Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Christmas Miracle...

As I was in church on Christmas morning, I had tears in my eyes for so many reasons. First of all, I was just thankful and filled with pure joy to be in Haiti celebrating and remembering the Savior’s birth. I was also missing my little Jean this Christmas season, but realizing that being in Heaven has to be the best place to be on Christmas day! Then, I focused on the fact that I was holding a little miracle…

On October 16th, a young man came up to me after church telling me that he had a son at home that was 2 ½ years old. He said that his friend told him that Mami Heather could help since his son did not walk or talk (the word has gotten around that I love all children that look a little different, can’t walk, and can’t talk…haha.) I immediately told him to bring his son the following day for me to evaluate and see. At 9am, this father arrived with his son. I had never seen a cleaner child in Haiti in my life! I picked him up in my arms, and knew that “crackling” sound oh too well. This little one had obviously aspirated, and needed to be tended to. I brought him and his dad up to the clinic where our nurse, Emily, was. We both knew that this little boy had cerebral palsy, and was suffering from aspiration. We weighed him, put him on an antibiotic, and gently told his father that his son had a condition where he might not ever walk or talk. I watched this father’s heart just break right in front of me. His little Christ-tcherry was all that he had. His wife had a C-section with Christ-tcherry and died when he was 2 months old due to an infection in the incision (a death that could have been prevented, for sure!) What could I do? In front of me was a 25 year old widowed father who obviously loves his baby boy with all his heart. He is educated and intelligent, but will not work because he does not trust anyone else to watch his severely disabled child.

The day I met Papito and Christ-tcherry, I gave them cereal, baby food, and a stroller. I figured the stroller would help keep Christ-tcherry in an upright position to help with aspiration. I told Papito to come to church with his son every week, and that if he did, I would continue to help them. Every Sunday since, Papito has brought Christ-tcherry to church. I have continued to help him as much as I can. On December 3rd, Papito came to the property of Danita’s Children around 3pm to tell me that Christ-tcherry was very sick and struggling to breathe. Blake and I jumped on a motorcycle, and hurried to their home. I didn’t have to walk inside to hear Christ-tcherry; I could hear his labored breathing from outside. I immediately looked at Christ-tcherry’s chest concaving in each time he tried to breathe. Little air was passing through. I picked his limp and tired body up off of the bed, told Papito to grab a few things because we had to go to the clinic across the border immediately. The border was about to close, but I knew we didn’t have any other choice. I knew this child would certainly die if we didn’t go right then and there. In my heart, I knew it would take a miracle from above to breathe life back into this child. I wanted this father to know that we tried everything, and that there was HOPE in our Lord.

We got to the clinic, and the doctor was called. She took vitals right away, and had no way of getting an x-ray until morning. Thank goodness she was compassionate and understanding, and started the IV antibiotics and oxygen right away. I was scared and nervous. I wasn’t with Jean when he passed away, but I could only imagine that this was similar to the same situation. We were dealing with aspirating pneumonia, a high fever, and we were even in the same room of the clinic. I prayed and asked God to be in control of the situation. I pleaded for life and a miracle, but also told God that if it wasn’t the day for that, I understood and would still trust Him with everything! I could see that Papito knew his son’s life was in danger. I could see the worry in his eyes. He didn’t say much. He just held his baby boy tightly, and comforted him as needles were going in and out of his son’s tiny body. After a few hours, things seemed to be settled down, and Christ-tcherry’s breathing was not as labored with the oxygen. I went home for the night, and asked the nurse to call me during the night if anything changed. I would return in the morning.

