I recently submitted an article to CausePub about my first experience in Haiti. It was originally published on www.ungrind.org as well as the church I was a staff writer for at the time. My editor at Ungrind, posted about submitting stories to the site for possible consideration for their upcoming book, Couch Rebels. I decided to submit this story so I thought I would share it here with you today. If you would rather read it at the site, you can click on this link
Poverty and Paradise
It’s early morning as I relax in my warm home, stretched out in my comfortable, over-sized writing chair, sipping a hot cup of coffee.
My stomach growls and I easily quiet its demands by toasting a bagel. I recognize that the simple act of plugging my toaster into an electric outlet is a luxury not afforded in Haiti. I reflect on the pangs of hunger felt by the children and adults there.
I think about the dry cracked mouths of the children longing to receive something refreshing to quench their thirst. I think about how the beautiful blue ocean taunts them with its rushing waves from their barren tent city. It takes all of the children’s strength to walk over to the side of the road. They bend down, resting their dirty, worn clothes on their knees, revealing their calloused, mud-encrusted feet. Feet that walk a journey for which no one would dare ask.
Cupping their tiny hands, they attempt to draw brown-colored water from the ditch on the side of the road. But instead of clear refreshment, they scoop up a bacteria-laden substance and pour it down their parched throats. As it spills onto their hollow cheeks, it also flows into their fragile little bodies, threatening a destructive disease by the name of Cholera.
Preparing to Go
I visited Haiti for the first time in December 2010. I will admit that fear almost choked out my good intentions in traveling to this foreign country. Not only had I recently suffered a stress fracture in my hip, but the deadly disease of Cholera was spreading rapidly throughout Port-Au-Prince and the surrounding villages.
According to reports, hundreds were dying daily; and those were the ones that made the five o’clock news! Along with that, Hurricane Tomas was sweeping through the country, threatening to create mudslides that could overtake the mountainous, already dilapidated “homes.”
Friends and family lovingly offered advice that leaving the safety and comfort of my home (not to mention my hormonal teenager, vulnerable toddler, and devoted husband) was, to put it nicely, foolish. After all, God gave us wisdom for a reason. There were dangers at every turn and surely I would be even more susceptible to them because of my injury. I needed to hear from God.
I decided to shut out the voices around me and “unplug.” I fasted from anything that could hinder hearing from God. These included the internet, Facebook, and even TV.
After a few weeks of prayer and silence, I came to my conclusion. I never heard an audible “go,” but I deciphered that fear was the only thing holding me back. I knew that fear wasn’t from God. My answer was clear. If I said I trusted God with my life, I needed to make good on that confession. I may have been traveling to a foreign country, but I would be doing it with my familiar God.
As we stepped off of the plane and onto the black tarmac, I took in the beauty that surrounded me. The sun was setting as we made our way to the warehouse that served as a make-shift airport. As we met eyes with customs officials, I masqueraded as a confident, well-traveled visitor, in an effort to avoid any conflict or obstacles to our mission.
We brought with us ten 50 pound bags of supplies. Because corruption is rampant and stolen packages are common, these collected materials from the States can’t be sent in through the mail system. We located our bags and breathed a sigh of relief.
We had already been warned about the chaos that would pounce upon us as we stepped outside. Locals stalk the premises for any sign of relief through financial provision. We stepped outside and it immediately resembled more of a Hollywood paparazzi scene than a third-world country. Haitian men clamored about, laying their hands on our bags and feverishly begging in Creole to assist us. I thought about oppression and injustice as I witnessed with my American-bred blue eyes, it’s obvious consequences.
We hopped in our bus driven by a local, trusted Haitian man. I was thankful for the tinted windows. I felt odd traveling the streets and taking note of their plight. Guilt plagued me as I didn’t want to exploit or gawk at them anymore than they already had been.
Tent cities lined the streets by the hundreds, including the median. Fires loomed everywhere and I easily saw why rape had increased by 40%. There was no police presence to be found. Although our destination was only 20 miles from the airport, we traveled through the rubble for three hours until we finally arrived at our location. We turned on the generator and made our way upstairs. As my tired body collapsed onto my air mattress, I thanked God for a soft place to land. I knew others were not so fortunate.
Just a few days later, I learned the harsh reality of where these children slept at night. While visiting an orphanage, I witnessed a young girl sleeping on concrete blocks. She looked so peaceful and I was astounded as the Director excitedly explained how grateful he was for those blocks! When it rains, they have no protection from the elements. Floods can easily sweep you away without a moment’s notice — a concrete block remains a permanent fixture.
