Thursday, April 26, 2012

De-briefing = Rambling.. right?

My life has changed radically in the past 4 months.

This whole adventure started in a long car drive with Eric. We were heading back to Ladyville, Belize from San Ignacio, Belize (Further Reading Here) after dropping some staff off in that area last summer. I received an email from PPM's president about a possible need for workers in an orphanage. Immediately, I felt the tug of the Lord on my heart, unlike anything I've ever felt before. Eric and I talked about it for almost the whole ride.. and decided to begin bathing the decision to pursue it further, in prayer.

I remember being so scared at that moment. So uncertain of my future and where the Lord would lead. I  remember being so focused and intent on figuring out what parts of my desire to come to Haiti were fleshly and what was really a calling from Christ.

Many people don't believe women can be called by Christ to a purpose. I was met with quite a bit of opposition when I decided to come. Many people do not share my values, passion and core beliefs and I understand that. But I guess, I've stayed silent for a long time and I feel like I need to speak my part.

I believe that no part of my own doing brought me to this country. Well, my two feet walked on and off of the plane, sure. But no amount of potential love, can in reality, out-weigh the separation from my husband, friends and family when you look at things in a physical, non-spiritual sense. I don't believe that Christ would have allowed me to do this if it was not His will. Mainly because I could not have made it through without His guidance and His hand in everything. I know for a fact that this time was indeed a call on my life. The Lord had a perfect plan for me here.. I still am unaware of all of the reasons why, but I know He knows.. and that is all that matters.

The past four months have been a roller-coaster of events. I have experienced pain more far reaching and intense than anything I have ever felt. I have seen things and been put in situations I never expected. I've missed my husband more than I ever have in my life and have cried more tears than I ever thought possible. But what can I take away? What are the lessons learned? After everything settles down, who will I be? How will I have changed?

I believe I will be me, only.. different. I've learned to stand up tall for what I believe in, for who I am. I've learned that its okay to disagree and argue with people... if it is in support of good and I feel at peace with God. I've learned to act when I hear His voice. I've learned that people and situations that used to worry me, contain no weight in the Everlasting. I've learned that I am a spiritual force to be reckoned with. I am a strong, powerful and beautiful servant of the most high God. I am comfortable with who God made me to be, all my many flaws included. I've learned to declare these facts to Christ daily as I take up my place in this world.

In Arkansas, I feel as if the "southern" lifestyle, although an integral part of who I am, often draws the line between strong and proud as very blurry. But these two are completely separate. Thankfully I've had many incredible examples in my life who showed me (and still do) how humility and strength go hand in hand. The primary example of this being my father. The humility of mind and strength of soul I've watched him portray in my life is what I yearn to mimic. Funny I married Eric, right? He's the exact same kind of man. I've always told Eric that he portrays the image of Christ better than anyone I know. Although he would be quick to disagree, I know "its just his way" as my boys here would say. Christ was humble but never wavered in His beliefs. His strength during His short time here on earth, screams volumes about His character. This is the character I've come to desire.

I've learned to be strong in who I am, in who God plans for me to become.

I've learned that my family is incredible. We have our flaws, our mistakes, our fights and our problems just like anyone else... but I know if the world turns against me, they will be there.
I've learned my friends love me, far more than I thought. I am so thankful for them.
I've learned that my husband is a rock and our marriage is just as solid as I thought it to be. This all due to Christ and His faithfulness, of course.
I've learned I have a lot of love in me. And a lot of love left to give.
I've learned that I love these 40 boys with my whole heart. It's a real love, it's not simple to leave.
I've learned I have a lot to learn still yet.

But above all, I've learned (more) that when I listen to Christ's calling on my life, no matter how scary or radical.. He will always deliver me "even unto glory.." He will make a way. He will uphold me. He will be my shelter, peace, sustenance and protector. Not just in the small things, but in the big things too! My faith is more physical now. I feel Him in the wind, I am more aware of His constant involvement in my life.

Thank You, Lord for allowing me this time in Haiti. Thank You for all the lessons You have taught and will continue to teach me. Help me make the changes to myself as You see fit. Let me be like You! I am in love with You. You are my Prophet, Priest and King. My Confidant, Peace and Father.