Christ-tcherry had made it through the night. He was a fighter. I asked Papito if they slept, and he said that Christ-tcherry did. When I asked him if he slept, he said, “No, I could not sleep. All I could do was pray. Mami Heather, he is all I have left.” This is love, this is true love. This father/son love is a rare find especially in Haiti, and it has been such a blessing to me to see. I left the two of them in the clinic by themselves for the day while I went to Haiti. I crossed back into the DR around 5pm, and checked on them. All seemed to be going ok. I ate dinner with some visitors, and then brought food to Papito. I was with Bill (a missionary who was a paramedic in the states) and we both thought that Christ-tcherry had taken a turn for the worse. His breathing sounded horrible, and the oxygen didn’t seem to be helping very much. The doctor had rigged something up to help keep the oxygen in Christ-tcherry’s space to give him all the help he could get. She looked at both of us, and said that it didn’t look good and that Christ-tcherry might not make it through the night.

Bill contacted another doctor in the states, and they both agreed that this was probably going to be it. This could quite possibly be the night for Christ-tcherry to enter the Kingdom’s gates. I left the room because the tears started to flow, and I needed to still talk to Papito and prepare him for what might come. I prayed and just asked the Lord to prepare our hearts and be with all of us through the night no matter what He chose to do. I had made the decision to stay in the clinic with Christ-tcherry and his dad. I didn’t want his dad to be alone if Christ-tcherry died in the night. I wanted to be there for the both of them. Blake and Bill took shifts to be there too. I was sitting on the bed with Christ-tcherry and I read the back of his jacket that he had been wearing for the past two days. In big letters it said, “Forever Yours.” It was so fitting and just a reminder that this little boy belonged to God. He is forever His and that brought so much comfort during this time.

Each hour passed, and Christ-tcherry fought hard! God was holding him tight, and when morning came, I realized that God had performed a miracle. Christ-tcherry was alive and breathing better! Everyone agreed that only God could have done that. Christ-tcherry’s chances of survival went up drastically because he had made it through the night. After a couple more days, he was taken off the oxygen. After 6 nights of sleeping in the clinic with his daddy by his side every minute, Christ-tcherry had received all his IV antibiotics and was ready to be discharged. What a great miracle we just witnessed. His dad was excited to bring Christ-tcherry back home to Haiti where he would show off his son and the good work the Lord had done! The homecoming was priceless! His uncles, aunts, cousins, and neighbors all greeted him with big smiles and laughter.

Christ-tcherry had a check-up at the clinic and is still doing great. He will continue to struggle with all that comes with cerebral palsy and living in Haiti, but he will forever be the little Christmas miracle of 2011!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back Home in Haiti

I have been back in Haiti for less than two weeks, and my heart has already been broken, mended, and filled. The reality is setting in that I will be continuing without my little Jean in my arms, but it is evident that my love for him remains. I am inspired by my little missing piece to keep on loving and making these sweet little hearts VISIBLE!

My first day back in Haiti, I walked onto the property of Danita's Children and saw beautiful Fitson sitting in his stroller. Our eyes locked and he started crying. He doesn't cry very often, but he remembered me and wanted me to not waste another minute. He wanted to be picked up, held, spun around, thrown up in the air, etc. Needless to say, within seconds, he was in my arms giggling. I then went to get my sweetheart, Peterson. I picked him up and put his head on my shoulder. It was now my turn to cry. A week before I came back, I received news that Peterson was very sick after aspirating so I had been worried about him. I had been praying hard for this little guy, so it was quite overwhelming to see that God had answered my prayers so quickly. Peterson looked very good.
The day continued, and I had the chance to see each of my special kiddos and I was able to thank my amazing staff who had done such a incredible job of taking care of them while I was away. One of the highlights was picking up Carlos, squeezing him tight, and telling him that Mami Heather was back! He started bawling and just snuggled into me to show me that he missed me. I could not have asked for a better welcome back...I truly felt the presence of God's love surrounding me, and that is all I needed to know that everything was going to be OK.

I also had the opportunity to check on some of the special needs children that live in the surrounding village with their families. I delivered food to Julie and her children who live in a scary and dark world due to their genetic blindness. They are always so grateful. I saw Chivensky who has hydrocephalus at church with his young mother who loves and adores him. Smiling Jacob has greeted me with a hug on the street every day since I have been back, and tiny Derline has stolen my heart! These children continue to be my heroes.

