Angel Hair Pasta…and Quitting

Quitting is always an option. I have done it many times. When I was in elementary school I attempted to play soccer. I LOVED chatting with the girls on the team, and the snack at halftime (orange slices! And, whenever a family brought the juice in the frozen triangle-shaped wrapper!). I HATED the field, the ball, going after the ball, blocking the ball (I ALWAYS ran away when I was goalkeeper) and more importantly the shin-guards and itchy socks. I loved everything else about soccer… but the actual game itself.

I quit volleyball the first day of try-outs. I quit learning/listening to my teachers in high-school for a period of time. I quit boyfriends, and some friendships. I quit working out from time to time. I quit bad jobs. I quit a good job.

I quit a good job because I have always tried to seek what I was made for. Literally, what was I MADE by GOD to do… for HIM???

I found the one thing I can never quit. My kids. I can’t do it. I want to sometimes. They are difficult. They test my everything. But, I LOVE THEM with my everything.

I will never leave them, and they know that. I toured visitors today and my boys told them – we stay because we know she will never leave us.

This is what is called Family. I have been told horrible things and treated horribly. The same child that tells me I have “ruined his life” because he hates my rules is the same child that calls out “Mamma Linsey” when he is sick, or suffering. This is not only young children, I have sat and held 16, 17, 18 year olds crying in my arms over fever, break-ups, and disappointments. I have embraced these same kids over accomplishments, exceeding goals, and reaching far beyond their dreams in getting jobs. These are the same kids who were found sleeping in boxes on the street or on the steps of my home.

I am called “Manman” (French for Mother) to over 100 street children in the North of Haiti. And… I am tired. More tired than I have ever been in my life. Tired does not begin to describe it. I am not Mother Theresea… I was a girl that loved expensive things, and lived an expensive life and found absolute emptiness in all of it.

I am tired, but my heart is FULL. I constantly look for ways to innovate and create and give my rough boys a reason to live. They are THRIVING and LIVING to the fullest. This is not “Manman”. This IS the Lord.

What I know is that I have quit on my Boss. On my Leader. On my Ruler. I have pushed Him aside. Somewhere along the line, I decided this Streethearts thing was mine. For the last 6 months I have told Him that I love Him, but I am busy. We have to grow, restructure, focus on fundraising, focus on board development, focus on what matters. I am embarrassed. This program has never been mine and will never be. And here is an example of how much my Father loves me…

I have 2 Lab mix dogs here. I love them. One recently had puppies. I went to check on them and all had died but one. The puppy I found couldn’t lift his head he was so sick. I didn’t know what was wrong but it was dirty and I went to give him a bath before I took him to a local vet. He started yelping loudly and I realized he had a huge hole in his leg. I immediately stopped and wrapped him in a towel. (Please also understand I don’t have a stomach for this type of thing and freaked out!). I thought that maybe a dog had bit him. The entire ride to the vet I thought the little guy kept dying. I was asking everyone I saw… “is he dead?” What came from this was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. The vet pulled out 25 huge meal-worm looking bugs from multiple holes in his leg and under his arms. I brought him home and put him in my bathroom. He was exhausted and shaking from shock. What I witnessed one hour later was horror for me. My floor was covered in angel hair pasta wiggling everywhere from every place possible. This little suffering guy. This went on for 4 days! 4 DAYS! Those of us who were trying to help this pup were so nauseated we routinely threw-up.

I began to hate him and the situation. I was obsessed with caring for him, but hating every minute of it. I finally forced myself to stare at these wiggly things and then start pulling them out myself with tweezers. I realized at this point that a lot of my boys had these same worms and infections in the beginning.

More importantly, I realized how weak I am on my own.

This little puppy is named Miracle and is alive and thriving and living at our shelter in the care of my amazing boys.

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All of my boys are alive and thriving as well.

I am no longer tired. I am revived and thankful and in Awe of it all.

I am thankful of my lesson. I sometimes have to sleep on my porch due to lack of power, but I am thankful I have a porch. I am thankful that my belly is full. I am thankful that I sleep on a mattress and wear clothes that I sometimes hate. I am thankful that I have a computer, even if it seldom works. I am thankful that I can use this blog to vent my frustrations and share my triumphs. Lastly, I am so thankful that God shared His children with me. I love them.

I am thankful. And… I am thankful that God showed me now is not the time to quit. Thank you Miracle, for the Miracle.

Quitting days are over.

And, I thank all of you in advance for your continued prayers for me and this program.

With Love,
Linsey

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No Use Crying Over A Pen

I’m going to start from this moment on – December 20th… and work backward.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated in my life. This morning, after not sleeping due to kids losing their keys at my place, friend with high fever, and roach attacks – kids start showing up at 6am for a variety of reasons.

I understand why moms get stressed during the holidays. I vowed to never say it, but I did. Today. “I need the holidays to be over with.” Such a crummy attitude, given the Reason for the Season. But, I’m being honest. This is my chance to brag about my kids, and vent as well.

I am burnt out. There is so much going on here, with the kids. Then there are visitors, and planning, and Christmas preparations, and at least 100 emails in my inbox at all times.

ALL OF THIS IS GREAT, AMAZING STUFF. But, difficult for one person to manage. The phones aren’t working here well, and I can only seem to send 2 emails at a time – before my computer shuts down.

During the panic of this morning, I get a call that one of our kids is about to lose his finger, must be rushed to the emergency room AND then… at that moment – my pen runs out of ink. The last straw! And then the tears… OVER A PEN?! REALLY?! I had to take a step back and re-evaluate what’s really going on. And it’s pray time. Pray time for sanity. With so much positive stuff going on – I still let the small stuff get to me. The thing is… in these moments, nothing seems like small stuff!

“Hello – Linsey?! Are you there? Barely? Well… that’s good. You are barely there because you won’t LISTEN TO ME! I will tell you what to do each day. These are My kids, this is My project, and I love you – despite your stubbornness. I am leading this… remember?! Now – chill out!”

Phew. Good thing God is my boss.

It’s time to reflect on the past two months.

I had gone home for a short time in October for meetings. When I returned, I entered into a house with kids literally screaming and chanting and picking up people with hugs and laughter. Mom’s back!

“Guess what?! I’m learning to read!” – Samson

“Linsey, I’m learning to write!” – Julien

“So and so stole my sandals,” “I think I’m the teacher’s favorite,” “Look how big the puppy is,” and so on… I’m sure it could have gone on for 2 days, and I loved every minute of it. Being overwhelmed with stress is our own fault, being overwhelmed with love is a God thing.

I also saw new faces. Faces from kids that I was told left for Port-Au-Prince (PaP) for more opportunity. What they found was a harder, rougher, and much more dangerous street life. I was glad to have them home and glad to see them alive. These kids will not be able to enroll in school for this year, but they think that’s okay. It was a lesson they learned, and they look forward to joining their peers in the upcoming school year. Speaking of – grades come out next week! I’m looking forward to this, and will send out info in an email update the beginning of January.

While my friend Jenn Eason was visiting (she’s a regular at this point), we went out in the streets to meet new kids. Not really intentionally, but we just sat down in the town square with our books and wanted to just enjoy the surroundings. Not long after, I watched a little boy hit an older man in the head with a rock. The man of course, chased after him, threatening him. I spoke with the man and explained that we work with street kids, and if he would just sit down and give me a chance, I’d like to talk to the boy. (He won’t come to you if you chase him!) I asked the little boy to sit with me and explained that I wouldn’t yell or hurt him. Shortly after, his friends showed up as well. We all started talking. Just basic stuff. The littliest, and the biggest trouble maker, was named Watson. I nick-named him “ti-animal” (little animal), because that’s how he acted. As I was talking, he was rolling around on the ground, screaming at the top of his lungs, climbing statues and pulling his pants down, humping the trashcan, etc. Out of control. I would not acknowledge his behavior and kept chatting with the small group. I told them about the safehouse, and if they were interested they should stop by. I took their names and ages down in my book.

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Eventually, all of them called down and just sat with us. Two of the kids purchased spiced nuts for Jenn and I. Keep in mind, these are REAL street kids. They look just like mine used to look. Tattered and dirty and beaten down. I was praying during this time, and when I saw them share each other’s coins and buy snacks for us, I knew (from previous experience) we were slowly gaining their trust. Amen. When we walked away I had a flood of memories from when I first started building relationships with street kids. When they lived in boxes, and had scabies, and were SO HUNGRY they would do anything for food.

