Thoughts On Child Sponsorship


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“Hello, how are you?”

When I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Lucson while in Haiti last month, he greeted me in English.

Pleasantly surprised, I asked him why he decided to learn English.

“So I can speak to you,” he said.

That was about the extent of his English (the rest of our conversation was held through a translator) but wow.

Just wow.

There I stood with my arms full of gifts I brought to give to this boy we sponsor through Mission to Haiti, and he, with nothing in his arms, gave me something much bigger than the soccer ball, the book, the clothes and the food I had for him.

He’s learning a new language so he can communicate with the American woman who has shown up on his island only twice in his 14 years.

That, my friends, is just a little bit humbling.

My hope for Lucson is that he will continue to improve his English, not simply so he can speak to me when I show up down there again in a few years, but so a world of opportunities will open up to him.

But infinitely more important than learning English, he is also learning about Jesus.

And I know that one day in Heaven, our native languages won’t matter. We’ll be able to hang out and speak whatever language it is that citizens of heaven speak, and the gifts we give to each other here on earth will pale in comparison to the gift of eternal life that we will enjoy together.

If you don’t already, I urge you to consider sponsoring a Haitian child. You can learn more about it at Mission to Haiti.

The Poor and The Prideful – A Mission to Haiti Experience Changed My Worldview

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I wanted to walk into their homes and see and feel and know what their lives were like. The day-to-day lives of sponsored children in Haiti.

Traveling down the pot-holed back roads of Port au Prince with Mission to Haiti’s Bill Nealey Jr., two sponsored teenagers and an interpreter, I expected this day would conclude with Kim Harms feeling pretty good about Kim Harms. That I would go to bed encouraged in my gifts to the poverty-stricken.

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STEVE

But when 15-year-old Steve opened the rusty corrugated metal gate that led to his two-room home, I sensed this afternoon adventure would not end with the proverbial pat on the back.

“Welcome,” his mom Elmase ushered us to sit down on hand-carved wooden chairs. I was suddenly ill-at-ease; a long sheer curtain in the doorway tickling my leg as I glanced down at a page of prepared questions that now seemed trivial.

I had anticipated stepping into Steve’s home and taking pride in my generosity that was providing for a Haitian family’s comfort. I would ask questions about his life and be satisfied that my money was doing a great thing. That I was successfully answering God’s call to serve the poor.

The poor.

That was my problem. Sitting in a tiny Haitian home a world away from my own family, I realized that to me they had simply been the poor.

The tall lanky teenage boy seated beside me in a slightly unstable wooden chair. The boy who likes soccer and probably enjoys watching an NBA game when the electricity is working. Up until that very moment in his home, to me, this boy Steve was the poor.

As I was struck with this new insight, my pride dissolved into shame.

   Steve spoke,

and I realized

he could be my own son.

The language was unfamiliar, but the sentiment was the same. He’s fond of some subjects in school and could do without others. He loves his little sister, but sometimes she’s annoying. And he wouldn’t mind a little privacy.

“I dream of having my own room,” he laughed at the unlikelihood and glanced at the door leading to a small room he shares with two younger siblings. I caught a glimpse of my oldest son Carter in his humor, but his eyes revealed something my three children do not have; a somber understanding of their life circumstances.

 If he were my Carter, my heart would house a continual ache from seeing the world at large strip him of his identity and lump him into the broad and undesirable category of the poor.

Conviction started weighing me down as I thought about the apathetic attitude with which I often walk through life.

“What is it that gets you through each day?” I asked Elmase thinking of how exhausting it must be to work daily for survival, and feeling guilty about the times I’ve grumbled about having nothing in the pantry.

“We’re living by the grace of God. Day-to-day we struggle to live.”

I knew as she said it that she understood the depth of God’s grace and mercy. And I began to wonder if I did.

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KEVIN

By the time I sat down at the second stop on my excursion, I felt completely unworthy of this Haitian hospitality.  Shifting my weight in a cheap white plastic chair in Kevin’s one-room home, the bright bubble gum pink walls mocked the darkness that was being unearthed from my heart.

 What must they be thinking of me, this rich American coming to satisfy my curiosity by peeking into their private lives?

   I wanted to go home.

I wanted to go back to feeling comfortable with me.

