The Training Miles…

Posted: April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

The training miles are done. Like 30,000 other runners I followed a 16-week program that started out with few miles and peaked at 2 twenty-mile runs and then tapered off. We run with little variation from programs like these since they are scientifically proven to get you ready for the big day. The marathon. 26.2 miles. Boston!

For 16 weeks, at our maternity center, different women reached their 40-week mark of pregnancy-swollen and ready, but not a one of them went into labor before a long run. A runner’s sleep and food are as important as the footfalls on the road. Not a run was interrupted. So different than last year when we could count on labors every weekend. The forces that bring about labor stayed still while I labored on the roads.

As is true in all of our journeys through life, some runs were easy and some were incredibly difficult. Each step was labored and awkward. Without reason my body, breath and soul found each step like lumbering through water and mud. Some days were just off. I had to push through. That’s where heaven steps in.

Other runs were easy, or sort of. As ultra-marathoner Barry McDonald reminded me, “Most runs are hard”. Indeed they are. Life is hard. Indeed it is. We push on, and that’s the point. The key is to run on with joy and with eyes to see the mile markers of God along the way.Image

In every marathon the miles are marked. Each runner counts them down as they run. From 1 to 26 to the finish, the mile markers are beacons of progress. The math gets blurry around mile 18 and the one thing you know to do is to keep pushing ahead, keep moving forward. Am I at 17 or 19? Did I pass 18 yet? Just keep plodding, one foot in front of the other and eventually a sign pops up.

My mile markers were many through this journey. Others labored with me and held my hand and kept my feet moving. When I was faltering on a road of puddles and mud (literally) my friend, Tara, stepped in as coach and changed the road and the plan. It made all the difference.

Week after week, without fail, my fellow midwife Beth KJ would wake in the night and send me applicable Scriptures to wake up to before running. Over and over I would sing, chant and recite those heavenly words. Apples of gold in settings of silver. The spiritual Gator-aid.

Troy and John did drop off and picks ups so we could run on better roads and avoid the mud, traffic and diesel on our local roads.

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Tara and Beth

Mid-stream I needed to remind myself why I am doing this. I’m doing this because we face evil, we don’t let bombs stop us and we come back when terror visits our lives. I’m doing this to raise awareness for Heartline. That every day women, against all odds, get up, have their babies, raise their children, learn to read, learn to sew, learn to cook and grab hold of success! Every day young men start up the ovens, shape the bread and learn the skills of life while they sell the bread of life. Every day Haitian women and men who have found their way to Heartline succeed. I run to shout their names and support their efforts to have a normal, successful life.

I’m asking if you will give money for every mile marker I pass on the Boston Marathon on April 21st. Haitian men and women face a marathon of their own each day trying to find work, feed their families and keep a home together. Heartline helps them to do this. Will you support them with us?

As we celebrate Easter I’ll be eating pasta rather than the traditional turkey in preparation for the marathon the next day. Christ is risen and that gives us the power to run whatever marathon life gives us. Let’s join together and help Heartline help Haiti!

Port au Prince, Haiti

Beth McHoul

Your support makes a difference.  Click here to give your support as Beth runs for those that can’t. 

 

Slinging Mud – A Gift From God

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

My weekly long runs are increasing in mileage as the date draws closer to Boston Marathon Monday!  There is no way around the weekly long runs.  They have to be done.  The body has to know how to put one foot in front of the other and pound the pavement for hours.  There is no short cut, no cheating, no passes, no talking yourself out of it.  

 Most of the obstacles on the road, I can block out.  The vehicles, the people coming and going, the trash piles, the goats, the occasional donkey, the dogs, and the heat are all part of living on this island.  I find comfort in these surroundings.  They are home to me.

 The one foe I have been losing the battle with is dust.  We are in the dry season.  Stretches of road have inch thick powdery dust, and as I run through it, I pretend I’m running through snow.  Now this takes a lot of imagination since it’s 90 degrees, sunny and I’m sweating profusely. 

