This Little Light of Mine

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A little more from our visit in July/August

As I sat on the plane staring at the blinking cursor, I found it hard to know how to start this blog entry. Most of you who have followed Melissa’s story know what has happened in the last several days. Let me go back just a little to our last visit to catch up though.


We had a good visit punctuated by the ever present and ever changing medical crisis. This trip it was a 10 day old infant from the Jimani area Bateys who was having frequent seizure activity. Jack, as a result, got lots of quality time with Melissa which I am very grateful for. We spent every possible moment with her enjoying the mundane activities of childcare. (Boy that girl can do a Code Brown!) We enjoyed feeding her in her new pink highchair we’d brought, reading to her, practicing sitting her up and bathing. Well… that one she didn’t enjoy much.

We did get to meet with one of the lawyers and Wilna who is our adoption advocate (and Melissa’s day-to-day mom).

It felt good to hand over the dossier in its completion and have that done. The lawyer seemed pleased with its appearance and was going to submit it to the IBESR which is the Haitian equivalent of social services.

We were blessed to get to finally meet face-to-face the Bonacquisti family who have been spending their summer in Haiti as a family with their beautiful adoptive daughter Isemelda. They coordinate a malnutrition clinic in a village and have done remarkable changes in the lives of the children there. Truly a life saving mission. Check them out at http://fearlesswarriorsforhaiti.blogspot.com/.  The visit was brief but filled with the love and connections that only God can weave together. Jeremy gifted us with some beautiful pictures of Jack, Melissa and myself. I never dreamed how special these photos would become as I really wasn’t in the mood to do pics at the time. Judge for yourself.




I thought you would agree!

The next morning would be a crazily orchestrated symphony of travel to the courthouse for Jack to sign “the book” declaring our intent to adopt Melissa. A wonderful Chadasha driver/translator/go-to-guy was to drive us to Wilna’s house to pick her up to go to the courthouse. We needed to be at the airport no later than 10:30 to catch our plane home. Hoastie arrived to take us at 8:30am. We inched, literally inched our way in traffic toward Wilna’s house only to get lost. By the time we finally met up with Wilna it was already 9:30a and I’ll admit I doubted we were going to make it. Wilna decides to drive to save time and after 15min of driving worthy of the Dukes of Hazzard when were parked across the street from the courthouse. Jack got his Port-au-Prince tour in 15 minutes. Though I’m not sure how much he saw while praying for God to spare his life. And Melissa, sound asleep!



Jack and Wilna went in and did the business at hand and then we comfortably made the airport in time. Parting Melissa was rough on Jack as it has always been for me. We kissed her with promises of seeing her again soon to bring her home and never leave her again.




We just didn’t know what those words would mean…



“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Thursday, August 11, 2011

She had him at "goo"...

After a tumultous trip down to Port-au-Prince, we arrived with much less luggage.  We were late getting out of baggage claim.  I was waiting to file a lost baggage claim and had left Jack sitting by the conveyor belt with the pieces of luggage that had arrived.  As the room emptied, Jack was greeted by Wilbur who was sent in to help us.  Jack was quite surprised to be sitting in the PaP baggage claim and have someone come up to him and ask if he was "Jack".  He said his initial response was, "Why?  Does it show?"

We rolled through an empty customs area and met "the gang" at the truck.  And within a second of reaching the car, Jack had fallen for another woman. ;)  Forgive the choppiness at the end as I was trying to record, tip the gentlemen helping and greeting everyone.  It was a crazy couple minutes compounded with the start of a rain shower.

video

We weaved through the streets of PaP with Melissa snuggled in Jack's arms.  Even Jack noticed that he must be distracted to not be worrying about the lack of seatbelt restraint or car seat.

We arrived at the guesthouse and tried to unpack 2 of the bags that had made it.  It was a special and surreal moment that Jack and I both felt overwhelmed by our emotions of it all.

I will admit at this point that with each visit I struggle with the "getting to know you" period with Melissa.  I understand she has no reason to remember me given the 2-3 month gaps between visits.  She has a book with my voice, pictures and such but I'm still a stranger.  As time passes, she recognizes me but I long for the day when her little face lights up with dimples a-glow when she sees me.  Someday little one...someday...

