Category: Haiti


It’s time to BREAK the cycle.

Preface:  I’m not attacking or judging any one person or organization, what I am doing is speaking out about a broken child and orphan care system here in Haiti.

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Respire Haiti Christian School starts in 3 weeks.  It’s a time of excitement but it’s also a time I dread a bit.  It is SO HARD having countless moms and dads come up to me asking if there’s room in our school, but even worse than that my heart breaks when it’s a 9 year old little girl.

This year we are adding more children than we have in 5 years. We will have 62 new students starting. They have come from all walks of life, in orphanages, just out of orphanages, restavek situations and just tough living situations. Many of these parents were on the verge of placing their kids in local orphanages because they run “the better schools.”  Over 22 of these new students are between the ages of 9 and 15 and have never been to school before. Some of them came over the summer and were ecstatic after they learned how to write their name. Imagine being 14 and not being able to write your name.

I’ll probably be crucified for saying this, but I feel like this is a pattern I’ve seen over and over again and I’ve been silent for too long.  And the Lord has been showing me, that in general, Silence in the face of oppression and injustice is the same as agreeing with it.  So, I’m speaking up, Haiti doesn’t need more orphanages or more white American Churches coming and building a nicer building than the majority of homes here in Haiti.

Haiti needs people that UNDERSTAND that families want and need to stay together (and even for you naysayers thinking, “Well, you didn’t meet this little girl or this family, she DIDNT WANT her daughter.”  TRUST ME.  I’ve been there and for ANYONE to play God and say a child is better off in their orphanage than with a parent (except in severe abuse cases) is absolutely horrifying.)  But this is a cycle, new churches or American missionaries come in to Haiti and perpetuate the cycle of keeping families apart by opening orphanages.  It’s a cycle of orphanages being supported by American churches and realizing the orphanage they were supporting is not all it’s cracked up to be (I get numerous emails every month from people all over Haiti about this- corruption, abuse, trafficking of children IN orphanages)

Over the summer our Mental Health Staff has had more than half a dozen incidents that could have resulted in a child being placed in an orphanage.  In fact, I’m being honest enough to say that would have been SO much easier to do that.  But instead, we counseled, we prayed, we talked and we made a plan with each parent or caregiver.  We enrolled some in afternoon school.  We made home visits, we visited places 5 hours from us.  We watched children with HIV be given up, we had parents drop their kids off at our clinic and run.  And we went after them.  We PURSUED them…taught them, loved them, WALKED WITH THEM in this crazy world.

To say that children here in Haiti are “orphaned” with NO parents or relatives or even the ability to have someone foster them, honestly, its crap  (and also the easy way out).  Even with children who have NO living relatives, we have had numerous successful cases of students being fostered and even adopted.  We are hoping to begin more Foster Care classes within our community in October. Last year, just in our school we had three moms (parents of students) that died in childbirth.  Within the tragedy, we are blessed to say that all 3 of those babies STAYED WITH THEIR FAMILIES.  With education, support, prayer and counseling they are healthy children now still WITH their families. (We also consequently started a Prenatal Education Program as well).

A few months ago I literally had a Haitian man that works with an organization here look at me and say,”America stopped having orphanages almost 100 years ago because IT DIDNT WORK, so why then do Christian Americans keep coming here to Haiti and implementing something that didn’t work for them in their own country?”

Mic drop.  Seriously.

I implore you to read this article by LUMOS.

70 MILLION dollars goes to supporting orphanages here in Haiti. (That could run OVER 450 Respire Haiti Christian Schools enrolling 230,000+ students).  70 MILLION dollars goes to keeping families apart.  And the longer they are supported the harder it is to reunite children with their parents or extended families.  The longer they are in an orphanage, no matter how nice the building is, how pretty the paint and playground is and no matter how many “Caregivers” are hired.  It’s Not A Family.  It’s already been PROVEN to Not be Healthy.  And it’s NOT what God asks us to do when He asks us to care for orphans (James 1:23) Why?  Because He has already shown us a better way.

Its like trying to smoke a prettier cigarette, on a prettier park bench outside.  There’s still a HUGE chance you will get cancer, no matter how pretty the cigarette is.  It’s DAMAGING.  This has already been proven!  The same is true for orphanages.  They have already proven to be DAMAGING to children.  So why continue to do the same thing and expect different results?

