Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snow Day

Ice storm, no school.
 Not our baby- stolen for snuggling from a dear friend.
 World's cutest tree topper.
 Pinch me- I live here?
 Our frosty neighborhood.



23 in Dallas.
84 in Port-au-Prince.

Love, Katie

Friday, August 2, 2013

Money News

44 months. That's how long we've lived on other people's gifts.

Mostly of my Southern girlfriends hate receiving gifts. We say, "you shouldn't have" and we mean it- cause now we've got to write a cursive thank-you card within the next 29 minutes!

Imagine all your livelihood coming straight from other people's debit cards.

It's humbling. Why would people be so generous? How could God be so good to us, such a faithful provider? How could my friends, whose finances I know are tight, be so sacrificial? Not to mention the total strangers!

It's guilt-bringing. I am not worth it, seriously. Does no one sees what hot messes we are? Have they been fooled into believing we're extra-holy angels? Am I using this money correctly? I hope they won't judge me when they see my French manicure- it was a gift from my mom, I swear!

It's embarrassing. Asking for money is the WORST. You feel like a burden, a leech, indebted and the worst sin for an American: a failure at our prized virtue of independence.

It's faith-producing. God has literally brought tens of thousands of dollars out of nowhere- often from the people we'd least expect. He provided. Everything just in time, just enough.

We even were able to give 40% of our support money directly to ministry in Haiti, which was a wild and unrealistic dream at best. We've written fat checks to TeacHaiti, and built a roof for Madame Meristel, and given to the Heartline maternity clinic and prenatal health care program. All with your money. That part rocks, I've got to say.

I wish I could write all our supporters' names down. You would be so blessed by the stories. I will treasure those people all my life.

We asked our supporters to continue through August, as three months following the end of field work is considered the standard. Almost everybody has. We are so grateful. I can't even say.

Now I ask for one more thing. Would you consider not ending your giving to mission work, but transferring it?

Ministries in Haiti I Trust and Love:
  • TeacHaiti
    Imagine your kids are hungry and you live in a tent. What if the only schools around required tuition fees? Almost 300 kids from Haiti's poorest population are in school now because of their TeacHaiti sponsors. For $35 a month you can put a kid in school for a year, providing tuition, uniforms, books, supplies, shoes, innoculations, and daily hot lunches. On Saturdays an art program feeds kids and teaches them to make jewelry, paintings, and carvings. About 100 of the kids in K-6 attend the TeacHaiti School of Hope, at which I've spend many a happy day reading and playing in the lime green classrooms. Of all our time at TeacHaiti, you can read about my favorite day here or Ben's favorite day here.
  • Heartline
    • Maternity Program
      From conception to six months after birth, women and babies are given excellent, free medical care including weekly classes that feature doctor checkups, high-nutrition meals, and training on subjects like breastfeeding, baby care, and prenatal health. They are invited to deliver their babies in a safe, clean birthing room attended by Haitian and American midwives and nurses. If trouble arises, Heartline has an ambulance that can rush women to local hospitals. I blogged about my first visit to Heartline here, and then I went back a second time to help deliver a baby (a top life moment right there!).
    • Haitian Creations
      Simply put, most "orphans" in Haiti have living, loving parents. However, those parents lack income. Haitian Creations employs ladies to make adorable bags, jewelry, wall decor, and other items that will provide enough income to raise and educate the ladies' children. I blogged about my visit to the Haitian Creations boutique and workshop here.
  • Apparent Project
    Just like Haitian Creations above, Apparent Project believes in empowering parents to raise their own kids well. Their artisans' guild has hundreds of Haitians employed, and their products are selling everywhere from Donna Karen's Urban Zen shops to the Disney store. They have a large array of jewelry, glasswork, pottery, cloth dolls, metal wall art, and more. Their headquarters in Port-au-Prince employs even more people as boutique clerks and staff of the library, smoothie shop, and massage area.
Missionaries Around the World I Trust and Love:
  • The F Family in South Asia
    Mom, Dad, and their four kids work at an undisclosed location in South Asia. Through discipling and training local pastors, the church is growing and being led by nationals.
  • Anna in England
    Anna is a pastor to college students in the huge university town of Leeds. With tens of thousands of international students, often from closed countries, there is huge opportunity for relational evangelism.
  • Michelle in the Middle East
    Michelle works for an organization that provides lifesaving medical care for children as well as training of local doctors and nurses.

