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J is 5!

It sure seems like a lot of my posts are about birthdays, but with 8 kids, birthdays happen pretty often.  And I hope it’s a good way for you to get a closer look at each of these wonderful kids as we celebrate them!

I first met J at an orphanage in Port Au Prince during my first go-around with COTP.  The orphanage was closing and while IBESR (Haitian social services) was able to find placements for all the “regular” kids, nobody would take the kids with special needs.  I went down to meet him and see if we could care for him at COTP.  Um, YES! All I remember was an adorable boy scooting all over the place on his bottom, and the rest is history🙂

The rest is actually a wonderful story of love and progress and potential and milestones.  J turned 5 last month and we celebrated by taking him to a nearby hotel for swimming and lunch.  How grown-up he seems now!  We still love snuggling and he likes to be held, but J walked all by himself from the truck to the pool. At lunch, we didn’t have to spoon-feed him and he didn’t eat pureed food.  With some encouragement along the way, J ate the same food we were eating, putting it in his own mouth and chewing it.  We felt like such proud parents!

Playtime in the water was really fun with J.  He was a little unsure at first, but gradually loosened his grip on me and Wilson and soon his eyes were sparkling and he was getting more adventurous.  It was a really warm day, but being in the water made his little teeth chatter uncontrollably.  If J wasn’t cute enough to begin with, chattering J is over-the-top adorable!

His birthday was rounded out with a gift from my parents, a little tikes tricycle!  He hasn’t gotten the hang of the pedals yet, but likes to cruise around on it and it is great balance practice for him.

 

We are incredibly blessed by each of the kids we are privileged to care for.  J is no exception and we hope that you are blessed by him in some way as well.

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Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

L is 10!

It’s birthday time in the Promise House again, which is a great reason for me to break my 3 month blog silence.  Sorry about that!  If you want guaranteed updates more frequently, let me know if you want to be added to our e-mail list.  We send out a monthly e-mail, without fail, because my mom and sister will hound me until I write it!🙂

Anyway, back to L and his 10TH BIRTHDAY!  I still remember the day L came to live with us at COTP and it has been a great joy to be part of his life and part of his journey since then.  What a long way he has come!  After a Fourth of July party at a missionary guest house with a pool last month, we discovered how much L liked being in the water, so it worked out perfectly that the group of volunteers visiting that week needed a driver/chaperone for their trip to the beach on Saturday.  If you see any extraneous white people in these photos, that’s them.  They were lovely.

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Boy, do I look pale. But look at those two handsome boys!

 

After some fun in the water, we took a little break in the lounge chairs up on the beach.  Immediately, L saw all the sand stuck to his feet and wanted to wash them off.  It only took him one time rinsing them off at the water’s edge and climbing back up to the chairs to realize that plan was not going to be sustainable.  But gradually, he got used to the sand, and it didn’t bother him as much by the end of the day.

We ate lunch at the hotel restaurant just a short distance from the water.  My favorite thing that L does right now is pray for our meals.  Sometimes he is praying along with us, sometimes he just starts praying because we’re taking too long and he wants to eat.  We usually can’t understand more than a few words of what he is saying, but it’s different each time and we can pick out phrases in Kreyol like “Thank you Lord” and “Jesus, I’m praying”.  Of course the “Amen” at the end is always very clear!  He was not deterred in the least by a table full of people and jumped right in to pray before lunch.

I wish I had snapped a picture, but we found an old cell phone in the sand under the water that became L’s new phone.  He kept it in his pocket for days and would take it out now and then to make a pretend call, which was pretty adorable.  We did take the phone away after I retrieved a piece of the broken plastic that he had put in his ear.  It’s definitely not the first thing I’ve taken out of L’s ears and I’m sure it won’t be the last😉

After a big day out, L fell asleep in the truck on the way home.  We’re not sure if he really understood that it was his birthday, but I’m pretty certain that he knew he was special and that he was loved.

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I love these two!

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 
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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in birthdays, Sheila, The Kiddos, Wilson

 

J is 9!

J is 9!

We have finished celebrating all the May birthdays, which concluded with our oldest nanny, Yvonne, and our second oldest child, J.  At the start of the day, neither of them had any idea it was their birthday, but by the end of the day, I think both felt loved and honored.  It was a preschool day for J, and his teacher, Melissa, made him a birthday crown to wear and had all the kids sing Happy Birthday to him.  She said he was grinning from ear to ear!  He had yet to stop smiling when he got home from preschool and just had this gleam in his eye like he knew the day was all about him.

As I’ve mentioned before, eating can sometimes be challenging for J, so we decided to have lunch at the house before heading out.  Wilson and I took him to the same hotel where we celebrated R’s birthday a few weeks prior, but to the new pool on the other side of the grounds.

In the Promise House, we have four mobile (either walking or scooting) kids, and four more immobile kids, for lack of a better word.  J is unique because he seems to be the only one of our “immobile” kids who loves high energy play.  We had the best time getting smiles and laughs from J while playing in the pool.  We were able to get some video and if you listen closely, you can hear J talking.   We say he speaks whale, like Dori in Finding Nemo, because that’s what his adorable voice sounds like.  We actually watched that with the kids and nannies the other day and I guess I had forgotten what a tiny part of the movie that whale is! (sorry I don’t know how to rotate the movie so it is upright!)

We had some time for relaxing and lounging, too, which he also enjoyed and gave our arms some rest from all the heavy lifting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’re trying to do here, so I looked back at our vision for the Promise House:

The Promise House will be a place where children considered weaker or less honorable by society are treated with special honor.  We will create a stable, Christ-centered home, where each child is loved, encouraged, and supported as we help them reach their full potential.  We delight in these children and their special challenges and hope to inspire the Haitian communities around us to do the same.

In addition to celebrating each child’s birthday, these outings are one way we can work toward the latter part of our vision, inspiring the Haitian communities around us to take delight in people considered by society to be weaker or less honorable.  They were still landscaping around the pool where we were playing with J, so there were several Haitian men watching us throughout the afternoon.  Whether they thought J was our biological child or suspected that we worked at an orphanage, they could see J being treated with love and special honor.  I can’t guess their thoughts or how they may have been affected, but I pray that God would use us to show others the inherent value in Every Single Person.  Inherent value simply because we are made and loved by a God who does not make mistakes.  J, we thank God every day that he chose us to care for you in this time and place and we pray that you would know just how valuable you truly are.  Happy birthday!

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Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 
 

M is 8!

M is 8!

May is a month of many birthdays in the Promise House, which started with R turning 5!  Last weekend, we had a great time celebrating  M’s 8th birthday.  If you know M at all, you know that a slow, relaxing day is not what he’s looking for.  M is always full of energy, smiles, and mischief.  Though he can’t walk without quite a bit of assistance, and has pretty limited use of the left side of his body, not much slows M down.  He has literally worn through the bum of all his shorts from scooting all over the house and outside.  Needless to say, we knew we needed an exciting new experience to share with M for his birthday.

Enter Wilson’s cousin and his two horses, saddled up an d ready to ride.

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M was actually a little wary at first and tried to keep his distance, but once we started petting the horses together and talking to them, he warmed up quickly and got the spark back in his eyes.

The first part of the ride, M was with me, switching to Wilson’s horse halfway through.  His giddiness was contagious and his giggles were a joy to hear.  M really seemed to love every minute of his special birthday outing.  It was also a great reminder of the beauty that surrounds us, though we often don’t have or take the time to appreciate it.  This ride was all less than a mile from our house.

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Back at the house, he opened the gift my parents had sent for him, a monkey that rolls around with music and lights…exactly the kind of toy he loves!  Just when you think he couldn’t get his face any closer to the lights, he does just that, and is mesmerized.

Living with eight kids who require the level of care that ours do, we often feel that we are just running around getting things done.  It is so great when we realize that we really are getting to know our kids little by little.  We have the honor of showing them more and more of the world around them and the unique potential within them.

Happy birthday, M!  We love you and your bright smile!

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Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 
 

R is 5!

R is 5!

It’s birthday time in the Promise House again!  We have three May birthdays, and the first to be celebrated was R’s (we are not to be using their names online).  She is usually a pretty low-key little girl, so it was nice to get her out of the house where she can sometimes be overshadowed by all the boys.  After N’s birthday in March, we decided that individual outings were the best way to celebrate birthdays in our home, so we did not stress about planning a party this time.  Instead, we escaped for a few hours to a little oasis called Villa Cana to celebrate R turning 5!  I’m not sure how I didn’t know it existed until a couple weeks ago, but it’s a nice hotel with a restaurant and a lovely swimming pool just 30 minutes away from Children of the Promise.  We had the pool to ourselves on a beautiful sunny day followed by lunch on the poolside patio that was also practically empty.  R was very relaxed and seemed to really enjoy the water.  The nannies usually give her sponge baths as they think fully bathing her will give her a seizure, so I wasn’t sure how she would like getting water in her ears or on her face, but R didn’t mind it at all!  You could just feel some of her tension melting away as she let herself float in the water with us.  Most of the time, R is pretty quiet and the noises she does make often seem like involuntary reactions to different stimuli, so my favorite part of the day was hearing her soft, happy coos as her head rested on my shoulder and she floated so gently in the water.  She even seemed to enjoy riding in the car, smiling all the way there and all the way home.  Though we would consider the outing relaxing, it was a lot of activity for R and she fell asleep as soon as we got home and slept most of the afternoon.  We hope you enjoy some pictures from our birthday celebration.  We’ve finally been pulling out some of the clothes we brought down on the bus, so some of you might recognize her adorable birthday dress, sandals, or the swimsuit that fit her just perfectly!  Thank you for outfitting R’s 5th birthday!

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Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 

The value of short-term mission trips

Short-term mission trips (I will not even try to address the PC-ness of this term) have taken a lot of flak lately, from the mild label of ineffective to the harsher criticism that these types of trips are downright harmful to those they try to serve. I took my fair share of short-term service trips before moving to Haiti full-time and I have seen a lot of groups come and go during my time here.  I’ve read and researched and tried to figure out the best approach not only to these shorter trips, but to our long-term strategies as well.  It’s not easy, folks.  Not at all.  I have seen plenty of short-term trips gone wrong: the-savior-complex, the-i-could-do-it-better-than-you’re-doing-it-judgments, the-get-as-much-work-done-as-humanly-possible-approach, the-touch-me-change-me-give-me-a-spiritual-high-mindset.  More come to mind, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.  All those flawed attitudes put aside, there is much potential value to short-term missions that should not be overlooked.   While most of the child homes here are pretty spread out, the Promise House is the first floor of the short-term volunteer house.  I’ll be honest, sometimes this can be a little, well, annoying.  They’re just always right there, you know?  Looking in on our life like a little fish bowl.  A fish bowl that’s still getting set up, cleaned, filtered, and all the little fish are still getting to know each other.  “Why is he crying?” is not a question I want to answer regularly.  My kids can’t communicate.  Chances are, I don’t actually know why he’s crying.  I digress.  I wanted to talk about the VALUE of short-term missions.  I have been reminded of this with a few of our recent groups and have been thinking about it a lot.  What did they do differently?  How was their approach to the trip unlike the others?  In no particular order, here are some of the things that come to mind…

  1. Successful short-term trips bless the missionary, in order to bless the mission. And I don’t just say this because I’m the missionary and I like to be blessed.  Though I do J  But mission is founded on relationships, work over time, understanding culture, fostering dignity and independence rather than giving-to and doing-for people.  The missionaries on the ground are trying to do this.  And it’s hard, tiring, sometimes discouraging work.  Blessing the missionary encourages them, gives them reprieve, and fuels them to keep on keeping on.  How did these groups bless the missionaries here?  The last group asked me more times than any other how they could specifically pray for us and our home.  And then prayed for us right then and there.  What a blessing!  The same group and the one before them brought little gifts of things they know we can’t easily get here.  A block of cheese, a tub of sour cream, chocolate, nice shower gel or hand soap, jerky, to name a few.  What a blessing!  They also provided meals for us.  Sometimes for us to get away from our “jobs” and eat together, sometimes a meal for our whole house so we didn’t have to worry about cooking for the kids that night either.  When you have a house full of people and limited ingredients and cooking skills, it is so nice to have a few nights that we d0n’t have to put a thought or a minute into making dinner.  What a blessing!
  2. Successful short-term trips help how they are needed, not how they want to. You might have in mind that since you are coming to an orphanage, you would like to cuddle and play with adorable children.  You might think you would be most helpful building this or painting that or feeding hungry neighbors.  And maybe some of the things you have in mind actually are helpful.  But to recognize that they might not be, that is the key.  A recent volunteer was helping us clean the kids’ rooms (not very glamorous and lacking in cute photo ops) when we discovered bed bugs.  So what did she do?  She researched the process of getting rid of bed bugs, gave us the cliff notes, and went online and ordered everything we would need to take care of the problem.  I’m willing to bet she didn’t plan her trip to Haiti thinking this is what she would be doing, but the need arose, and she met that need.  What a blessing!  Another recent volunteer is a physical therapist.  Instead of coming down with her own agenda full of unrealistic plans and expectations, and a list of equipment that is very impractical to us here, she talked with us many times before her trip and worked with us throughout the trip to see how her skills might be most helpful to our kids.  What did they actually need and what would be sustainable for us?  We now have a wonderful therapy room that is used daily and serves every home on campus.  What a blessing!
  3. Successful short-term trips bring something to the table that’s not already on the table. Taking work away from local people is a valid criticism of short-term service trips.  But there are some things the local people may not be able to offer.  If there are not enough skilled physical therapists in the area, you may be a huge help in that area.  Considering the needs of our kids, what a blessing!  Wilson and I attend Haitian church most Sunday mornings.  But sometimes worship in English is just what my soul needs, and a short-term volunteer can probably fill this need better than our Haitian neighbors.  What a blessing!  Exposing our kids to new and enriching experiences is also valuable.  A recent team had amazing musical talents and provided a special time of music with a guitar and violin in each of the child homes.  What a blessing!
  4. Successful short-term trips are just the beginning. There is value in the trip itself, but many times, the trip is the point when the individual becomes fully invested in the mission.  It’s hard to hear about something from afar and really catch the vision and discern how you can be a part of it.  But to see for yourself how the child home model is benefiting our kids, to see for yourself how the Promise House needs to be retrofitted to actually be accessible to those living in it, to see for yourself how God is living and moving in this place, to see for yourself is powerful.  When you see for yourself, you continue to pray for those you met, you share about your experience and get others involved, you sponsor a child or a missionary, you find yourself brainstorming ways to help overcome the obstacles you saw.  There is no limit to how God will use those two weeks of your life: a family in the process of adopting one of COTP’s kiddos is visiting right now, and the start of that journey was a short-term trip three years ago.  What a blessing!  There’s always my own story to illustrate this point.  My own life of parenting children with special needs in Haiti began with a series of short-term mission trips.  What a blessing!

Another tidbit that comes to mind but doesn’t really constitute a whole bullet point is how important it is that short-termers realize that while this is a trip for them, it is home for us.  Yes, you want to make your time worthwhile and work from sunup to sundown, but we do this every day of every week of every month…you get the picture.  We need breaks.  With the last group that was here, every time I interacted with someone, especially if it was inside our own home, they thanked me for allowing them into our home, allowing them to be a part of our lives here.  I didn’t quite realize how important this was to me until this group verbalized it so consistently.  Does it need to be said every time?  Of course not, but we can tell if you have that frame of mind.  If, on the other hand, you come down to knock on my bedroom door after dark to ask me about something that is definitely not an emergency, you are probably interrupting “funny business” (This has really happened.  Two thumbs down), or my sleep, or just time away from all the people all the time.  Okay, that probably could have been a whole bullet point.  And it is bringing to mind a few other things I’d like short-termers to know, but maybe I will save that all for another post.

The point here is that we do appreciate individuals and groups who visit us for a short time, volunteering their time and utilizing their resources to make the trip happen.  There is value in short-term missions, but value is not incidental, it doesn’t just happen.  It takes mindful people, clothed in humility, prayerfully seeking to participate in God’s work on the mission field.

I would love to answer any questions you may have if there is even the slightest tug on your heart to embark on a short-term trip in the future.  And I hope this is an encouragement, rather than a deterrent, to some of you considering taking a trip down to Haiti to visit us, or wherever else you might feel called to go.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Life in Haiti, Sheila, Support, Travel

 

N is Seven!

N is Seven!

So it turns out I’m not a birthday party kind of mom.  I was never really sure and could picture myself either way, but it has been confirmed.  The pressure to make everyone happy and keep the celebrated child from melting down at their own party.  The pressure to get all the right photos at all the right times.  The pressure to make a perfect cake that is both delicious and cute and suits the child.  I thrive under certain kinds of pressure.  These kinds do not make me thrive.  They make me want to crawl into a hole and hide for a while.

I gave it a shot, the whole birthday party thing.  It wasn’t a disaster.  It wasn’t fun either, at least not for me, and apparently not for the birthday boy who spent most of the time wailing.  But thankfully the party was only a little slice of our day, a day spent celebrating a very special boy who just turned 7 YEARS OLD!  Which brings me back to the reason I’m writing this blog post in the first place: N!  Our beloved N.  He is silly and loves to laugh.  He can make himself laugh for no reason at all.  To the unfamiliar eye, he may seem lazy, but we know he is just a laid-back kind of guy.  Which is why a trip to the beach was the perfect outing for him.  This was N’s first time at the beach, and he loved all of it.  The sand, the water, the nap in the shade, even the hour and a half drive each way.  And it was great for Wilson and I to spend some quality time with just him, getting to know him better, and reminding him how loved he is.  But I’ll keep the chitchat to a minimum and just show some fun pictures of our day.

This was our first birthday celebration in the Promise House.  I stressed all week about that stinkin’ birthday party, planning and Pinteresting.  The beach was a last minute decision but was what made the day so special for N.  He didn’t care that I burned the cake so badly that we had to cut a bunch off and hide it with purple frosting.  But he also wouldn’t have cared if I made a cake that won Cake Wars.  (Is that still/ever a thing?)

 

He could not have cared less about his presents—though that guitar has kept M quiet for DAYS, mom, so money well spent ;)—and he didn’t seem to notice who was or wasn’t at his party.  So it turns out I’m not a birthday party kind of mom.  But I don’t think I have to be.  I’m just a quality time kind of mom, getting to know her kids, and reminding them how loved they are.  Next time, we’ll just skip the party🙂

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.