Friday, December 16, 2011

Top 10 Lessons Learned in Haiti

How does one sum up a trip to a third world country to meet their daughter? Really, is that even possible? I could talk for a whole day or more about what all we learned about Haiti, this adoption process, Nora, and even ourselves on this trip, but I have to tailor all those thoughts down into a blog post somehow, so I've decided to limit myself to 10 thoughts or lessons I feel I was taught while in Haiti. If you want longer versions (which this one is quite long itself), just ask me, but be prepared to be with me for a while!

Top 10 Lessons Learned in Haiti (in no particular order)

1. Nora is already living up to her namesake!
Nora means "a light" and "a woman of honor". As we spent time holding her, playing with her (as best as you can to a 2 1/2 month old), and loving on her, we saw that "light" of Nora come out in her contagious, gorgeous smile. We feel God has told us to name her Nora because He intends for her to be a light in the darkness. I have no idea how that will play out in her life, but I know she's on the right road simply with her smile. I am beyond excited to see what all God does with this child of His...and with my other children too! Micah and I are truly blessed to be chosen to actively watch God's story for their lives unfold.

2. I REALLY love living & driving in the US--it's orderly and clean.
If you have never taken the opportunity to visit a foreign country, let alone a "third world" country, you have no idea what I'm talking about. I've been to other countries before--Canada, Mexico and the Holy Lands. I've been where all you hear is honking of car horns as you drive through the city streets. I've been where the sides of the roads, sidewalks, and alleyways are literally lined with trash. That was not new to me because of these other trips, but what I experienced in Haiti was unlike any of those previous trips. The trash is EVERYWHERE. Seriously, as we approached MTM, I even saw a small crop field and the rows in between each planting was literally filled with trash as high as the crop. It was overwhelming. Micah and I questioned, at what point does it become so filled with trash that it's impossible to live in? We were told the trash ends up going somewhere in the end and unfortunately that ending place is the ocean. Can you even I just wanted to bring pounds and pounds of trash bags and just start somewhere cleaning it all up and then finding a big freight boat to take it all away to a proper landfill. Ugh.

In the same way, it's hard to describe the Haitian road system without you fully participating yourself. The best way I can even think to describe it would be to have you imagine going through the worst, continuous pot-holed, narrow alleyway you can imagine, straight up the side of a mountain with many curves for about 45 mins. All the while put lots of people and animals on the sides of your vehicle with their elbows almost touching your side mirrors as you drive through it all as fast as you possibly can. Oh yeah, and don't even think about putting any traffic lights or stop signs in your path, they aren't needed; nor is the yellow line in the middle of the road because you can just pass whenever someone is slowing you down--even on curves, just honk first and it makes it okay. Oh, and car seats--nope, not needed here! Yep, that's Haiti, and we are glad to be home. We felt a gentle confirmation that Micah and I are not being called into foreign missions any time soon. : )

3. What kind of efforts do we put into getting to church?
If you are like our family, your efforts to get to church on a Sunday morning involve getting everyone out of bed, cleaned up, dressed nicely, breakfast ate, and all loaded into your vehicle to drive the comfy drive to church...maybe a 5 minute drive like us, maybe a 45 minute drive like others, but nonetheless...a comfy drive. It's effort for sure, but when you see a photo like this, it changes your perspective. Do you see this girl in the picture? Take a good look. Do you see the sweat soaked shirt she is wearing? Yep, she does not have it easy like us...her efforts to get to church in the morning go far beyond our own. Mountain Top Ministries' church pulls its congregation members from the surrounding mountainside villages. Some of these people walk for miles up a mountainside or down a mountainside simply to get to church. They typically wear their BEST clothes and even heels to church so try to imagine hiking your way to church in heels, ladies! I have a feeling many of us simply wouldn't do it. If it meant we had to put forth that much effort, we would probably just roll back over in bed and vow to do our own devotions some other point in the day. God, however, is looking for dedicated children to come to worship Him today. He is looking for people who will sweat their way to church. Will you be one of those people or will you allow your spot to be taken by a more dedicated young woman in Haiti or perhaps the over 70 year old woman I saw walking in that morning with her hiking stick? Will you show up no matter what it takes or leave your seat empty. It's really up to you.