But once God shows you something, there’s no going back.

And He had a purpose in mind for this trip.

So I sat and I talked and I listened and I learned.

Kevin’s cousin Rosanna opened up her home to Kevin’s family after theirs was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Since that awful day, six people have been existing in this space smaller than my bedroom. Neither work nor food was a sure-thing in thing in this household.

   “Sometimes we only have one meal for the day,” said Rosanna. “And some days we have nothing at all.”

Kevin’s father and mother, who are a mechanic and a factory worker by trade, often go months without work, making feeding a family nearly impossible.

It is relatively easy and unconvicting to think about the collective poor who do not have enough to eat. But I found it almost unbearable to sit in the Haitian heat next to Kevin, a growing teenage boy without enough food, and Rosanna who selflessly opened her home to her extended family yet often goes to bed with a hollow in her tummy.

CONVICTED BY MY WORLDVIEW

By the end of my afternoon with the Mission to Haiti sponsor families, I was deeply convicted by the shallowness of my worldview. God used that experience to clear some junk out of my heart. Instead of obtaining that pat on the back that I was expecting from this experience, I received a change in perspective.

As I thought through the day’s events, I became aware of a few areas in which God wanted me to change my way of thinking.

The first was that of presumption.

To an extent, I had presumed the poor were without individual identities. And when I did so, I stripped them of their God-given uniqueness.  Just as God created me with a set of gifts and passions, so he created Steve and Kevin. When I lump the poor into one category, it’s like dumping the pieces of a hundred puzzles into one box. There is no hope of seeing the beauty of each individual picture.

I will be much more apt to love my Haitian brothers and sisters and all monetarily less fortunate Christians around the world when I see them for who they are, beautiful individuals created by God.  Carefully knit together in their mother’s wombs just like me.

I also became sickened by my pride.

I am no stranger to pride. There are arenas of my life in which I struggle to get off the teeter-totter ride of pride versus insecurity. But my charitable giving is not an area where I expected to be convicted.

God showed me that I have a tendency to give out of my abundance and then to expect to be blessed. I was reminded that he did not call believers to give so we could feel good about ourselves.  He called us to give because we are his children and that’s what his children do.

When I give to get something in return, whether monetary or emotional, I am stealing the glory from God and missing the point of the call. I do not want my actions to steal God’s glory.

The final area in which I’ve had to shift my perspective is that of entitlement.

That feeling that because I am an American I deserve a certain standard of living. I am not saying that hard work doesn’t lead to opportunity, nor that taking advantage of opportunities that will improve our status in life is a bad thing. I am saying that at the root of all opportunities or lack thereof, is God’s sovereignty. Steve and Kevin may become the hardest workers in the world, but because of circumstances beyond their control, they will likely never reach the state of physical wealth with I am blessed.

Doesn’t it make sense that to be the best stewards of what God has given us, we should do what we can to provide opportunities for kids like Steve and Kevin? That maybe instead of feeling entitled to what we have and feeling a little too good about ourselves when we give mechanically out of our abundance, we should strive to be more aware of just how and what God wants us to give; not to the generic poor, but to his own children living in poverty around the world.

I’m just a regular American mom, leading a regular American life. And I plan to continue to enjoy an occasional caramel latte, family vacations and a membership to the rec center.

But I will never again look at giving to the poor in the same way. The poor could be me. The poor could be you. And it took sitting in a tiny little home on a back road of Port au Prince Haiti for me to realize it.

**Head on over to Mission to Haiti, if you are interested in changing the life of a Haitian child.

Disclaimer: Pardon the length of this post. It was originally written for magazine specifications, but that publishing opportunity fell through. Also, as the publishing world can be excruciatingly slow, the things I’ve written about are not new to me. They are things God awakened me to a couple years ago, but I am definitely still in the process of learning to see the world the way God sees it.

Rosemina Needs A Sponsor

Rosemina

Rosemina lives in the rural community of Guedon. Her father and mother are unemployed. Jobs are not always available. Rosemina has 2 sisters and 2 brothers.

For fun, Rosemina enjoys playing dolls with her friends. She is in Preschool 2 where her favorite subject is drawing.

Your prayers and support will help her reach her potential.

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The above photo is of children walking to or from school in the rural community of Joineau, one of the communities in which Mission to Haiti has a sponsor school.

