October

I’m not quite sure how it is October already. Here in the great midwest the temps are still in the 80s and the ground is so brittle it breaks beneath my footsteps. It’s unlike any October I can remember and so it just surprised me the other day when a participant in one of my classes wished me a happy October.

October means a lot of things around here, but mostly (for me at least) it means planning Wine to Water. It’s the 5th year this event is happening which boggles the mind. I think because it’s taken up such a big place in my heart the last 5 years I’ve become quite reflective this year in particular.

Truth be told I considered not doing it this year. It takes a lot of energy to get it up and going and even though I have all of the contacts who more or less agree to whatever I ask, I hate asking people for things. I mean hot, hot hatred hate. Even though I believe so strongly, more strongly than ever in what we’re doing-it’s just not in my comfort zone.

But lately I’ve been really thinking about things like poverty, orphan care, jobs and the like. I’ve actually read some really great stuff on those subjects too.

Kristen Howerton talked about it in her blog, “How the Christian orphan care movement may be enabling child abandonment.”

I really think that Christians need to be more vocal about the way we are approaching orphan care, so that we are not doing harm. We need to stop setting up ministries that encourage desperate parents to relinquish their children, and funnel our resources into programs that support families.

And Jen Hatmaker wrote The Truth About Adoption: Two Years Later and explains how orphan care becomes a huge narrative after 2 years.

We need not shy away from these hard conversation, because they can only make adoption stronger, first families better, second families healthier. The more we know, the more we are responsible for, and it is a privilege that God has invited us into the story of orphan care. We are a committed, resilient bunch, I’ll tell you. We love one another and love each others children, and I am grateful to the core that this is my tribe.

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary had a guest post, Would Jesus be cool with keeping poor kids in orphanages?

All over the world we are confusing poverty for families not loving their children In Haiti, in Cambodia, in Kenya, in Brazil, in Honduras. I’ve spoken to folks working on the ground in all of these countries and the common experience is that not enough is being done to help poor families keep their children.

Perhaps to the outsider orphan care and Wine to Water have little to do with each other. But or me, they are inexplicably entwined.

The more I research orphan care the more I am sure poverty cannot be a reason children are relinquished to orphanages. It says so many horrible things about our world that parents are having to surrender their children because we would rather spend money on adopting their children than supporting their intact families. I say this knowing I’ve been a part of this in large and small ways, I am not blameless by any means. But now that I know better, I’m doing better.

In January I got to go to Haiti to witness The Adventure Project in action. You can read my posts here, here and here. I really believe their model of job creation works and is one of the best models at fixing so much of what ails us as a global community.

So we’re doing it. We’re gearing up for Wine to Water 2013 because it needs to begin with me (as Glennon Melton so eloquently wrote).

We’re doing our best to create jobs, eliminate poverty, keep families intact, provide clean water, give kids shoes, send kids to school and empower people around the world. We’re doing it all by creating well mechanic jobs in Uganda.

November 16th in Davenport, Iowa. We would love to see you and, as always, there is plenty of space to stay for free here at camp. If you’re not able to make it but would like to donate-email me at tesileagh@gmail.com. You know a phenomenal artist who would want to become involved by donating a piece of their art? Contact me.

I love this life. I really, really do. The least I can do with this incredible life of mine is work my butt off to provide a glimpse of it to others. Join me?

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Haiti…Part 2-Eshet Chayil

Thursday I wrote a bit about what I initially saw in Haiti. Today my focus is on some of my thoughts since being home.

On the way home from Haiti I read Rachel Held Evans’s book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Though the book was slow to start for me it rebounded well and I really enjoyed it overall. Anyway, one of my favorite parts was when Evans was discussing the Proverbs 31 woman. I don’t want to go into the whole thing here but in the end Evans says the Proverb is actually a love poem (modern day Christians often interpret this passage prescriptively which, Evans claims, is not at all how it was originally written) if you will, to an Eshet Chayil which loosely translates as “Woman of Valor”.

That phrase “Eshet Chayil” stayed with me. A few weeks of introspection proves that phrase spoke to me because Eshet Chayil was all around me in Haiti.