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Eve of the "Big Visit"

Once again I sit her and blog when my butt should be in bed.  As I prepared to try to sleep in the cozy bed here at the Holiday Inn I realized I needed to update things.

We FINALLY, after another round of unsuccessful attempts with the Miami Consulate, learned why they couldn't help us.  Jack's birth certificate is from New Jersey.
Why is that important?
Well for 2 weeks I had no idea.  As it turns out because it was a NJ document, it had to go to the Consulate of Haiti in New York. 

ARGH! *sigh*

So, we send it off to NY and our last piece to Miami.  I then get a call from the NY consulate that they couldn't legalize it either because they needed this stamp and that stamp on it.  WHAT?

This would've been a week ago Thursday and I'll admit I was bawling uncontrollably.  Of course, this call comes as I am to start seeing my patients for the morning.  A long trip to the bathroom and God sized prayers on my knees in the bathroom and I began pleading the consulates for help.
(And for those wondering, YES I did wash my hands! ;) )

Well, God was gracious and merciful on my weary heart.  A sweet assistant of the main consule listened and took time to understand my confusion.  She called back and the letter was sent.

Now, in the mean time, we had sent our last document to the Miami consulate with an easy week to spare.  They had sent back our 17 documents in 5 days so I really wasn't worried. 

To make this short, we are headed down in a few hours without that document.  No idea where it is, but it will have to be sent down after we get back.

The last 8 months of my life for this stack of stamped and re-stamped documents
Along with THREE copies makes for some heavy carryon luggage even for me.

We did finally complete our I-600A form which is the application to the US immigration department where they will say we are approved to adopt in the US's eyes.  (I know this story sounds unreal).  That whole process was wrought with delays unclear, claims of unpaid fees though I had receipts from them in hand, and general hassling.  We received our appointment for fingerprinting (again) and I chuckled.

It was the day before we were looking to fly down and take our dossier to Haiti and it was in Birmingham.  Ah...perfect timing. 

Immigration office in Birmingham
(No phones, cameras, etc will allowed in.)


So, today Jack and I without our kiddos trekked down to Birmingham.  Fingerprints were done painlessly.  We spent the afternoon in a low key manner walking the mall and eating.  We are both in a weird place mentally.  This is Jack's first trip to Hait and he'll be the first to admit that going has been full of uncertainty.  For me, I too am full again of anxiety and uncertainty. 

I'll admit now to you all that there are days that I have wondered where I lost my focus in all of this. 

The focus should actually not be Melissa.

It's true.

I love this little girl with all of my heart, but my focus has been being obedient to what I felt  feel is His call for us and Melissa.  But, the struggles and emotional roller coaster of it all has worn me down.  I am weary of the fight tonight as I lie my head on my pillow.  What if this isn't the plan HE wanted for us after all?
What if...
what if...
what if...

For those willing to help us, pray! Pray for strength and discernment.  Pray for peace of heart and mind.  Pray that we will be still and hear His plan for both Jack and I. 
My hope tonight is that if it is the Lord's will He will gift Jack with either a passion for this country as I have or at least an understanding of my heart.


But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yay....Ahhhhhhh....

YAY!!!   Packet of documents back from the Consulate of Haiti in Miami!

Ahhhhh....They refused to "legalize" (yet another stamp in a long list of stamps we need for each piece of paper proving we are okay to adopt Melissa) Jack's birth certificate.  The only explanation we got was a yellow post it note stuck to it:



Um.  Okay.  I double checked the birth certificate and it matched  everything, seal present, watermark present. 

So, I guess I'll resend it with the other document redo due to notary expiration being in September.

With all due respect....

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come in and say "You've been punked!" 

They can stamp a post it but not a watermarked embossed birth certificate.  Grrrr.....

So, we will lose another 1-2 weeks getting this "fixed".  Prayerfully though that will be quickly followed with a trip down to take the documents. 

Now is where I will make a confession.

If I was Catholic I'm sure some rosary beads and "Hail Mary"s would be involved...
there are recurring moments that I become convinced this ain't never going to happen.  What happened to faith in God to move mountains?  It wavers and cowers in the darkness of the despair of uncertainty.  I hate that I feel this but trust in the grace of God's mercies. 

