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Joy and Despair

Posted by Kathi on Sunday, September 29, 2013 |

It  is hard to imagine another place in the world where the contrasts between joy and despair are so magnified!! You can go days where almost everything is dark and problem filled, but then, thanks to the Grace of our Lord, a day arrives that brings you to your knees with joy!!!  Here in a nutshell is my personal experience with joy and despair in Haiti.

Last week could be best described as the week from hell for me. My worst fears (petty ones, I know) came true. I had always worried about driving alone and breaking down. Well, that is exactly what happened, not just once but two times. One time, Espie was with me  (which was actually worse) and once I was alone. Both happened on busy, narrow roads with no place to pull over. Talk about needing grace – there was nothing I could do but pray and thankfully, I was able to get off the road and to a safe place to wait for help. And in addition to that, I had an electrical fire in my bedroom when a power strip (bought here in Haiti) shorted out and caught my bedspread on fire. Thankfully, I was near home and smelled the fire and was able to put it out. Now I just avoid that side of the burned mattress.  We constantly face battles with transportation, 2 hour commutes due to accidents, difficulties with adoptions, and a litany of things that bring you down. To be quite honest, last week I was seriously contemplating calling it quits and admitting “maybe I am not ready for this”. I still struggle wondering  about the negative impact my time in Haiti will have on my boys and Craig – so it doesn’t take much for me to start questioning my decision and ultimately God’s plan.

But then, realizing my dejection, God threw me a life preserver. For those of you who know me, you know I can be stubborn.  At first I resisted this gift. When Nathan came to me and asked me about planning a beach day for the kids, I really tried to discourage him. What about the risks, the costs, the transportation challenges, the well being of the kids – I thought of every negative thing I could. But in the end, God had His plan and I had to remember to let go of the need to control everything. And it was by letting go of control that I discovered the ultimate joy.

 The joy that comes from anticipation as many of the kids see a beach for the first time and wait to get inside.

The joy of of listening to shrieks of delight as they swim in the warm ocean water.

 

 The joy of watching the older girls proudly dress in their bright  new suits.

 The joy of our staff frolicking in the ocean for the first time as if they were kids themselves.

 

The joy of witnessing responsible staff make sure their designated 2 children were always in sight.

 The joy of seeing Nathan and his team plan and implement a very difficult outing without a hitch.

The joy of watching 65 people savor a delicious meal prepared and brought to the beach by our Administrator and Head Nanny.

 

It was exactly what I needed to remind me why I am here. I am here to mentor, guide, lead, train and follow Christ’s example of love. I am reminded of Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail”. I am exactly where I should be. Our children and staff were strengthened and satisfied after the day’s outing.  And so was I, like a well watered garden we can continue to bloom knowing He won’t let us fail.  I guess I won’t need to book that one way ticket home just yet!

Blessings,
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Things you learn on LONG car rides

Posted by Kathi on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 |

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time (a lot of time, due to traffic / blocks) with 2 birthmothers and their children. Both mothers had interviews with the Embassy, which is part of the adoption process. And in both cases, we had been having difficulties with these two birthmothers. They had missed appointments, been difficult to reach and we had many frustrating months with them. Normally, Nathan, our Crèche Manager goes with them to their interviews, but because of the challenges with these two particular cases, I had volunteered to accompany them. And the lessons I learned along the way were powerful.

First, to say I had formed a mindset/judgment about these women, would be accurate. I am not proud of that fact, just that when people let you down repeatedly, it happens. Instead of reflecting love, patience and understanding for their situation, I was a judgmental.  And I believe that is exactly why God had me “volunteer” to spend the day with these women.

Here are some of the things I learned on that very, hot and long car ride.

  • They are both amazing mothers – when their young children cried, got tired, were thirsty, got bored – they each immediately comforted their children, even if it meant they would be uncomfortable.

  • In the hot van with no air conditioning they fanned their children and let them sit on their lap, when it would have been cooler to make them sit next to them.

