a prayer update

A little update:

We'll call this update little, because truth is, I don't exactly know where I'm going with the post. I just thought it felt like time to write one. How do I know when it's time?... that's easy, it's a little tingling feeling you get at the back of your elbow. ;)

But seriously I'm writing on the blog which, as I have previously confessed, usually means I'm trying to  avoid some other less-pleasurable assignment. And true to form, I'm in the middle of writing a summary of 2013, something to print off and mail to those of you who were praying, and giving, and following this past year. But it's painful! Not because the year hasn't been amazing. It has! It's just that its nearly impossible to squeeze twelve months into two pages. It's hard to summarize a million meaningful moments; it's hard to simplify things that aren't simple.

The moms, their stories... The influence of extended families, the poverty, the triumph, the injustice, and the little glimmers of hope that tell us its all worth it, are what shape our perspective of 2013. But you weren't there and you might not understand the significance of that moment, that action, that word. So how do we do we convey the capacity of these women in the midst of hardship?

We think this work is making a difference, but how do we prove that to you?

How do we tell you how amazing it feels
... to see moms walk back into our gate after months at home, carrying children you would now never peg for being a"sick baby," much less a victim of severe malnutrition
...to know that these moms are responsible for their children's good health, and that they are making it work -at home- on their own,
...to see their joy and confidence
...to know that Second Mile helped them realize their potential?

Hey maybe that's how I should start the 2013 letter. It feels amazing to see mothers walk back through our gates, carrying children that... 

And how can we possibly, adequately, thank all of you that have chosen to be a part of Second Mile this year? That's the biggest question of them all!

Jenn has databa-tized (it's a new word, i dare you to use it), all of the 473 individual donations we received online or by check this year. (Wow!) Everything is spreadsheet ready: names, addresses, and amounts donated. And I already bought all the goods to make tax-receipt preparation a smooth operation. I purchased the ink, and the stamps, the envelopes... well you get the picture. The busy work is actually all finished. Envelopes are addressed and stamped and it's borderline embarrassing to admit that, since the actual "letter" is far from finished.

At least the actual receipts are in progress.
But that glossy two-page insert we would like to include in your tax-receipts? Yeah... still working on it.

Blogging on the other hand? Much less pressure. Words can flow and can be patched together in any old way. What you get at the end is... well, what you get.

I'm hoping though, that talking about Second Mile and what's happening in Haiti as I type, will help get me in a groove and that I'll be able to produce a "Year in Review" san pwoblem.

So what's happening in Haiti?

Actually Jenn is in Haiti by herself. I am in Arizona. My family needed a visit, terribly. They were practically crying and begging me to come home. When they found out I wasn't coming home for Christmas (my first away in 26 years!) my brother sent a message that said, "WHHHHHYYY ARE YOUUUU ABANDONING USSSS!" True story. But actually they never did any begging. They wanted to see me, sure. But I also think Arizona is beautiful and the perfect place to get some R & R while also taking an opportunity to spend time with my superstar grandparents (ages 98, 90, and 88). I didn't make it home in time for Christmas but it seemed like good-sense to visit now, before we re-open our facility on January 13th.

We are currently in a doors-closed cycle. I don't know how else to call it. Twice a year we take a 3-week break to evaluate things, make sure we are approaching each situation in the best way possible, rotate the staff through a paid vacation schedule, rest and travel, and "fix what's broken."

For example, last year in July we closed down the facility to evaluate our "first two months." We decided to change the way we approached the moms businesses. Now, instead of receiving a $150 business on the day they leave, they receive a portion of goods worth a portion of that sum. Then as they demonstrate good judgement in business-related decisions and as they prove that they are investing their profits both into their child's recovery (i.e. the child is still gaining weight) and back into their business (i.e. the business is growing with new things we didn't initially give them), we make another investment into their business. Some moms have to show us that they are as invested as we are.

During this break Dadou (director, life-mentor, and teacher of the business courses) and Kerline (health educator, life-mentor, and community health agent) are visiting all 13 of the families, twice. Jenn is also really busy. She has had a ton of meetings and while managing things keeps her busy most of the time anyway, she's been extra busy trying to nail down a better crop rotation for the back gardens. She's my hero.

A few days ago we had a bit of a scare. We thought that Jiselle's little sister had died, the one that was born at Second Mile. We mourned the loss, tried not to dwell on what seemed like a failure, and accepted the death as a reality of life in Haiti. Then today, we learned that Kerline had misunderstood. Jiselle's newborn sister was well. The child that died was a neighbor of the family. You see, the moms that come through our program are well aware of the types of children we accept as cases. Before they leave, they understand the causes of malnutrition, what it looks like, and how to treat it. It's not uncommon for a mom to come back from a weekend at home with word about a child and mother they think needs our help. When they make recommendations they're usually right on. Jiselle's mom was unfortunately right in her assessment of this child's condition. A health agent from our partner organization saw the child and confirmed the referral. The child was severely malnourished and we had planned to bring the mom and baby in as soon as we re-opened on the 13th. But she didn't make it.

With the sad news came news of a mom in labor. Around here thats the type of news that fills you with a mix of fear and excitement. This morning I learned from Jenn that Loudjina's mom, Lovelie, the second of the two pregnant women we shared a portion of 2013 with, was going into labor. The number of women that die in Haiti during childbirth positions Haiti as the 34th worst country in the world in terms of maternal mortality. So... hearing that a women is in labor is well, nerve-wraking as much as it is exciting. But, Praise God, a beautiful baby boy was born via C-section. For now, all is well. Will you pray for mom and baby?

"Lovelie" (far right), pre-baby #2 
Speaking of prayer, we have a few more requests. I probably should have just called this 'the prayer update.' Maybe I will!

Loudjina, Jenn, Dadou, and Loudjina's grandma are travelling to Port-au-Prince early, early Monday morning for an appointment. She will have a CT scan and an evaluation to see if anything can be done surgically to ameliorate her condition. If something can be done, our hope is that she can return to Port-au-Prince later this month when there will be a pediatric neurosurgeon in Haiti. Can you pray both for safe travels and for the outcome of this visit?

Another very, very exciting piece of news is that Billens, the 9 year old son of Louisemene (Second Mile Haiti jewelry-maker) may be one-step closer to heart surgery. Billens was born with a congenital heart abnormality and many a visiting pediatric heart surgeon has recommended corrective surgery as his only option.

Billens, age 8, at 2012 staff Christmas party

But heart surgery is hard to come by in Haiti. In fact, prior to 2012 pediatric heart surgery in Haiti was really rare. As a matter of fact it is still really rare. But a new group called the Haiti Cardiac Alliance is taking on the task of making heart surgery more available to Haitian children. To start they are taking inventory of the children in Haiti who are currently living with heart conditions and placing the names of children who need surgery on a waiting list. The next goal is to match those children with surgical teams scheduled to operate in Haiti sometime within the next two years. Creating more surgical opportunities and training Haitian heart surgeons are subsequent goals. We were able to connect with that group and got the "okay" to have Billens and his mom travel to the center of Haiti to be seen at the new Partners in Health hospital this Tuesday. Louisemene is so excited. We actually met Louisemene because of Billen's heart condition. He has been a beloved little friend for over three years and she has been a treasured employee for almost two. For 9 years she's forged a tight relationship with God, trusting that he has Billen's life in his hands. For 6 months now she has been waiting for passports so that she could travel to the Dominican Republic where heart surgeries are performed twice a year. She's been waiting and trusting and praying for a long time. The opportunity to have the Haiti Cardiac Alliance evaluate Billens is an answer to a mother's prayer.

Louisemene and her three kiddos, one is adopted (I say that simply to point out a Haitian adoptive mom).

It's an answer to prayer for me too! I've written countless emails regarding his condition, reaching out to person after person that seemed connected in some way to pediatric heart programs. But the Haiti Cardiac Alliance wants to take away all that ambiguity. I'm awaiting news of their trip with much anticipation. Please pray for safe travels. They will simply be learning whether or not he will be placed on that waiting list, essentially whether surgery is feasible and whether he would be a candidate for an operation within the next two years.

Ok, so can you remember all that? Please pray for Jenn as she does both my job (which really isn't that demanding ;) and hers (which is very demanding) while I am in the States. Pray for safe travels to Port-au-Prince for Jenn and Dadou, and safe travels to the Central Plateau for Louisemene, and for hopeful news for Loudjina and Billens. Pray for the newest little siblings, Jiselle's little sister and Loudjina's new little brother. And please pray for the new moms and children we will be opening our doors to on January 13th.

Happy New Year, and don't forget to check your physical mailbox (wondering how many more years before those become obsolete.?.) but, give me a week, at least. ;)