Now, I'm not a total flake...well...at least I'd like to think I'm not.  Those who know me know I've traveled a challenging road or two including changing from a career with NASA in Aerospace Engineering to becoming a doctor at a more "mature" age compared to my collegues as I followed God's call for my life.  I've juggled breastfeeding an infant child while an intern.  Generally speaking I don't shy away from a challenge.

This walk of faith in the adoption of Melissa has been more emotionally and spiritually challenging to me than ANYTHING I have EVER done.  I'm thankful for the person it is changing me into but to borrow something a patient shared about her own struggles, "each inch of my spiritual growth is covered in bruises".  Every day without her I struggle as I know that these days are potentially her most healthiest times as her heart will continue to weaken as she grows.  I must have FAITH...Faith...

faith...

faith...
You can relax now...

~End of pity party #321~

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting closer...

Well, I wanted to post a short note about our progress so far.  We have made some progress.  The majority of the documents are sitting at the Haitian Consulate in Miami hopefully about to be express mailed back to us this week with all the stamps and legalization they need. For those who don't know the process, and let's be serious here NO ONE does, all documents, letters and such are notarized, county certified and state authenticated.  Then, when that is done, it is sent for translation.

But no...you aren't done yet.  Tell the lucky contestants what they win Johnny...

You win another round of stamps and fees at the Haitian Consulate.
Woo hoo!  I know you are jealous.

We had a panic moment when we got to translation. The most popular translator was "booked" until mid July. This led to yet another "oh crap" moment, panic and then faithfulness in the Lord. We were led to another tranlator who cost us a little more than the first but she was so compassionate to our case. She had adopted from Haiti herself several years ago. Isabelle completed our stuff in 3 days which was incredible. I'm so thankful.


We finally also received a letter of medical need as well to include in the Dossier.  So, if all goes well, I will be headed down to Port-au-Prince in the next 2 wks to take it all and prayerfully meet with the lawyer. 


Work is going to be a challenge to reschedule on short notice but I am faithful that the Lord will somehow work out that detail.  With the months of work to get this far, you'd think that we were close.  Wished that was the case but we now have to circumnavigate the Haitian side next.

There has been a lot of stress with the uncertainty of certain changes being proposed for the adoption system in Haiti.  I suspect in time they may be good changes, but if they are implemented before our case is established in the Haitian courts, there is a chance we'd have to start over. 

*Shudder*

At some point, I do want to post some about the last trip down with the team.  It was a God led group and was a real blessing.  My time with Melissa was precious.  It really clicked this time.  She and I bonded deeper than we had to date.  It was good but made things even more emotional and harder for me.  There was so much I wanted for her and so little I could do.  I am completely dependent on others for her daily care.  So, without going into details of my crazy mind, it was hard...very hard.

While we were there, Melissa developed some diarrhea which made for some creative "Code Brown" moments as we jaunted about Port-au-Prince.  At one point, I found myself in a hallway of clinic waiting for her ECHO and the ECHO of 2 other children as she proceeded to pollute fill her diaper.  Noting an empty small table, we pitted there and made a quick change of the situation.  It must have been quite a show for the 10 or so Haitians waiting in the hallway to see the doctor. 


It was a good week over all to learn about this sweet child who the Lord has blessed us with.  Little things like how she enjoys having her feet rubbed.  She just melts when you rub those tiny feet.  Her amazing interest in her surroundings.  How she still sleeps a lot likely due to her heart issues.  It is so hard to get so close only to have to leave ... AGAIN ...

I won't delve into the pain of leaving her this trip and the subsequent melt down and "beheading" of a Chadasha board member who was anxious for us to leave for the airport that last day.  I'll share that for another post and apology. 

What I will boldly ask for this post is PRAYER!
More PRAYER!
More PRAYER!
Unceasing, pleading PRAYER!

