Help Us Feed Haitians

 “Have you even for one second in your life been hungry?”

That question, posed to me by a Haitian interpreter in 2012, has haunted me ever since. Read the following little story I wrote a couple years ago, and you will see why I am passionate about sending funds to feed Haitians.

(And why I am excited that we have an anonymous person willing to match all donations for doll dresses, up to $250!)

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Me and Billy

I sit enjoying Billy’s company on a wooden bench shaded from the hot Caribbean sun. He is eloquent. He is intelligent. His smile genuine. His joyful spirit contagious. He speaks excellent English with a beautiful accent.  Dressed handsomely in navy blue pants and button-down shirt, he may as well be an old friend from back home.

In just one day, my Haitian brother has gripped my heart.

He did not choose poverty.

He did not choose hunger.

He did not choose life in Tent City.

He asks about my life. What can I say? I live in a 5 bedroom home, of which only 3 bedrooms are slept in on a regular basis. I have cupboards full of food and regularly toss uneaten leftovers down my garbage disposal. Clean drinking water flows from multiple faucets and ice pops out of my freezer with the push of a button.

My voice falters. I can’t verbalize the discrepancy between his life and mine. So I speak of things that don’t accentuate the contradiction that is my abundance and his scarcity.

Then he asks the question I can’t sidestep. The one that now drifts through my mind a dozen times a day.

“Have you for even one second in your life been hungry?”

It takes all I have to look into his eyes, but I owe him an honest answer.

“No, Billy. I have never known what it is to be hungry. Every day of my entire 37 years, I have had more than enough.”

And now as I am back home, my more than enough breaks my heart into pieces.  Every bit of abundance causes an ache inside. But I trust that God breaks hearts so he can mold them into something new. So he can impart his perfect love into my imperfect being.

I know that as I sit here with my coffee and my laptop, my God – the one who is able to save little American girls and little Haitian boys – is working on the inside making me a new creation to do the work which he has prepared in advance for me to do.

And my friends, a new creation ever growing in the desire to serve and obey my God is exactly what I want to be.

A generous anonymous person has offered to match the money made from our doll dresses, up to $250. So every dollar you donate becomes $2. Sweet!

Here’s a sampling of the dresses available at Local Blend Coffee Shop.

If you are not local to Huxley and are interested in a dress email us at 500dresses@gmail.com.

doll dress 1 doll dress 2 doll dress 3

Haitian Wedding Ceremony Traditions

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Brunel and his Bride-to-Be

This month we are raising funds to help pay for Brunel’s wedding ceremony. Our goal is to cover the $250 cost required to secure the appropriate government paperwork.

Weddings in Haiti are big and often extravagant occasions, but there are a number of ways they differ from American weddings.

The following are a few things that might take place at Brunel’s wedding that you wouldn’t likely see at a wedding stateside.

1. The wedding party may dance down the aisle.

2. The wedding ceremony may last up to 3 hours. 

3. The bride and groom may sit facing each other instead of standing for the ceremony. (If my wedding was 3 hours long, I’d want to sit too.)

4.  There may be another couple, dressed like a bride and groom who enter before them. This couple is called the prince and princess.

5. The wedding cake may not be cut at the reception, but at the home of the bride and groom a few days after the wedding.

6. A 2:00 wedding may not start until 3:00 or later. (Schedules in Haiti are a bit more relaxed than they are here.)

7. There may not be formal wedding invitations. Sometimes word-of-mouth does the trick.

If you are interested in giving toward Brunel’s wedding, send us a donation with “Brunel’s wedding” in the memo. You may also send a card of encouragement for the couple.

Help Make A Haitian Wedding Happen

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This is Brunel. He is a tailor living in Port au Prince, Haiti, and he is getting married.

Much like in the US, weddings in Haiti are a big deal. Also like in the US, they are a big expense.

The difference is, most Americans can plan for the expense. They can put money aside, work some extra hours or simply cut back on the extravagance of the affair.

Almost all the money made by Haitians goes directly to food and shelter. Saving is really not a viable option. Thus, it is not uncommon for couples to decide to live together unmarried, even though their heart’s desire is marriage.