I am Yours.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lasting Impressions

So today was our leaving day..

We decided to give the boys a few things to remember us by and keep them occupied for the rest of the day. So...

We made them the longest treasure hunt EVER. We left them a video, Bible passages from 1 Thessalonians and a Bible Promise book for prayer time.


Then we made them up some goody-bags complete with their own picture of us, candy, school stuff and personalized Bible verses. I also wrote a small note to each boy.


Then we covered their rooms in toilet paper! It was so much fun. They are going to freak!




Then we left them a small note on our door for them to look at while we are gone.


 Hopefully it will make a lasting impression.  I love them so much.

Party at the HCO!


 So last night was our "See You Later" party for us and the boys. We had such a wonderful time!

We had a crazy day of hospital runs, cleaning, packing and cooking.. all the while goofing off with our boys and setting up for the party.

The party started no-where near on time and we ended up eating at about 8:00, but a good time was had by all!
Rachou and Milton, our chefs for the night
Me and my man Lover
Dancing and Decorating
Yummy Food!
Even Tookie our dog was excited
Trying some Yoga poses



Decorations
Beautiful face
Gerald playing beautiful music for our talent show
DJ Gadva bringing the party to life
Just a little of the talent show
All in all, the party was a success! Many hugs, smiles, laughs and tears were given and received. We close out the night with mixed emotion.

Now to just get these kiddos to bed!




Intense Love

Our boys surprised us on Monday with showing us their moves for the future when they are in the Haitian Military. Let's just say, their military requires a bit more rhythm than ours. We had so much fun and it quickly turned into a dance/rap/sing-off (as everything always does) between the two "squads" (the older boys and the younger boys).

Here's a quick video of just a small portion. Samuel (mentioned in previous post) gets his groove on and impresses the older boys with his moves.

video



Yep, you heard right. They're chanting "HCO" and "PPM"! This is such a huge step. Having them be proud of who they are and where they live. It's beautiful.

Can you feel it? The love? The brother-hood? Can you take a moment and get a small glimpse of why I'm here?

This is my Haitian family, these are my boys. These are my brothers, this is us. We sing, we dance, we act like fools. But mostly, we love intensely.

These are the moments I live for.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Routines

Living here at HCO for 3 months has been incredible. It's the simple things that I love...the routines:

Wake up, cook breakfast while the boys get ready for school outside the window. Say good morning.
Send the boys off to school.
Office work until 2.
After the whistle, eat lunch with the boys downstairs. (Share a bowl with a boy.) Talk about school.
After lunch, talk with the little boys about school. Time to nap.
After nap, head to the ball court to watch the big boys play sports.
Head up to the house around 7:30/dark for showers, dinner snack and prayer time.
Prayer, singing, hugs and kisses.
Good night to all!

My favorite time of the day: Prayer.

Hearing our boys lift their voices in song is incredible. I've been trying to capture it on my phone for what seems like an eternity. I simply cannot do it. It always seems as though something comes up to thwart my plans. But mostly, you just cannot capture how beautifully they sing. It is breath-taking.

But tonight I captured a few small clips of them. It's not much, but it can give you an idea of how awesome they are. They sang in English and in Creole for us tonight. It was wonderfully beautiful.

More Love, More Power

video

More Love continued... and Let it Rain

video


The audio distorts some and the harmonies sound off, but in real life they are not. It is perfect. You'll just have to come hear it for yourself! ;)

This is the sound of the new generation. Full of Christ, pushing out Satan and his forces!



What an incredible daily life I live, thank You Lord.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

HCO Artists!


This is Samuel. He is one of our special needs boys from the house. He is a wonderful kid in need of love and understanding and has the incredible ability to steal your heart is 5 minutes flat.

One thing that Samuel does to fill his time and keep his anger in check is make things. He is always creating things from the most random of items! He is a true, Haitian, much younger and better looking,  MacGyver.

One of his frequent creations: Kites.


