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The Women of Haiti

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A woman passed me on the sidewalk with an entire table on her head. It looked like she had put everything she wanted for her journey onto a table, crawled underneath it, and then stood up. She moved down the street with her neck straight, her eyes forward, because carrying the burden takes focus. Nobody seemed to think she was remarkable.

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Little girls balance bags of rice, women twice my age carry full washtubs, men carry bananas in baskets. The movement of goods happens on the streets, resting just a head above us.

Everywhere we go, I have found the women of Haiti to have incredibly straight posture. They move with dignity and steadiness. Perhaps it’s because they have spent their lives achieving the balance required to transport their lives on their brow, and this is no metaphor. Blessed is the woman who carries the burden.

The women of Haiti are straightening my spine.

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A young woman stood at the pulpit at church. Beautiful in her white suit, she lead us in worship, singing strong like Exodus’ Miriam. No whispering, no false shyness, her back was straight, her face was forward, the microphone was on, and she sang the roof off that church. We followed behind her, straight into the throne room of God.

The front two rows were taken up with the women’s choir, all in black business suits. When they got up to sing, they moved easily through their steps, singing Hosanna for Palm Sunday. I sat in the wooden pew and tears filled my eyes. Erika leaned over to me and said, “I bet the angels wish they were here for this.” But I’m not convinced they weren’t there. Blessed are the women who sing.

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The rows of the school are filled with boys and girls. Together. Same classroom, same opportunity. The blue satin hair ribbons, one after another, crowded onto benches, just about laid me out on the dirt with their beauty and determination.

These girls are getting an education. These girls will be able to read a deed to make sure they aren’t getting swindled. Their backs are straight on those tiny benches. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we ask. Nurses. Teachers, Singers. One dream after another. These girls will lift Haiti, I think.

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These two women cook for 150 children every single day. Think about that for a hot second. For many of the kids in Drouin, it’s their only meal of the day. The conditions are primitive to my eyes – water must be fetched and carried and then boiled before use. The tin cooking pots are four times the size of my kitchen sink. There is no light and no fan, just a cook stove and the women.

But those fresh beans and rice, straight off the stove and ladled into a tin plate were the best meal of the week. She grinned at me, her sinewy arms stirring, her headscarf a gleaming white. I thought of Proverbs 31 – she rises while it’s still dark to provide for her children, this virtuous woman. Blessed is the woman who provides for another woman’s child.

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Rosna grew up in a girls’ orphanage herself and then she went on to become a nurse. She got married and her husband planted a church in the same town where she grew up. And now she is the director of Ferrier Village. The first “family style” orphanage in the area, there are five homes filled with 26 children, all of them rescued from trafficking, under her care. Each home has a mother and four or five children. Their mother makes sure they are clean, they are fed, they sleep well, they are seen, known, loved here. Rosna is three years younger than me. Her back was straight, her floors were swept, her work is done well, and her children are healthy.

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When the children first arrive from their rescue, they are often malnourished, their black hair the colour of dried orange straw. But give Rosna a bit of time, because look – this rescued baby’s roots are coming in dark. She’s going to be well because Rosna is a high-capacity leader with hustle and peace for days. Blessed is the woman who leads.

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Wherever I go, children burrow into my mama-belly. It’s a bit soft, never recovered after those three babies in four years, but when I’m around children, I’m thankful for my softness. We mamas from the north, we stood around with their children in our arms, toddlers balanced on our hips. The sway of a mother’s axis crosses cultures, it seems. We met eyes over whiny toddlers who won’t cooperate and shrugged with a grin – we’ve all been there, we’re mothers.

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When we gathered around the women to express our thanks for the meal. “Thank you for cooking for us,” Amber said with a smile. “We have a lot of children and we’re mothers and nobody ever cooks for us!” They laughed and said they understood that.

One woman after another, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in the pulpit, sometimes in a home, sometimes singing a song, sometimes on the street with her stand of mangoes to sell, sometimes at the blackboard wearing a blue uniform, sometimes sitting in the classroom.