Indeed, UNICEF reports that the ripple effects of empowering women can change the future of society. It raises economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation.A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Marie was the first stove vendor we met at the large market in the heart of Port au Prince. She was the top seller for The Adventure Project (TAP). Marie pushes out somewhere close to 80 stoves a week! Marie learned about TAP because one of her friends was a vendor but “didn’t take advantage of the opportunity”. So Marie asked if she could try, and try she did! Marie is a mom to four. She now makes enough money to provide transportation to a job for her older two children. Marie’s younger two children can now go to school. Marie is the very essence of an entrepenuer. When asked if there was anything she wanted to tell us she went on for minutes. Ideas about ways in which to grow her business, to provide for the citizens of rural Haiti as well. We never had to ask Marie to smile, the woman was on fire. All of the intelligence, dignity and strength she possessed before was only enhanced by her opportunity with TAP. Marie is a Woman of Valor! Eshet Chayil!

Mylande was another vendor we visited just outside the city. When those of us from TAP first arrived at the meeting place there was a group of men meeting inside the building. There was much talking between them. When Mylande arrived it was quiet. She approached us with shoulders back and a soft smile. Mylande is a young woman who lives with five people in her home (mom, dad, aunts, uncles, etc). She is now able to provide for all of them with the income she receives as a stove vendor. Also? She is able to buy a few nice things for herself. Because she is not unlike so many of us, she was very proud of that. I can’t blame her. Mylande, Eshet Chayil!

Nicole is the second best seller of stoves. When we arrived at her house there was somewhere around 10-15 family members there. I’m not sure if they all lived there but it was clear they were all enjoying lunch at her house. While talking with Nicole a group of 5 children came home from school. Their uniforms were clean and bright. I was struck by the realization that all of this came from one opportunity. But of course that one opportunity didn’t make all of this happen, Nicole made all of that happen. Because she works her butt off. That potential was just sitting in wait, she took the opportunity and ran with it. Providing food for her family and schooling for her child and the children of her community. Nicole, Eshet Chayil! (Note: Nicole didn’t want her picture taken so you get a picture of me asking the Director of TAP’s partner, ILF, a question. I asked lots of questions. This is actually what I looked like most of the trip: sweaty and annoyingly inquisitive).

There were more stove vendors, of course. All with similar stories, all women of valor. There was even a man! Another group visited him and came back with his incredible story. But it wasn’t just the stove vendors that were women of valor on that trip.

There was Erica who was a fund developer for another charity I support 😉 Erica who goes to India on yoga/spiritual retreats. Erica who quit that really amazing job to lend her support to TAP for free. Erica who was the only other vegetarian on the trip and often had to “share” a meal with me (I ate most of it). Erica-Eshet Chayil!

Sarah who also volunteers as TAP’s numbers genius. Sarah who started one of Texas’s biggest and most successful real estate companies. Sarah who clearly takes on life with an amazing smile-all the beautiful and terrible. She is Eshet Chayil!

Megan who is a busy mama to five. This craft maven of an uber popular blog took her passion (crafting) and turned it into a thriving business. She hosts craft weekends that have a long waiting list just to attend. I got to room with Megan and I can tell you her heart is good and it’s pure. Her love for all things God loves is true. Megan-Eshet Chayil! (There are no pictures of beautiful Megan because she happens to be an amazing photographer and took beautiful pictures. This is all I have, from the last day when we dressed in the same colors.)

Rebecca is a big shot marketing director in New York. But meeting Rebecca you get a sense that marketing is just her day job. Rebecca travels the world learning about new cultures and new communities. She falls in love with them all. Rebecca so obviously understands so little separates us all. Rebecca owns all that she is and it is a sight to behold. Rebecca, so clearly is an Eshet Chayil!

Rebekah is the southern belle I always pictured myself being. She is sweet and smart, funny and strong. Rebekah had all the women and men we met in Haiti eating out of the palm of her hand. Her charm came from a place of strength and a complete awareness of self. Though Rebekah is a successful businesswoman, when I left her the only way I could think to define her was Eshet Chayil!