  • When the interview time came, they proudly groomed their children, making sure their hair was in place, buttons done and shoes tied.

  • They never stopped nuzzling their babies; they talked with them and gave them constant love.

I also watched as one of the children cried silent tears in the car because he was convinced he was returning home. He shunned his biological mother at first and wouldn’t look at her, talk to her or smile at her because he thought he was going back to his previous life. Once we explained to him that he was just going to a meeting and would be returning to the crèche, he completely changed. His Mom could be his mom again, because he knew he would still be fed, still have a bed to sleep in, still get to go to school. That is when the reality and difficulty of all this hit me. If she could provide for him, this wouldn’t all be happening.  She wouldn’t have to make this ultimate sacrifice. They could continue to cuddle and laugh and play and hug. It was as if I was standing at the edge of a steep cliff – what I saw in front of me scared me. It was at that moment I witnessed firsthand the importance of job creation for these women. We need to do everything we can to help these mothers keep their children by creating economic opportunities for them.  In fact, later in the week we hired a new nanny and we made sure to offer the job to a mom (who had previously placed one of her children in our adoption program). She simply needed a hand-up not a hand-out to continue to be a good mother to her other children.

Watching these birthmothers that day in the hot car also taught me a lot about myself. When one of the children got car sick and threw up all over me (multiple times), I didn’t recoil in terror. I didn’t cry for help or make a face or any of the things I might have done before. Instead, I simply held her and tried to get the driver to pull over – I didn’t worry about my dress or shoes or how I looked and smelled.  And in that moment, the birthmother and I shared something. We shared respect and love for each other and those children. This is how hearts are changed – this is how love replaces judgment. I am so grateful for the long, hot car ride and even for the vomit– because it broke my hardened heart.

 

Blessings,
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There is no feeling in the world that compares to how my heart felt today

Posted by Kathi on Friday, August 30, 2013 |

There is no feeling in the world that compares to how my heart felt today……

when a little boy who had spent the last 3 years of his life neglected, tied to a chair most days due to his handicap – greeted me at the Crèche doors and gave me the longest, tightest bear hug I have ever experienced. The tears that fell were of complete and utter joy. This little boy epitomizes our mission statement – providing hope for the children of Haiti.  And the story of Fabrice and how his life has been transformed is truly a miracle.

 

It’s been a long process but on Wednesday of this week we moved a special little boy into our C4C Crèche. His name is Fabrice and he has been living in deplorable conditions for the past 3 years. He has constant seizures and has been unable to walk, speak or at some points even make eye contact. Due to lack of funding at the orphanage where he was living, he was basically propped up and tied to a chair most days. No diaper, no hugs, no encouragement – a life without hope. Fabrice’s life changed on Wednesday when we were finally able to admit him into our crèche. Thanks to God’s grace and perfect timing a family stepped forward and said they didn’t care about his handicaps, they wanted him. With that, we began the laborious process of tracking down paperwork, birthparents, medical screening and on Wednesday he joined the other 53 children at the C4C Crèche. Many of his friends had already moved and he recognized them instantly. These pictures help explain the magnitude of this miracle. The incredible transformation is evident  in just one day!!

The first picture was taken of Fabrice with a volunteer on Aug 25th.

The second picture was taken on his 2nd day at the crèche on Aug 29th.

 

Talk about the power of love!!!!!!! Fabrice now has a fulltime caregiver devoted to helping him walk, explore, laugh, touch, hug, and LOVE. He is playing with toys and can’t wipe the smile from his face. As I released his tight little grip around my legs I gave him about a million kisses and told him how much we all loved him, but most importantly how much God loves him. He made some cooing sounds and then I stepped away and he got a little quiet. I looked right at him and in my broken Creole told him “Fabrice, I think you will be talking in less than a month” – the smile that beamed from his face was nearly as grand as the bear hug. He completely understood what I had just said and was radiant with Hope. Hope for a future, hope for better days, hope for a family.  I am in awe of what an amazing God we serve.

