Haiti celebrates FLAG DAY on May 18. It’s an important day of celebration for the country as they remember their hard-won independence!
The Haitian flag features a full coat of arms with weapons representing their nation’s history defending their freedom. The royal palm at the center symbolizes their independence. They are the first nation of Africans to ever rise up and win freedom for their country.
Our Home of Hope families celebrated in their communities too. We love that our kids are learning about their rich cultural heritage from a young age. While Haiti still has a lot to overcome, we hope they always feel freedom to celebrate their flag and the good of what that represents. Though there are dark and painful pieces to their cultural history as well, knowing the good and bad helps the next generation learn from their country’s experiences.
We hope days like this (and our staff, parents and mentors) will empower our children to become the next generation of leaders who will help transform their culture for Christ!
If you’re not familiar with Haiti’s difficult history, you’re not alone. In fact, LSM’s Founder, Ed Schwartz wrote a historical novel depicting the rise of Haiti for just that reason! The Trade Winds was written to help us understand the complexity and history of Haiti and where it is today. It also gives us a passion to help vulnerable children (like the ones we serve!) who have been trapped in ongoing slavery (restavek system) to this day.
Early one morning, I went for a walk through a small Haitian village. I heard singing. I looked over to see a mamma sitting on the front steps of her home, her daughter snug between her knees as she combed her hair. I smiled and waved. She smiled back and nodded her head. Her hands were obviously busy.
On another day, I passed by a little fruit and vegetable stand where a young mamma was selling mangos, coconuts, bananas, peppers and beans. Her little one was sound asleep on a shelf that was low to the ground. She smiled sweetly as our eyes met – a mutual acknowledgement of our mother-love.
Then I saw an elderly woman walking with her grown daughter, with a chair carefully balanced on her head. She looked tired from a lifetime of providing for others. Her weathered face looked like she had many stories to tell.
I watched as these mammas as they were going about their day to day work. I wished I could sit down and talk motherhood with each one.
But there was one young mom that I did get a chance to talk to, and I will never forget it. I met her on the dirt road. She was walking toward me, holding her baby girl. I stopped to tell her how beautiful her baby was. Her little one smiled a big toothless grin and reached her arms out to me. As I held her, she wrapped her baby arms around my neck for a big squishy hug. I couldn’t help but laugh as she tried to touch my hair, my nose and my face. She was adorably curious.
When I tried to hand her back to her mamma, she did not immediately take her. Instead she said, “Do you love babies?” I told her that I loved babies very much. She asked me if I had any children. I said, “I have five, but they are grown now.” Then she said something that made my heart race. “Do you want her?”
Since I only had a few lessons in Creole, I figured I must have misunderstood her. I repeated the question. She nodded her head and pointed to her daughter, “Baby has no dad. I have no dad and mom. Do you want her?” I got very nervous and handed her smiling baby back. I told her she was a good mom. She said something else, but I couldn’t understand. That was the end of my Creole.
We each walked away in separate directions. My heart was so heavy. I turned back over my shoulder a few times until she disappeared. I cried for that mamma. Can you imagine feeling so hopeless that you would be willing to give your baby to a complete stranger that you just met on a dirt road? The heartbreaking reality is that this story is not uncommon. That evening, several missionary ladies told me that they too have been asked to take babies.
Many of the 240 children in LSM’s Homes of Hope lost their mommas before they could remember them – whether from death, extreme poverty or violence. Each of these precious children has suffered loss and lack of attachment. But today, through the powerful work in these godly families, they have a mom and dad who call them theirs. And we believe that’s the very essence of what it means to be His hands and feet in this world. To pull a child close and tell them that despite all the darkness they’ve known, they are seen and they are loved.
David Livingstone once said, “Sympathy is no substitute for action.”
THIS MOTHER’S DAY, YOU CAN:
Pray for desperate mothers around the world who are forced to make difficult choices for the survival of their children.
Pray for our Home of Hope moms by name. They are caring for children who have come to their family through tragedies. Pray for their strength and love as they raise their children and help provide healing.
Give a gift in honor of your Mother to help mommas in Haiti and Ethiopia care for vulnerable children in their communities.
Johnny and Mekdes are part of our Ethiopian Team. They are passionate about empowering families through their ministry with LSM and with the valuable support of many volunteers from the local church. Together, we are empowering over 30 single mothers and their children in a local village with education, counseling, small business training and physical support. Johnny and Mekdes also have their own ministry- strengthening marriages and counseling families.
There’s a reason why this couple is so passionate about seeing families thrive.
Both Johnny and Mekdes grew up in an orphanage and didn’t receive the nurture and love they know is so vital for children to experience in a family. Johnny was five years old when he went to the orphanage. Mekdes was eight. After their fathers died, their mothers felt that they had no choice but to send them somewhere else with the hopes they could survive and maybe receive an education. The huge government orphanage they found themselves in was a necessary reality.