We also had the chance to visit some “middle class” Haitians, as we would say in America. We traveled up the mountainside into the crevice of a rock to visit with an elderly woman and her family. Through a reforestation project, she had earned her one room, humble abode and it housed ten of those closest to her. She brewed us her hand grown coffee and shared with us her baked bread. It’s a moment I will never forget.
Throughout the week, as I heard “bonjour” and “bonsai” echo out of these beautiful, charming people, a love began to grow in my heart for them. As I sit here and fill my belly with the easily accessible food from my kitchen, I think about the name given to Haiti long ago by the famous discoverer, Columbus. He deemed the island, the “Antilles Jewel” in an attempt to describe its majesty to others. The deep blue sea and the plush green mountains were nothing short of paradise. But something went very wrong. In spite of that, these gems of a people still radiated such grace and their hearts exploded with such resilience, that the love they exuberated almost erased or denied all the years of slavery and injustice.
And it got me thinking about another place, one mentioned in Genesis. This place was a fruitful garden and our ancestors, Adam and Eve, walked in perfect unity with God and nature there. It too was a paradise that seems but an unattainable luxury. But something went terribly wrong here as well. In fact, it was the first time sin entered the world. With all of its ugliness, it attempted to choke out all of God’s goodness and beauty. Corruption and greed grew where prosperity once had. How broken the world had become; how tragic of a story. Something had to be done.
God, in His gracious love and understanding “gave something up for something He loved more.” He sent His one and only Son to proclaim a gospel to His broken people. This was all in an effort to give us freedom instead of slavery, joy instead of mourning, and paradise instead of poverty; to fix the problems that we had indeed created for ourselves. We deserved death but instead He gave us life. What a gracious Savior we have.
With this knowledge, I face a dilemma. If God, in my brokenness, didn’t give up on me, what right do I have to give up on my impoverished Haitian brothers and sisters? And not only that, but what am I willing to sacrifice in order to help them and their barren land be restored back to its original, serene design?
I ponder these things as I transition from my comfortable chair into my bathroom where I can simply turn a knob and hot, soothing water pours out to cleanse and bring refreshment to my body. Do I deserve this more than anyone else? Am I more worthy?
Several scriptures from God’s Word come to mind. Luke 12:28 says, “To much has been given, much is required.” What exactly am I required to give? And James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I am reminded of the promise in Mark 10:29 that says, “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much.’”
There is so much searching to be done. And to be honest, I’m not sure what this means for me. But one thing I do know is that those sweet faces are forever burned in my heart and I would be nothing but honored to give my life to God’s glory and redemption story with the people of Haiti. I just hope my sacrifice is found pleasing in His sight. I hope my sinful self — with all of its greed and pride — can help restore “the years the locusts have eaten.” I hope that by being willing to obey a calling, I can somehow make their plight a little more bearable — and maybe even beautiful.
To read about God's goodness in our lives, go to http://ungrind.org/2012/milk_and_honey/ for my recently published article.
Are there times that you can point to God's faithfulness and goodness in your life? Do share!!
Unless you are sleeping under a rock in the Himalayas somewhere, I'm sure you know that yesterday was Father's Day. And if you didn't, I am sure you figured it out pretty quickly from all of your Facebook newsfeeds.
In typical Brian fashion, he made all of his plans and bought his own gifts. I must admit though, that this year he did a pretty great job.
I was however able to surprise him with one gift. On the eve of this epic day, after Chase went to bed and before B himself went to bed, I conspicuously changed Chase's shirt. I put a rockstar "I love Dad," shirt on. which if you've been reading for a while, you understand.
The following morning, we decided to go to the early service at church so that we could head out to grab lunch before the baseball game. One of my favorite pastimes is finding hip, little places to eat. Give me off the beaten path, options for both B and I (i.e. vegan and burgers:) with a cool environment and I am sold. A helpful new to me app that I absolutely love is urbanspoon. This helps so much and I can search on it for hours...good times, folks..good times. I found an absolutely yummy place to eat that satisfied us both. The name was Tap and Tapas and it was located in downtown Nash.
Brian was hesitant but trusted my plan. He looked relieved when he saw burgers on the sign outside. He had a stuffed burger with an fried egg on top and I had a portobello mushroom "burger" with fried eggplant straws. The food was excellent and it was the perfect place to chill before the game.