Fabrice’s story is what keeps us going. It’s what motivates us in the dark days; it’s what makes each and every one of us proud to be involved with C4C. Not because we are special, but because of the opportunities and open doors God continues to bless us with and the individual lives we are impacting. Today’s bear hug made me forget all about my silly problems of no car, wasting $40 in frozen meats due to power outages, no hot shower in 10 days,  and all the other crazy things that make up life in Haiti. Really, none of that matters when you see a smile like the one I saw today!

Blessings,
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Where to begin….

Posted by Kathi on Sunday, August 18, 2013 |

Where to begin….

The last 10 days have been a complete whirlwind. I came to Haiti praying that God give me strength for the first 3 weeks, as I  knew they would most be the most challenging. Strength for my heart as I leave my boys, strength for my endurance as I face long days and little sleep, strength for my patience as I share a home with 14 people each week, and strength for my daughter as she faces many new challenges. And no surprise – God was right there every step of the way. 10 days down, and we are no worse for wear. In fact, we are doing great!!!

The first day we arrived after a red eye and were “encouraged” to come to church that night. Both Espie and I were tired and sweaty and in no mood to go to church. But we decided to quickly eat, shower and head to worship. We were greeted with one of the first realities of “life in Haiti” - no water. So we grabbed our wet wipes and sponged off, dressed and headed to church with the visiting team. It was just what our weary souls needed.

 

The next few days flew by in a blur. We had great church teams from Fresno (New Harvest Church) and Portland (University Fellowship) who were instrumental in the week long Church Revival. Not everything went smoothly as we endured a week of cars in the mechanics shop (3 out of 5) and Satan reared his ugly head a few times to make it more challenging, but through it all, it was a good first week.

This week a new team arrived full of energy and passion. We put them right to work. Thirteen team members painted the walls, organized the MESS of our storage depot (which included dragging 60 tubs upstairs, unpacking, sorting, inventorying, and restocking the depot), and they were in charge of planting new grass seed for our soccer field. They took this role to a NEW level! The team leader, Michael, quickly assessed that planting more grass seed would be pointless due to the slope of the field and the torrential rain we get in Kenscoff. So instead, they used all of their project funds to engineer, dig, cement and create a drainage system, to keep the rains off the field. They finished after many grueling hours of hard work and planted the new field. Can’t wait for our kids to enjoy this amazing blessing.

 

Through adversity and accomplishments I take the most joy in the fact that we are changing lives. I watch with delight as our children become more like “children” and less like kids fighting for their existence. In fact, when they all came to me complaining about why they can’t go to the beach, it was a great reminder that 6 months ago, they would never have had the confidence to even ask for that. I used the moment to remind them of what we have to be thankful for and how Great our God is. I also added that I would like to go to the beach too , but we all must be appreciative of what God has put in our lives.

And most importantly, as a mother, I couldn’t be more proud – Espie is truly a daughter molded by God’s grace and my passion for Haiti. She loves it here. Despite the 45 minute commute to school, the cold showers, the long days she too is touched by what she sees here and doesn’t complain about any inconveniences.  I am so glad she is here for me. This would be way more difficult without her. And Craig and the boys are also doing well. They have formed an easy bond and life is running smoothly for them. Amelec has stepped up as a big brother and it will have many positive impacts on Quinn. Craig and I are the two having the most difficult time adjusting to our new reality. Please continue to keep us in your prayers and thoughts. 