 Each week after my long run I’d return home with an annoying, non-stop, incessant, aggravating cough thanks to the clouds of dust (not snow) that I has been plodding through each week.  If you know what Kegels are I need to say I have not done enough of them and coughing so much has been bringing me very close to needing Depends!  When my daughter jokingly asked, “Mom, do you have TB?”  I realized this cough was dominating my life. 

 I hate rain.  I just do.  Our roof leaks in every room although many visiting groups have tried to fix it.  Our neighborhood roads flood quickly when it rains; it causes traffic jams and all sorts of third world, lack of infrastructure havoc.  Never mind that it fills cisterns, waters plants and makes our little island green again.  I still don’t like it.

 Last night I set out my running clothes, my goo, my watch, my water money and my sneakers.  I set my alarm (which plays “Chariots of Fire” for encouragement).  Then I heard it: Drop, drop, drop, it was raining, and it pounded on our roof for several minutes.  It gave just enough of a downpour to make some mud, cause the dust to settle, put a puddle here and there and give me smooth sailing through the dusty stretches of my run.  My feet slung up mud, my shoes got wet and I filled with tears at the goodness of God.  Just a few minutes of rain and my run has become so much easier!   

 When we feel God nudging us to do something hard He has such wonderful gifts along the way.  My praying friend, Beth Johnson always messages me before a run telling me she is praying for me.  John always holds my hand and prays with me before I head out.  Tara meets me to run beside me when the miles are wearing me out. 

 Today He sent the gift of rain, the gift of prayer and the gift of friends.  Right at mile 10 Jen and Tara showed up to help me take it home. 

 It’s a gift doing something hard, when you get to meet God in new ways.  I see Him at every birth. A woman feels she cannot go on.  The labor is too much.  She feels weak and powerless.    God gives her the strength and she comes through victorious and beaming.  I see Him when we are at the end of ourselves.  I see Him in the rain.

 Beth McHoul

 You can join Beth by supporting her as she runs for those that can’t.  Click here for more information.

The Doughboys’ Baptism

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Guest Blog by Nick Middleton

Awhile ago, three of the guys in the bakery/discipleship program made decisions to follow Christ with their lives (Richemond, Wilson, and Manno).  As a result, they wanted to get baptized.

Moise and I started looking around to find a place where we could do a baptism.  Moise is the Bible teacher I work with.

In the churches I have visited here in Haiti, I have never seen a baptismal inside the church building, like is common in the States.  I think they usually do it at a river or such.

Moise knew about a park that had just such a river running through it with a pool where he told me baptisms are frequently done.  We went and visited it during a weekday, and it seemed like an ideal location.  There was hardly anyone there and it was quaint and peaceful.  The park even had a short walking trail we looked at.  Voodoo paraphernalia was littered about said trail and stuck on the trees, which took away from some of the ambiance.  Moise told me that at night the park was sometimes used for voodoo ceremonies.

Finally the scheduled day came. Yesterday (Saturday) a group of us went out to do the baptism.  I was surprised when we arrived and the place was packed out.  It was a lot more of the happening place on Saturday afternoon than a weekday morning.

Nevertheless, we all gathered in a circle and had a brief service by the side of the pool.  We prayed over the guys and each of the three guys shared a few words of why they wanted to be baptized.

The Three Guys Getting Baptized

Then Moise and the first person got in the water.  Imagine doing a baptism at a public swimming pool on a Saturday afternoon in July.  That’s kind of what the scene reminded me of.

As Moise was getting ready to baptize the first guy, a rowdy fellow did a cannonball almost on top of him!  But soon some bystanders spoke up and told those being disruptive to stop and be respectful as we were doing something serious here.  By the time of the third baptism, many people at the pool had paused from their activities (swimming, bathing) and were watching us.

So it turned out OK after-all.  Baptism is supposed to be public, and this one was very public.  Everyone in the picture below was a bystander and you can see we have their attention!