I had been so pre-occupied with getting the kids at the safehouse squared away, that it had been awhile since I’d been with “newbies.” Working with “raw” street kids requires a totally different mentality and patience level.

As I was reflecting during Jenn and I’s walk I hear “Linsey! Hey Linsey! Jenn!” I turn to see my safehouse kids walking down the street, with Princess Spaghetti (our puppy) and they looked AMAZING. Clean. Healthy. Dressed well. Shoes. One of the proudest moments I’ve ever had. It was like your heart almost hurt it was so full. I got so distracted with the day-to-day I forgot about that feeling, and thanked God for that little gift. I gave them all hugs, and decided we needed to head back to the square. As if my heart couldn’t burst anymore… I watched my safehouse kids sit with these little street kids and talk about their lives. I literally heard Ti-Sony say “you are better then this man, you don’t want this life. Trust me.”

Excuse me. BUT IS THAT NOT THE MOST AWESOME THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD?! My reformed street kids now sitting and talking to current street kids. WHAT?! Both Jenn and I were blown away. Also, it was shocking to me looking at the vast difference between the two groups. I’m with my kids every day, so sometimes I don’t see the changes. That day I did. I’m crying as I type this because it is a MIRACLE. My sweet little guys (I say that, even though there almost a foot taller than me now) USED TO BE THEM!!! God is good.

Out of the group, one showed up at the house. I was a bit disappointed, but hey… at least one came. No sign of Ti-Animal… I figured.

It’s hard, ya know. You have to be a certain way with the “newbies”. They need hard core love at the beginning and that’s it. But, once they choose to change, and really enroll in the program – their lives change drastically. The staff at Streethearts has incredibly high standards – it’s hard work, and it’s hard discipline. It has to be this way for those that want to thrive. I don’t do much… but, I do believe the transition period is where I’m gifted. Once enrolled, that’s when the staff takes over. The boys in the safehouse now, look to our staff as their fathers. They will tell you that. And, believe it or not, they like the discipline. It gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. And we definitely incentivize around this. For example – the running program is going strong. Two of our older boys now lead this effort. The kids themselves, monitor the running, provide the stickers (you earn stickers each time you run) and the incentives.

In fact, we have kids in a craft program making cards for sale in stores in the USA (thank you Jeanne Allen!), we have an older boy enrolled in driving school in hopes of graduating to driving construction trucks, and we have older boys (right off the street) starting work in Agriculture December 30th! For those of you that follow regularly, who would have ever THOUGHT TI-BOL would be fully employed by the end of this month?!

Side note – Ti-Bol (Jimmy Pierre) had to be removed from the safehouse, due to violence. In fact, last month he and I literally got in an altercation where he threw things at me. I was HEART BROKEN, but I didn’t let him see that. A few days later, I went looking for him. He apologized and explained that he hadn’t eaten in days. I believed it. I told him that no matter how much he hates me, and he can hate me for life, that I will ALWAYS still look for him. I will ALWAYS still love him. I told him that I argued with Jesus over that. That he gives me a headache! But, Jesus told me I was here to love him, and that’s what I’ll do. I told him he could kill me, and I will love him still. I asked him who does he think crawls under the bridge and folds his clothes in his box?

We brought him into the safehouse for a “meeting” and I watched this mean, rough, tough boy with a mo-hawk break down into hysterical sobs. But, I had to be strong and firm. I had to let him know his behavior was completely inappropriate. When I watched him blow his nose in his shirt, I wanted to run to him. Hug him, and tell him how much I love him, and how much he hurts me. But, I didn’t. I couldn’t. Instead, we told him to take a shower and that we would come look for him again.

I found him today to tell him about his work assignment. And, between us, I don’t know how it will go. But, someone is willing to give him a chance. I noticed his eye was messed up. Someone had bit him in the eye. Lose the mo-hawk, and I’ll see you at your first day of work, December 30th.

Recently, some friends of mine who have an awesome project called Emmaus House reached out to me. They run a transition home for kids that are too old to stay in an orphanage. These kids have a beautiful home, and are working hard in school and in job training programs. Apparently, they have gotten a bit too spoiled. This comes from a life of people caring for their every need, and not knowing much about their own community – from being kept inside a walled up environement. They have grown a sense of “entitlement”. So… we had some of our kids and staff come and speak to them about what life on the street is like. The kids at Emmaus House are good Christian kids working hard. They’ve just got a bit side-tracked – like of all us. (Hello – I had over 100 pairs of high heels at one point!) A few of the kids had complained that they “felt like slaves.” Totally kid mentality. Because you have chores?!

I watched my little guys stand up – Martiney and Franky, and state frankly, that they used to have sex with men to eat. I watched my older boys – John Ceasar and John Peter stand up and talk about wanting to kill someone over $1 and the hardships and addictions they have faced.

That is incredibly hard. Especially in this culture – to come forward in a room of people and tell their story, no matter how “embarrassing”. These kids volunteered to do this, and agreed that they would use their stories to help change their country. That is a scary thing to do, and I commend them whole-heartedly. Not to mention my staff, Ti-papi, Dieuceul, Sony and Francis who also spoke about their experiences.

Franky was proud to say that he knows how to wash his own clothes, make his bed, clean his room, etc.

Franky Mentor is 10 years old.

We are thrilled to have the Emmaus House kids over for a “Christmas lunch” in which they donated the money for their Christmas gifts, in order to help feed our kids!

Very cool stuff. (As I type this, I’m very embarrassed about that darn pen!)

Recently, I had the joy of having one of my best friends come down to visit, Kristin Ferree. She immediately dove right into the culture and was out buying things in the market, handing out necessities to the kids, and bonding with the people. While she was in the market, a little boy came up and held her hand. Low and behold… Ti-Animal. It was love at first sight for those two.

On Kristin’s last night here, we went to the town square to “people watch” and just hang out. She noticed Ti-Animal from a distance. People were giving him shots of Clarin (grain alcohol) and passersby were kicking him, etc. Kristin convinced him to come sit with us and curl up in her lap. He passed out, and we ended up carrying him home to my apartment, where he probably had the best sleep he has ever had his entire life. I had to pry the 2 gde coins (which would equivilate to not even a penny) out of his hand. I PROMISED him I would not steal his money.

Ti-Animal is in our program now. He is beyond a hand-full but we love him, and when he gives me a big hug and kiss and calls me mom, I feel so lucky. God had Kristin come down for Watson (formally, Ti-Animal) and she thought she was coming to visit me!

Personally, I have had some back-to-back shocking moments, that directly affect my “burnt out” exhaustion. One of our kids is HIV positive, and he is one of our youngest. Due to legal reasons, I cannot say his name. A day later – Sony was arrested and sent to prison.

Allegedly, he had punched a moto-taxi months ago and the guy decided to sue him. Sony was one of many that this man has had arrested, including one poor gentlemen who had to sell his mom’s house to get out. I managed to get into Sony’s cell and it was devastating for me. This is not a place for a human being. I have worked to help multiple people in the prison system, so as I passed by cells I spoke to a few friends that looked as if they were ready to die at any minute. You can imagine how I felt when I saw the one person who keeps me sane, kept like a dog in a small cage – with no less than 40 other inmates. I have seen a lot in my time here, a lot of terrible things. But, that day was the worst for me. The level of violence that goes on in there is intense, and the faces and tears are almost too much for me to talk about.

Sony was released within 24 hours, charges dropped, and the moto-driver actually gave Sony back the money. He had “made a mistake.”

Sony believes God brought him there to see what was going on. He is on a personal mission to help people wrongly accused. We are good friends with a Christian soccer coach we used to work with. He is also locked up. Apparently, someone set a house on fire in his neighborhood. When the cops came, everyone ran. He did not run – he had nothing to do with it. So, he was taken to jail. His family is too poor to pay to get him out. He does not belong in there.