God Bless, Kathi

Blessings,
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Some days we all want to escape to a tropical island

Posted by Admin on Sunday, July 21, 2013 |

Some days we all want  to escape to a tropical island…

 

And that is exactly what I am doing in a few weeks. Headed to a tropical island (Haiti) to escape. The word escape can mean a few things, and upon careful review, I am choosing the definition of escape meaning “to gain liberty”. Because moving to Haiti is almost the polar opposite of the first definition I encountered - “to slip away from pursuit or peril; avoid capture, punishment, or any threatened evil” One could argue this is what I am moving to - peril, punishment, threatened evil.  But moving to Haiti doesn’t conjure up those images for me. Moving to a country that I have come to know and love is about committment. It isn’t about convenience, or a dream of being a missionary, or a desire to escape from my current life – it is about honoring a commitment. A committment to myself, to our investors, to our adoptive familes, to my team in Haiti and most importantly, to my amazing God.  So in essence, I am escaping, because I will be gaining liberty by honoring those commitments.

This is a critical time for C4C. Our focus this year is to get many of our programs to sustainability and to launch our Medical Clinic for children in the community. This requires leadership, mentoring and consistency. For the past two years, our Director, Pastor Renelus Maxime has provided this. Now it’s my turn in the hot seat, as Maxime and I change roles.  This was not an easy decision and we have been talking, praying and planning this transition for the last few months. Espie, our (almost) 12 year old daughter, is moving with me. As Craig and I planned for this move, we thought it would be the best decision for our family to have Espie come with me. She has spent time in Haiti and loves her country and the culture. She is already enrolled in the Quisqueya Christian School. And now the day is almost here and even with lots of planning and praying -  I’m scared as H***.

 

I am not scared about moving to Haiti. I am scared about the big shoes I have to fill. I am scared about how I will survive relying on my Creole. I am scared about how I will be able to get all of my work done and still be a good Mom for Espie. I am scared about the 2 hour round trip commute to her new school. I am scared about my “fit” in the community. I am scared that my heart will harden being exposed to so much need every day. I am scared that I will fail Him. I am scared about leaving my boys and Craig. I am scared about the ever present dark side of Haiti.  But God doesn’t abandon us when he calls us – so while I do get doubts and worry about the move, I trust! I trust in the support of my family and friends. I trust in the power of prayer. I trust in God.

 

Unless you have lived in Haiti or at least spent a significant amount of time there – the reality of our life change is hard to fathom. Not a day passes I don’t think about something I will miss. But most of those somethings are material things – and in Haiti those things quickly fall away. They will be overshadowed by the smiles, hugs and love of the children at our orphanage. The lack of “pleasures” will be replaced by laughter, joy and shrieks of delight watching our artisans receive their payroll. The  missing “amenities” will be overshadowed by our church Sunday worship services, unlike anything I have ever experienced here at home. And as a “priviledged” American, the immersion in another culture for an extended period of time, will only broaden and enhance our perspectives. So while we may be giving up a lot to move to Haiti – Espie and I are looking at all the things we will gain; new friends, adventures we will share, giggles we will have, tears we will shed, and the heartbreaks we will endure.  Because Haiti is a country of pure joy one moment and ultimate despair the next. But together, we will share each and every joy and sorrow, and we will be forever changed by the experience.

We look forward to having you come to visit. Until we see you again, please keep us in your prayers.

And as always, thank you for your financial, spiritual and emotional support.

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I GOT IT!!!!!

Posted by Kathi on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 |

Sometimes it takes a BIG event to help you “Get It” – sometimes it takes despair – sometimes it takes falling – and sometimes it just takes a few weeks in Haiti. For me, it was the latter. And what I “GOT” is something so special – I just can’t wait to share it. It’s my testimony!