Brunel is engaged and planning a fall wedding. As noted above, he is a tailor. And he is really good (I’ve seen his work.) But even having a fantastic skill-set doesn’t guarantee a steady income in a country where most people have zero extra money.

You would think that getting married in a poverty-ridden country would be inexpensive, but in Haiti it is quite pricey.

It is $250 to simply pay for of all the necessary government paperwork. The cost of a marriage license in Iowa is $35. Seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?

In addition to the paperwork, there is the cost of the wedding gown (which they rent), the bridesmaid dresses, the princess dress and the tailored-suits.

There is also the cost of feeding the guests.

Plus, it is expected that the groom secure a home and furnishings prior to the wedding.

What we would like to do at 500 Dresses is provide Brunel with the $250 needed to cover the government expense.

For the next month, we will be taking donations for this purpose. If you desire to give, please send your donation of any amount to 500 Dresses, c/o Kim Harms 314 Centennial Dr., Huxley, IA 50124. Note in the memo that the donation is for Brunel.

If you want to include a card for Brunel and a note of encouragement to him and his bride-to-be, I will send it along with our donation later this summer.

Thanks for considering giving in this way!

Kim Teaching 5

Brunel translating for me while I share the morning devotion during a sewing class in Haiti.

Livesay Haiti Weblog – Our Eyes are Open, But Do We See?

Better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it. -erwin lutzer

I love the quote that graces the homepage of the Livesay family blog. I love the family’s passion for Christ and for the people of Haiti. I am amazed at the way they chose to give up this American life I’m living to plant roots in the dusty soil of Haiti: middle class comfort for life among the poverty stricken. And I am inspired to be willing to love like they do, even when the way God is asking me to love his people is uncomfortable.

I have been reading this blog for quite a while and want to introduce our 500 Dresses readers to this Jesus-loving family and their work in Haiti. The following is the start of yesterday’s post at livesayhaiti.  Take the time to read it and spend some time on their blog. I am positive you will be inspired, and if you are like me, maybe a little convicted.

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 photo from http://www.livesayhaiti.com/

Our Eyes Are Open, But Do We See?

I learned a while back that kids that grow up abroad can grow up with an entirely different experience than their parents.  They can and do observe and participate in the culture in their own separate and unique ways.

An expat friend of ours tells a story of teaching a class at a school where many wealthy kids attend. He asks the class, “What is it you would like to be able to see or do in your life?”  The high-school kids talk and name a few things. One boy says, “I would really like to visit a poor country some day.”

The school he attends where this question was posed, is located in Port au Prince, Haiti.

That student wants to visit a poor country.

*        *         *

Our son Isaac is many things.  He is an optimist on steroids and cotton candy on a sunny day at Disney World. When the clouds do roll in, his clouds drop gumdrops instead of raindrops and it only serves to make him even cheerier…

Click on the link to find the rest of this story.

Livesay Haiti Weblog

The Trivial is Drowning Out the Eternal

It’s midnight and a slightly broken heart and a brain on overdrive won’t let me sleep. I’m not gonna tell you what has me all twisted up inside because it is almost embarrassingly trivial. But that’s what I do. Sometimes I let myself get worked up over things that have zero eternal significance and very little earthly significance.

Since I figured my tossing and turning was affecting Corey’s sleep, I decided to head to to the couch, open my laptop and find something brain numbing to keep me entertained. (Hey if I can’t sleep I may as well be entertained, right?)

But here’s the thing. I started thinking about how last April I was in Haiti. And how last April I was absolutely heart-broken over things that have much earthly and eternal significance. And now  because of that, I’m still slightly heartbroken with a brain on overdrive, but I’ve got a layer of you-are-so-shallow guilt thrown on top of it.

Good golly, I’m destined not to sleep tonight.

My life of All-American abundance allows me to focus on things that really don’t matter much in the big picture. I wish it wasn’t the case, and I wish I could say that after praying God took away all the crappy feelings inside me and I now have a mind focused solely on him. But I can’t.