The next day I was going down the road, and Ti-Papi noticed that a truck had fell in a ditch. We stopped to talk to people gathered around. We learned that it was 3 foreigners, and they could only speak English. Red flag! We went to Justiniene (local hospital) as fast as we could. Sure enough, a woman had a break on the left side of her face and broke her knee, and the guy in the passenger side was in REALLLY bad shape. All I could see was a lot of blood. It was insanely stressful as we fought for doctors to let them transfer these people to a private hospital where they could get the emergency care needed. I thought the man was going to die. He could not breathe, and the blood from his eyes and broken nose was clogging his throat. He couldn’t move his arms, his heart was hurting and we were worried a lung collapsed. In the heat of my argument (and panic that this guy might not make it) I noticed a really bad smell. I looked to my right, and there was a dead woman – right next to me. She had been left there, and a hand towel placed over her face. I lost it and will probably be never allowed back in that hospital.

It is very hard to handle people grabbing on to you of desperation saying “please don’t leave me here,” and trying to make things happen. Ti-Papi deserves a lot of credit. This could be a 2-page long story (Ex: I see an ambulance – we need that! Sorry ma’am we lost the keys, and so forth. Ti-Papi was one of the men that helped carry him into the private hospital). My heart was racing. We got them stabilized at the private hospital. It took us over an hour to transport them.

I didn’t leave my house for 2 days. I did check on them. Everyone survived and is in recovery.

Which brings me back to that pen. Life can be very challenging, frustrating, even devastating at times. That is the case for anyone… anywhere.

BUT – then I see the fabulous decorating the kids did for Christmas (they even did my apartment!) The excitement in their face. Their VERY FIRST CHRISTMAS!

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Thank you to Twoey Gray and her family, and the Walton Memorial United Church for donating to have the first Christmas feast ever at the “landfill church” in Petit-Anse! Our kids are volunteering tomorrow, to feed over 250 kids in a very poor, and destitute area. On Monday, Streethearts has our annual Christmas party, in which we expect over 100 street kids – and lots more happening for our kids Christmas Day! Stay tuned for the email update and next blog! There will definitely be lots of pictures posted to Facebook.

After all of this… Internet problems. Phone problems. Pen problems. Don’t seem too bad after all.

Thank you all for forcing me to write this, and in turn –reminding me how AWESOME this holiday is, and how thankful I am that it’s not me doing any of this. Praise the Lord!

Happy holidays to everyone! I am more in love with my life and these kids then I ever was.

Still the luckiest woman in the world, and feeling very blessed.

Did we teleport to October?!… Where did the summer go?

It has been too long… I know, and I’m sorry. I get so involved in my life here in Haiti, I selfishly forget all of those that have created this journey for us. Sometimes, so much happens, that I get “writer’s block”. It becomes daunting, and all I want to do is go to bed. July, August, and September were packed with visitors. The kids and I loved it! So here we go… A lot to share! So grab a bag of popcorn and a drink!

IMG_7790However, do some of you remember the Staples commercials where it shows parent’s flying through the aisles on the carts buying school supplies and the background song is the Christmas carol “It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of the Year”? It’s true. I hate to say it…BUT IT IS. I actually prayed, on more than one occasion, for school to start so we can get “back to normal”. Kids, after a certain amount of “vacation” time develop other personalities. Seriously. I would look at some of our teens and think “I know I know you. I’ve known you for a while – but WHO IS THIS PERSON?” I am so in love with summer – for the first month. Towards the end, I feel like my kids have turned into aliens!

That being said…summer was a blast. I had teenagers stay with me from Battlefield and Patriot High schools. They decided to take a group of our kids to the beach.

We took a ton of kids to a hotel at the beach. First time for them. I watched about 30+ kids run, at full  speed and hit the water like they have never seen an ocean in their lives. The volunteers let our staff “take a break” and we were all able to sit under a tree and take it in.

Now – I have never been a mom. But, I would imagine the following feeling is a small glimpse at what moms feel.

I was so into watching what everyone was involved in, I ALMOST missed the miracle. My staff member, Sony, sitting next to me said “Now…did you ever think you would see the day that street kids would be playing at a hotel beach – and not fighting? Did you honestly think we would ever see this day?”

It feels LIKE YOUR HEART EXPLODES, in a good way. It’s the most intense, joyful, loving moment. It’s a feeling that shoots through your entire body and I believe it’s only a feeling God gives you.

Such sheer happiness.

And, a weird feeling shortly after. Are they growing up? Maybe too fast? Are they going to forget us? To see Ronald Jean Pierre (RJP) helping the little kids…it’s just, shocking. Those of us that work with these kids every day sometimes forget to take a step back and realize all they have accomplished. RJP has been kicked out of many programs. He is one of a group they call themselves “the originals”. Two years ago…RJP was stabbing kids in our little community church.

1002480_361546613947710_2064508356_n[1]Sony and I were reflecting together and of course, I shed a tear, and then about 45 minutes later…one by one the little guys start crawling up to our chairs and laying in our laps. Exhausted. And then, shortly after…the older ones come up and sit around us. My family. Just resting and enjoying the shade and the breeze. No craziness. No violence. Just peace and comfort. I think heaven would be like that… but also with a lot of singing praises! 🙂

On the way to the beach, one of our American teen volunteers had a severe allergic reaction. SEVERE. Thank goodness we had an epi-pen. I don’t mean to scare people with this story – but I have to tell it. When the attack happened, the world stopped – and our street kids were frozen, not a word. Our American teen was a champion and after the shot he was fine and off we went. Personally – I had a hard time with it. I didn’t understand why…until I went into the water. Here comes Josee. I always said that if any kid were to ever give me a real problem, it would be him. We didn’t leave on good terms (this was the kid that caused problems when our kids volunteered to build the school with Live Different). He said to me “is that kid okay?” I said “What kid? AND – why are you talking to me? I’m still mad at you!

Josee: “I know you are. (Looking down). But, is that kid okay? The American from the bus?

Me: “Yes. Did you pray for him?

Josee: “I prayed for him the entire bus trip. And, I’m sorry I was mean to you.

Me: “Is Joey your friend?

Josee: “Yes.

Josee has had a chip on his shoulder with “foreigners” for a long time. He didn’t even like me. He has had a very hard life, and felt that foreigners have no clue what real life is like. Watching Joey was the first time he realized he was no different than anyone else. He NEVER let Joey out of his eyesight the rest of the trip. He is 16 and he bawled crying when the teens left. I was not there, but I have never had my kids cry that hard before or since that trip. I believe Joey changed Josee’s life. He has never given us a problem since, in fact – he makes sure to give me a hug and help as much as he can. He finally felt – normal. Okay. I’m just like everyone else.

Since that trip – many things have happened.

I was so sick with a bacterial infection, I had to be carried out of my house. I had volunteers at that time too – never a dull moment! Luckily, I was fine 48 hours later.

Shortly after, I got a call that one of our kids, Roody, was in a bad accident. When I walked into the hospital, I found my child missing all the skin off his face and arm. And 2 other boys I didn’t know, in bad shape. Even though this is not the first time, it feels the same EVERY TIME. You want to drop to the ground and scream. But, you can’t. YOU must handle it, because beneath all that blood – eyes are watching you and TRUSTING you to take care of the situation.

Roody saved his money and bought a small motor bike. He was riding with some friends and was hit by an American leaving a bar, who didn’t see the motorbike. He assured me that he would pay the money to care for the boys. I have yet to see that money, and the phone number that was given didn’t work. Regardless, I sat all night with these boys – 17, 17 and 18. The one thing two of them could say was “please don’t leave.” So – I sat through the stitches, holding these big boys like they were 10. At one point, I had to literally sit on one of them and physically hold him down for the stiches and shots. As ANGRY as he was with me (and this is not one of ours) he still comes by the safe house to say hi and still calls me “mom”. I try to explain it’s not me – it’s God.

1377051_649838191717105_260332638_nWe have had a lot of awesome things since then. OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO SCHOOL!!!! WHAT?! SERIOUS!!! Street kids in school people! That is something. Honestly, I tried to talk them out of it! I just wasn’t sure it was time – but they assured me it was. They have had a lot of tutoring to read and write Creole outside of school. Another heart explosion – sitting in my office and getting bombarded by kids running in to show me their school shoes. Now, mind you – they all look the same. BUT – that doesn’t matter! You have to look at every single pair and be just thrilled and impressed with every single pair. I got to see heaven AGAIN – in their face. With every shriek after Sony and the staff said “those are awesome!” “So handsome!” “Look at you!” First pair of brand new shoes. Ever. That little stomach virus doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, huh?!

