Last weekend we had the honor of speaking at St. Mary in Pinckney as the official Diocese of Lansing Mission Appeal for 2018. Before the first mass, emotions were running high. Anxiety. Fear. I'm not a fan of public speaking to begin with.... throw in the fact that I was going to mention Papito AND explain how being a self-supported missionary works. I was a nervous wreck. #hotmess
It also happened to be Pentecost. AKA the perfect moment ever for us to talk. And the perfect day for me to be reminded that I'm not doing the speech, or anything else for that matter, by my merits alone. That in addition to the first two persons of the trinity I have the Holy Spirit to rely on if I would just remember to ask. This powerful person of the trinity that will assist with anything, big or small, by strengthening the gifts of the spirit and leading us. **Cue Taylor Swift's song "Jesus Take the Wheel"**
I know that God is with us. I know that Jesus is walking alongside us, or better yet carrying us, through this season of health issues and stress. But why-oh-why do I forget that fact precisely in the moments when I need to remember it the most? Here's to making a conscious effort to live more in the spirit and less in the worries, stress and frustrations of the flesh.
Today, three days AFTER the mission appeal, I am STILL blown away by the show of support for our family and for Building Bridges of Hope. The kind words, hugs and encouragement that followed each of the masses touched my heart in a way that, to be honest, I really needed. To know that people believe in us, recognize this calling, validate it and are praying that we continue to follow the Lord's leading.... WOW. It is precisely what this weary heart needed to hear. I feel more supported than ever before. And I feel empowered. In this season of what feel stagnant, God used each of your expressions of support as a confirmation that we are moving forward in right direction. That are worthy. That He will provide.
I always knew in my heart that we aren't meant to go it alone. We are made for community.
And I am so grateful that you are part of mine.
Last week we also had the blessing of visiting Beulahland Retreats in Beulah, Michigan (near Sleeping Bear Dunes). It is a small housing unit available to pastors and missionaries for retreats. The faithful family who built the apartment are pastors at a local church and felt God tell him to minister to Christian leaders, regardless of denomination. What a beautiful ministry! We are so grateful that they responded to the call and accepted our family as visitors. We truly appreciated the opportunity to rest, pray and take in the beauty of Michigan.
Adam and I went to the Sleeping Bear Dunes on our honeymoon so we knew that we wanted to take the kids there while we were so close by. It was just as beautiful as I remembered.
During the retreat God spoke to me about roots. He clearly said, "Stay rooted in Me" while I was admiring the beauty of the immense trees surrounding the retreat house. While I reflected on that phrase it became clear that I hadn't been focused on my roots. Lately, I've been distracted by all of the wind tossing our branches and leaves. I've literally felt uprooted and out of place, weakened by the storms of stress and anxiety. But to weather a storm any tree must have deep roots which keep it upright and strong regardless of the powerful wind above ground. What a beautiful reminder. We are rooted in Jesus, come what may, nothing will change that.
I also want to give a shoutout to Deb Read, a good friend of ours and a long-time supporter of the mission. She helped us design our family mission cards and recently gave them a facelift with our updated family photo. She also designed one for Kailey, our Medical Coordinator. THANK YOU DEB! We appreciate your time & talent!!
While we've been focused on healing, participated in the retreat and did the mission appeal at St. Mary, life has gone on as normal in the Dominican. Kailey is there, continuing to be a rockstar. We hope that you enjoy these pictures of the BBOH Ambassador group that worked with us last week (Shoutout to you Rhonda, Kathie, Karen and others that visited and worked tirelessly!!)
-Healing in Adam's feet, that we are all able to return to the DR on June 6.
-For Divine inspiration and guidance as we continue to fundraise for the Calimete Medical Center
-For our kiddos as we make a transition back to the DR, at this point they are very accustomed to life in MI and I anticipate some transition pains.
-For peace, strength and good health.
Trusting that God has our best interests at heart.