This past week, I was able to start the preschool/special needs program up again. A temporary new space will be set up soon for them, and then the fun will really begin. The children were just so happy to be singing their songs again, playing with their Legos, and listening to some of their favorite books (including Chika Chika Boom Boom and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.) The little blind boy from the village, Givensky, has started coming to our preschool and he has really enjoyed it. When I asked him how old he was he stated that he was old enough to be in my class but not old enough to leave. I guess he likes it! Their smiles continue to bring JOY to my heart, and their hugs bring LOVE.

The week was concluded with the pouring of the first floor's roof to the special needs home. This home is going to bring so much visibility to the worth of special needs children in Haiti. My heart is always filled with excitement when thinking of these children having their own home that is going to adapt to their capabilities. I just know that they are going to thrive and exceed their potential with the completion of the home. God is so great!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Sweet Angel, Jean

On July 29, 2011 I was in the Dominican Republic for a week long performing arts mission trip. Around noon, I received a phone call from a fellow missionary and good friend at Danita's Children. Karris had to tell me that my sweet little Jean had passed away after battling aspirating pneumonia for the last time. My heart sank and I just started sobbing. I immediately questioned why this happened and more of why it happened without me. I had been Jean's mother for the past year and a half, and I had been there through it all. After grieving for the past month over this little one, I have accepted that it was all part of God's perfect plan and am now at peace knowing that little Jean is whole, healthy, and in the arms of our great Savior. I wanted to share my love for Jean with my friends and family, and I know that I can only do this through the words I would share with him. My hope and prayer is that you would understand love a little better after reading this...

Dear Sweet Jean,

It has been one month since you went home to be with Jesus! I bet you love it. I can only imagine what you are doing...running in circles, dancing, singing, and so much more. Baby boy, I miss you incredibly. I think about you all the time, and am constantly reminded of the memories we shared with one another. I might have only known you for a year and a half, but we sure did pack a lot in that time...preschool, finger painting, playing instruments, popsicles, new food, therapy, etc. My favorite time was when I got to just hold you on my bed and rock you back and forth in the evening hours. I would kiss those cute cheeks and head of yours over and over again. I am so glad that I had these times with you.

Jean, you simply changed my life. You showed me true and genuine love. You shared the love of Christ with me every day. The love that is instant, the love that doesn't judge, the love that captures a heart for eternity. On February 26, 2010, you were the key that opened my heart. You opened my heart so that I could see my life purpose. Now I walk through this life knowing and believing that I am on the lit path, and that is amazing. Can you believe that, little man? You were the ONE that God used to solidify my calling.

I have learned that God's timing is perfect, and this was made so clear to me when I met you. I thought I was to move to the mission field six months before I did, but God knew He was going to place you at the orphanage which is why He had me wait. He knew you would need someone to look after you, take care of you, and love everything about you. God placed that love for you in my heart before I even knew you, and for that I am grateful. When I arrived to Danita's Children, I knew exactly what I was to do. Initially, I didn't know how I would do it, but as the days went by, I realized I was doing it with God's loving hand and grace. Every morning I prayed that He would be my hands and feet as I worked with you and the other special needs children. Jean, the Lord never let me down...He was always present, always there, and always guiding each step!

I could write a whole book on our time together, but instead I will be quick and just share a few of them...

- I loved how you let me dress you so cute every day. I don't know what you really liked or didn't like, but I always thought your favorite color had to be blue. You looked so great in it!

- You never did like getting your teeth brushed or taking a bath, but the lotion and powder afterward you seemed to like.

- I loved how you always slept during preschool hours and always woke up when the others had nap time. I think you knew this was the only way you could get out with me. You got to attend more visitor lunches and missionary meals than anyone else!

- I remember the day I first heard you rolled off a little mat at the mission house.

- I remember the day I fed you macaroni and cheese baby was definitely your favorite.

- I remember the day you smiled, and the day you laughed.

