Friday, May 16, 2014


May 16 2014

Dear Blog:

I have not been faithful to you.  I am sorry.  Many other things distracted my attention from you.  I am here to apologize.  Please hear me out and you will surely forgive me.

Do you know what burnout is?  It's when a person works themselves beyond their strength and still doesn't stop.  Eventually the person is completely drained and has nothing to give themselves or anyone else.  That happened to me.  It culminated in July 2013, about the time of my last post to you, dear Blog.

I knew I had to return to the US for a time.  Friends confirmed that.  My ego wondered what would happen to the kids.  So focused on myself was I, I forgot that the kids belong to God, not me.

First the Lord sent Tori Beckham from Alabama to watch after the kids.  She was perfect!  Tori took the kids for walks and on field trips.  She spent most of her days with the kids.  She zoomed in on their personalities pretty quickly and dealt with them accordingly.  Importantly, she provided a lot of structure for them.  She communicated with me very well so I always felt involved.  Tori is my hero!

Aaron, the sweet little boy I wrote about in my last post, had a sickle cell crisis while Tori was there.  She handled it perfectly!  He was in serious condition, hematocrit of 13, hemoglobin around 3.  Aaron needed blood immediately.  The Red Cross wouldn't give blood unless someone gave blood to replace what he needed.   Our Haitian staff refused to even try.  (In spite of education, many Haitians are still superstitious and /or uninformed about giving blood.)  Tori usually is not allowed to donate in the US because of low iron.  She really didn't think she could but tried and it worked!  Aaron recovered after a few days in the hospital.

The came Erin Fairbanks, a nurse from Michigan who has worked free-lance in Haiti before including at our house.  She has been there since late October.  She arranged for our Emmanuella to get a gastric feeding tube.  You can see in the before and after picture below how much she has filled out since the surgery.  She has the energy now to be happy and to interact with us more than before.

While Erin was at the hospital with Emmanuella, a little boy was abandoned there.  True to her compassionate nurse's heart, Erin ended up bringing him home with her.    That's how Dorval came to stay with us!  He was sick and malnourished, has cerebral palsy, and had no one to love him.  Irresistible!  
Dorval at the hospital, Nov 2013

Dorval ready for church, April 2014

As you can see, God sent the perfect people at the right time to keep Faith-Hope-Love Infant Rescue, going and even growing in my absence.  From now on, though, I am going to follow His plan, i.e., a full day off every week and a sabbatical every 7 years instead of every 10.

Monday, July 15, 2013

God still works miracles: Meet Aaron Wilson

This is the story of an amazing little boy from Gonaives, Haiti:   Aaron Justin Wilson, born 3-17-09.

On 5-21-09 Aaron's grandmother brought him to missionaries Emory and Mary Wilson in Gonaives.  He weighed 4.5 lbs (at 2 months!) and didn't have a name.  Mary is giving Aaron a bath in the photo below.  She and Emory gave him a name, too, their family name.

On 5-22-09 Emory and Mary brought Aaron to FHLIR:
  •  5-23-09 My email to US doctor (no doctors were available in Haiti--- this was before the earthquake):  "He was born March 17, weighs 4.5 lbs., no fever, body rigid, trembling in arms.  head 33.5 cm  length 44 cm.  His mother died when he was 3 days old, no idea why.  His grandmother has been trying to care for him but decided to give him away.  His eyes don't focus.  he doesn't look ahead or towards anything.  He isn't frightened by dogs barking or other loud noises.  Ears seem small but symmetrical.  Limbs seem normal, just very stiff but better since i gave valium IM last night.
    I can't feel any suture marks in his skull, just a very small fontanel pretty far back towards the crown of his head, ... xrays this morning. ... no evidence on the xrays of suture lines.  The radiologist says he has craniosynostosis.
    Is there any treatment for this disorder or is he a hospice case?  His breathing is rapid, 51/ min.  Heartbeat is pretty fast, around 130.  He won't suck on a nipple so i drip milk into his mouth.  He swallows okay.  "