Maybe I’ll get there, but I’m not there yet. In the meantime, I am sharing this story that I wrote a year ago today. Tonight God used Billy to make me feel overwhelmingly guilty about my current state of mind remind me that I’m focused on the wrong thing. So much for finding something brain numbing to pass the hours that I shouldn’t be awake… Maybe I’m not alone and somebody out there needs a reminder too.

 

billy-crop

I sit enjoying Billy’s company on a wooden bench shaded from the hot Caribbean sun. He is eloquent. He is intelligent. His smile genuine. His joyful spirit contagious. He speaks excellent English with a beautiful accent.  Dressed handsomely in navy blue pants and button-down shirt, he may as well be an old friend from back home.

In just one day, my Haitian brother has gripped my heart.

He did not choose poverty.

He did not choose hunger.

He did not choose life in Tent City.

He asks about my life. What can I say? I live in a 5 bedroom home, of which only 3 bedrooms are slept in on a regular basis. I have cupboards full of food and regularly toss uneaten leftovers down my garbage disposal. Clean drinking water flows from multiple faucets and ice pops out of my freezer with the push of a button.

My voice falters. I can’t verbalize the discrepancy between his life and mine. So I speak of things that don’t accentuate the contradiction that is my abundance and his scarcity.

Then he asks the question I can’t sidestep. The one that now drifts through my mind a dozen times a day.

“Have you for even one second in your life been hungry?”

It takes all I have to look into his eyes, but I owe him an honest answer.

“No, Billy. I have never known what it is to be hungry. Every day of my entire 37 years, I have had more than enough.”

And now as I am back home, my more than enough breaks my heart into pieces.  Every bit of abundance causes an ache inside. But I trust that God breaks hearts so he can mold them into something new. So he can impart his perfect love into my imperfect being.

I know that as I sit here with my coffee and my laptop, my God – the one who is able to save little American girls and little Haitian boys – is working on the inside making me a new creation to do the work which he has prepared in advance for me to do.

And my friends, a new creation ever growing in the desire to serve and obey my God is exactly what I want to be.

Weddings In Haiti

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Almost 20 mother-of-the-bride dresses, a handful of flower-girl dresses and a bunch of sewing supplies are heading to the Dorcas Ministry Shop. (If you are interested in the background of the bridal shop, you can read about it in Haute Couture in Haiti, an article I had the privilege to write for Today’s Christian Woman last summer.)

Many people have asked me questions about weddings in Haiti. With the extreme poverty, how can people even afford to get married? Is a bridal shop a lucrative business? Are Haitian weddings like American weddings?

Honestly, I don’t know a lot, but I’ll share what I do know.

I think the answer to the question, How can people in Haiti afford to get married?, is: It’s hard.

There are a lot of costs involved including some kind of marriage fee to the Haitian government, the actual wedding ceremony and meal and all the various costs that go along with that, and housing. From what I understand, a groom is expected to acquire a respectable furnished place in which to live with his new bride.

Three Possible Scenarios.

Some couples can afford to get married. Haiti is the poorest country in the world, but some people do have money.

Some couples scrimp and save and work very hard for a long time to have the finances to get married.

Some couples want to get married, but because they cannot afford it, they choose to live together without getting married.

I also know that weddings are a big deal in the Haitian culture, so a bridal shop makes sense. There will always be weddings, so there will always be a demand for wedding gowns and other bridal attire. Since Dorcas Ministry Shop rents and sells inventory at a reasonable price, they are helping the bride and groom as well as providing much needed income for their employees.

I’ve tried to do some research ino Haitian weddings online, but I haven’t found a ton out there. I did find this post, A Haiti Wedding, with some info and a number of photos from a Haitian wedding to give you a taste of what a typical Haitian wedding might look like.

I don’t fully understand that ins and outs of planning and paying for a wedding in Haiti.

What I do know is that God has opened up this opportunity for us to serve, and we will continue to do so as long as we can be beneficial to the ministry. I do not think it is a coincidence that my mom, who has been sewing for weddings since before I was born, was connected to this little bridal shop in Port-au-Prince. And when God takes your passion and says – “Here, I’ve got this sweet way for you to serve me”- serving him in that way is exactly what you should do.

Shamed By Selfishness

I’m moving soon. Like 8 days soon. Whew.

I could gush to you about my awesome creative husband who builds beautiful houses which we enjoy for a few years before selling, only to start the whole crazy process over again. But that’s not the thrust of why my move has made it to this blog so I won’t go into the whole back story.

I will say I am totally on board with the overall picture of our goals in this build, move-in, sell, move-out routine.

But there are days I want to sit on my living room floor and cry.

Days that I don’t want to pack another box.

Days I am filled with sadness that I will soon walk out the front door of this home for the last time.

But then I am overwhelmed with my selfishness.

I have the opportunity to live in beautiful homes. I get to redecorate every few years. I will never fear becoming a pack-rat because I have learned the art of donating and tossing. I have the blessing of being reminded of my over-abundance as I box up my clothes and bubble-wrap my photo frames. And yet, I let these feelings of “whoa-is-me” sneak in.

It is so yucky. Seriously yucky. I cannot let myself go down that road of I-have-to-pack-up-all-my-stuff-again-self-pity. Blech.

I need to be reminded of the many people in this world who live in places like this.

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and this.

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And when I think of of this home that Corey helped build in Haiti for Alix’s family last spring, I am shamed by my selfishness.

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Psalm 119: 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

I am thankful that God has blessed me with the opportunity to see poverty first hand. And I am even more thankful that he has given mom and me this ministry that helps me keep from focusing my eyes on worthless things. It is when I get my perspective right and focus on things that really matter that I can get up out of the pit of self-pity and be thankful for the road God has me on. Even though the house number and street name change every few years.

Lord, please help to live in such a way that I am always aware of just how much my blessings outweigh my inconveniences. Amen.

Highlighting Heartline Ministries

tara haiti pic

I recently connected with Tara Livesay, who has been loving and serving Haitians in the city of Port-au-Prince for the past eight years. She shared a post at 26 Letters as a part of my Sanctity of Life month guest posts, and I wanted to highlight it here too.

I love what they are doing, and I am sure you will too. Take a look at her Hope Realized guest post and head on over to the following website links to learn more about the Livesays and Heartline Ministries.

Tara haiti headshot

 

Headed to Haiti!

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For 15 years I’ ve been thinking, “someday I want to go back to Haiti.” But someday can be a pretty elusive term, and I think maybe God got tired of waiting for my someday and thought “this girl is not gonna go unless she gets a personal invitation.”

So He sent me one.

Well, actually, Esther Guinta, who has been the liaison from Mission to Haiti since we started sending dresses in 2010 sent me one… In November she contacted me about a group of women from Ohio who were planning to spend a week in Haiti giving sewing classes to Haitian women. Did I have any interest in going along? My first thought was – “Oh my goodness! Of course.”

My second thought was “My mom would be a much better teacher.”

My third thought was “I don’t want to die in an ocean place crash, or worse survive an ocean plane crash and get eaten by shark…”

My fourth thought was “It’s never gonna happen unless Corey wants to go too.”

Corey and I started dating very shortly after my life-changing trip to Haiti in 1997,  so he has always known that I wanted to go back. But he was not hot on the idea of sending me to a third-world country (or probably any foreign country for that matter) by myself. I get that. And I don’t mind having a husband who is a little protective of me 🙂 .  But he said yes, and we bought plane tickets, so I guess that means it’s for real.

I get butterflies of excitement and nerves every time I think about going, but I am ready to see what God will do for us, with us and through us in this adventure. I don’t doubt that He will show up in a big way.

There are a lot of things I’m looking forward too, but one of them is the chance to take some dresses and shorts along and hopefully personally give them to some sweet little girls and boys. And I plan to take lots and lots of pictures so I can show you when I get back. Maybe I’ll get a photo of the girl who gets a dress you made…so start sewing!! I don’t know how many I’ll be able to take along, but I’ll shove as many in my luggage as I can fit.

Now to start scouring the internet for a good creole phrase book!