Christine and Raphaella were the Directors of the partner that TAP works with in Haiti. Christine is half haitian, half french canadian. Hearing her extensive knowledge of Haitian history and her passion for renewing Haiti to it’s former glory was absolutely inspiring. Christine-Eshet Chayil! Raphaella, a beautiful Italian woman who had just completed her PhD in International Aid. A woman in her 40s, when she told me her life’s story it was a story about constant re-creation of self. When Raphaella realized what she was doing with her life wasn’t what fulfilled her anymore, she tried something new. Raphaella was an ever evolving woman who, throughout her life, was clearly the essence of Eshet Chayil!

Jody and Becky, the co-founders of The Adventure Project. They are what started it all. For me, for the stove vendors, for the women on the trip with me- it’s all because of them. One meeting many years ago in the back of a van in Uganda led these women to start a non profit that is quickly becoming the model for other non profits. Becky, a woman who is educated in International Aid but whose heart has been there long before. Becky who has a sense for the need and exactly how to provide it so that it doesn’t look like she was involved at all. Becky who knows exactly what she wants for TAP and has poured years of blood, sweat and tears into making it happen. Becky who will stop at nothing to add venture to the countries who need it most. Becky-Eshet Chayil! And Jody, a friend of mine for whom I’ve been thankful as long as I can remember. Jody, who knows instinctively how to rally those of us at our homes, taking care of our kids or in offices working away at cubicles. Jody who relates so well to the women in America who want to change the lives of the women around the world. Jody, who really knows how to bring heaven down to earth in so. many. ways. Jody-Eshet Chayil!

This blog was wordy, I know that. But I think it had to be. Because I want so badly for you to get a glimpse of what I saw in Haiti. I want you to see that it was a story I could’ve told about women here in the States as well. So little separates us. I love knowing that my money is providing opportunities for women there to change the face of their families, their communities and their nation. I. love. that.

I knew somewhere deep in my bones that a revolution was afoot, that the women of this earth were rising up, and that, in some way, great or small, I was going to be a part of it.A year of Biblical Womanhood

Haiti…part 1

Two weeks ago I went to Haiti. I posted that I was going but have been wanting to really process what I saw and be purposeful about what I wrote. So I took my time and waited until I felt like I could tell you.

Haiti is in pretty good shape y’all.

I’m sure you’ve read the same things I had read before I left. That it’s the cholera capital of the world, that it’s still in shambles since the earthquake 3 years ago. All of that. I’d read that and let it affect the way I felt when I thought of Haiti.

But by and large, it’s just untrue. In many ways I think that narrative is out there to serve the agencies that want you to donate to make it better. I’m not saying it’s good or bad (you can judge that however you’d like) I’m just saying that it is.

Haiti looks like virtually every other developing country I’ve been too. Many times we’d be driving/bouncing through the streets of Port au Prince and I became mentally transported to Ethiopia. When I’d see a building that looked leveled due to the earthquake I’d ask the driver, “Did that collapse during the earthquake?”

“No. It’s always been like that.”

“How about that building?”

“No.”

A source there said Haiti now is exactly where it was before the earthquake. Is it great? No. Is it still a developing country figuring it out? Yes. But it’s not what you’ve been thinking.

I say all of this because I think it’s important. For those of you who gave to various charities right after the earthquake and for those of you who didn’t. Because you should know there is always hope and there is always something beautiful after something terrible. I learned that from my friend, Jody. 🙂

So Haiti is beautiful. It really is. And do you know where I saw the most beauty?

In the men making the stoves and the women overseeing the process.

I saw it in the stove vendors and their families.

Let me first say I am not in any way being paid by The Adventure Project. I went to Haiti with them because I wanted to see how they work with their local partners. I ask all of my family and friends (and people I’ve met only once or even ones I’ve never met) to give a lot of money to The Adventure Project (TAP). That’s a big deal to me. I wanted to make sure that TAP was THE non-profit in which I wanted to put my energy.

And they are. They are doing it. Charcoal efficient stoves don’t solve all of the problems that afflict Haiti but it solves so. many.

They keep children who would normally be very sick or even die healthier by burning about 40% less charcoal, thus making the air healthier to breathe.

They burn the charcoal slower, thus making it cheaper.

It takes about 1 1/2 hours LESS TIME to cook a family dinner on the TAP stoves. This frees up time to do other essential stuff like cleaning, taking care of children or working.

