Latest Entries »

Rejoice in our sufferings

Many days my heart just throbs from something I’ve heard, seen or learned.

This last week has been especially painful and hard.

It has felt like a mountain of chaos that has continued to grow bigger, filled with sadness and feeling so helpless. One crisis after another, most with no easy solution.

For the last week I’ve felt like I was swallowing down the pain even as it was gurgling up in my throat.

I couldn’t did not even want to process through all that had happened. Learning about several new cases this week of severe abuse, rape and abortions involving precious students in our school.

Our sweet 5-year-old student Valdano who is suffering from meningitis and hydrocephalus getting closer and closer to meeting Jesus.

Trust being broken by people we work with and believed were working with us.

And then, yesterday, my mom’s best friend of 40+ years, Mrs. Nancy, passed away.

She was someone who always encouraged me spiritually. She was the first one to buy me a study bible. She whole-heartedly believed in me and what I was doing in Haiti. She ALWAYS encouraged me with scripture and gave me her support. She constantly reminded and supported my mom about God’s plans He had for me and my family in Haiti.

She believed in this journey God put me on. She read the book before it was even published and then gave it out like it was candy, telling everyone about what God was doing in little Gressier, Haiti.

When I let everything settle in this morning, it felt like an eruption of emotion. Her death was like the straw that broke the camels back…I couldn’t hold it in anymore and as I got my ugly cry on I realized that I was trying to be the strong one instead of letting Christ be strong.

As I lay in bed this morning crying and feeling the pain that had been held up in my heart, I felt like this broken world had gotten the best of me. For a few solid minutes I felt defeated, broken and was about to be okay with nesting in my pit of sadness.

But then my husband came and spoke truth over me. Truth that is HARD to understand, HARD to hear when you are in the abyss of hurt in pain. Truth that is HARD to swallow when your pain is trying to make you vomit.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

 

He spoke this over me telling me to remember that suffering brings us closer to Christ. He reminded me that this IS a broken world.

A world where we are worried about paying a 1 million dollar fine for a football team while literally 2 hours away there are children who can’t eat, go to school and are dying from completely preventable and treatable diseases.

A world where children are not always valued, loved and treated the way they should be.

A world that presents problems that sometimes DO not have solutions.

A world where things happen that are sometimes not logical and don’t make any sense.

But Josh and God did not let me stay there in that abyss of pain, hurt and hopelessness.

Because STILL, the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I was reminded that Peace is KNOWING something not always feeling it.

When my children in our school suffer and hurt, so do I.

When my family and friends suffer and hurt, so do I.

But that suffering has an end result that is NOT sadness, despair or pain, but is instead HOPE. Hope in JESUS.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

I realized that for the last week I was trying to avoid feeling hurt and sad. Avoiding emotion is a lot easier than feeling sometimes…at least for a while.

But then, there it was, that glimmer of light. HOPE.

And He said, I have put your school in a position to be a LIGHT for these children. To be their SAFE PLACE.

And Jesus, who is all knowing, all-powerful, He saw it fit to bring Mrs. Nancy home. And her suffering on earth is finished, and she has now met her heavenly Father.

In the end, there is peace instead of pain. Joy not sadness. And no more suffering but instead FREEDOM in Jesus.

As my heart hurts because we have lost a beautiful, encouraging and God-loving mother, wife, sister and friend on earth, we can REJOICE because heaven gained a beautiful angel and now Mrs. Nancy is able to see all that God has done on Bellevue Mountain in Gressier with the Boss in heaven who really did it all.

His ways are ALWAYS better.

After months of fighting to get all of the paperwork necessary for our Respire Haiti student Caila to travel to the United States for surgery, she arrived in Long Island, NY on May 21, 2014.

Caila, who was 12 at the time, suffered from severe scoliosis and had a 107 degree curve in her spine. Through Global Relief Medical Fund we were able to connect to Shriner’s Medical Hospital in Philadelphia who agreed to do her surgery.

Her incredible host family, the Albanese’s brought her to numerous appointments and then we were finally given a surgery date of July 31, 2014.

Rita Noel, one of our staff members and Becky Harding flew to Philadelphia to be there for the surgery. After 12 long hours of surgery, doctors came out looking exhausted. In so many words we were told that her spine was more compressed than they thought. They were not very confident she would have movement again.

After hearing this my heart sank. I couldn’t understand what God was doing. Or why He was doing it this way. ALL of OUR plans were changed.

