Sunday, December 29, 2013

Meet our "Aunts"

One of the things I was dreading when we moved to Haiti was sharing my home, and more specifically my kitchen, with other women.  I consider myself a fairly private person and I like my space.  I love to spend time with people and talk and laugh and get to know others, but then I like to retreat and be quiet.  I was not nearly as nervous about caring for five extra children as I was getting to know five Haitian women.  I was nervous about the language barrier, how we would do things, how we would deal with differences, and what our relationships would be like.  The first time I met the two women that were to be our main two "tants" as we call them, I really liked them, but was still very nervous.  How would this work?  What if our personalities were way too different?  What if I could never communicate with them?

Our first few weeks were rough in that we didn't know much Creole and so much of the time we couldn't even communicate with one another.  The aunts work 24 hour shifts so I started to relish the time that the two that were working would leave and the few minutes it took for the two that were coming to get here.  It was the only time I could have in my kitchen without people looking over my shoulder.  It was silly, because it was only a few minutes, but I really did love it.

One of the things I really loved in the States was to prepare healthy, good meals for my family.  I loved planning meals for the week and using different ingredients and trying new recipes.  Now I had to plan meals for fourteen people every day and try to talk with the aunts about what they liked and wanted to prepare when I didn't even know what was all available and the words for many of the foods.  This was one of my most challenging adjustments to living in Haiti.  I took two of the aunts with me to market one day and had no idea what some of the things they were buying were.  I was not used to the conditions you walk through and how you barter and the condition the meat is in.  It was stressful and I was not looking forward to the process of buying food and preparing meals every day.

I also had to figure out how to manage the household.  Who would do what chores: Bathing and feeding children, putting them to bed, washing dishes, preparing meals, cleaning, laundry, etc.  How would we do things....obviously we are all different and have been managing our own homes for years.    Their homes are very different than mine.  How would that impact the way they would work here?Now we all needed to work together and compromise.

I can honestly say after several months of working with and living along side these women we have grown to really love one another.  I look forward to seeing them each morning, and really missed them when we were in the States in October.  We laugh together often.  We laugh at the children, at each other, and can even tease one another at times.  Even though my Creole is still very basic, we can communicate most things that we need to function in the home and ask for help when we cannot.  We have cried together and supported one another when struggling.  We help one another and can tell when one of us is tired or not feeling well.  I have met several of their family members, and really love to see them together.  I don't always love the food they prepare, and I am sure they don't always love mine, but we survive together.  They clean differently than I do, but I have learned to be flexible and just be happy that things are done.  We have found a way to make things work even when we might do things differently.  We are a family that functions through the good and the bad.

Just recently Dan and I took each of the women that works in our home out for lunch.  It was such a great time of fun and great conversation.  We took our friend Toto along so he could help us translate.  We talked about their Christmas traditions and their families.  We enjoyed eating together without having to help children and talking with no interruptions.  It was fun to see them get dressed up and have a special day out.  We prayed together and laughed a lot.  We gave them each a Christmas gift and they in turn told me that they all wanted to come together to get the kitchen ready for Christmas.  They cleaned and scrubbed together and blessed us so much.

When I think about the day when we will one day leave Haiti, I know that these women will be among the top reasons that I will struggle.  Our hearts have been knit together in a way I didn't expect.  They love my family even though they see us at our worst and they have worked so hard to make this home run smoothly.  I love them and I told them the day that we took them to lunch that I didn't know I would love them as much as I do.  They in turn shared that even though the work is harder in our home than in the baby house, they love working together as a family.  Here are a couple of pictures from that day.

Tant Zazou, Tant Monia, Tant Evane, Tant Isline, Tant Lunise

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Cold weather" pictures

Some of the other international staff assured me a while back that there would be times when it would be cold enough to wear "footie pajamas".  I was skeptical but said, "sure, bring some over".  It has been pleasantly cool in the evenings for a few weeks now.  It still is quite warm during the day, but overall quite comfortable.  Definitely the best time of year to live in Haiti.  (If you want to schedule a visit for next year, do it for this time of year!)  Anyway, I am still quite comfortable in my shorts and tshirts most evenings, and once in a while I pull my blanket on for a couple of hours in the night.  Otherwise it is great with just a sheet.

