We Need To Make It Personal.

Exhaustion.

I’m talking, Amanda finds me sleeping on the office tile floor exhaustion.

That’s after a three hour nap in my own room and falling asleep in the middle of breakfast right on the table after my body had no interest in more than a bite of bread.

Aches.

Somehow I hurt all over, sore as if I’ve been doing physical labor all day even though I haven’t left the house.

Fever.

One that has me shivering in 90 degree weather plus humidity, wrapped in towels because I don’t “need” a blanket in Haiti, and therefore don’t have one.

I don’t want anything.

Food, people around me, or even a book to read. Get it all away from me. There’s nothing that I want & there’s nothing that I want to do.

That’s what malaria felt like last August.

Today (April 25) is World Malaria Day & as I considered the event, the tweets, the awareness that the day is created for – I remembered “Oh, yeah! I had that!”

And then I remembered something else: so did Maxon. So did Hope. So did Nadine. So did hundreds of people who came through clinics done by CPR-3 medical teams.

And so did the estimated 670,000 who died from it in 2012.

My brain can’t even fathom that number, and I know yours can’t either. That would have taken Memphis, Tennessee off of the map: their 2012 estimated population was 655,155 based off of the 2010 census.

Malaria isn’t always fatal, but even when it isn’t it steals lives by stopping education, work, and the life from people’s eyes.

In both myself and hundreds of people around me, I’ve seen the zombie-like state that malaria puts people in. You can’t eat, you hardly react, and you definitely aren’t going to school. If you’re a mother, your entire family suffers and if you’re a child like Maxon, you don’t even want to play.

Water to refresh is filled with parasites & the doctor isn’t affordable because he’ll just prescribe medicine that will cost a minimum of 250 gourdes or $6.25 US. The indoors are basically outdoors and nets are expensive and hard to keep up when your family of six is crammed into a one room home.

Malaria isn’t the problem, poverty is.

Malaria wouldn’t even be an issue in America, because we would simply get to the hospital & receive the necessary hydration and medicine. But in Haiti, Africa, and around the world in “far away” places – it’s stealing lives, both figuratively and literally. Along with water, basic illness, and malnutrition, this symptom of poverty is destroying.

It’s a broken record. It’s a stat that’s too big to wrap our minds around. It’s too big of a problem to face on our own as we read a blog from our computer while we sit alone. It’s an issue our hearts break for, but we don’t know where to start. It’s too far from us to remember after we click the next tab on our browser. You’re wondering when I’m going to go back to my fun posts about what I get to do, or thinking posts about a spiritual truth found in a hot climate country (And I’m wondering the same, feeling like this post sounds way too much like a PSA or sad-song-sponsor-a-kid commercial from ten years ago).

It’s not affecting us and therefore our time is spent focused on other things:

“want to turn off the lights but bed is too comfortable #firstworldproblems”

“My iPhone fell out of my pocket and cracked my iPad #firstworldproblems”

“when the pizza box won’t fit in the fridge #firstworldproblems”

“not being able to hang all of my clothes because not enough hangers.#firstworldproblems”

“changing the background to your phone is seriously so stressful #firstworldproblems”

“Poured my cereal into the bowl. Didn’t check for milk first. #firstworldproblems”

Okay, I know that people don’t really see this as the worst thing in their lives. But humor me.

We recognize there are third world problems that are way worse than ours, so we’re not heartless, but those problems are so far from us. Our #firstworldproblems are what’s hitting us in the face right now, they’re what’s personal. 

We need to make poverty personal.

It's little Maxon, with his permanent hands-on-his-hips stance on such a tiny frame.

It’s little Maxon, with his permanent hands-on-his-hips stance on such a tiny frame.

It's this little one, on a day that's impossible to get her to glance at you,, let alone giggle.

It’s this little one (Hope), on a day that’s impossible to get her to glance at you,, let alone giggle.

It's Biyence & her cousins - laughter stolen from them as they sweat and shiver.

It’s Biyence & her cousins – laughter stolen from them as they sweat and shiver.

 

It turned these two balls of sunshine into exhausted bodies.

It turned these two balls of sunshine into exhausted bodies.

I hate the commercials with dirty faces & the posters of sad eyes. But I’m doing an injustice if I tell you their stories and skim over the poverty. We need to make poverty personal.

 

I am so, so thankful that this isn’t my own heavy heart or a one-man-against-the-world battle.

