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.


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.


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 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

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


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!


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!


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!
Farewell party
Goodnight, Valedictorian! Be blessed in Washington, DC.
 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.
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.







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