Saturday, February 27, 2010

With Time

I saw today (on Facebook) that Lonique had his body cast taken off! PRAISE GOD! He looks 100000 times happier. Click here for the back story on him from my trip to Haiti.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Buy a Child in 10 Hours

Below is an excerpt (a small excerpt) from a horrific news story ABC ran back in October that I just stumbled on... I can only imagine how this continues to play out in Haiti post-earthquake. We live in a broken and evil world.


"I'm a little nervous." I say. "I just want to make sure that this is OK, that I'm not going to get in trouble, that this will be smooth, that you've done this before."

"I guarantee my service," says the trafficker, grinning. "I can get you your girl as early as tomorrow."

And now, the negotiation begins.

"So how much will it cost me to get a child?" I ask.

"The last one I gave was $300."

Trying to test the value of human life, I push a little.

"I have a friend who got one for $50."

"No," he says.

"What about $100?"

"$150," he offers.

I accept.

And there it is. It's about 5 p.m. Roughly 10 hours after leaving my office in New York City, I have successfully negotiated to buy another human being -- an 11-year-old girl, whose value is set at just $150.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Half the Sky

On March 4th, a one-night event is coming through Austin (and plenty of other nationwide cities). Click here to read more & find tickets in YOUR TOWN. From what I gather, its essentially a celebration of International Women's Day... so they are having a discussion from the authors of the best-selling book Half the Sky. I think they are having video updates from some of the stories shared in the book of the women, the world over, who are impacting their community and breaking the cycles of poverty & oppression. Also being screened is a new short-film on the subject, directed by Marissa Tomei. I'm going! Are you? Grab and friend, buy tickets online, and go out to dinner after and discuss how yall can get involved!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Movie: OUTSOURCED

Andy & I watched Outsourced, the movie, tonight for a our Valentine's date. It got on our Netflix cue in memory of our trip to India the first year of our marriage. We probably laughed more than you would if you've never been... but the movie was delightful.

The laugh-out-load quote of the night was "You know what India stands for? I'll Never Do It Again." We laughed cuz that was what we said to each other often during our stay. But somehow, India gets under your skin. And by our plane ride home, we both looked at each other and said: "I think we'll be back someday after all."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Back-story on Johnny Fig

The organization I traveled with to Haiti is called Visiting Orphans. Today on the executive director's blog, they posted a video with the back-story of Johnny Fig, who I wrote about here. To see the video, click here. What provision from the Lord to save this young boy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marie Joy, My Joy

Our tiniest transplant to the orphanage was a little girl named Marie Joy. She was hilarious. Not sure of her age, but I'd say infant-ish. But as the days went by we realized she could walk on her own, eat on her own, drink on her own. A sophisticated young lady. I don't have a "story" per se about my interactions with Marie Joy. And the only history I got on her was that she fell into a cooking fire during the earthquake and burned her hand and arm. But by the time she arrived at the orphanage, she was mostly healed and just carried on life as a little whipper-snapper. So, for her tribute-- a photo essay: Marie Joy in pictures. She always brought a smile to my face each time I saw her. And in case you can't tell from the pics, she was popular! :)
With Hannah from our Visiting Orphans Team.
Just being sassy at the lunch table.
With Karis, one of the staff at the orphanage.
With Maya, another volunteer who came down on a one-way ticket.
With Maria from our Visiting Orphans team.
Her special look...
Realizing she runs the show!
On the bus as she arrived at the orphange.

The Ugliness of My Own Heart, as Seen Through Jean

* this is long, but its a drawn out confession, so details were necessary to paint the picture.

Yes. I went to Haiti in response to the earthquake. Yes. I wept with those who wept and tried to bring peace & comfort to the children. Yes. This was an act of obedience for me... God presented a choice to me when the invitation to travel came my way: Be available to respond to the opportunity God put in my path OR come up with an excuse as to why now just won't work for me. By His strength, I said yes Lord... send me!

Truth is, I thought that was gonna be the hardest part. And in fact was grateful He'd given me the strength to GO. But not everything about my trip was obedient. In fact, I was convicted about some serious yuckiness within me and wanted to transparently share it here.
One of the rescued orphans there was a 6 yr old named Jean. He had cerebral palsy (we guessed) and had been abandoned at a hospital in PAP by his mother after the earthquake. Danita took him in, but once he arrived we began to feel the weight of his special needs. He had multiple seizures a day, was likely blind, had very little (if any) muscle control, and was malnourished & dehydrated. And it looked like he had evidence of scabies on his hands.