As we scurried trying to figure out how to accommodate for this new and discouraging situation, we realized we needed a transition place because it was worse than we thought. And then, God divinely brought in the Brown family. Molly Brown and her husband Justin along with their children are incredible. She is one of my hero’s.

As Caila continued to have no feeling in her legs, we realized that it was time for her to return and adjust to life in Haiti with her mom.

Caila returned to Gressier, Haiti on December 1st.

As she went back to school in January, our students saw her in her wheel chair. They saw Caila leave walking and come back in a wheelchair. My heart was a mess trying to sort this through with God. The kids, teachers and parents asked questions. But we continued trying to make the school accessible for her, and begun resonating with the fact that we needed to make Respire Haiti Christian School wheelchair accessible for her.

Caila

In February 2015 Caila headed back to Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia. We were expecting her to learn how to transfer herself from her wheelchair to bed, and from bed to her wheelchair.

Day one she stood.

Then a few days later she walked.

As I flew to Philadelphia to pick her up from therapy, I could not even comprehend what had happened. First, God brought an amazing Occupational Therapist, Ashley, into our life. For such a time as this. Ashley was sent for Caila and she is amazing.

They journeyed for two months together in Philadelphia as Caila improved her endurance and strength.

Returning to Haiti was surreal. Her classmates were elated to see her walk, our staff was ecstatic, and her mother….there are no words.

As I keep playing this 10 month process over in my head, I kept thinking about the Miracle that God did and why He did it the way He did.

If the surgery would have gone the way we “planned”, she would have left Haiti and gone to the states, gotten “fixed” and doctors would have been the “Healer”. But God.

He has special plans for Caila and our community to grow together.

Sometimes we get so focused on the end result that we don’t see what He’s doing in the process.

Even with ALL of the miracles I have seen God do, I still doubted in what He was doing with Caila.

And now…

Thank you so much for all of your encouragement and prayers throughout this endeavor. And thank you so much to the Albaneses, GMRF, Elissa, Becky Harding, Michelle Griffin, Ritha Belizaire, the Brown Family, the whole staff at Shriner’s Hospital, ALL of our Respire Haiti Staff and ALL of the others who have given us prayers, financial support and LOVE. Respire Haiti could not have done it without you guys.

Sweet James.

10406685_10203456433800650_8122774193629239086_n

Our dear friend James passed away today in a motorcycle accident, he would have been 23 on February 28th. Please pray for the Respire Staff as we walk through this loss together, however, ultimately rejoicing knowing that He is in the safe and loving arms of Our Savior. Josh and I always joked that James was our 5th child. We love him, his heart and his stubbornness. The below is a post from September 2013, that shows a glimpse of his compassion and willingness to serve others.

Written Friday September 6th, 2013.
Today broke me. Physically and Emotionally.

Many people on our staff learned about Hearing Loss and Impairment when we discovered a child in our Kindergarten was having speech and hearing problems. The family of this child, neighbors, everyone called this 5 almost 6 year old Bebe (baby which means deaf) because she couldn’t speak. The rumors flew about her…how her tongue was cut, Voodoo Spells were involved, etc. And finally when I met her all of this was dispelled.

Throughout this many week process, James our motorcycle driver listened and learned intently. He’s a young, outgoing and sarcastic boy of 20 that keeps us all laughing. He calls me his mom and Josh his dad, jokingly but yet at the same time says it in all seriousness. He once explained how he’s been on his own since 6- both his parents are deceased. When I first asked him who raised him he gently shrugged, looked down and answered, “People.” When I would question him and ask what people? He would just look up, half smile and just say he doesn’t really know.

So James came forward a few days ago and said he found another “Bebe” but younger, he asked me if I would look at her. Knowing I probably couldn’t do much seeing as we STILL haven’t been able to find a hearing aid or reliable test for BeBe, I still said yes.

James looked up grinned and with his exaggerated Creole said, “It’s FARRRRRR Meg.” and laughed. I asked if it was still in Gressier and he said yes. So with my naive thinking I thought it can’t be that bad!
As I hopped on his moto James began telling me that we were headed next door to the place he stays and this is where he goes back to every night. We drove farther and farther into the mountains. More and more into what I can only describe as the jungle of Gressier. Trees that were incredible, towering high above. Sounds of faint streams. Birds chirping.