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In addition – thank you to our amazing fundraisers, we can feed the kids twice a day. THESE KIDS AREN’T STREET KIDS ANYMORE. They just aren’t. They are THRIVING. It is a common misconception that when people visit Cap-Haitien, they see street kids and assume they are in the Streethearts program. Yes, we do work with those kids – but they aren’t ready. They don’t want to change…yet. The kids in our house – you won’t see. At least…not begging. Our kids are busy! They don’t have time for that! They have futbol practice, and Jido practice, and school, and Creole lessons, and basketball, and bible study, and…life. A healthy, happy life. And you better not call them street kids! “We aren’t street kids!”

Okay, I like it.

945792_10151787269030428_1510309940_nThey also have responsibilities. They have to help cook. And clean. And do laundry. And that’s why we have such an amazing staff and a great big brother program. These kids have a lot going on (on purpose!). We all have to pitch in and help them with their schedules. We’ve got older kids moving into work force programs, we have little guys in special school programs to help with learning disabilities – every child has something different going on. To merely sit inside the common room… NOT HAPPENING! You better check the bulletin board – because they are going to ask “okay…now I need to go here. Want to come?” Or “Get outta my way! I’ve got things to do!” They even write their own “thank you” notes. And don’t forget their Labrador mix puppy Princess Spaghetti, she is on the move too!

Excuse me – I just said my kids “have things to do!” 🙂 Heart explosion. You go boys.

Personally, I have also allowed some other kids I know to live at my house. These are not street kids, but just good kids that fell into some hard circumstances. They also help out at the safe house.

Additionally…I happened to find a church I like off 14th. The kids in the neighborhood and some friends of mine go. I stopped by the safe house one Sunday after church. You can imagine my surprise when (after a volunteer brought church clothes) my kids ended up at the church on 14th street! ON THEIR OWN. We are hoping to transition all the kids to that church in November, so that our pastoral staff can go back out to the community (with the help of some of older boys) and feed some of the older, elderly street people.

I’d like to take this time to bring some recognition to my staff. Haiti is hard. It’s expensive and there are no jobs. The NUMBER ONE need is to create jobs. It’s not to take care of other people’s kids. We have to create an economy so that these people can thrive on their own. That being said…it’s hard. Do you know what’s easy in this circumstance? Corruption. Violence. Drugs. My staff members could make ten times more pursuing one of those venues. And, they have families. And they have to survive. They make next to nothing and STILL CHOOSE the right path. We get SO excited about the kids changing their lives – but it’s that much harder for an adult with a lot of responsibilities on their backs. AND, they get tempted every day. I had two staff members approached about taking advantage of me. They were told “she is white. What do you care? You are Haitian! You are a sell-out. She has money, she is white. Steal. You are screwing over your people!” They told me about it. And they lost friends over it. Many prayers and many thank you’s need to go to this group. They make hardly anything, this including multiple staff that worked without getting paid for months! A God-focused staff is a gift and a blessing. Not one of my staff works their hours. IMG_0216They work above and beyond. They have taken it upon themselves to do tutorials to learn excel. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into my office one day to see 3 different spreadsheets regarding work hours, big brother hours, kids updates, etc. I said “Who did this?” They said “We got together and learned off the internet!” Every week there is something new happening that my staff comes up with, including incentives for the kids! Heart explosion AGAIN. I didn’t get lucky – God gave me these people 🙂 AMEN!

Thank you to our medical partner MedPlus, for doing full health screening, testing, and vaccines for the kids. We do not have any kids that are HIV positive. Sadly, all but 5 had stage 3 syphillis. We also had multiple kids with skin infections and malaria (but nothing like we used to see). I am so happy that we are able to get them the right treatment. Of course, this confirms the prostitution. Now – keep in mind, that we opened the house in February and this is their first physical. The real “telling” results will happen when we do this again in 8 months. I’m sure this is a bit heart-breaking to hear, I was sad as well – but we are getting them the care they badly needed. I was DEVASTATED when I got the call…to hear all of my 7-9 year olds were positive…you want to throw up. Because…well, you know why.

When I arrived back in July, I found out that the little boy (Erikson) that I thought was going to leave, was still there! I almost cried out of excitement, and then I cried a bit for him. I realized that his grandmother who left for the USA (who said she’d come back for him) will probably never come back. I was just as naïve as he was. For almost 2 years we have heard this. Sadly, she will not be coming back. BUT, he holds onto this and just says “something must have happened, but she’ll be here next month.” And every month, he packs up. I love him and I used to think it was true, just like him. I would give him my contact info, and I would say goodbye and cry my eyes out, and I would come back and there he was. It’s just as heart wrenching to let a child go, in a good circumstance (you were mine for a little while!) as it is to see a child heart-broken EVERY month. All the staff loves him very hard…

Personally, I had a HUGE GOD moment. I was meeting some girlfriends for dinner, and as I passed the boulevard I saw 4 motorcycles – laying on the ground and 4 bodies. I immediately stopped the moto I was on and ran over. So many people standing and doing nothing. I had no idea what I was doing but I was praying hard and I was holding a guy gushing blood out of his mouth. My moto staff flagged down some cars, we held the people in our arms, and rushed them to the hospital.

I was sitting in the back of a truck, talking to the guy I was holding, and staring so hard in his eyes. Telling him, you will survive. You look right at me. You don’t look away and we will do this.

I couldn’t go in the hospital, because it would cause problems for the people in the accident (You know a foreigner! You have money). I sent friends to hospital the next day – everyone survived. I have the biggest smile typing this. Because – so many people got to see God work. I was covered head to toe in blood. I thought he would die. I don’t know how to explain it, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking at Jesus – I just got to help be the catalyst. For such a time as this, right?! He had passed out and lost all of his teeth. He was choking on his teeth when I found him. God used me to get them out J.

I have seen dead people in Haiti, and I have seen people die in Haiti. BUT – I have never locked eyes with someone in between life and death, fix their gaze, embraced God and such such faith that you don’t react. You can’t. You don’t look at the blood, you don’t hear the screaming… you just hold the stare,  you don’t blink and you know something unbelievable is happening, whether they live or die, it is just…something bigger than yourself. Another guy’s leg was broken in 6 places, and we were able to help him and never lose eye contact with my guy. And, I’ve never seen him since. I don’t need to. Wasn’t me. Just, unbelievable. And, in that moment, the LOVE... Wow. God was IN me. Nothing compares to His presence.

I’d be lying if I said that didn’t shake me up. But, I have kids to take care of. Things started to get, I don’t know, A LOT. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the best way I can describe it. We were also dealing with a lot of backlash from the government – wanting money, etc. I got into a VERY heated discussion (yes, sometimes I lose my temper) with the government telling me how to deal with the kids. At one point, I was standing (almost in my chair) hahahaha. So, I decided – enough – I need kid time. Mom and kid time.

I vowed never to take the kids to the beach on my own, after the last time. I did it again. Good reminder why I love groups. They are A LOT to handle, on my own. Now, I have to give them props. I brought water games. They shared. They were good. BUT – they won’t go in the water. I sit down, expecting to see a fun “show”… ummm no. They just sit next to me. Now, I love my kids. But – wow! They can literally talk without ever breathing. I must have heard “Linsey look” at least 100 times every 20 minutes. I started to literally pick up kids and throw them in the water (of course they loved that) and I was begging “please give me 20 minutes! Okay just 5 minutes! JUST 5!” Great – brought out the water toys. Perfect. A little peace of mind. Just kidding – within 2 minutes, my older boys scoped out some girls and took off. Umm – no! So, next thing you know, I’m paying off a 16 year old to watch the little ones so I can go off after the older ones! They were just talking, but so embarrassed when I came around the corner saying “ohh no! I DO NOT THINK SO!” hahahaha.

