The Long Run

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Long distance running and childbirth have a lot in common.  This week they have a person in common – Barry McDonald.

Marathon training and childbirth are something you do alone.  No one can take your place, no one can do it for you, you go it alone.   You enter places of pain and exhaustion that only you experience and once committed there is no turning back.   I’ve done both – twins of pain, surrender, loneliness, and isolation that bring forth unspeakable joy and accomplishment.  A finisher’s medal, a baby, the prizes at the end that bring meaning to the labor.

For nearly two weeks Barry will run a marathon a day crossing the broken but beautiful land of Haiti.  He has a support team, he is surrounded by love and encouragement but his legs alone go the 315 miles to the end.

A handful of years ago the McDonalds lost their only child to stillbirth.  Breath never came, a silent baby made no cry, their hopes and dreams of parenthood buried with a beautiful, lifeless boy.  That crushing sorrow made ready Barry’s heart to hear from God about other parents who lose babies and babies who lose mothers in the third world country of Haiti.  A multi-marathon idea came to be.  A marathon so crazy that people worldwide would take notice.   He decided to run to raise money so Heartline could build a bigger and fully operational maternity center.  We have found that when women get prenatal care, education and nutrition the outcomes are great!   Women and babies live!  Good care and a safe birth should be available to more women.  Barry is running to make it so.

Each morning for 12 days Barry and his team rise before dawn and he heads out, step by step covering ground across this land.  He reaches deep, he runs through the pain and like Gideon of old he is “weary yet pursuing”.  Running for others, running so women will have a safe place to birth their babies.  Running that shouts, “pay attention, this is important, this matters!”

Childbirth is sacred and midwives are the angels that stand by and keep it safe.  Running can be sacred, drawing the athlete into reflection and long periods of prayer as the miles are pounded away.  We meet ourselves in pain and come out the other end changed.  Barry is endurance running so that women can endure the rigors of childbirth in safety surrounded by birth attendants.

Barry is an athlete pushing himself so the issue of maternal health care can be noticed and addressed.

Jump in from the sidelines, join the race, give to the cause.   This counts for the kingdom of heaven.  Run to win!

Check out what Barry is doing Run for Life Haiti and join in supporting him as he runs for those that can’t.

Beth McHoul

HAITI CAN BE A DANGEROUS PLACE

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

Recently the United States and Canada have issued strong travel warning for those traveling to Haiti.  Haiti indeed can be a dangerous place, and in 2011 I posted the following blog to sound out the warning.  It seems that it is time again to send a strong warning about what a dangerous place Haiti can be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I often receive e-mails from people that would like to come to Heartline to visit and help out.  We do appreciate those that come with a purpose, for they certainly can make a difference.  Often, I will hear from someone or from a group that would like to come and who ask if Haiti is safe.  I confess that I get rather irritated when I hear that question.

I usually reply back cordially and ask if God has called them to come to Haiti.  And if the answer is yes, then I tell them it is safe.  As safe as it was for Daniel in the lion’s den and for the three Hebrew men in the fiery furnace and even as safe as it was for Stephen when he was stoned to death and ultimately as safe as it was for Christ when He died on the cross.

I strongly believe that “safe” is overrated if it means will I be safe physically.  The better question is, “Is it God’s will for me to go?”  If the answer is, “Yes” then how much more safer can you be than in God’s will.  Was Jesus safe?  If harm comes your way, does it mean that you are not in God’s will?  Certainly not.

Recently I’ve been spending some time thinking about Haiti and have finally concluded after 26 years of living here, that it can be a very dangerous place.  Some may be saying, “Ah it’s about time John got his big head out of the sand and admitted that Haiti can be a dangerous place.”

Yes, those of us who live here can be in great danger. We can be in danger of:

  • Becoming numb to the cries of the poor.
  • Not being moved to anger and compassion at the conditions in which many people live.
  • Looking but not seeing.
  • Hearing but not listening.
  • Seeing what is but not what can be.
  • Thinking that we need to change the Haitian culture to look like our culture and that the people aren’t doing it right because they don’t do it like we do.
  • Thinking that living here is a sprint, when in reality, it’s a marathon.
  • Being so practical about what we need to live, that we limit God in what we do.
  • Not totally depending on God for God’s work.
  • Thinking that doing is more important than being.
  • Thinking that poverty is primarily a money issue.

Yes, it is true, Haiti can be a dangerous place, perhaps as dangerous as where you live.

John McHoul

www.heartlineministries.org

WHEN A BABY SAVES THE DAY

Posted: December 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

It is the season that we celebrate the birth of Christ. It, along with Thanksgiving, is probably the time of the year that most prompts us the think back to seasons past, and of course, during this season to the amazing account of the birth of Jesus.

I have found that the more I try to get a hold of the birth of Christ, the more I realize that God’s ways are so very different than that of man.  I’ve been thinking about the Old Testament where we find some pretty remarkable people.  I immediately think of Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Joseph, of the dozens that stand out in the Old Testament. I think of some of the extraordinary things that God did to get the people to worship, serve, and obey Him.  And they did  for a while, but sometimes after  just a few days  they would stop and even worship idols.

The incident of Israel’s forgetfulness and faithlessness that absolutely astounds me the most and yet of which I believe I could have been a willing participant is when God called Moses up to Mount Sinai to give to him among other things, the ten commandments.  Moses remained on the mountain for forty days (Exodus 24:18), but the people got impatient because Moses hadn’t returned and Aaron agreed to make a calf of the gold jewelery that the people brought to him.

And when the people saw the golden calf they cried out,

“O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

 

How grieved God must have felt, to have all that He had done ascribed to a golden idol made by the very people that He had delivered and called to Himself.  His people.

What we read and see here unfortunately seemed to often be a pattern for Israel.  God would manifest His power and love through some amazing feats and Israel would serve God.  Soon, though they would forget what God had done and they would turn away to other gods.  God would punish them and they for a while would obey God, but soon they would turn from Him again.  Clearly what God wanted Israel to know and understand didn’t stick and this is largely the case throughout the whole Old Testament.

God had another plan.  He wasn’t through; He would send another to tell of His great love for mankind.  And as is the often the case I feel baffled by God and what He did and who He sent to let the world know of His love.  This may sound crazy, but the Christmas season makes me think of baseball: Two outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, behind by three.  I’m not thinking that you would send your weakest batter up to the plate, no you will send your best.

God in the Old Testament  sent some heavy hitters,  and yet the people largely didn’t obey Him or receive His messengers.  And so now who would He send?  An even more impressive heavy hitter? Perhaps a Moses/Elijah combined in one?  Makes sense to me.  He now would send His best.

Ross King in Rise Up, from his CD: The Christmas Stories, sings of that day,

When a baby saves the day.

God didn’t send an Abraham, a Joshua, an Elisha, a Moses, no He sent a baby.  How crazy or better put, how like God that is, to do what would never occur to us.  Yikes, a baby!