- I remember all those haircuts you hated, but boy did they make you handsome.

- I remember the day you made your "mmmm..." noise. It was simply adorable. We even called Mami Amy so she could hear you.

- I loved our first Thanksgiving together. Mami Amy and Papi Jake came to visit.

- I remember the night I brought Peterson home, and you took on the role of big brother. Do you remember how fragile he was? I would sit the two of you next to each other on my bed so you could help him get better. I knew the contact would help him. Thank you for being part of his healing process, Jean.

- I remember those nights that we didn't sleep because you were so sick. I would just hold you, pray over your little body, and kiss your head.

- I remember the day we rushed to the hospital in Santiago because you had aspirating pneumonia again.

- I remember the night where I pleaded for your life because the doctor prescribed too much medicine.

- I remember the nights I had to leave you in ICU and I would just cry until I saw you again in the morning.

- I remember the days I would come back from being in the states, and I would literally run to see you. I would pick you up and not put you down for hours!

There are so many times I remember, sweet boy. You were simply the best child a mother could ever ask for. You really were my son, Jean. I hope you felt that every moment I was with you. Thank you for letting me be your "Mami." It was a dream come true, and I will never forget you. I don't know why God took you home a month ago, and I do not understand why I wasn't with you in those final moments but it is not my place to question the Lord and His perfect timing.

It has been hard for me to see my future without you, but I will continue to make the invisible, VISIBLE. I stepped into that offering plate, Jean and the Lord took me to the "least of these." He took me to you, He took me to Peterson, and He is going to take me to so many more. You were the first, sweet Jean but you will not be the last. I will not stop now. Please know that I will continue this work and this mission. I will do it with my passion for Jesus, my love for special needs children, and in memory of you. I miss you, sweet Jean but I will see you in Heaven one day. I look forward to that moment where our eyes meet again, but for now remain in my heart and be that sweet angel you have always been. I love you!

Mami Heather

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Unexpected...

I would normally never write a blog after being in the states for two weeks, but I believe I need to share what the Lord has been doing in my heart recently. For everyone who knows me, you know I am a planner. I like things to be organized and thought out, but living in Haiti for the past year and a half, I have had to embrace the idea of being flexible. I have learned that anything can happen at anytime, and for the most part I would like to say I have "rolled with the punches." Just when I thought I had it together (like that ever happens,) I received the biggest shaking from above.

I was on my flight home from visiting New York City on Tuesday, and I had a flight back to Haiti on Thursday. I felt so unprepared, upset, and just not myself. I cried on the plane, I cried on the phone to my best friend, and I cried when I got home. What was going on? I am always excited and ready to go back to Haiti. I felt as though God picked me up, hung me by my ankles, and shook me. What did He want from me?

It didn't take me long to realize I needed to stay in the states for a few more days to seek God's calling at this moment. Once again, I found myself having to be patient and wait on His most perfect timing. I changed my flight to Monday and decided to take some much needed time to consult with the big man upstairs! I immediately dropped to my knees, prayed a submitting prayer, and weeped. Although I can't recall exactly what happened at that moment, pictures of Jean, Peterson, Carlos, Denise, etc started flashing through my head. I now knew why God had stirred me up. Words like ACT, DO MORE, CHANGE, and LOVE ran through my mind and heart. I thought, "Ok, Lord I am totally willing to do that, but how?" Well, that was kind of a dumb question since I am nothing without Him, I don't have to do anything except say, "Ok, I am on board...let's do this Lord!" I can happily say that today that commitment was made.

I often tell people that although the "call" and "work" may sound hard, it is not because it is the right fit for me. It is seriously the sweetest calling, and it has blessed me more than I could ever imagine. These precious children are what make my heart beat, and I can honestly say I would die the most horrible death for them. They are little angels in my life, and they can turn any dark day into one full of sunshine and happiness! They are the most innocent beings on Earth, and I have never met anything in flesh form that is closer to Christ. Blessings flow abundantly through their little bodies, smiling faces, and sweet hearts. Life couldn't get better or could it?