Speaking of my older boys…there was a festival on the boulevard. So, the staff and I agreed that the 3 oldest boys could go, with supervision, for an hour. Myself and Francis. We showed up to pick up the boys and they were decked to the 9’s! So, we walked the boulevard and the boys had the NERVE to ask as to walk “a little bit behind please!” WHAT?! I’m cool! (I guess not). We passed by a restaurant playing music so Francis and I were dancing silly  – the boys were humiliated! (I guess that’s a universal thing). I was so sad, walking with Francis and watching our guys. Our boys are getting too old. Of course, Francis was giving me the “dad speech” I need to let them grow up! Phooey! I hate to say it, but I made RJP come walk with me. I asked him to please stop growing up. I was totally THAT MOM. But you know what, he said “yes, this is embarrassing but I’ll do it for you.” HA! If was really a cool mom I’d have let him walk with his friends…but I didn’t! I loved it! Hahaha! He has plenty of time for that.

1383678_652706928096898_1063933482_nA few weeks ago, there was a fair in Cap-Haitien. I had a volunteer with me so I thought it would be fun to take the boys. I felt like I was at Kings Dominion (ok, ok – Haitian version). I wish I had photos. There were 3 rides and games. At one point, every single swing seat was taken by one of mine. And I stood there and cheered every single one of them on. I was proud of Dieuceul, because he chose to volunteer that night, so I gave him the money and he had to deal with it. (It was HILARIOUS to watch him deal with all the kids). I decided to take a few older boys for ice-cream. One, in specific, Johnky. Johnky is a HUGE handful. Very smart, very cunning, and could easily go down the wrong path. We have worked VERY HARD with him. He and I had a wonderful time. He talked to me about girls, fear about school, etc.

It was one of the best nights I’ve had with my kids. I just really, felt like a mom.

During these past few months – we have lost some kids. One, specifically, Martiney. He is the kid with the “s” on his face from the gay guys. We spent weeks trying to hunt him down. We do this often. We just recently got one out of jail in the DR, and have another we hope to get back from Port-Au-Prince.

Anyway, sadly – we also lost Stephenson and Ti-Bol (Jimmy). Please understand that when we “lose” a kid – we do everything we can to get them back.

I will never forget a few weeks ago, I don’t know why, but I got this weird feeling that Jimmy was under this bridge. It’s a hard area to get to – and I have no idea why I had this feeling. I was with Sony. It is full of trash. I crawled over a wall on the boulevard, and jumped in the water. I looked under, and it was just trash, almost to the ceiling of the bridge. So, I started to crawl up and I thought I could see a body moving. Literally, I have to type this in increments, because of the heartbreak.

I start digging. Closer to the roof of the bridge and I see something move. At this time, I yell for Sony –I’m scared. I’m not sure what or who I will find. We dig a tunnel through the trash, and take a (pause) cardboard box off… I’m so scared. I am, at this point, squished between trash and the roof of the bridge, and I see legs. I’m scared it might be an addict that freaks out, so Sony gets closer, pulls the trash off. There is our son. Our son. Both Sony and I start crying, and we just sit there in the trash. Sony can’t talk. I finally say “Why Jimmy? I love you. I will always love you and I will keep doing this! But you are breaking my heart!” Then I get emotional and yell “BREAKING IT!!! YOU ARE BREAKING IT! I MADE THIS HOUSE FOR YOU AND YOU… (I calm down) you were the one that sat with me in your box when my mom had breast cancer. And now… you’re done?

It is like the pain of the worst break-up ever. Finally, Sony wiped his eyes, so shocked, and asked if he’d like to come home and take a shower.

He did. And we haven’t seen him since. I still go back to the bridge. I find his stuff and I try to clean it and leave it folded up for him. He hates us since that day.

I have called my mom crying so many times over him.

Two weeks ago, I showed up at the safe house – and I had to go to the doctor with one of the kids. Sony told me to go up the community room, he had a surprise. I went upstairs, nothing. As I turned to leave I heard “Linsey, cheri (honey) I’m home.” I have never hugged Martiney so tight in my life. We had been looking for him for so long, and heard that due to his addiction to huffing, he was going to die soon.

Despite the fact that we couldn’t find him (and we went hours away – we would here he was in the country, etc. and take off) he came home.

I still don’t have Jimmy or Stephenson. But, I do have hope.

We have another little guy in prison in the DR and in PAP and we are fighting hard to get them both back. Jails here are no joke and no place for a child.

Keep the faith. It’s only a matter of time for another heart explosion… all because Jesus gives us yet another miracle!

“You are Haitian. You must help your community, in order for it to thrive…”

The past few weeks have been an awesome – God moving experience for those of us here at Streethearts. There are always challenges, but the God moments are truly why we do what we do. Because, we do it for Him.

We have had lots of visitors recently, and it has been a BLAST!

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Thank you to Megan and Jen for coming down to run workshops on art therapy for the kids, and take them on excursions here in Haiti. During our trip to the Citadel (with the older boys) Megan bumped into some Chick-Fil-A franchisees. She talked about why she was here. In the midst of a “major workout” – which did NOT end once we reached the top, she managed to sit and talk about what Streethearts is all about. I had hoped that they would come by the house, but I tend to get so distracted by the kids sometimes so it’s hard for me to focus on the adult conversations 😉 In all honesty, I thought the guys were great – but we’d probably not see them again.

While we were at the top (much to the dismay of the tour guide) we went tadpool fishing! It was HILARIOUS.

The kids HAD A BLAST. A BLAST! And this is our rougher, older boys. They could NOT stop talking about their adventure.

The next day, during art therapy class (which all ages participated in) my security told me there was a group of men coming up to tour. Our Chick-Fil-A friends showed up! The fact that they even found the location was a miracle. We talked and toured for a couple hours, and had an awesome prayer circle that had people in tears.

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We also had some young guys visiting my roommate that wanted to take the younger boys to the Citadel…again?! (Where’s my BenGay?). This is where I was truly indoctrinated into “mommy hood” with young boys. None of the boys that went had ever been to the Citadel, so I wanted to focus on the educational aspect of it (historical landmark here in Cap-Haitien) and the spiritual aspect. The view from the top is breathtaking. You can see ALL of Cap-Haitien and then some, from the top. We talked about the fact that this (all of this) is where God lives. We did some quizzes on the history…etc. It was great. UNTIL – one of our staff alerted me to the fact that Franky (one of our littlest) was peeing on the Citadel! Ahhh!!!!!!!!!!! I LITERALLY just took him to the bathroom. I went running after him “No No No!” Handled the situation – okay…its over. We continue our hike back down the mountain and as we arrive to the bottom (with a ton of people standing around the entrance) I hear “Hey Linsey – look at me.” Insert a movie moment where you make a turn-around in slow motion…Franky is standing in front of everyone on the top of the path, pulls down his pants and just starts “spraying” not peeing – SPRAYING everywhere. I WAS MORTIFIED. He thought it was hilarious until I caught him at the top. Why?! WHY do boys do these things? On the way up I caught two in a competition regarding passing gas. Some things are universal. I must yell, “I am not a boy, I’m a girl!” about 10 times a day. It’s attributed to comfort level I know, but seriously?! Ugh…

As frustrated as I was…Franky fell asleep in my lap holding on to me on the way home. I kissed him on his head and my heart felt so full. That is my son. I recently met with his grandmother. Both his parents are dead. She cannot care for him, and he ran away from home. She had been looking for him for months. Someone told her about the project house, so she came and we talked for a while. You know when you meet those certain people and you can see God in them? That was her. She was just…beautiful. I loved her. I feel priviledged to be able to help her family. She was very insightful about what her life was and is like. I wanted to hug her for an hour. I wanted her to be my grandmother in a way. My grandmothers have passed…and grandmas can NEVER be replaced. They love different. They love sweet. And they always have a good smell. I know that’s weird to say, but it’s true. Do you know the grandma smell? Everyone should know this…a lot of my kids don’t.

Sometimes you need those “well learned in life” to put things in the right prospective. My program is about kids – but in that moment  – I found myself getting “filled” and God knew I needed that, I was too wrapped up in my life to realize that. So I thank Him. Always.

Max Lovins is driving me insane. Two weeks ago, he had such an attitude (which I have NO tolerance for) I seriously was like, “ya’ know what bud – just leave then. You know everything, you don’t like it here – Go!”  I didn’t say that, but I was thinking it. So was my staff as he walked into the office demanding this and that and basically telling us off. So – finally…one of my staff members said, “Get out. For good. We’ve ALL had enough.” I was just sitting there, silent. I never want that for a kid, but I couldn’t speak for some reason.