  • 5-23-09 response from doctor:  "does he keep his limbs extended or flexed? i'm worried about more extensive intracranial damage given the  lack of tracking or focus. are his pupils equal round and reactive? any reflexes-stretch his arms out at his sides (pull them wide open) and then tell me what he does when you let him go. sounds like he doesn't have a suck. will he turn his head toward a stimulus if you touch his cheek with a nipple or your finger (rooting)? does he have any deep tendon reflexes (like when you tap his knee just below the knee cap does he kick his lower leg)? if you put your finger down toward the back of his throat does he gag/cough? absence of this reflex is a particularly poor prognosis.  ...  [explanation of craniosynostosis]   alternatively, he may be actively seizing which is why he remains rigid and with trembling and why he might have gotten better with valium. do you have phenobarb? if so, give him 20mg/kg as a loading dose and let me know if that makes a difference. otherwise try valium around the clock. ...
    my gut is that he is hospice case but we can be hopeful. 
  • 5-24-09 My email to doctor:  " seems better.  I gave pedialyte diluted with water ...  Maybe he had an electrolyte imbalance that made him seem neurologically worse, is that possible?  ... 
    Might his screaming fits be related to seizure activity or pain, even without the tremors?  I think I'll try the phenobarb tonight.  ..."  
  • 5-24-09  Doctor email to me:  "electrolyte abnormalities can definitely cause neurological abnormalities, including seizures. however, seizures should be controlled while electrolytes are normalized. good idea with the pedialyte (and/or formula if he keeps it down). any chance we can get a complete metabolic panel on him?
    i didn't know about the screaming, there is such a common thing known as a "neurological cry" when kids have intracranial damage. but maybe this guy does have tetanus with the flexion and screaming.
    it is your call regarding the valium vs the phenobarb."
  • 5-25-09 My email to doctor:  "Baby is pretty floppy, heart around 160 bpm, breaths 52.  Occasionally works his mouth like a fish out of water.  Don't hear anything but breath sounds in his chest.  Eyes were unresponsive this morning but a little more active now.  Heartbeat is strong, sometimes it is abnormal.  instead of ba-bump it will be ba-ba-bump.  I may know the answer to this question before you get to answer but, is this a dying baby?  Oh, and he won't swallow just a drop of water on his tongue.  no reaction.  I'm tube feeding 10cc every half hour.  he seems to be processing so slowly I don't want to drown him. " 
  • 5-25-09  Doctor email to me:  "i agree with you on the seizure assessment. given that we don't know the original insult that lead to his neurological issue, it is likely that he suffered a meningitis or other intracranial hit either before/during or after birth. He needs IV hydration and a correction of any of his electrolyte abnormalities. since labs and IV's are not really optional, just try to keep him hydrated via the GI tract. NG pedialyte should be given at 4-6cc/kg/hr (you are pretty close to this with your 10cc/half hour).
    At this point ... the only other thing that you could do for him, ... give him an antibiotic in case he is septic (IM ceftriaxone 50mg/kg every 12 hours) (fast HR, fast breathing, seizures--active meningitis?). beyond that, there isn't much more you can do for him medically, not without taking him to a hospital and even then, it might be too late.
    his heart rhythm could be the normal inspiration related split that we hear in the heart sounds or he could be having an arrhythmia (again, something that could be related to electrolyte abnormalities)."
  • 5-26-09  Doctor emailed instructions and questions, basically continue doing same things
  • 5-27-09  My email to doctor:  "His rectal bleeding is increasing,  feet are cool despite heavy socks. blankets, etc.  i think we're losing him.  i hope it's peaceful."
  • 5-28-09 Doctor email to me:  " yes, the GI bleed is a very bad sign. you gave it a shot. i'm sure you'll make him comfortable. "
THE MIRACLE?  Aaron survived!  The suture lines in his skull eventually showed up and his head has grown normally.  He is bright, affectionate,  personable, confident, active, mischievous and happy.  His only health problem is sickle cell anemia which was discovered a couple of years ago.  Without God's intervention in the beginning Aaron wouldn't have lived long enough to discover the anemia.