Our Father INVENTED making this personal.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

With our financial resources, relational resources, the internet…we can do SO much in just seconds. Especially on a day like today, created to combat the symptom of poverty that calls itself malaria.

Make it personal.

 

*Stats are from Roll Back Malaria/World Malaria Day website & United States Census Bureau

I Can’t Believe I Get To #1

You go through pictures a lot when you’re talking about missions, simply because they’re needed in talking about a world that many haven’t lived day to day. Pictures help us to see where we can’t go, travel the world while sitting in our comfiest chair. For me, they help me remember what seems to be way more than a year packed of stories. They prod me to pray and they cause me to sit back with perspective as I view a picture not in bed with one fan going and a rooster outside, but with clean feet on a couch in a living room full of family pictures.

Perspective does two things: it paints a bigger picture as you sit back while also working away at the ‘numbness’ (I can’t think of the word that fits better here at the moment) that comes over time. Better put, it hacks away against the idea that “Time in erodes awareness of” (Keith Minier, friends, that clever term didn’t come from me – https://twitter.com/keithminier).

What does that even mean? It means that I’m slowly becoming used to living in poverty. My feet are always dusty, my friends are always hungry. Mothers that I know can’t send their children to school and mothers that I don’t, ask me to take their children from them. Electricity is a luxury and plumbing is found in one place in the entire community: our Americanized home. Kids are always sick, many times from a simple lack of clean water. Groceries are bought from on top of a trash pile. I’m not looking at Port-au-Prince in shock as we ride in the tap-tap and your heart being moved at a hungry child with no pants is the part of process time that I smile and nod at, because clothes are so unnecessary to me after three months of half-naked children. Of course I’m asked for money around every corner and of course I’m struggling with patience to try and enroll a child in school through our sponsorship program, that’s life in Haiti for me.

But then I’m removed, and I look at pictures and think….this is my life? At 23 years old? Broken, imperfect, work-in-progress ME?!

Cause that’s Jesus. When we go where he goes, we’re running with all we’ve got (cause the abundant life is a FULL one), and then we take a second spend catching our breath to look around….and we’re amazed. “Jesus, THIS is what you’re doing with me? Through me? Wow. Amazed. Humbled. Blown away again by you.”

Anyways, there’s a lot of these moments. Without further ado:

I get to give Biyence her first ice cream cone & laugh with her cousins and neighbors as we all share

I get to give Biyence her first ice cream cone & laugh with her cousins and neighbors as we all share. (Sorry, that’s post-school clothes – uniform is taken off so it doesn’t get dirty)

I get to watch this one grow up, dress up for church, and whisper to his friends "Stephanie is my friend". Since 2012 & for years to come!

I get to watch this one grow up, dress up for church, and whisper to others “Stephanie is my friend”. Since 2012 & for years to come!

I get to meet and grow deeper in relationship with that boy’s family – over a year after I first felt close with little Devinson I am now welcome at his home and known by his six (soon to be seven) sibings & his gentle mother

Hahaha excuse my face, I didn't know they were taking pictures at this point.

Hahaha excuse my face, I didn’t know they were taking pictures at this point.

I get to be the one his older sister talks to and trusts (at least more than the other strangers) and is willing to pose with for pictures when she isn't  in her best clothes and hair (a real privilege with a teenage girl!). I'm the one person that this girl - so much responsibility on her shoulders - trusts to leave her youngest sister with.

I get to be the one his older sister talks to and trusts (at least more than the other strangers) and is willing to pose with for pictures when she isn’t in her best clothes and hair (a real privilege with a teenage girl!). I’m the one person that this girl – so much responsibility on her shoulders – trusts to leave her youngest sister with. Also, she lets my hair fly in her face.

I get to play doctor (yuck, but I feel accomplished afterwards) & offer clean water to guests while I do it - resulting in this kind of reaction!

I get to play doctor (yuck, but I feel accomplished afterwards) & offer clean, cold water to guests while I do it – resulting in this kind of reaction!

I get to hear the giggles & chatter of Creole of these little ones as they fight for my lap and we sit for hours with their family and friends.

I get to hear the giggles & chatter of Creole of these little ones as they fight for my lap and we sit for hours with their family and friends.

I get to spend time with beautiful, fun families & do ground work to pave way for opportunities through child sponsorship when I find out the boys laughing hysterically don't have a chance to go to school

I get to spend time with beautiful, fun families & do ground work to pave way for opportunities through child sponsorship when I find out the boys laughing hysterically don’t have a chance to go to school. I get to connect those smiling faces to be sponsored and get an education!

