Beth in Haiti

Please join me as we bring hope to a nation in need!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Beautiful Haiti

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me.  Saying goodbye before what I foresaw as my time is even harder.  Today, I am leaving Haiti and Mission of Hope and an amazingly positive, transforming, life-changing chapter of my journey is coming to a close.

My heart in signing back on with this amazing organization in September 2012 was to assimilate into a position that would eventually be able to transition into a role for new Haitian employees and I was prepared to be here until that was able to take place.  Excitingly for Mission of Hope and unfortunately for my desire to be with my Haiti family and these amazingly-powerful relationships that we have built along the way as long as possible, we have reached that phase sooner than many could have expected.

While I still cannot quite fathom being away from the 65 little ones who have grown to be not so little over the past three years, the Child Sponsorship team of guys that were able to persevere despite any and all crazy deadlines that were thrown their way and the entire staff who saw me through the most discouraging setbacks and the most incredible triumphs and because of that is more like family than anything else, I know that this time of change brings with it amazing potential for the growth of Mission of Hope and for myself.  I must know and trust through all of this that God works everything out for the good of those who love him.  In my deep sorrow for saying goodbye, this pain also signifies the end of an overwhelmingly-rewarding project and the accomplishment of many goals that if told to me three years ago, I never would have been able to fathom.  It brings with it the transformation of our sponsorship program, making it virtually entirely Haitian run in country and rewarding those who have seen it through since the beginning.  It also brings with it the completion of the framework for our transitional program for the young adults assimilating back into the Haitian community from the orphanage- a program that I have been praying about and planning for years now and cannot be more honored that I was entrusted with such a crucial task.

Too much love for a body of water to ever separate us.

Moving forward, I cannot say thank you enough to everyone who has stood by me in this trying and tremendous journey.  Living in Haiti has never been easy but it has never been regretted.  From those of you who prayed fearlessly, gave financially, offered a shoulder to cry on in times of need or literally danced with me at the end of a long week- I walk away feeling exponentially blessed for your support and for the relationships that have flourished through all of this.  At least for awhile, it will be feel impossible to be forced to wake up to the sound of an alarm clock rather than a chorus of children singing in the orphanage kitchen on the weekends. I will miss not having personal space and always prying dozens of tiny fingers out of my hair.  I will miss friends that can never be replaced because we share something that few can comprehend.  I will miss everything about Haiti.  I cannot wait to see God's plan for Mission of Hope throughout this period of change, for the kids, for our schools and even for me.  The unknown moving forward is frightening but brings with it so much potential.  I look forward to sharing that journey with all of you.

All of my love for the last time from Mission of Hope,


Last night in Haiti : incredible friends praying and tackling me through it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Anxiously Waiting...

As I sit here anxiously waiting for my family to arrive, literally minutes away from leaving for the airport, it is almost impossible for me to keep my cool.  I cannot believe how incredibly blessed I am that I have a family who loves me enough to leave the country, no questions asked, for the biggest holiday of the year just catch a short glimpse into my life here.  In just a few hours, my sister will get to sing and dance with the girls who I have talked about for years, my brother and dad will start up a basketball game with the boys and my mom will almost certainly shed some happy tears as she holds the little children who have stolen my heart and been  our main topic of conversation for so long now.

Sonese at Christmastime last year

These past few years of learning about and loving Haiti have been such a whirlwind and the best gift I could have ever asked for in a time when I was so uncertain about where my life was going.  It makes me smile to sit here and think about how my family will react to experiencing things that have just become an average part of my daily life: the tap taps (taxis) overflowing with people to the point where belongings and even live animals are piled on the roof, the crazy traffic and driving that will (I'm sure) cause my mom to become a nervous wreck, the heat that is even more stifling than Texas weather, the beautiful people and kind faces that stop to say hello no matter what they are doing and waking up to the sound of 65 children singing and praising God every morning.

Soudline getting ready for her first Christmas pictures

It almost does not seem real that I am on my way to pick up my family and show them this world.  I could not have asked for a better Christmas gift.  If my family is even half as excited as I am that they will be sharing time here with the kids and me, this will be the best Christmas ever!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Little Bit of Thanksgiving

At the beginning of this week, I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful.  It was surprisingly easy for me to focus on what I felt like I was missing back home: everyone beginning their long holiday weekends, posted pictures of delicious food of which I would not be able to partake and this year being the first Thanksgiving that my family would not be together.  I spent a majority of Monday and Tuesday dwelling on these thoughts and labeling them as missed opportunities.

