Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Children- Part II

     Meet Sandra. She is my 2 year-old daughter who has been with me for exactly one month. I met her in October when her mother Sophonie (Elijah's mom) came to live with us at the orphanage until she delivered her baby. Sandra was a very quiet and unhappy -but gorgeous- child when she came to us. We could tell from her demeanor that she had been through so much in her short life. After talking with Sophonie for a short time and hearing of the past year of her life, I could only imagine what this little one had been through. She did not smile. It was almost as if she didn't know how to. When I looked into her eyes, she seemed so aged. So old for her two short years of being on this earth. So tired. So lost. Her face was drawn into such a dry-look, that it made her look like a sad old woman. 
     Sophonie did not come with plans of leaving Sandra, her second daughter, behind. If you've read my previous post My Children- Part I, you may remember Sophonie bringing us her first daughter, Valencia. When she came back with Sandra and I met and observed her for the first few days, I told Jasmine and Greg that I had hoped Sophonie would leave her here with us, too. Greg agreed and said he had been thinking the same thing.
     Sophonie was a struggling parent. She struggled with tolerating her daughter and in many ways loving her. Unfortunately in Haiti, having received no proper parenting themselves, many Haitian women have little to no love or proper care to give their children. This was the case for her. At the age of 21, she had a 5 year old, a 2 year old and another child on the way. She had no attachments to any of her children and seemed to be caught in a family saga with her mother, sister and ex-boyfriend. Having been through so much herself, we could see that it was difficult for her to love on her children, particularly Sandra. I remember one specific time that Sandra was standing on the picnic table outside of the girls' bunk house. Sandra jumped off as a means to catch her mom as she was walking away, but instead missed Sophonie and fell flat on her face. Sophonie heard Sandra crying, turned around to assess what had happened and then rolled her eyes as she continued walking away. I quickly walked over and gently picked Sandra up. She immediately grabbed onto me and buried her head into my neck. I held her, rubbed her back and began humming as I swayed back and forth- giving her as much love as I could in what little time I knew I had with her in this moment. 
     It was not hard for me to love Sandra. I was so naturally drawn to her and I wanted her to be cared for in a way she had never known. I wanted Sophonie to leave all of her children with us, and so did Greg and Jasmine. Jasmine was not going to ask her to leave Sandra at the orphanage after Elijah's birth, but Greg said to her, "Why don't you just leave that one here too?" 
     After many weeks of spending time with this family and receiving Elijah into my little wooden hut, it came time for Sophonie to leave. Her last words were that she was going to her mom's house to see if she would take Sandra. If her mom did not want her, she was bringing her back to us. Several weeks went by after this and we heard no word from Sophonie. A day did not go by when I did not think of Sandra. I missed her short little self walking around on the rocks getting lost among all of the bigger girls. I missed holding her and attempting to make her smile. I also missed seeing her in her little Tigger hat her mom would sometimes put on her to cover up her unbraided hair. I prayed for her, wherever she was, and I hoped she would return to OLTCH. 
     In early December, there was a specific day that Sandra was heavily on my mind. I told the girls' Madam, Ysmanine, that I was really missing Sandra that morning. She said she missed her too. About an hour later, one of the boys fell and scraped his knee- which is pretty typical. I brought him to the kitchen to clean and bandage his wound. A few minutes later, I heard small little footsteps behind me. I turned around and there was the tiny little Tigger hat Sandra staring up at me. I ran to her, picked her up, and hugged her with so much love. So much joy. So much excitement!! It was in that moment that I knew this love for her was special. It was significant, much like the love I had for Elijah. It wasn't a love I had mustered on my own. It was a God-given love. I was so happy to have her back safe in my arms. I walked her out to the front of the orphanage to see Sophonie. Sophonie looked so tired and drained, but her belly was much smaller ;)  She told me her mom did not want Sandra either and so here she was. She told me to take her away, and I gladly did. I had no idea what was in store for us then, but once again I felt the Lord's prompting with this child. This life. This little soul who had been through so much.
     That same afternoon, I told Jasmine what I felt the Lord was doing in my heart for Sandra too (she already knew about Elijah). A few minutes later, we were scrounging for clothes and shoes for her. That day, I became Mommy to another precious child. I was scared beyond belief. It didn't make sense. None of it made sense. What did make sense, though, was to love these two children the best way I knew how, and to let God take care of the rest. I knew I was to walk by faith and allow God to have me become the best Mommy I could be for these two children. How was it going to play out? How is this going to work? What will this look like?  I had no idea, and still don't, but I was and am willing to let the Lord do whatever it is He is up to. After all, He is the one true God who holds everything in the palm of His hands.
     I knew I was going home for Christmas, so Sandra did not move in with me immediately. This was a good idea because it gave me time to pray. It gave me time to seek the Lord's wisdom and understanding of what was to come with these two children. I did not mention the kids or the situation when at home, besides to very very very few close friends and some family members, as I spent time giving my fears and "what-ifs" to God. I came back to Haiti knowing without a doubt that Sandra was also mine. So she moved in with me and has been such a wonderful gift.