Growing up in an orphanage was better than many children received in the poverty – striken country, but it wasn’t perfect. This massive institution was home to 5,000 – 7,000 children at any given time. There was only one caregiver for every 50+ children. Not surprisingly, this led to many hardships for the children growing up without parental guidance or support.
They say, “Our passion for nurturing healthy families began with our own experience of growing up without ‘divine family love.’”
Mekdes talking to women in our family today
Mekdes shares about their life there, “The government orphanage gave us a lifestyle that was so much better than the rest of society, but we didn’t know that the people around us were in deep poverty.” Because of their opportunity to live in the orphanage, they received up to a high school education and were able to experience things that many in their home villages never could have.
However, after graduating high school, they had to leave the orphanage, totally unprepared. Except for brief summer trips to visit their mothers, both young adults had lived most of their lives within the walls of the orphanage and had little interaction with the outside world. They didn’t know what poverty and real-life experiences were like. It was a shocking reality when they walked out those doors. Around the same time, the ruling government that had been supportive of their orphanage was ousted. Now, they felt vulnerable without the powerful figure who they always thought would protect them and their country. Johnny said, “We felt like we were unwanted, resource-wasting and no-good children of the former regime.”
Johnny working with vulnerable children today
But there was hope! After leaving the orphanage and finding work near their biological families, they discovered a faith in Jesus that changed everything! Although Johnny was abandoned by his family after becoming a Christian, he still says it was the best decision he ever made.
“The Holy Spirit touched my heart and brought joy to my soul like I had never experienced before… I raised my heart and hands to Him and He welcomed me with open arms. I felt a very warm love for the first time, and my eyes poured out tears of joy. I had experienced a long journey of orphan life at an orphanage and now I had a chance to say, “’My Father!’ It is still very sweet to my heart!”
Later, Johnny and Mekdes reconnected after all those years in the orphanage and got married. They were passionate about serving the Lord together, and felt a call to serve families first.
Mekdes recounts, “Despite all the blessings we received in the orphanage, our souls missed the natural love of divine family love. Our caregivers are like “professional paid caregivers” but natural parents are like the “loving shepherd” who sacrifices their own life for their sheep. In light of this truth, the vision has grown in our hearts to keep and maintain natural and divine love. Today, we get to provide awareness, training, counseling and empowerment that can save marriages and families for generations to come.”
Johnny and Mekdes passing out Christmas supplies to vulnerable families in rural Ethiopia
We are so grateful for the passion and experiences that God allowed Johnny and Mekdes to live through that brought them where they are today. Like them, we can look at our life’s tragedies and let them define us for good or for ill. We are so grateful that this couple has chosen to rise above their past, and let it be their legacy for the Kingdom of God!
Learn more about LSM’s vision and FAMILY MODELthat gives every child we serve the love and stability of a family.
Our faith guides everything we do at LSM. It has fueled our hearts for the vulnerable and caused us to go deep with the children we serve to provide holistic healing and growth. We continue to provide new opportunities so each child can reach their full, God-given potential.
Last year, we introduced The Gospel Project to help teach our kids in Haiti more about sharing their faith and modeling the compassion of Jesus. Gospel kits are packaged in the States by volunteers and sent to Haiti where our families are able to reach out in their communities and share God’s love.
The love and support of many of you through LSM has allowed these children to find personal relationships with Jesus. Now, it’s something they are excited to share with others! The gospel kits allow them to build relationships and pray for their neighbors. As a result, individuals are learning about Jesus and giving their hearts to Him!
This month, as one family shared kits in their community, they were able to pray with a neighbor who accepted Christ!
What an extra blessing to see the ripple effects of our work with individual children! Imagine what God can do as this grows and 240 children who are passionate about Jesus are reaching out in their communities!
“Finally, the country has received some calm Monday, but we want to hear the final decisions of the heads of state of the country. The traffic was painful, then every 500 meters the protesters burned tires, totally preventing the way. Fear was everywhere. We rely a lot on the help of your prayers and hope that everything will be better in the coming days.” – Abdias, LSM Haitian Staff Member
Abdias’ words sum up much of the feelings from our Haitian staff. Over the last 12 days, mass rioting and road blocks across the country have left people with no choice but to stay indoors, unable to work, go to school or buy food. We thank God that today, things seem to be getting back to normal in Les Cayes.
Our staff is back to the office and markets are re-opening. Rioting continues in Port au Prince. Fuel is not able to be transported to Les Cayes, creating a shortage. The calm in Les Cayes is a temporary reprieve since the bigger problems in the country remain unsolved.