Before I knew it we were deep in the heart of it. Voodoo crosses made of old wood and obviously scarred from burning began to appear more and more. As I looked up to see the beautiful trees again what I found was enormous trees immersed with hanging black bags of offerings to the Voodoo Spirits. We passed more color wrapped poles for worship, many more crosses and the oppression grew and grew. Just as I felt the oppression become nearly suffocating. We arrived.

As we got off the moto, young children ran away screaming and old people began to point and gasp. I looked around amazed at the mud huts interspersed with USAID tents. James walked ahead and we began on a small hike to get to the childs house. Looking around at the beautiful scenery, I couldn’t believe we were still in Gressier. As we got to the young childs house, we saw no one. The neighbors began shouting from afar that they were gone and had gone to a funeral for a few days. Being that they had no phone number we decided to return to the moto. Standing next to his moto with people and children peering at us through trees and the brush around, I grilled James with questions. Do kids go to school? Where are the schools? How do they get food out here?
He smiled and gently answered all of my rapid fire questions. As he pointed to a mud covered hut that had a small mixed thatch and metal roof, he explained that this is where he sleeps at night but not where he grew up. More interested now I asked him where he actually grew up and with his back to all roads he pointed toward the next mountain. The mountain looked deceptively close so I exclaimed, “We should go visit!” His eyes lit up.
We headed toward the next mountain as I spoke the Haitian Proverb, “Beyond Mountains there are mountains.” We drove through the jungle with the occasional shouts of “Megan” getting fainter and the shouts of “Blan” (white) getting more frequent. Again passing crosses, offerings, masks and more, the confusion that filled the air was THICK. James went on to explain (probably feeling my tenseness as I gripped his shoulder a little tighter every time we passed a cross) that people often sacrifice cows and pigs here for “nothing”. That families starve while they make their offerings. Almost immediately after he said this we passed a wooden cross with a whole plate of food lying at the base.

We continued to ride up the mountain then our speed came practically to a crawl. As we slid back a bit James decided he couldn’t go forward anymore, that the path was too slippery and we needed to walk. Not wanting to ask the imminent 5 year old question, “Are we there yet?” I got off the moto and continued trekking.

Passing more screaming children and Haitian Adults both yelling “Blan” and asking me to come visit their house I had a brief moment of thanking God that Haitians aren’t Cannibals as I heard them steadily calling out to their neighbors to come and see the white person.

As we passed through the growing group we arrived on what seemed to be a small foot path dug into the rocks. Continuing to ask James more questions about this area, its kids and what it is like his response seemed the same as before. No schools, no money to send kids to schools, no respect or understanding of education.
Walking by another wooden cross I imagined how the enemy must laugh at this situation. Of course the enemy’s mindset is to OPPRESS and trap the people of Haiti by never giving them the opportunity to get an education. To never read or write their name. To never READ the Word of God. What a way to halt generations and keep them repressed, confused and naive of the TRUTH.

As we moved forward my prayers for this community grew stronger. Feeling the Holy Spirit desiring for these children to know HIM and His truth, identity and freedom, my prayers began out loud in English.

Just as soon as I thought again, Are we there yet? The sky opened up and the rain began. We kept walking, slipping through and trekking up a steep mountain. I laughed at what I must look like, James with his flip flops gracefully walking up the mountain and me slipping, yelping and falling the whole time .
As the rain continued to pour on us James announced for the 3rd time that we were almost there. Walking with rain soaked clothes, clawing at the trees to climb up the mountain, mud beginning to crawl up in-between my toes. Falling for the hundredth time, James turned around asking for my sandals so I would slip less. Conceding because I believed at this rate I would never make it up the mountain, I moved forward, barefoot, dirty and soaking wet. It seemed like only a few more minutes then we finally arrived.

James’ grandfather greeted us when we arrived and as I looked around I thought the “MIDDLE” of nowhere is an understatement. The rain stopped. We began visiting and joking about the color of my feet, completely orange from the mud. And James began describing the many times I fell (as if they couldn’t see my mud covered skirt and arm. I was utterly amazed at how far James really did live, I couldn’t believe that he grew up here, in this Voodoo ridden jungle.

We saw the sun was going to begin setting soon so we began to head back. Thinking the way down is ALWAYS easier than the way up, we were off, deciding barefoot would be the best way this time.