The charcoal efficient stoves provide jobs. Because when you donate to TAP you are helping subsidize the building of a stove (done exclusively by Haitians) which are then sold (exclusively by Haitians). It employs locals at every. single. level.

Which is HUGE for a country trying to pick themselves up from such a horrible tragedy.

When I asked a local how they really felt about international aid they said simply. “We know we have to have it right now. But we want to get to a point where we don’t need it. We want to pick ourselves up. We want to rely on ourselves. We aren’t there yet, but we want to be there some day.”

I was told of another agency that bought 10,000 stoves and then gave them out. A local said that ends up taking the country 2 steps back.

Because “charity” has to stop being a hand out and needs to start being a hand up.

That is why I love The Adventure Project. Because their goal is to become completely obsolete in the whole picture. For the stove venture to become a completely Haitian venture. Come on, that’s amazing!!!!

Ok, off to take eldest to the doc. I will finish my series on my Haitian adventure. There’s still important stuff I want to tell you. This post was heavy on what The Adventure Project is doing. The next posts will be more about the way I see my role in this thing called “life” and “caring for each other” and all of that. And there will be more pictures. Hopefully there will be post with a little bit more of my wit and sarcasm. Get excited for that. 😉

To Haiti I Go

“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”

I’m going to Haiti on Wednesday. It’s nearly impossible to imagine as I sit here in my living room watching the Today show and drinking my coffee. Still in my sweatpants, I can hear my kids playing and laughing together. I’m already starting to feel that separation in my mind. How do you rectify the two worlds? 

I remember this feeling before we left to go to Ethiopia to pick up Tomas and Binyam. Having been there once before I knew what was about to hit me and so I struggled the week leading up to our trip with staying present. When you know your whole world is about to be rocked how do you stay focused on enjoying the present day? 

I started with the Martin Luther King Jr quote for a few reasons. Obviously today is the day we celebrate his life and legacy but also because that quote kind of stood out today. 

So many times in the last few weeks I’ve felt the urge to back out of the trip. I kept thinking that a sane person wouldn’t be going to Haiti. Of course I feel safe there, but as safe as I feel now in my sweatpants on my couch? Well no of course not. Because there are so many unknowns. 

And I’ve done all but begged my Facebook followers to donate money to buy stoves. $20 for one stove. That’s a coffee date with your best friend, a movie with your husband OR a stove that doesn’t make a family sick in Haiti. A job for someone in Haiti. Donating $60 will enter your name in a drawing to have your chance to go to Haiti AND give 3 families stoves. Every time I went to post I hesitated for just a second and asked, “Is this popular? Will they get sick of me?” It lasted for a minute but I admittedly still thought it. 

But then of course, to combat the doubts I ask “is it right”? Not the actual going to Haiti but the act of annoying my friends and family for donations, the act of putting myself in a position to be moved, to be broken and to see heaven meet earth. And of course the answer is a resounding “yes”. 

I think the tension I feel in my stomach is simply God working. He’s preparing me to not only see the brokenness of of the world but also in me. Trips like these have a way of holding a big ole’ mirror in front of you and revealing all the areas you fall short. 

So I’m going to Haiti. I’m going to see for my own eyes the amazing work The Adventure Project is doing there. I’m going to see how they use local partners to empower their own people. I’m going to see brothers helping brothers and sisters helping sisters. I’m going to see healthy kids who were once sick. I’m going to see so. much. more. And I can’t wait to share it with you. 

Will you pray for me? Will you send positive vibes, light candles or dedicate your meditation to the trip? Will you donate? While there, we are drawing the name of the person who wins the next trip to Haiti (remember all it takes is you donating $60 OR you encouraging enough people to total $60). I want to pull out your name. Because you blog readers have been with me for so long and through so much. I want you to get your chance to be changed as well. 

So donate today. It’s said constantly where our money goes, so too goes our heart. Let your money and your heart go to the Haitian people still reeling 3 years later. I’ll be able to tell you all about it in a few short days. 

Off to work really hard at that staying present deal. On a day like today, I’m constantly reminded how blessed I am by my life. To have the kids that I do and the family that I do. To have the opportunities I do. So, so thankful.