These were the angel’s words to Mary,

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

Imagine, God’s best coming into the world as an infant.  And then take several moments to consider that God has entrusted the message of His great love, this Good News  of Great Joy, the message that a Savior has been born, to you and me.  How crazy is that? We are commanded to bring that message to the world.

The angel, in Luke 2: 10.11, said to the shepherds,

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And so one of the primary reasons that we exist is to share this Message of Good News of Great Joy with a world that needs the Savior.  Often, people will talk to me about how they are praying and looking to God for His will in their lives.  I suggest that while that are looking to God for His will that they don’t neglect to do His will by not telling others about the Good News of Great Joy wherever they are.  This message, the angel says, “will be for all the people.”

Wherever you are today, you don’t have to look far to find people who have yet to receive, in their hearts, the Christ, the Good News of Great Joy.   Tell them for it is truly Good News for all people.

Joyous Good News of Great Joy Season

John McHoul

Port au Prince, Haiti

Heartline Ministries

Haitian Creations

Run For Life Haiti

Heartline Update Number Two

Posted: November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Admittedly I am not the most objective person to write about the Heartline Maternity Center as I am the co director of Heartline in Haiti.  So let me just get it out there and say that I believe that we have an amazing maternity program, and that the ladies that work in this program passionately believe in it and in providing safe, loving care to the ladies in the program.

The past several days have extremely  been busy at the Maternity Center with the regular programs, and with several births.  Every time there is a birth, I think of what could have been.  Most of the ladies in the program are poor and could never hope to receive the personal prenatal care and support given in the months prior to birth.  The could never hope to have such a personalized birth where they are attended to by a team of committed midwives and helpers.  They could never hope to received six months of child development instruction and support as they come weekly to the Maternity Center. They could never hope to be part of our feeding program during their pregnancy and for six months after birth.

These three babies were born this week at the Heartline Maternity Center in a 24 hour period

It, for some time,  has been our prayer and dream to expand this program that we may embrace and impact more ladies.  Currently there are about 100 ladies in the program and we would like to triple that amount.  Clearly we, at our present location, can’t accommodate such an increase; but we can with our vision of a larger Maternity Center built on land that we own.

How, you may wonder can we triple the size of our program and still provide personal care.  The answer is by tripling the amount of our midwives and helpers to handle the increase.  So instead of having one program of 100 ladies we now will have three groups each of 100 ladies and each cared for by its own team.  So really then three times one still equals one.  So what are we doing to make this happen?

A couple years ago two Australians, Barry and Rebecca McDonald, came into our lives here in Haiti.  They, before coming to Haiti, had experienced the tragedy of having their only child, a boy, delivered still born.  The ache is still there and so is a compassion that can come through such a heart rendering experience.   After spending time around Heartline and seeing first hand the love and care at the Heartline Maternity Center, they prayerfully came to a decision to help Heartline raise the funds for its new maternity center.   A place where women in Haiti can have a safe, clean, loving place to give birth and where they as well can hear about God’s love toward them in the person of Jesus Christ.

When Barry told me what he believed God wold have him do, I was not surprised as God as seen through scripture is quite creative in accomplishing his purposes.  Barry will be running across Haiti, that is 315 miles in 14 days.  He will be running the equivalent of one marathon for 12 days with a total of two days rest.  Not only that but a considerable amount of miles will be on mountain roads.  For those who have been to Haiti it wouldn’t surprise you that Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island.

Barry will start his run on January 11th, 2013 with a support group of several people in vehicles.  He (we) are looking to raise $800,000 to build and furnish the new Heartline Maternity Center.  He isn’t running for personal  gain or for fame.  No, he is running for the women of Haiti.  You can click here to see how you can pray and how you can sponsor Barry as he runs for those that can’t.

Several of us here at  Heartline have pledged $11,210 as a matching grant.  We would love to have this amount come from one source, such as a person or a church or a business, etc.  Please e-mail me at  at <john.mchoul@heartlineministries.org>  if you are interested in joining us in this matching grant challenge.

Your prayers matter, your help matters, you matter.

Thank you for being the hands of Jesus to us in Haiti, so we can then be the hands to Jesus to others.

You are making a difference!

John McHoul

LONG OVERDUE BLOG

Posted: November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

Over the past week or so I have had several people ask me about people and situations that I had previously blogged about. I have been aware that it has been some time since I have blogged and I, for sure, have felt a bit of pressure to get another blog out there. I understand that people care and they pray and some when seeing a need will send money to help.  And so, obviously, people want to know what’s going on. I get that, sometimes.

There are two primary reasons that keep me from blogging more often. The first is that each day is full, there is so much going on that we are involved in, that by the time I get home, I don’t seem to be able to muster up the desire to two finger a blog on the keyboard. Secondly, and this is probably closer to to real reason: I don’t usually see what I do here as something that people would care to read about. It just seems all so ordinary or normal, certainly not extraordinary, not that I have heard people say that it is. Kind of like blogging about tying one’s shoes. Not thinking that I would take time too read a such a blog.

It is 5:14 PM on a Sunday, Beth has been at the Heartline Maternity Center since yesterday, helping with the birth of a boy born to a seventeen year old. She will be home soon and we will go to a prayer time for Run for Life Haiti at our Staff House. It is raining out, two of our mastiffs are at my feet trying to as close as possible and the puppy is barking just because she can. I am listening to Christmas music and am determined to write this blog and post it on Monday morning.I appreciate that people care and I find it to be that which moves me out of my non blogging mode.

Let me start by updating you about Margareth and her three children. She came to our gate, it must be about two months ago and asked if we would take her seven year old, who was standing right beside her, when she asked this. I felt heartsick for the little girl and angry that Margareth felt that giving her daughter to be raised by others was her best option. Not angry at Margareth, but angry at the ravages caused by poverty and injustice.

Having lived in Haiti for a while, I knew that taking her daughter was not really an answer for this woman who, with her three children, lived in a so called tent made of worn out tarps, and sheets. I also knew that just giving money would only be a temporary fix and that monthly I would see her again at our gate as her needs simply outweigh her ability to care for herself and for her three children that live with her.

The problems:

  1. She lives in a so called tent with her three children.
  2. She could not afford to send the children to school.
  3. She made a few dollars a day by hand washing the laundry of others. But this is just enough to provide food for the family.
  4. Margareth could not read or write and so she could not hope to get a job where these skills are necessary.

It took some time to verify her story to me, to look for a solution and to help Margareth and her family get on the road to change. I believe that John Perkins said it well:

Poverty, you see, is much more than lack of money; poverty is the lack of options.

I wrote about Margareth and many responded with words such as, “How can we help, let us know” My response was, “I will let you know.” Several weeks went by before I was ready to tell you what we had decided to do. We had to check out other housing, check out a school for the children and get an assurance from Margareth that she would daily attend the literacy class at Heartline. And along the way something unexpected happened.

But first: Margareth is now in a cement house. As I type this it is raining out but Margareth and her family do not have to worry about living in a leaky tent and they now live in a place where they can lock the doors at night and not be afraid of the violence that often befalls those that live in tents.

