Monday, October 29, 2012

Cooking Lessons & Life Lessons in Haiti

 CREATE IN ME A NEW HEART, Renew a right spirit within me. - psalm 51:10

Walking through the center I was introduced to the Haitian workers. This is "Big Eyes", BigEyes? Did I hear that correctly? Yep, they call him Big Eyes. This is Pierre, Margerie, and dozens more. I realized right a way that they were not seen as staff, but as family, and the love they poured into this place, made the Womens programs feel like home. I stepped into the first room and walked directly into a cooking class. Margerie greeted me with "Bonjour, you are most welcome" Again, "welcome" and I felt it too. The Haitian women lined the wall with their white cooking hats perched on their heads. Some of the hats cocked just slightly to the left. Some too small for their braided hairstyles. Dressed in bright and rich Haitain colors and prints, each girl had a white apron tied around their waste, that matched their hats and made them looked like fledgling young chefs in training school like the Cordon Bleu, Haiti style. 

The master chef, told us they were learning how to make brownies. I got several blank stares when I greeted them. I tried to say 'Bounjour' in a way that didn't sound like I hadn't spoken french since 6th grade. I know in time, they would see that I am only here to encourage them, love them. Unlike Uganda though where it's easy to communicate because most know English, the women mainly speak Creole and a bit of French. This is going to be a challenge being in Haiti for sure. But actions speak louder than words, and I want to be here to love every day in action. Because Love.Does. 

I stared with wonder at these dark skinned beautiful women with their backs against colorful walls, dressed up in chef outfits. What an image! Just Beautiful, just stunning girls who have suffered through hardship, pain and suffering and now are united with other women. They are LEARNING, absorbing, listening, and my favorite CREATING.  These women are seen as capable, and they are empowered every time they create something new. To me this cooking class is the perfect example of their lives. They are standing in front of a bowl, given a tool in their hand, and have to have faith that these mixed ingredients will make something better when combined together. These women when I walked in were in the process of learning how to make brownies -- the mixture has to have butter, the salt of the earth, flour as a base, unsweetened chocolate for the bitter and vanilla for the sweet moments, and an egg that holds the ingredients together. A row of  powerful women stand at the counter, stirring their bowl of messy and different ingredients, and don't know what their final product will be. They stir their sorrow and happiness, hard times and good times together, and hope that the result will bring them comfort. They are learning how to create a better story. After putting the mixed bowl of emotions, faith and fear into a pan - these women then delicately place their pans into the oven and they WAIT. They wait in hope. They wait in faith. They wait for strength, and to see if their work was in vein. But in the oven, with time, In the REFINERS FIRE, these ingredients change. This batter surrendered by hands of vulnerable women, takes shape. The miry clay of brownie batter is formed and the sweet aroma of brownies fills the kitchen. Joy begins and the women smell their sweet success!! 

These women who once saw themselves as discarded, broken ingredients now can CREATE. They can bring NEW into the world. Their new hopeful futures, evidence of the Love they labor in. These women, just like their ability to bake brownies from scratch are true examples of love and provide comfort for their families and community. 

These young Haitian women have been through abuse, neglect, and pain that has scarred their bodies, but sometimes those scars, even for some of them the brutal evil of rape, can produce a beautiful healthy baby. And when these women, see themselves as beautiful, that they are the ones who are creating something beautiful and new, whether a plate of brownies after cooking lessons, or a glowing baby boy after hard life lessons - the beauty that these women now hold, remains with them forever. Their identities are sealed, they can LOVE without fear and know they have a valuable part to play their child's survival. The women are learning to be mothers, to be sisters, to be friends - nurturing, caring and gentle. They are learning to be the mothers of the world; of Haiti. These resilient and redeemed women are  lifting their children or future children out of poverty, every time they raise their babies above their heads smiling and kissing their bellies saying, "I love you", "You are mine", "You are precious", "You are Loved by me", "You are safe". Those are the moments when you realize, if we don't have love, we are nothing, only resounding clanging cymbal. But this kind of Love, provides music and provides healing. 

These women are a new generation of Mothers, of Sisters, of Daughters, that are loving themselves, their country, their neighbors, their children, and letting that love heal the broken places in their lives. The love they are pouring out for others, is changing the story of Maternal Health and respect of women in Haiti. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Run for Life Haiti

Friends, I want you to join me in this story that made me instantly fly to Haiti when I heard it. It was that powerful. 