The other night, after all the Willis children had bathed and put on their shorts for bed....the boys without shirts, Dan and I were helping with baths for our Haitian kids and the aunts broke out the sleepers.  Wow.  Sleepers.  I think it had to be between 75 and 80 degrees....and after helping eight kids get their baths, I was sweating.  But I went along with it because they looked so cute!!!  And Zion Hope wanted warm pajamas so I dug a pair out for her.  I even made our aunts hot chocolate later that evening.  I took some photos because who knows how many times this will happen.....hopefully several more before it gets too hot again!  Enjoy!

 They were all trying to convince Paco to smile....Loudena and Zion are forever "mothering" all the boys, and I am pretty sure Jacob and Fritzlin were joining in for this picture.

Zeke is giving you all the "peace" sign.  
Isaiah often goes to Paco even before me in the morning.  He loves to make Paco laugh and smile.

 After worship in the evening, Dan often ends up on the floor with a child or ten on top of him.

They look pretty happy in their cozy pj's!!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Post by Jadyn Grace


I (Jadyn) have been wanting to write a blog post fo
r quite some time now, but I have been very busy and I guess it just hasn't been on the top of my list.

One   of my favorite hobbies here is doing art  and activities with the kids. Last week, one of the volunteers brought over a box of therapy activities for the kids. The box contained homemade therapy balls, puzzles, straws, and lots of other things. One of the kids' favorite things was the flubber. Fritzlin and Loudena loved it.  Jacob was not so sure of it until I started rubbing it on his fingers.........I think he liked the coolness of it.  Ezechiel probably loved it the most out of all of them. He kept squishing it between his fingers  Paco absolutely hated it and screamed every time we touched him with it. He had NOTHING to do with it!  Overall, I think it was a big hit. Thank you to all of the people who put together that box of fun! -                             


Hope of Heaven

Many of you know that we named our youngest daughter Zion Hope to remind us of the hope we have in heaven.  We know that although we were created to live life to the fullest here on earth, this is not our home.  Our home is in heaven where we will live forever in perfect peace.  We have three babies waiting for us there and countless family and friends.  The truth of our desire for heaven is becoming more and more apparent as we live in Haiti.  Not necessarily because we have encountered more death, but because of the relationships that come and go on a very regular basis.

When we lived in the States we did have to say goodbye to people from time to time.  We had moved to Lake City as a family, but were still fairly close to Grand Rapids.  The goodbyes never seemed as final as they do here.  Volunteers, adoptive families, and other people come to visit COTP on a regular basis.  Children go home to be with their forever families.  Sometimes it feels like we are bonding with people and building relationships, only to say "goodbye" much too soon.  I had been feeling it this week, and then Malachi, our seven year old, expressed it also.  "It feels like people just keep falling out of my life."  This past week alone he said goodbye to a boy that was here to volunteer with his family, one of his "favorite" baby house children who went home with her forever family, her brothers who he played with while they were here, and one of his close friends who also went home with his new forever family.  He loves people deeply, and struggles with missing friends and family back home, and then also saying goodbye to new friends.  While we realize that we will indeed see some of these people again, in reality we will not connect with many of them this side of heaven.  We meet so many people we would love to have close relationships with but we know that we will likely never live near most of them.  

We have developed close relationships with the aunts that work in our home, and they see us every day in the good and in the bad.  They probably know us better than many of you!  I still don't love having people in my home 24 hours a day, but I have grown to love these women and we have laughed and cried together despite our language barrier.  