Once we arrived to the game, it was pretty hot. Chase was super excited to get onto the field AFTER the game, so I prepared myself to stay for all 10 innings. Luckily, the stands weren't too full and I could get all country and prop my boot over the seat in front of me...you think there is no leg room on airplanes...I could barely fit my legs in front of me!
We must be a lucky charm to the Sounds because they broke a losing streak and won the game. Chase absolutely loved yelling for each hit and sighing for each miss. It was quite adorable. And quite annoying for a grumpy, older lady in front of us:)
After the game, we proceeded to the field for father/son pitch. It was great watching B and C pitch and hit. Brian grew up going to these games with his dad and it was very special for him to not only go on this day but to continue on with this important tradition.
After we left the field, we were all pretty sweaty and beat. By the time we got into the car and started the AC, Chase was out in five minutes. That to us meant a pretty successful day. It really was one of the best days for dads that we've ever had.
So what were your plans for Father's Day? Any special memories with your dad?
On allpointswhole, this is a topic we've discussed before. I've shared my own struggle with eating disorders..mine not as devastating as others but unhealthy nonetheless. It resembled more of a constant cycle of dieting and thus my weight fluctuating. I vividly remember start my first of many diets in the fifth grade. Although, I was only nine years old, I had a very poor self image and the little"baby fat" I carried seemed much more blown up in my mind than it actually appeared.
The older I've gotten, I've realized that most women are plagued with this form of a eating disorder. Society tells us we are only attractive and worthy, if we are, as Sir-Mix-a-lot once sang, 24-36-24. And even though he was just a one hit wonder, we sing along and attempt to live up to a standard that only those born with perfect genetics can live up to.
Recently, I joined the online community of Myfitnesspal. I absolutely love this site and it has aided in my attempts to lose weight that I put on during my multiple injuries from 2010-2011. It helps you stay accountable and offers encouragement through online "friendships." It really is such an eye opener and helps inspire you to make better choices.
Through some recent friend requests, I've noticed a disturbing trend, particularly with younger girls, They seem to be using the site to calorie restrict to very unhealthy numbers. I was shocked to see girls posting about binging, purging, and starving themselves. They don't talk about it as a struggle but rather boast about it! They encourage one another and give suggestions as to how they can deceive their peers and or parents to believe they are eating when they are in fact, not. One suggestion I read today stated "go into the kitchen and fiddle around, closing drawers, etc. Then when dinner time arrives and you tell your parents that you are not hungry, it will be more believable"
This has been burdening me for sometime and quite frankly I don't know what the solution is. I am a "fixer" by nature and am racking my brain as to how I can make a difference in this epidemic. Other than looking for new outlets to mentor teen girls, I've decided to shed light onto it by exposing it on this blog. I've also left comments on the girls' pages encouraging them that they are beautiful just the way they are..to please not purge, get help, etc I've received no replies...but I also have not been defriended. I've added a few more that I've seen comment on others in an attempt to try and impact them as much as possible.
This saddens me so much and makes my heart so heavy. Writing about it helps me collect my thoughts and hopefully inspires readers to address this issue on their blogs or with anyone they know suffering from this disease. If you happen to be experiencing or engaging in this behavior yourself, please find someone you can trust and take the leap of being vulnerable. It is so scary and uncomfortable to share your shortcomings, but it is oh so worth it. Ultimately, you are destroying yourself. And once you figure out why you are wanting to inflict that pain on yourself, you will be one step closer to healing and freedom. Sometimes just sharing with someone takes such a burden off of your shoulders and gives you such a release.
I want to continue to bring this issue to light, but for now I want to hear from you. Have you or anyone you know experienced an eating disorder? If you received help, what was it and how did it help you? Any ideas on how we can make a difference?
Okay, okay for all of you whipper snappers out there...I know I changed the title. I've been busy.
Well inquiring minds want to know..or at least I pretend they do. What is the grand total you ask??
Come on, just humor me.
To say I am shocked is an understatement. I began this journey on Jan 30th. I never expected to get this far this fast. Not to downgrade my work..I have worked hard for sure. My original goal was to be 135 by the Mini (in about a week) but right now I am 131.0 so I am thinking I will try to get to 129 or lower.
My husband says stress is a good diet and since we just found out we were moving in less than a month (more on that later) and the hubs moves Monday, I just might drop weight rapidly (don't worry, I kid..I eat when I am stressed. I always wished I was one of those skinny girls that says "oh I can't eat..I'm too stressed:) Yea right.