We are still so close and yet so far away.  Please pray for the rapid return of documents from the consulate.  Pray for the means to carry the Dossier down this month.  Pray for the focus and spirit to move our Haitian advocates to process our stuff in a timely and organzied fashion.  Pray for Melissa's health to continue to remain stable.  Pray for peace in my spirit to know she is wrapped in the love of our Father who loves her even more than I do.

To keep the post on a happy note, here is a video clip from one night while we were decompressing from the day.  Miss 'Lissa cracks me up...

video

Friday, June 17, 2011

Walk of Faith


This blog update is beyond late.  I know that and I can only apologize.  I've posted over and over in my mind and yet nothing has made it to this page.  Things has been beyond challenging getting the paperwork together for the "dossier" to go down for Melissa's adoption.  The dossier is basically the collection of required documents, letter, rectal probes and evaluations for the application to adopt a child.  What I have learned is that there is very little information out there to guide someone in a private adoption in Haiti not going through an adoption agency.  The Lord did bless me with some very kind and PATIENT women who have shared what they have known and learned going through the process a few steps ahead of us.  Thank you Melissa Hogue, Kari Smith, and Elizabeth Bullen.  You guys are my "adoption sisters".

What I did not appreciate fully or at all was how different it is state to state.  Apparently, in my great state of Alabama, by the time you complete all the state level requirements for an international adoption you can also apply for sainthood I am convinced. 

For example, the "homestudy".  For some this may involve a meeting with the social worker and a visit to your home.  Ours involved 4 meetings including detailed autobiographies, 2 hr interviews with each of us by the social worker, criminal history investigations by the FBI and ABI (Alabama Bureau of Investigation), child abuse history clearance and our home visit.  Oh wait, don't forget the 4 hours of interviews by a psychologist.  Alrighty then...you would think that any child abuse charges we may have had would show up in the FBI & ABI checks but no...must check that separate as well. 

I have joked that our rectal probes are scheduled for next week.  I'm just waiting to hear that is no joke.

We jumped into our homestudy with gusto.  By the second week of March, fingerprints were submitted for our criminal history investigation.  In about 2 weeks, we got Jack's clearance letter.  Yay!

Then we waited...

and waited...

and waited...

No one I called could tell me where in process my fingerprints sat.  After SIX WEEKS, finally someone was able to tell me that neither of the first 2 sets of fingerprints had ever left the FBI and a new set of prints were going to be needed.
WHAT?!?!?!?!
Six weeks to tell me that?  Grrrr............
So within 24hrs of that phone call, I had a 3rd and 4th sets of fingerprints overnight to the processing company.  3 days later they confirmed the receipt (again grrrrr...) and I was told they still didn't look like they'd be useable but they'd "try".

Hello?!?!  I repeatedly explained that there was a child's life pending this, but it would seem that nothing stirs these people.  Each day I just prayed that we would continue to get good reports regarding Melissa's stability and each day the Lord did provide.

Another 3 weeks passes and FINALLY success.  I received the letter.
It is official.
I am not nor have I ever been a criminal.
Good to know.  Also good to know that apparently if I decided to become a criminal my prints would not be traceable. ;)

So, all things completed and home study gets done.  Yippee!!!

Let me interject at this point that the home visit was quite stressful.  Imagine preparing for someone to come into your home to determine you and your family's suitability to adopt a child.  In the course of that week, there was a moment when the girls' bickering led me to think the social worker may decide to take a few of our kiddos instead of bestow one to us.  My husband was tickled with the brief few days of having an immaculate home until the kids returned it to our normal state of chaos.

So, the last week of April I was blessed to head back to my other home and see my baby girl.  It was wonderful and I traveled with a beautifully knitted team to serve for a week in whatever capacities were deemed important. 

I'll share the trip with you in the next blog but if you are interested, check out some of the team's blogs and thoughts:
http://steppingoutsidemybox.blogspot.com/

http://mylifeinsingleexposures.blogspot.com/2011/04/melissa-fix.html#comments

For those waiting for a glimpse of our growing baby girl, here it is:
Yes.  She is holding her own bottle.  Well, that is when she's made to.  She's been beautifully spoiled!

Stay tuned...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Melissa!

 HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY MELISSA HOPE!
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you.”  Jeremiah 1:5



So we had all the makings for a special celebration of Melissa's 1st birthday.  Pink table covering, banner, balloons, crepe paper, presents, cake and family.   Melissa's WHOLE family (except for Momma Kristina who we missed very much).  For such a tiny creature, the Lord has used to her to bring together a broad menagerie of people who love her as their own.  Even Melissa's own mother who carried her through the loss of everything worldly she knew last year in the earthquake was able to travel many miles on foot to join the celebration.
We visited and got a good chance to take in the joy of the occasion.  There was no feeling of tension or discomfort in the room - only the pure joy of life that comes from the grace of God.  Melissa's birth Mom was very quiet but smiled often with a genuine smile of happiness.

With Wilna interpreting, Chrismon (purely phonetic on her name but I believe that is what she said) and I got to talk a lot.  Names have always been important to me which is why keeping her name Melissa in the adoption was never under question.  I asked Mom how she got her name.  "Melissa" was the name of a close friend or Godmother of sorts.  Melissa had no given middle name.  I asked Mom if she would be okay with us giving her the full name of "Melissa Hope Chapman".  She answered in Kreyol and Wilna began laughing.  I inquired as to what she had said and apparently Mom was asking for Dad's name (Myrtil) to be taken off Melissa as quickly as we could. 

We looked at the photo album I had brought with pictures of each of her blanc (white) family members and recorded voices that played with the pictures.  The smiles said it all.  Mom repeatedly would say that she was not Melissa's Mom and that I was.  My response was clear and without hesitation.

NO!  WE are BOTH her mothers.

The Lord wove this story with each person as a very important link in Melissa's life and His story.  We would not have Melissa if SHE had not been courageous enough to carry her during pregnancy and all the trauma of the earthquake, cared for Melissa to her fullest abilities and then in a last sacrifical offering left her to receive the care and love the Lord was preparing for her.  Her role as Melissa's mother should and will be a part of Melissa's story.  The Lord has filled my heart and my husband's heart with an incredible peace regarding Chrismon's presence in Melissa's life.  There is no fear or question.  Just peace.  This is God's will and we feel it. 

I was able to ask about the pregnancy and the day she left Melissa too.  It was always clear to me that Melissa had been loved and cared for as best as could have been.  When we had her that fateful day in September she had no rashes, no evidence of neglect, just malnourished and needing food which is the daily battle of many Haitian children.  Chrismon explained that her mother (Melissa's maternal grandmother) had been killed in the earthquake.  Melissa's biological father threw them and what little she had out of their "home" not long after Melissa was born.  She tried to provide for Melissa but just wasn't able to feed and protect her.  She describes standing in the rain holding her infant daughter the night before she left her and knowing that if she didn't do something drastic she would die in her arms.  So, she found the safest place she knew which was the clinic she had visited with her previously and that is where she left her.  Her mom describes the anguish of that night and how she couldn't breathe.  I can only begin to imagine how completely and utterly heart wrenching that was.  Could any of us sacrifice this way to give up our only child to ensure a better life? 

We only live by a similar sacrifice the Lord made when He gave His only son to ensure our lives.

Chrismon did go on to say that she has been completely overwhelmed with the acceptance and love she has felt since her return.  She truly had been convinced that she would be punished and shunned for her actions.  This was a precious moment for us.  This was the first opportunity that I had snatched up to share the word of God's grace.  We spoke of how it isn't our grace to her, but GOD's unending grace he gives to us all.  We all need it.  We all survive through it.  We all MUST SHARE it. 

Did you hear me???

We ALL must share God's grace!

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  1 Corinthians 15:10
Another important healing moment was getting to reassure her Mom that nothing she did caused Melissa's health issues.  As a physician, I have frequently listened to mothers who lament in concerns of "what did they do wrong".  A look of relief washed over her face as I explained that nothing she did, the earthquake or her Mom's death had contributed.  It was another healing moment of grace. 

Hmmm...maybe her name should be Melissa Grace?  ;)

So, back to the party.  We sang, ate cake and breathed in the beauty of the moment.  The Lord was with us in that room at the guesthouse and all was right in the world.  If even for that precious moment.