    To contact these three, please email me at benandkatieinhaiti@gmail.com and I will put you in touch.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. To God be all the glory.

Katie

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What I Miss The Most About Haiti

Here we are, home again. We went to children's camp, on family vacation to Jamaica, and have attended approximately 234098 hours of teacher certification classes.

People keep asking how I'm doing with the transition back to Texas. It would make sense that I'd be experiencing some grief. But you know, there's really only one thought about Haiti that makes me really sad.

It's the first day of school.

In a few weeks Quisqueya teenagers will bounce back down the mountain or wind their ways through the nameless streets of the capital of Haiti. They'll come through the gates onto the dusty drive-through. They'll kiss the cheeks of every single person they pass as they crunch on the gravel and survey the green soccer field, be it five or fifty, on their way to the secondary building. They'll stand on the steps under the mahogany tree, or sit on the cement half-wall next to the little grove of palms meant to hide the electrical boxes. There are two cement picnic tables build around tree trunks, and the ground is rough cobbled stones (note to new people: do not attempt in heels).

The teachers will be mingling outside the first day, meeting new kids. Everywhere you look will be cheek kissing and sparkling white new polo shirts. The teachers will blow their whistles (no bell system due to lack of 24/7 electricity), and everybody will walk down the cement steps, next to the creek bed where the Haitian workers grow corn, past the door to the basement science labs, and up cement steps leading to the basketball court.

And I won't be there.

Sasha will be there. And Valerie, Cannelle, Chafika, Biderka, Virgloty, Anais- my whole discipleship group. But not me.

Gael will there. And Raphael, Sam, Rafael, Mandy, Hans, Emille, Stephen and all the other basketball boys. But not Ben.

Louis Daniel and Rackel and Natasha and Melinda and Randolph and all the other seniors will walk into Senior Transitions and start their college research project. But I won't be teaching it.

I will not give out lockers, assign textbooks, read a parent letter, or show them my classroom library. It will still be in room 36, but I'll be on the C hall of a different high school's second floor, finishing my new classroom for a new crop of students- strangers.

You just can't know what it's like as a teacher to prepare for the first day already knowing all the kids. It's such a relief. The first day is a safe space, not a scary unknown. The first day is a celebration, a reunion, not an awkward ice-breaker, get-to-know-you-game, "about me" survey, diagnostic test-taking day.

I hate ice breaker games. I hate "people bingo", and "two truths and a lie", and forced alphabetical seating assignments. I want to be with my kids. MY kids.

But I won't be there.

At Quisqueya I could identify the owner of every single 10-12th grade backpack.

At Quisqueya I could identify the handwriting of every single 10-12th grade student.

Sigh. Not anymore. Those kids aren't mine anymore; they're somebody else's. And I've gotta go learn 150 new names, new moms, new handwritings and new brightly-colored backpacks.

Orevwa. M sonje ou Quisqueya.

Katie

Friday, June 21, 2013

I Hate Father's Day

I hate Father's Day.
If school was in session in June and we were ever to do some Father's Day event with my students, it would be extremely painful- more painful than good, I venture to say.

Offhand I can name at least five teenage girls who lost their dads on January 12, 2010, and the pain of having no dad on a day when Facebook is basically an endless parade of father-daughter photos....  It was painful for me to view them just because I love those teenage girls, so I can't imagine what it feels like for them, year after year. As I scrolled through literally dozens of "daddy daughter dance" photos, I think of how those girls will one day be walked down the aisle by brothers or grandfathers.