Bystanders

Moise & Manno

Please be in prayer for Wilson, Manno, and Richemond in their walk with the Lord. Mesi!

Nick Middleton

Victory Comes One Step at a Time

Posted: February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 ImageOne step at a time – that’s how I run.  Can I do one more step?  Yes.  Can I do one more mile?  Yes, if I take it one step at a time.  That’s how our women get through labor – one contraction at a time.  Can they do just one more?  Yes, with support they can.  One more, one more, one more.  Then the baby arrives.  Victory.  Marathon work done!

 Can a lady learn to sew at Heartline and make a living?  Yes one step at a time.  Perhaps she can’t read to measure the cloth.  First step, literacy.  One letter at a time.  Can you learn a word?  Yes, one word at a time until it becomes a book.  A book becomes an open world most of us take for granted. 

 Moving the treadle sewing machine peddle one push, one stitch at a time until it becomes a dress, a suit, a purse.  One stitch at a time. 

 Day after day, lesson after lesson, a lady grows and changes and becomes confident.  She’s proud of her work. 

 One step becomes a mile.  My feet pound the dirt, the dust blows up, the vehicles swerve around me.  Fear tries to take hold at mile one spitting out thoughts like it’s too far, I can’t run this far, I’m tired.  Stop.  I tell fear I can do one more step, one more mile, until the miles add up to 12.  I did 12, next week 12 will turn into 16 then 16 will turn into 18 then 18 will turn into 20.  Then on Marathon Day, training will turn into 26.2 miles of victory.

 Any victory comes a step at a time.  A woman who has lived in poverty can make a step to take a class and learn to read.  A woman can learn to cook or sew.  A woman can have a skill and be able to bring money into her home.  Step by step she gets there.  One letter, one word, one stitch, one class, one semester, one year, two years, graduation. 

 A pregnant teen, an unwanted baby.  Fear grips like a noose, tears fall, someone suggests she head to Heartline Maternity.  She takes a step to enter our gate, a strange world where everyone has a giant belly except the midwives.  She fears us but is drowning in hopelessness.  One step at a time we nourish her body, care for the growing baby and earn her trust.  One vitamin, one meal, one class, one prenatal at a time.  Labor comes and she holds our hands, grabs our shoulders, cries our names and works her way through one contraction at a time.  We do it together – step by step.  She emerges a mother.  A loving mother, a victorious mother. 

 So this is why I run.  Step by step.  Footfall by footfall.  Breathe in, breathe out just like we teach our ladies in labor. 

 Our programs are free to our women but they are expensive to run.  Our budget numbers make me dizzy.  Funding is needed.  I’ll run to shout awareness.  I’ll run to state that our women are working hard to be successful but programs need money to function.  Dollar by dollar you can help provide what women need to be cared for and educated.  They do the rest.   They do it step by step. 

 Boston strong step by step.  Successful Haitian women step by step. 

Join us!

 Beth McHoul

 

 

 

Marjorie: Victim to Victor

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

ImageWhen visiting Haitian Creations, one of the first people you could meet is a thirty-two year old woman named Marjorie.  She is not much more than five feet tall, has a Minnie mouse voice, but she has the heart of Aslan, the lion.

On January 12, 2010 at 4:53 PM, Marjorie was downtown Port au Prince on the top floor of a five story nursing school, and the earthquake that killed 200,000 in Haiti, hit. The school collapsed and Marjorie was buried under tons of cement, blocks and rubble. She stayed there in complete darkness, unable to move as she was pinned  under the weight of the fallen school.

It was three days before she was rescued with severe damage to her head, foot and to her left arm, which had to be amputated below the elbow as it was too badly damaged to be saved.

Marjorie came to the Heartline field hospital shortly after the amputation.  She stayed with us for one year as she slowly recovered from her injuries.  She, while with Heartline, received physical therapy for her foot injury and we were able to get her a prosthetic arm.  Her road to recovery was long, slow, and painful.