We are also very aware that as we grow closer and closer in relationship with the children we are caring for, it will get more and more difficult to say goodbye to them.  They are precious to us and as we experience highs and lows with them, we pray that they will soon be able to experience those things with their forever families.  Please pray with us that those families will hear God's calling on them to consider adoption.  

As you pray for us we would love you to pray for our relationships to be sweet and our fellowship to be honoring to God.  We know that there will be many goodbyes, but we are so grateful for the people God places in our lives.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Birthday time

The members of the triple threat are now all three years old!  Loudena's birthday was in July, Zion Hope's was last week, and Fritzlin's is this week.  I am not sure what is more challenging.....three 2 year olds or three 3 year olds, but they sure are cute!  They are playing together quite well these days, and Zion talked about them all the time while we were in the States.  I wish I would have taken their picture together today, but alas, other things were calling my name.  Like six toddlers getting ready for birthday cake, and many more children here to celebrate.  I did get a few of the birthday twins. Hope you enjoy!

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

Home in Haiti

Once again it has been too long since I have posted.  As most of you know, we are back in Haiti after a fun filled trip to the United States.  Dan's surgery went well and we enjoyed seeing many people that we really miss.  We would have loved seeing more of our friends and having more time with the people we did see, but time just did not allow it.  Those of you we missed, we would love to have you come visit us in Haiti!  Currently we are adjusting to life in Haiti once again....the heat, the busyness of our household, the food, and we are back to the books! 

At times it is difficult to reconcile the differences of our two homes.  There are many.  The poverty is immensely real, we do not understand many things about the culture, much of the food is different and prepared in ways we aren't accustomed to, and it is still really hot at the end of October.  However, the people are people we have grown to love as we love our friends in America.  Many of them are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Some are people we long to see come to Christ.  Five of them are little children entrusted to our care.  Sometimes it is difficult to imagine handing them over to someone else to raise, but we pray for that day often.  We are confident that God led us to Haiti and are excited to see what He has planned for us in the next year. 

We believe we have returned with renewed vigor and a sense for JOY in each day.  Life is not easy, but we have learned much from our Haitian friends....they often display much patience and joy even in the most difficult circumstances.

Please pray with us that we will live each day for Christ and be gospel minded.  Pray for health emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Pray for wisdom for the many requests we receive for help.  Pray for joy to reign in our home.  Pray that our Haitian children will be matched with their forever families soon.  Thank you as always for your prayers and support!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Travel Plans

Some of you may have heard rumors that the Willis family will be traveling soon.  Many of you have not because the plans have not been in the making for very long.  When we first came to Haiti we thought a trip to the United States might happen in the late fall or early winter.  As we thought more about it, we talked about how difficult that might be with the travel involved as we will be seeing family in both Michigan and Minnesota.  We also thought about the added stress of more clothes and gear needed to be outside during those months.  Planning to be home a little earlier might be easier logistically, but would it be better for our  children emotionally.  We have only been gone six months.  Have they adjusted to this being "home" yet?  Will it be harder on them to come back?

As we began to talk with staff here at COTP, we discussed the fact that Seth and Melissa Johnson, the new house parents for the Joy House, would be arriving in late August.  We talked about how that would be a perfect transition for us and for them if they could "housesit" with our children and aunts while we were away and see what works well and what they would do differently in their home.  It seemed that God was leading us in an earlier trip.

Next came Dan's hernia.  He had been telling me for a while that he was in pain, but since we didn't know what to do about it, we just kept living life and hoping it would go away.  Finally we could ignore it no longer, so Dan went to see a Haitian doctor to verify that it was indeed a hernia.  We explored several options of having the surgery done in Haiti or in the Dominican Republic, and none of those options were working out.  The pain continued to get worse.  In God's good providence, He already had a plan for this and we contacted a surgeon in Michigan who is very kind and helpful, and he agreed to do the surgery.  It just so happens that he was able to get Dan's surgery scheduled a week before we were thinking about coming to the States.  Isn't God good?