Birthday hat #1.  First enjoyed by my oldest 10 years ago.
(No hoarder comments please!)



Trying out the cake.  She wasn't so sure but liked the icing.  Remember she has no teeth.


Birthday hat #2
How can you resist that toothless grin?

Enjoying her Christmas present from her Aunt Amy while wearing her cross from her JeeJee.

video


And remember, enjoy every moment the Lord gifts us with!

Friday, February 25, 2011

One tiny bundle of blessed joy!  Melissa!  She was so beautiful and had definitely filled out from the skin and bones she had been.  You judge for yourself.

1st Day with Melissa
5 months later
 But, she is definitely still very small for her age.  She has developed as well being able to now do 4 month old and some 6 month old gross motor skills.  She can rollover but usually tires easily from that.  She also sleeps A LOT.  Likely from the extra work her body has to do with her heart. 

It was beautiful to see her bond with Wilna and Stanley who take care of her now.  I'm realistic enough to realize that she wouldn't know me when I came this time.  But, I came armed with a talking photo album with messages from her blanc (white) family and pictures.  It is good to know that she is bonding and feeling loved when we can't be here.  Thank you Wilna and Stanley.

We spent the first night re-learning each other and again, my heart was full.

The next day was full of hurry up and wait and bouncing around Port au Prince.  I traveled with Michelle to take a child who is a candidate for heart surgery to get an echocardiogram.  This beautiful little girl was named Kathleen.  She was 2 years old.  As I checked her in the truck, her oxygen level registered 68%.   This would explain the blue lips and clubbed fingers for sure.  After much searching and pleading, we found a physician who would do the echo but he couldn't see her for another 2-3 hrs.  We headed back to Petitionville and 2 Domino's pizzas later we went back and got this little one's echo. 




She was found to have a large ventricular septal defect which blessedly is very repairable.  Through the new program with Chadasha Foundation and Internation Childrens' Heart Foundation, the Lord will provide for her medical healing.  What a blessing.

It was Melissa's 1st birthday so we rushed back to Petitionville (ha ha, I said rushed through Haiti traffic) and picked up the gorgeous cake for her.  We were ready to head back to the guest house and PARTY.  Melissa's birth Mom was waiting for us when we returned for the party and the blessings would not only be for Melissa, but for us all....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Joy comes in the morning...

My apologies to those few out there who have been following Melissa's story.  This entry is long overdue.  Last week I traveled back to my second home in Port au Prince.  The trip was primarily planned to spend Melissa's first birthday with her.  How could I possibly miss this special milestone.  Secondarily, it was to meet some contacts and plan for a team that I was pulling together to come late April. 

Some of my Facebook friends were privy to the concerns that I had developed in the days leading up to the trip.  Usually my emotions are full of excitement and anticipation but not this time.  I wasn't sure if it was unknowns about the future of things with Melissa's mother showing up or the future of my role in ministries in Haiti.  All I was sure was that this trip was not feeling "right."  So what I always do when I feel like this is pray...pray...pray.  I prayed the Lord would take this trip and use it for HIS plan and glory.  I gave Greg a short list of things I'd like to do when I came and I readied for the trip. 

On the flight, I had some concentrated time to read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.



 It was exactly the word I needed to hear.  By the time I got off the plane in Port au Prince I was recharged and ready for God's plan.  It really focused me to surrender to God's love and plan for me in ALL things.  It occured to me as I finished this book, why so many fall in love with Haiti and discipling here.

In Haiti, you see and touch the face of God.  No lie!  It is here.  Tangible and real.  Nothing in the way to block your front row view.  Who wouldn't want more and more of that?  Crazy love is real and undistracted here. 