     Sandra is now a smiley, giggly girl. She is learning and growing daily. She is learning to pray and sing and talk. Her laughter is contagious and her sparkling eyes melt your heart. I have learned so much from her in the short time she has been with me. Just the other afternoon I put her in her bed because she disobeyed. After a few minutes of crying, she suddenly began chanting, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" I couldn't help but start laughing at the thought of her singing and praising God in the midst of her "distress." It was such a special picture for me and the Lord used it to not only give me laughter, but to show me child-like faith, once again. She is full of joy, my daughter, and I love her so much. 

My Children- Part I

     Meet Elijah. He is my 2 and a half month old son who has been with me since he was born. I knew this little one would be staying in my room under my care before his birth. His mom, Sophonie, stopped by one day in September to drop off her 5 (now 6) year old daughter, Valencia. Sophonie was pregnant at the time and told us she wanted us to deliver and keep the child inside of her because she did not want him- she knew it was a boy because she had had a sonogram done. Without hesitation, Jasmine agreed to deliver her baby who was supposed to be born somewhere between October and November. Before Sophonie left that day, we had a new girl at the orphanage, Valencia, and we were making plans to welcome a new baby boy into the world and our home sometime in the next few months.
     Because we do not place newborns into the infant room with the other babies immediately because of their "newness" to the world and all that comes with it (i.e. germs), I had agreed to take the new baby for a few weeks until he was ready to move into the baby room. I began trying to mentally prepare myself for midnight feedings and less space in my already small room. I have to admit that I was pretty excited to take in a newborn for many reasons. This is why I moved here. This is what I was made to do.
     Later on in October, Sophonie came to live with us for a few weeks until she delivered the baby. She brought her two-year-old daughter, Sandra, with her and they both stayed in the girls' room. I found myself spending a good bit of time talking to Sophonie and playing with Sandra any chance I could during my day. I would lovingly place my hand on Sophonie's stomach and feel the baby kick and move wildly. I had never felt such an active baby inside of a stomach before and it brought me such joy and excitement. I wondered what he would look like. I tried to imagine the Lord forming him and completing him before he made his way into our world. Sophonie would just semi-smile every time I felt him and say, "He's there" with a bit of annoyance with him. It made me love him even more knowing she couldn't wait until the day she could just severe this bond she so naturally had with him. I couldn't wait for that day either. I knew he would be with me and I knew that I would love him the best way I knew how. There was such a love stirring inside of me for this child and I began praying to the Lord about this child. This wasn't going to be a child I could just give to the baby room and I knew that.
     After a few more weeks of anticipation, a lot of other events that I can't share in a timely manner on here, some false labor and moving furniture around, Elijah was born. November 13 at 6:00am, he literally came with no warning. I was not at the orphanage at the time, but Jasmine told me that he literally fell out onto the rocks by the girls' room (which is very fitting since we gave him the name Elijah three weeks before he was even born). She got there in time to scoop him up and give him the proper care he needed. When I finally made it back home, Jasmine had him bundled and ready to go. She handed him to me and said, "Here, Momma." I took him into my arms and carried him into my room. He was so tiny. So beautiful. So peaceful. And I... I was so scared. So nervous. So anxious. I could feel the Lord telling me he was mine. It wasn't a heavy neon sign, but it was evident. I didn't want a baby. I just wanted to take care of the little infant and then pass him onto the next room where he can grow, find a family and be adopted. Someone else was better for him, not me. I had only been in Haiti for three months. A baby? Really? This soon? Could I even do that? Children were in the picture for me. Tons of children. But none of them would really be MY children, at least not yet. I was in the business of raising and discipling kids. God moved me to this country for that purpose. But was I going to be able to be selfless enough to be a full-time Mom? What about funds? Children= money, right? I am single. What about a dad for him? How am I the best match for Him, Lord? NO ONE will understand this, Father. But God doesn't care about that. When has He ever cared about the world understanding? In fact, the Lord tells us not to be surprised when the world doesn't understand because it does not know Him! But I know Him. And for whatever reason, He has chosen me for this task. He has entrusted me with this wide-eyed, chunky monkey, easy going, beautiful child. This life. This soul. This precious gift, He has given me. And I love Elijah. I loved him before he was born, when the Lord was still knitting him in his birth mother's womb.