His first day, we found a jogging stroller to put him in. Where he sat...all day...each day. He needed a care-giver to be with him round the clock. The other children at Danita's immediately took to him and pushed him around in the stroller, caressed his soft skin, tried to feed him water from a bottle. They loved him so easily and naturally.

I, however, was afraid of Jean. I would sit and watch him in his stroller. I'd rock the stroller, but I wouldn't touch him. He made weird (scary) noises. He had seizures that stressed me out. He couldn't hear me or see me (I thought).
The night I was assigned to the over-night shift, one of our team members who'd taken the night shift EVERY night said "we need someone to sleep on the floor (on a matress) next to Jean-- he has to be in between me & one other person so he doesn't roll off the bed at night. My first thought: "just keep quiet Anna, let someone else volunteer." It scared me to think of sleeping next to him. But as the night drew closer, no one volunteered and I reluctantly took the place beside Jean. I asked the doctor (pictured in the pink shirt below) what to do overnight to care for him. She said very plainly, "I'd love him, and rub his back. Make him feel safe by your touch. Give him tenderness to nurture his needs. He'll be fine, just reach out and keep a hand on him."

Lights were out sometime in the 8 o'clock hour, and by 9:15 I was seriously suffering. He sounded like he was choking every few breaths. He had a seizure. He kept rolling on his stomach and burying his face into the matress. I'd roll him back on his side or his back and he'd flop right back. I was afraid he would smother himself. Plus, I was scared to touch him because of his scabies outbreak-- I didn't want to catch it. So, seriously, I slept with a bottle of purell next to me and I lathered my hands after EACH TIME I touched this kid. So that meant no continual touch from me-- just corrective touch. I maybe slept a total of an hour that night. I was sure he'd die on my watch. And I was sure I'd get scabies if I touched him too much. I was so devastated by the grip these ugly thoughts had on my heart. I think part of my lack of sleep was me purely wrestling with God. It was ugly! I was ugly!

Then morning came, and Jean had lived through the night. I changed his diaper and put him back in his stroller and off we went for the day. Somehow I felt bonded to this boy, even though I was still rather cold to him. I think I wanted to love him better, so just kept staying with him hoping my heart would soften. A visiting doctor arrived around lunch and commented that Jean really needed to be touched. Just from doing an evaluation Jean had grabbed onto the doctor's finger and wouldn't let go. The doc explained he was starved for love and human touch and he encouraged me to do so. For the next few hours, I conceded to touching Jean-- but only on his legs cuz I didn't see any scabies marks there. I gently massaged his calves and stroked his knee. I talked sweetly to him and tried to gently love him.

Around 4, the other doctor (who'd advised me the night before) came and asked me if Jean had been held today. Embarrassed, I said- "well, I've been rubbing his legs for the last 3 hrs." She asked directly, "have you taken him out of his stroller at all today?" Fully ashamed of myself, I had to admit "no." She immediately picked him up and embraced this little boy and held him for the rest of the night, and all the next day.
That night, laying in bed, I was broken over my own sin. My goal-verse for this trip was Luke 6:36 "You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate." And I recognized that in the case of Jean, I had failed MISERABLY! I was scared to touch him. Why? 1) Because I let fear, not love, rule my heart. And 2) because I was afraid I'd get scabies. And why would that be a big deal? Its treatable. Well, I saw I have an idol in my life I didn't know about: coveting my things more than God. I just moved to a new house. I just bought a new matress & new sheets. And I have 3 dogs. I didn't want scabies in or on any of those things. If I didn't have those "things" I would have cared far less if I'd gotten scabies. So I neglected a child who was in critical need of nurturing because of my STUFF & MY OWN COMFORT. (Lord forgive me!)

I was sick to my stomach (and still am). God gave me a beautiful opportunity to embody His love and compassion, and I said NO. :( As I processed more and more the weight of my sin, I kept thinking: "Jesus would have touched that boy. Jesus would have held him tight. Jesus would have whispered love into his ears whether Jean could hear it or not. I did NOT reflect Jesus to this little boy." OH GOD, how sorry I am. I feel so ugly inside, knowing the hardness of my heart.

I will regret this failing for the rest of my days.
But even as I cry writing this, reliving the shame, I have to cling to the promise from God that "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it" (Philippians 1:6). Over the last year, God has stretched me & grown me in the area of mercy and showing love to others in need. Its been a hard road, for I had a very cold heart, but I can look back even now and see how far I've come. The "lesson of Jean" was a major speed-bump in the process of refining my character & in maturing me as an ambassador for Christ. But it brought conviction. It brought mourning for my own sin. And it brought trust that I am still "in progress" and God is not giving up on me! I just hate that this little boy was neglected as part of my process.

Pray for Jean. Pray that he would experience the tangible love of Christ from his care-givers. Pray for me, that God uses this failing to continue softening my heart towards those He loves.

Johnny Fig

Johnny arrived at Danita's Children's Home after a crazy turn of events. During the earthquake, Johnny broke his femur. I don't know the back story enough to know if he had a family or lived on the streets before that. But a piece of the puzzle we did get was that Johnny crawled through the streets of Port au Prince (with a broken femur) for ELEVEN DAYS before a hospital took him in and surgically repaired his injury. Can you even imagine the pain?! He must have been so scared!
When Johnny first arrived at the orphanage, they thought he was supposed to start trying to walk... so everyone was pushing him to try it out a little each day. But after some follow up xrays, the doctors saw that he had plates and pins in his leg to hold his bones back together so he was supposed to stay off it, not putting weight on it, for a good while. Oops.
My team got there after they found out this news, so we all shared the responsibility of carrying Johnny around with us whenever he wanted to try out a new spot of shade or a new group of people. We carried him to & from the bathroom. Carried him to bed. And-- his favorite-- carried him to the cafeteria. He loved it because it was full of long rows of benches he could slide up and down... mobile for him, while still being immobile.
This kid was a handful! Of fun and mischief. He went 100 miles and hour for someone who didn't walk. He was always squirming, moving, playing, talking. I love this kid!
But Johnny needs your prayers! On our last day, I watched as the doctor changed his bandage. His scar ran almost the full length of his little thigh... and looked totally healed except for one nickel sized open wound. Johnny's leg has a secondary infection, the doc told me. I watched as she squeezed out a full tube of puss from his little wound. Now I'm no medical person, but from what I gathered from listening to the nurse & doc confer, this is not good. Well, there is some good news-- Johnny's demeanor and energy were signs that the infection was not affecting his entire body yet. The bad news-- the infection might live, even thrive, on all the metal items that were implanted in his legs... so to fully remove the infection they might have to go back in for another surgery to eliminate the infection "at the root". UGH! The doc said maybe the right antibiotics would kill the infection, but likely he'd have to be treated with another surgery.

Please, please, please... PRAY FOR JOHNNY. Pray that God clears out this infection fully. And pray He does it without putting this boy though another surgery. But if that's the solution He desires, pray God protects Johnny and gives wisdom to his doctors!

Side note: Apparently, they do not know Johnny's last name. So when they were nursing him back to health in PAP, they were feeding him bananas... and he liked them. Like REALLY liked them. Wouldn't stop eating them... so they nicknamed him "Johnny Fig" to give him a new last name (fig is the Haitian word for banana, so I'm told).

Emani, God With Us

This is Emani, a beautiful 13 yr old girl that was resettled at Danita's Children's Home from PAP. She is in a lower body cast for a broken left leg. It covers her whole leg and then wraps up around her waist, cutting into her ribs, but with an opening down below so she can still use the bathroom. She was pretty much relegated to bed rest and turned her new bunk into her new home. She ate in bed, she went to the bathroom in bed-pans, and spent the hours coloring every square inch of coloring books we gave her.
Emani did not come from the collapsed orphanage that Danita resettled at her facilities. She was a new orphan, referred to Danita by a hospital & the Red Cross. So she didn't know any of the kids old or new when she arrived. I think she struggled with loneliness & boredom.

Add to that, when she had to "go", she would call out for someone nearby to help her... but if no one was around, she'd have to wet (or worse) her own bed and lie there till someone checked on her. Humiliating & hard.

When Emani arrived, scribbled all over her body cast was the diagnosis from the doctors in PAP... what had happened to her, how they treated it, what to do for her now, and when to take her cast off. Plus a bunch of nurses and doctors signing her cast and writing "God loves you! We love you!"
I watched this girl improve a lot while we were at the orphanage. She was seriously quiet when we arrived and wasn't interacting much with the other kids. But after 7 days, she was much more chatty, smiled a lot more, and was starting to make some new friends. We used a portable dentist chair to carry her outside the church one day to soak up fresh air. Missy & some from our team came up with a plan to encourage the other girls at the orphanage to bond with her, so they brought out beads for jewelry making... but Emani was in charge of giving the beads to the girls when they needed them in the creative process. She blossomed in these precious hours of girl-time.
I googled her name to see if it meant anything in her language. Turns out it is derived from the word Emmanuel, God with us. So true this is for her life. She lost her family, but she is not abandoned. She is lonely, but she is not alone. She is broken, but there is a Healer in her midst. Pray for Emani-- that God heals her body and saves her soul. He is in her name, pray He is in her life!

Bon Jour, Mon Ami

Each one of our team members worked an overnight shift, sleeping in the church with all the new kids in bunk beds. The morning after my shift, this precious little face (Gerry) gets out of bed, wanders over to me & Missy and proudly sings out:
"Bon Jour, Mon Ami!"
He then hugs us and walks off. SO STINKIN' CUTE! I thought it meant "good morning my love" but my google search just now tells me it simply means "good day my friend." Either way, I'll take it! :)

Jesus with Katiana & Me

Katiana arrived at the orphanage the week before we got there. She had a broken fibia & tibia right near her ankle, and she had lost part of her arm to amputation. During lunch one day, she was taking her meal in the church on her bunk and was complaining (through a translator) of being hot. She told the translator to ask if I could find a fan for her. I tried but didn't find one. So I grabbed a coloring book and returned to her bunk to personally fan her with it-- a la a queen and her servants in ancient days! I could tell she thought I was crazy and eventually asked the Haitian with her to carry her back to the "girls house" for the rest of the day.

The next day, I accompanied the doctor & her house mom to visit Katiana at the girls house. They were going to change her arm's dressing. The house mom warned us that Katiana had been having panic attacks anytime someone got near her arm and would scream & cry.

While Katiana sat at the kitchen table with the doctor trying to unwrap her dressings, she started screaming & crying. I sat next to her and just reached out for her hand to let her squeeze mine. The house mom stood next to her and cuddled her head, patting her hair and whispering "its okay, don't be scared" in Haitian. I kept her hand held tight in mine and was patting her knee. I tried to keep eye contact with her and just share comfort in a non-verbal way. It was hard. It was bad. She was so distraught. Lots of sobbing. Lots of screams. Yet we pressed on, knowing the work had to be completed.

Just as we were about to wrap her arm back in new dressings, in walks a team of surgeons who had been walking the streets of the town looking for anyone who needed help. Another house mom brought them in to consult on Katiana's arm. They took one look at it and said-- "This girl has an exposed nerve. Whoever did her surgery sewed her up leaving part of a nerve sticking out of the wound. No wonder she's in so much pain!" I looked at her arm and saw what they were talking about. It was right there in the open. We'd assumed it was part of the wound that wasn't healing properly. They offered to perform surgery to repair the mistake the next morning. GOD PROVIDES!!! Can you believe it?

So, they re-dress her arm and everyone leaves the room. I stayed with Katiana while she was recomposing herself. Sniffling, wiping her eyes, and trying to breath more calmly, Katiana looks me dead in the eyes and very clearly says (in English): "thank you." I was shocked. I didn't know she spoke English. My eyes welled up and I said back: "i love you." "I love you too." There it was again, this crystal clear, no-accent English. We were still holding hands at this point and she starts to twirl my wedding ring around my finger. I have a ring I specifically wear on overseas trips that is just plain gold with a cross imprinted on it. She twisted the ring till the cross was centered on my finger, then says: "Jesus." To which I eloquently said: "Jesus." We smiled tired smiles at each other and hugged.

It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It was JESUS right there in our midst. Who gave her English words to share. To connect us in HIS NAME. Who comforted her. It wasn't me. It was HIM. Thank you God for reaching out to this young girl.

Pray for Katiana, that He continues to tangibly reveal Himself to her.

(For a little back story on Katiana, click here.)

I Broke Down Over Jocelyn

During the hours spent at the orphanage I tried my best to "keep it together" in front of the kids. I was sad for them most of the time but didn't want to make them feel pitied or even more sad because I had emotions that needed to come out. I certainly cried at night when back in my bunk, but tried to stay positive in front of them. But one breakdown managed to sneak out...

Jocelyn was a young man that Danita had brought back to the orphanage from PAP. He said he was 23, but I'm guessing he was still under 18? His leg had been amputated below the knee. Every day he sat in a plastic chair just outside the cafeteria with his stump laid up on another plastic chair in front of him. Every day. Sometimes he sat alone, sometimes with a crowd of other kids listening to his stories, and sometimes with one or two of my team members just keeping him company.

He couldn't speak English, but seemed to display an array of emotional weight in his countenance & in his eyes. He smiled often, but it looked like a tired smile. He looked bored. He looked pensive. He was mourning in a quiet way.