Those five girls whose fathers were taken by the earthquake are the dramatic stories, but unfortunately not the most common. I may have five students whose fathers have died, but I probably have five or fifteen times that many whose lives are enduringly scarred by their dads.

We talk a lot about fathers in English class. Between Joe in Great Expectations, Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, Pap in Huckleberry Finn, Aryeh in My Name is Asher Lev, and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, we are basically constantly talking about who is a good father, and what exactly that means. I have read dozens of pages of pain spilled on pages when it comes to fathers. In fact, I would say the largest wound inside the largest number of my students finds its genesis in fatherhood.

"My dad likes me better when I'm skinny."
"I make all As, but my dad is still disappointed. I can never make him happy. He's never said 'I love you'."
"My mom told my dad about the sexual abuse in her past, and he responded by beating her."
"My dad has a girlfriend, and a child with her. He gave them my college money."

I am not exaggerating or creating one single fiction. Every phrase here is welded to a face and a handwriting and a name. And then there are many more that are less dramatic...

"My dad works all day, every day. Even at home he's working."
"I think I'm more mature than my dad. He's like the irresponsible teenager."
"My dad's just not the same anymore. He's never happy."

Wound after wound after wound after wound.

I sat across from men at parent conferences,
seething, boiling, stewing,
"I know what you've said to her" seeping through my neurons.

And this is what I've come to believe:

We should cancel Father's Day.

We should replace it with a day to celebrate fathering, the more important and much more difficult work.

I look back in my memory of growing up, and I think about Randy Johnson, my youth pastor, who practiced fathering probably thousands of kids in several decades of youth ministry. I think about my brother's Young Life leader Tom Young, the last one to ever give up on one of his boys when all the parents had. Fathering for him involved taking the rottenest, ornery-est skinny suburban hoodlums on bike trips, camping trips, and Jeep offroading trips. I think about Art McMahon, who for six years has been fathering by coaching Haitian teenagers in the hottest after-school sun you've ever felt. The boys quote him in English papers frequently, and I've seen Art reduce a huge teenage boy to tears about the moral failure of not turning in homework, all without ever raising his voice. The boys with the absent fathers, the cruel fathers, the workaholic fathers- they all blossom under the loving yet demanding discipline of the basketball team. Art's wife is about to give birth to his first son, but really he already has dozens, because of all the fathering he's done alongside his assistant coaches Ben and Josh.

Fathering.

Randy and Tom and Art and all the men like them should get the handwritten cards, the ugly ties, the golf balls. I wish I could reassign all the world's children to those willing to do fathering, not just procreating. The long hard slog of loving discipline, explaining, pushing, encouraging, coaching, guiding, picking up, comforting- that's what needs recognizing, whether it comes from a biological dad or not.

I don't know if God wants every man to procreate, but I do believe that God requires every man to step in and do some fathering to the flocks around him. Men, find a herd, a passel, a gaggle of boys and girls. Some of them have sucky, no 'count fathers, I promise you (I've read their homework). Step up and do some fathering.

I'll celebrate that.

Katie

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Strippers, Adoption, and My New Heroes

 About a month ago a woman who dances at a gentleman's club in Waco walked into an adoption agency and asked to discuss placing her very sick two-week-old son. Unusually, she asked for a couple by name.

My friend Christina was that woman.

How did that happen? Well, several years back Christina worked for an organization in Waco called Jesus Said Love. I'm obsessed with this organization. Basically, teams of women go into strip clubs and deliver goodie baskets to the women in their dressing rooms. The JSL ladies sit in the dressing room and just talk to the strippers. "How are you today?" They just talk, take prayer requests, look through the goodie baskets, and basically begin relationships. No strings, no purchase required.

The Jesus Said Love ladies do this because they worship Jesus, and he always made a special effort to go out of his way and love on marginalized ladies. Looked-down-upon ladies, from groups of ill repute.

Anyway, Christina used to go and give gifts to strippers, and pray for them.

Then, several years later, when one of those dancers delivered a baby boy with severe health complications, she needed a person not only with more resources, but also someone she could trust, someone she knew was full of love. Who came to mind? Her old friend friend Christina- the one who wore a shirt that said "Jesus Loves Strippers".

