shih Tzu dropped a dookie in the Fort Lauderdale airport.  He was walking along minding his own tiny-guy business in Ft Lauderdale International Airport and a turd just fell from him.  It wasn’t even intentional, we don’t think. 

This was a case of involuntary fart pebbles. 

Lydie saw it happen. She stopped mid-traffic to address the situation.  A woman standing nearby  was not too kind or patient. Lydia was verbally assaulted while she made her plan to clean it up.  

The size of Chestnut’s whole entire self is about the size of a size 6 women's shoe. 

His poop could best be compared to three Milk-duds stuck together, or maybe two Whoppers.  These are not large pieces of excrement. Lydie was standing over the milk-duds and protecting ALL airport travelers from stepping in it while Phoebe ran to a bathroom to get toilet paper.  

The woman that was berating Lydie kept saying she needed to pick it up barehanded right that minute. Lydie just  said, “I will wait for the toilet paper.”   Another woman, standing within hearing distance, whispered to Lydia, “Sorry, honey.”  

There are always nice people to offset the grouchy ones. 

Why did Chestnut fly to Fort Lauderdale?

Troy made him go.  Sort of. 

Truthfully, Troy and I had a really excellent counseling session. Maybe a LONG OVERDUE counseling session??? Troy FINALLY admitted that he has never liked that tiny dog or his ear-piercing bark and he wanted him gone. 

No, not really.

Really … Troy and I realized that after six weeks of diesel shortage and added stress on Troy to keep the Heartline Ministries employees working  and programs operating and keep the Livesay kids fed and fanned off in the night (need diesel for that) - he was at his stress breaking point and he felt like the kids needed to be out of Haiti for a while so he could buy less food, buy less water, buy less diesel, and just generally be out on the roads less buying all of those items.  

Besides that, most of our kids had not left home or school for 6 weeks. Each weekday they travel three blocks by car to school and return the same way after school. None of us think that is the worst thing in the world and we are really aware of our privilege to have a safe home and a school house a few blocks away — but as you might imagine, being inside of cement walls for six weeks straight can make everyone a little stir crazy.

After the counselor helped Troy and I hear each other better during that session, we made a really emotionally intense decision together. We talked about every variable and what it would mean longer term and we talked to the kids after sitting with the plan a bit to see if it felt right. 

The key question the counselor asked Troy and I was this:  “What is it that you are waiting for before you decide to move your kids?”  I won’t go into details on our realizations. Suffice it to say, that was a clarifying moment for us.

For us, peace in decision is important. We don’t often think there is just one right choice, we just know that each decision needs to bring some sort of true peace, even if it is a really REALLY hard decision.  

Truthfully, we love Haiti and the work of Heartline so much that we know at times we have put it before our kids.  We have always been aware of the pitfalls there, but sometimes the needs and desperation can cause a disordered priority list. We are guilty of that here and there, for sure.  I own the mess-ups of the last 13 and a half years in Haiti.

          *  * * *

Last night I read this piece a friend of mine and a Board Member of Heartline Ministries wrote. (worth your time!) This resonates in that I think we always ride that line of putting "ministry" or "mission" as our first priority and I have come to a place of believing God is not nearly as harsh on me as I am on me. I really don't think He is up there wishing we would all suffer more. I originally moved to Haiti thinking that was the thing you do if you want to prove yourself as a legit faith-person. (And, I could be wrong - on either or both of those thoughts and probably every other thought ever.)

To be clear, we don’t think our own decisions need to be compared to what others decide. We don’t feel that what we decide for five older kids is what some other family with passports needs to decide for theirs. I don’t want anyone to think there is only one way for expats to deal with political unrest and instability. Each individual situation warrants its own personal examination. 

The house we lived in 11 years together  - also, the longest I ever lived in one place.
Prior to moving to this home, we lived just under three years outside the city of PAP.
I said, "I WILL NEVER live in PAP."  Don't say things like that! 

There were many tears, some anger, some joy and anticipation when the decisions were shared. The packing began after the tears. 