Well everyone... we're still in Michigan.
One of the toughest times of our lives has been over the last 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, we’re INCREDIBLY blessed. Many other families have much tougher times than we have experienced. It has not been tough based on the fact that we personally are struggling, but the fact that we have so many needs to attend to in the Dominican Republic that have fallen on Kailey, our INCREDIBLE Medical Coordinator. She not only has been coordinating all things medical, but also pulling triple duty as “director” of programs as well as "volunteer coordinator" in our absence. We truly are 1000000% blessed that God has put it on her heart to help this people group through BBOH & FUMSIL.
When God makes you lay down in green pastures to hear His still small voice, you often feel lazy, unproductive and worthless. We’re not though. It takes an INCREDIBLE amount of self discipline to cast our own ideas of what we expect or want for our lives to instead hear what God actually wants. Personally, as per my last blog post, you all know that I have struggled with this myself. As a husband, man, father and son, we place, sometimes albeit unfair expectations on ourselves. The drive, need and desire to hunt and gather for our families. It is sort of built into our DNA the same way Jessica packed the nursery with shredded newspaper and clumps of cotton and old hair....
Okay.... so maybe that’s a mama raccoon... but Jess nested in her own way and I think it’s normal for expecting mothers to "nest". Same is true for husbands/fathers taking care of their family. To deny this internal drive is very difficult and takes discipline. Listening to God’s still small voice takes an immense amount of energy. Most of the time I get it wrong. This time? I believe I got it right. We weren’t supposed to go back to the DR in February. I discussed this in my last post. However, new information has come out since then that has shaped my opinion further.
We found out that on April 20th, the Direction Of General Immigration in the Dominican Republic has changed some laws that affect us as long term missionaries. It’s still to be determined as to how it will affect us, but long story short, we may need a more formal visa or residency in order to stay in the DR for long periods of time. I won’t go into boring details about that. This does not affect others as much as ourselves in the country due to our large family and circumstances. We are in the process of investigating how as an NGO we can obtain missionary visas from the consulate and to be able to obtain them for our long term volunteers as well. God always provides when your working His mission. I believe this is part of why we are still here. The story on this is still unfolding and we'll be sure to update when we know more.
A quick update on my health. Things are much better. Right foot is completely healed while the left has a slight hole still which is also getting better. We hope to be back down in the DR by June. It really is a lesson in trusting the plan. We trust that God wants what’s best for us, we accept our circumstances on blind faith. As always keep us in your prayers!! We always need them!!
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
November of 2017, Jessica, Ben, Emily and I traveled back to Michigan to anxiously await the arrival of Nicholas. He was due some time in December of 2017. Turns out the 6th which is St. Nick's feast day. This trip home would turn into something that no one would have ever predicted.
Sometimes we have a plan. We set that plan in place and then a meteor comes and blows it to smithereens. Even after we pray about that plan and believe in good faith that it was Gods will. Even, sometimes, it WAS in Gods will. If there’s anything my adulthood has taught me about being a child of the Lord most high is that He can choose to change that plan. At any moment. Regardless of what “I” think to be in my own best interest.
Our plan was to come home November 4th, spend a month preparing for the new addition, enjoy Thanksgiving with our families, have a baby. Well, that happened as planned. We had planned on enjoying Christmas with new baby and family, spending January raising support for us as a family since we’re only half way to our monthly support goal, then leave February 3rd back home to the DR. This was the part that God had other plans for.
Instead, around November 20th, a blister I from hiking and walking the last two weeks we were in the DR turned into a diabetic ulcer. At the same time I came down with what I suspected as the real respiratory flu. The left foot became infected and I ended up at UofM with a small hole in my foot. I was given a days worth of IV antibiotics and sent home with oral. I was told to wear a walking cam boot. Stay off of it as much as possible and pack it with gauze. Throughout December I wore this boot. The entire time, I was creating another issue. It made me walk unnaturally on my right foot.....causing a blister to form unbeknownst to me. Well, after Christmas and into the new year, I developed a more severe infection than I had on my left foot, but this time, on the right foot. It swelled up and turned an angry shade of red and moved up my leg. On the 3rd of January, I ended up back at UofM. This time, they gave me IV antibiotics and sent me home with a different oral than before. I ended up back there two days later with a much worse and more swollen foot. I stayed there for about 6 days with IV’s and was released. Monitoring this healing process throughout January and into February with my team of infectious disease and podiatry doctors, they weren’t happy with my progress. So they decided to do an MRI. It turned out, the infection had reached the bone. Very surface level and preliminarily, however, it still needed to be dealt with. The doctors decided surgery was called for and I went under the knife to have it cleaned out. The worry was, I may lose the middle toe. So I agreed to have this done quickly and while we were in Michigan with good medical care vs. in the Dominican Republic with less access to health care. The surgery was successful in saving my toe. Obviously, our tentative departure of February 3rd was pushed back indefinitely. Here it is, April 4. I still have a small hole about the size of a pencil lead. Coming from a hole about the size of the eraser that went from the bottom through the top, it’s come a long way. I’ve been on more antibiotics than I can count and I’m still packing this dressing every day, but we have spent a lot of good time with family celebrating holidays, most recently Easter. My white blood cell count is still slightly elevated, I am still on antibiotics and we still don’t have a definite return date. We hope it will be mid April, but could be longer depending on the status of this whole deal. So as they say, time will tell.
The whole reason for this blog post is this:
No matter what our plan is, we need to always be flexible. Trust the plan given to us. Trust the burdens we are supposed to carry.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I had trusted in the fact that I would be able to come back to Michigan and earn extra money by working. I trusted on my own abilities to supplement our income in a time where we needed it most; the arrival of another child. I trusted that I would be provided opportunities to work as a man. Instead of trusting the Lord and His plan. Subconsciously, I didn’t realize I was not doing that. But what His plan was for me was this:
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:2.
He wanted me to sit still and enjoy His plan. Which was, not worrying about tomorrow. Or, worrying about how we were going to support a third child financially. He had many things He wanted me to see, to hear and to investigate from the peaceful shore of still waters. From the silent meadow or green grass (or cold snow flakes) swaying gently in the breeze.
There literally was not anything that would’ve kept us home during this time other than a medical issue of some sort. And so, His plan was enacted to make that happen. If I have to be the recipient of those medical problems than so be it! I’d gladly take all of those versus one of our children or my wife. Through Him, even negatives equal positive. Sometimes we need something to remind us of that.
Please keep us in your prayers!!! We have so much work to complete that we’ve been called to! We’re halfway to our monthly sponsorship support!! We cannot do this without all of you! We do not collect a salary, all of our work is done through our supporters graciously donating their resources and prayers. With that support, it allows us to serve over 20,000 people in need along the border. Implement real change that is sustainable, lower the infant mortality rate from 25% and educate people out of poverty. We love you all!! You’re all in our prayers as well!!
Today I want to update everyone on our petition to Cross Catholic International for assistance with the El Chivo Preschool. Last year we contacted Cross Catholic International about the possibility of partnering to ensure the success of our Preschool & Child Development center in El Chivo. This is a project very close to my heart for many reasons. Most notably, however, because it is the multi-faceted solution to a problem that we face daily -- severe childhood malnutrition. Some of you may remember that several years ago we, along with dedicated teams of volunteers, took in severely malnourished children while the Nutrition Center was temporarily closed. While that season was chaotic (imagine 15 sick toddlers converging on one space... lots of giggling but also lots of craziness), it was also eye-opening. We took a front row seat to the lives of those who live on the Haiti-Dominican border. We saw it all -- everything from loving families that simply didn't have the resources to care for their little ones to children that had been neglected, abused and in the worst of cases even used in ritualistic ways.
However, as with many seasons of life, this one came to an end as well. The renovations on the Nutrition Center were eventually done and we transferred the children to their care as soon as the facility was re-opened. Talk about transition. We went from being parental figures for many children to empty nesters overnight. Even though we weren't responsible for direct care anymore, we couldn't forget their faces, their names and their stories. And we wanted to stop it from happening to more children. We moved from being a band-aid on the boo boo to trying to solve the root issue(s).
Lots of long discussions and brain storming sessions later we launched the Preschool & Child Development Center in El Chivo (in the Spanish version of the official title Sr. Roselyn's name is in there somewhere... but after re-typing this sentence like 4 times I can't seem to translate it appropriately into English... so just know that we named the project after her lol). This project aims to provide a safe place for children to eat, play and learn while their parents are working, thus combating some of the top causes of severe malnourishment. We desire to lay the groundwork for educational and social success by exposing children ages 3-5 to Christian values alongside a preschool curriculum.
After contacting Cross Catholic and explaining the project itself, we asked for assistance via a connection that long-time BBOH supporter, Rose Marie Smillie, made for us. To our surprise and great pleasure, they replied and set up a site visit with one of their on-the-ground facilitators. Fast forward 6 months or so, and we are happy to announce that we are the recipients of a $10,000 Vehicle Grant through Cross Catholic International. We used these funds to purchase a new-to-us Land Cruiser dedicated to the needs of the preschool (think school bus meets grocery- getter). This means that the kids don't have to ride to the school packed into the back of a pickup truck (exposed to the extreme heat, rain and in danger of falling out), but rather inside of a 4x4 vehicle equipped for the rough terrain.
We could not be more grateful for the partnership with Cross Catholic. They are a phenomenal organization to work with -- thorough, passionate and sincere. Sending a huge THANK YOU to all of the CCI staff that worked on our proposal and to their donors who makes partnerships like this one possible.
Many people have asked so I want to make sure that I say a few words about Nelson as well. If you aren't sure who Nelson is, please read this post and this one too. He is doing SO well. Nelson continues to live in Port-au-Prince with Sr. Luevia. She has graciously allowed him to live in a home associated with her projects and diligently saw to it that he is in school and learning. Kailey has spoken with him several times and gives a glowing report each time -- he is healthy, happy and learning. God is good. And so is Sr. Lluevia ;) Kailey is planning to go to PAP to visit him as soon as she can. If you would like to support this cost or contribute to the cost of Nelson's schooling and living expenses, please let us know! (email@example.com)
We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support for Nelson. Your kindness is encouraging. Thank you!
For healing in Adam's feet, that we may be able to travel soon.
For continued guidance as we plan and prepare for long term volunteers and begin new projects.
For successful support raising while we are here in the States.
Oh my. As I logged into our blog account to start working on a post I was horrified to see that it's been SO long since our last blog. Time has flown by. The last 6 months or so our little family has faced some health issues. We've experienced kidney stones, swallowing a toothpick (Ben) and the subsequent search for it's remains, gall bladder issues, an emotionally/physically challenging pregnancy, winter stomach bugs and most notably a serious cellulitis infection. Needless to say, we've seen the inside of hospitals both in the DR and in Michigan far too often.
There have been lots of joy-filled moments too. We welcomed Nicholas Robert Carlile into the world on Dec. 6, 2017 (St. Nicholas' feast day!). We spent the holidays enjoying newborn cuddles and the company of family and friends. One of the greatest blessings was spending quality time with my grandma, Beverly, while she visited Michigan over the holidays. It was very special to see her with her great-grandchildren and to watch my kids get to know her well.
One of the many reasons why I wanted to get this blog posted in a timely manner is to promote an upcoming event, Audrey's Run for Hope which will be held on April 14, 2018 in Holland, MI. Here are the details:
AUDREY'S RUN FOR HOPE 2018
Join us in our second 5k run and 2k family walk remembering Audrey Meeuwsen as we commemorate five years since her passing. All proceeds go to Building Bridges of Hope (BBOH), a non-profit in the Dominican Republic.
Cost is $20 per participant and includes a t-shirt, registration for the race, and entry into a raffle of prizes when registered by March 28, 2018.
For questions, contact Ellen Meeuwsen at 616-610-3677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!
Register before Wednesday March 28 for a free t-shirt!
Now that we are getting back in the saddle so to speak, we will write again this week to share more details about what else we have been working hard on over the last several months! Thank you for continuing to keep us close in prayer during this difficult time. And thank you immensely for your patience while we took a hiatus from blogging.
Adam & Jess
Though our time in the States was short, it was also jam packed with events, opportunities to catch up with people that we love and many, many meetings. We want to send a BIG thank you to those that were able to come to our Sponsor Pot Luck earlier this month. It was a great opportunity to share what we have been up to and where we are moving as an organization in a more intimate setting.
The second big event that occurred this month was our Charity Auction 'Raise the Roof', organized by the BBOH Ambassador team and several amazing volunteers (shoutout to you Anna and Deb!!!). The event was our first in the metro Detroit area which made some aspects more challenging. Yet, the turnout was amazing! We had 75 people attend the dinner and silent/live auctions!!! And the event raised over $12,000... AMAZING! Thank you to everyone that worked on this project, attended the event and donated to support our mission. It was a humbling experience to be surrounded by so many people that believe in what we are doing... THANK YOU!
For part of the time that we were home Dr. Angel Valdez was in Michigan with us, bouncing from meeting to meeting. We want to thank everyone that had us over for a meal, took the time to see us and speak words of encouragement into our hearts. We hope you know how much those opportunities mean to our family.
Now that we are back in the DR, we are getting settled into the swing of things. Ben started school this week and so far is enjoying it (no tears this year.... knock on wood). With Dr. Angel still in the States (he's in Boston visiting family) things are a bit slow which is a huge blessing allowing for some rest and a slow transition back.
As always, thank you to those who sponsor our family monthly, allowing us to pursue this life of service. We [literally] wouldn't be able to do it without you! We are still in need of sponsors to reach our monthly goal so if you feel the tug on your heart please consider becoming a sponsor and joining the mission in this special way. We are always willing to answer questions or help in any way. Please click here for more information.
By: Kailey Stutzky, BSN RN
BBOH Colleague and Supporter
Dr. Angel, Francois, and myself made our way to Port au Prince with our dear Nelson and his father a little over a week ago.
The drive with Nelson and his dad was an adventure to say the least. The drive itself feels like you are on a rollercoaster… for three hours…. The best way I can explain it is if you have ever been on the ride at Michigan adventures.. Mouse trap?!?! The one that makes you feel like you are going over the edge but then you make a quick sharp turn and continue along the track… well that is what this road is like.
We finally made it to Sister Lluvia's house where Nelson was welcomed with open arms by both her and the seminarians. He will be living in downtown Port au Prince and will be given the opportunity to go to school for the first time in his life. Our time spent with Sister that day was brief because we needed to make it back to the border before it closed.
I have been very torn about this whole decision to take Nelson out of his home once again and bring him to another place to live. There would be days where I would be so ready to get him out of the situation that he was living in but then other days I would feel so sad that Nelson would be taken away from his family. I had been praying a lot, really trying to make sure that what we were doing is God’s will and not just us.
After seeing him with Sister I felt the biggest sense of peace. It was exactly what I needed to know -- that we were doing the right thing. Nelson felt right at home as soon as we got there. Within 10 minutes he started acting exactly like I remembered him in Palo saco. We were playing a hide-n-seek type game and he would look at me with this shy smirk. If anyone knows Nelson, this is his signature look!!
While happy to receive Nelson, Sister Lluvia was also very honest and direct about our responsibility to help provide for him. Since she does not have an orphanage for boys there is no program that he directly falls into. Therefore, we are tasked with the responsibility of covering his school supplies, uniforms, and pay tuition. He will also need clothes, shoes, hygiene products, etc. That day we dropped Nelson off he only had two outfits. And one pair of shoes that were incredibly small. While in the States Adam and Jess got approval for BBOH to set up a specific savings account deemed "Children's Advocacy Fund" which will collect donations for Nelson (and eventually other children as well).
Please consider donating to this fund and helping us cover Nelson's school fees and basic necessities. You can reach us at email@example.com for specifics on how to donate.
UPDATE: I had the opportunity to Skype with Nelson a few days ago and he is doing SO GOOD. He thanked me for taking him to Sister's and said that he is very happy there....a beautiful confirmation that we did the right thing given the circumstances and resources available. Thank you all of your prayers over the last couple of months as this story unfolded!
We are home! It feels so good to be reunited with family and friends. We arrived in Detroit late last Sunday and we'll be here until Aug. 16th. We have two big events while we are home.
Mission Sponsor Pot Luck
Wednesday Aug. 2 7:00 PM
St. Mary Pinckney
We would like to invite all of our mission partners, supporters and friends to a Pot Luck while we are home in Michigan! This will be our opportunity to visit and spend quality time with everyone before we return to the DR. We will provide the main dish, please bring a salad or side to pass while we enjoy fellowship and plenty of laughter!
Raise the Roof -- Live & Silent Charity Auction
Saturday Aug. 12 5:30 PM
Corsi's Restaurant and Banquet Hall
Join us for an evening of food, fun, and fellowship as we raise funds to support BBOH activities, including the startup of construction for a Mission House. .
Tickets can be purchased online here!
Many of you have been praying for and following Nelson's story. I want to say THANK YOU to everyone that has kept him in your thoughts and prayers! Dr. Angel and Kailey hiked to his family's home and presented the idea of living in Port au Prince and going to one of Sister Lluvia's schools.... the family happily accepted the offer! The mother figure of the household even went so far as to say that she would rather know he is living in another city than to watch him die in their home. Amen! In order to take Nelson to Port au Prince we had to get the paperwork for FUMSIL's truck in order. This was a process of bouncing from one government office to another, verifying that the vehicle isn't stolen and that we have the proper insurance and legal permission to cross the border. Thanks to several long days in Santo Domingo (shoutout to Angel & Kailey!!) the paperwork is in order. We will be setting up the date in the coming days. Since Adam and I are here in the States, it will be Dr. Angel, Kailey, Francois and Nelson's father that accompany him on the trip to Port au Price. As always, please pray that the Lord's will be done. If it is His will for Nelson to go to school in PAP, that nothing may prevent that opportunity from happening (and if it isn't His will, that it doesn't happen and a different solution is found for Nelson).
I'd like to add another little one to your prayer lists, if I may....
Her name is Maria. She is 5 years old and very, very small. She weighs approx. 23 lbs. Maria has epilepsy and other undiagnosed complications. Despite the best of efforts to find her the proper balance of medications, her symptoms are not controlled and she is at a desperate point. One of the Sisters explained it to me like this: she is at a fork in the road.... either she gets specialist attention, various forms of therapy and the consistent care she needs... or her quality of life will continue to deteriorate and she'll be in the Lord's arms within the year. Please pray for Maria, her family and all those that have cared for her over the last several years. She is a sweet little angel and we desire to help as best we can. We are starting by reaching out to specialists in the States that are willing to review her file and consult from afar. Realistically, it would be nearly impossible for her to travel to the States for treatment but we are hopeful that a specialist from the States could provide other treatment ideas, medications or the like which would improve her overall prognosis and quality of life. Thank you for your prayers!!!!!
**As always, names and detailed have been changed and/or omitted to protect the privacy of children and their families.
I am so excited to share with you all about our short journey into Haiti earlier this week. It truly was a God ordained trip. Although we got off to a rough start with Dominican border/customs offices giving us a hassle about paperwork, we eventually crossed the border at 1:30 pm, arriving in Port au Prince around 5:00 pm.
Since it took us so long to cross the border, we had no choice but to stay the night in Port au Prince (border closes at 6:00 PM). When we got into Port au Prince we met up with Kailey Stutzky (our long time friend) and a group from Grand Rapids, MI area (specifically the Catholic parishes in Grandville and Pewamo). Despite our late arrival the group of fellow travelers embraced our presence and made us feel very welcome at their "home" for the week. Several of them even rearranged their bedrooms (slept on floor cushions or doubled up in twin beds) so that we would have rooms for the night. Their sincerity and hospitality was astounding and a true testimony of what it means to "welcome the stranger".
Two of the members of this group are particularly important to me. The first is Michelle. She is Kailey's mom and one of my most honest sounding boards. She has sat with me as I've cried and laughed about all of the crazy things that have happened over the years. And she is one of our greatest prayer warriors. To share some time, however short, with her in Haiti was a true treat. The second person that I was excited to see was Jean Paul. I first met Jean Paul in college when I was involved with the Haiti projects run by Aquinas College and the International Haiti Conferences that were hosted by the college. As a Haitian - Dominican he brings a unique perspective to the table. Over the years I have gleaned a lot from his stories, experiences and advice. I surely wouldn't be the same missionary I am today without his insights during my formative college years. As a resident of Grand Rapids, he often serves as a guide and translator for missionary groups going to Haiti.
Before we arrived in Haiti, Kailey had the opportunity to speak with Sr. Luevia about Nelson, a very special boy in one of our communities. If you didn't get a chance to read the last post, please scroll down to the recent blog titled "An aching heart" to learn about his situation and relationship to BBOH.
After explaining Nelson's story Sister responded very humbly saying,
"You can bring him to me. I will find a place. This is my job."
Those three small sentences instantly relieved a great amount of pressure and worry. This is an opportunity for Nelson to continue to live within his own culture, speaking his native language, surrounded by a faithful Catholic community. He will receive an education. A good education. And yet, as he gets older will have the ability to decide for himself if he will visit family during holiday breaks or summer vacation. Quite literally, this is a combination of the best outcomes. Of course, there are several steps before Sister actually begins caring for him.
Please, please join us in prayer with the specific intention that if this is the Lord's plan for Nelson, may nothing prevent or delay his transition into a healthy and loving environment. We will be sure to update as things unfold. Our next steps include several hikes into his home community to speak with the biological family about this new option. Prayers for safety and ease of conversation are greatly appreciated.
As you read through this and other blog posts, we want to remind you of the great role that our sponsors play in this mission. We truly wouldn't be here working on behalf of Nelson or anyone else without your financial support and prayers. We are profoundly grateful for your presence in our mission. Thank you to each and every sponsor! If you want to learn more about sponsorship please click here.
REMINDER: Our charity auction, Raise the Roof, will be held on Sat, August 12, 2017 from
5:30 PM – 11:00 PM at Corsi's Restaurant and Banquet Hall (27910 W. Seven Mile Rd. Livonia, MI 48152)
Tickets are available for purchase at our Eventbrite website. We can't wait to share food and fellowship with you!
There has been a burden heavy on my heart for the last month or so. I've been thinking about it everyday.
His name is Nelson. He lived with us in 2012 when we took care of severely malnourished children at the Mission House in Palo Seco. Back then we referred to him as 'Big Nelson' because he was almost 4 years old and we also had a younger Nelson who was close to 1 year old. Big Nelson was known for his infectious smile, hypochondriac tendencies (you should have seen it when he had a hangnail...end of the world haha), and his fierce independence. To this day he is the only child who came into the house so very sick but insisted on washing dishes at the sink and putting his own shoes on. Needless to say, he is a special little boy who has earned a very guarded place in all of our hearts. He was returned back to his biological family about 8 months after we first met him. In subsequent years we began sending interns into the mountainous region where he lives to do community health assessments as this region of Haiti - DR is in desperate need. I'm devastated to report that since returning home in 2013, Nelson has become severely malnourished several more times, bouncing in and out of the Nutrition Center in Las Matas. Most recently (May 2017) he was brought to our medical clinic in Rosa la Piedra in a very severe state.
You see.... all of this is particularly worrisome because the human body can only overcome the trauma of malnutrition a finite number of times. Brain and organ damage are very real and very serious consequences of repeated severe starvation and hunger. Our greatest fear is that Nelson will pass away from malnutrition complications similarly to Papito (a young boy who died at the age of 9 in 2014).
And while the poverty that leads to such cases is a real - devastating - tragic reality of our world, there is a poverty that is far greater.
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty."
--St. Mother Teresa
On top of material poverty, Nelson is also living in a home that is spiritually and emotionally poor. Nelson's biological mom left him with his father 'when he only had 2 teeth' (the only indication of age that we were given, information we received and verified through the community and family members). His dad and step mother haven't had a particular interest in him, and many accuse/suspect this is why he has been fed very little. There are multiple types of abuse taking place between members of the household. ....and so many more examples of being unwanted and unloved.
And yet -- despite all of this information -- Nelson was returned to his biological home 10 days ago. He made major improvements over the last month (which I credit in part to your prayers! Thank you!). As a Haitian child with living parents, whose home is actually in Haiti (as opposed to on the Dominican side of the border) our hands are very much tied. There is no social safety net that his case would fall into, there is no social worker, case worker or foster home. The reality of life here is that we had to return him to his biological father, knowing full well the abusive environment.
Talk about a bad day at work. So many tears, frustrations and feelings of failure.
Yet -- our hope is in Him.
The Lord of the universe loves Nelson in a way that my human mind can't even comprehend. God has been with Nelson every single day of his difficult life and will continue to be present.
As a team, we have by no means given up on Nelson's case. We continue to pray for guidance for God to open to doors so that we can provide a better future for him and all of the other children like him living along the border. At this time we are learning more about how the Haitian version of social services operates with great hope. As two organizations (BBOH and FUMSIL) that operate in the DR, we must pursue the legal and moral route -- which often means lots of red tape, waiting and delays.
Tomorrow we are going to Port au Prince to meet with a parish group from Michigan that supports a religious sister, Sr. Lluvia. We are filled with hope that Sister can help us navigate the murky waters of Haitian politics and social services. This is also a particularly special trip as we will be picking up one of our good friends, Kailey, and bringing her back to the DR with us for a visit.
I hope that this post has served as a glimpse into the "child advocate" hat that we wear as missionaries here in the DR. Of all of our responsibilities, this is one that I hold particularly close to my heart.
For safety, perseverance and peace as we continue to discern exactly what can/should be done to help Nelson and all other children in similar situations.
For travel mercies as we embark on a short trip to Port au Prince, Haiti tomorrow (6/26).
For Nelson's mind, body and spirit - that he may feel the loving presence of Jesus in the most lonely and difficult moments.
In Thanksgiving for Olivia, a supporter and friend who has come to the DR for 6 weeks just to help us with our children. Her presence is a true blessing, allowing us to accomplish so much!
**All information mentioned about Nelson's family was received from aunts, uncles, siblings and bio parents themselves. All info was verified through our community connections.
**Nelson's actual name is not Nelson. This was the name that we used for him when he lived in Palo Seco, but it is not the name that he is known by within his community. This and other identifying facts have been altered and/or left out for his personal privacy.
**No photos of Nelson will be published nor will be taken in accordance with the Nutrition Center's photo policy and our desire to honor his human dignity.
We are Catholic lay missionaries serving along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Join the Support Team today!
|Serving the Border||