What a privilege to witness these women work.

What a privilege to talk in their kitchens, hold their babies, hear their stories.

What an honour to learn from their leadership.

Blessed are the women who remain unbowed.

 from the archives

***

It’s been a year since I was last in Haiti. I had plans of returning again this year but then along came little Maggie Love and so travel is at a stop right now. But in the meantime, the work continues – my presence certainly isn’t required by anyone – in Haiti.

Want to help?

You can be a child sponsor in Drouin whose kids are vulnerable to trafficking and or host for a Garage Sale for Orphans to build a preschool for children who have been rescued from trafficking.

And as always, pray for our sisters worldwide who are quietly doing the work.

 

All these photos were taken by Scott Wade and are used with permission.

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice, women, work · 5

Maybe there is despair – but there is also hope in Haiti

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Photo by Scott Wade, provided by Help One Now

 

Haiti makes Walter Brueggemann make a bit more sense to me.

The Bruegg (as I affectionately and irreverantly think of him) is the theologian who has been wrecking building my life over the past few years.  In The Prophetic Imagination, he writes that real hope only comes after despair. Only if we have tasted despair, only if we have known the deep sadness of unfulfilled dreams and promises, only if we dare to look reality in the face and name it for what it is, only then – can we dare to begin to imagine a better way.

Hope is subversive precisely because it dares to admit that all is not as it should be.

And I thought: Of course….Haiti.

Today, we mark the fifth anniversary of the earthquake. Five years. 

There has been despair.

There is despair.

We see life before and after the earthquake – the poverty, the gross domestic product, the politics of a developing nation, and so on – and we know it isn’t right. This isn’t what God intended for us.

But because of our Jesus, our hope sees with new eyes, with Spirit-eyes, and imagines a better way. We see the goodness. We see the health. We see the holy. We see the strong communities, we see Pastor Jean Alix, and Pastor Gaetan, and Rosena, and St. Cyr with Help One Now, and then there’s Troy and Tara, Beth and John, and everyone at Heartline and all of the ways that heaven is breaking through right in the midst of it all.

Maybe there is despair – but there is also hope.

Hope cultivates the seed of the Kingdom that is already growing wild and free.

Hope comes alongside of each other, in friendship, and says, let’s do this. 

Hope is an act of faith.

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from my most recent visit to Yahve Shamma in April 2014

 

Since my own story intersected with Haiti, I have had my eye out for that subversive hope. We’ve made friends and we’ve built a school together, we’ve started a preschool and rescued kids from trafficking. I’m late to to the party perhaps but for the past five years, Haiti hasn’t let go of me even here from my life in western Canada. The world is small, neighbour.

Together, we are holding out for, working for, listening, creating, prophesying, and living into something better. For the Kingdom to come, for oaks of righteousness to tower, for leaves to blossom for the healing of the nations, for swords to be beaten into ploughshares, for joy to come in the morning, and for redemption.

Light a candle for Haiti today.

Say a prayer.

Make room to remember Haiti’s complex story.

And, if you can, perhaps send a bit of money to Help One Now projects in Drouin, Port Au Prince, and Ferrier village or to Heartline Maternity Centre which not only delivers babies but empowers women to raise their children. You can trust that your money makes a difference right on the ground in real lives with these two groups – they’re the real deal.

Also, all of the profits from the Jesus Feminist collection go to support these two worthy orgs.

 edited from the archives

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice · 2

Christmas is for family, Christmas is for Drouin

It seems nobody loves Drouin. It’s a sequestered, hot, poor, and isolated spot in rural Haiti, far from the TV cameras, the decision makers, and the big NGOs. The earthquake left them largely untouched but they suffered mightily in the cholera outbreak and continue to navigate the fall-out from rice subsidies which put them largely out of work.

This community of proud and hard-working Haitians captured my heart precisely because they are a bit on the margins of the rest of the world’s love, resources, compassion, and consciousness.

Even now, out of all our initiatives in Haiti, the kids in Drouin are among the last to be sponsored.

I’ve always loved to root for the underdog though.