God has shaken me, He has woken me up, and He has said ACT, DO MORE, CHANGE, and LOVE! In this changing season, I am seeking how to do these things. I am asking you to pray as I look at all options for these children. I am praying for more energy, more time, more knowledge, and more advocacy. Danita has always said don't underestimate small beginnings, and I have certainly come to understand this concept as the special needs program has grown leaps and bounds in just a year's time. I am looking forward to the growth, but excited to keep the spirit of excellence and intimacy of the program.

Thank you to all who support me, and thank you to those who will be part of the extension process. I know it is coming, and in this time, I am preparing both the children and myself. There are many ways to get involved, and if you are feeling a "tug" no matter how big or small, feel free to contact me. The children's needs are extensive and the more prayer covering and love surrounding them, the better...

Thank you for joining me in being an advocate for the "least of these" and thank you for helping me make the invisible, VISIBLE!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Answered Prayers...

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry." Psalm 40:1

I am reminded tonight of how BIG God is. I sit in a hotel room in the Dominican Republic with Jean, and am excited to be heading back home to Haiti tomorrow after a long and intense two weeks. Due to emergency circumstances with Jean's breathing, we made the decision to bring him for immediate medical care in Santiago, D.R. He was admitted right away with aspirating pneumonia. We spent almost one week in the hospital treating that alongside of his epilepsy, and were discharged after four nights. Little did I know, but that night would be one that I would never forget...

Brenda (a missionary with Danita's Children) had flown in from the states and was to be heading back to Haiti the next day. She went ahead and reserved Jean and I a hotel room as well so that we could go back to Haiti with her. It was late when we arrived in our room, and I noticed that Jean was really lethargic and listless. He was sleeping very soundly and seemed limp for him. I just figured he was tired and was adjusting to all his new medications. It was midnight, but I could not sleep so I started figuring out how much his medication was going to cost and how much he would need. One of his new seizure medications was going to be alarmingly expensive. I quickly said a prayer, "God, if Jean needs this, I know you will provide." It was at that moment that I felt this gut wrenching stab in my stomach. I felt very unsettled, and began looking up the recommended dosing on the Internet for this medication. When I did the calculations, I realized Jean was prescribed 10x the amount he was suppose to have. Crunching the numbers, I quickly figured that Jean had 6,000mg of the medication in his little tiny body when he was suppose to have 600mg! I thought I was going to pass out, but instead I messaged a paramedic and nurse that volunteers with Danita's Children. They confirmed that the dosing was too high, and recommended that I take Jean right away to the ER. I called Karris (who was in the states) and Brenda at 2am, and we made the decision to go right then.

Jean was admitted for overdose, and had to spend the night in the Pediatric ICU. My mother's heart sank. This was my little boy. The little boy that fights every day for his life, the little boy that has come so far in a year and a half, the little boy that displays the love of Christ to everyone that meets him, the little boy that I have promised to take care of, and the little boy that simply means the world to me! I managed to hold it together with the assurance from the doctors that he would be monitored closely. I would have to wait until 10am the next morning for visiting hours to see him.

When I arrived at the ICU, they were getting ready to transfer Jean to a regular room. Brenda stayed with him in his new room for a few hours so that I could run some errands and do laundry for Jean and myself. I arrived back to the hospital, and Brenda told me Jean had done well. I was in the room maybe 40 seconds, and Jean had a really violent seizure. I got the nurse, and before I knew it, we had a doctor and 3 nurses around Jean's bed. They gave him Valium and put him on oxygen. We were then told that Jean would need to be transferred back to ICU. My heart sank again, but I managed to hold it together. I had to wait a couple hours before I could talk to the doctor and see Jean in ICU. I put on the gown, cap, foot coverings, and mask and that's when I lost it. The tears started flowing. My little boy was laying listless in his ICU bed (again!) He was hooked up to so many machines, tubes, and wires. I was told that if his breathing became too labored, he would be intibated. Was this it? Was I going to lose my little Jean this night? I put my hand over Jean's forehead, closed my tear filled eyes, and said "Lord, everyday I place this child in Your hands, but tonight I ask You to be his heartbeat, be his breath, and be his everything!" I brought Jean's little hand up to my lips, and kissed it goodnight and said, "Hang in there, buddy. Mami Heather has to leave tonight, but will be back in the morning."

Jean remained in ICU for two more nights. That was the toughest time for me because I could only see him three times a day for 30 minutes at a time. I would just sit and wait for the visiting hours to come, and at night my heart would ache when I had to leave the hospital without him. I had some great support and encouragement though. Jen (a missionary with Danita's Children) came to be with me for a few days, and Jake (who is hoping to adopt Jean with his wife, Amy) flew in for a couple days. Jean was taken to a regular room, and he was beginning to finally make strides in recovering. I finally felt like we were "out of the woods."

On Tuesday, May 31st, a longtime prayer was answered! Jean had surgery to place a feeding tube in his stomach. This will drastically change the quality of Jean's life, and will help prevent aspirating pneumonia. It will also allow for more nutrients, and therefore Jean's immune system will strengthen and he will GROW! Nothing could make me happier. Jean was released after spending 14 nights in the hospital. I am so blessed that God's hand was in it all. He truly healed Jean, and for that I am eternally grateful. It was two weeks of answered prayers, and my faith has grown. Even if they were unanswered prayers, my faith in the Lord would have grown because it is in times like these, that you just can't make it without it! You have to be patient, you have to trust, and you have to hand it ALL over...

Thank you to everyone for your continued prayers, encouragement, and support as Jean begins to recover at home. He is a strong boy despite his size, and God obviously has some BIG plans in store for this little man. After all, He has saved him from death so many times. I truly appreciate your love and compassion. May God richly bless each and every one of you who make it possible for Danita's Children to receive proper medical care.

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Piece of Paradise...

Last week, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I visited the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission which is home to the Miriam Center for children with special needs. It took about 9 hours by truck to get to the mission, but it could have taken 100 and I would have been just as happy on my arrival.

The landscape is beautiful and the buildings are colorful, but the children of the Miriam Center are what make it paradise! I only had a couple hours in the evening with the children before they went to bed on my first day, but in those couple of hours, I learned so much about each of them. Ti Willy is the silly one, Jean Kerry is the exercise machine, Moise is the adorable emotional child, Rachel likes to be held, Den Den is the leader, Peterson is the teeny tiny one, Emma is the precious sweet one, etc. Each one is different. Each one is special. Each one is a priceless gem!

I couldn't wait to get up and spend the whole next day with the children of the Miriam Home. There were 32 children in two rooms. Some were singing, some playing instrutments, some playing with legos, some trying to climb on me, and some just sitting with smiles on their faces. I loved all these children instantly, but there was a group of children that I was immediately drawn close to. They were the eight or nine children that were laying down. Many of them reminded me of Jean, and my heart just fell for them. There was Emma, Jimson, Andy, Lunide, Peterson, Henry Claude, Jessica, Rosalie, and more. I knew God wanted me to spend time with them. I knew I was there to love on them. I was there to pour His love unto them. I was there to comfort them, hold them, and pray over them. This was the purpose of my trip.

One by one, I would pick them up and carry them around the facility. Many of them so fragile and sweet. I knew they loved having another heartbeat alongside of their's. They were content and calm when held. It is these moments that I never want to forget. That quiet time with each precious one. I quickly realized that they were pouring love unto me and not vice versa. My heart was open and vulnerable.