Secondly the children are going to school where they also daily  are receiving a hot meal.

Thirdly, Margareth has faithfully been attending literacy class.

And now for the surprise, Margareth has a 28 year old daughter that has come to Haitian Creations to enroll in our jewelry making course with the potential to earn a living by making jewelry for Haitian Creations.

We have given Margareth a boost and are working toward her being able to care for her own family within a year.  When she can read and write, she can take the exam to enter the sewing program or enter the bead making program.  We will help her budget her money and imagine what a blessing it will be to break the cycle of poverty that has firmly held her for her entire life.  She is on her way to having options.

You have helped, you are making a difference which we pray will continue for the children and their children and …

I know that there are more updates that need to get out there and so I will send the next one of Wednesday November 21st.

Thanks for making a difference here in Haiti.

John

It has taken a few weeks but we finally have a workable plan to help Margareth and her three children.  We could have just given money or had a knee-jerk reaction to her situation but it is better, unless it is an emergency, to gather as much information as possible so to make  informed decisions.

If you have not read the previous two posts that tell the story of Margareth and her seven year old daughter, then please click here  read them and then continue with this post.

We have identified three main areas in which we can help Margareth and her three children:

  1. We have to get them out of their present living situation which is loosely called a tent, but is actually a combination of old sheets and worn out tarps.  It certainly does not hold back the rain, which literally pours through roof of the tent.
  2. We want to get her three children into school.  See stats below

Haiti’s literacy rate is 53% which falls well below the 90% average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean’s countries.

Haiti counts 15,200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by the communities, religious organizations, or NGOs.  The enrollment rate for primary school is 67%, of which less than 30% reach 6th grade. 

 Secondary schools enroll 20% of eligible-age children.

3.  Teach Margareth how to read and write.
Currently Margareth makes approximately  $60.00 USD a month by hand washing some of the neighbors’ clothes.  As you can see that is not much, especially considering that she has three children to care for.

MONEY NEEDED

The amount needed to rent a two room house for one year is $ 750.00.  And the amount to send her three children to a school that is already subsidized but where she does have to pay for books and uniform  is $506.00 for one year .  This totals $1256.00 for the house and for school.  I know that this seems  inexpensive, but if you are making about $720.00 a year and have three children in the house then you can see it can seem unattainable.

Our goal is to help Margareth to care for herself and for her family.  Our goal is to help Margareth learn a skill so she can find a job.  Our goal is to demonstrate the love of God through words and through actions.

Many have written and said, “We want to help, what can we do?” Well, at this point we would like to give the $1256.00 to pay the rent on the house and for one year’s school for the three children. While, I’m sure that we could give more, we at this point, would rather see if with the help given Margareth is able to make it.  We want to see if she is faithful in attending literacy class.  We want to see how the children do in school.  We want to see if we are not just giving, but helping.  We want to visit the home regularly to get to know this family and so better know how we can help.

If more is given that is needed, we will contact you to ask if we can use your generous donation to help others in similar situations.
Please go the Heartline Website to donate and be sure to specify our donation for Margareth.

Thank you for caring,

John

Several days ago on my previous post I wrote about a lady that we have known for several years that came to our house  early in the morning with her seven year old daughter. She, standing in front of the  gate next to her daughter, asked if we would find a place for her daughter to live as she couldn’t care for her any longer.  I still grapple with the emotions I felt as I heard her words, and  with what her daughter must have felt as she heard her mother speak those words.

A few days after I wrote that blog, I traveled to California to attend and participate in the memorial service of Paul Beltis, an amazing man and friend, who had died suddenly from a heart attack.  Since returning this week, I have met with the mom and her daughter twice,  have gathered information, and had one of the ladies from our Women’s Center go to where they live to verify information and to take pictures.

The mother’s name is Magareth.  She was born in 1962 in the cental city of Hinche, which is 47 miles from Port au Prince. Her mother died when she three days old and so she grew up in an orphanage in the area.  She during her time in the orphanage, never had a visit from a relative nor does she know of any relatives.  She has seven children, two of which moved to the Dominican Republic several years ago and she has not heard from or seen them since.  Two other children, live with others and she has three at home.  She can not read or write and makes money by doing laundry by hand from which she makes about $2.00 a day.   She lives in a tent which is better described as a mishmash of torn sheets, leaky tarps and old rusty tin roof pieces ( see photos at the end of this blog).

The seven year old, for whom the mother wants to find another home is named Violanda.  She was born in November 2004.

Magareth said that there are two things that she needs right now.  The first is to find a place for Violanda and the second is to find another place to live.  I told her that we will try to help her, but under no circumstances will be work to find an orphanage or any other place where Violanda will live apart from the family.  She agreed.

This is not just an issue of giving money or renting a better place to live or giving monthly support.  It is more involved that that.  It involves becoming a part of this family’s life.  Checking up on them regularly.  Helping to equip them for life.  Supporting them until they get to a place where they can live and provide for themselves.  In my mind it is sort of like helping someone learn to ride a bicycle.  You run behind, holding onto the back, while the rider works at not crashing or falling.  The goal is not to spend your whole life being needed; but rather to help the rider get to a place where he can ride independent of your help.  You demonstrate how to ride, how to use the brakes; you hold on and hold up the rider as you walk beside the rider as he learns and you run behind, holding on as the rider picked up speed; and eventually you let go and often picked up the rider and the bike after he crashes.  But you stay with it until he learned. And encourage the rider when he got discouraged.

So we want to begin with helping the family rent a house.  A small cement house, usually consisting of two rooms.  Food is prepared outside, there will be no running water and the toilet will be a communal outhouse.  Perhaps to you, this doesn’t seem like much, but to Magareth, it is more than she could ever hope for.  A house, a cement house with a door that can lock.  A house where their belongings do not get soaked when it rains.  A house with two rooms.  A place where the walls and the roof are not made of torn sheets and worn out tarps.

Secondly, we want to be sure that all three of the children that live with her are in school.

Thirdly, we want to have Magareth attend our literacy school,  get to know her a bit more to see what training we can give her and what kind of job we can help her to get.

This does mean that we will support the family monthly for some months, with the goal of helping them to be able  financially to provide for themselves.

Many have written and said that they would like to help.  I could have rattled off a number and raised support for the family.  But we can do better than that, and while money is needed, it must be with a goal of attaining independence not dependence.

The so called tent where the family lives

Margareth with Violande to her left and the two other children

Inside the tent where they must store all their belongings

Outside the tent where they cook

The Tent

I, within the next few days, should be able to share with you ways in which we can help this family and perhaps other families  to break free and out of that which holds them so tightly in its grasp.

John McHoul

This morning at about 7:00 AM as I was pulling out of the driveway, I made eye contact with a woman, who with her daughter had been waiting to see me.  I have known this woman and her daughter for several years but it had been some months since I had seen them.

They first came into our lives about five years ago, when we received the, then, two-year old daughter into our crèche.  We did so on a trial basis as it was clear that this precious little girl was very much attached to her mother and we were unsure how she would do separated from her mother.