CREDITS:  Under the circumstances only GOD could have healed Aaron and made him so strong.  I did my part, asking for help from a qualified physician and trusting God to guide me.  The doctor did her part by being willing to stick her neck out to help a gravely ill infant based solely on communications from a former real estate paralegal:  no labs, images, etc.  But GOD is the healer!  I cannot look at Aaron or photos of him without my heart singing praises to God.

Aaron 5-21-09 when found in Gonaives, Haiti - 4.5 lbs

Christmas 2011

First day of school 9-29-12

Aaron at FHLIR July 2013 (Photo by SJ Bridgeman)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

May 2013 news

May 29 2013
I am writing this from Jacksonville:  I have been here two weeks today.  The first round of routine medical appointments is done.  I'm waiting for the second round to be scheduled.   My friend Sharon Turner brought me home from the airport. Another good friend, Annakay Hines, loaned me her car so I could do what needed to be done.  Another good friend, Judy Nelson, has taken me out for fun and orphanage shopping.  Other friends are sharing whatever they can, especially friendship.  God has blessed me with good friends!

My son's twin boys were born on April 29th, several weeks early.  They were good sized for preemies and have not had many health issues.  As of now they are scheduled to go home from the hospital tomorrow.  I can't wait to get to Maryland to meet them!  And to see their big brothers, Cole and Cree. 

Brenda Whitmer and Jacqui Eckdahl from Kentucky are staying with the kids until next week.  Samuel Chery, our driver/assistant director, is in charge the rest of the time.  The group from First Baptist Hattiesburg just left after a few day visit:  they redecorated the boys' rooms.  I can't wait to see pictures.  The girls still love the gorgeous they got in March.  Thanks, guys!  The orphanage could not continue without your help.  With all that's going on there now Brenda and Jacqui need all the prayer support you can give them.

Since I left 4 yo Tamara fell out of her wheelchair at school and broke a rib:  7 yo Sonson walked without his walker! ; Rosa and Claudine are being treated for severe stomachaches; Christian was taken to the clinic because of fever; and Cassandra went to the clinic because of severe vomiting.  As far as I know all is well now.  They say Tamara is getting bossy again:  that's how we know when she feels well!

Lovena (born in August 2011) left our care in February to return to her grandmother.  She was healthy and ready to go.  Unfortunately, Lovena's birth mother kidnapped Lovena in mid-April.  Rumors in the community were that the mom wanted to sell Lovena or use her in voodoo ceremonies.  People went all the way to the Domican Republic searching for her without success.  We had almost given up hope when Lovena was miraculously returned to her grandmother after 3 weeks.  After much prayer and consideration, Lovena's grandmother and Keziah Furth have returned Lovena to my house temporarily to keep her safe.  She will eventually be moved to another orphanage.  Hundreds of people prayed for Lovena's safe return.  We are all thankful to God for her safety.

Orphanage Tourism is a new term to me, learned from hearing other orphanage directors discuss visitor policies.  Well, I saw it in action shortly before leaving Haiti for the US:  36 college students were brought by bus from a local guesthouse to visit our orphanage with no warning.  They are not supporters, they just wanted to see an orphanage in a fifth world country.  Yikes!  That's a rare occurrence at our house but it's something interesting to be aware of.  I love visitors but ask that only people who have an interest in us personally come for a visit. 

Like everyone else in this economy we continue to need your financial support.  We still need a couple to come help run the orphanage.  The kids need more than I can give them.  Contact me if you feel God calling you to help out.

God is good, all the time.  That sounds a bit trite and it's hard to make sense of when things aren't going well but I know, without a doubt, that God can and will work out everything in His own time.  I am blessed to be His child and to be loved unconditionally by Him.  So are you. 

Blessings, all!  Thanks for your continued support!

 Cassandra has only been with us for 1 1/2 years.  Her bright smile and warm hugs have no trace of the quiet, fearful, non-interactive girl She has blossomed!
 Christian has a presence about him that makes me believe he has great things in store.  He needs more one-to-one time with someone to help discover and develop his abilities.
 Lovena is safe!  When she was kidnapped by her mother we were afraid we would never see her again.  Thank God for this precious girl!
 Rosa and Claudine are our beautiful big girls.
 Sonson is determined that he WILL walk.  He can take a few steps without a walker now.
Amazing Tamara!  She is so strong and persistent.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Change is in the air

I wrote the message below in February and meant to send it out but never got around to it.  Now it's April already but February's message is still current!