As it stands now, Dan and the boys will be headed to Michigan on September 7th.  Jadyn, Zion Hope, and I will stay in Haiti and work with our Haitian kids until the following week so Dan can recoup a bit before we have to start counting this trip as vacation.

Although we would love to see so many people and tell everyone about how things are going here in Haiti, this trip will primarily be focused on Dan's surgery and recovery and spending much needed time with immediate family.  We will be traveling a lot just to see our siblings and parents, and more traveling seems quite daunting to us as this trip will serve as our one break this year.  We hope that is not hurtful to any of you, and that you can understand our need for quality time with our families.

We would love your prayers over the next two months.
For travel for both of us as neither of us is crazy about flying internationally with children on our own.
For Dan's surgery and recovery.
For sweet fellowship with family.....we miss them all deeply and are so excited for time with them.
For safe travels in the states.
For our Haitian children and the aunts as they function in a different way and for Seth and Melissa as they serve in our home.
For rest and readiness to return to the work that God has called us to in Haiti.

God has provided in so many ways already.  Details that were very daunting are starting to come together.  The surgeon, insurance that will cover at least part of the surgery, a vehicle to use, the buying of so many different combinations of tickets that my head was starting to spin with the different options.  He is so good to us and we are grateful.  Think of all the ways he is blessing you today and give Him thanks.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meet Ezekiel

We would love to introduce to you the newest member of the Grace House!  We began introducing Ezekiel to our home this week, and he will likely move in within the next few days.  He is a precious little boy and we hope you will join us in prayer for him.  Pray that God will show the forever family that He has chosen for Ezekiel that there is a little boy in Haiti waiting for them.  He will surely be a blessing to them when that time comes.  Here are a few photos, and I am sure there will be more to come.

Isn't his smile precious.  Doesn't it just make you want to come to Haiti to visit us and love on these precious children?  Think about it!

Monday, July 22, 2013


I was a little worried after my last post that some of you would think that we are unhappy in Haiti and that we are really struggling.  I do want to be honest about our struggles, but I also want you to understand that things are good.  How can we not smile when we have cuteness like this around us all day?  We smile and laugh often, we have great friends, and we take fun rides on 4 wheelers and motorcycles.  God teaches us more each day and He is so faithful.  Aren't these two precious???

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Musings of a "missionary"

I have a hard time calling myself a missionary.  Many of us have read those missionary stories, right?  The ones that talk of all the heroic deeds missionaries do and how they led many people to Christ every week.  The ones that sound near perfect in many ways.  People who gave their whole lives to live in some jungle, and seemed happy about living in that jungle even when snakes slithered next to their beds.

I am here to tell you that I have a hard time calling myself a missionary because my life doesn't look like that.  Sometimes I really hate the bugs and the heat and the lack of privacy and the illness.  I miss family and friends and get really sad about things my family and I are missing out on with them.  i get stressed every day because I used to love cooking for my family and now it seems like such a chore because I am not used to the food and it is such a task to go to market.  I am pretty sure I struggle with sin more here in Haiti as a missionary than I did living in the States.  I get crabby, tired, anxious and selfish.  I feel frustrated with the needs that surround me when I don't know how to help.  I get sick of crying children.  I get annoyed when I can't communicate what I want to say either with words or in a culture that I don't understand.  I am hot a lot and sometimes I just want to stop sweating.  There are times when I just want everyone to get out of the house and let me be alone.

I want to be like Jesus to the people around me, to my husband, my partner in ministry.  To my children whom God gave me first, before moving to Haiti.  To the Haitian children in our care, the aunts that are here every day, the fellow staff here at COTP, our Haitian friends, people in our village and surrounding areas.  There are so many needs and it feels like I fail so often.