Now Christina and her husband Brett have adopted that little boy, baby Owen.

They need prayer and a bunch of money. In addition to the adoption fees, they are dealing with the immediate emergency of a malformed blood vessel tangle near his liver. This strain on his tiny, 6-pound body will likely cause heart failure eventually. He's been in the hospital for weeks near Waco, and is now in a pediatric ICU in Dallas. Christina and Brett have two other kids, one of whom also has a lasting and serious health problem.

After that blood vessel tangle, there are issues to tackle later, including prenatal exposure to drugs that may cause developmental problems.

Christina and her husband Brett are my heroes. Please check out her blog here.
Owen looking at his new family from the PICU
To learn more about Jesus Said Love, go to http://jesussaidlove.com. Their ministry now extends to now only strippers, but truckers as well, and they operate in Waco, Dallas, Bryan/College Station, and San Antonio. They need volunteers, not just for loving on women in clubs, but also for people to pack goodie bags and pray. They also need male volunteers to act as drivers, and the men often build relationships with club bouncers and managers while the ladies are in the dressing rooms.

To shop at the Jesus Said Love store, go to The Love Store. You can even buy the Jesus Loves Strippers shirt shown above!

To read more about Brett and Christina, go to http://christinagibson.wordpress.com/.

If you're interested in helping Brett and Christina, email me at benandkatieinhaiti@gmail.com and I'll tell you where to mail a check.

Katie

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Re-entry Reminders

Things to remember in America:

You can wash grapes with faucet water.

We flush every time. 

You have no twelve foot wall, so peeps can try to steal your car on your first night  (car alarm made thief run, but not before ripping off door handle).

It rains at any hour of the day (not just at night)... and you still have to take the doggie out.

Mom is not just accessible via Skype!

K

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shop Haiti

Hey friends,

We just wrote a new page on our blog called "Shop Haiti".

You probably knew there were crafty little organizations that train Haitian artisans (mostly very impoverished single moms) to make cute stuff that is marketed to Americans.

However, did you know several of these groups are rather big time and have really moved their product quality to an impressively high level?

Did you notice, perhaps, that in the picture above Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima is wearing a necklace produced just down the street from my Haiti apartment? Did you further know that the advertisement featuring said Victoria's Secret model is from Donna Karen, who carries a whole line of Haitian-made accessories at her swanky Urban Zen stores?

If you don't know, now you know.

(I applaud those of you who just caught the Notorious BIG reference.)

At our Shop Haiti page we're highlighting a few of our favorite places to snag 100% pure Haitian coconut oil, home decor made from cow horn, and of course a bevy of jewelry.

You can find Shop Haiti here, or you can click the Shop Haiti tab on the top left of our blog.

Speaking of which, I made us a new banner.... Ben and Katie after Haiti. We'll still be blogging as we re-enter life in America, which has so far consisted of running ourselves ragged taking care of sexy, exotic tasks like getting fingerprinted for teaching licenses and replacing dead car batteries.

We are celebrating three big blessings this week, which are
1) I got a teaching job,
2) We have a house straight from God, and
3) Ben's best friend just became a daddy!
Five pounds of awesome
Baby Micah entered the world last Saturday, and meeting him was at the top of the priority list. He is a teeny little guy, and both mom and baby are doing quite well, no doubt largely due to our bringing fajitas by last night.

As for the house, for six months we are living in a parsonage next door to a church in Plano, Texas, just ten minutes north of my parents and my new school. It's adorable, fully furnished, and a huge blessing from God as a "landing pad" for us in this transition.

My new job will actually be at a familiar place- the high school I attended! I'll be teaching reading to likely 10th and 11th graders, which will be an incredible opportunity to have exactly the blend I wanted: a disadvantaged population and a strong, thriving school. I spent the morning with the outgoing reading teacher yesterday, and my heart leaped to hear her say things like, "relationships are the key component in getting this group of kids engaged" and "you have to be an advocate for them".

