A special young man

I know I promised all blogs about food this month, and I have SO much I want to say and share, but this blog needs to be written and then I will get back on track.

For people worried about where their next meal will come from in countries with limited resources, food and education are critical for survival.  Food being your one and immediate need.  You live day in and day out trying to work and scrape by to make enough money to pull together to share a meal with your family.  Education serves as your only key to making a life outside of poverty, in the hopes of surviving.  Without an education, there is extremely limited opportunity for acquiring a skill that is marketable for obtaining a job and thus making money to live, have shelter and purchase food.

It is this vicious cycle that hinges on the ability to acquire money.  Money for housing, money for food, money for protection, money for clothes, money for school.  You need to be able to go to school to qualify for a job to make the money that you need to go to school to get the job.  Where does one break into this cycle if they have no funds to acquire the education needed to obtain the job for the funds?  And if you have limited funds, which do you choose?  Your meal for the day or a school payment?  And if you choose school, can you focus and actually get an education if your stomach is crying out for nourishment?  And if you always choose the food, how do you ever break out of the hopelessness that poverty brings?  Which would you choose?

I met Tijean 8 years ago.

He was selling candy in the streets to help bring income into his sisters home.  We would visit with this bright eyed boy at dinner where our dear friend Gertrude would give him a meal before heading home for the day.  We have been friends ever since that first trip to Haiti so many years ago.  Since that first trip, Tijean held a very special place in my parents heart.  They sponsored him immediately to attend school.  Tijean was 14 at the time and entered the 3rd grade.  Being older than the other kids, Tijean refused to test out of the class and move ahead.  He hungered for knowledge and didn't want to miss anything.  In the years following, a bright eyed young boy turned into a deeply respectful young man.  When you meet Tijean, you can see in eyes there is something special about him.  He is smart and soulful.  Four years ago he was baptized on Jan. 24 with my parents on a work trip in Port Au Prince. Two years ago, Tijean and I went into business together to try to help raise funds to support his family and friends.  Because of Tijean's kind heart and his connection with the American work trips, many people know they can count on Tijean to help them when they need it.  I loved the idea of having bracelets to sell when I travel the country speaking and approached Tijean to make the bracelts for me.  We found the perfect answer to allowing him to focus on his studies and make some extra money doing something simple with his friends to provide work.  He buys all supplies in country so it also supports the local economy, and we pay Tijean top dollar for the bracelets.  It has been a really great parntership.

Tijean is the one on the left.

Four months ago, against all odds, Tijean was granted a school visa to the states.  This has been a dream of my parents for some time.  They were hoping that if Tijean could get here to the states and study at an American school, he could improve his English and learn American culture.  This would allow so many more doors to be opened for Tijean for work when he returns to Haiti.  This would allow him to provide financially for himself, his family and provide some work opportunities for his friends.

Tijean has  been here in the states for a couple of months.  He is staying with my folks just outside Detroit MI.  Tijean took his entrance exam to Macomb Community College and missed the passing score for English by just a couple of  points.  In order to stay in the states, Tijean must remain in school.  For the success of his future, he must be studying to stay here.  My parents have enrolled him at Wayne State University for this semester so that he can study English and get his GED.  Once this is accomplished, he can transfer over to Macomb Community and finish out his college degree.

I have shared this story with you because my folks and Tijean need you.  This is a $10,000  education at Wayne State until Tijean can transfer to Macomb where it is significantly cheaper.  He has to stay in school in order to have the future that only a few can dream of in his situation.

So, even as I write this, I understand that there are thousands of stories like this, or worse or closer to your heart.  That you can turn on the TV or radio or computer and hear about desperate need here in the states and abroad.  I understand that money is tight for everyone.  That everyone wants their hand in your wallet.

BUT, as I prayed last night, if this story reaches a part of your heart in anyway, or if you feel any compassion towards this young man who has a chance to change his story, you can make a difference in his life.  You can make his dream come true and change the outcome of not just his life, but also that of his family and friends.  Your funds would change the future of a young man who dreams of taking his education back to Haiti and making a difference.

As I spoke to my father, I could hear the passion and dedication he and my mom have for seeing this through, however, this is an incredible amount of money to bear alone.  If you would like to support Tijean's journey, you can write a check out to Hope for Haiti and mail it to: 38861 Lakeshore Dr. Harrison Township, MI 48045.  This is my parents non-profit organization that was started to help those in need in Haiti.  When you write a check to Hope for Haiti, make sure to write in the memo that the funds are for Tijean's school.  This story is close to my heart, and I wish I had the right words to express the joy of knowing what this opportunity means to Tijean and his future.  Sharing in this financial opportunity is an investment in the future of Haiti.  It is his way of breaking out of the cycle of poverty and improving his life.   Please know that any donation is greatly appreciated and welcome.

Thank you for your time in listening and sharing this story with others.

If you are connected with me or the Haiti Mission Project and wonder why donations aren't accepted on our behalf, the HMP deals with funds going directly to Haitians in Haiti working for other Haitians.  This need falls outside of boundaries.  Boundaries that were created to protect the funds we receive.  Hope for Haiti is a wonderful organization doing amazing work in Haiti and one we fully support.