I must say at this point, I've really gotten a system to traveling into to Haiti alone.  Never thought a year ago the Lord would develop in me an ability to travel on my own to a third world country.  I'm the greatest "Chicken Little" that there ever was.  I truly think that the Lord will give us what we need when we are following his way.  So, without hesitation, I darted through immigration and customs and headed to the pickup area.  Greg greeted me and we waited for a team arriving that would be staying overnight at the guesthouse on their way to Les Cayes.  I was so excited when Greg showed me what he had for me.  My OWN Haitian phone!! Woo hoo!  Now, I felt like I was a more permanent part of this mission.  Don't laugh.  It really was big for me to have some sense of a long term place here when my heart calls me her time and again.  My passion continues to grow for my mission family in the Chadasha Foundation.  The group I represent Project Sharewood is a sister to Chadasha Foundation in many ways.  This group of God's faithful servants has blessed me so to welcome me into service with them.  Check them out at: http://www.chadasha.org/.  I'll speak more to some of their visions as this story progresses.  The Lord has called me to walk along side these incredible people.

On our way to the guesthouse, I had to laugh at myself as the Lord once again taught me to never say never.  While in Charlotte I believe, I watched an employee sweeping up litter outside on the tarmac/concourse.  He really was having to search for anything to sweep given the pristine look of the area.  I thought to myself, "you'd never see that in Haiti." 

<>

So as we were leaving the airport grounds, there in the turnabout, were 2 women sweeping up trash in the gutter.  WHAT?  They were a part of the work for food program that is becoming more popular in PaP.  I just had to laugh and remind myself that God IS at work here.  When I got to the guesthouse, it was like coming home.  Hugs and gifts were shared with my Haitian family and my heart was full.  Then, finally, Wilna (wonderful woman caring for Melissa) and Melissa arrived.  Heart skipped a beat. 

Sweet, sweet baby finally back in my arms...God is so good!


To be continued tomorrow...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Potholes (continued)

If you didn't read the last post, please do.  As I was steering 7 10yr old little girls through the breakfast line at the hotel this morning, I received 2 pictures of Melissa and her Mom.  The love in her mother's eyes was unmistakable.


You all know all I know at this point.  I haven't heard how it went or what was said.  It stinks sometimes to be so physically far away from where I feel I need to be. 

So what was my first reaction to the pictures?  A sad joy, if that is possible.  Also the silly observation that she looks like her Mom.  There was an emotion of commitment to this child and her family.  God brought this Mom back to us for a reason.  I will pray for the direction He is asking of us and we will follow His will.  Bondye Bon Tout Tan! (God is good ALL the time!)

Thank you all for your sweet words of encouragement.  They all keep me going I assure you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Caution: Potholes Ahead

I haven't blogged in awhile for the simple reason that not much has evolved.  The steps for the adoption have been slower than usual and slower than necessary in truthfulness.  The letters, documents and such require many hours of work during "day hours" and frankly our schedules are confined by full time jobs.  So we are figuring this out but not in the timely manner we'd hoped for.  We were very fortunate to have a friend from medical school who is currently a pediatrician at Harvard offer to inquire with his colleagues about Melissa's medical care.  If they come through and offer help, we may be able to pursue Humanitarian Parole for her more expeditiously.  So that is the extent to which we have progress.  Little to none but we continue our efforts.

As many of you know, I leave in a few short days to go down alone for a brief visit to celebrate Melissa's first birthday.  The weeks of planning this trip have been exciting and full of anticipation.  But, for reasons unclear to me, the last few days have been filled with an emotion of doubt and uncertainty.  I have prayed again and again that the Lord would use this time for His will and purpose.  That will continue to be my prayer.

The "pothole" in everything came today.  I got a call from Greg (missionary we work with in Haiti) this morning.  Apparently at some point (I'm not sure of the exact details) Melissa's Mom "showed up".

Yes, I said it.  Melissa's Mom is back after being completely missing in action for the last 5 months.  She hid herself so well that concerted efforts could not find her as we tried those first 2 months.  I was told that she came back and spoke with Yanick (clinic director/wife of community pastor) professing her apologies for the way she left Melissa.  I was reassured that the Mom didn't request to have Melissa back however.

WHAM!!! CRASH!  Pothole...

Now all who I have spoken with in the last few months know that my biggest rub has always been the fact that Melissa has parents.  It is a big struggle for me to process adoption of children who's parents have placed them in others care for the sheer fact they cannot support the child due to circumstances.  It means more to me to build up these families and keep them intact whenever possible. This is the reason I have fallen in love with the Apparent Project (http://www.apparentproject.org/).  That is their goal as well. 