AND, I was tired. Really…really tired.

It sometimes is like an “out of body” experience. You want to intervine, but you don’t. Max said he didn’t care about the program, or any of us, he bid us farewell and left. I was having this internal struggle of “would Jesus let this happen” but again, I still did nothing. I thought…okay, everyone cool off and we’ll deal with this later. No joke – 10 minutes later…Max knocks on the office door. He comes in, so upset, and says he doesn’t want to leave and he will sit in “prison” for a few days if that’s what it takes. So weird?! I felt like I had whiplash. Is this the same kid that just came in 10 minutes ago?! Ahh… I see. Testing us. We do have a “prison” at the safehouse (it’s the time-out spot). He happily sat in it for afternoon to be able to continue to stay there.

Which brings me to discipline. The discipline at our house is no joke. NO JOKE. This may disturb some people. But you have to understand that we are not dealing with your typical kids. And that is why our discipline tactics are posted in the community room for all to see. We do not hide anything. AND – if the kids felt it was too tough – we wouldn’t have over 80 (which continues to grow) continuing to be a part of this program. We have yet to have a kid leave over our discipline practices.

In fact, this week, the chief of police acknowledged how impressive our program was, and we continue to have kids placed at our house through the police here in Cap-Haitien.

We also continue to maintain our “open door” policy to all community members – everyone is allowed to come in and tour the house, regardless of if I’m there. I believe that people here need to see this program. We have everyone from market workers, to hotel employees, doctors, teachers, etc. Everyone is welcome!

Update on Mackenly…(little boy with the “S” carved in his face): We THOUGHT he was ready to be placed back at home. BACKFIRE. He left to sell the shoes he had received through the program. He wants to return. We are working through this situation and appreciate all the prayer support.

Our staff organized a soccer tournament this past Sunday with our younger kids and our older kids versus community teams. A lot of people came out to support the game, and the halftime show was HILARIOUS! Even though our teams lost…it was still fun, and great to see the kids being indoctrinated back into the community – wahoo! No fighting!

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In addition…we had our first Community Service day with staff and older kids. Thank you to all the people at Live Different, for letting us participate in building a school. It was great to see our older boys get out there and serve their community! And believe me…it was HARD work.

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That being said…yes, I got two “urgent” phone calls. Unfortunately, there was a small fight between two boys. That got settled rather quickly – thank you to LaViLa (security) who worked harder than everyone I’ve ever seen – and it was his day OFF! The more concerning phone call is when I was told the kids “quit” working, while I was buying their lunches. I sold my iphone to a board member, in order to provide food/drinks for this event. I was so disappointed to find out that they kids “apparently” quit. Not to mention, I hiked this mountain 4 times that morning with supplies (too steep for motos).  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as I thought…I showed up to find 3 kids sitting under a tree – but the rest still working HARD. Also keeping in mind, we don’t have the finances to feed these kids, and we took them from their daily “jobs” to help build this. Most of them had not eaten since the day before.

I show up with sandwiches, water, and juice, and usher them all in a classroom. Thus, the speech began:

“You are Haitian. You must help your community, in order for it to thrive. I am American, yes. But, I am sick and tired of hearing about all the things other cultures come down to do – that you can do! I do not accept you sitting under a tree watching American/Canadian volunteers working FOR YOU! YOU are worthy of this. You KNOW JESUS. You must help your community. If I hear “these are street kids” (Haitian contract workers) one more time – I’m going to have a conversation with the employees hired as well (which I did). YOU ARE NOT STREET KIDS ANYMORE! You have a home. You must hold others accountable for what you deserve to be. You are talking like street kids. You are showing people that you live a life you are no longer a part of. If it comes down to the fact that you would just like to be part of the street and live off the good works of those here volunteering – then I CANNOT continue working for your well-being. You will all pray right now and ask God if street life is what you should be living for Him. I LOVE YOU all and I see you, the real YOU, and I see GOD in you. You will STOP or I WILL QUIT.” I prayed and I felt IT as I stood there.

It came from me, but God drove the love throughout that conversation. I watched my boys rally, I watched them, embarrassed…bow their heads.

I LOVED hearing them stand up and say “we are NOT street kids!”

I LOVE GOD. Words can’t describe what it feels like to pray and let God use your mouth to speak and then watch them react…change…feel remorse…feel pride…and work harder than they’ve ever worked to impact the little kids they were working for. We brought them in the communities and the classrooms. If you don’t want to do it for Streethearts – go look at the little kids relying on you.

I’d be lying if I said some of my boys weren’t mad – but I did get them ALL to take a photo with me and that is why I changed my profile banner on facebook.

We DEMAND a lot from these kids. I know the standards are high. But I believe that people live up to the standards at which they are held. So…our kids will be held to the standard at which all of those I love are held (family and friends). I am not your mom. Or your boss. You live for Jesus. Do your part. We are all equal. We are all the same.

And they all ran with me home.

Please keep my kids in your prayers. While yes…we want to provide for them – life is short. I need them to live eternal.

 

 

The Haitian Hunger Games: Daily Challenges and Kids’ Mini-Bios.

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I am in the Hunger Games.

That is truly how I feel some days. For those of you that aren’t familiar with that analogy…it’s like being tested ALL THE TIME. There NEVER seems to be a break. EVER. If its not physical, it’s emotional. If it’s not emotional it’s spiritual…and so on. You are fighting physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally all the time. It can be frustrating, and sometimes I cry to God and beg, please, for 48 hours of peace and things to go right.

At the same time – all these things make each day an empowering experience. I recently sat down with a friend and watched him break to tears. This is a STRONG man. He hit his three-month breakdown. As I was speaking to him, I was speaking to all of us here, that have been here for a long period of time. WE ARE STRONG, that’s why we are here. The devil will try anything and he is hoping that we will get tired and quit. He is banking on that. Right now, he is winning! And of course, the next day, my friend was ready to go again. PRAYER wins every time!

The other day at Hotel Christophe I had a guy I’ve never met, come up to me and say, “Hey. Aren’t you the girl that works with the street kids? Listen… please, don’t give up. I’m sure its hard and your being tested all the time. DO NOT GIVE UP.” I said thank you and he left. Who do you think that was, really?! I smiled to myself because I knew God just spoke to me.

It is ALMOST time for me to come home. I need a break. Aside from a week at New Years, and 4 days in Miami… I will have been here for 7 months at of the end of May (which is when I return back to VA). I presented to a Catholic group this past Wednesday (thank you, Father Andre!) and I started with…”I’m sorry – you are getting me at my worst…” but, that is true. I can’t even talk about my program with the right level of enthusiasm because this mom is exhausted, and her kids are driving her nuts. I KNOW how bad that sounds – and believe me, I love these kids and I would die for them, but sometimes its overwhelming. The other night I had so many kids hanging on me, I just thought – are they going to take me alive in this house?!?!

Some days I hear my name, probably 100 times in 30 minutes. I’m thinking about changing my name and not telling anyone what it is! Some times, I hear my name so much I just start saying “no” to everything and everyone. Of course, this makes the kids laugh. Then I try to say I don’t understand Creole and I’m just a ‘ban’ (foreigner) visiting from the USA. Unfortunately, that never works either- All joking aside…

I don’t think I fully understood what I was getting into when I decided to be responsible for 80+ street kids. Once they trust you…they really start talking. At this point, I have heard almost anything you can imagine. I recently had some people ask me #1 – How can I handle this? #2 – Do you think you have PTSD or something like that? People that have toured the project, especially those that speak Creole and understand wholly what’s going on – they tend to get a bit emotional, and definitely shocked. My answer to this is; No, I am not suffering from psychological shock. I handle it, because that is the gift that God gave me. (For the same reason people can work with mentally disturbed people in the USA, or rape victims, etc.). If I “lost it” every time I heard a disturbing story, the kids would stop opening up to me and I would never be able to do my job. I’d be locked in my bedroom crying all the time. People have asked “Has it “hardened me” to a degree?” I’m not sure. I have a lot of compassion, but I’m also dealing with a very rough bunch of kids who don’t lead the average life. They don’t have “nice stories”. They don’t understand “normal, peaceful, lifestyles.” Sometimes I wonder if they hurt themselves on purpose at times, just to get my attention or have me hold them. Which is why its IMPERATIVE that I continue my mom role of nurturing, comforting, and being there – even if the subject matter is disturbing.