On top of all that, 80-90% of children in orphanages in Haiti HAVE PARENTS.  These are poverty orphans.  And I’m telling you by EXPERIENCE, not by some grandiose, “What If…” or by some completely out of the blue idea…but I’m TELLING YOU from experience that…with education, with counseling and with prayer, we have kept families together and reunited parents with their children.  Again, I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s worth it and it’s the RIGHT thing to do.

Respire Haiti has been working on a Parenting Curriuculum that we hope to have finished this fall.  We hope to choose some groups around Haiti to help us Pilot it and then we hope to spread it for FREE to anyone and everyone who wants to use it.

Why?  Because this idea of putting children in orphanages is generational…it’s generational because some of these parents think they are doing the BEST thing they can for their child!  The orphanage can provide meals, a place to sleep and most important SCHOOL.

Why?  Because some of these mothers are young and don’t know another option.  They’ve been told they CANT, so they need someone to tell them they CAN.

By opening Respire Haiti Chrisitan School we have insured more children than we can count to stay with their families.  We have seen over a dozen children pulled out of orphanages because our school opened, we have seen families reunited and we have seen that this view becomes contagious.

Maybe this rant has upset you because you support or run an orphanage.  Maybe this blog makes you aggravated because it seems like I am criticizing or attacking others organizations or churches that support orphanages, I’m not, I am however trying to get us to reflect on this broken orphan care system in Haiti.  So, honestly ask yourself this question.

Would you want to give YOUR OWN child something that’s just ‘Good Enough’? Or would you want to give them the best?”

One of my good friends here visited an orphanage where they told her, “The kids have a great bond with their caregiver, she’s here two days on and off one day.”  And literally my friend said later, “Right because that’s normal.  My mom was MIA every 3rd day when I grew up too”

Whats happening is orphanages here in Haiti are continuing the generational problem of detachment with children, breaking families apart and sadly patting themselves on the back and having church groups come and visit with their “orphans.”

It has to stop.  It has to change.  This cycle has to break!  NO ONE is “saving” children in Haiti by opening or running an orphanage.  If anything, it’s perpetuating the cycle that Satan started with tearing families apart.

You want to know what changes Haiti?  Creating jobs.  Having safe and available health care.  Helping moms have healthy babies.  Giving children (and adults) a chance for EDUCATION.  And doing THIS with Jesus’ incredible power changes lives.  It changes the future for these children.

So please, think about it.  Break the cycle.

Close an orphanage.  Reunite families.  Open a school.  I’ll get you a list of 300+ kids here in Gressier, Haiti who are waiting.

Put on your own shoes :)

As I left the café mid morning one day and crossed the street, I had about 5 seconds to think to myself…”Well this is unusual…walking up the mountain by myself.” (I normally have one of my four kids with me or other children/people that are headed in the same direction walking with me).

 

Turning the corner to head up the mountain I was stopped in my tracks. I almost had to do a double take to make sure I was seeing what I thought. I glanced over again and saw a tiny child on her hands and knees. The lady hovering over her was dressed beautifully, and completely ignoring the fact that there was even a child beneath her. The child hurriedly put the shoe on the ladies foot. As the older woman yelled something down at her, she took her dress swiftly and wiped off the ladies’ shoes. As if the lady hadn’t even noticed what the child just did, she turned around and hopped on the motorcycle that had been waiting on her without saying one word to the child. The child picked up the set of flip-flops by her side and placed them in a bag. She began walking up the mountain, head down, watching her feet kick up the dust.

 

As I trailed after her for a minute my [righteous] anger began firing up, I could feel my face getting red and tears filling my eyes under my sunglasses. What in the world did I just see? Could that lady NOT have put on her own shoes? Can she not carry her own flip-flops? Did she REALLY just MAKE that little girl kneel down in the dirt in FRONT of Everyone?

 

I wanted to yell out to everyone who “pretended” not to see… “Are you okay with this?”… “Did you NOT see what just happened!?!”

 

After a few minutes of these thoughts, I composed myself and then called out to her. She didn’t stop. I gently called again…her pace slowed as she worriedly looked behind her. I reached out to grab her hand. Her sweet eyes opened wide. I introduced myself and I asked for her name…nearly inaudibly she spoke. I asked her again and her voice lowered even more, her eyes sticking to the ground. I asked her how old she was and she stumbled over her words making it obvious that she was not aware of her age. As I asked her where she lived she pointed to the top of the mountain.

 

I walked with her for a few minutes holding her hand.

 

Her demeanor began to relax and she answered my questions a little more comfortably. As I asked about her family, she then explained that she had been in the area for a few months. Both of her parents live in a city about 8 hours from Gressier. She was taken from them in January and yet wasn’t put in school anywhere here.

 

The mix of anger and sadness at this injustice boiled in me. I squeezed her hand and explained where our school was…her eyes widened again as she responded that she knew exactly where we were located. I asked her if she could come meet me later in the afternoon so we could talk more. Her face, giddy with excitement, lit up and she nodded yes.

 

As 1:00pm rolled around I anxiously waited for her to no avail. Finally, as I went on with my afternoon somewhat defeated, I nearly jumped out of my shoes when I walked out of the gate at 3:30pm and saw her. I knew that she would be perfect for our Jump Start program. (It is a class in the afternoon that specifically caters to children who are a little bit older but are on a 1-3rd grade level. The classes are smaller so that the children can get more individual attention.) Even though the year is almost over, I wanted to make sure we could keep track of this young girl and try and figure out more about her parents and her situation.

 

The day after we enrolled her, I passed by the classroom and my heart sunk. I didn’t see her. I was heartbroken and walked in the room to begin to ask the teacher. Then suddenly someone pointed and said, “There she is!” I couldn’t believe it. Even though the class only had 14 children, I didn’t even recognize her. Her smile was huge…she looked like a new little girl in her uniform, glowing confidently sitting amongst the other students.

 

The injustice of restavek children never gets easier. The way that some individuals can so easily disregard, disrespect and abuse children absolutely breaks my heart. And I know it breaks God’s heart.

 

HE has and always will orchestrate the children that should be (and are) in our school. I never walk up the mountain at that time. I never would have seen this interaction and this sweet child if HE hadn’t orchestrated it all.

 

The injustice may never get easier, BUT GOD is directing everything that is happening on Bellevue Mountain and I am just blessed to be a part of it all.

In The Trenches

I miss writing.  It has been nerve-wracking and a struggle to get words on paper (or typed) for some time now.  I was trying to get my thoughts down last night when I came across this blog that I wrote in April of 2015.  After reading it, even though it has been nearly a year since I wrote it, I still feel that it is as valid and true now as it was then.

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As we drove one of our pregnant 17-year-old students home, my heart was in my throat thinking about how she just got kicked out of her mother’s house and we were now on our way to her boyfriends sisters house, where she was now living. Then, we passed him, a sweet man clothed only in an oversized pair of shorts crouched in the grass. My slight, “Bonswa” led to his glazed response of “Bonswa” followed by his quick “Koman ou ye? (How are you?)

My mind left our sweet student for a second to think of what this man’s story was. We passed him and continued to her house. We got as far as we could drive and stopped the car. As we got out we walked up the steep dirt path to the home where she was staying. As Steph, Sharon and I exchanged a few words with the baby’s father and our student, we soon left and headed back to the car.

By the time we passed the same elderly man he was now crowded with a dozen people. The immediate response from me was sympathy but then I saw what was happening, my heart filled…the neighborhood was bringing him some food….some water….trying to asking him questions. All to no avail, but still they were trying. He was obviously struggling with his memory and what was going on. As I saw some of the people who were helping were our professors and others I knew in the neighborhood, I stopped the car and asked about him.

As there seemed to be no clear plan one of our teachers asked me where he thought we could bring him. Making a few phone calls I tried to find a plan.

Bringing him to the police station we were met with laughter and absolutely no help except for one of our security guards (who is also a policeman). As the situation became more hopeless and the time grew on I realized that I needed to ask Josh to try and come and pick up this sweet, calm but lost man.

Josh came and picked up the old man. As he drove to the first hospital and was turned down he began praying for him. Hospital two and three were all to no avail as the last hospital wouldn’t even accept him because he did not have a shirt on. We ended up deciding to let him stay in a safe place of Respire Haiti’s.

As Josh came home from dropping him off half naked because Josh gave his clothes to this sweet man, my heart was crushed. The situation felt hopeless, like no one wanted to try and figure anything out for this sweet man except for us.

My mind began running as I selfishly thought, “We are in the trenches and it’s exhausting, and no one else has to deal with trenches like this” …The trenches of most third world countries. No systems. Corruption. Lack of education, knowledge and compassion. No one willing to help.

For us, this is exhausting and discouraging.

And then for a split second I thought, man this is impossible. So hard. Our trenches are just too deep….too dirty….too hopeless.

And then God clearly revealed to me, “No Megan. It’s not just “YOUR” trenches.” I felt selfish and then dug deeper. How conceded and selfish to think that “our” trenches here in Gressier, Haiti are the deepest, the worst.

Everyone’s trenches are different. God reminded me…You have friends who have recently lost babies and others who are struggling with infertility. You have friends who have cancer and are sick and others who are struggling with losing jobs and have trouble financially.

Are my trenches still worse?

No.

I was in the states a few weeks ago and was OVERWHELMED with the darkness I felt and saw there. Depression. Broken Marriages. Selfishness.

And then I recognized clearly…Everyone’s trenches are different.

My trench is NOT more important than your trench…your trench is NOT more important than mine.

The important part to think about is WHERE is Jesus in your trench?

Do I feel hopeless? Or hopeful? Do I feel alone?

Regardless. Bring Jesus in. Invite Jesus into your trench.

As I thought about driving past the people crowded around this old man. My flesh wanted to pass him but my foot pressed the break. I KNEW there was not an easy solution for this. And I KNEW that if I entered into this trench it would probably NOT be an easy one….

Are You willing to enter into someone else’s “Trench” …someone else’s darkness? Am I?

I can tell you right now, it WILL most likely mess up your plans, your dinner, your day, your week, maybe even your month.

BUT God, do you know what He is showing you or leading you too?

Pray for us as this sweet man is staying in a safe place tonight and we will hopefully be able to help him more tomorrow. Because what I am realizing tonight is that many times what I think are trenches are really mountaintops…bringing me closer to Jesus than I could ever imagine. Because ONLY HE can turn our deepest, darkest, most frustrating and hard things into moments where we SEE Him, FEEL Him, KNOW Him more than we ever thought we could.

Update: After Josh drove around the next day for less than an hour people kept directing him up into the mountains.  Finally after asking at practically every intersection a motorcycle driver recognized the sweet old man and heard he had wondered out of his house down the mountain.  Thank God, he was reunited with his family and is now safe!

Baby Faith

It has taken me so long to get my thoughts on paper. The last 5 months have been the most difficult, heart breaking and busy months I’ve ever had in Haiti. We have had more sickness, more deaths, more trauma than I have ever experienced in my life. It wrecked me for a while and it wrecked our whole staff. The things that happened during these past five months have been difficult to digest, and even more difficult to write about. But after lots of prayer, encouragement and healing, I think it’s time to write again. Over the next few weeks I really want to share with you the grief, the tragedy and the joy that these last months have brought.

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Beginning of June 2015

One of the girls on our American Staff called me some what frantic because she was not understanding a woman that was feverishly knocking on her gate. As she handed the phone to her, it was a Wednesday in the early afternoon. I could hardly understand her through her scattered thoughts and coded sentences. Finally, I heard a few things and left my office on Bellevue Mountain and began running….”Baby…”…..”in a hole.”…

I called out to Dan, who works with our construction crew, and asked him to come with me to drive down the mountain. My eyes stayed glued to my phone in case it rang again. I was so focused on my phone that as I felt the car stop I thought we were there and was about to run out. I looked up and realized we were stopping to pick up two of our teachers from Respire Haiti Christian School, Marie and Claude. They are an amazing and sweet couple that has been married for 8 years and fosters one of our 16-year-old students. Briefly saying hey, we continued driving as they hopped in the back seat and as my eyes stayed glued to the phone.

As we pulled up to the staff house, my heart began pounding and I jumped out of the car. I saw a woman a little bit frantic explaining again, that she heard a babies cry in a hole last night. “Last night!!!??” I felt like screaming at her, WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG TO CALL ME!?  But instead, I took a breath and began jogging….this way?… I questioned, as she shook her head yes. I ran off in that direction. I arrived at a hole right off of our street. I turned again and she shook her head yes. As I slowly approached the hole, it was AT LEAST 18 feet down; I hesitantly glanced in it, but all I saw was a cardboard box. My heart dropped and I could feel my face flush. I shook my head thinking, if there IS anything in there, there is NO way it is alive.

I took a step back and saw that Marie and Claude had followed me and Dan was not too far behind. Claude immediately grabbed a stick. As he stuck a stick in the hole, he began trying to flip over the box. After a few attempts, he finally flipped it over. What I saw next is an image I will never be able to erase from my memory.

