I always feel lost and out of touch when my blog gets neglected. It's as if a part of me is placed on reserve so other more important needs can take precedence. All the while, this part of me, which is rather large, was screaming to be unleashed.
This dramatic introduction to this post can be summarized as an makeshift apology for my blogging absence.
Anyway, December was a whirlwind. I'm not sure Christmas has the same luster for me as it used to. I suppose it could be due to the fact that once you've spent a Christmas in an orphanage watching fifteen little boys open presents in a home for the first time, nothing can quite compare. Maybe it's the commercialism that subliminally convinces all of us that stress and debt acquisition is the only way to truly get into the "holiday spirit". Despite my Scrooge-esque sentiments, my time was well-spent with my family, and solidified what the next phase of my life would look like.
When I began my journey in Haiti, I had no idea what to expect. I knew God was calling me, opening a door and making a way on this island I had little prior knowledge of -- but not much else.
Over the past fourteen months, this journey has been one great discovery of the depths of Christ's love for the people of Haiti, and how I fit into His plans.
After about nine months of learning about culture, food, language and social customs of Haitian life, I started to realize that this was no longer just a place I had come to for an adventure; a stepping stone to wherever I would be next.
This is where all my roads had led me.
This was where I was created to be.
But for what and why, exactly?
My summer was filled with these types of questions. Until finally, those questions slowly received answers.
On the outskirts of some of Haiti's largest towns such as Port-Au-Prince, Les Cayes and Jacmel, girls as young as 13, 14 and 15 years old, can be found selling their bodies nightly for less than $3 USD.
If they aren't openly soliciting sex for survival, many of them have succumbed to abusive relationships with older men.
I first learned of this horrific truth during a trip to Jacmel this past summer. I met a Haitian artisan named Charlotte, a woman who passionately stands for social justice. Upon meeting Charlotte, she began to tell me stories, which utterly broke my heart. I listened as she expressed the immense need to help the young women of her country and how Haiti desperately needs a change mentality in regards to gender discrimination.
Over the next several months, I could not open or close my eyes, without imagining what life might be like for a teenage girl living on the street.
Without proper education, guidance and direction, girls in Haiti are privy to the following:
- Unwanted pregnancy - which leads to the inability to care for their children, resulting in malnutrition, child mortality, and orphans.
- Disease - Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, just to name a few...
Only since 2005, did rape become illegal, but little to no rapists are ever convicted. This leaves victims publicly humiliated and traumatized without much opportunity for therapy or healing.
Above all, there is very little being done for these girls who so desperately need positive role models, someone to believe in them, and most of all, HOPE.
At this same time, as I my eyes were being open to the immense need to help young girls rise above oppression, I had begun to develop a friendship with a girl named Christulla.
Christulla was orphaned by the age of eleven, having both her parents and three of her sister pass away. She had been living in extreme poverty with her one remaining older sister, in a home not much bigger than the size of a standard, American tool shed.
Christulla and I immediately bonded. I wanted to help her, so I gave her the simple job of helping me out around the house, so I could get to know her better. From the moment I met this sweet girl, I knew the Lord had brought her into my life.
One night, she came to me with tears in her eyes, asking if she could stay with me because it was very difficult for her sister to care for her. Without a second thought I embraced her and brought her into my home.
In the past few months, Christulla celebrated her 16th birthday and has relocated with me to Jacmel, where she will be going to school and in addition will receive english lessons.
She has been an incredible inspiration to me, to see a such a young girl have an intense desire to succeed and rise above all challenges.
All across Haiti, there are hundreds of girls just like Christulla. All of whom deserve a chance to succeed and become more than a statistic.
I began to pray about how I could help more girls. As I prayed, the answer became clear.
Create a place of refuge, where young women can be empowered and be given the freedom to heal and discover who all they were designed to be. Thus the idea for Jasper House Haiti was born.
What is a Jasper? An ancient stone, highly valued and coveted, that was cherished by royalty. It's literal meaning is "polishing". This perfectly describes the mission behind the work, to take young girls, who are beautiful gems, out of dangerous and vulnerable situations and set them on a path to discover their own beauty, worth, strength and abilities, already within them.
I have since moved to Jacmel, a city located on the coast, three hours south of Port-Au-Prince, to begin working to develop programs for Jasper House Haiti, to help young women gain an education, receive therapy with art, sustainable living, and most of all, find comfort and strength in small groups, which will point them to the Lord, who loves them deeply.
While I was home in December, I received countless confirmations from words of encouragement, to financial blessing, and ultimately an overwhelming sense of peace knowing I was following exactly where the Lord was leading.
It's an amazingly, incredible to discover the path that has been mapped out before your very existence. Knowing that the innate human search for significance and purpose has found meaning and in turn, the fortitude to stay at the course no matter the obstacle or opposition that may stand in the way.
The Lord has faithfully provided funds for a temporary home, schooling for Christulla, and for the hiring of our first staff member, Santa.
And in March, our first missionary, Sarah Schulkins, an amazingly talented artist, photographer and horticulturalist, will be coming to utilize her gifts and talents to develop the creative sustainability program. Ecstatic to have her a part of this team.
My heart is full of joy as this process begins to start a movement of empowerment and restoration into the lives of those who deserve a chance to rise above and succeed.
Your thoughts, prayers, encouraging words and support are always so very needed.
Bondye bon toujou. - God is good, always.