One man is using his loss to bring gain. Barry McDonald is running 315 miles across Haiti in January to raise funds for a new maternity center in Port au Prince, Haiti. This is the FIRST maternity center in Haiti, and it is no wonder that the maternal mortality rate is 1/87 here. This breaks my heart. This doesn't have to be the story.

We can make a difference and dramatically change maternal health for the world by coming together for this cause. The land has already been purchased for the maternity center, I have walked on it and seen visions of beautiful women holding their healthy babies in their arms. The maternity center will be a refuge for women in Haiti, it will provide vocational training, education, and most of all a safe place for babies to be born.

 To me this story is something of rebirth for Haiti. A new way we can see light, instead of darkness, and hope instead of hurting. We can help Haiti HEAL by providing good health to the mothers who sow love in this place. 

Let us help, let us give. I hope that you will be generous with me. I've given up my normal life and found an adventure that reminds me of what we're capable of, when we LOVE others.

 I flew to Haiti and for a month or more will be working here trying to raise funds and awareness about maternal health in Haiti. It is a blessing, but I need your support!! :) 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Respire, Haiti

To the little ones, the girls and orphans in Haiti who never get to see themselves or don't have parents that call them beautiful - I am glad I can be here to help reveal their beauty, and watch their smiles grow. ♥   

Photo taken on an amazing visit to Respire Christian School in Grassier, Haiti 

longer blog post to come. There is Hope in the Haitian children's hearts and minds. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


SURRENDER. This has been a word that has appeared several times this year. 2012 has been a whirl-wind of an adventure from spending the summer in Uganda listening to former child soldiers dreams, designing and being a part of the incredible Global Citizen Festival in New York City for a month that raised 1.3 Billion dollars for the worlds poor, and now a new adventure -- Haiti. I get to do what I love and in the mean time, have to learn to surrender myself for the causes I believe in. Surrender and deny myself realizing it's not about me at all. My designs are not mine alone, my stories are a part of a bigger picture, my life is built to serve God and his people and to do that I have to constantly surrender. Surrender my plans, surrender my stories, surrender my love for this.

It's a hard balance, being a storyteller and wanting to share stories in this day and age when we vie for attention and desperately want to get noticed for the photos and statuses we post, I know that I can get easily get lost in what really matters. This is why I love traveling and finding myself when I'm surrounded by nothing that's familiar. I have been so surprised by how much bright clarity comes when you are focused on serving, loving and pouring into broken people. You realize how broken you are for thinking you can actually complain about your life. We are blessed. We are loved. We have a home and a roof above our heads. We don't have to worry about contracting diseases every time we drink water, we don't have to fear the storms of starvation and famine. And yet, even amidst all of the pain that comes from poverty, there is a rich inheritance of JOY that I haven't found anywhere else. There are children that run to you with this palpable joy and faith in their hopeful eyes that leave me in tears every time. These are the stories I want to share and I want to tell. Not about me, but THEIR STORIES. What is this joy and how do I find it? How can I surrender my life, my plans and live like these children do?

This is my mission and my heart to know how to surrender each day to God's will and his love. To trust him in the details and the larger story that he is weaving together. My plans fail, my words fail, but God's love never fails. He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul. (psalm 23) He also leads me to adventures and places I would never have planned. And as of this week he has lead me to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

I am steadying my head and my heart to do God's will and love his beautiful broken people in Haiti. Ready to find and learn more of my own brokenness and how can I be the hands and feet of selflessness to the meek that inherit the earth.

I will be sharing many stories of hope, redemption and strength in the coming weeks. I just fill with excitement knowing there are people just aching and waiting to share their stories with us, and that I get to be a part of that.

For the next month I will be focused on raising awareness for maternal health in Haiti. The country has the highest maternal mortality rate, 1 in every 90 women. To me, this doesn't have to be the story. We have medicine, knowledge and tools to help improve women's lives. With a team of people, we are going to really focus and get creative to raise over 800,000 for a new maternity center. I will tell more about our creative plans in the coming days, but for now I will leave you with a number. 315 Miles - the length of Haiti.

315 miles and generous people stand in the gateway of improving maternal health worldwide forever.
Now this is a story I can't wait to be a part of. It is my hope and prayer that my will is surrendered towards this cause and towards loving these women who have been hurting for so long and that I can be a light amidst the places of darkness in Port-au-Prince.

"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" — John Keith Falconer