People in rural Haitian communities live a couple centuries behind us in regard to technology and developments. Though cell phones, TV and Internet are available in the cities, many in the rural areas have never seen a television, been on the Internet or used a cell phone. It is common to have to walk a mile for clean water, and if a child has the opportunity to attend school, he or she may have to walk a couple miles to get there.

If you are interested in sponsoring Rosemina, head on over to missiontohaiti.org.

Wiskenly Needs a Sponsor

Wiskenly

Wiskenly is another Haitian boy awaiting a sponsorship through Mission to Haiti. My kids complain about school. Wiskenly just wants the security of knowing he has the opportunity go to school every day; not just on the weeks that his parents find enough work to pay for it.

Wiskenly lives in the rural community of Guedon. His father is a farmer and his mother is a vendor. Jobs are not always available. Wiskenly has 3 sisters and 4 brothers.

For fun, Wiskenly enjoys playing with toys with his friends. He is in Preschool 2 where his favorite subject is drawing.

Your prayers and support will help him reach his potential.

Eugene Needs a Sponsor

Eugene

This is Eugene, and she needs a sponsor. Maybe you? The following is a brief bio that I took from the Mission to Haiti website.

Eugene lives in the rural community of Guedon. Her father is a block layer and her mother is unemployed. Jobs are not always available. Eugene has 2 sisters and 2 brothers.

For fun, Eugene enjoys playing dolls with her friends. She is in 2nd grade where her favorite subject is drawing.

Your prayers and support will help her reach her potential.

 

 

Gregyson Needs a Sponsor

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Gregyson Derosier

Birthdate 12/10/2004

This super-handsome 9-year-old needs a sponsor. The following is his bio from the Mission to Haiti website.

Gregyson lives in the rural community of Guedon. His father drives a motorcycle (taxi) and his mother is a vendor. Gregyson lives in an orphanage. He has 2 sisters and 3 brothers.

For fun, Gregyson enjoys playing soccer with his friends. He is in 1st grade where his favorite subject is math.

Your prayers and support will help him reach his potential.

If you are interested in sponsoring Gregyson or another child head on over to Mission to Haiti’s sponsorship page where you will find pictures of  a lot of kids who would love the security of knowing their schooling is paid for and that they will be fed.

 

Our Mission to Haiti Sponsor Kids

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Corey and I are hanging out with Lucson and Pierre in this photo. They are roughly the same ages as Carter and Owen and we have been sponsoring them through Mission to Haiti for a number of years.

On our trip to Haiti in the spring of 2012, we had the opportunity to meet these guys and give them a few gifts.

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I thought it was important to introduce them to the best college in our nation. Go Cyclones!  We also gave them soccer balls with air pumps, school supplies, some toiletry items and beans and rice.

They were very appreciative, (a good soccer ball is like gold to a Haitian kid), but I think they would have preferred going home with my camera and my cell phone. They may be poor, but they are not naive about cool electronic gadgets!

The language barrier made conversation a bit tricky, but Corey kicked the ball around with them and when it was time to go, they wanted to know when we would be back.

“When will you come see me again?” “Don’t forget me.”

I have no idea when I will see them again, but I most definitely will not forget them. Mission to Haiti is excellent with communication, and they make it easy to send food and gifts to sponsored children. We get to watch them grow up through their photos and letters. And our children get a tiny glimpse of the life of a child who was not born into a country of wealth and opportunity like they were. It is a small way of helping them see a bigger picture of the world.

I mentioned last week that I would be focusing on child-sponsorship for a while. I plan to post a child’s photo each Tuesday this month. I have no desire to guilt anyone into taking on a child sponsorship, but maybe someone out there will see a child who tugs at their heart like Love Mara tugged at Jessica’s.

Love Mara Has a Sponsor :)

Love-Mara

Do you remember this little girl? I happened upon her on Mission to Haiti’s website a month ago. She needed a sponsor, and I felt a pull to post her picture here at 500 Dresses.

After I posted her picture, a wonderful thing happened.

Actually, two wonderful things.

First, Marsha contacted me to let me know that her family had started sponsoring two Mission to Haiti children the day before I posted Love Mara’s picture.