We are going through a transition time, from infant rescue to raising children.  The goal of infant rescue is to get the child well and the family through a crisis and then return the child to the family.  Raising children is a whole different thing.

All our attempts at small groups failed because our staff were not able to change.  We now have new staff and are trying again.  We are closed to new children.  Two infants remain.  After they return to their families we will not have a baby room anymore.  We are looking for a fulltime teacher to homeschool Emma, teach all the children English, and direct children's activities.  Pray that I can find a kind, intelligent Haitian man who will be a good role model for our boys.

We have moved from cloth diapers to disposable diapers to reduce staff time spent on laundry.  We use pullups at night on all children who need them to keep mattresses from being ruined and the children's rooms from smelling bad.  If you can have a diaper drive for us it would really help.  The little kids can wear size 4 baby diapers.  Older ones need 4T 5T pullups.  Diapers can be bought here or can be shipped to my Agape Flights address.  If you ship via Agape, please send money to cover the shipping costs.

We do not need baby formula or baby clothes:  we have enough formula to finish the one little guy left.  I have given away all of our baby clothes.

This is a difficult transition for me.  I love the kids but my heart is with infant rescue.  I simply cannot do both without full time help from someone from my own culture.  Please pray that God will send a partner, or a couple to open a second house, so we can have infant rescue at one house and raise the children who are ours permanently in another house.

First Baptist Hattiesburg MS decorated a new room for our girls.  They are now upstairs next to my bedroom.  Nine little girls in one room!  I love it!  They chose the color.  It is a bright, cheerful yellow.  Thank you, FBC Hattiesburg!  The boys are anxious for their rooms to be decorated, too!

Feb 9 2013
"Have you ever sat beside a sick child and said that you would do anything to have them healthy and normal again?  I have and in most cases I got my wish.

Now they are full of energy and spunk.  Help!  None of us are trained for this!  My admiration for school teachers and other childcare workers has increased exponentially as we try to figure out how to handle them now.  Twenty kids from 3 to 9, climbing on the roof, going out the gate into the street, climbing the wall surrounding the pool:  in general, running wild and taunting their 'captors' (nannies).

Last week the cavalry showed up in the form of Brenda Whitmer, Jacqui and David Eckdahl, Lannie and Bruce (I neglected to get their last names) from Owensboro, KY.  The guys did repairs and improvements.  The ladies worked all week with the kids and nannies, making schedules, forming groups, organizing activities and supplies.  They are heroes!!!!  Today is our first day on our own and it doesn't look nearly as good as it did last week but I think we'll make it:  it just takes practice.  (hahaha)

Wouldn't YOU like to come spend a month or 2 or 10 here directing children's activities?  We desperately need help!  The kids are good, just full of energy and trying to figure out life.  All have have been traumatized.  More than half have life threatening conditions.  They are so cute!  I can guarantee a challenge and personal rewards and lots of laughs! "

God bless you all.  Thank you for all your support!
 Aaron meets his grandfather for the first time.  I was interested to see that Aaron had no fear of this strange man.  Maybe he had met his grandfather when he was a baby, before he came to Faith-Hope-Love, but Aaron was only 2 months and in critical condition when he got here. 
 This little band of kids 'escaped around the back of the house' and they got BUSTED!  Look at them run!
 FBC Hattiesburg young ladies work on decorating the new girls room.  When they got finished we brought the girls in for a look.  LOVED their faces!  They feel very special and bragged to the boys.  The boys will get their revenge when FBC Hattiesburg comes back in May do fix up their rooms.
The Bellevue Baptist team from Owensboro gifted us with this gate at the back of the house to keep the kids from escaping around front.  The front of the house holds too many dangers for them to be there without adult supervision:  e.g. stairs to the roof, gate to the road.
Shelves and boxes neatly organized on the front porch with all kinds of supplies for kid activities.  It is all available for the nannies to use to help keep the kids occupied.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy to pay TAXES!?!?!?