Small things impact in HUGE ways

13 years ago was my first trip to Haiti and my life has never been the same.

Six years ago I was honored to be on the founding board of the Haiti Mission Project. Working with this team of people makes me feel humbled and honored to be apart of such Christ centered work.

Two years ago a monumental earthquake destroyed the city we love in the country we are passionate about hurting the people who have become our family.

One year ago Cholera began to rise to epidemic proportions. 500,000 have been affected. Over 7,000 have died since the Earthquake.

Today, the rainy season has begun. In all honesty, heavy rains have plagued the country for the last week and today, tonight actually, as I write this, we received this announcement:


The Haiti National Weather Service is predicting heavy rainfall on Friday evening (March 30) and on Saturday (March 31). The whole country is predicted to be affected, including Port-au-Prince. Please be careful, as flash flooding can occur, making conditions very dangerous.

Once the rain begins, the dirty and infected water washes down hillsides, overflows open sewer systems, floods and contaminates the rivers and small communities only water sources. Water carrying cholera will quickly spread and be used by children, youth, and adults living throughout Haiti, including the crowded slums of Port au Prince. Within hours and days, sewer systems, open bathrooms, garbage, drinking water, washing water, food waste, medical waste all washes together and lives in the same source. But with the water rushing and the rain washing it down stream, the people drinking from the river don't know that someone just crapped in it up the road. I don't know about you, but I feel deeply that clean water is a human right.

If you don't know, Cholera is a bacterial infection transmitted by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Many Haitians do not have access to modern toilets or working sewers and septic tanks, which helps explain how the infection has quickly become what NPR News recently called β€œthe worst ongoing episode in the world.”

The effects of cholera include intestinal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting and in some cases death by dehydration. In most cases, cholera is treatable by rehydration solutions, but intravenous (IV) fluids or antibiotics may also be needed. Almost essentially, clean water.

After understanding how widely the people in Haiti were effected the last two years by this epidemic, it is hard to sit back and watch, knowing that thousands are still living in tent cities and that the worst slum is sitting at the bottom of the city, where the river sources dump into the ocean. This slum being set up to the worst hit.

LinkBut we don't need to sit back. We can do something. You can do something.

The Haiti Mission Project has already established clinics ready to receive Aqua tabs. Aqua tabs are small tablets used to decontaminate water making it possible to drink and to use for food preparation. These tablets are able to be purchased for mere pennies.

Here are the tabs.

Now here is the math:

1 aqua tab will clean 2 1/2 gallons of water.

We are hoping to give 5 aqua tabs per person for the week to create clean water in the aid of preventing Cholera.

$10 will provide 300 people with clean water for a day
$25 will provide 750 people with clean water for a day
$100 will provide 3000 people with clean water for a day

If you are interested in reading about one of the doctors we are working with in the distribution of Aqua tabs you can read his blog here. We will also be working Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity along with other clinics in need of providing preventative care as Cholera cases escalate

I beg of you. If you have read this far, and this human need has touched your heart in any way, you can help by doing any of the following:

1. Please visit www.haitimissionproject.org and donate. 100% of your donation will go to providing aquatabs for creating safe water.

2. Post the safewater logo on your facebook page and a link to the website to continue promoting this very real and current human need.

3. Tell your friends, co-workers, churches, class mates, family and strangers about this campaign. Our goal is to reach $6,000 and we can't do that without getting the word out. Remember, you aren't supporting the Haiti Mission Project., you are helping care for your fellow mankind in a country that is getting hit hard with rain that will create water sources that carries the potential to kill them. This isn't about any one organization, its about people.

4. Write an article about it, write a bulletin insert about it, write a blog about it, conduct a radio interview around it. We need all the help we can get to the word out and make sure we can meet our goal in providing multiple clinics with aquatabs.

5. Please pray. We want God to be honored in this and we would love to see the power of kindness and compassion move through people and see our goal met. We want to see people's lives saved. We want to see families whose mothers and fathers are around to see their kids grow up. Please pray that this campaign can carry an impact and that people will see the value in their dollar.

Thank you for walking with us in this. Thank you for giving.

Haiti two years later

I wasn't there.

I was preparing to be there. I had all my bags packed. I had dropped off my kids at my folks home in Detroit. I had money. I had supplies. I had a team ready to go. I was driving on the interstate through downtown Chicago with Rachel, the other leader of the team and fellow board member of the Haiti Mission Project. We got the call from our friend Andy.

There's been a 7.2 earthquake in Haiti.

I thought I didn't hear him right. You meant a Hurricane right?


We had no details right away. All we knew is that we had a dear friend and fellow board member on the ground in there. We have friends, long time friends that have become family to us down there. We have compassion children there. We have partners there. We have a history there. We have a life there.

Two years almost to the month previous, Rachel and I were leading a team and I was driving down the same interstate when Andy called then to report massive rioting in the streets due to no food. Our trip was cancelled then. I had dread in my heart. I had fear in my mind. I had anxiety running through every cell of my body.