We packed up 12 bags (48 to 52 pounds each), 5 carry-ons taking full and LIBERAL advantage of the fact that nobody weighs them. We found unstained shirts and long enough jeans for five kids ages 12 to 18 and we put those on along with backpacks that would barely zip closed. We had papers from our Veterinarian friend, Kelly for our five pound pooper, Chestnut. All of that, along with the very last shred of my sanity, we boarded a flight bound for the USA. 

After the milk-dud debacle in Fort Lauderdale, we got on a second flight to Austin, TX. At the Austin airport we found THREE giant carbon footprint vehicles waiting to take us and our 748 pounds of luggage to Temple, TX — where we are now sitting in 45 degree weather. 

Walnut lost his therapy human but Stefanie Raleigh (kids’ teacher and education-wizard of our lives) and Walnut (Isaac’s dog) are coming here to TX soon.  He just could not fly out with us due to heat. You know, our dog drama with travel is now a trilogy being made into a motion picture.

Stef and Walnut headed for the airport together. Next they will road trip for several days.
Stefanie is going to continue teaching the kids until Christmas and then we know she will stay with the two Seniors and the Sophomore to help them finish the year out in May of 2020, but we don’t yet know what we will do for Phoebe and Lydie and we don’t know where quite yet either. 

We are heart-linked to Haiti and Heartline Ministries. We will continue on like this in Temple and in Port auPrince and back and forth between for the next several months.  Troy will spend the vast majority of his time in Haiti. I will mainly be with the kids but I will take turns going to Haiti and we are working out a new plan day by day. I am glad you're not here listening to it all unfold. It can be dramatic at times.

My approach to not seeing KJ and Troy every day.
My best friend and Midwifery partner is a key part of all of this. She is in Haiti at the Maternity Center now and she and I are a team and will continue to be as we develop The Starting Place and work to see the model of care expanded all over the world. We will work hand in hand with the Midwifery staff - which just grew by another member this week, we hired a new person!

The travel from Austin is very easy, there is an option to leave Austin, TX at 11am and be in Haiti at 5:30pm. This is part of the reason we chose to live in close proximity to Austin in the more affordable Temple, TX.  (I cannot travel seven miles in Haiti as fast as I can travel to the Austin airport from Temple.)

We originally set foot on the island of Haiti to meet  smiley baby Isaac in April of 2002.  He brought us to Haiti for the first time three-and-a-half years before we decided to move to Haiti full time. He is 18 years old now. He was 7 months old then. 

Long before this most recent round of political upheaval Troy and I knew we wanted to remain available to Isaac and Hope as they begin a new and intimidating chapter of their lives.  

We feel that Haiti is a cord of our DNA as a family, but we feel equally certain that our kids will need us close to them in the coming couple of years while they navigate a culture they did not grow up in and get used to new bizarre things.  Both kids have expressed how scary it would feel to do the transition to another country without us.  In the spirit of full vulnerability, I regret not being near Paige and Britt during their transitions. No rewind button available for that but it does inform my decisions for Isaac and Hope starting college.

We really wanted to get this information to donors that specifically support our family budget and salary. I tried to email everyone privately but many emails returned undeliverable.  If you’re reading this and wondering why you did not get an email from us, please know I tried and we honor your sacrifice to help us do this weird, wonderful, and heart-breaking Haiti life.  

(It is ALL those things.) 

I am not linking recent news stories here, but if that is something you would like to read, let me know and I can send you links to some news we feel is accurate. 

We are incredibly grateful for the 60+ employees of Heartline Ministries.  Their lives are far more difficult than any of us can really understand.  We want more than anything for them to have a way to feed their families and for their hard work to equal opportunities for housing, sufficient food, and education for their children. We added health insurance and tried to improve wages where budgets and finances would allow.  We have made it our goal to encourage the the men and women on staff to grow personally, professionally, and spiritually.  We have attempted to make life a teeny tiny bit less stressful for them. I wish I could say we succeeded, but Haiti is not an easy place to live. Stress and trauma are a daily thing.

Our hope going forward is to carefully and intentionally begin to turn over much more responsibility to these local leaders, the employees we have been investing in for years.