Christmas is traditionally a time for family. We gather together for worship and celebration, for meals and for gifts, for parties and to make memories. Whether our families are together by birth or by choice, Christmas is a time for gathering and connecting with one another in beautiful ways. We make time and spend money and tell stories with our families, Christmas gathers us together.

And in Drouin, that is exactly the value that guides our work: family.

Our work in Drouin is all about keeping families together, empowering parents to raise their children, ensuring that these kids don’t ever end up in an orphanage because of preventable economic reasons. 

Orphan prevention is a key part of orphan care.

Too often, we show up after the crisis when the holy work can also be found in making sure that the crisis never happens. 

If Christmas is for family, then Christmas is also the time for Drouin.

 

A Tale of Two Josephs

On the day that I wrote about Drouin when I was in Haiti last April, my mother was prompted by the Spirit to participate in redemption’s story here. She decided to sponsor an older boy named Joseph. She saw his picture on the website and some part of her heart just knew that this was the boy she could focus her bit of good and prayer and resource onto in Drouin – he shares a name with her only grandson, after all.

That night, my mother emailed me in Haiti and told me what she had done. I was sitting on my bunk, sweat running down my back like a river, enjoying a brief moment of wifi connection when I read her email and then I wept.

Because Joseph was a boy that I knew. I knew his name and his face right away. I get overwhelmed in large crowds of strangers so I typically find just one or two people to talk to in a bit more depth. On this hot day in Drouin, it was Joseph who caught my eye and became a friend for the day. Earlier, we had sat together under a tree and talked, we ate together. Out of all the kids at that school, I hung out with that kid, I had pictures of him in my camera phone, and of course that was the boy my mother felt lead to sponsor.

These are the ways of the Spirit, aren’t they? Just those little kisses from heaven to let you know you’re not alone and we’re in it together and it all matters.

This Christmas, our family story includes two Josephs – my Joseph here in Abbotsford and another woman’s son named Joseph in Drouin.

My mother is making sure that Joseph stays with his mother.

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This Christmas, we will love Drouin

As you prepare and budget for Christmas, would you make some room in your family for Drouin?

Look through the website here and pray, ask God which one of these kids belong with your family Christmas conversations and gatherings this year.

Click here to sponsor a kid in Drouin for Christmas.

From our corner of the Internet, I believe we can sponsor 20 kids. That’s not outrageous, but it will have an outrageous and lifelong affect on 2o families.

With your sponsorship, you’ll ensure a child receives one good hearty meal a day at school. You’ll contribute towards paying for the teachers at the school as well as supplies, towards childcare for the younger children so their parents can find work in peace and remain confident that child-traffickers or predators have no access to their unattended children, and also towards community development funds to improve roads, build homes, water, and finance farming initiatives.

All of these things will keep families together, you see?

That’s a happy Christmas, indeed. I can’t imagine a better gift for your family and for the families of Drouin.

Together, with Drouin, let’s celebrate family this Christmas.

Photos courtesy of Help One Now.

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice · 4

In which the women of Haiti make me stand straight

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A woman passed me on the sidewalk with an entire table on her head. It looked like she had put everything she wanted for her journey onto a table, crawled underneath it, and then stood up. She moved down the street with her neck straight, her eyes forward, because carrying the burden takes focus. Nobody seemed to think she was remarkable.

13885450335_b408e0f79c_b

Little girls balance bags of rice, women twice my age carry full washtubs, men carry bananas in baskets. The movement of goods happens on the streets, resting just a head above us.

Everywhere we go, I have found the women of Haiti to have incredibly straight posture. They move with dignity and steadiness. Perhaps it’s because they have spent their lives achieving the balance required to transport their lives on their brow, and this is no metaphor. Blessed is the woman who carries the burden.

The women of Haiti are straightening my spine.

13836763794_5fb5b2d80b_b

A young woman stood at the pulpit at church. Beautiful in her white suit, she lead us in worship, singing strong like Exodus’ Miriam. No whispering, no false shyness, her back was straight, her face was forward, the microphone was on, and she sang the roof off that church. We followed behind her, straight into the throne room of God.