I couldn't drive us fast enough to Rachel's apartment where we could turn on the TV. And that is where we sat for the next four days. We sat glued to our TV. We sat, both of us with computers in our laps. Sitting next to each other, not really talking. Just looking. Watching. Waiting. And then we would cry. We would hold hands and we would cry. We would ask empty questions. We wondered. We prayed. We hoped. And then we read more. We watched more.

(I have to give a wonderful shout out to my parents who kept the kids for the next few days so we could figure out a plan. Because she had them, I was able to immerse myself in the news. I could dedicated all of my attention to what was happening. Thank you Mom and Dad for that gift.)

That night of the earthquake we knew in our hearts that our trip was cancelled. First you go through the mental shift of, can we get in? What do we do if we get in? What do we bring supply wise? And can I still go even though I am seven months pregnant.

We spent that first night trying to locate our people down in Haiti. Are they alive? Are they OK? We were reassured they were. We were fielding all sorts of question, emails, voice mails about if people we knew, contacts we had. We spent days answering everyone we could and finding and delivering information as best we could.

After we knew that first night that our people were alive, we then needed to call airlines, Embassy's, churches, team members, family members all to figure out if our team was still going in.

The airlines and government said no. Not for weeks.

Some team members really struggled and claimed that we were being cowards by walking away and not going when Haiti needed us the most. This was probably the hardest part to digest because it voiced my inner fear. I know what that felt like. I wanted to find a way in. I was hearing of other groups chartering planes in. Going in through the DR. Getting military planes, even getting to the DR with a plan of just walking across the boarder and hitching a ride. People were finding any way possible to go and help. And we were staying put. It was SO HARD to sit by and not help.

But we had to stop and think things through. There was rubble everywhere. Millions were lost and homeless. What they needed was medical care, fluent creole speakers, bulldozers and cranes with machine workers, Counselors. They didn't need us taking up space and supplies with very little training and aid.

The best way to help Haiti was to stay put. The hardest part of helping Haiti, was staying put.

So we didn't. The Haiti Mission Project (HMP) got fire under our feet and in one week we put together the Haiti Relief Benefit concert. We were one of the very first relief organizations to put a fundraiser together. We had inside venues to deliver money. We could bypass large organizations where money gets stuck to red tape and we could gather funds and deliver. And so we did.

I was proud of the HMP in that moment, and how much money we raised. I was excited to see how the funds were supporting building projects, medical relief and individual families in the years after the quake. But this post isn't about that.

Life changed forever that day. For the country of Haiti. For all those who didn't know she existed and now do. And for all of those who have loved her for a long time.

I wasn't there that day, but it changed me. It made me aware that we can't measure what God does in just one moment, because even in one moment, he is doing many different things. I have learned to be thankful in all circumstances and trust that God is faithful to his creation. He is faithful to deliver. He is faithful to listen. He is faithful in love. He is faithful in compassion. He is faithful in healing.Link

My story in this is not powerful. But there are many stories worth reading and I hope you will take the time to read these stories and maybe continue reading about their ongoing dedication to Haiti and her people.

We can't forget.

Joanna serves with the HMP and was in country when the earthquake happened. This was her blog. January 2010 On the side of her site is her calendar. Click back to Jan. or forward to Feb. and read more about her thoughts post quake.

The Livesays are a family living down in Haiti and I hope you can take the time to read their account of the Earthquake. Their voice and their pictures will capture your heart.

Dr. Jen worked with Joanna and the Livesays after the quake and still. Here is her account.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for praying.

Thank you for giving generously.

Please remember that our lives can be apart of the restoration meant for all mankind if we live intentionally. Living intentionally means to not forget. Do not forget the hardships that others live in and the blessings we live with. To live with a heart for others rooted in Christ. To learn to be moved by the Spirit where he is leading us to care for others.

To the people of Haiti, I love you. Your spirit and dedication of strength in struggle is an inspiration. You have little and yet your spirit is strong. You remain in my prayers. You remain in my conversations that advocate for better living conditions. You remain in my heart and soul. You are not forgotten.

HMP has team in Haiti

The Haiti Mission Project (HMP)sent a team off today to Port Au Prince. There are 10 team members from all around the country and they will meet each other in the Miami airport then travel together to Haiti.

Please keep the team in your prayers as they will be doing lots of cultural adventures, helping with the final construction of a chicken coup to help make the orphanage we deal with more self sustaining and provide healthy food for the kids. They will also be participating in delivering water on a water truck in the poorest city in Haiti while worshiping together, devoting together and playing with children, learning and growing in their understanding of the Haitian culture and how to better love and serve its people.

I am so proud to be apart of this larger team of folks who serve on and support the HMP. The HMP was started with the intent and continues to support the belief that we as Americans can support and be the voice of Christian Haitians loving and serving its own people. There are Haitians who have dreams of making their country a better place, and they are the people who know how to do it, and so we are their voice here to people who have the means to make those dreams come true. We will never build anything on our own accord or run any ministry in Haiti. We are there to support the Haitians serving Haitians.

If you would like to know more about the Haiti Mission Project, please contact me or visit our website, www.haitimissionproject.org or if you would like to go on a team, let me know.

Other really amazing ministries and folks serving in Haiti:


May God bless you wherever you are living and serving today.