After a dressing change at his amputation sight, I sat with him to keep him company. He was in pain, physically, and kept trying to soothe his aching leg. I decided to give him a hand massage to try and distract him from the pain. I worked on both his hands for probably 15 minutes and his countenance never lifted. He crumpled over his own lap and with a strained look pointed to his lower back. I thought- "well, ya... this boy's been sitting in the same chair, same position for days, I bet his back hurts!" So I started to massage his back from shoulders to kidneys. The more I tried to soothe his sore muscles, the further he crumpled over hugging his legs.

I couldn't help it... I started to bawl. I felt so much ache for this young man. I was mourning alongside him, knowing he hurt both physically and emotionally. I sooo did not want him to see me crying. He was face to the ground. My hands were at work so I couldn't wipe away my tears, so I just let them fall. And the swell of tears grew heavier and heavier. Others on my team passed by and a few of the medical people too-- they gave me a knowing look and joined in my mourning. In some ways I felt I was weeping tears that Jocelyn himself couldn't weep yet.

I heard from the orphanage staff that he was in his house with his mom during the earthquake. That he tried to save her but was stuck. That she died. That he was saved, but lost his leg. He was a handsome young man... who lost a loved one, lost even a part of himself, and was trying to find a way to cope in a new place, a new home, with new friends.

Pray for Jocelyn. Pray for psychological healing & for safe healing of his wound. Pray for his adjustment to a new life as an amputee. Pray for the mourning of his mother. Pray that Jesus draws this young man into a life-saving relationship with Himself. Weep for him and with him. And pray for God's comfort to speak volumes into his life.

Boy in a Body Cast

The day we walked into the orphanage in Haiti, the first kid I saw was a young boy (maybe 6?) propped up on a bench under a tree in a lower body cast. He was alone, although there were Haitians near by. He looked sad. His left arm had been amputated at the shoulder and was healing. His legs were not only casted but also had a large bar stretched between his two legs keeping them spread apart. And a 6 inch hole was left open where he could still urinate & defecate. And there was nothing covering this exposed area, and because of his cast & immobility, there was nothing he could do about it.
I walked straight over to him and just sat down. I wanted to comfort this sweet boy. I wasn't trying to smile or tickle or cheer him up. I just wanted to be present and share peace. As I sat there, I noticed little tears just kept pouring out of his eyes. He wasn't making any noise, other than some sporadic, quiet whimpers. Yet tears just kept falling from his little face. He had a dirty towel that he used to wipe away his tears. It broke my heart.

Over the course of the week, I made sure to visit this boy regularly. I learned that his mother had come with him and was also staying at the orphanage (a joyous gift in an otherwise horrible situation). She cared for him & loved him-- I could see it in her eyes! And he was in LOVE with her. She was his joy when it surfaced. Time was also crucial to seeing this boy improve. By the end of my stay, he was smiling, giggling, and engaging with others. Love was nursing him back. The love of Christ, demonstrated in all the staff & visitors, the love of Christ seen in his mother's care for him. Christ is seeing him through.
Pray for this boy... Lunech (sp?) is his name. They ran xrays and found that his femur was broken- and although casted, not surgical repaired correctly. He will have uneven legs and a limp. His amputation wound was healing nicely and they removed his bandage on my final day. Pray for his healing. Pray for his comfort. Pray for Christ to reveal Himself to this little boy. May Christ be His peace in such a traumatic season of his young life.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

If You Tell Stories, You'll Kill Your Mom & Dad

On my last morning in Haiti, I joined a group of 6-9 yr old boys sitting in a circle on the grass talking. When I walked up, I saw that 4 of the boys had name tags (a sign they were some of the newly resettled orphans from Port au Prince), and 1 boy without (meaning he was a "native" of the orphanage-- and spoke English). I sat down and smiled, just wanted to be present with them.

The native boy tried to tell me what they were talking about. He said, "This boy says that if you tell a story in the morning, your mom and your dad will die. Is that true?" I furrowed my brow and said no-- absolutely that's not true-- you can tell stories all day long and no one will die because of it. The boy replied, "That's what I told him, but he doesn't believe me."

I thought for a bit and realized this little boy-- newly orphaned-- was full of guilt. He thought he killed his parents. I asked the native boy to translate:
...ask him if his parents died in the earthquake. ...Yes, they did.
...Ask him if he told a story to them before that happened. ...Yes, that morning he told them a funny story and they laughed and made fun of him.
...Ask him if it was a true story or a lie. ...It was a true story, they just thought it was funny.
...Ask him if he thinks he killed his parents. ... Yes.

In our broken translation (with a 9 yr old translator) I tried to reassure this precious little boy that it wasn't his fault. That earthquakes happen, hurricanes happen, people die. That his story telling had nothing to do with it. In the end, he said he "believed me"... but he vowed never to tell another story "just in case".