Let’s take a closer look at specific kids:

-Dieulin Benoit…this child had a life in and out of prison. In fact, he was my first kid out of the group to get arrested, and we were there in the prison with him. He is 19 years old. He used to sleep out front of Kokiyaj (little market). The community would say he is a ‘street dog’ and a ‘problem’. He was recently arrested (for a crime he did not commit – I know this because I know the woman who was robbed and I know it was a man and wife that did it, not a kid – per her police report) and beaten – for fun. Of course, I was there in a flash…how did I know? The homeless people on the blvd tracked my phone number down and had someone call me. When I arrived Dieulin smiled at me, but didn’t even care. They are used to this abuse. He knows that the police will never believe him, and he told me, “Please don’t worry Linsey – it’s okay, it’s over.” Dieulin is in our Safehouse by 9pm every night. He is in charge of the younger boys. We had to alter our policy to 18 and under (due to violence in the house) and he begged me to let him stay. (FYI – 18+ have a one-strike policy, and 17 and under have a three-strike policy.)

-Stevenson Joseph…was recently stabbed in the arm…not cut, stabbed. Before he joined our team he routinely jumped/stole from moto drivers I know. He also got beat up by these drivers routinely. Stevenson tells me, “No one in this world can tell [him] anything – [he] is deaf to everyone.” He is in the brothels EVERY night. He is a rough kid – and yes… he is a bit scary looking. I love him. I love him so much that I went by the brothel myself. I was THRILLED to let him know, that going forward, I will know EVERY TIME he enters. I gave him the biggest hug ever and told him how lucky he was to have me right by his side at all times. His face was PRICELESS. (UGH! How did she know?! Who told?! Totally busted!) Yep – I HAD THE BIGGEST SMILE EVER and then I made him hang out with me all day long. Stevenson sleeps in the downstairs room (for the rougher kids). He will be my favorite story one day, I know it.

-Jimmy Pierre (Ti-Bol)…Jimmy was one of the WORST kids. He loves to fight and loves to steal. When we first opened, he caused a lot of problems in the house. A lot of fighting, and was apparently stealing from little kids on the street. Jimmy felt that because I favor him, he didn’t have to listen to anyone. Two weeks ago I got a phone call around 11pm (this was happening a couple times a week – but is starting to slow down)…”Linsey, you HAVE to come to the house, the kids are out of control. You have to try and talk to them…” I put on my “costume” (hat, sweatshirt, etc. so I don’t stick out at night) and enter the house. You can imagine the reaction when the kids saw me walk in. “Oh my gosh…it’s Linsey!” I made everyone sit down, while I explained my background and my testimony. Other staff members shared as well. I explained why I came to Haiti. I then made Jimmy stand in front of everyone. I explained to him how tired I was. That I have to FIGHT for these kids in the community, every day. We all do and it’s exhausting. I then asked him, teary-eyed “why are you doing this to me? why do you want this to fail? I love you, but you are breaking my heart and I can’t keep doing this.” Jimmy, my tough 17 year old, broke into tears in front of everyone. Ever since that night, Jimmy has been one of our best. He is in by 9pm, he helps with the younger kids, and just recently graduated to the upstairs bedroom.

-Marco Ferdinand has a girlfriend. He also has sex with adult men for money. Growing up in this environment, he doesn’t have a problem with prostitution. He is a sensitive kid, and he will have a tough road ahead, but we are here for him. Marco was one of the first kids to show up when my house burnt down and help clean up.

-Milien Dorleant told me he heard about our program when he was in PAP, so he came back. I found out this was a lie. He got caught stealing in Quanemethe (by the Domincan border) and the people attempted to set him on fire. He was tied up and tires were placed on him. Some person felt pity and helped him escape. He barely survived. He gets up at 4am to work the taptaps (taxis). He also helps me with my office work and LOVES animals.

-Nelson Aristide has Syphillis. He is also a prostitute and wets the bed every night. He’s 15.

-Wedky Paul is an incredibly rough kid. Since our partnership with the police, he has decided his calling is to be the next police chief and fight crime. (Use your powers for good Wedky!) He’s 11 years old.

-Kevins (Ti-Crechet “Little Cricket”) Toussaint steals every day. He also cries every day. When he broke his collarbone (fell off a bunk bed- and yes, we now have guards up on the beds) I rushed him to Justieniene. We were there for 10 hours. As we waited, he fell asleep literally in lap and asked me to please continue to rub his back. He is nine years old and grew up sleeping in the streets. I know EXACTLY where his hiding spots are when he tries to run away.

-Martiney Sherafa swears he is 15 years old. His birthday was Friday. He looks…8 years old. Martiney is adorable. His hustle is to flirt with homosexual adult men. He tells them he will have sex with them for food. Once they give him the food, he cuts them with a razor blade and takes off. Well… these men finally caught him, and cut an “S” in his face for ‘Salop’- the French word for ‘slut’. He is also addicted to huffing.

-Jerry Charow is proud to be a ‘gangster’. He has been caught attempting to smoke in the house, he also does cocaine when he can find it. He steals and beats up on the little kids. He also has an addiction to masturbating. He is 13.

The list goes on and on. During our emergency board meeting (to establish much needed rules/regulations/disciplinary actions) my security brought a bag of the items they had confiscated, to include; knives, razor blades, rocks, electrical wires, etc.

The following was listed in nightly reports to me: one child threatened to cut a kids eyeball out, one child tried to electrocute another child, one child threatened to poison another kid. They broke the lightbulbs in the bottom bedroom to jump a child, etc.

This is my family. As rough as it sounds. BUT… I see God working – I can LITERALLY see it in some kids. The bond that we have with these kids is something that could never be broken.

Like I have said to many people here, 17 years of street-life = a minimum of 17 years of hard and patient loving, and watching and waiting for a glimmer of hope. I see lots of glimmer – even if its for a second.

We have an open door policy. The kids have total access to everything I have. They work in the office with me. They help organize supplies. Everyone is welcome – with 100% trust. I feel that Jesus would do the same. Things are things – if someone needs it so badly they have to steal it – fine. That’s between them and God. We are only here to plant the seed, and I am here to show these kids that I hold them accountable and to the same standard as anyone else. Where I go they can go. I am proud to say I have never, not once, been robbed.

My purse has not lost a single coin. And from the minute I walk in the door – my bracelet, sunglasses, purse, etc. is out of my hands. But when I leave – everything is returned. I test these kids with money all the time – I have never been let down.

I am proud of them. Everyday someone surprises me, and… every day – someone tells me something that breaks my heart. That’s life at the Streethearts’ Safehouse. I don’t tell you this to scare people from visiting. On the contrary, my kids love visitors and I would LOVE some volunteers to come down. One-on-one time is so rare for these kids – that it would be great for them to experience that type of bond.

But, I use this blog as my therapy, so I have to be honest in what I see and experience. I’d be lying if I said this was easy and the kids were all saints. That’s not what this program is. It’s rough and tough and challenging and surprising and loving and amazing.

The kids I ran with yesterday sat down on the curb, perfectly quiet, while I got them peanut butter bread. That has NEVER happened. It’s usually mass chaos. I had to give them all two stars for such good behavior. When they finished eating, most of them said, “Thank you, Linsey. I love you.” How lucky am I? What better job is there then to love and be loved in return?

I love them too.

Update: After the Fire.

Today is February 20th.

As of yesterday, I had quit my job 19 times. Every day of this month I have quit my job. After my house burnt down, I got sick, which forced me to slow down and hibernate for a few days. During this time, I thought I’d catch up on emails/paperwork. I sat down to lunch with friends on Saturday – excited to send everything out, when of course…my friend’s laptop (that I was borrowing) crashed. Again – lost all my work, and none of my emails were sent. I burst into tears at the table.

I can understand, now, how much pressure CFO’s must face when they know their company is going under. To an entry level employee, they might have concern, but they are still getting their paycheck. For the employees that see the numbers every day, that’s pressure – that’s hard. That’s anxiety.

I hate numbers.