Second, my friend Jessica sent me a text the next day that said, “I am excited to tell you the whole story sometime, but Love Mara is now a part of our family.” Yay!

Three new Haitian families are now able to send a child to school without worrying about the cost.  The kids will have the benefit of a noon meal, medical care and most importantly, they will learn about Jesus.

 I love what Mission to Haiti is able to do through child sponsorship, and I love the connection they allow the sponsors to have to the children. It is a great opportunity to show our own kids a world beyond our itty-bitty Midwestern town.

Starting next Monday, I plan to focus on child sponsorship here for a couple weeks.

Short of packing up and physically going to a country to care for those far less fortunate than us, sponsorship is one of the best things I can think of to make a significant difference in the life of a child and his or her family.

(PS – Later this week I will be posting about a fun new dress opportunity in Haiti.)

Mission to Haiti

A number of people have asked me about the place we send the dresses and formal gowns in Haiti. The following is taken directly from Mission to Haiti’s website and summarizes the history and current mission. You will not see anything about the Dorcas Ministry Shop (bridal store). It is a new endeavor and different from their main focus of child sponsorship.

Loading a truck on the Mission to Haiti campus with beans and rice for distribution

Loading a truck on the Mission to Haiti campus with beans and rice for distribution

 

A Brief History of Mission to Haiti

In 1960, Bill Nealey, Sr. was invited to visit the country of Haiti.  Bill and Ann had only been married for two years and were serving in their first church in Tampa, Florida.

Bill flew to Jamaica in a Pan-Am jet and then changed to a smaller plane to fly to the country of Haiti. At that time, the International Airport didn’t exist. As the small plane flew over the mountains of Haiti, Bill could see hundreds of little villages. He wondered if the people who lived there had ever heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Missionaries met Bill at the small military airport in Port-au-Prince. Within a few minutes they arrived at the mission compound. The next morning, scores of people began arriving to ask for food. They were the poor people of Haiti. Bill had never seen such poverty.

On Sunday, Bill went with the missionaries to have service in the mountains. It was the first time that Bill would have the opportunity to preach the Gospel to the people of Haiti. It was this experience that led to the beginning of Mission To Haiti.

A few years would pass before Bill would have the opportunity to visit Haiti again.  In the early 1970s, Bill was invited to go to Haiti for the second time.  He and another pastor spent a week in a small community near the border of the Dominican Republic.  This experience was even more eye opening than his first experience. On this trip, Bill realized that the Lord was leading him to begin a full time work in Haiti.

After taking several teams to Haiti to help a church in a rural community, Bill and Ann decided that the Lord was leading them to begin a ministry in Haiti. Bill resigned at the church where he was pastoring, and on January 1, 1981 Mission To Haiti was born.

Mission To Haiti is primarily a child sponsorship organization. We are presently working with 12 churches which all have Christian schools. More than 4,000 children attend these schools. We believe we are ‘transforming Haiti one child at a time’.

After 31 years, the Lord continues to bless the work and ministry of Mission To Haiti, with 12 churches and schools, a food program, and a medical clinic.

Her Name is Love Mara and She Needs A Sponsor

Love-Mara

 

One of my dearest friends in this world is named Mara. She is the only Mara I have ever known in my 37 years on this planet.  (After babysitting our three boys for years, she and her husband just had their first baby, whom I am in love with though I’ve only met her once…but that’s beside the point.)

I was perusing the sponsorship page at Mission to Haiti and saw this sweet little girl’s photo.

Her name is Love Mara. (Oh my goodness, how sweet is that?)

Here is her bio:

Love Mara lives in the rural community of Guedon. Her father is a farmer and her mother is unemployed. Jobs are not always available. Love Mara has 2 sisters and 1 brother.

For fun, Love Mara enjoys playing dolls with her friends. She is in Preschool 1 where her favorite subject is writing.

With that name and that beautiful little face I had to introduce you to her. Maybe someone out there wants to become an answered prayer for Love Mara and her family.

Corey and I have been sponsoring children through Mission to Haiti for 17 years, and have met all three of our sponsor boys. Mission to Haiti does a fantastic job with the support money they receive and these kids’ lives are changed because of it.

If someone out there decides to sponsor Little Miss Love Mara, will you let me know?

Here’s the link to get you started – Mission to Haiti sponsorship