I have no idea what our future holds, but I know that today the Lord loves him through me. And tomorrow, if the sun does or does not rise again, Elijah will still have my love. I am his mommy. He is my son.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sight Words and Bible Verses

Today I individually tested each child on their sight words and bible verse for the week. The older group received a sticker on their reward chart if they could identify and read ALL of their class's sight words for the week. They got a second sticker if they could say/read their bible verse without my help. 
The younger students received a sticker on their chart if they could say their bible verse. Most of these kids needed me to do our class-created hand motions for them to remember the words, but they were able to say it on their own. 
I am so pleased and encouraged by how the children did. They were so excited to show me they knew their words and bible verse that they couldn't help but giggle as I called each of them to come into the classroom to test.

Majority of the older students were able to choose and put TWO stickers on their charts because they knew their words AND bible verse! Most of the younger students were able to choose and place a sticker also for knowing their bible verse! (It takes us a little longer to know our sight words in our younger class so we will test much later). Their reward once they gain a full row of stickers??? MOVIE AND ICE CREAM NIGHT!!

I have tried uploading a video of all the children saying their bible verse (John 3:16) in Creole and then English, but the internet just would not allow it. Hopefully I can post it one day for you to see.
Next week we will begin with all new sight words and a different bible verse (Romans 8:28).
Pray for us as we continue learning and succeeding!!! 

Monday, January 23, 2012


My life in Haiti has been such an incredible journey. God has been teaching me so much and while I have been wanting to post lately to update my readers and friends, I have been too busy living life to record it. Today, I have set aside special time to update my blog and to post this post because I believe you deserve it. You who have read my posts and responded to them in ways you felt led have been an incredible tool in this season of my life. Your prayers, encouragement and support are vital for me. This ministry won't happen without you. So before I go any further, PLEASE know how grateful I am for every single one of you. Even those of you who stumbled upon this blog and read it every now and then. Thank you for letting me share my life with you.
Okay now for the update:
I traveled home over Christmas break and spent 2 wonderful weeks with my family and some friends. I didn't get a chance to see everyone I wanted to, but I am okay with that because I know a time will come when our paths will intentionally cross and we can once again spend sweet time together! Being home was incredibly soothing and I was able to come back to Haiti refreshed and encouraged. 
I was back in time to welcome the new year with everyone at the orphanage. This was completed by waking the children up for popcorn, music, balloons and candy about 45 minutes before 12:00am. This was our second year to do this and we've decided it is now our tradition! 

Our English classes started back a week after my return. The kiddos seemed to have forgotten practically everything they had been taught since August and I was more than discouraged. Am I really THIS bad of a teacher? For a short couple of days, I believed yes. Since then, however, I have come to believe the Lord is using my classroom as an opportunity  for me to be more patient, more creative, more repetitive and more understanding. These kids come from situations where they missed out on stimulation at an early age, proper nutrition and almost any form of love. How can I expect them to achieve academically the way I would many traditional students in the states? I use the word traditional here because there are many other children in the states who have lacked the proper care at an early age as well and have similar struggles in school.
So no, I am not a terrible teacher. I just have a very special group of students I am working with here.
Also, OLTCH will be gaining another teacher for this special group of children next school year. Her name is Jordan Ivey and she, with her soon to be husband, are moving here in August 2012. I will be partnering with her in the classroom and I am looking forward to having her here! Praise God for His obedient children!
The Lord is teaching me even more in addition to how to teach with more compassion. He is showing me what it means to live my life concerned with His thoughts toward me and what I am doing instead of everyone else's.
The work God is doing here and what He is specifically entrusting me with has recently grown and will continue growing. I cannot wait to share this part of my life with you too, but for now just know God continues to call His children to do things that don't always logically make sense. Actually, most of the time what He calls us to do never makes sense for our human understanding. My schedule has become even more crowded lately and I am learning how to manage my time. I have had to omit things from my "to-do-list" and replace them with new responsibilities. While I feel like life is out of control and nothing can be efficiently handled by me because there is so much to do, God is teaching me to live with NO expectations. No expectations for myself, my students, my friends or my family members and to only wake up every morning expecting Him. Oh, how I am learning to expect God and oh, how He shows up! God is holding my hand and carrying me along this sometimes weary path. He is giving me His joy and peace. When I forget, and so many times I do, He picks up my chin and pulls my face toward His once more. My gaze once again meets His as I draw closer to His heart. Looking straight forward. No distractions.
He is our prize, and victory over this finite life and the powers of darkness are His. Glory and praise shall forever be His and I am thankful to be a part of a winning team.
Though I have such a long way to go and am only just beginning, it is nice to know that our God's focus and attention is on His children and He will not let one of them fall.

From the words of Bethany Dillon: "Teach me how to hum it, because I don't know the words yet."