The front two rows were taken up with the women’s choir, all in black business suits. When they got up to sing, they moved easily through their steps, singing Hosanna for Palm Sunday. I sat in the wooden pew and tears filled my eyes. Erika leaned over to me and said, “I bet the angels wish they were here for this.” But I’m not convinced they weren’t there. Blessed are the women who sing.

13859212655_781ca9a299_b

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The rows of the school are filled with boys and girls. Together. Same classroom, same opportunity. The blue satin hair ribbons, one after another, crowded onto benches, just about laid me out on the dirt with their beauty and determination.

These girls are getting an education. These girls will be able to read a deed to make sure they aren’t getting swindled. Their backs are straight on those tiny benches. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we ask. Nurses. Teachers, Singers. One dream after another. These girls will lift Haiti, I think.

13859635754_69777ae3de_b

13859291943_ebe9cdf7c1_b

These two women cook for 150 children every single day. Think about that for a hot second. For many of the kids in Drouin, it’s their only meal of the day. The conditions are primitive to my eyes – water must be fetched and carried and then boiled before use. The tin cooking pots are four times the size of my kitchen sink. There is no light and no fan, just a cook stove and the women.

But those fresh beans and rice, straight off the stove and ladled into a tin plate were the best meal of the week. She grinned at me, her sinewy arms stirring, her headscarf a gleaming white. I thought of Proverbs 31 – she rises while it’s still dark to provide for her children, this virtuous woman. Blessed is the woman who provides for another woman’s child.

 

 

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Rosna grew up in a girls’ orphanage herself and then she went on to become a nurse. She got married and her husband planted a church in the same town where she grew up. And now she is the director of Ferrier Village. The first “family style” orphanage in the area, there are five homes filled with 26 children, all of them rescued from trafficking, under her care. Each home has a mother and four or five children. Their mother makes sure they are clean, they are fed, they sleep well, they are seen, known, loved here. Rosna is three years younger than me. Her back was straight, her floors were swept, her work is done well, and her children are healthy.

13885618193_4ee3428d2a_b

When the children first arrive from their rescue, they are often malnourished, their black hair the colour of dried orange straw. But give Rosna a bit of time, because look – this rescued baby’s roots are coming in dark. She’s going to be well because Rosna is a high-capacity leader with hustle and peace for days. Blessed is the woman who leads.

13885471565_f73aa788ed_b

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Wherever I go, children burrow into my mama-belly. It’s a bit soft, never recovered after those three babies in four years, but when I’m around children, I’m thankful for my softness. We mamas from the north, we stood around with their children in our arms, toddlers balanced on our hips. The sway of a mother’s axis crosses cultures, it seems. We met eyes over whiny toddlers who won’t cooperate and shrugged with a grin – we’ve all been there, we’re mothers.

13885525425_9815f6ca12_b

When we gathered around the women to express our thanks for the meal. “Thank you for cooking for us,” Amber said with a smile. “We have a lot of children and we’re mothers and nobody ever cooks for us!” They laughed and said they understood that.

One woman after another, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in the pulpit, sometimes in a home, sometimes singing a song, sometimes on the street with her stand of mangoes to sell, sometimes at the blackboard wearing a blue uniform, sometimes sitting in the classroom.

What a privilege to witness these women work. What a privilege to talk in their kitchens, hold their babies, hear their stories. What an honour to learn from their leadership.

Blessed are the women who remain unbowed.

 

***

You can catch up with the other bloggers on the trip here. Or follow along for the days as wi-fi permits on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HONbloggers.

Want to help?

We need to sign up 100 child sponsors in Drouin whose kids are vulnerable to trafficking and 100 hosts for a Garage Sale for Orphans to build a preschool for children who have been rescued from trafficking while we’re here on the ground. And as always, pray for us, pray for our families – and help spread the word by sharing our posts on social media.

All these photos were taken by Scott Wade.

Continue Reading · Haiti, social justice, women · 17