That all came to a screeching halt on Wednesday afternoon when I was graciously smacked in the face with a little bit of perspective.  As I sat down to eat our ever-monotonous lunch choices of peanut butter and jelly or tuna salad, I overheard a friend of mine discussing the exact feelings that I had been struggling with internally.  Instead of continuing to focus on family back home and what we were missing, he turned to look out over the mountains, towards the water, and simply said, “We have so much to be thankful for here.”  Immediately, things snapped into focus as I thought, “Duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?!”  How selfish of me to live in a country where there is so much need, having all of my needs met, and still focusing on the things I can’t have.

In an attempt to counteract my extreme nearsightedness leading up to a holiday where we are supposed to focus on and be thankful for our many blessings, here are a list of things that I love about my life in Haiti and would never trade for any amount of turkey and stuffing: 
  • The opportunity to live in a country with so much potential and perseverance
  • 3,000 students who I work with in freshly-pressed uniforms that daily commit to attending school at Mission of Hope despite the fact that education in Haiti is not mandatory
  • A job right out of college that I LOVE
  • The feeling of safety at Mission of Hope
  • Two 15-pound turkeys that Publix donated to us for free so that we can have a little bit of home here in Haiti
  • An amazing kitchen staff that worked all day on Thursday just to attempt to make us a traditional, American Thanksgiving dinner- even if it did involve unidentifiable toast & beef entrĂ©es (Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Haiti)
  • Books that keep me inspired
  • Access to a car that lets me explore Port-au-Prince every Saturday with friends
  • A new internet tower with clear reception that allowed me to Skype into my family’s Thanksgiving dinner and almost feel like I’m homeThanksgiving day marking exactly one month until I greet my family at the Port-au-Prince airport for the first time
  • The Haitian people whose lives and faith constantly humble me
  • And 65 kids that think my name is “Cow” (Bef) and love me anyway.

Thankful for 2 of the newest editions to the Village of Hope: Rose Myrtha (Left) and Soudnell

Eating Thanksgiving dinner with my family via Skype

Especially thankful for 5 Kindergarten uniforms hanging on the line for our youngest Village of Hope kiddos now in school!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Today we begin to slowly make our way back to normal after a week of Hurricane Sandy-related mayhem two weeks ago and a long weekend this past Thursday and Friday surrounding a national holiday.  While the storm came and went and is mostly forgotten by those not life-threateningly affected here, the devastation still being reported in New York City has been ever-present in my thoughts and prayers lately as I have struggled with placing my emotions on what is happening back home and feeling so cut off from a city that has been so much a part of my life.  It’s almost a surreal experience now to be in exactly the opposite situation than that which I have grown accustomed to.  For the past two years, I have known that I was called to return to Haiti and have lived with that truth at the forefront of most of my decision-making processes.  Anyone who got to know me during those two years, regardless of our level of connection, could tell you at least one thing: I ALWAYS talked about Haiti.   I strived to stay connected in as many ways as possible with the people of Haiti and friends who travelled back and forth as I experienced the difficulty of being physically removed from a place you call home when there is news of devastation or change and you feel almost as if you are being left behind.  For two years I felt that way about Haiti while living in New York City.  Now I am finally here; living in Haiti after all of the time that I spent saying, “after I graduate, I’m moving back to Haiti.”  And now I am experiencing that being here evokes the same emotions about friends and family in my other “homes” just as being in New York revealed my passion and longing for Haiti.  It is an extremely powerful feeling to realize that so many places and people have touched your life in such a way that a piece of your heart will always remain there with them.    

So in this time, I am feeling that same “longing” and struggle with being removed from New York City as it fights to pick up its broken and flooded pieces and work together to return to a state of normalcy.   I was at a complete loss for how to feel as I spoke with friends and they assured me of their safety despite their loss of power and their emergency evacuations.  Trying to feel as a part of the happenings as possible, I was constantly searching for the latest updates from social networks, news sites and pictures.   I found myself moved by those who were discovering gratitude in the face of adversity for their daily blessings and struggled with my placing my emotions surrounding people claiming that New York City was the “new third world” or making jokes in bad taste about being forced to live like many of those who I live and work with on a daily basis.  I went through just about every emotion and battled with how to feel given the circumstances: helplessness due to my inability to help or see anything going on in New York firsthand; frustration with those who spoke so tastelessly in the face of their own discomfort; respect for those who faced adversity and reached out to help others despite their own discomfort; until I settled on one- thankfulness.