Still slipping shoeless, I had the quick thought, I “wish” there were some rocks so I wouldn’t fall so much. Within a few minutes my prayer had been answered and we continued walking down on a steady mix of rocks and mud.
After a few more minutes I realized how silly of a thought that was and that rocks were NOT the better choice. The cringing began. Every few steps it felt like my bottom layer of skin on my feet might fall off. As I asked James, who was many steps ahead, for my flip flops, not seeing my point he yelled back, no you will keep slipping. So we moved forward.

The rocks slowly turned from a decent “foot massages” to crippling pain. As I watched men, women and children walking up and down this rocky path without shoes and most with tools, buckets of water or food on their heads my sympathy and respect grew. I thought about my daughter Micha fetching water barefoot nearly 2 miles away from her then home. I thought of my other daughter Johanne’s trek to my house many miles away barefoot just to come and see us.

I continued reminding myself how my current “pain” is minimal compared to the normal days in the life of a Haitian.

Walking and sliding back down the mountain seemed to take forever. The sun had almost set and my feet felt like they were raw and almost numb. Finally with tears welling up in my eyes I called out to James saying I couldn’t walk anymore like this. As he ran back up to meet me where I was, he bent down to put my flip-flops on the ground. Sliding them on, I continued walking down the mountain, slower than a 6 year old child next to me.
After what seemed like hours, we arrived at the motorcycle. Seeing the slippery rocks ahead, I walked down to let James meet me at the plateau below. Finally sitting on a rock, my heart felt like it was going to explode with all of the emotion from the day. The thoughts came flying through….the privilege of education, the privilege of school, the privilege of electricity, water, cell service, and most incredibly the PRIVILEGE of knowing our Savior Jesus.

My heart ached at hearing the stories of parents paying Voodoo Priests out of fear instead of paying for a child’s education. Or a child dying from malnutrition because the family owed the “spirits” too much, so they continued to give their only food to the cross in the middle of their yard.

Hopping back on his motorcycle to head home, the ride was silent as I processed James’ world. DEAD silent as I processed the world of the many other children I saw, children (and families) who are being deceived by the enemy to believe in the lies of Voodoo, children who are NOT being given a fair chance to learn, grow and be educated, children who are being HIDDEN in the jungles and unaware of the love of Jesus Christ.

This powerful experience left me shaken, broken and SURE that Christ brought us to Gressier, ALL of Gressier, to fight for these children to know their Identity in Christ and to give these children an opportunity for education.

Pray with me as HE reveals what this means.

My stomach is still churning as I just put down my phone.  As I am nearing 3.5 years of living in Haiti, there are some things that will never get easier…never be less raw and heartbreaking….

~

As I answered the phone, I heard a familiar voice on the other line start asking questions about registering for school.  As he began talking I realized that he was calling on someone else’s behalf.  I began by asking my first question I always start with, “Has the child ever been to school?” ….Yes, I heard the other side of the phone peep out hesitantly.  Then I asked what grade the child was and how old…as he struggled to ask the questions, he explained that he was actually not sure if the child had been to school ever and was in fact calling because someone else asked him  to see if there was space in our school.

He began explaining the situation and my heart skipped a beat as I heard him say, “Well he is borrowing this child.”

Borrowing this child?  I so badly wanted to go on a rant about how awful what he said just was, but then again I remembered he was calling for someone else, and regardless I still needed the information about the child.

My heartbeat sped up as I mulled this over in my head.  Call it whatever you want, keeping a child for a while…being “given” a child…borrowing a child.

Whatever you call it, It’s still slavery.

Whatever you call it, It’s still servitude.

Whatever you call it, this sweet girl is still a restavek.

As I pushed down all of my righteous anger and frustration.  I answered back as composed as I could, Yes we have space.

I asked him to send me the child’s name, age and where she lives. He agreed to do so quickly.

I hung up the phone and slunk to the ground.

This never get’s easier. Fighting for children, ALL children…borrowed or not….to go to school is exhausting.  Fighting for Haitians to realize that a child NOT going to school and fetching water all day, doing laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning…is child Slavery, Domestic Servitude.

But Praise GOD that He has given us all of the courage, strength and persistence we need for this.  Praise GOD that He began Respire Haiti Christian School and that because of His vision for Gressier and Bellevue Mountain that HUNDREDS of children like this are being educated but most importantly learning that they are WORTH being fed, loved and cared for.

Please keep praying for us as we continue organizing things for the upcoming school year.

%d bloggers like this: