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One Year in the Promise House – Part Two

I’m sure what you all really want to read about are updates on our kids, and I love few things more than sharing about our precious little ones.  I should make a disclaimer that though this month (February 8, to be exact) marks one year for Wilson and I in the Promise House, most of the kids have been in the Promise House for two years.  J is the exception as he moved in a little while after the others.  He turned 5 this year which we celebrated with a fun trip to the pool at a nearby hotel.  As his birthday is in August, it marked the halfway point of our year and was a good checkpoint to see how far we had come.

J was a very late walker, and I believe had only been walking a few months when we moved in.  He had the most adorable waddle and would’ve fit right in with Mr. Popper’s penguins.  Over the last year, his walking has gotten much steadier and he now transitions easily between surfaces and terrains.  He has pretty much mastered climbing the playground ladder and can go down the slide all on his own.  Our oldest, L, likes to try helping him up the small inclined rock wall on the other side of the play structure and while he was quite terrible at this at first, he’s actually looking like he might make it up one of these days.  For his birthday, he got a tricycle, the plastic big wheels kind, and at first could barely keep his balance to even sit on it.  He would usually just find his way to the nearest stable object so he could pull himself up and get off.  But now, he will scoot around on that tricycle for an hour at a time.  He still hasn’t figured out pedaling, but his balancing and steering are on point.  The next skill J needs to master is to stand up without pulling on something.  His much preferred method of standing is to plop his bottom on the ground if he is sitting on something and then scoot to the nearest person or piece of furniture and pull himself up.  Now he is able to stand up when sitting on a low stool and if he’s on all fours, he can get into a bear position and then stand up, we just need to get him from his bottom to his hands and knees and he’ll be all set!

Many of the skills we work on with J and the other kids are meant to foster their independence.  Aside from mobility, eating is one area where we’ve been able to do this with J.  A year ago, J was being fed only pureed food.  He would tilt his head back with his mouth open like a little baby bird waiting for mama bird to drop the food in.  He has progressed to regular bite sized pieces of food and with certain foods, like crackers, he can bite off a piece.  When we first started letting him eat with his own hands, he would just pick up every bite and throw it on the ground.  Eventually he started putting them in his mouth, but if he picked up another while his mouth was still full, he would throw the new piece on the ground.  I can’t say he never throws food on the floor anymore but usually I can put a few bites in front of him and he will eat them one at a time.  We’ve done a bit of hand-over-hand with a spoon, but that’s still pretty challenging for J.  He can now drink from a sippy cup without any help, as long as we offer a little guidance to get the cup back on the table when he’s done drinking instead of throwing or dropping it.

By far, experiencing J’s social and emotional progress has been the most wonderful and rewarding.  I read through one of his updates from before we moved in which said he didn’t make eye contact with others.  What I did see in his eyes was a lack of trust, fear, and frustration.  Kids trust fully in their parents, which is why fun games with your little ones include twirling them around and tossing them up in the air.  These activities petrified and paralyzed little J.  His whole body would tense up and try to curl into a ball while he tightly clutched whatever he could.  We took things slowly, allowing his trust to build, and over time we could see him starting to relax, starting to trust us.  It wasn’t long before he was reaching up his hands asking for more and grinning from ear to ear.  J was also very physically aggressive.  It didn’t seem to come from anger, but perhaps frustration at his inability to communicate or just being unaware of his own strength and actions.  For weeks he was pulling out fistfuls of my hair and hitting me or whoever else he came in contact with really hard.  J still gets excited and isn’t always as gentle as he should be, but we see him interacting with the other kids in the house more and more.  He loves to play chase or kick a ball around with M.  He loves to just be a pesky little brother to L, always coming up to him and touching his arm or something, and L is astoundingly patient with him.  And now he’s my best little cuddlebug, nestling his head in my neck and gently stroking my ponytail.  It no longer feels like a grown-up just meeting the basic needs of a young child.  When I’m with our little Jer-Bear (a nickname taken from another little Jer-Bear I adore!) it feels like true love.  I pinch myself all the time because it just doesn’t feel real that I get to be the one taking care of him.

I simply do not understand how our sweet Jer-Bear doesn’t have a forever family yet.  Maybe it’s because they haven’t heard his delightful giggles, or seen his face light up when someone he loves walks in the room, or felt his tender snuggles.  Maybe they just haven’t heard about him yet, so spread the word.  My heart will break in a thousand pieces when he leaves our home, but what J needs is a family that isn’t trying to meet the needs of so many children with such a high level of need.  He needs a family that will love him unconditionally and do everything possible to help him reach his God-given potential.  What J needs might just be you 😉

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 February 12, 2017 in Life in Haiti, Uncategorized, Wilson

 

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

 

significant

significant

When I think about the time a person spends on this earth, compared to the vast span of time and space, we are but a tiny speck.  Our days on earth are like blades of grass, or a wildflower that blooms and dies (Psalm 103).  Think of a giant field or prairie, I’m picturing the drive through Nebraska right now, and how small just one blade of grass or wildflower is.  When we realize how tiny we really are in this world, it’s easy to start thinking that we are also insignificant.  Yet our great big mighty God is acutely aware of each one of us.   Both Matthew and Luke remind us of this; “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins?  Yet God does not forget a single one of them.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”  The story is big, and the story is God’s, but He has given us each a significant role to play in His story.  No role is better or more important, more honorable or noble than another, but God has given each of us a role in His story that He has already suited us perfectly for.  It doesn’t do any good to try to take on someone else’s role, for whatever reason, though Lord knows I’ve tried that before.  But if we listen for His direction, if we step forward when we feel His gentle (or perhaps not so gentle) nudging, we will find joy and pride in carrying out our small but significant part of His story, and we will see Him accomplish more than we could ever ask or imagine.

We’ve shared with you some of our small part in His story, and are so appreciative of all the people whose stories have intersected with ours.  I think God really loves to see His people working together, encouraging one another, sharing our burdens and sharing our joys.  Just in the story of our bus, so many people have been involved and though some of them thing their part in this story is small, each part is truly significant.  From those who helped paint the bus to so mny people who donated items or money to fill the bus with things we need for the Promise House, to our friend Andy Herrera, who didn’t hesitate to take on the task of driving the bus with Wilson to Florida to be shipped.  I asked him about the trip, and I want to share his response with you:

As I think back on the trip, I’m thankful for King’s Church, particularly my community group for the trust and confidence they have in me.  I had the opportunity of a lifetime, to go from Santa Monica, CA to Fort Lauderdale, FL on the Haiti Bound Bus.  The Haiti bus is to help my friends Wilson and Sheila in Haiti.  They are following their mission calling and that is to care for 8 special needs kids.  So when they asked me if I could help them drive the bus to Florida, I could not say no!  To be a part of what they are called to do, what I did was nothing more than a small fraction.  I pray that the Lord would give them the strength every day and that He would watch over them in Haiti.  So for the last time here in the United States… #HaitiBoundBus

-Andy

 What I want to say to Andy is, though you think your part is small, it is certainly not insignificant.  We are following our mission calling, just as you are, and we are grateful God led those callings to intersect.

Our story has also intersected with that of the students at Valley Christian Middle School.  We were able to share about our special kids in Haiti and how they fit into God’s big story at their chapel a few weeks ago.  We also talked about the bus and how it will benefit our kids and ministry and that it would cost $3500 to ship it to Haiti.  Alone, each contribution is small, but together, we can see God do big things and these kids didn’t hesitate to jump into their part of a bigger story.  In a week, they collected just shy of $3000!  This already surpassed our expectations, though I don’t know why we limit God with our expectations.  Then the students asked if the money raised at the 8th grade play’s bake sale could also go toward the bus…another $900!  It may have been tempting to think “I’m just a student, I don’t even have a job, what I can bring won’t make a difference” but let me remind you, God has given you a part in His story that is Significant and He has created you, equipped you, for that purpose.  People sometimes tell Wilson and I that they could never do what we are doing, that we are such good people, that there is a special place for us in Heaven…I’m never quite sure what to say except that we are just following God’s lead in our small part of His story.  Is your heart open to what God might be calling you to do?

 

(we are all called to different things…if you feel led to join our story through financial support, you can give at this link)

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The Hardest Goodbye

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In the process of cleaning out our room and deciding what to bring to Haiti, I came across this journal entry from October 25, 2011, the day I first moved to Haiti.  It brought back a flood of memories, and of course a few tears.  The one regret I have in life, though regret isn’t quite the right word, is that Wilson and Grandma Winnie never got to meet.  Can you imagine those two together?  Wilson reminded me that they will meet in Heaven one day and what a day of joy that will be!

My body is wracked with silent sobs.  It takes more energy to hold them back, but social courtesy tells me that when I’m on an airplane I have to.  I’m still sure going to Haiti was the right choice, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to my family, to my grandma.  Jesus once said, “anyone who loves their family more than me is not worthy of me” (I’m paraphrasing).  Surely he could not have been referring to Grandma.  My relationship with her is something so special, something I hold so dear and saying goodbye to her is like saying goodbye to part of myself.

He must not know my grandma, not know her heart, her generosity, her sense of humor.  Not know the way she loves to hold your hand, sometimes so tight it hurts.  Not know how her response to “How do you feel?” is invariably “with my fingers” and to “Hey!,” “straw is cheaper.”  How she always wants to help and at 88 would rather do dishes and sweep the floor than relax in an easy chair.  How she never picks favorites: not colors, not food, not grandchildren.  How she thinks she ate one brownie, but if you add up all the “hoppies” she edged off, she really ate about six.  How she pokes and pinches to show her affection for you.  How she’s willing to try just about anything, including horseback riding last week.  How she loves our sleepovers and always threatens to kick me out of bed during the night.  How she starts the day as soon as her eyes open, making the bed and getting dressed when I’d much rather be sleeping.  How we get the giggles and just can’t stop.  How she enjoys practical jokes, especially short-sheeting my brother’s bed.  How she gives love, hugs, and kisses freely.  How she tried to tie me to the doorknob with my laptop power cord so I couldn’t move away.

Only a few months after this, my grandma passed away.  Her life was one that touched countless others.  I strive to be like her, to love God with unwavering devotion and to love others without reservation.  Hers was the hardest goodbye, and though I still grieve, there is peace in knowing we will meet again.  I love you, Grandma.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A trip to the market

There are certain things I am just terrible at, and I’ve come to embrace the reality that grocery shopping is one of them.  It usually takes me a couple hours as I hem and haw over the gajillion brands and varieties of each product, trying to balance cost and quality with the list in my hand.  I’m currently eating a Cheerio’s knockoff that tastes a lot like cardboard because my money-saving tendencies got the best of me on my last trip to the grocery store.  I know no one is surprised.  Never mind multitasking.  If my phone rings while I’m grocery shopping, I either wander in useless circles or stop moving altogether.

Yet for some reason I always think I will like going to the market in Haiti.  About three umbrellas in, I remember how I really feel about it.  To be fair, it’s pretty similar to how I feel about any bustling marketplace or busy city that some people seem to really enjoy.  I was on a mission to get these photos but after the first couple shots, I gave Wilson the camera and clung to his shirt while he finished the tour and bought some potatoes.  There is a section of the market for meat, but Wilson buys more locally when he knows someone is butchering so it’s not sitting in the sun all day before we get it.  We’ll leave out the rest of my biased thoughts and just let you experience the Haitian market through these pictures:

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It’s the opposite of Costco…buy only what you need right now.

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A whole street filled with chickens was a bit overwheming and I’m not sure why they have those colored markings

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Charcoal

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Those are cashews on the right

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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

God is like a mango

It is definitely mango season in Haiti.  We stopped on the side of the road on the way home from the airport because Wilson knows how much I enjoy his mango smoothies.  We payed 50 gourdes for 14 mangoes which is a little over $1 USD.  Not a typo, they are actually that cheap!

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I remember that song we sang in middle school youth group (Any of you go to EDGE with me?)

“I like bananas

I know that mangoes are sweet

I like papayas

but nothing can beat the sweet love of God”

If you were here right now you’d hear me singing it to make sure I got all the words right.  Back then we practically yelled it.  Believe it or not, I don’t think I had even eaten a mango or a papaya at that point.  I probably couldn’t even pick them out in the produce section of the grocery store.  They sounded exotic and tropical and if someone had bothered to write song lyrics about them, they probably really were quite sweet.  At some point in my teens or 20’s I’m sure I tried them but I can’t specifically recall.

But then I moved to Haiti.  Oh, Haitian mangoes, how sweet thou tasteth upon my tongue!  Until you have had a fresh Haitian mango, I don’t think you can really sing about the sweetness of this delightful fruit.  There are no utensils involved when eating these mangoes, just get it started with your teeth or maybe a fingernail and peel that skin right off.  The Baptiste variety (no idea where the name came from) is probably closest to what you are used to here in boring-fruit-land, but the mangoes by our house, I don’t think you could cut them if you tried.  Once the peel is down, you literally just suck the juice right out of it.  It’s hard to describe just how sweet and delicious it is.  The flesh is a little stringy, but you can floss later.  The sweet sticky juice will be running down your chin and your fingers, but you can wash them later.  Just give yourself this moment to revel in the delectable experience of eating a Haitian mango.

Now, I know that mangoes are sweet.

God is like a mango.  Ok, that sounds ridiculous but hear me out.  If someone bothered to write about the love of God in the Bible, it probably really is quite sweet.  And you would be right to believe that.  I believed mangoes were sweet because the knowledge and experience of others had told me it was so.  But until I ate a mango for myself, dove in to that sweet, sticky, succulent experience, I didn’t fully understand or appreciate it.  Hearing about the love of God is one thing, but experiencing it?  Stopping the whirlwind of your life long enough to really understand and appreciate the sweet, deep, and unconditional love of God?  You’ll keep coming back for more.

Just give yourself this moment to revel in the breathtaking experience of God’s sweet, sweet love.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

God speaks

It’s a feeling in my gut that I can’t ignore.  A mixture of excitement and fear, my insides are doing wild happy dances that leave it tied up in nauseating knots.  There is a sense of certainty to it, both what it is and where it came from.  The uncertainty is in the where it’s going exactly.  Sometimes I pay attention and sometimes I distract myself or rationalize it away.  The latter often results in disappointment and regret but the former, well, the former is hard to describe.  It can be unpredictable, dangerous, unruly, terrifying, and there will more than likely be some times you wonder why on earth you have chosen that path, chosen to heed that deep gut feeling, perhaps even questioned its origin.  But it is also indescribably beautiful, invigorating, joyful, and fulfilling, and there will more than likely be some times you wonder why on earth you ever questioned its origin.  This is how God speaks to me.

Some friends and I went down to Lake Michigan one day during college.  There was an older man sitting at the edge of the water fishing; he looked like the kind of guy who probably had trouble making ends meet.  My eyes kept being drawn toward him and it didn’t take long for that unmistakable feeling to settle into the pit of my stomach.  Like the butterflies flitting around in my stomach had grabbed hold of the newly formed knots there and pulled me gently, firmly, then fervently toward him.  I debated in my mind for what felt like hours but what was probably only a few moments.  What was I planning to do when I got over there?  What would I say to him?  Wouldn’t it be incredibly awkward and probably pointless?  I walked over and sat down next to the man and to this day I have no idea what I said to him.  But a few minutes later he was reading to me from a large stack of tattered loose-leaf notebook pages his own poetry for God, a sort of personal Psalms he had created.  Maybe he had read them to everyone he knew, maybe he read them only to me.  I don’t remember anything specific about his poems, and after a while we parted ways, but I had a vivid impression of the feeling I had and a certainty that it had come from God.  It was like a dry run, a scrimmage, for God to teach me, to remind me, what His voice sounded like in my life and a chance to practice paying attention.

Last week God spoke to me again.  His voice is not audible to me, but clear nonetheless, at least if I’m not tuning it out.  I’ll give you a little context.  We were finishing up our second round of interviews for the research project and our friend Inelson was helping us out again.  The neighbor of our last participant popped his head in the door right at the end of the interview and asked if he could help her answer the last few questions.  He shared with us some very logical and insightful thoughts on the inefficiencies of their farming systems and his vision for a better rural Haiti.  God has made Haiti a very fertile land, but Haitians still struggle to really reap its benefits.  Ha! Pun intended J

We were talking to Inelson about everything on our way home and he shared with us his own dream.  Inelson graduated from high school about 3 years ago and has wanted to study agriculture in a university ever since.  But he’s never gotten that opportunity, never even been close.  In asking what he would want to do with that university education, he did not mention any sort of personal gain, didn’t talk about the money he could make or anything like that.  What does Inelson want to do?  He wants to take his education back to his village and teach his neighbors what he learned.  Terrifyingly excited butterfly dances ensued.  I’ve felt that before!  I know what that is!  I know who that is!  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.  A rush of thoughts, plans, questions, butterflies, knots.  Can you see where this is headed?

We talked together after bringing Inelson home, and here’s what Wilson and I knew God was saying to us.  I tell you this for two reasons, by the way.  First, because sharing our own experiences can remind and encourage others to fix their eyes on things above.  Second, because we want to give you the opportunity to get involved.  I’m like giddy-excited about this and it seems selfish to try to keep it to myself.  But back to the idea He planted in us:

We have committed to paying for Inselson to attend the Christian University of North Haiti where he will enroll in the 5-year agricultural program.  We will stay in close touch with him throughout that time so we are aware of his progress, his needs, and can continue to build our friendship with him and encourage him in his faith.  We don’t know what else may develop but we are open to wherever God takes us.  It’s certainly not a quick fix but that’s not what we’re after.  Maybe a time will come when we can provide them with farming equipment they need.  Maybe someone or a group of people will need a loan to begin using new knowledge and techniques.  Maybe one of you will have a unique skill or area of expertise that can cross a bridge or fill a gap.  “Bondye konnen”, “God knows.”  We will just take the first step He has shown us.  I just pictured playing Super Mario Bros 2 on my Gameboy.  Wow, how long ago was that?!  Even though you only see what’s on that little pixilated screen you just keep running full speed ahead cause you know there’s a little bell to ring somewhere off in the distance.  We should all be a little more like Gameboy Mario, or really like ourselves controlling Gameboy Mario.  You may only see one small step ahead of you, but you just have to trust God and move forward.  I bought a shirt on clearance at Old Navy the other day (cause that’s the only way I’ll buy clothes these days!) and it said “Beautiful things are on the horizon.”  I’m telling you, what God has in store is far more beautiful than Mario’s little bell.

Are you in?  Do you want to be part of Inelson’s story?  Part of God’s story?  Get in touch with me via commenting below, facebook, Sheila.chery@outlook.com, or when you see me face-to-face and I’ll answer any questions you might have and be open to whatever God is saying to you about all this.  Most of you probably won’t feel called to this specific endeavor, but Wilson and I are committed regardless of who, if anyone, joins us.  We will also be continually listening to God for other opportunities and if you listen closely He may be sharing a completely different vision with you.  The seriously ridiculous part of this vision is that one year of tuition, room, and board for Inelson is in the ballpark of $800.  Yeah, I know!  For everyone who loathes math, that’s only $4,000 for the entire 5-year program and covers his living expenses during that time.  So we need to start praying Now that Inelson is accepted into this competitive program, that God would remain the focus and driving force in this and all our endeavors, that we would all stay attentive to His voice and have the faith to take the next step into the unknown.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized