Friday, December 30, 2011

Baby Wilkenly

Recently I had a father come to COTP with his malnourished 9 month old son.  He sat in our pharmacy for about 2 hours as I talked to him, learning about his story, hearing his heartbreak, and deciding if we were able to help him care for his baby boy.

Wilkenly's Mom had died when he was only a month old leaving his father, who has no other family to help, alone to care for such a fragile little baby.  Dad asked me if I would admit the baby.  This is always a hard decision to make and one I don't take lightly.  If there is any way I can keep a family together I will do what it takes to ensure that we help make that happen.  Wilkenly clearly met the protocols to start Medika Mamba (MM) as he was severely malnourished.  Even though he was tiny, I knew his father had cared for him for the past eight months on his own, so I was hoping that if we just gave him some assistance, helped his child become healthier, that Dad would realize he was able to care for this child and we wouldn't have to separate them.

I decided we would admit him in to the MM program.  Even after I explained this program, Dad asked again if I would keep the baby.  For some reason I couldn't do it.  I wanted this family to stay together.  However the more I talked to them, the more I began to wonder if it was the right decision.  I left the pharmacy and talked through the situation with two other people to see if I was making the right call.

We decided that we should admit him to the MM program and then when he came back in a week for more MM, I could reevaluate the situation.  If the child got better, even just slightly, maybe it would give the Dad a chance to see that he was capable for caring for his beautiful son.  If he got worse, then I could easily admit him at that time.  Even though he was tiny, it wasn't an immediate life or death decision.  I often have families come back once or twice before I admit a child to ensure that I have all the facts staright and that I'm making the right decision.  It allows the family time to truly think about their options rather than to make a rash decision out of fear.

I sent Wilkenly away that day with a little bit of MM and gave him an appointment to come back in one week.  I do this all the time and normally have no problem with it, however this time it was different.  I walked in Nicks office later that day and told him I didn't know if I'd made the right decision.  I kept telling myself over and over "he'll be back in a week.  If he's not improving, if Dad still wants him admitted, you can do it then.  He'll be fine for a week."  But I couldn't get him off my mind.  I kept thinking about him, worrying about him, and praying he'd come back for his check up.  I desperately awaited Thursday.

Thursday came, but Wilkenly did not.  I watched the gate all morning, no Wilkenly.  Finally by noon I couldn't handle it anymore.  I gave his phone number to Rosaline and asked her to call and verify that he was coming.  She got ahold of the Dad who told her he didn't have the money (less than $1 US) to come out that day.  We ensured him we would pay for it and that we just really wanted to see them both.  His response was that he didn't have time to bathe his son that day and that he thought he could come out the next day.  I told Rosaline that I was afraid if he didn't come out Wilkenly would die.  She agreed.

Friday came and went.  No Wilkenly.  We called Dad.  No response.  Another week came and went, still no Wilkenly.  We called several times but never reached anyone.  Finally Rosaline got ahold of the neighbor that had come out with them that day.  She gave Rosaline their address and she went to their house to check on the baby.  Neither Dad or Wilkenly were there.  Rosaline left a message with the neighbor saying that we would admit the baby and that we really wanted to help them out.  No response.

Another two weeks went by.  Rosaline and I agreed that we had done all we could and now just had to wait for the Dad to accept our help.

Yesterday the neighbor came by with another child.  I asked her how Wilkenly was doing and she let me know that he had passed away.

My heart sunk.  Instantly the "What If's" went through my head.  What if I had admitted him that day.  Would he still be alive?  What if I would have simply told the Dad we would continue to discuss it the following week rather than only thinking that in my head?  What if I had done more?

I know I can't help every child in Haiti, but what about this one, this little guy that I held in my arms for a few minutes?  This little one that I made and fed a bottle to?  This little one that I packed a small bag of food for and sent out the gate?  What about Wilkenly?

Most of the time when we choose not to admit children, they leave and I never hear from them again.  I don't know what the rest of their story looks like.  I don't know if they flourish in their families care, if they become sick, if they die, or if they go off to live with another family member.  I never hear.  Sometimes I think it's best that we don't hear.  This job is incredibly difficult and if we were to hear of kids we turn away getting sick, it's inevitable to wonder if it was some how our fault.

I fully know Wilkenly's death is not my fault and I don't blame myself for a second for it.  Maybe we didn't give him the help his father had originally asked for, but we did offer him help that has been proven thousands of times to literally save lives of children just like him.

At the same time, I also don't blame his father.  I can't even pretend to imagine what it must be like to live in his shoes.  To have your wife pass away (likely from something preventable) and leave you to care for your one month old baby by yourself.  To not have your parents or siblings there to help you with the baby because they all died in the earth quake, from malaria, and other minuscule things.  I have no idea what it would be like to not have a job and literally have no way to feed your son.  I can't imagine for a second what it would be like to watch your only son, your only living family member, slowly die of starvation and to be able to do NOTHING for him.  He reached out, he asked for help and wasn't given what he had hoped for.  He was tired, worn out from a life time of suffering, perhaps facing depression and post tramatic stress disorder.  He had no one to turn to, no one to encourage him that he could do it, to tell him he was a good father, a good person.  I don't blame him for a second.

The systematic problems that Haiti faces are so deep and complex that I still can't even process them after 19 months of living here.  Why are so many Moms dying during child birth?  Why are so many babies dying before they reach 5 years of age?  How come there are literally no jobs available any where in Northern Haiti?  Why are there no decent health care options?  Why aren't more people doing something about all of this.  Where do I fit in, how do I help, how do I make the most effective changes in this world I live in?  There are so many questions that I just don't have answers to.

I want to save lives.  I want to do everything I can to keep families together.  I want to go visit our children who have been reunited and hear something other than, "No they haven't eaten today."  I want to help change this broken world that we live in.  I don't want these children that come into my path to suffer.  I don't want them to go a day without eating.  I don't want them to die.

More and more I'm learning that I can't do this on my own.  It's not up to me to save Wilkenly's life or any other baby for that matter.  I'm here to be God's hands and feet.  I'm here to help serve his people, his children.  Yes some of these children are going to suffer.  They're going to be malnourished and often go days with out eating.  And some are even going to die.  I don't understand it.  I hate it.  But it's God's plan.  Theres a reason why Wilkenly died.  Theres a reason why Luc passed away.  Theres a reason why Marie died in my arms.  Theres a reason why I buried Olivenson, Annella, Sabyna, Jossette, Deborah, and many many more.  I have no idea what these reasons are.  I have no idea what we are all supposed to be learning from this, but I have faith that there is a reason.  I have faith that they are all safely nestled in God's arms and that some day I will see each and every one of my babies again.

I don't know what the future looks like for Haiti.  I don't know what the future looks like for any of the babies in our care or various programs.  And I especially don't know what the future looks like for me.  But I continue on each day knowing that the future isn't up to me and that there is someone much greater in charge of it all.  This life doesn't make sense, but it's not up to me to figure out.  My responsibility is to love on the children and families that pass through our gates.  To make them feel heard, loved, and cared for.  Sometimes I'll be able to offer help, but often I won't.

Please continue to pray for all of our Staff members as we take on the incredibly difficult job of caring for these 61 beautiful children.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prayers for Gup.

Theres another Missionary that lives on the other side of Haiti that I try to stay in contact with from time to time.  She is in a similar situation to Nick and I, where she's caring for the child that she hopes to adopt, however doesn't meet the Haitian Requirements, and therefore is a few years away from making her child legally hers.

We know several people in Haiti who are doing the same thing as us.  Most call us crazy, but we all know that we wouldn't have it any other way.  Its a huge risk to do this.  It's a huge sacrifice.  Our lives are somewhat on hold for years, never knowing what could happen or when it'll be over.  Most of us choose not to talk about all the potential things that could go wrong.  We choose not to talk about the adoption process.  Instead, we wait on God and pray daily that it will all work out the way WE want it to.

However right now Rhyan could use your prayers.  She has been caring for Gup for over a year now.  He has been her baby, her first son, her life.  But right now, she's not sure that she will be the one who gets to watch him grow up.  His biological mother has asked to take him back.

Of course, this is amazingly wonderful and amazingly awful all at the same time!  I am a huge advocate for reuniting kids to parents IF it's in the childs best interest.  Sometimes it's obvious one way or the other. Some times it's harder to tell.  All I know is that this is going to be incredibly difficult for Rhyan, Gup, and Gups biological Mother.  Please pray that God's will is done and that Gup grows up to be an amazing young man who is showered in love by two Mamas!

Please pray that Nick and I will never have to go through this with Eventz and pray for all of our friends who are also trying to adopt while living in Haiti.  Please pray for Rhyan during this incredibly difficult time in her life.  And finally, please pray for all of the biological families of these kids who have had to make the most difficult decision I can ever imagine in order to do what they feel is in the best interest of their child.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ground Breaking!

For the past 18 months Nick and I have lived on the Compound at COTP.  There have been times where this has been a huge blessing and times where this has been a night mare!  Living here has been a way to really learn the ins and outs of our mission.  Its helped us get to know the kids, staff, and volunteers much better as well.

But, as you can imagine, living at work can only last for so long before it begins to burn you out!  For instance, tonight, we had two different sets of 4 nannies come up to our house needing help with minimal things during our family time.  It's not uncommon for me to get interrupted multiple times a week while brushing my teeth as there is always someone on my balcony screaming my name!  And you can only imagine how well nap time goes with all these interruptions.  Family time can be almost impossible here more often than not.

We are excited to announce that the construction has finally began on our Direct House (which we will live in) in the back property.  Although it will still be on the COTP compound, it'll be in the far back corner which will allow us some space and privacy.  For the first time since moving to Haiti, we will be able to go home from work!  We can't even begin to express how excited we are for this!  Having space to get away from everything, to focus on our family, and to relax, will greatly help keep us from getting burnt out and allow us to do our jobs much better!  This house is going to be a huge blessing to us and our family!

Every night the four of us walk out to the back property to check on the progress!  It has come so far already and with every new development, we get more and more excited!  It still has a LONG way to go, but even just looking out back and seeing that something is there, brings a glimmer of hope to us!  We are beyond excited for this change.  We are so excited to finally have a yard that our kids can play in!

COTP will be building a series of houses on our property to house our babies, but there will be more information on that later.  For now, check out some pics of the progress we have made!  It may not seem like much to you, but we think it's pretty dang amazing!

Nick drawing up the house plans with the guys!

The site of our future home!

What I'll see out my bedroom window!

We had to build this road to get to the back property.  We even had to build a bridge to get over one of the trenches!

The crew digging out the foundation of the house!

Laying the Portals for the perimeter wall!

Our future home!

We will be looking for groups to come down and help with various stages of construction for not only the Directors House, but all the other houses as well.  Or if you are unable to make a trip down, but would like to be involved, we would always appreciate your financial support.  For more information please contact us at or Jamie Groen at

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Mud in the Puddle!

Mud on the Shoe.

Mud on the Socks.

Mud on You!

Mud on your hands.

Mud on your toes!

 Mud on your Checks

Mud on your nose!

Mud, Mud, Everywhere!

Mud on your elbows.

 Mud in your hair.

 Mud on your chin!

 Mud on your ear!

 Mud over there!

 Mud over here.

Mud in the puddle.

Mud in the air.

Mud, Mud, everywhere!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Decking Our Halls!!

Living in Haiti, its very difficult to get into the Christmas mood. There could be a lot of reasons for this. The fact that we dont go to store after store that is blaring Christmas music, with windows full of Christmas decorations, and all sorts of Christmas displays throughout may be part if it. Or the fact that as we are driving around our radio doesn't have Christmas music on every channel (actually we dont even have English channels!) and that we aren't passing house after house covered in lights and decorations, might be another reason why. A lack of friends, family, and holiday events might be another. But one of the biggest reasons is because here in Haiti we don't have the Chistmas weather. Don't get me wrong, I love the 80 degree days and being able to wear shorts in December, but it doesn't set the Christmas mind set.

As I think of all these things that are missing, all the things that make my Christmas Christmas, and realize how I'm totally missing it all. It wasnt snowing out when Jesus was born, it was probably just as warm as it is here. There wasn't chrstmas music and decorations every where. He was born in a barn, without any thing nice at all. There wasn't anything making that day special except for Jesus Himself. Boy do I have a lot to learn.

I'm not saying that Jesus is against lights, decorations, and Christmas music, as long as we don't leave him out and instead use this time to come together with friends and family to celebrate his birth. This year were trying to balance both of these. How do we allow our kids to enjoy some of the things we grew up with, allow them to get excited about Christmas, but also teach him the true reason we are celebrating?

Thankfully for us, living in Haiti makes it difficult to have the Hallmark Christmas many of us dream of. We arent overwhelmed with temptations to forget why we are celebrating like we would be if we lived in the States. We are doing our best to give our son the best of both worlds. Therefore we have been busy "Decking Our Halls" but we've also done our best to remember Jesus.

Even from a young age, Nick has been obsessed with Christmas lights, so we knew this had to be apart of our family traditions. We ordered 12 strands online to decorate our house and my Mom brought in 2 strands as well! Thankfully they are all LED lights, and all of them together only use the same amount of power as one fan. In other words, we had to find a way to justify using them! We can tell already that Eventz is going to have the same obsession as his daddy does! He is in love with the lights and enjoyed helping decorate! We wanted to go big, to have our whole house shiny and glimmering, but we were missing a few key pieces. We didn't have a tree topper, and of course theres no where in Northern Haiti to buy one, so I had to make one from scratch. We also needed a little more glitter, so the boys and I had to make some snow flakes to hang up around the house.

Growing up I always had an advent calendar to help us count down to Christmas. Again, being in Haiti, I have no way of getting 25 small gifts for each of the boys to open. I instead had to come up with something else for them. Thankfully matches ar easy to come by, so I took 25 match boxes, dumped out the matches, and decorated the box in Christmas paper, and labeled each one 1-25. Inside of each box is a little note, and every morning the boys get to take turns opening that days box. On the note is an activity we will do as a family. Some of them include, watching a Christmas movie and eating popcorn, going on an adventure walk, making Christmas cookies, going on a tractor ride with Daddy, Having a picnic, eating Breakfast for dinner, etc. Even though the boys are much to young to understand what's going on, it's a way for us to spend quality time as a family this Christmas season. Lets be honest, I think I'm enjoying these times way more than the kids!

Also, to ensure we aren't leaving Jesus out of this holiday, each night while the boys are playing, Nick and I read a devotion out loud that goes through the new testament and leads to the birth of Christ. We don't make the boys sit through it, because that would be impossible, but feel that even if they hear it in the background as they are driving their trucks around, it'll still benefit them in some way! Living in Haiti makes having family traditions much more interesting. There not impossible, but they take some creative planning. I'm so very thankful to have the Internet that helps me come up with some great ideas to help entertain our crew during this time of year! Here are a few pics of our family decking the halls!

First you untangle the lights!

Then you make sure they all work!
Wedly of course LOVED all the hats!

Building the Tree!

One of my Favorites! 
Mommy, where do you want this Garland?

Making Christmas Cookies with Grandma!

Hanging the Tree Topper Mommy Made!
Look Daddy!

Adopting an HIV+ child

Earlier this week was World AIDS Day. As always, I seem to miss it every year and have to post about it afterwards. I always struggle to know what to say. 

Here at COTP we have four HIV+ positive children. All four were given this disease at birth. There are so many stigmas out there which lead us to believe that those who have HIV or AIDS did something wrong, that they are dirty people who sleep around or do drugs. This myth is not the truth. Our kids did nothing wrong, and likely their mothers did nothing wrong either. Most of them contracted this through their spouses.  But yet they are still faced with this disease every day.

Our kids are incredibly lucky to be receiving ARVs which will help them maintain their health. Twice a day they take a whole cocktail of medicines. Many people around the world don't have the opportunity to receive these meds. Our kids our blessed.

All four of our HIV+ kids are up for adoption. Two have been matched with adoptive families, two have not. One of these kids was here last year when I posted on World AIDS day asking everyone to consider adopting one or more of our beautiful HIV+ children. Today he is still waiting. Waiting for someone to love him. Someone to make him feel special. He's an incredibly handsome smart young man. He's all boy and loves to play. Pool day is one of his favorites. He loves to go to school and laughs the entire time he play on the play ground. He loves to learn. He loves to smile. He loves kisses and hugs. And he desires to be loved.

Please, please don't make this little boy wait another year without knowing there's someone out there who loves him. If you or someone you know is thinking about adoption, I ask that you pray about and consider adopting one of our HIV+ positive children. For more information please contact Robin, our adoption coordinator at