In an uncharacteristically packed Sunday church service this morning, one of our pastors mentioned New York City and the bond we share with its residents as we have all been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  He went on to ask that we keep New York in our prayers as they fight to rebuild their city and remain unified in the wake of a disaster.  Immediately, thankfulness swept over me.  I am so incredibly thankful to have had the privilege of living in New York City for two years and to meet some of the most amazingly unique and selfless people that I will ever know.  I am thankful that I continue to receive updates from people confirming their safety and continuing to actively seek out ways that they can help their city get back on its feet.  And most of all, I am thankful to live in Haiti.  I’m thankful that despite having so little and experiencing such unthinkable destruction of their own, the people of Haiti are faithful, selfless and gracious enough to think of others who struggle.  New York City, Haiti is praying for you.

View of New York City from downtown on the Hudson River

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Another Day in Child Sponsorships

These past three weeks in Child Sponsorships have been filled to the brim with first month of school necessities.  And while it is such a blessing to have 3,000 students enrolled in our three different campuses this year, this means the three of us on staff for Child Sponsorships here in Haiti have had to buckle down, enter each student into the new database one-by-one and get school year photos taken in time to send out a profile card to all sponsors by November!  As eventful as all of that has been, praise God that our last scheduled day of pictures was this past Friday at our newest campus in the mountains, Lascahobas, where almost 200 students are now enrolled. 

Our beautiful mountain campus at Lascahobas

Getting to this school that is tucked away up in the mountains was far more adventurous for our small team than the actual picture-taking process.  As we all piled into the very compact, very hot car that was assigned to us for the day, I’m sure few of us were actually prepared for the fact that it would take us almost three hours on windy, uphill, unpaved roads to find our way to Lascahobas.  (If the guys did know about our adrenaline-filled car ride, they were smart to keep it a secret from me.)  Finally arriving at the school’s gates (and kissing the ground out of sheer thankfulness for our survival), I immediately became anxious.  Where were all of the students?  Why was it so quiet?  Mission of Hope’s main campus is always bustling with students going to and from their classes, enjoying their breaks and socializing with friends.  Could it have been possible that this campus hadn’t even started school yet and that we took that insane car ride for nothing?  Walking around to the main school building, I was shocked.  Not only were the students all in attendance, but they were all completely silent, sitting at their desks and learning.  Even the tiniest toddlers were perched in their miniature chairs, listening intently to the words of their teachers.  It was almost an out-of-body experience for all of us as we lined the students up for their pictures and they continued to stand completely still and obedient. 

Despite the fact that our time spent in the car that day far outweighed our actual time on the ground, it was such an inspirational experience for me to have the privilege of spending time with the children at our mountain campus.  While the students at our other two campuses are equally as amazing in their own right, being able to see the vast influence that Mission of Hope has in Haiti to the point where we are reaching all the way out into small, untouched, oftentimes forgotten villages in the mountains is incredible.  My heart was also being worked on during this trip as I had recently been having a hard time understanding why our schools are subject to such high rates of student absences.   I already understood and was trying to accept the fact that school is not mandatory in Haiti and that can potentially lead to a lack of motivation; but if your schooling was already being paid for, why wouldn’t you attend?  Traveling up those windy roads into the mountains opened my eyes to just how difficult it is for a majority of our students to even make it to school at all.  I watched hundreds of students trek up the rocky terrain to their various schools as we made our ascent, oftentimes having to walk along curves that are blind to oncoming cars with their younger siblings in hand.  Even many students at our main campus travel from far up in the mountains just for an opportunity to be the first in their family to receive an education.   Driving back home last Friday and fighting to stay awake from the exhaustion that came with heightened emotions from our trip, I prayed that the understanding and sympathy to the various situations of others would stay with me during the entirety of my time with Child Sponsorships, even on those days when I am frustrated that our attendance is low during a tropical storm or those many times when a student can’t find a way to make it to school on the one day that their sponsor has come to visit them from the United States.  Watching those children climb up the side of the mountain and already take such pride and ownership of their education made me even more thankful for mine: for the air conditioned classrooms where I sat and worked, for the abundance of supplies that just seemed to regenerate in the various classes throughout the school and especially for the school bus that got me there.

The students of School of Hope: Lascahobas

Monday, October 1, 2012

Change For A Nation: One Student At A Time

Thousands of students at Mission of Hope's main campus lined up for the first day of the school year.