Marjorie became part of the Heartline family.  We built a house for her family, as their house had been destroyed in the earthquake.  We offered Marjorie a job at Heartline, and gave her a place on the property where she could live while working with us.

I clearly recall the day that Marjorie came  and told me that she wanted to go back to school.  We encouraged her to look at places in our area and to bring us the information.  I remember sitting at a table and going over the brochures and choosing with her a school close to Heartline.

And so a couple of days later, she got all dressed up and went to the school to get an application.  Later that afternoon, and I will never, never, forget this, Marjorie came to the office and she was sobbing, her body heaving with each sob.

“What happened, what’s wrong,” I asked.  It took perhaps 15 minutes before I was able to understand what she was telling me.  She through her sobs and tears told me that the school would not accept her because they said she is sick.  She told them that she wasn’t and they said, “Yes you are, you only have one arm.”

Let me fast track here and say that the next few months were difficult as we worked to cox Marjorie out of the devastation she felt and that had gotten a hold of her.  But the heart of Aslan rose up and she said that she would try again, at a different place. And she did.

This time she was accepted and Heartline was there to help her.  We had a job with us that worked around her school schedule, she had a place to stay with us, and we for two years paid for her to go to school  as she worked hard and persevered to complete her schooling and get her diploma.

On September 13th 2013 Marjorie graduated and received her  Medical Technician diploma, which will allow her to work at a medical testing lab.

Marjorie had risen from the debris of the earthquake; as she refused to stay down and Heartline has been there to help, encourage, support, pray, cry and cheer her on.

Your support has helped Marjorie rise up from being a victim, to becoming a victor.

She will soon be starting her internship at a medical lab in Port au Prince.

Click here to help Heartline support others like Marjorie, that just need someone to believe in them, enough to give.

If interested in participating in Heartline’s sponsorship program, you can write Cortney at  <cortney.donelson@heartlinefoundation.org>

John McHoul

ImageWhen I arrived in the morning he was down, his legs had betrayed him, the lioness figure that he was, could no longer prowl about the property in stealth.  He lay on his side, swollen from inactivity, body worn out, age had caught up.  He lifted his paw, used it like a hand as only mastiffs can do, and reached out to me.  Recognition.  Love,

His goodbye was grand.  The women of Heartline, surrounded him, caressed him, spilled tears on him and each other as he slipped into that mystery of death.  He died in our birth room, a fitting place for a dog who watched over many women in labor and observed many a child’s entrance into the world.  He often stretched out in the doorway causing us to step over him when we went for coffee or a supply. Laying in the way but still on the job.  The sounds of birth never disturbed him but the sound of a man at the gate or an unknown sound would wake the sleeping giant and he could be fierce.  God help the man Marley did not like.

He ruled, he dominated, he loved and he won over our Haitian staff.  This is no small thing in a world where poverty has robbed the population of pet love.  Our precious cook, Gran Rosemon, had tears streaming down her face as she bid him farewell.  Cherline and Guerda spent the day full of sorrow.  This animal had won them over with his protection and love.  He spent many hours under their feet, protecting their turf, eating meat scraps from their dishes.

Books are written and movies are made about the wonders of dog and human relationships.  Once in while a dog is extraordinary and touches our lives and teaches us to love better.  Marley was a dominant male who had a knowlege of who should be at the maternity center and who should not be there.   A hundred women could step over his sleeping form and he would not move.  One unknown male at the gate and he would rise up, the years instantly shed, and he would bound toward the gate terrorizing the man who was ringing the bell.   He knew his purpose, he was not confused, he did his job well.

Finally the years caught up, his muscles wasted away, his beard grew gray and his legs gave out.   Thirteen is really old for a mastiff.  We said good bye.  A veterinarian,  a pediatrician, midwives, a nurse, a photographer, a cook and a housekeeper all gathered round to witness a canine life well lived and to support each other as Marley ended his days.