Over the last 7 years, when people learn of my work in Haiti many ask “Oh, I would love to hear your testimony.” I have always felt a little uneasy with that, because I really didn’t have one. My faith didn’t come from a BIG event, or despair or hitting bottom – it just happened. I grew up in a Catholic family and always had a relationship with God. Somewhere in my 20’s through my 30’s – well, not so much. I served other gods -  money, pleasure, men, material possessions – you name it. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I recommitted myself. I had spent enough time in a spiritual wasteland and was looking for something more. But it wasn’t like I had a testimony to share. Well, not until a few weeks ago……

When I was in Haiti in April, something odd happened. I was with a close friend, Linda and her team from New Harvest Church. I always feel a little bad for teams that travel with me, because I have so much on my to-do List, I really make for a pathetic team leader. But one night I decided to be more like my friend Nicole (a perfect team leader) and bake a lemon cake for the group. Well, in Haiti you have to light an oven with a match and the oven was giving me trouble. I was bent over the oven trying to get it to light when BAAAMMMMMMM!!!!! The oven exploded in my face and knocked me back about 3 ft. The noise was SO loud that people standing outside came running in to see what had happened. Believe it or not, I was not burned, nothing, nada, zip - not a single singed eyebrow. It was truly, as if a shield magically appeared and protected me. I thanked God, but was sort of Ho-Hum about it. Until…….

The day we were driving down the steep mountain road from Kenscoff to Fermathe in the Durango; Pastor Maxime at the wheel, me in the passenger seat and one of our nannies in the back.  We were about 5 minutes from the crèche, when Maxime announces that the brakes are almost shot on the car. He immediately calls the mechanic and asks him to meet us at our guesthouse. We hadn’t driven this car in some time, so this was a surprise to us. Well, the brakes weren’t almost shot – they were shot. As we start the steep descent down the mountain, Maxime calmly announces “Oh Geez, we have a problem”. I watch as he tries to apply the brakes, then the emergency brake to stop us. Nothing !  Now we are gaining speed and approaching a steep drop and a hair pin turn. In his calm demeanor he says “Hold on Katti” and in that instant I realize we are going to crash, I quickly put on my seatbelt and ask the nanny to do the same. Maxime tries to put the car in park, but it won’t take due to our increasing velocity. SO he turns the vehicle into the hill to force us to stop. Well, needless to say after a few rollovers we came to a stop. Guys on motorcycles rush to the car and are able to pull us out. When all 3 of us climb out – we realize that there isn’t  a single scratch, cut, bruise or broken bone (well, Maxime did get a cut on his elbow). But again, it was as if a shield was thrown around us all. And this time, I praised His Name. Really, God, I know I am thick headed sometimes, but this is what you had to engineer to get me to see how much you love and protect me??

What was amazing about is that the 3 of us were so calm, we knew what had happened. We knew that people don’t usually walk away from accidents like this. Another car could have been right behind us and crashed into us. We could have kept rolling and gone down the other side. Maxime might not have stopped the car in time and we would have sailed over the embankment 20 ft away. Some would say we were lucky, I would say we were protected. And now, I have my testimony. You would think the exploding oven would have been enough, but God knows me and knows I don’t always put things together so easily.  On this particular day,  we were in route to do something for God.  We were on our way to pick up one of His children to bring back to the crèche and to talk to the birthmother about God’s place in her life. I won’t draw any conclusions, I will let you do that, but what I do know is God made it very clear to me that afternoon that He is always there with me. That he has a band of angel armies ready to fight for the side of righteousness. Believe me, I am far from that, but even with my sin and struggles, God is there. And that is an amazing thing to see and believe.

My two weeks in Haiti were filled with amazing experiences. In addition to seeing God’s love and protection, I also got to see Him work through Pastor Maxime. There is a reason he is such a beloved Pastor, and seeing him at work with some very difficult individuals regarding adoption issues was brilliant and a true reflection of how God works through him. Most all our “problem” adoption issues with children were resolved during the 2 weeks I had in Haiti.

As always, Haiti continues to present a myriad of faces. Some dark and jaded others bright and brilliant. This last trip was filled with many bright and brilliant glimpses. As always, it is the laughter and smiles of the children we love and provide for that keeps us on course. We love where we work, what we do and are grateful for your support and prayers. We are now in the market for a new vehicle so we are especially appreciative of your financial assistance.

God Bless,

Blessings,
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