4. This adoption process is clearly not taking place in America.
We had the privilege on one of our days to embark on a drive up to a neighboring mountain village to sign a paper needed for a step in our adoption process. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, let's just say our eyes were opened to what it is taking to get Nora home to us. Micah and I piled into a vehicle with Rachel's driver, Nora, and Nora's birth parents for a 45 min. drive to sign these papers. To be honest, we had no idea what we were signing, but when Rachel says to go and sign something, you just do it because you know it will get you one step closer in the process. Before we left, Rachel informed us, "The paper will be blank, but that's okay, just sign exactly where he tells you to." Blank. Really? I'm just supposed to sign a blank piece of paper and that is going to help get Nora to our home? Yep. That's exactly what happened. We arrived not at a governmental building or some sort of office, but instead at a small, run down mountain home where a man met us outside with sunglasses on. He knocked on a door, said something in Creole, and then let us all inside where we sat on a wooden bench. He spoke with Rachel's driver as they exchanged some paperwork. He then sat down at an old typewriter to poke the buttons of a few letters. This form was signed by both of Nora's birth parents...that one had words. Then the driver got a yellow, lined pad of paper from the man behind the old wooden desk, brought it over to us, counted down a specific number of lines on the paper, and handed it to us and said, "sign". With that, Micah signed his name and I signed mine beside it and we left. I try to come up with words to describe this little adventure, but the only one that really comes to me is...weird. It was simply weird. And it was clearly not America.

So when you see us trying to raise funds for this adoption by selling our calendars or asking for financial support to be mailed to us through Lifesong or what-have-you, please know we are truly grateful because those funds as well as us signing blank pages are helping our little Nora come home. If it wasn't for all of us being willing to sacrifice, there is no way she would ever get here. At this time of year there is a lot of talk about end-of-the-year-giving. If you are wondering who you can help by giving this year, will you please consider our adoption? We have been blessed by the outpouring of financial support, but we still have at least $7000 more to raise to cover our estimated costs (although I'm beginning to think we estimated on the low end really). Those donations will help pave the way for Nora to have a better life in our home and it will allow you to be a more active part in helping the orphans as God has asked each of us to do. If you want to donate, please look to the right-hand column on this blog and notice the section that is labeled, "How Can You Support Us?" for more details. Thank you!

5. It truly is God's will for us to bring home a toddler.
We LOVED meeting Nora and loving on her little self for 4 days in Haiti. It was HARD to say goodbye to her when it came time to leave. You can bet I cried for while after kissing her cheek goodbye. When you see what they are living in (albeit a generally speaking clean, loving, Christian run orphanage) you want nothing more than to throw a lot of money at them, pack her up in your carry on, and just say to heck with the system! However, as much as we enjoyed our time with Nora, we were also reminded that at the very beginning of this process we knew we were "done" with the baby stage in our family and were meant to bring home a toddler. We loved on her like crazy while we were there, but longed for the time when she would be older and able to interact with us and our children more. Visiting with the other older children at ROH was really fun and helped us get excited for what is to come for our time with Nora. This 1-2 year wait will be long, hard, and require patience, but in the end we will be getting what God has placed on our hearts from the beginning--a toddler who needs to be loved!

6. Even a driver is part of this adoption process.
As I mentioned above, even Rachel's driver has played a role in this adoption process. It continually amazes me at who all is involved in God's plan for our lives. People we don't know, people we will never know, and then even the people who are closest to us. It's a beautiful work of art. I was blessed to be reminded that each of us has a role to play in bringing Nora home, with none being less significant than any other. Whether you are praying for us, helping us be a notary, driving us to and from the airport, giving us $1000, taking care of Nora in Haiti while we are apart, going to be Nora's aunt and uncle when she gets home, are preparing your own children now for a new friend they will have in a year or so, sending in the only $3 you have in your pocket, giving us hugs at church and letting us know you are thinking of us, being the driver that gets the next form stamped and signed and back to Rachel, or just the one whose heart is changed by reading this blog--no matter who you are, YOU are a part of this process and for that we are grateful. It is beautiful to see God's will at work among you all.

7. My sanctuary is nature.
Speaking of beautiful...I will never forget this view of the mountainside opposite of our guesthouse at MTM or the sounds of the neighborhood village children echoing across the stone riverbed below. I am very aware that my senses are opened up when I am surrounded by God's beautiful, natural creation and I find myself easily worshiping Him because of it. While in Haiti, my body made its way to the balcony over and over again to take in the scene in front of me. It was the essence of peace to my soul while I was there. My sanctuary. I was so thankful to God for creating such a breathtaking view.

8. Friendships can be made anywhere over a warm drink and dessert.
We were blessed by our hostess at MTM, Beth Charles, who is originally from Terra Haute, IN, but has lived as a missionary in Haiti with her husband, Willem for 20 years now. She was gracious to us as we questioned her about Haiti customs and culture--trying to soak up all the information we could get. One evening she invited us, as well as the other guest helping out at MTM (Tom), to their own home's patio overlooking the mountainside for tea and a special cake they had picked up in town that day. It was delicious and the company was even better. We had a wonderful time for several hours just relaxing together in friendship. Our conversations ran the gamut from everything about raising children to be respectful, honest, and open communicators with us a parents (which Willem and Beth definitely have in their two sons, Stephen and David), to the adoption process, to computers, to education, to race issues, to adoption fundraising ideas, to the earthquake and everything in between really. It was a night I thoroughly enjoyed. That evening helped me realize it doesn't matter where you live or where you are visiting, God knows the right people to have in place there to draw you into deeper relationship with Him and others.

9. Just because Nora's birth parents are giving her up, doesn't mean they don't love her.
This story is a hard one for many people to understand. It even was for us at made us say things like, "eek, sick, oh so sad, and poor girl." However, our tune has changed a bit after meeting them. Nora's birth parents are two people who seem to love Nora and her sister, Giselle, very much. Their story is hard for us American folk to take in because it's not typical for our lifestyle. As we know it, Adrienne was 15 when she gave birth to Giselle. Her 30 year old boyfriend left her some time after she became pregnant and sadly was then killed in the earthquake. Her mother had already forced her to leave home by that point because of poverty issues so Adrienne had been living with her aunt when she became pregnant. After becoming pregnant, she was kicked out of school and therefore also kicked out of her aunt's home as well. This older man (he's at least 70) said the Christian thing to do was to take her into his home in order to provide her shelter and food in exchange for her help taking care of his small farm and, well, whatever else he wanted really...which resulted in Nora. He delivered Nora (as well as Giselle) in their home and has shown the girls love over these past two years when he comes to the orphanage with Adrienne. They are very poor and can not afford to keep the girls. Adrienne has also said before that she doesn't really want to be a mom right now (can you blame her--she's not even 18 yet!!!). As we were around them at the orphanage and on our little adventure to sign the papers, we were able to see them interact with each other candidly and found it to be a pleasant relationship. They were speaking Creole, of course, so we couldn't understand a lick of it, but they were smiling and laughing here and there so it came across to us that this was a good pairing of people who could meet each others' needs. Yes, it's very odd in American standards to have a 17 year old with a 70 year old, but again, this is not America folks and God can extend grace even here.

I was able to capture this photo of Adrienne loving on Nora while she was feeding her a bottle at
the orphanage. I'm so blessed to be able to show this picture to Nora one day later in life. I hope it will help her see the reason she was given away was not that she wasn't loved, but that she was indeed loved very much and it was because of that love she was given away to have a chance at life. I am grateful for the role these two parents have played in Nora's life and I was truly blessed to have had the chance to meet them face to face, exchange handshakes and kisses on the cheeks with them, and to tell them how incredibly grateful we are for their sacrifice of their Josephine/our Nora. The father's only question for us was asking if we would bring Nora back to Haiti to visit sometime and we assured him it was our every intent to do so. The only other thing he wanted to tell us was that he was so glad Nora was going to be raised in a Christian home because he had given his life to Christ in 1950 and really wanted to make sure she was brought up with Christ too. We will honor those wishes with everything we have.

10. Finding peace as well as action in the wait is critical.
Now we are home from our trip...without our little girl. What do we do with all of those emotions and experiences and new-found knowledge? We were warned we would most likely experience depression for a good 2-3 weeks when we returned and that we should stock up on Vitamin B to help with leveling out all those emotions. We were told over and over again by other adoptive parents, "It will get better with time". We dreaded coming home. However, we are happy to report we are really doing quite well. There is part of me almost feeling guilty writing that line for fear others will think we aren't still grieving or longing for Nora to be with us as much as others who come back a mess, but it's our truth so I have to say it. We are very much at peace with this whole process. The wait will be long and there will be points where it will be very hard, but right now, we are simply at peace with trusting God to work out His plan in His time. Maybe if Nora were not an infant still and we left her with arms reaching out and tears flowing from her cheeks we would be left in that state of depression. Maybe not. Who knows really. One thing is for sure, we certainly feel the prayers of God's people surrounding us during this time.

We entered this process KNOWING this would take a year to two years to complete. If we wanted a faster process we could have gone through a different country or stayed domestic. We know we were called to Haiti, we know we were called to a girl, and we now know we were called to Nora. We have a peace in leaving all the rest up to God to orchestrate and that is a wonderful feeling. We have Christmas approaching, three dearly loved children to take care of here on the home front, and we have lives to touch and help direct towards the kingdom of God. We will wait patiently and peacefully even though it DOES hurt to do so and in the meantime, we will actively participate in God's will for our lives today. After returning from Haiti, the words to one of my favorite songs ring truer than any other time during this process of adoption. In the end, the waiting will be done and our Nora will be in our arms, home, and family forever. She is worth the wait!

(If you want to listen to this song, it is played second on our slideshow of our trip pictures in the previous post)

While I'm Waiting by John Waller
I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord


  1. What a great recap - and the song is so fitting!

  2. Oh Angie, thank you for sharing all of this. Nora is so blessed to have so many people that love her!

  3. praying for you and for Nora & Adrienne, met her sister last Jan. I would love to go back.
    Who knows what God has in store for our family!
    Blessings, Adrienne (friend of D. Naus)