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.