Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Six Months Already!

It seems impossible.  It was really six months ago?  Half of a year?  That day is etched in our minds.  I have wanted to write about it many times, but didn't want to sit down and relive it.  I have wanted to give you an update on our life, but didn't want to feel and deal with the emotions that go with that.  At the present time I should be packing and preparing for leaving on a trip in the morning…..and I am the mom, so you moms know that I should not be sitting here typing and remembering!  I am going to make an effort, though.

That day was beautiful and terrible and heart wrenching.  I cried most of the day.  All of the aunts that worked in our home came in the morning.  They all wanted to be there.  They braided Jadyn's and Zion's hair and then I took them to our back porch which was loaded with things we were leaving behind.  Clothes, sheets, towels, bins, toys, etc.  I thought it would take them forever to sort through but they were amazing.  They had all chosen their pile within minutes.  Then they sang for us for a long time.  Singing and worship were always a sweet time for us in the Grace House, and it was such a blessing to have that time with them.  We all cried, but it was beautiful.  So many people came by and said their goodbyes, both Haitian and International staff.  It was difficult, but good to be blessed by so many people.  The time came and many of the COTP staff came together and prayed with us.  The most horrible part of the day was hugging the aunts and the children goodbye.  We told them we loved them, we cried, and we told them we would pray for them.  That drive away from COTP and the village of Lagossette was rough, to put it lightly.  Some of our friends joined us for the last ride and we began looking ahead to the fun we would have with family in the coming weeks and months.  

Our return to the States has been greatly blessed in many ways.  We have enjoyed time with family.  Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles……what a blessing family is!  We have had great times with both the Willis and Ledeboer families and it is so fun to be a part of different holidays and celebrations.  We have also been blessed with sweet reunions with friends.  God provided a way for us to move back to Lake City, our home for ten years before we had moved to Haiti.  This has been good for us and for our children.  This transition has been very difficult on all of us and living in Lake City has sweetened this difficulty.  

Most people would not expect the transition back to your home country to be difficult.  The books and articles I have read, though, have indicated otherwise.  And our experience has now confirmed what I read.  We love the time we have had the past six months.  We LOVE Michigan weather.  We LOVE spending time with family and friends.  We LOVE America and the opportunities living here provides. We LOVE eating a variety of food and being able to get that food readily.  But man, grief is hard.  I was texting with a friend late one night about how I was feeling and what was going on with our children and she texted me back and said, "Those sweet babies.  Those precious people.  That is hard on a heart.  Probably a lot like grieving…..there is no time table for that."  Yes, grieving.  I had read about transition and dealing with change, etc, but hadn't really thought of it as grieving.  We parented those five precious children and lived with those precious ladies for over two years…..of course we were grieving.   And we still are.  We had the opportunity to Face Time with them all the other night.  So fun to see their precious faces….to see how they have grown, to hear how their voices have changed.   Our hearts were touched when they asked to see each one of us and blessed to hear the aunts' laughter.  But it was hard because we still miss them so much.  Hardly a day goes by that someone in this house doesn't cry about missing Haiti.  

Another friend recently traveled to a third world country.  She posted pictures and made comments that were familiar to me.  She reminded me of the "hard" of Haiti.  The constant real need for basic survival.  The lack of resources.  The sickness and the lack of food and health care and housing.  We didn't post much about that when we were in Haiti.  We wanted to focus on the positive and the work we were doing in the Grace House.  But we saw it every day.  And especially Dan heard stories and took requests from desperate people all the time.  You would think it would be easier to live here and try to forget about that, and in some ways it is.  But now we think about it from afar.  We ask ourselves questions.  Is so and so getting any food?  Is another friend going to school?  Is that house getting built for that family?  Were we hearing God correctly when He told us it was time?  

We believe we were.  He has a plan.  He has a plan for us.  He has a plan for the children we left behind in Haiti.  He has a plan for our many Haitian friends and also our international friends still living there.  Because many of you are wondering, I will tell you that we still don't know His long term plan for us.  He has been so good and has provided for us until now.  Dan has had new experiences in employment and is about to experience more.  We are well cared for and we are trusting that God has us waiting on Him for a reason.  We don't know why, and I would be lying if I said we didn't get impatient at times, but we DO trust Him.  We would LOVE your continued prayers as we wait on Him: that we would have wisdom and clarity in regards to our future.  

We didn't send out Christmas cards this year.  We are just focusing on enjoying our first Christmas here in a few years and anticipating time with friends and family.  In a few short days we will be celebrating with a Haitian friend of ours who is getting married in Iowa.  We are extremely excited!!  And then I get to be home for my grandma's 90th birthday!  What a blessing!  And Christmas with family!

I hope this provided just a glimpse of our life since we returned from Haiti.  We appreciate so many of you who have prayed for us, supported us, and simply loved us in this time of transition.  

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family Pictures

A kind and generous volunteer came to visit a friend at Children of the Promise and volunteer for a week.  She offered to take some family pictures for us so we got everyone dressed and bribed them with smarties one last time to get some shots of our family.

These are the last pictures we have together as a family united as "the Grace House" and will forever be treasured.  These children will always be "our Haitian children" and will be in our hearts forever.  They are precious and mischievous and beautiful and stubborn and funny and missed greatly.  