It didn’t take long for us to see that the daughter grieved terribly and missed her mom greatly.  It wasn’t our purpose to wear her down until she put her mother on the back shelf, so to speak.  So after two weeks we had the mom come and take her daughter back where she belonged.  We gave the mom a bit of money to begin a small business selling rice and beans outside the one room house where she lived.  But she was not able to make a go if it, yet as countless others here in Haiti, she inexplicably has been able to survive, albeit in abject poverty.

Getting out of the truck, I greeted the mom and her daughter and expected her to ask me if I would help send her daughter to school. I can’t count the times I have been asked that in the past several weeks.  The flow of people asking for such help intensifies as the first day of school draws closer.  It is heart wrenching to have to say, “I’m sorry, but I simply don’t have money to help you this time.”  This year school starts on October 1st.

The mom, though, had a different question for me.  She with her daughter standing next to her looked me in the face and said that life was too hard and then she asked if I could find a place for her daughter.  She couldn’t care for her any longer.  I immediately looked into the face of her seven-year old daughter and saw a sadness that hit me like a heat wave.  Inside I was screaming, “NO, NO, NO, THIS ISN’T FAIR.”        Outside I, not ready to deal with this, calmly asked her to come back and see me on Friday.  I need time to think and pray.

Of course we want the family to stay intact.  But how can this happen?  Where will the mom get the money and resources  to care for her family and to keep this her youngest child?

Some may in horror wonder how a mom could give her child away; she mustn’t love her some would say.  My experience, is that she in fact loves this child so much that she’s willing to give her up to someone who can provide for her, who can send her to school, who can give to her much of what the mom can’t give.    I wish money alone could solve this problem, but it can’t.  There is no short, quick, easy answer.

So often, if not daily, answers are hard to come by.  So we look to God for wisdom and insight into how we can help, how we can make a difference, how we can be the hands of Jesus to this mom and daughter.  We can’t help everyone but we must look to God on behalf of those that He allows into our lives.  Perhaps you can pray with me as I look to God for His will and direction, as Friday will soon be here.

John McHoul

On Tuesdays we are surrounded with chubby babies and bare breasts. If breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable don’t visit on Tuesdays. You will have no where to look without seeing a mom feeding her baby.

One of our graduate moms walked in today with a newborn at her breast. I looked up and thought I was having a confused senior moment. There was Yverline feeding a newborn but her baby is 7 months old and huge compared to this fragile being. The story unfolded. I do not have dementia. Actually this story defines the very essence of our program; it is because of stories like this we exist and do what we do. Yverline’s sister, a mother of seven died after delivering this baby girl.

She delivered at home and she died at home. No midwife, no help for hemorrhage, no skilled attendant, no medicines, no quick action in an emergency, no one noticed as the life drifted from her – they were off getting her food. In an instant Haiti just got handed seven more orphans.

In an instant Yverline, mother of three, becomes mother of 10. Being 35 and having 7 babies makes a woman very high risk in Haiti. Did she have any prenatal care? Did she hemorrhage as her tired uterus couldn’t do its job after so many deliveries? Was she anemic?

Whatever the reasons she left behind a whole family that needed her. Most deaths are preventable. We have medicines, we have tricks of the trade, we see signs and usually know how to help a woman or we transport to the hospital. Most deaths don’t have to happen.

Lots of women choose to stay home to deliver because they don’t trust hospitals and they don’t know how to navigate the system at the overcrowded hospitals that are available to them. Many times overworked staff do not treat women respectfully so women stay home and deliver alone. All to often they die alone as well.

Our program is full. Our waiting list is long. Plans for our new site cannot happen fast enough. More skilled midwives can’t get here soon enough. What we do works and saves lives.

Yverline is already looking ahead at the responsibility on her shoulders. She asked Troy how she could put all these kids through school which is so important in Haiti. Education is valued and cherished but so very expensive. Yverline knows and her heart is heavy. She confided in Agathe that her husband is angry that she spent all their money on her sister’s funeral. We live in Haiti, we know how culturally important funerals are. Sad to say it would have taken us very little money’s worth of medicine to save this woman had she been part of our program. All women should have a skilled attendant at their birth. All women should get to live and raise the children they bear. Having a baby shouldn’t kill you.

Beth McHoul

Click here to see what Heartline is planning that we may give quality, loving care to more women.

Marathon Baby!

Posted: September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Saturday September 15, 2012

I woke up this morning and realized two things – I slept through the night without being interrupted by my cell phone and John had left hours before to take Barry McDonald to Goat Mountain to train.  I burst into tears in relief that we midwives had gotten a full night’s sleep.  They are rare these days.  Catching up is hard to do.

I also realized that although we are runners: Tara, Melissa, Sarah O, Jen, Wini and I are on a new sort of marathon.  We, like Barry, run for life for the same women; we just do it differently now.

I cried over that transition this morning.  Years ago it was me off on a morning training run armed with Gatorade and running an insane amount of miles.  Our daughter Morgan would skip school to bring me new clothes and drinks every hour.  The school never agreed that this was a legit stay home reason.   Running used to be a huge part of my life and rarely a day went by that I didn’t run.  Now I catch a few miles here and there hoping to stay fresh.

We run different marathons, but we run never the less.  Barry is running to highlight the women of our program.  He is highlighting maternal health at Heartline.  We midwives are working each day to make sure that health happens.  Like Barry, some days we feel like we can’t do another mile, and yet when the phone rings or the sun comes up for Barry, off we go putting one foot in front of the other.

Mostly we love what we do beyond measure.  Like runners love running.  Midwives love women and babies but somewhere mid-run we realize you can’t stop and go home when this ceases to be comfortable.  Tired means more coffee and chocolate not more sleep:  Walls are hit, walls are overcome.

Women come into the program prenatally.  They come with lifelong unmet health needs.  The blood pressures in this country leave me with my jaw hanging open.  They come with fears, they come with a hope that finally some mother and grandmother (that’s me) like figures will listen to them and help them.  All through their pregnancies they have health needs that have to be taken care of.  Births can be a sprint and we are lucky if we arrive on time (had one on the porch recently) or they can be a two day marathon where we are all hitting the wall of mile 20 and wish this baby would come.   Then postpartum is where maintenance begins.  A mom has to be encouraged to now put into place all the things she has learned in our program.  She and baby need constant monitoring.  Some go home at 24 hours others stay for a week or two depending on her situation.

All my years of running have taught me how to be a midwife.  You can go on when you think you can’t.  Running and birth have taught me the human body is an amazing machine and can do wondrous, difficult things.  The human spirit can rise up and accomplish incredible feats, push when there is no more strength, run when energy is gone.  Coaches in birth and running are invaluable figures who can be the key to success for a runner.  Midwives are coaches and protectors of the process of birth.  We stand beside our runners and step in when necessary.

While Barry runs up Goat mountain to bring awareness and huge money to our new maternity center site I’ll catch a few miles around the neighborhood knowing the cell phone might ring at any moment:

Mme John “I have contractions”, “my baby has a fever”, “I am bleeding”, “I lost my housing”, “my older child is sick”, “I have pelvic pain”, “I think I am in labor”, are just a few of the calls we get.  Women need to be heard.   Tara and I spend many the night fielding phone calls, consorting together on how to respond and meeting up at the maternity center.  Troy has talked many a women through contractions on the cell phone since he has the best language skills.  We may give him an honorary midwifery and ambulance driving medal for all his help!

Barry is running  the distance of several laborious marathons through the cities and villages of Haiti to bring awareness.   Maternal health in Haiti is deplorable.  We have hit on a method that works:  a small program seeing women weekly (or more) and ministering to the whole person until the baby is six months old.  This works so well we are twinning it on our land with a bigger center.

Midwives caring for women on an intimate level works.  Mom and baby thrive!   Families catch the vision.  We had a dad last week that said this baby will be breastfed for six months just like my wife learned in class!  Success!

We run for women!  We run for life!  We run because these women have no voice of their own.

Click here to learn more about Barry McDonald and the Run for Life.  Your support will help Heartline build a new Maternity Center where women and babies will be given the care that they deserve.

Press here to see a one minutes clip of Barry running in a Haitian town.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Run on!

Beth McHoul

Losing Larry Finding Friends

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

We have a lot of dogs at Heartline.  The party line is that they are for security but the two giant beasts lying by our bed aren’t doing much in the guarding department.  They sleep while they wait for whatever food they can guilt us out of.

The “guard” dog of choice around here is Mastiff.  There are 10 total.  We know this because we count them when the vet visits yearly for their vaccinations.  It is always an event.  A comedy.  The muzzle comes out along with the syringes.  It can get ugly but so can the diseases the vaccinations protect against so we persevere.  We tackle the dogs who weigh more than the vet and get the job done.  The vet doesn’t like me.  He rolls his eyes at me.  I admit I am pesty to the man.  (Like the time at midnight Beth called the vet to come to our house because one of the dogs was giving birth.  He hung up on her.)

Most of our dogs have come from Vermont or they are offspring from the Vermonters.  We chose this breed because we believed the fallacy  that they are great guard dogs.  They do love their family, they do bark at strangers, they do trip you in the dark, and they do watch over their territory.  They are loyal beyond loyal, they want to head butt everyone they love and add drool for good measure.  They stink even after a bath.  The smarter ones stay out of reach of the hose when bath time comes around.

Larry came as a puppy from our friends in Vermont.  He settled in at the guest house and had ruled the yard ever since.  A mastiff isn’t full grown until year 3 and he went from a gangling teen aged dog to massive 200 pound truck.  He delighted all the dog loving visitors and terrified or annoyed those that don’t like cow sized canines.  Free drool hung in strings as Larry would greet those who came and went from the guest house.  Lots of visitors took photos of him.  He was huge, he was friendly, and he wasn’t what you would think of as a dog in Haiti.

The two mastiffs at the maternity center lay by the door while babies come into the world.  They guard the home and decide who comes in and who stays out.  Marley sees himself as character judge and whatever forces  that speak to his inner dog cause him to decide whether a person is worthy of entering our gate or not.   If he deems a man not worthy, that man is not coming in.  End of story.  We feel quite safe.

I was away last week for midwifery school.  Young, strong and healthy Larry took sick and died within 12 hours.  This massive beast was healthy in the evening and near death in the morning.  He died on the way to the vet.  We still don’t know what happened to him.  The news was kept out of cyber space lest I see it and feel rattled in my studies.  I am so grateful for that.

I cried when John told me.  Immediately feedback came – sweet Isaac Livesay was praying for Grandma Beth.  Ryan, from the guest house was posting pics of Larry on Face Book.  Evan was caring for Larry’s dear dog roommate Nora with extra TLC.  The sweetness of our community was endearing.

My heart swelled with the love of friends.  The life and death of a massive, drooly dog showed me how we love and protect each other.   People cared about this dog, who was part of our community.  He was part of what made the guest house a special place.  He was part of us and part of Heartline.

What I saw was that Heartline people care about each other and their feelings.  People were worried about me – I love them for that.  They cared enough to bury him on our land and put a marker there.  A statement that says we honor each other.

Larry had a madame named Annie.  They had a romance – we are waiting to see if puppies are in our near future.  Little Larry’s will have special meaning if Annie is indeed pregnant.  More drool, more love, more guard dogs to share.

 
Beth McHoul

Changes That Last

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

We, this past week, helped a 15 year old through labor and birth.  As she tenderly nursed her newborn boy I thought about her life.  She could, like many of her community, have several babies throughout her young adult life.  She may lose some of them to sickness, and not raise some of them, by giving a few away to relatives or orphanages.  We see this pattern over and over.  A teen gets pregnant and her options are limited.  School is usually no longer an option.  She, with limited resources, struggles to care for her child. The baby may get sick or may end up with relatives or at an orphanage.  The void is huge, another pregnancy happens, and the cycle continues.

Many men want biological children but not babies by a man who came before them; so her children by another man may end up in an orphanage or other care setting.  Since mom is young, has little education, and few skills, she is dependent on finding a man or relatives that will care for her.  She is locked into the choices they make for her.  If they want her child they take him.  If they feel they can do better for the child they take over the parenting.  The mother–child bond is broken.   Mom’s brokenness and lack or resources lead her into multiple pregnancies and children she cannot care for.

We teach these young girls to wait for marriage.  We teach them to breastfeed and care for the babies they deliver.  We teach them to be responsible, to space out their children, and keep their children.  We tell them orphanages are for orphans not babies that are not convenient.

Their struggle is huge.  Culture, older women, relatives are trapped in a mindset that may not preserve the mother-child relationship.  Extended family is wonderful and most of us are grateful to have them.  Grandparents, aunts and sisters are a huge blessing to a young mom.  With their help a mother can perhaps still go to school, get a job, be successful.  But when these family members unwittingly work against the mom,  the cycle of poverty and the old wives’ tales may continue and can be destructive.

We teach young moms to exclusively breastfeed.  Grandma and auntie may not agree with that and whisk the baby away with a bottle, which sabotages success.  A bottle fed baby is often in danger of ongoing  sickness here, but culture holds to the notion that babies need bottles and breast milk is not healthy.  A mother is often told she does not produce enough milk and that breast milk is bad.

Our program provides food, vitamins, prenatal care, a safe birth, postpartum and baby care.  All of these are good things.  But our classes are by far the most important part of our program.  Education changes thinking.  New thinking changes lives.  Stopping cycles of destruction that can last a lifetime is the heartbeat of our program.  Getting young women to take responsibility for the children they bear and to space their children can change their lives and this culture.  Educating women brings about change in a country.

These young women will someday be old.  They will speak into the lives of the young.  We look forward to the day when they teach the young to stay pure, care for their babies, be a family, and be successful.

