Often I reflect on my time in Haiti and think, man I want to write a book. I wrestle with writing a book when I know (or pray) my story is far from over. I have had a long journey over the last four years and have met some amazing people who I have written about. Most often I am reminded of them by Facebook’s stellar news feed. I often reflect on the people I have met here in Haiti when driving around; landmarks or restaurants reminding me of days gone by.
I know I have written about many of these people during my time over the years. I think of the difficult times I had, the days spent in prayer and uncertainty. Uncomfortable, hard days. Days when I now can look back and see the Lord at work. Days that were so overwhelming while I was in them, better days seemed far far away. Better days come and go, and I am grateful to know He has walked me through it all.
Sometimes I think back at those days and I can help but think, “How selfish am I.” How selfish am I to think my days were hard compared to those outside the gates of the various places I was so fortunate to lay my head down on. How selfish am I compared to the millions, starving, beaten, abused, broken, fighting their battle. Never have I gone to bed hungry or cold. Never have I gone to bed thinking, “God are you still there?”
The last four years has grown my faith in unmeasurable ways. Hardships I have experienced seem to be the thorn’s on the stem of flowers. If it weren’t for my thorns, I never would have come to the roses.
Facebook as I mentioned is a great reminder of the roses I have met over my time in Haiti. Today I was reminded of one woman in particular. I was staying temporarily at a guest house after what I thought was a devastating situation. I was reminded of God’s grace, how “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I am not sure I will ever lose the childish amazement when the Lord reveals himself in these situations. Here I am years later and still blessed, still seeing God use situations for His glory.
Over my time at the guest house, I met Stephanie Bowman. Stephanie was serving on a team with her two daughters. In a time I was really missing my own mom, I found myself drawn to Stephanie. She opened up to me and told me her story; addicted to drugs, abused, pregnant, but in the end, she has conquered. Like myself, Stephanie’s story is far from over, but I am count myself blessed to meet such a woman. Stephanie’s story is still going strong. She has taken her difficult situation and has turned it around to help others. She gives back to those who are not yet able to help themselves. Completely aware of what life can be like for women, Stephanie had a dream, a dream to impact the lives of others.
Stephanie started One Heart for Women and Children in Orlando, Florida. An organization that impacts about 1,000 people a month. People who are struggling, suffering and hurting. I think of how I show the love of the Lord to others and again I think, “How selfish am I?” How selfish am I when things get hard. My life is a dream compared to some. It does not fall on me how very blessed I am. My job, my family, my friends, my home-all filled with joy. I have people to turn to who have my best interest and happiness at heart; people who shower me with gifts and love and fill my heart with joy daily.
I am ever grateful for the reminder of people like Stephanie who are doing such big things for humanity and for His Kingdom and His glory. Stephanie, who doesn’t know it, has helped me to remember how blessed I am by her efforts to bless others. She is a continual reminder of how to be a disciple of the Lord, a true servant. Stephanie, who selflessly gives her love to strangers. Stephanie who was a rose to me when I was stuck in a thorn bush, who continues to be a rose and an inspiration to me.
I am grateful for the trials and welcome the difficult days, because it is from the bushes of thorns that we enjoy the beauty of roses.
and if you happen to be in the Orlando area, be sure to drop in and lend a hand.
This life I live has turned into one giant learning experience. I have learned about a new culture, a new language, a new strength inside of myself, a new appreciation for things and people around me. I am learning how to deal with parentless children whom no matter how tough they act sometimes-I absolutely adore them! My walk with God has taught me a new level of faith and love. My journey with RG has become a great platform to learn as well as teach. I try my best to teach as I work; more often than not I am the one learning.
As usual we are making changes around the REBUILD shop!!! We have really tried to stay ahead of the game, but seem to always be one step behind. Sometimes it seems like none of us know what we are doing, but somehow…we figure it out, it works…we think.
We have been trying to teach our four teams how to be more efficient in the sandal making process. We do not have each individual person make one sandal start to finish, we have learned that is not a successful method. I have enjoyed watching our staff as they figure out how to lead their teams. They have learned who is better at the different steps of the process; who is better at cutting, tracing, or gluing. They are learning as they are teaching.
Hiring such a large group of women, some who have never had a job before has been a challenge for us, but our staff have done a great job. They have surprised us in every way; they have stepped up to the task and surpassed our expectations. They face their own challenges that we will never understand, but they are learning problem solving skills along with new leadership responsibilities.