Items used: 
String, diligently unraveled from a coconut sack we threw out.
             Wood, sticks off the ground
                   Plastic, pieces of plastic bags we threw out
                   Decorations, strips of fabric and such that are not useable thrown out by the grounds      Tailor.

He also makes musical instruments, like this Kazoo out of a plant.


video



Items used: 
Root/Stem of plant
Piece of old plastic
String from old Kite
(Teeth I suppose for cutting the hole) ;)

 
And of course, his trusty water-bag-animals. My favorite is the "pig."



Items used:
Water Bag

And then just him being a typical boy, making scary masks to run around in, screaming at people in the dark. Typically resulting in a punch to the arm or gut and him needing a visit to the band-aid station. 



Items used:
Paper Plate
Old string

I love that he uses nothing other than his mind and his hands and gets the job done, beautifully. I love his imagination and creativity, so much of it has been lost in the world today!

He uses 100% recycled or natural items.. Mostly from our trash or leftover items we don't want. I think he should be given an award or something! I feel like he would freak out if he ever got his hands on Pinterest. Ha!

I'm a little proud, can't you tell? ;)



Now I'm supposed to leave?


Friends, I'm struggling.

It's been a hard week for us here at HCO. We always have our difficulties and trials, but this week Satan was at it full force.

We've dealt with two scary medical situations and have spent the majority of the last 3 days at two different hospitals. Thankfully our last team brought down a blood-pressure cuff and monitor so I caught one of the boys' condition fairly early and we got him to the ER. Thank you Ms. Sheryl!

But amongst all of this, our boys are struggling with the upcoming transition. Marlo is struggling. I am struggling. We are all struggling. Sometimes together, sometimes not.

Attachment and Detachment struggles and disorders are common among orphans and adoptees. I've read myself silly over RAD, symptoms, advice, success stories, common themes etc. You name it, I've probably read it, trying to stay mentally ahead of the game. I knew these days would come.. all of the boys questioning our bonds, re-establishing our relationship, defending their hearts and figuring out who I am to them. They are acting out on their anger and confusion in 40 different ways and to be blunt, it is emotionally (and physically) draining.

As a Christian, woman and "temporary mama" (A term I like more than house mother) I cannot allow myself to disconnect. I cannot allow myself to give 80%, to only love so much.. because I fully believe Christ wouldn't. He would give all of Himself, completely. He would allow the heartbreak, anger and frustration. He wouldn't pull away just because its hard. He didn't pull away just because it was hard. He never pulls away when it gets hard.

My love for them runs so deep. My heart is for these boys. They know I love them and they know Christ loves them. But with all the confusion and drama here at the house, I'm feeling down.

How do you answer "Berftani, you're the only person who's been a mom to all of us, littles and bigs. Why don't you stay?" from a 20 year old.

Or "Aren't we your friends? Aren't we your family? Won't you miss us?" from a 11 year old.

Or "Befani, you're the only voice I have in this world. You are the only one who will stand up for me and these boys." from one of our big boys.

My response is typically just give them a big helping of love. I came here because of love. I stayed here because of love, I leave because of love and I will return because of love. And that even with how deeply they feel our love and our relationship.. it is nothing in comparison to Christ and His love! His love runs far deeper than ours ever could!

But it is never enough. The only answer that is enough is, "Yes, I'll stay." And they know I can't.

So with that, I feel guilty as I get excited to go home. I feel guilty leaving them to be without a woman to discipline them, give them hugs, bandage their cuts, kiss their fevers away, play soccer with them, make sure they are eating and drinking water, make sure they're showering etc.

I will go home to a wonderful man, beautiful family and friends.

I'm so thankful Marlo is coming back in June. So if I don't..I know they will have someone here to take care of them with a gentle touch, a woman's touch. A woman who loves them as much as I do, knows them like I do and will care for them.

God what is your will?

How does this work? I don't understand.

I could use your prayers.





Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jeanty, the History Buff.

Hello friends!

Today we took the day off and visited the Sugar Cane History Museum. It was so beautiful! The tour guide was out-to-lunch so Jeanty (Wally) filled in for him. We had so much fun and learned a lot!