Children need family.  They need their moms to raise them and extended family to help them.  Older women need to teach younger women the truth, but they have to know the truth first.   Our classes last from a positive pregnancy test, till the baby is six months old.  The lessons, we pray, will last for generations!

Beth McHoul

A LIVING SACRIFICE

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Last night, Beth shared with me this quote by Brian Fikkert, the co-author of When Helping Hurts.

…work is an act of worship. When people seek to fulfill their callings by glorifying God in their work, praising Him for their gifts and abilities, and seeing both their efforts and its products as an offering to Him, then work is an act of worship to God. On the other hand, when work is done to glorify oneself or merely to achieve more wealth, it becomes worship of false gods. How we work and for whom we work really matters.

The above quote makes me think of Paul’s words in Romans 12:1 AMP.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

I then think of the famous quote by Jim Elliot.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

The pressure to conform to the world and to fashion our Christianity to fit our culture is simply too strong for most believers to break from.  Our Christianity then becomes like a flat coke:  No fizz, no kick, no punch, no strength, no satisfaction.

Francis Chan in  Crazy Love writes,

Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers. 

Perhaps it wouldn’t be stretching it too far to say,

Something, as well,  is wrong when our lives  make sense to believers.

Perhaps we could even say,

Something is wrong when our lives make sense to ourselves.

 

Steve Douglass writes,

Jesus may ask you to put down your net in an impossible, unreasonable place.

Perhaps Douglass was thinking of when Jesus came upon Simon Peter after Peter and others had been fishing all night with no results. Luke 5: 1-7 NLT:

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
Simon Peter listened to Jesus although it didn’t make sense to go out and let down the  nets again as he and the others  had fished all night without catching a single fish.  Yet when they did listen, look what happen.
Sometimes it seems to me that we have God packaged up in a tidy, neat,  box.  Anything that does not fit into our box is then suspect.  Randy MacMillan writes,

When God moves out of the ordinary, along with the surprise comes the temptation to criticize what we don’t rationally understand. 

Several years ago, our daughter Morgan had finished nursing school, and she volunteered at a place here in Haiti for those terminally ill with TB and AIDS.  It was a place that I had been to once or twice but it had been some years.  They loved having her especially since she speaks English, French, and Creole.  One day I arrived early to pick her up and I saw a man  there cutting the patients’ hair.  I asked one of the workers who he is and was told that he is a catholic priest and that is what he does.  Daily he would cut the hair of the terminally ill  patients as he spoke of and showed them God’s love.

I often think about this man, and wonder how he adds up in the present world that wants to see results in numbers.  How many students do you support? How many people do you feed?  How many bags of rice and beans do you give? How many churches do you have? How many schools do you have?  How many people work for the mission?  How many confessions of faith in the past 12 months?

I wonder why, even in the church, success is often judged by numbers.  I wonder what it means to give our lives as a holy sacrifice.  I wonder if the call of God is often ignored or rejected because it may not be what we like, want, or planned.

I not too long ago asked someone if he would do something in church.  He said, “No” because he didn’t like doing it.  I admit that I was confused, as I didn’t understand what him not liking what I asked him to do, had  to do with him doing or not doing it.  I still don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if we don’t even consider what God may be asking us to do because it is something we don’t like or it may not fit into our plans or we think that there is no way God would ask us to do that because He  knows that’s simply not us.
Part of giving and surrendering your life to God, is acknowledging  that God will spend you where He sees best.  Are you willing to be so spent?  Are you willing to pray as Christ did in the garden, “Not my will but your will.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, 23

  17Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…

I think of the words of Elisabeth Elliot and I pray that we will know what it is to be submissive to His lordship.

Until the will and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand, let alone to accept, His lordship. 

YES LORD, MAY IT BE SO IN OUR LIVES!

John McHoul

Follow on twitter <mchoulj>

Jeronie gave birth to a 6.7 pound girl on June 30, 2012.  She is pictured above with her mom holding the new baby girl.  Their house is a combination of cement blocks and tarps.  Look at Jeronie’s beautiful smile and the strong beautiful face of her mother.

The grandmother and Lise our wonderful friend and nurse from Canada holding the newborn baby girl.

Perhaps you have to be a grandparent to capture the thoughts of this grandmother as she gazes at her new granddaughter.

A Stumble, A Fall, A Walk

Posted: June 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

Photo by Troy Livesay

On June 15, 2012 seventy-six amazing ladies graduated from the Heartline Women’s Program. The auditorium was filled with family, friends, and even a visiting group to Heartline. The ladies even more than last year wowed us with their singing, dancing, fashion show and creativity as they displayed many of the items that they had created over the school year.

Sitting there at graduation my mind went back to nine months earlier, to the first day of school.  I happened to be outside on the front porch as the ladies were leaving after the first day of classes. One of the ladies leaving, misjudged the small porch step, stumbled, and fell right onto the ground.  The ladies around her helped her up, brought her back inside, checked if she was okay, and  brushed her off.

Thinking about that day, the first day of school, the first day of meeting your fellow students, it I’m sure,  is not how she wanted to start her time at the Heartline Sewing Program.  Yet, she continued to come.  Every now and then I would see her at class  and just her being there brought encouragement to me.

I thought of her and of the incident during graduation when I saw her leave her seat, walk up  two steps, and cross the platform to receive her diploma. Her face was filled with joy as she received her well earned diploma.

She started with a stumble and a fall; but nine months later she ended with a walk. What a lesson that is to us.  There may be times when we stumble or even fall.  There may be times when we want nothing more than to give up.  There may be times when we just want to stay down because it it simply too much effort to get back up.  In times like these I think of the words of Jack Dempsey,  the professional fighter who said,

A champion is one who gets up even when he can’t.

In September about 100 ladies will enter the 2012-2013 Heartline Women’s Program.  It will be our privilege to teach, encourage, and help them finish the course.  While they may not physically stumble and fall, many will come feeling unworthy, unloved, and inadequate.  It will be our joy to help them see that they are loved by God and by us and that they are not alone.  It will be our mission to help them as William Seymour said,

To lose sight to gain vision.

When you support Heartline, you are supporting, helping, and encouraging the amazing ladies who enter our programs and become a part of our lives and community.

A stumble, a fall, and a walk seems like such a minor thing, but I over the past couple of weeks have told that little story several time and each time I find that I am speaking to people who can relate and then feel encouraged because they, themselves, know what it is to have faltered, stumbled and even to have fallen.  And they also know what it is to be helped up, and strengthened by God and by the people of God.

Class of 2011-2012- Stay the course, finish the race.

Class of 2012-2013-We are looking forward to seeing you.

Reader of this blog- Lose Sight to Gain Vision.

John McHoul

NO ROOM

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

We keep our programs as small as possible which in a place like Haiti is near to impossible.  We think every woman should have prenatal care, a safe birth, and education on breast-feeding and childcare.  We also think a woman shouldn’t have to fight and claw to get a sick baby seen by a health care provider.  We think women deserve respect and should get information so they can make wise decisions.   We’ve noticed almost all women make good decisions when given good information.  We’ve noticed that the ladies in our program love their babies and want the best for them.   We’ve also noticed they like our program and don’t like when graduation day rolls around when their baby is six months old.