People write and say "I wish I could do what you are doing." Or, "God is using you in amazing ways."  Sometimes, "Those children are so blessed to have you!"  Yes, God can use us and I believe He is.  The children living with us are experiencing family and consistency and love.  We have made some great friendships and are looking forward to getting deeper with relationships and talking more and more about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is something great about having a peace that you are right where God wants you.  The life in Haiti is simpler in so many ways.  We get to learn a new language and culture first hand.  Our biological children are getting experiences that will impact them forever.

I just thought you should know how much we need your prayers.  It isn't always pretty here.  If there was a story about the Willis family, it wouldn't be flowery.  We do feel that God called us here, and He is ALWAYS faithful to complete the work He has started.  There are many things to love about Haiti and about the people here.  We know that God often uses the hard things in our life to mold and shape us and so being here isn't just about the Haitian people, but about us, too.  Will you pray for us?  We know so many of you do and we are so grateful. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Zion Hope's special friend

I have talked a few times about Zion, Fritzlin, and Loudena and how much they play together.  They are learning and growing and interact much like any three 2 year olds would.  They play together, steal toys from one another, laugh together, cry together, and entertain us together. 
 I don't know if I have mentioned before how much Zion Hope LOVES Paco.  Paco is who she goes to first thing in the morning.  He is usually in his bouncy seat and she plops down beside him and gets right in his face.  "Paco, Paco, Paco!"  She kisses on him and squeezes a little too tight, and throughout the day she can be found doing this periodically.  She has also been known to sneak into his room when he is supposed to be going to sleep to talk to him and pat his back.  She loves him.  It is so sweet to see how our life here impacts even our two year old.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes we see how she struggles because of having to share us, but then we catch the glimpses of pure joy on her face as she talks to him and sings to him.  Paco will not crawl or walk or feed himself while in our care.  Someday he will have surgery and we don't know all of the implications of that, but we do know that he will have a special friend watching out for him even when he can't do things for himself.
We rarely let Zion hold Paco because she wants to do it all by herself and I am not comfortable with that yet.  Yesterday she was spending some time with him and he was really loving it, so I let her hold him for a bit.  They both enjoyed it!  Hope you like the few shots I was able to get while keeping one arm available to rescue him if she got carried away with her snuggles!   They were taken with my ipod, so aren't the best quality, but I think you can still appreciate the love!

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jacob!

Happy Birthday, Jacob!  This is our first picture of just us and the children.  I know they aren't smiling....but they really do seem to like it here!  They were all just waking up from their naps when we started the birthday party.  Everyone enjoyed the cake and I am sure Jacob was thrilled with the toy parrot Isaiah is sharing with him for his birthday!  Fritzlin and Loudena decided Jacob was leaving too many crumbs on his tray so they helped him eat the rest.  We encourage helping any way we can around here!!  The bottom picture is of Fritzlin in a Twins bib.  I am sure it will make him a Twins fan when he grows up!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Day in Pictures

 Last Sunday Jadyn and Malachi and I decided to go for a bike ride.  I thought it would be fun to take a few pictures to show people what we see as we ride.  I didn't take as many as I thought I would as there were many people on the road and I try to be respectful and not take pictures of them.  I also didn't want to keep stopping because we were enjoying the ride!  After we returned, I thought I could just share photos of the rest of the day.  Hope you enjoy!

 Jade and Malachi riding ahead.  Malachi always chooses the puddles!
 He lost his flip flop in this can see it floating if you look closely. 
 We see many animals along the way.  This sight is fairly typical.
 I had never seen these sheep before, but we went a bit farther than we normally go.  They looked like they were pretty miserable....even though their fleece was far from full.  If you can't sleep, try counting mangy sheep.

 Fritzlin likes to make us laugh.  We use these puddle boots ALL the time right now.  Thanks, Grandma!
 Paco is always ready with a smile when someone stops to talk to him.
 Loudena and Zion Hope, buddies until one of them steals the other ones baby!
 Jacob and Fritzlin, ready for Family Worship.

 Jadyn is deeply loved!
 We end the night with our friend, Toto, helping us put up our mosquito nets. 
Everyone loves Toto!

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