In mid 2020 we will get out of the way so to speak.  We have determined that as long as we are physically present in Haiti 100% of the time, we are a deterrent to their ability to truly have a chance to lead.  We all talk a lot about empowering Haitians and sustainable ways of doing ministry, but lip service is only that.  

We would like to offer the best and the brightest at Heartline Ministries the chance to lead the day to day work.  It is their country and they stand to gain or lose the most.  We think they are ready. We are ready to test that next year and hold the hand of those that are rising up. 

We will continue on as Executive Directors of Heartline Ministries, but we will be changing our home base to the US in June of 2020.  

At that time we will both (Troy and Tara) travel to Haiti quarterly, and be in contact with the key staff, but we want to see them have an opportunity to grow and take on more, we feel that we have to remove ourselves to offer them true power to make decisions. 

We hope this frees up time to do more development of key partnerships. (This is the non-offensive way you say - We hope we will now be able to meet with people with money and love for Haiti.

Several weeks ago I was at home when the Midwife on duty called.  She shared the details of the client that had arrived in very early latent labor.  She asked me, “Should I admit her or send her home?”  I said, “Yes, should you admit her or send her home. That is the question.”  She asked again, frustrated with me.  I said, “You are a Midwife. You can make decisions. I support you. There is not a wrong answer here and you can decide.”  The next day, the Mom returned in active labor and had her baby and I asked the midwife how she felt about her decision to send the Mom home to do her early labor at home.  The Midwife said, “I think it was a good choice. I thank you for telling me I could decide and for being confident in me.”

That is what we have learned.  When we are here, people will always defer to us.  It is not necessary or healthy.  We believe they have the answers and the ability.  The cultural realities mean they just need a little encouragement and accountability.  

Our hope is that for the next two to three years, we will be able to support this transition by traveling in and out of Haiti and encouraging and offering accountability.  We know there will be set backs and mistakes and maybe even some heartache as these changes are made.  We also know that if we don’t try it we will never know what each employee is  truly capable of if we were out of the way. Heartline’s board of directors has been involved in developing this plan and Troy and I remain grateful for their leadership, wisdom, dedication, and love.

We are hoping that those of you that have supported so much of this Haiti journey might consider sticking with us and sticking with Heartline. 

We have created a FAQ page of questions asked by the first few people we told, we hope they clear a lot up but we welcome any other questions you may have. If you would like a copy of the FAQ please email us and we will send it on to you. ( 

With our love and thanks and unrelenting hope.
Troy & Tara Livesay
(18) Isaac, (18) Hope, (15) Noah, (13) Phoebe and (12) Lydia 
Heartline Ministries & The Starting Place 

Heartline Ministries USA Mailing address: 
910 Franklin Avenue
Suite 3
Sunnyside, WA 98944 

"Felt cute, thought I'd move to TX." 

First photo of new home in new location - same kids. 

Our cute 1908 house. 
The emoji house was modeled after this house.

Lastly today, the part that is important for me to say- on a more personal note. 

The Heartline Maternity Center is a place I feel and experience a lot of hope. I love that place and I love the women it attempts to walk with in pregnancy and postpartum. It is a bit painful to be far away from the women I have worked with daily for more than a decade and to know we will be making this a new norm.  

At the same exact time, I know that a lot of us make our work or our "mission/ministry" the whole of our identity. That is not what I want and I am trying to be a whole person apart from my work. I love the work and believe it is holy, but - it DOES NOT need me.  

Because I knew that no work should be dependent on the leader, we have spent the last two years turning the vast majority of deliveries and more of the risk-management decisions over to the national staff. They are learning a ton and stepping out of their comfort zone. 

I share this to say, I want to be clear that the Maternity Center can and SHOULD function without my (or Troy/KJ's) presence constantly.  

Mission or humanitarian work should not be about the (expat) people that came to do it. It should be forward thinking and while "sustainable" tends to be an exaggeration that many non-profits use too freely ... it ought to be the long long range goal and hope.  

Please rally with us to support the work and the workers. The care provided is something that is desperately needed. We cannot do it without a team. 

You are the team. 

There is no o or u in team - but there is no i either. 

There is an e and the e is for WE - WE are the tEam. 

Come on, let's go.