Graduation

We make a big deal out of graduation.  We have the moms and their six month olds come to the front of class where we congratulate them, talk about how healthy their baby is, we pray with them and then give them a certificate and a large gift package of mom and baby goodies.  They aren’t fooled.  This isn’t a good day.  They don’t want to graduate to make room for a new mom and most of them leave with fallen faces.  One gal filled with tears, made protest that in reality she does not graduate for 2 more weeks and dug in her heels till we relented.  She happens to be one of the many moms who want to see our pediatrician weekly whether she needs her or not.

The room is full to capacity; we have to graduate them although we’re sad to see them go.  One mom told us she holds class in her neighborhood after leaving our class and teaches her friends what she learned that day.  We consider that success.  Kerline (pictured left) is a teacher by trade and nature.  We love her.  She had a very difficult birth and we were privileged to take care of her.

We just sent a not laboring woman home for the second time today.  She acted in labor, wanted to be in labor, but was in fact, not in labor.  She cried as we explained her body and baby weren’t ready – she needed to go home.  After talking a while we realized home is a tent.  Not exactly a comfy environment to go home to.  No wonder she desperately wanted the pain of labor.   Food, fan and a fluffy bed are a far cry from a dusty, hot tent.    She has 3 children already but two are in orphanages.  Our program seeks to put an end to that cycle with education, empowerment and the gospel.

The very thing that makes us successful is what limits us.  By keeping our programs smaller we can give women personal attention, quality care and be involved in their lives.  That also means we have to turn lots of women away and graduate women we would love to keep.

Eventually we will twin and triplicate our programs.  Today we sigh as we can’t do all we would like to do and help as many women as we would want to.  But, when I look at our graduates – informed moms armed with truth, holding healthy, chubby babies I know this works.  I know that truth seeps into tents and crowded neighborhoods.  I know that wisdom can win and women can teach other women.  Truthful information is powerful and every woman should have access to it.  No woman has to be poor in spirit.

Beth McHoul

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ life and how he came into a world that largely rejected him.

We, in John 1: 10,11 read,

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.

In the gospel of Matthew chapter two, we read about the evil king Herod, who hearing that a baby boy who would be the king of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem, had the boys in Bethlehem and vicinity around the age of two killed.  Talk about being unwanted.

Jesus did not shy away from telling the world that he had been sent by the  infinite, eternal God. The same God that delivered  the children of Israel from Egypt.  The same God that spoke through the prophets.  Check out a few of his bold, no holds barred statements:

John 14:6

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

John 14:9

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?

John 6:51

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever

 

I know  in these times that it is not popular or perhaps even prudent to use words such as: CRUSADER, REVOLUTIONARY, ACTIVIST, RADICAL  If you were to stand up during your next flight and loudly proclaim, “I am a crusader, a revolutionary, an activist and a radical”, I suspect that the plane would detour to the nearest airport and that you would be detained by some mean looking federal agents.

Yet I believe that Jesus was in fact a crusader, a revolutionary, an activist and a radical as defined below:

Crusader: One committed to a vigorous and dedicated action or movement in favor of a cause.

A Revolutionary:  One involved in constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change

Activist: An especially vigorous advocate of a cause.

A Radical: A person who holds or follows strong convictions.

He wasn’t  angry, destructive or condemning.  He was driven by his love for His Heavenly Father and his love for the people his Father created.  He was:

Passionate:  Capable of, affected by, or expressing intense feeling

Compassionate:  Synonyms-pitying, sympathizing, sympathetic, tender.

Dedicated: Wholly committed to something, as to an ideal

Driven: Strongly motivated

I read a quote recently by Howard Hendricks that pierced my heart.  He said,

In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.

Today, in our morning meeting in the office, I asked the guys to complete this sentence: In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are__________.

The answers given were: silent, preoccupied, unseeing, complacent.

God has called us to be radical in our faith.  He has called us to actively share the gospel with others.  He has called us to be passionate, dedicated and driven.

It is not uncommon to hear believers cry out against the state of the world, of the church, of the government and of the family.  But I believe the greater concern is the lack of radicals, crusaders, revolutionaries, and activists who unswervingly proclaim the truth of the gospel.  I’m not suggesting that we soap box or condemn, belittle, or rant and rave; but rather that we with a firm conviction proclaim the truth in love.

How would you finish this sentence:  In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, I______________.

How do I finish that sentence?

John

It has been a week of heavy hearts.  One of my younger sisters is in a coma in a Boston hospital after having a heart attack.  Our dear co-worker and long time friend, Agathe, called yesterday morning to say her sister-in-law had been kidnapped leaving a husband and 6 month old baby to grieve and wait by the cell phone for the ransom demand (She was released by the kidnappers late Tuesday evening).  Rain and water continue to plague our neighborhood making the road better for boats than vehicles.  A two minute drive to the maternity center can turn into an hour long water adventure.

I decided to fly to Boston to sit by one sister’s hospital bed and encourage her twin, my other sister.  My family, like most families do in crisis, have gathered together to share news, to pray together, to wait for word.  I wanted to join them.

Ticket in hand, carry-on packed, chores done;  I was ready to go to the airport.  Traveling light is not usually my style but I thought travel would be easier if I brought only a wheel style carry- on and my purse.  Kindle, camera, and lap top were neatly tucked away among the Stateside clothes.  I transformed myself into the Stateside look of t-shirt and jeans.  Ready to go.

Traffic jams are a way of life here and we allow time for them.  As we were leaving for the airport Troy and Tara pulled up saying the road was blocked.  Neighbors had had enough of the river running down our street and they were blocking the road in protest.  They are tired of their clean clothes and shoes being soaked and soiled.  They are tired of roads that are potholed filled lakes.  We often fill our vehicles with people trying to walk through the water.

We started on the other route to the airport.  It was totally blocked with all the vehicles from both roads.  Stand still blocked.  We turned around and headed back home to John’s motorcycle.  Let the comedy begin.

John has big hair.  Really big curly hair.  We are old, we are white and we stuff a giant wheel carry-on between us and my bag on the top of that.  I hold on for dear life.  My t- shirt has a peace symbol – nothing could be more appropriate.  Off we go, through the mud, in between vehicles, around puddles, around , in, and over pot holes.  Hair is whipping in the wind, mud is flying and I’m sure by-standers are laughing.  I’m laughing too, in spite of myself, and I’m hoping I don’t arrive at the airport covered in mud, and wet on my bottom.

Lessons learned from living in Haiti a long time.  You degaje!  You wing it, you do what you have to do to make something happen.  If you look ridiculous doing it, all the better.  I’m suddenly thankful for John’s motorcycle.  We have a deal – if the mastiffs sleep in the house (on the floor on either side of our bed) the motorcycle sleeps in the house.  After two stolen motorcycles we came to agreement on that one.