Old Age Insurance & Workers' Comp in Haiti- Who Knew!?
I recently learned that Haiti has both, plus income tax! I am required by law to withhold tax and provide these benefits. What a shock! The Haiti I came to in 2004 didn't have such things! Or, at least, that's what I and many others believed. What a shock to find out that I was ignoring the law!
SO! I've been busy busy trying to learn what needs to be done and how to do it. February was the first month I withheld income tax (IRI) and old age insurance (ONA) from my workers' pay. Everyone said the workers would be angry about having their money taken. Sure enough, in the weeks leading up to the reduced pay there was some grumbling.
Payday was a huge surprise. The ladies actually seemed to be proud, yes - PROUD! - to have money taken from their pay. I wondered why.
One guess I have is that they have always been poor and are treated like poor people. They are always being given panties and used shoes and and deodorant and toothpaste and toothbrushes, and so on. [Yes, they also get lots of pretty girl things, too, but that's beside the point here.] Now they are being told that they have arrived: they have enough money to pay their fair share. They are worthy workers entitled to benefits.
There is nothing wrong with free help given in love. It is a good thing and they are grateful. In reality they are poor. Now they are contributors, not takers. They earn what they get and are planning for the future. A sense of self is growing in them, a sense that they are capable and worthy.
Officials from OFATMA, the agency that administers the workers' compensation insurance, came to the house to explain it to me and answer staff questions. Ever since our kitchen fire I've wondered what would happen to people injured at work. We now have the insurance for a full year. This is a relief for me. They are also covered on their way to work or their way home after work.
Seeing my workers begin to believe in their worth is an unexpected by-product of this ministry. is an unexpected by-product of this ministry. It feels GREAT!
Representatives from ONA came to tell the staff about old age insurance.

Staff were given a chance to ask questions. All of their concerns were addressed.

Here they review the registration forms.

We had a full house for this seminar. Everyone came, even the ladies who had worked all night.

Friday, November 4, 2011

School Time!

Six little boys joined Rosa, Claudine and Johnny in going to the International Missions Outreach school in our neighborhood. They adore school! They love their uniforms and fancy new shoes. And lunchboxes. And backpacks! Their school costs $25 SD per month and every child already has a sponsor. God is so good to these little guys.

It took several tries to get pictures of the kids. Have you ever tried to herd cats? It's much easier than getting kids to stop for pictures!

IMO is a Christian school where the kids will learn the Bible and all about God as they learn to read and write. All of the staff are Haitian. The kids are taught in Haitian Kreyol and in French. They will learn English later. Imagine, they'll be tri-lingual in elementary school! I have to admit that they are really, really smart.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thank you, Katie Benner!

Katie Benner graduated from college in 2010 and came to live and work at FHLIR from September until March, 2011. Before she came, I barely remembered her from a visit to the orphanage a couple of years earlier. I wondered what it would be like to have her, a virtual stranger, living in the bedroom next to mine. We were going from strangers to housemates in a foreign country.

Wasn't a problem! Katie belonged with us from the day she got off the plane! The kids adore her as she adores them. She added so much joy to our home. Art projects and games and movies and popcorn and crafts and so much attention. Our kids, as all orphanage kids everywhere, are starved for all of these things. Katie brought them in abundance and wrapped everything in love.

She brought her mom, then her dad, her friends and her pastor and his wife to visit us, too, and enlarged our circle of friends.

It was time for Katie to leave in March. We all were sad to see her leave. We will never forget her. But, Katie, we wish you the best in the rest of your life. We sure hope it includes lots of living in Haiti and visits to FHLIR! We love you!

[I haven't written about Katie leaving before because I wasn't ready to face it yet, she is missed so much. Other young ladies have come before and each one has a special place in our hearts forever: Natasha Rae Taylor Jovin and Casey Nichols were fulltime assistants like Katie. Keziah Furth and Dannae Pasculli lived with us and were part of the household. We hope to have other young people come stay from time to time to further enrich the kids' lives.]