Becky Browning and her family have been in Haiti with LSM for the last several weeks and shared this, “While it is quiet in this house, it is not quiet outside. Roadblocks have been set up. Cars and tires are burning all over the country. Businesses, banks, gas stations and schools are closed. We’ve heard gun shots and yelling. Haiti is in crisis. The people are hurting and want answers from their government. We are praying for sustaining peace and a resolution for this country that is so dear to our hearts.”
WHAT HAVE THE RIOTS BEEN ABOUT?
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
As is often the case in societies where people feel unheard and have few options for reform, Haiti has a long history of manifestations, or protesting, like the kind we’ve seen recently. There are few other viable ways for Haitians to voice their frustration with the government.
Over the last couple of years, Haitians have been navigating cost of living increases by as much as 50%. This increase puts a strain on many already living in desperate poverty. It has a downstream effect on our Homes of Hope and ministry costs in country, as well as the personal lives of our Haitian staff and their families.
The recent riots over the last several days are protesting this and how the government is handling the situation, particularly President Moise who came to power after a failed electoral process and shaky election, is handling the situation. Read more here: Haiti On Edgefrom IPA Institute for Public Accuracy
Protests have been off and on since July but escalated to another level on February 7. You can read more about this from a post we shared in July 2018.
AN UPDATE ON OUR STAFF AND FAMILIES
Our Home of Hope families have been safe with plenty of supplies at their homes. Our staff returned to the office today, and it seems like things are calming down in Les Cayes. We are grateful that everyone has been well, although scared for the past several days.
HOW YOU CAN PRAY
Please keep praying for safety and peace for our Home of Hope families and staff.
Pray that the country can find resolutions to the rising food and cost of living expenses.
Pray for the many people suffering during these riots.
Pray that believers in Haiti would reach out with the love of Jesus to their neighbors and be beacons of hope in the darkness.
Visiting missionaries can be a huge blessing. Blare and Janel Gerber and their kids experienced this first-hand. Just before Christmas, they packed up their four children, and took off on an adventure to Africa to visit a missionary family working in a village in rural Ethiopia. On their way through the capital, the Gerbers asked if they could meet with some of LSM’s staff and families to see our work first hand.
This trip is one that their family will never forget. Beyond the sights and sounds of a new culture, there’s nothing like seeing how your dollars and prayers are being used for His glory. Meeting Tegen* was one of those moments.
Tegen welcomed the Gerber family into her little home. She served them strong Ethiopian coffee from her little black pottery cups. Next, she taught the children how to have a traditional coffee ceremony. Our staff translated each step. Tegen’s large sewing machine sat in the corner, taking up much of the home’s space. The Gerbers were thrilled to listen to her beautiful testimony, and see her thriving sewing business. Beri, her son, proudly displayed his school books. Our staff spoke how well he has been doing in school. A small home business and attending school may seem like mundane things, but for Tegen and Beri, it was an answer to prayer.
Janel said, “I think just seeing the way people live in hard life circumstances, but yet have so much joy and purpose really impacted all of us.”
This trip was foundational in the lives of Blare and Janel and their four children. God is moving around the world, and He calls us to action. Whether traveling to far off lands or praying from your kitchen table, you have a chance to take part in His kingdom work. We’re grateful the Gerber family got to see a small part of the lives touched with prayers, financial gifts and advocacy for LSM. The Gerbers can testify that Tegen and Beri now live with stability and hope because of your love and support. Thank you!
Firesa* sorts vegetables on a mat and lays them out in pretty patterns along the ground. It’s the weekend, and the sun is beaming along the street. Her sons have come with her today and sit nearby studying their books. She hands them both some fresh veggies for a snack and smiles. This simple act means so much.
A DIFFICULT PAST
When Firesa and her two sons came to LSM’s program two years ago, they were in a desperate place. After her husband died, she could not find reliable work to provide for her children. With no formal education of her own, Firesa felt as if she had no good skills to offer. At 11 and 7, her boys never had a consistent education. The family barely had enough food to survive – and every day was focused on doing whatever they could to find something to eat.
Through the loving support of LSM’s staff and local church volunteers, Firesa was able to attend small business development trainings where she received counseling and spiritual discipleship. Mentors helped her start her vegetable market business, which she continues to grow in new areas. LSM provided the funds to send her children to school for the first time. Our staff came alongside with financial support so they could eat and have proper clothing. These practical things displayed the love of Jesus, and showed Firesa that she was not alone.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Firesa and her boys have begun to thrive because of the loving care of the church and LSM staff. No longer hopeless, this widow can now care for her family with dignity. She knows her worth is in Jesus. Today, they have a small home that they call their own. The boys love their English and physics classes, as well as playing with their new friends at school. With enough food in their bellies, they have the energy they need to focus and learn. This family has been shown a great deal of love in Jesus’ name. And it’s changing everything!