Even in grief and hardship humor can come and soften the blow.  As I spend this next week in vigil next to my silent sister, between praying, reading Scripture, visiting with family I’ll smile at the remembrance of two old hippies traveling on a motorbike with luggage piled high attempting to get to the airport on time.

Join us in prayer for my sister Kathleen to recover, join us in prayer for Manousha to be returned safely to her family.  And if you’re late for a flight in Port-au-Prince you can always call John’s moto-taxi.  He rocks the road!

Beth

PLODDING ON

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

The other night, Beth and I had dinner with a friend that we have known for about twenty years.  He is a Haiti friend-meaning that we know him because of Haiti.  He doesn’t live in Haiti, but he is a part of a mission that has been working in Haiti for thirty years.

He was venting a bit, sharing  frustrations and discouragements as there had  recently been several bumps on the road.  Beth and I listened and told of some of our  bump stories, as we have had no lack of bumps in our twenty-two year journey in Haiti.

None of us is immune to discouragement, and when I hear someone say that he never gets discouraged, I figure that means he’s not doing much, or that he is too shallow to get discouraged, or that he is discouraged.

Things will not always go as we would like.  There will be times when it gets hard, times when your efforts are not appreciated or may even be rejected.  There will be times when you will feel let down or even forsaken by those that you thought you could count on.

I wonder if Jesus had such feelings?  Really, from a purely human perspective, Jesus while alive on earth didn’t seem to have done all that well in being God in the flesh.  In the crunch, he was forsaken by the men that were closest to him. We, of course, know that the death of Jesus wasn’t the end but really a new beginning for mankind as Christ didn’t stay dead.

Living and ministering in Haiti can, at times, be rather difficult.  We daily can encounter situations, heartache, sadness and unjustness that can seem overwhelming and which, at times, can seep into our beings.

Just this week among other situations we had the bio mom of a child that went through our adoption program come to our house to see me.  I had seen her about two months ago when I gave her money sent by the family that adopted her child.  She told me that on the day that I had given her the money, she left our house and got on a public transportation vehicle to go home.  A man who got on the vehicle with her, confronted her, and demanded the money that she had received.  It seemed that he had seen her when she counted the money while standing on the street in front of our house.  He grabbed her purse, and when she wouldn’t let go, he pulled out a gun and shot her three times.  All the other people in the vehicle fled and the driver took this women to a hospital where she spent three weeks.  She by God’s grace survived and now she stood before me, showing me the three bullet wounds and wanting to know how I can help her.

This week, as well, the sister-in law of one of our dear, long-term staff members was kidnapped by men that broke into her home at two in the morning as she, her husband, and six month old child slept.  The men cut the electricity to the house, broke in, made her and her husband lie face down on the floor, and  forcibly removed her, leaving her husband and child.  This is not a rich family, but rather a young couple who are trying to make it in a country that often seems inhospitable to those that are trying to build a better life for themselves and for their children.  The initial ransom price is two hundred thousand dollars American.  A ridiculously absurd amount from a family that perhaps takes in five hundred dollars a month.   The family has yet to speak to her to verify her condition.

Today I received a call from a woman, that I had last seen at the funeral service of her daughter who had died of AIDS.   She’s coming to see me this week.

Today I had a Haitian policeman come to the office to see me.  I have known him and his family for a number of years and consider him a friend.  He three weeks ago was on a moto taxi when the driver lost control of the motorcycle.  The moto hit a vehicle parked on the side of the road and my friend in the collision sustained broken ribs, and a broken arm.  He came for help with his hospital bill and to know if we could help his family with food.

As I believer I firmly believe that God’s word is not just good advice to help us through trying times, but rather, it has the power to strengthen us in times of weakness.  It can empower us to hold on when holding on seems the most difficult thing to do.  It can instill peace while the storm rages.

Matthew 11:28

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace,Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16  Rejoice always, 17  pray without ceasing, 18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I love these two little quotes by William Carey

The future is as bright as the promises of God.

I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.

There will be times of frustration and discouragement.  But it is in these times that we must find strength, help, peace, wisdom, endurance, and encouragement in God’s word.  Strength to keep on even in the midst of difficulty.  Strength to trust God. Strength to as William Carey wrote, “Plod.”

John

Recently I spent several days in Florida.  While there, I was able to see and spend some time with our children and grandchildren.  Although our children are now grown and both married, I can’t seem to fully comprehend  that they came from Beth and me.  And then when I sit and watch the grandchildren, it becomes even more incomprehensible to me.  It’s almost too amazing and too big for me to appreciate and take in.

While in Florida I had to go to UPS to mail a box of purses and beads made by the Haitian Creations ladies.  While there, I had time to think as the line was long and slow.  I got looking around the room at several boxes that were rather plain, taped up, addressed and ready to be put into the UPS system to be delivered.  The boxes by looking at the outside  gave no indication of their contents.

My own box was plain on the outside,  and a bit roughed up.  It was a used box.  Inside my box were several hundred dollars worth of purses and beads, but really there was so much more.  The beautiful purses and beads,  handmade in Haiti, by ladies in Haitian Creations represent their hope for the present and their dreams for the future. All of that inside a plain, roughed up cardboard box.

The ladies hope to daily provide for themselves and for their families.  They hope to send their children to school.  They hope to live in a house where they feel safe and secure.

They dream of a life out of the clutches of poverty and oppression. They dream of a better life for their children.  They dream of a future which so far has eluded them and for which they had no hope.  All of this in a plain, roughed up cardboard box.

These ladies aren’t just sitting around  waiting.  They have found people who believe in them, even when they don’t believe in themselves.  They have found people who will teach and train them that they can provide for themselves.  They have gotten a hold of what can happen and what they can become and they are working to effect change in their lives. Who could imagine that all of this could be found in a plain, roughed up cardboard box.

It makes me think of people and how so often we judge their worth or their potential by the outside that we can see without considering what’s inside.  I love the words of the Lord to Samuel found in 1Samuael 16:7.  Israel was in need of a new king and Samuel was the one who would choose him and he, as would be expected. was more inclined to consider the ones who on the outside looked kingly. But God didn’t see it that way and He said to Samuel,

 “Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”

It is so easy to judge success by the size of one’s bank account or by the size of one’s house or by the type of vehicle one drives or by the job that one has or by the size of one’s mission or by the externals of a person’s life.

I am writing this from Port au Prince, Haiti but I find myself back at UPS in Florida looking at plain cardboard boxes and and it helps me to refrain from determining one’s worth or potential or success by the outside.

I have a tattoo on my right shoulder.  A few years ago our daughter Morgan said that if I wanted a tattoo, she would pay for it.  Well, since I figured that was a short term offer, I agreed and quickly chose the wording of the tattoo.   I knew immediately what I wanted.  It was five words spoken by William Seymour, the son of former slaves,

Lose Sight To Gain Vision

Let’s not be be hindered from seeing what can be, because we just see what is.  Let’s not determine one’s value or potential by looking only on the outside.  Let’s LOSE SIGHT TO GAIN VISION.

John McHoul