Small model of old cannon - 1804
Neg Maron, symbol of freedom - http://students.depaul.edu/~jallonce/History.html





French influence Haitian style.
Influence of Buddha
Jeanty teaching us how to use a sugar cane press.
Old Water Mill from Montorious - Looks like home!
The P.C.S. train car from "The Railroad" - we drive this road 24/7.
My sweet Marlo and I.

Jeanty chasing the train.
Jeanty and I.

The museum was an overall history of Haiti as well as the process ad importance of utilizing sugar cane. We toured the Distillery and learned all about the way that the sugar cane was processed by hand.

I'm continually amazed at the ingenuity of these people. They can take an random old object and make it a masterpiece. It's incredible. Walking around made me think of my hometown of Cave City, AR and Mountain View AR, where Eric and his family are from. I've always taken such a pride in the "old" way of life where we live. From soap-making to homesteading.. I've always been drawn to replicate that lifestyle and keep it alive. Now, don't give me all that war history.. but tell me a story about my great-grandmother and her prized sorghum recipe and I'm all ears. Like at home, hearing about the rich history and way of life here in this country is amazing. Even thousands of miles away, the same ideas are on display and evidence proves that at some level, we are all the same. (Seriously, whiskey barrels, coal-heated metal iron's, manual plows, wooden carved pipes and old typewriters... Haiti's has them too!)

Thank you Jeanty for your entertaining guide through the museum. I think you deserve a tip!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Berftani, I LOVE your fat!

Yep, I have decided that the time for this post has arrived. I've debated posting it at all because frankly, in America, we are all way to self-conscious and overtly obsessed with weight and make it a very personal issue. And well, this post could make some people rather uncomfortable I guess. But after further thought, I decided that it just needed to be done.

Before I came to Haiti.. I was more of the American mind-set than the Haitian one.. fat = ugly / fat = beautiful. However, after hearing "Whoa, you're SO fat!" for approximately 3 1/2 months now.. I've gone Haitian. Like, really.

I started loosing weight about 6 months ago mostly due to becoming a vegetarian over a year ago. I'm actually down 40 pounds and feeling great! But that's another post all-together. One thing I know is I've come to love myself for who I am and I am finally, for once in my life, comfortable in my own skin. I am confident that the Lord can use even me and my "not ideal" body for His glory! Thank you Haiti for showing me how to love my "true" beauty!

I've had many hilarious instances with the boys and just random people on the street talking about me and how "beautiful" I am... But my two all-time favorites thus far are:

Marlo and I were sitting outside playing with the boys and G came over to be and punched me in the arm.
G:  "Whoa, Beftani (he actually leaves out the "r") you aren't as fat today! But.. you're still SO fat!"
Me: "Well, thanks G. You're always so sweet."
G: "Really though, you're FAT!" (poking me dramatically in the arm at this point)
B: (one of our middle age boys) angrily tells G to stop and looks up at me with the biggest puppy-dog eyes in the world and says, "Berftani, I LOVE your fat! I love my mom and my mom is fat!"

He'll pass all of his Logic classes in college, that's for sure! Oddly enough, I almost cried it was so sweet.

And second was at another orphanage we work with called Life Is Hope. One of my "constants" from that orphanage is a little boy of 5. No words were exchanged in this occurrence. But pictures say a million words right?



 
My drawing of us

Soson's drawing of me
I mean, give a girl a complex will you?


So with all of that said, I hope you found some joy and laughter amongst the funny things that kids say and do. It's these kids that are my joy. They are so hilarious and awesome to be around. And I guess the fat-love is just an added bonus! 

Thank You Lord for loving me no matter what I look like! For using me despite the world's view of me, in any way. 

To my readers, remember to love yourself for who you are! There is no one out there in the world who is perfect and the Lord loves us the way we are! Embrace yourself and get comfortable in who God called you to be. He loves using our imperfections to display His perfection! Our weakness are avenues to SCREAM His strength! Allow Him to use you!

Be blessed!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter, Celebrating Life!

Every Easter is special. I mean, our Father came to the earth to die for our sins and on this day, we celebrate His resurrection! So, rightly so.. it is special.