Thank you, Jesus.

So go shop Haiti!

Katie

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Goodnight, Haiti

Goodnight, Ackermans, our faithful and dear friends. Many hours at Karibe felt like lunches in a treehouse. Thank you for your mountain air, your casseroles, and your wisdom time and time again. Thank you for loving Haiti since the year I was born. You have survived coups, embargoes, riots, and more, yet you never stop loving on Haiti's youngest and sickest.
Staff dinner
 Goodnight, basketball team. You three coaches have poured thousands of hours into teenage boys in the hottest heat of Caribbean afternoons. You taught them to win, and you taught them to lose. No opponent had better manners, grace, or character.
Eagles coaches
 Goodnight, students. You make me crazy, and I love you to death. Reading your writing is an honor, and a chore, and an honor again. To the next English teacher: I swear I taught them about run-ons.
Farewell pizza party thrown by secondary parents
 Goodnight, Quisqueya parents.
We love our QCS parents!
Farewell party
 Goodnight, discipleship group girls. You are incredibly beautiful and strong women. We shared secrets, Valerie's candy, and many laughs. We listened to worship music, prayed for each other's families, and used up a million Crayola markers.

At graduation I told you all the same thing:
1) You look beautiful, but I wish I could add six inches to your dress.
2) Please send me notes on Facebook and tell me about your college applications.
3) Please send me your English papers if you ever need help!
4) I love you very, very, very much!
Graduation
Farewell party
Goodnight, Valedictorian! Be blessed in Washington, DC.
Graduation
 Goodnight, future Texan! Remember we're only a few hours away if you need us. You already know you're invited to our house for Thanksgiving.
Graduation
Goodnight, basketball boys. Remember what your coaches say: victories are won in the offseason. Oh, and from me: please read a book this summer, too.
 Goodnight, gorgeous island.
Graduation at Montana Hotel

 Goodnight, Angus family. I thought we were attending a big graduation party at your house, but it turned out to just be your family. I was honored beyond words! I love your two beautiful girls and will try my hardest, as I promised, to convince the younger one to go to Baylor. I love that you love Texas, too! You've made us part of your family in Haiti, and I will be forever grateful.
Graduation party
Graduation party
Two more sleeps in Haiti.

Then

off

we

go.

Katie

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Dirty Details

I move home from Haiti in six days.

Things I Will Not Miss

1. Mosquitoes
Electric racket of vengeance

2. Stank-nasty bathroom

3. Newborn-sized refrigerator (featuring broken-off freezer door)

4. Sweating


5. Dividing by 40
 40 gourdes to 1 dollar.

6. Riding in the cage truck

7. Actually, while we're at it, every other car, too. 

8. Everything else that's broken and/or nasty

9. Being the only one in the room who doesn't speak French

10. Being ugly
I'm ready to have my America hair back.

11. Anti-sexy


Things I Will Miss

1. Pikliz
Carrots, cabbage, scotch bonnet peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar


2. Having an armed guard
Johnson, mwen bon gadyen

3. Bougainvillea vines

4. Cerise juice
The Haitians say "cerise", like "cherries", but someone told me they're actually Chinese dwarf apples.

5. Living with five men
Real security is five men within yelling distance.

6. A 30-second commute
The view from my house to my work.

7. Kreyol
I can read that!

8. The inability to hide from reality
I met her eighteen months ago in a gross, understaffed orphanage. She's probably still there. She's probably walking around with that same look in her eyes. Can't hide here.

9. Haitian parents

Farewell gifts


Haitian parents are serious about their kids' education. In 3.5 years of parent conferences, I have never once had a parent argue with me about their children's weaknesses. 

10. Hummingbirds
Serendipity




So there you have it. The dirty details. The very good, very bad, and very ugly.

Six more days.

Katie

Dear person who will object and say that I am a) whining, and b) forgetting that 95% of Haitians have it worse than I do, I just have one thing to say to you: you're right. Have a nice day.

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