Every day we have new challenges, both in the shop and in Haiti. BUT, every day we have new things we over come, new things we learn and new experiences to grow us. It is a crazy ride this life we live, but I know it is exactly where I am supposed to be…learning and teaching-teaching and learning.
It has been a typical Haitian week, a bit trying and all too unproductive; hot and sweaty mixed with some incredible news! This week we found out REBUILD Globally was accepted into our very first trade show and in New York City at that!!! WE are all so excited for this opportunity!!!
Smack in the middle of implementing our grant from the UN we are blessed with another incredible opportunity! We not have the human capacity to produce sandals in large quantities, we have an incredible partnership to export our product; all we have left is to find the buyers!!! I can’t help but get excited to realize how things are really coming together for Julie and the whole REBUILD team. She has put in so much blood, sweat and tears to making REBUILD what it is today! I am so proud of her dedication and will to continue, she has the biggest heart of any one I ever met. I am so blessed to call her a friend and be a part of this amazing organization!
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward and grow! Please visit our website to see how you can be a part of RG!
I had full intentions of posting this blog before I left to New York for the holidays, but unfortunately that did not happen. I’ll back track a bit and do my best to catch up!
In mid December a group of 10 joined us here at World Wide Village from Brookview Church in Seattle, Washington. This team came prepared to do three separate two day clinics on women’s self defense and empowerment training. Pastor Jason and his wife Jen wove together a great program with a perfect mix of biblical principles while Erin and her husband Jon educated the women about the male and female reproductive system, how STD’s are transferred, and women’s rights. Erin is a police officer in Seattle who also teaches self defense classes to women.
Brookview really hit the ground running; as soon as they got in we went out to Luly to make bracelets with a few of the ladies. Jen made bracelets with two string colors woven together to make the word ‘selfless’. Pretty quick it appeared the ladies were not understanding how to make them-nether was the team. It was great to see on the first day how they problem solved this challenge as a team; they were flexible and enjoyed their experience even though it did not go as planned.
The first two days of clinic were spent at La Piste with 30 deaf women. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the deaf ladies in this capacity. As the clinic unfolded I watched the ladies faces and saw them understand the different concepts and principles. When it was time to try out some of the self defense techniques the ladies really got into it. La Piste is on the cusp of one of the most dangerous slums in the western hemisphere. For a year after the earthquake 400 deaf Haitians lived in 40 tents in this area. When I got to bed at night, I lock my door; I can’t say the same for them. I feel so blessed to be a part of the empowerment of this group of women. They are all special to me, beautiful – strong women who deserve respect, especially when it comes to the men in their lives.
The second two days were spent with a group of ladies in the World Wide Village community of Luly. 30 women from around the community met with Brookview for the self defense and empowerment training. There were clear differences between the ladies at La Piste and the ladies at Luly. The harsh reality of life for Haitians continues to remain outside my imagination. Although I live in Haiti, I live behind safe walls in a safe community. The ladies at La Piste don’t live the way I live. I am fortunate and blessed beyond my comprehension in the life I live. The ladies at Luly are blessed compared to the women living in camps and slums. I am so grateful Brookview decided to do this training and invest in these women.
The last two days Brookview did their training in partnership with WeADVANCE (weadvance.org), a women’s clinic in City Soleil. I was not a part of this as I headed home for the holidays, but Ali here at World Wide Village told me it went just as good as the first two sites and was unique to the women who were in attendance. I am sorry I missed it, but hopefully Brookview will return soon to continue their empowerment and education of the Haitian Women!
Each day Brookview wanted to provide the ladies with a snack at noon. At the end of the first day they made prayer bracelets and each Haitian woman got a letter and a picture of a prayer partner who attends Brookview Church. Brookview then took their picture for their partner in the states to have. There was also an exchange of prayer requests and the ladies made bracelets to remind themselves to pray every day for their prayer partner.
At the end of the second day the ladies received a certificate with their name on it from Brookview and World Wide Village as well as a Coub Button to carry with them for added protection in addition to their new skills! The ladies at Brookview really wanted to make sure they knew how special they were by washing and massaging their feet and painting their nails! It was a beautiful way to end the training!!
Once again my life has been enriched by the amazing people I find myself surrounded by. I am so blessed by the opportunities I have been given. To witness the deaf women at La Piste grow from tents to wooden shelters was a blessing, now I was a part of educating and empowering some of those women. Again I find myself speechless and in awe of the amazing life I am living. Thank you Brookview for your vision, hearts and service; come back to us soon!