But this Easter was just a little bit more special it seems. Maybe it is just that I am on the mission field and dealing with so much spiritual warfare, that proclaiming this victory over sin and the grave world-wide and with millions of others in the world, was just what I needed.. but I don't know.

It is hard being at the new church here on the grounds and not understanding the message, words or songs. Even though we are getting fairly good at the language, there is still so much we cannot understand and we are often worn-out after church. So we spent time this morning in worship, prayer and digging in the story of Christ together, just Marlo and I. I read through the book of John and the story of Easter and spent time dwelling in the beauty and magnitude of the cross. I want it to be renewed in my mind with the morning, every morning. Lord this is my prayer!

Knowing that on a typical Easter, I would have family gatherings, breakfast with my church, time with my friends, food and such.. I couldn't imagine spending this Easter any other way -- in celebration of the life of our LORD and in the life He has given us! In celebration of our VICTORY through Christ, our Savior!

So after prayer, worship and such.. (and after an almost-broken-arm accident) Marlo and I spent time with the boys.. precious, Christ's-love infused time.
We began with listening to music and drawing with the younger boys.  After drawing, we hung up all the pictures in the kitchen area. Isn't it adorable? They did such a good job!! We had so much fun having a relaxed morning, quietly listening to worship music and teaching the words to the boys, explaining Christ and His life!



With the older boys though, we took a change of pace. They were excited to get to spend some time "alone" without all the younger boys to take the spotlight. (Cause let's be honest, those little hands just get hung on to more often.) They brought in speakers for my computer and we worked while jamming out to Family Force 5, Hillsong, Committed and other Christian artists. We sang, taught lyrics, laughed and well.. you'll see later. ;)

We decided teaching 20 year old boys to bake is one of the most hilarious things, well.. ever! The oldest boys took care of the ingredients, following instructions and baking. While the "middle" boys rolled out all 100 cookies! They worked so hard and were so proud of the finished product.

Kenly looks like a mad scientist with all those ingredients!









Gerald and Moise getting serious about mixing.

Me, Lover, Kenly, Marlo (with a cookie face) and Moise showing off the final product!
Yummy!
And we might have had a flour/egg war.. :)


All in all, today was an awesome day. My prayer is that our time spent with the boys today, will be memories that will last for years to come and that they will take away the ultimate reason why we can celebrate life today: love.

Christ came to this world for us. For us. Not for fame, possessions, money, happiness or anything other than to save us from a lost and dying world. His love is what took Him to the cross and kept Him there. His love for us.

Take a minute and let that sink it. Has anyone in your life ever given you a greater gift? The sacrifice of their life? Willingly?
I know for me, it has only happened once. The man's name was Jesus and His sacrifice radically changed the outcome of my life. I will never forget this sacrifice! Lord, I will never forget Your love for me!

I pray that these boys will see the love of Christ through Marlo and I. That our love goes beyond seas, distance, culture, racial differences, beliefs, rights, wrongs, sins or anger.. that our love is here and is here to stay. Why? Because that is the example set before us by Christ. His love for those who did Him wrong, sinned, persecuted Him and ultimately killed Him, kept Him on the cross. So we could have a hope and a future! What an incredible God. What an incredible Father.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Update on Admise!

Good news on this Good friday my friends!

Progress is being made in Granbouchi! Marlo, Cassie, Almando and I took some time to head out to Les Cayes today and check in on Jean Delcy and the village. After chatting and re-uniting we headed out to Admise's home. The walls are all plastered and sanded, the porch is done and the column is finished! (sanded and supporting weight)


Up-close of the plaster and finished windows. 




 
   This is the front view standing at the right.

 Right side of the house. 

 Another view of the right side and column.

 Admise and I

 Up-close of column


Papi wishes everyone well!


We spent some extra time praying over Admise and her life, looking at the new garden she's started and all the plants she's planted around! Thank you team for all your work and donations, you're radically changing this woman's life!

The work is still being done and will continue to be done even after I'm gone! Thank You Lord for Your faithfulness!