Your support enables us to come together and provide life-changing education, support and basic necessities so families like this can thrive. Without you, none of this is possible. Thank you!
If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll consider joining us this Christmas to help more families like Firesa’s thrive in Haiti and Ethiopia. This Christmas season, every dollar given will be MULTIPLIED by our matching grant opportunities!
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” – Psalm 68.5-6
ORPHAN SUNDAY AT LSM
On Orphan Sunday, we opened our doors to the community and brought out all the holiday cheer for one clear purpose. We stood with believers all over the world to share God’s heart for the orphan. As people flooded in, they experienced vulnerable children’s stories of great pain that, for these few, has turned into incredible joy.
From tasting traditional foods of Doro Wat (Ethiopia) and Kremas (Haiti) to petting a live goat and chicks, we provided a small chance to step into the lives of these children around the world.
This hope is made possible because of people just like you who give from your blessings to help these children find love in a stable family. You make it possible for children to receive an education and healing from their trauma. You make it possible for them to go on to college and get good jobs. Ultimately, you make it possible for these children to change their cultures for Christ.
But this story goes far beyond one day a year. One of the best ways to connect with these precious children even more is through our Family Sponsorship program. As a Family Sponsor, you will be connected to an entire family in Haiti (or Ethiopia) where you have access to an Online Family Room (including regular stories, updates, pictures and information about their culture and daily life.)
Learn more about how you can invest in one of our Home of Hope families HERE.
GIFTS OF HOPE
If you’d like to help a child thrive by making a one-time gift, we have a variety of opportunities through our Gifts of Hope Christmas Catalog.
A poor, rural farming family had sunk deep into despair. The ground was tough and hard to plough. After hours of backbreaking work, there was little to show for it. Desperation had left them with nothing. Food was scarce. There was never enough to go around. A skinny, quiet little girl went unnoticed in the shadows.
Until one day, God led someone to the shadows… and they saw her.
This malnourished little girl who couldn’t even look you in the eye was brought into a loving Home of Hope family. Her name is Martine*. Her new parents gently showed her love and gave her the opportunity to flourish. A community of teachers, mentors and pastoral staff circled around her, and taught her what she could be.
In the last ten years, Martine’s story has taken her far beyond the shadows.
She’s a bubbly teenager who loves spending time with her sisters. She has dreams of building infrastructure and hospitals to help her community. Martine is learning about what it means to be a godly leader, and she’s intrigued. She knows the feeling of hopelessness and she knows what true hope is!
Martine and her sisters recently sang in front of church, “I Want to Bear Fruit.” It is a song that reflects on John 15. We think it’s a pretty good representation of how she is living today.
Jesus said he is the true vine, Christians are the branches.
It cuts off branches that are not fruitful
God help me progress, so I do not throw myself away
I want to grow fruit
Many Christians refuse to bear fruit
God patiently let me grow…. Let me say you never gave up, Oh God!
Let me participate
Someone looked in the shadows and saw Martine’s worth. The little girl who once went unnoticed in the dark is now living in the light of Jesus! This is just one story. Right now, there is another little girl who is fading into hopelessness. Her worth is so much more. Together, we can give her a voice. A future. A life lived on purpose for Christ. Will you join us in bringing this kind of hope to more vulnerable children?
Kathrine* is like many 16 year old girls you might know. She loves to bake cakes with her mom. She looks forward to summer camp with her friends and enjoys singing. She’s excelling in school and working hard to do well. Kathrine is full of life and talent, and we’re thrilled for the direction she’s going in life.
But it hasn’t always been this way. When Kathrine was a very small child, she realized quickly to get out of her father’s way when he arrived home drunk. She hid in the shadows to avoid another beating. Things got worse when her mother died unexpectedly. Her dad said he couldn’t afford to send her to school. Kathrine couldn’t help but think it was somehow her fault that so many things were bad in her life. Abuse, fear and hopeless days felt like they would never end.
But God saw her pain. Eventually, Kathrine’s dad was unable to care for her at all. She needed somewhere to go, and God provided an open door for her to come to an LSM Home of Hope that was opening! Kathrine joined her new family. Her loving parents protect her and treat her with great love. She’s catching up in school from her late start. It’s within this family that Kathrine is learning, growing and ultimately finding the safety and security she needs to thrive.
Kathrine’s biggest joy is being introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus! She talks about how He has been with her, even in those dark days before coming to her Home of Hope family. She finds a lot of peace singing and spending time with her church youth group. We give God the glory for this wonderful transformation!
Baking cakes with her mom might seem like a small thing – but it’s a beautiful picture of the healing, hope and love that she knows today. And we bet those cakes are pretty delicious!