Instead I eat a dozen doughnuts in one sitting.
So those are the results folks.
How is your weight loss journey going?
So last night we had our girl's night for the runner girls. This is our third time to get together outside of running since November. I love that we started doing this and I think we've decided we will keep it up every few months. We are a pretty serious group of runners and it is fun to get away and just have fun.
And pig out.
Last night, we went to Ted's Montana Grill, a fancy chocolate store and Dick's..because what else would a group of runner's do but eat and shop at a sport's store?
We decided to get team racing singlets for the upcoming marathon. We are pretty stoked about it. I would reveal them here but we can't have anyone stealing our idea:)
Because clearly, we have the best ideas.
So, do you have traditions that you and your friends do together? If so, what are they?
So today is that time again...
I wasn't at all hopeful for todays weigh in but had resigned myself to it. We were out of town for Easter and that meant eating out every meal and enjoying some indulgences. I figured I would still log everything but also enjoy myself.
I was completely shocked this morning when the scale said I was down 2.2!! I could not believe it! last week, I was down 1.4. If you are keeping up, this now puts me at 21.6 pounds!
To celebrate, i thought I would look up some fun facts about 20 lbs of fat....thats normal, right?? Unfortunately, all I found were globs of some disgusting substance and food images that just made me hungry.
How is your weight loss going? How much have you lost?
Well blog world, its that time again...time for what you may ask? Well.for my creative title to make its reappearance of course.
I kid. And yes, I realize that my jokes are only funny to myself. Is that narcissistic?:)
It's been four weeks since my last post. Why you ask? Oh, i don't know. Like I mentioned before, its hard for me to write about things that can be so trivial. However, I blog to inspire and motivate others, so I hope this does.
Or at least manifests a good laugh for you.
For the last 3 weeks, I have consistently gone down two pounds per week. That has been wonderful and including my last post, my total loss is 8.4. I will take that for one month!
I went into this week with minimal but hopeful expectations. I felt smaller; My clothes felt better. I got on the scale this morning and lo and behold, I was up exactly one pound. I didn't change anything I had been doing. I think my body just wanted to revolt from so much loss.
Or it hates me. Either one.
Since Jan 2, there has only been one week, now two, that I haven't lost. The first time, I ate out a lot and went up 1.8. My total loss is 19 pounds. But after today, 18.
I plan on taking my inches today. That is always an up lifter. But, honestly I don't feel bummed at all. That is a big surprise to me and I guess I really am growing:)
My exercise has drastically changed the last three weeks due to an injury. That may or may not play a role. Whatever the reason, I take it and embrace it. There is a lesson to learn even in the simple things, right?
So, are you on a journey to be a healthier you? If so, what changes have you made?
Today is Tuesday and not only is it my WW weigh in day, it also happens to coincide with the word total which makes for a cute ...wait for it, title. (also a T word for those of you not paying attention,)
I was so excited to weigh in today and see a loss of 2.4. This is great news since last week I went up 1.8 and the week before only went down .4.
This is a total loss of 13 pounds since reaching my highest weight at Christmas. This is awesome news. 20 to go (though I am sure i will get comfortable after 10 more and the last 10 will be the most difficult.)
I wanna shift here a little bit. I think it is absolutely wonderful to have a weight loss goal. I think taking care of your body is very closely related to your overall spiritual and emotional health. With that being said, I want to make sure I don't focus my thoughts too much on the weight or scale. This week, I have focused more on eating 2-3 fruits a day, some protein and whole grains, and 4-6 vegetables.
I am doing this because I was reminded that the food we eat is for fuel not to binge. Sure, I can eat some low fat, low calorie snacks but is that really the healthy, whole choice? Will my body thank me for that? That is why this post is under Pointing the Compass. Eating well is part of a journey...once that includes spiritual, emotional and physical well being.
And that my friends, is definitely more than a number on a scale.
What are your thoughts on weight loss? What healthy choices are you making this week?
Last night, we got together (co-) leader and I and fixed the teen girls that we are so happy to work with dinner. We have ten girls but only five could make it.
My favorite part (besides the reese's cake I made) was sitting around the dinner table like we were family. Sharing stories, laughing, watching kiddos play. It was community at its best.
I love their raw honesty and willingness to share with two girls they barely know. It brings me back to those very moments in my life. People intervened for me and I am beyond blessed to share a conversation with them. Our group is really bonding and I am so happy to see that.
I give them nothing. They give me everything. Love you girls!!
General meditations on life and balance.