As the box flipped over, it was surreal. My eyes blurred as I saw a black trash bag and the tiniest arm sticking out of it. I could feel the vomit rising up in my throat. As I turned away, I couldn’t believe that someone would do this. It felt like time slowed- as I blinked back the tears.  Not knowing what to do next, we all stood for a moment praying, crying and in shock.

After a few minutes of staring in the hole, Marie yelled, “Its breathing!!” My heart jumped as we all looked again. Dan yelled back, “No, it’s not breathing, that’s the light.” Again my heart sunk, as my hands shook. Then a minute later her husband Claude said, “Yes! Yes! I see it! It is breathing!” I squinted my eyes so tightly to concentrate trying HARD to see any movement. Nothing.

My mind raced about what to do next. Then, both Claude and Marie said it again emphatically. “L’ap Respire!” (in English “It’s breathing!”)

I squinted more and then I have no idea if I really saw a breath or just really wanted so badly to believe the baby was breathing. I yelled at Dan, “I think they are right! I think they are right!” I began to think about getting in the hole, I opened my mouth to yell “I’ll go down” and before I knew it Dan was down in there.

As he bent down, he pulled off the black bag to expose a baby white with blue lips- he removed another bag from the legs and lifted the baby up off of the ground. Right as he did this, he heard and we saw her GASP for air.  As he lifted the baby over his head, I yelled at Marie to sit on my legs so I could bend down into the hole to grab the baby. As I leaned over the edge and the top half of my body completely lowered into the hole. I reached as far as I could and divinely in this 18 foot hole we reached each other. I grabbed the baby and swung myself up. Standing carefully, I began to quickly run-walk down the road. As I yelled for help, not a soul was in the road, this NEVER happens…there are ALWAYS people on our street…my heart was beating so fast and I was breathing hard holding this precious baby so close to death. I turned to look behind me and no one was there, not Claude, Marie or Dan.  (I found out later they were trying to get Dan out of the hole).

As I looked down at my hands, they were covered in blood  (I know Zack <my brother>, I should have had gloves on, but we were not expecting this.) and I wondered why the baby was so heavy. As I felt something hitting the front of my shirt as I walked, I realized that there was a cord attached.   Also rolled up in the shirt was something that looked like a heart. As I put two and two together, I realized that this baby’s placenta and cord were still attached and had hardened. I quickened my pace as I yelled at the staff house to come help.

The baby wasn’t wrapped up well but instead was just sort of stuffed in a shirt and trash bag. Juggling the baby, the placenta and the cord I finally made it to the Staff House. Even though it was only two blocks away it felt like an eternity and the whole time I was yelling out-loud for this precious soul to not die (and I’m sure a few other choice words). Beth, one of our nurses, showed up minutes later as well as another one of our nurses Junie, and calm as cucumbers they began doing their thing cutting the umbilical cord and cleaning her/ checking vitals. As the baby’s temperature was only 93 degrees, Beth immediately grabbed her when they were done and put her in her shirt to warm her up. Her sweet swollen face and white hands were tell-tale of this….14 hours in a hole.

Within minutes Marie and Claude brought me aside and said with full confidence, “Megan, she is our baby, we know it.” I looked up at both of them and could feel the Holy Spirit moving. They KNEW it was not by accident that we picked them up in our car on the way to rescue this baby, they KNEW that God had planned this out.  This sweet couple has been trying to have children for years. They are the most loving, caring and gentle couple.  They love the Lord and have been trusting Him to add to their family.

I’ve played this scenario over in my head a hundred times- seeing Claude flip the box over, seeing no movement, no breath or sound, hearing Marie’s sweet voice asking God repeatedly, “Why didn’t they just give me the baby.”, while we were trying to get her out of the hole.  I’m obviously no doctor, nor can I make sense of why this happened but I believe in a God who performs miracles because of our and through our Faith. And I believe because of Marie and her husband Claude’s FAITH that baby is alive today. I will never forget both of them crouched over the 18 foot hole praying loudly and repeatedly saying, “Respire, respire, respire.”.

I believe their faith rescued that sweet baby, the sweet baby that they have now named Faith and who they have adopted as their own.

Now, she is SO LOVEDnot abandoned. After being in an 18 foot hole for more than half a day, she is alive and in a loving family.

What the enemy intended for evil God has redeemed for Good. Jesus was with her and this IS a miracle. In fact as my sweet daughter Jessi said, she never was alone, she never even touched the ground because Jesus was holding her.

Baby1

The day we found sweet Baby Faith.

Baby2

One week after, a miraculous transformation.

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