I get to watch this one grow happier & healthier with each day, doing life with her mama & loving them both!

I get to watch this one grow happier & healthier with each day, doing life with her mama & loving them both! I get to pray for this doll baby to grow up, dreaming big for her heart for Jesus and others.

God is using me here, where I get to do this?! Humbled constantly, Thankful always.

I am currently in Ohio looking for partners to help me work with CPR-3 for five more years. As a missionary, you raise your own salary, $29,000 a year for a single young woman – as a Christian, I believe that God has sent me & will provide as well. Please visit my Partner With Me page, e-mail me at steph2haiti@gmail.com, or go to cpr-3.com/give & choose “Movement Partner”, then enter my name. You get to do this too, by being the one who sends and who prays!

That Awesome Tan.

I’ve faded now, but still hear it on occasion, “You’re so tan!”

Today, someone said it in the doctor’s office while looking at my ankles.

Yes, I said ankles.

Girls and women everywhere, “I wish I was dark like you!”, to which I jokingly reply that it’s easy, all you’ve gotta do is become a missionary.

(Take a second to listen to my laugh track, inserted here)

But you know what I’ve been hearing the past year? Before I flew back to the Midwest in winter (where of course I look tan)?

“I wish I was white like you”

“How can I get lighter skin like you?”

There are creams to lighten skin and little girls who haven’t even hit their teens yet have responded with laughter to me saying “You’re prettier!”, explaining (because I clearly just don’t understand) that I will always be prettier, because I am white and they are black.

Word for word, that is what little girls and young women tell me.

“Stephanie, you will always be the prettier one, because we are Haitian and you are American.”

It punches me in the gut every time.

I want to pick them up and hold them and never stop repeating how loved and beautiful and valued they are into their beautiful ears, covering them in kisses and hearing them giggle. For the women, I want to pour TRUTH into them, every stitch their Creator lovingly made and the beauty that shines in them, the respect I have and gorgeous-ness I see as their strong muscles wring out the laundry and their beautiful face smiles back at me in conversation.

But they’ll never believe me. They don’t believe me, when I try.

And while we’re on the topic (or, we were at least) of creams to lighten skin that we may not understand; spend five minutes in my shoes as I attempt to explain why white people choose the hot sun over the shade that is offered by hospitable guests. I don’t bother getting into paying for a bed that is proven to increase cancer risks. (We have tanning lotion too, I could have just said that to make my point).

Just think on that a second.

And then I get the occasional “You’re turning Haitian!” or “You’re not a blanc anymore, you’re Haitian like us!”….but that’s less about skin color and more about being family, our relationship that has deepened WITH my skin tone.

The deeper I get into my second home’s culture, the more depth I see to this universal problem:

No matter where a girl stands, she is not good enough.

Whatever a women sees as ideal; it isn’t in the mirror.

It’s ingrained in every culture in it’s own disguise: these lies that whatever you are, isn’t IT. Isn’t enough. There’s something better, and you should never stop trying to reach it – but you won’t.

(Side sermon: You won’t reach it for various reasons, but the key is that even if you reached some un-reachable goal…it wouldn’t be enough. Your heart is being attacked, it’s enslaved, there are lies swimming all around you and you’re clinging on for life as they try to take you under.)

You know how you laugh at a preschooler who says a statement with confidence…but you just know he doesn’t get it? I get that All. The. Time. – a polite and amused laugh in reaction to me telling girls and women that they are pretty. (When I respond with “you’re prettier!” as people compliment me – then, girls laugh as they just think I’m lying as one of my jokes).

I’m here to say enough with the laughter.

Thank you for the compliment on my tan.

And you are beautiful too.

You do not need a skin tone or hair texture, you do not need the cutest crop top and jeans. You do not need that crafty personality that somehow masters every cute pinterest creation, you do not need a gift with words. You do not need a certain height, you do not need to reach those perfect three numbers on the scale before you can accept what I am saying. Your nationality is not where your beauty comes from and neither is your social status. You do not need to curl your hair first, you do not need to have the best outfit when you are walking through a crowd.  You do not need the perfect Spotify playlist, you do not have to be a bookworm. Your makeup does not have to ask people for advice and your shoes do not need to be the center of attention. Your eyes don’t have to shine the brightest and your nose doesn’t have to match the Disney Princess qualifications. If you have these, you can thank someone for the compliment. If you don’t, you can thank them for the compliment on what defines YOU as a daughter.

You have a Father who lovingly, delicately, intentionally, and beautifully crafted each stitch of you into existence. Every DAY He breathes life into you, in love with your very heart and soul along with the rest of you. He does not make mistakes and He does not make ugly, and He has never been a part of “not enough”.

You are beautiful.

She is beautiful.

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When we can grasp this for ourselves, and then grasp it for every other woman we see?

Watch out world.

 

Rabbit Trails.

If you’ve been following my blog….at all, you know that I use a lot of words. I’m a perspective girl, meaning that I like to have the whole picture to think and process – so I talk that way too when I’m explaining things close to my heart.

Since I’m ‘home’ (Ohio) & talking to people about Haiti, I’m following this same pattern in real conversation all of the time. In giving perspective, I go off on rabbit trails often – because there are so many side conversations to better explain a culture that I know you just can’t picture with the story I am telling. Pictures, the best book, and the greatest storyteller in the world all coming together would still just paint a one dimensional picture of a piece of Haiti, poverty, international missions, God’s heart for the world, what I’ve learned about prayer, the families I know…you get it.

Just because they only tell a piece of the story, doesn't make pictures any less fun to share with you!

Just because they only tell a piece of the story, doesn’t make pictures any less fun to share with you!

I mean, anyone can appreciate that view.

I mean, anyone can appreciate that view.

& you still fall in love with Wes looking at her on screen.

& you still fall in love with Wes looking at her on screen.

All that to say, life has taken a bit of a rabbit trail the past week. Plans went where they were planned, but then other roads intersected them and took us off track. I had a planned, elective surgery in each of my eyes and the second eye had complications overnight that sent me into a full day of emergency procedures. Plans have changed, life has slowed down, and life has gone down it’s own rabbit trail before I get back to where I was headed.

I could describe the changed plans, the relationship I now have with the surgery center, the encouragement from others or the sacrifice of time in the precious few months I have in America. You’ve probably noticed my lack of posts, when I was so sure I’d be pumping them out. But we’re not going on those trails today, although I’d love to talk about what Jesus has taught me about being still and being filled – we’re focusing on a simpler idea today.

When plans change, you can either embrace it or …not. This is both external and internal, the five year old who doesn’t want to leave yet who is screaming in your arms and your polite smile as you think about how much better this weekend would be if you were spending it where you planned instead of your family’s get together that you were told about last minute.

I’m amazed at how “over and above” it is to be positive in a situation that doesn’t go your way in our society.

I’m ashamed at how there is a weekend coming up that isn’t something I planned, and I keep retreating to a selfish heart that wants to rest in frustration and self-centeredness over two days of my life. And I know that if I rest in this, of course those two days will be miserable.

Every rabbit trail is a road that you wouldn’t have the chance to normally travel. New people, situations, challenges to either grow in or fight through in resistance to think outside of yourself. When we embrace this, the road comes alive – scenery, stops, a joy for the ride we get to be a part of.

And then there’s the other side. A waste of gas. Maybe even a flat tire, leaving worse than you started.

Life is so much better when we aren’t grumpy.

All these driving metaphors, I've gotta include a picture of some of my favorite boys and their favorite toys - a tire each. Running everywhere with them, this "trash" turns into a car, racing game, comfy seat, and more.

All these driving metaphors, I’ve gotta include a picture of some of my favorite boys and their favorite toys – a tire each. Running everywhere with them, this “trash” turns into a car, racing game, comfy seat, and more.

(I’ve gotta admit it’s funny that I’m writing this on the American side of things. Haiti, as well as other hot climate cultures, is known for changed planes, hours of delays, and rabbit trails on a daily basis. It’s in Ohio that there’s a different perspective, though.)

(Oh, and I am healing! Praying for my eye to constrict as it may be damaged permanently without our Healer’s intervention. Loving the long term relationship building with the office!)

I am currently in Ohio as I search for partners in my five year commitment to Haiti. Please e-mail me at steph2haiti@gmail.com or check out my “Partner With Me” page if you feel a tug that you can’t shake. I have $29,000 a year to raise (Already down to 20.000 – God both sends and provides!) Events and products from Haitian artisans can be found at https://www.facebook.com/felaviansanm