It’s pretty safe to say that I wouldn’t believe half of these transformations if I didn’t see them with my own eyes.  How could it be that the girl whose legs were comparable to Jell-O when she was abandoned by her father, the twins who could fit in the palm of your hand and the little boy who didn’t even have the strength to lift his own head experience such drastic recoveries that just two years later, they would be running down the dusty mountain to participate in their first day of school?  Anjelie, Hannah, Jeremiah and Matthew are just four of the students at the School of Hope: four whose stories I happen to know.   The fact that there is a record-breaking 3,000 other students who found their way to school today from all over the country to participate in their first day at one of Mission of Hope’s three campuses is miraculous in its own right.  Three thousand students whose names I may not know or faces I may not recognize, but students who all have a unique story. 
Anjelie (left) in April of 2010 with sores covering her body and legs that were not functioning and (right) today, October of 2012, on her first day of school.

With uniforms sewn and backpacks packed, students lined up this morning at 7am, ready to go.  To see the direct impact of Child Sponsorships being laid out right before my eyes in this magnitude is something that I will never forget.  All of these children together in one place, while powerful in its own right, represent much more than the schools of Mission of Hope and the students themselves: they represent the future of the nation, the possibilities for their families and the thousands of individuals and groups in North America who have committed to sponsor them throughout their education.  Mission of Hope’s goal to reach every man, woman and child in Haiti is being realized one student at a time today as they sit down in their classrooms and open their books for the 2012-2013 school year.   It is such an honor for me to be able to continually share the transformations and life change in Haiti with all of you and I look forward to more moments like today that can be explained no other way but miraculous.  Please continue to pray as we begin taking our school pictures next week with, for the first time ever, a Haitian photography staff.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Young Hope

Young Hope members L to R: Jeanson, Elisson, Lumaine, Mansado, Galaxson & Wilson

 Seeing the Village of Hope kids every day, you sometimes start to forget or take for granted how amazingly talented they are.  Ok that’s not true, they are stinkin’ amazing and continuously blow my mind with their love for God, their love for each other and their realization and utilization of their God-given abilities.  Over the past few months, six of our Village of Hope young men and women have come together in an inspiring way.  Realizing that they all had a unique talent with their voices, they almost completely independently created their singing and rap group named Young Hope in which they write their own songs, practice harmonies and sing about trusting God in every situation and bringing change to the nation of Haiti.  This past Sunday, Young Hope had a chance to perform at a concert for the first time outside of the walls of Mission of Hope at a church in Port-au-Prince called Eglise Sur Le Rocher (Church on the Rock).

Bernadine dressed and ready for the bus ride to Port-au-Prince!

It was an incredible experience to watch Jeanson, Elisson, Mansado, Wilson, Galaxson and Lumaine (the members of Young Hope) as they practiced daily for their show, coordinated their outfits and fought through a plethora of preshow emotions together.  Not only is it amazing that these kids have overcome all of the past obstacles that a young child should never have to deal with, but the fact that they have showed perseverance and resiliency in the face of adversity throughout everything is inspirational.   As we all loaded onto the bus with every Village of Hope child and employee, it was made extremely clear to us by Young Hope that we were not allowed to leave for the concert without praying first.   After praying together as a family on the bus, we made our way to Port-au-Prince, everyone singing and jumping up and down with excitement as we went.   Young Hope’s preparation and calm before the show was almost surreal- especially as many of us seemed to be feeling all of the anticipation and nerves for them!  The six of them huddled together as a group before their act went on; they prayed, shared some words and then united with a group chant.  Shortly after, they confidently walked on stage, proceeded to rile the crowd and then blew everyone away, finishing their three-song set with lyrics about praising God even when we are hungry, tired and hopeless.  Even though the concert ran late, it was raining and everyone was tired, nothing could have stopped the excitement of the Village of Hope children as they continued to cheer for Young Hope and sing all the way back home.

Young Hope coming together for their pre-show pep talk.

Not only was Young Hope’s concert a unique and life-changing opportunity for them, but what an incredible initiation for me personally!  At a time when I have felt led to move here and work with these children to help prepare them as much as possible for their eventual transition into the community, what better way to see the amazing ways they are actively planning for their futures and already using their talents than to watch six of them working together and already bringing hope to people outside of the walls of Mission of Hope?  As our program continues to develop in its beginning stages, I cannot wait or even begin to imagine all of the incredible talents I will begin to see in these kids and will have the honor of helping them figure out where they can use their talents in the future.  There are endless possibilities for these young men and women and I am thrilled to be able to watch their journey from the front line.