And, I decided that I didn’t like God. I thought He left me. I got scared. I reasoned two things:

#1 – I did something wrong, I made Him mad somehow, and this is my punishment

#2 – This was not God’s will, this was mine. I’m so selfish that I just wanted to love kids and now it’s time for me to come home.

It’s over. That’s what I started to think after 19 days.

My house is destroyed. My landlord doesn’t have the money to fix it. He needs money. The project house is being built out. That needs money. To operate the house requires more staff. They need money. We don’t have any.

I can’t even take a shower. You know when you’ve had a really bad day – and you just want to take a hot shower? Okay, forget even hot. Welp, a bucket doesn’t cut it after awhile. It’s pitiful, but I look at the bucket, and start to cry. I hate this bucket! I hate all this dirt! I hate everything!

The lows here, when they hit…are really REALLY low. I started to hate things after 19 days.

I have been praying hard core for over a week. Yesterday, I grabbed an amazing friend of mine, and we hit the country. I figured if God was hiding from me, I’d find Him there. We went out and worshipped in the middle of nowhere and finally. He had been there the whole time, but I got distracted. It was ME who had to go out to the middle of nowhere. Not Him.

I got great news while I was walking in this field. I know 100%, He does not want me to leave. When I started thinking about why He brought me here in the first place. I realized a lot of things – and I recognized exactly what was going on.

Who LOVES to attract children? Who LOVES to manipulate them? Who preys on them?

Someone is getting nervous about my project. He does not want me to do this job.

Afterward, I knew I was going to have a great rest of the day. Nothing would go wrong. God knew I hit my bottom. I was excited for things to go right!

I went to get my clean clothes (it had been over a week) and my skirts, sports bras, and socks were stolen. I had one skirt, and one sock left.

My landlord is now trying to evict me.

I have no home. No money. No computer…etc. Hmmm.

Mental breakdown type scary stuff, right?!

I tell all of you this, because in one month I want everyone to see what God can do. We will be successful.

I will not turn my back on these kids, or this project.

I am smiling as I type this. Not crying. SMILING. I’m not afraid.

House Fire

I had a great blog for January. It included a soccer tournament, some low points for my kids, some awesome progress with the kids, the new Streethearts house,  our women’s bible study, the blan church we started that turned into a church for Haitians, etc.

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On Monday at approximately 2:30am, I heard what sounded like a glass break in the kitchen.  I assumed that either Ryan or Dieceul had woken up to get a glass of water and dropped it. Annoyed, I rolled over and attempted to fall back asleep. I then started to smell smoke. Neither Ryan or Dieceul smoke, so I didn’t understand what was going on. Temper raised (both Ryan and I had extremely early days that morning) I threw open my door prepared to yell when a wall of black smoke hit me. The most intense fear shot through my entire body as I hit the ground, choking on smoke. I then heard the fire, and could see flames everywhere. I thought I was going to die, and instantly said to God…this is how it’s going to happen? I let out a blood-curtling scream, and crawled towards Ryan and Dieceul’s room. Screaming and gasping for air, I started banging on Dieceul’s room. The door was locked. Ryan awoke to my scream, opened his door and same thing. Black smoke hit him like a wall. He got down, we grabbed arms and started banging at Dieceul’s door. We didn’t have much time, and we had to make a fast crawl to get out. I didn’t want to leave Dieceul but we had no choice. We couldn’t see, couldn’t breath and felt an intense heat all around us. There were two fires on either side of the room. We crawled through both, and got the door open. 

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We ran into the street, screaming and banging on doors as loud as we could. I was literally losing my mind. In shock, and panicking thinking my little brother, who I love as a family member, is burning to death in the apartment and I couldn’t help him. I was screaming at Ryan to go back in! He attempted to enter the house, but the fire at that point had taken over the entire floor. We kept screaming for someone to please help Dieceul. We felt utterly helpless and Ryan and I watched in shock, as we both thought surely, Dieceul would die. 20 minutes later, firemen showed up. As they are trying to get our information…I’m SCREAMING at them that there is still someone in the house. They attempted to put the fire out, but…the fire truck had no water. In the mean time, very brave neighbors and friends filled large buckets and entered the house. They saved what was left of our house. When Dieceul walked out of the house in one piece, both Ryan and I were in total shock. I wanted to faint. The amount of pain ripping through me at the thought that I couldn’t save him was something I will never forget. I still can’t get it out of mind, and have trouble sleeping.

After the fact, Ryan told me his account. He also heard the glass and figured the same thing. Someone woke up to get a glass of water. He started to smell the smoke, but thought a neighbor was cooking next door (his window faces the back of the house) and went back to bed. He awoke to my scream – and can still hear it.

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Dieceul’s bedroom has no windows. All of our doors are fire proof/somewhat sound proof. So, he could not hear us. What saved his life was that his room had no windows, so the smoke could not get in. When he finally realized what was going on, he ran into my room thinking that both Ryan and I got trapped, because we had windows! After I hugged him as hard as I could, I realized how hard he was breathing and crying. In complete shock.

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Ryan had a minor foot problem, but otherwise we all escaped unharmed. IT IS A MIRACLE! A TRUE MIRACLE. I still cannot believe no one got burned. We literally crawled between two huge fires. We were covered head to toe in black soot.

We were both disappointed to find out that Ryan was robbed by the firemen. Wallet, money, identification. Thank goodness we all had our passports locked up. He filed a police report, but…it is Haiti. Can you believe in a crisis situation, people take that as an opportunity?!

I am still shook up. Afterwards…when we entered the house, I wanted to throw up. Everything destroyed. The house looked scary and distorted. All my work on my laptop gone – including so many personal journals.

It was amazing to see, within a few hours, how many people showed up to clean up. It was truly a family effort. No one said a word when the street kids showed up to help. (They aren’t supposed to come to my house). Everyone chipped in and worked hard – from about 6:30am until 6pm. The kids didn’t even mention when the project house would open (which they ask about on an hourly basis). One, John Ceasar, gave me his silver bracelet in an attempt to cheer me up. I hadn’t slept and I was going through phases of bawling crying – just overwhelmed spiritually and emotionally by it all. 

It was the same thing this morning, round 2. Even though I got some sleep – I just looked at all the damage and thought – how can I possibly handle all of this? Again, friends showed up – pitched in. Finally, after lots of prayer, I said to myself – just start with one thing. The damage is so vast, that it seems like no matter how hard you work – it’s still black. Everywhere. Little by little, it started becoming clearer. I started to see a glimpse, of what I call my home. So funny how attached you become to things. I think it’s because money is so precious, that art and certain items you buy – mean something. BUT AGAIN – it’s all just stuff. Everyone survived – praise God.  At times you do think – what did I do wrong that I got punished like this? I caused this! I could have killed 2 people! The devil is crafty…isn’t he?

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The cause of the fire was due to a power surge (faulty wiring) that set my laptop on fire – which was charging on the couch. The paint in the house, was oil based and highly flammable. We are still unclear as to what caught the TV on fire (opposite side of the room) since the outlet there did not explode. It must have been from the spread of the fire along the wall.

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I also cried because this could not have happened at a worse time. I so badly wanted to open the safe house this Saturday, as planned. BUT – who’s plan was that?! Not God’s. I’m still praying through that but again, everything must be centered around Him. I’m working hard through the disappointment, and still crying…obviously! Hahaha. A delegate for the neighborhood came by this evening to ask for our house to be decorated for Karnival. The entire neighborhood looks beautiful. I then felt guilty all over again – our house is hideous and it’s going to ruin their beautiful plans. They explained to me that it will be fine, and that it is still a part of the neighborhood and it will look wonderful with all the little paper flowers. Kids in the neighborhood are leading the project.

I have to admit…that cheered me up. I’m excited that in the midst of my cleaning, kids will be working hard with their artwork to “spruce it up” for Martelly! 

God is AMAZING. I LOVE HIM.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support and prayers as we work hard to get the house back together (of course, that involves stress with the landlord, lawyers, insurance, money we don’t have, etc.) and continue to build out the project house as well.

I firmly believe that the reason we all survived was from all the prayers from our supporters around the world. I am crying as I write this…I’m still in shock.

I will be following up with a blog encompassing January efforts and updates in the next 2 weeks.

Thanks again for your patience.