Even emaciated he was heavy so Tara suggested we use our stretcher to take his body from the house to the pick up truck.  The stretcher was too long for the bed of the truck so we used our ambulance to transport him to his burial spot next to our other mastiffs, Maguire and Larry.   This all seemed quite normal and fitting to us who loved him.  Cherline said “li merite” “he merits this”.  Indeed he did.

Our dog graves are on our land called the Okay.  There are several men working there building the foundation of our new maternity center.  The bakery is also there as well as our school.

It wasn’t until John called me, that I thought through the strangeness of a dog’s body in an ambulance.  He said the workers at the maternity site were astounded when an ambulance pulled up and a giant dog on a stretcher was rolled out.   They talked about it all day long!

He did indeed merit a memorable send off.  I am profoundly moved by all those who loved him.   I am so grateful to those who sat in a circle of love to say good bye.  Kelly, the most faithful and loving vet on the planet, Tara, Jen, Beth KJ, Jenny, Wini, Cherline and Gran.  You made yesterday’s pain so sweet.  And lastly Marley,  I thank you.

Beth McHoul

Click here to learn more about Heartline

madewithOverWe lost three women from our program today.  Three young ladies who were hoping they would deliver with us.  Three ladies eager to have weekly prenatal care, a meal at each visit, vitamins, class, friendship, and the security of knowing the midwives, who will care for them in their most vulnerable moments, when labor comes.

We are not a hospital and we do not specialize in high-risk care although we often are forced to be involved in high-risk situations.  It’s a catch 22 thing.  I sat with two lovely ladies today and told them their blood pressure is consistently too high for our program.  They are both early in their pregnancies and need specialized care.  More than we are equipped to give.  We told them where to go to find programs that are designed to help them.

But, will they go?  And if they do go will they get the help they need?  Will the long lines, hours of waiting, chaos and lack of friendliness cause them to give up?  Will they then get no care?   The system is difficult and almost impossible to navigate.  These two precious ladies may not get the help they need.

The third lady came in this morning in preterm labor.  She works for Haitian Creations and comes quite a distance across town to work and to be in our program.  She is 36 years old and this is her first pregnancy.  She and her husband have waited a long time to have a baby.

The contractions were strong and the baby too small.  Tara drove our ambulance and Wini took them in to the hospital we transport to.  They have a lot of success with tiny babies and perhaps could save this one.  We heard later they transferred her to another hospital that in turn transferred her to yet another.  Where will they end up on this critical, frightening, and catastrophic day in their lives?

The first hospital specializes in preterm babies and in obstetric catastrophes.    Why they transported, we don’t know.  Why did the second hospital send them off as well?  We don’t know.  As with our own program, having no space is often a reason for saying no.

Our dear lady delivered a 2.8-pound baby boy who survived only into the night.  Mom and Dad are now home grieving the only child they ever had.  We will support them, and encourage them to try again when the time is right.  Our hearts are heavy.

As all this is going on girls, from our weekly teen class, came bouncing in looking for their certificates of graduation from our Teen Ethics program.  They cherish their poster board certificates with their names in bold across the front.  I eye each one of them as they stride by hoping the lessons from their classes will embed deep in their souls.  I pray they will make good choices and that opportunity in this land of few opportunities, finds them.  I pray they don’t have babies too soon, have money each year for education and that they are not forced into bad situations.  Like teens anywhere they are full of life, full of joy, full of dance.  I pray the hardships of Haiti do not steal away their innocence or love of life.  We seek to empower them with tools.  Every Saturday they join us for skits, lessons, songs, role-plays and power points.  May they stay forever young in a world where many are far too old too soon.

We have a lot of success mixed with our sorrows.  Our ladies deliver healthy babies; our teens learn to make good choices.   Our women are empowered with more ammunition for having healthy babies and keeping them alive.    Sadness visits occasionally, a baby is lost, a mom has to leave the program due to high risk but for the majority help is found, community and health care works and the gospel thrives in the lives of these women.  It works.

Beth McHoul

Click here to donate and help Heartline continue to make a difference