The heart behind the happiness of these children is Courtney Pierce. She is a missionary who I've become friends with over the last year. She oversees, manages, and advocates for the Miriam Home. Courtney fights for these kids to be seen, heard, and loved. She spends every day being their advocate. She is their Mommy and they love her! We shared a lot of time together, and we just shared our similar but different stories. We talked about "our" kiddos. We agreed that they don't belong to us as they are certainly God's masterpieces! We agreed that it is simply a honor to even be part of their world. We know that we have both been brought together for a great purpose. We stand on the same platform that advocates to make the "invisible visible." We are blessed!

My time at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission and Miriam Center was short, but had much impact on me. It was a priceless experience, and it was a lesson in how BIG our God is! Although it will require it's own blog, a tiny piece of this great trip is credited to Peterson. I kept going back to this teeny tiny little boy. He weighed 15 lbs and was almost 5 years old. My heart was breaking for him. When I went to bed at night, I just cried for Peterson. I knew God was stirring something, but I could only sob. I said, "Lord, please reveal your purpose for me, please tell me why you have allowed my heart to break into two." God quickly showed me that Peterson was to come home with me to Danita's Children even if it was temporary. Courtney felt the same way, so within just a couple days, little Peterson and I were on a journey back "home." It was hard to say goodbye, but it felt right to have Peterson coming back with me. I knew God had orchestrated the whole thing because it would not have been possible in the natural.

Tonight, little Peterson sits next to me on my bed while I write this. I look forward to sharing more about him, but for now I will just end with saying I have tasted a piece of paradise!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One Year Later

Last week was the one year mark of me living in Haiti. Many words come to mind, but there is one that has come in my mind every day...FULL. I am full of gratitude, full of happiness, full of love, full of honor, and full of HOPE.

When I came one year ago, I knew I was listening to the call God had placed in my heart, but I did not know that the call would in return bring me to this level of refreshing. Stepping out in faith has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined. There is something about serving those God has put in front of you that brings you to a state of renewal. I never want things in my life to become stagnant, and living in Haiti, has certainly kept this from happening...

I will start with five sweet blessings:

Jean - the child that has changed my life forever, the one who has showed me to take nothing for granted (from the air I breathe to the ability to express myself)

Fitson - the happiest child on the planet who has taught me that laughter and joy should be a part of every day life

Denise: the little girl that has showed me that all challenges and obstacles can be overcome

Rose Mica: the precious girl who always reminds me about the innocence of a child

Carlos: the cute boy who has taught me to never give up, to love in the tough times, and that patience is key

The construction has begun on the home that will house the special needs children here at the orphanage. It will be a honor and privilege to be their housemother. Our little family is just beginning...

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." Zechariah 4:10 NLT

As I look at this past year, I am reminded of the hard times. These are the times that God reminded me to trust in Him and give Him glory even in the most difficult days. I have been greatly humbled by the way God comforts. Haiti is surrounded by death, so I knew it wouldn't be long before I had to face it with my own eyes. Sweet little ones like Dianise, Joudliska, Wesnerson, and Junika all went home to heaven. They were ultimately saved from suffering any longer, and this I am grateful for.

I have seen death, but I have also seen miracles in the last year. When Chivensky's shunt (placed for Hydrocephalus) malfunctioned, a neurosurgeon "just happened" to stop by the property to say hi. He was leaving the next day, but we had him look at Chivensky and he performed the brain surgery the day he left! Chivensky would have died within a few days if the surgery didn't happen. I am also reminded of the three days and nights I had Jean across the border in a clinic with severe pneumonia. The nurses told us later that they thought he had died after one of his seizures because he stopped breathing, but God saved his life. Then there is Givensky, a little blind boy in the village, who fell into a fire his blind mother was cooking dinner in. One miracle after another has taken place...

All of this has made me FULL. I have become a better person through it all, and I have been blessed beyond measure. I am thankful for everyone in my life. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I am appreciative to everyone who has come alongside of me. The encouragement, support, and love has been overwhelming from my family and friends in the United States as well as everyone I work with in Haiti. My heart has grown bigger, for sure! It was a year of new beginnings, a year of healing, a year of deeper love. It has certainly been a year to remember and I look forward to another!