Fun in the Sun

We have been planning and thinking about all of the things we want to do before we leave Haiti.  One of our favorite memories was when we took all of our aunts and children to the beach, so that definitely had to go on the list.  Last week Tuesday was the day.  We talked about it for a few days and I might have been asked over 50 times if indeed, everyone was going to the beach.  Usually the children  have to take turns so they really didn't want to be the one left behind.  We assured them over and over that everyone was going.  

Tuesday morning, after packing way too many towels and many other "just in case" items, eleven children, six aunts, and Dan and I packed into the van and were on our way.  We prayed and sang on the way to the beach.  I love to hear these ladies sing so I will treasure that time.  

Once we arrived, almost everyone went for the water.  Some people like it more than others, but the children definitely spent  more time in the water this time than they did in previous times.  They seem to be getting more used to it and enjoying it.  It was bittersweet to watch all of the children playing together, the aunts interacting with our children, and everyone laughing and playing.  We will miss these times!!  Here are some photos of our day for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

17 Kids and Counting

One of our biggest challenges in house parenting at Children of the Promise was that we were the first. No one had ever done this before.  There was a lot of talking and planning and preparing and ideas but no one had actually lived it.  We had to figure out shopping and who to cook when and how to cook for fourteen people  and what to eat and how to discipline and where to sleep and who to hire and what to call the aunts and how to deal with our biological kids and who gives baths and when do we worship together and so many other things.  And this was amidst learning a new culture and language.  It was overwhelming and we struggled through while feeling like we didn't have a clue.  We asked a lot of questions and kept praying.  Sometimes we cried.

Then came Seth and Melissa Johnson.  They first came and stayed at our house while we went to America for a surgery for Dan and to see family and friends.  Then they moved into the Joy House and became houseparents like us!  Their situation is a little different as they had the opportunity to watch how a house ran and decide what they liked and didn't like and could change it when they were moving into their own house.  They could ask us questions about how we handled things and then they could decide if they wanted to do it the same or differently.    But they did understand better than anyone else what it was like to live in a child home day in and day out.  That there aren't office hours or separation between work and home or any QUIET to be found ANYWHERE.  They comprehend the joys and the trials and the laughter and the tears that happen in the child homes every day.  They understand the love you have for the children, but also the longing you have for them to be placed in their adoptive families as soon as possible.

Seth and Melissa are in America right now and I miss them.  Even if we don't talk every day or just call a "hello" across the dirt road, I still know that they are there.  They understand the craziness in my house because it is happening there too…..I can hear it!   Children of the Promise is growing and changing and there are more people here and soon to be even more people living the life of a houseparent.  I am so grateful that God placed us here and that we survived the first months of muddling through the waters of questions and confusion.  I am so grateful for the people that served alongside of us along the way!

We have tried to do a few photos with the Joy House and anyone who could get 17 children dressed and clean and all willing to sit and smile at a camera is welcome to come and try.  Yes, I did say 17.  Within yards of each others houses without windows.  Silence can be found at 3 am, sometimes.

If you think this looks like a lot of children, you should see what it looks like when they are all running in different directions!!

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

To The River!

One of the main reasons we came to Haiti was because we love our Savior and we want others to know Him.  Somedays in the day to day of changing diapers, cooking dinner, dealing with arguments, and giving baths it is difficult to feel like we are doing that.  But then there are the times when we have a great time of worship with our aunts and children, reading the Bible, singing, and praying together.  There are the times that we can help someone and when they thank us, we can point them to Christ.  Most Sundays Dan preaches at our COTP church and has also preached a number of times in Haitian churches.  There are discussions about Jesus and what he did for us.  There are the gifts of Bibles we have been able to give with the help of many of you.  There are the countless people we have met in the village or through friends and we can help them because of the church offerings or in other ways.  There are the funerals that have been conducted with the comfort of Jesus' love through difficulty being spoken.  Dan has built relationships with many others beyond the walls of Children of the Promise.  He loves to interact with people and get to know them and their life story.  Many times this brings much sadness and a heaviness that is difficult, but it has also taught us about life in a way we would have never known without these experiences.  

Dan was recently asked to baptize two individuals.  He has been asked this before and has always encouraged the person to go to their own Haitian pastor to do this so they are connected with their church.  This opportunity was different as their pastor asked Dan to baptize them because he was sick and couldn't go down into the water.  One of these individuals was a woman whom we love dearly.  Her name is Evane and she works in our home.  We work alongside her every day and have great respect for her.  One of her quotes is a highlight of our time here.  She said, "You help us walk with Jesus."  She will always be like a sister to us.
The other person was Carmello.  He has been attending Dan's Bible/English class for the past year and came to saving faith in Jesus Christ on New Year's Eve. It was a joyful day and a privilege to be a part of these moments.  

Evane walking into the water with Dan.

Our friend Papito translating for Dan

Our friend Peter with Malachi and Zion
Dan and I with Evane
Dan, Pastor Cola, Papito, Evane, and Carmello
Our friend Magalie,  Nevenson, Jadyn, and Zion
Our friends, Jason and Stacy, happened to be here the day of the baptism.  It was great to share this experience with them!  It was a hot day and they were able to experience the fun of a REALLY crowded truck in the Haiti heat with a lot of singing.   Then walking down a rocky, weedy path to a spot in the river that was chosen for the baptism.  It was joyful and emotional.  On the way home there was again a lot of singing….and after our Haitian friends sang for a while they decided it was our turn.  That day is one of my favorite memories of their trip.