So, what could be better than having a chance to help Melissa's true Mom provide better for her family?

**Crack**  My heart breaking a little wider...

So, tomorrow (or today by the time I post this) the Roberts will be taking Melissa to the Pernier Baptist Church to see her Mom.  And even as I type this, the ache gets a little deeper.  I now wonder what His purpose for this trip truly will be.  And I pray with every breath, that He will show what is best for Melissa with all of my selfish desires and wishes aside.  Jack and I talked and agree that we want what is best for her and we can not rule out that we may not be what is best for her.  We hope we are.  We feel we are.  But, we are at least honest enough with ourselves to know that some of those emotions could have selfish motivations.  We truly love this child enough to follow God's will for her. 

The emotions of this news were definitely mixed.  I was truly thrilled that this woman would seek Melissa out.  From the first day I never doubted that her Mom loved her.  She was malnourished but otherwise cared for.  She had no diaper rashes or any signs of neglect.  She had been loved to the best of her Mom's abilities.  I believe that with every ounce of my soul.  I have never questioned her Mom's choices because frankly I can not say that mine would have been any different in the desperate situation she was in. 

And yet, my heart aches and breaks a little more faced with the fact that this road has become even rockier and unsure of its ultimate destination.  Those emotions were shared with Jack (my husband) only briefly with a quick cry in our hallway before we had to put on our "happy faces" as we were hosting a sleepover for my 10 year old's b-day at a local hotel with family and friends.  Sometimes I really don't think I have the fortitude for this journey.  We must, however, dig a little deeper again and journey on. 

Stay tuned...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Down but not out...

After concentrated prayer and seeking the Lord's will, I am feeling much more resolved in the steps ahead.  It has been a subtle realization in the last few days of the changes going on within my family.  The Lord is truly at work within our home and my heart has swelled with gratitude.  I am so blessed! 

I love what I refer to as "God things".  Saturday, I spent the day in CME (continuing medical education) lectures.  During the introduction of the first lecturer, the speaker acknowledged Dr. Bill Sims who was present at the conference.  As I turned around, I realized Dr. Sims was sitting directly behind me.  The "God thing" is one year prior, to almost the exact day, I had been working with Dr. Sims via phone and e-mail to obtain orthopedic supplies for the disaster relief in Haiti.  A year and a day later we meet at a random conference? 

God Thing!

The conference was followed by a meeting with Ryan Harbaugh to transfer a huge donation of previously loved soccer gear to our warehouse for future delivery to Haiti.  Woo hoo!  You can see his blog at:
http://pwt-blog.blogspot.com/




This all made for a productive day, but it even closed in an awesome way with a date night with my wonderful hubby.  It gave me much to praise for come Sunday morning. 

We are now looking at footsteps toward paperwork to bring our Melissa home.  In the meantime, I will be traveling down to share her birthday with her next month.  Stay tuned!  I hope to collect some things to take for the Apparent Project.   Keep your colorful cereal boxes and we'll let you know where to take them.  More ways to help coming...

Through God's grace and mercies!
Dr. Jenny

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Anger and Frustration

"The eyes of the Lord are on me, and His ears are open to my cry...When I cry out, the Lord hears, and delivers me out of all my troubles." Psalm 34:15, 17 (NKJV)




I wrestled with whether to post tonight...few want to read about struggles of the heart and soul but I needed to get this out tonight and sort through these emotions.  Tonight I have felt some of my most despised of human emotions.  Tonight, I am angry!  Frustrated!  The human "why's" are flooding over me and drowning out my sensibilities. 

Over the last 3-4 months, attempts have been made toward the disposition of the small child who holds my heart- Melissa.   It started with the evaluation in PaP at the end of October that was to be the start of a journey to other places for medical treatments and evaluations.  But, as my hazy vision sees it tonight, it feels like the end.  In the moments of receiving a no-where diagonsis of an inoperable heart defect we stepped into a lake of quicksand.  We fight it and pull and struggle.  We yell and fuss and fight more.  Yet, we go no where.  No progress.  Just slow inevitable sinking. 

After witnessing the rally of many toward Tamaka and then incredible movement of heaven and earth to provide for her, I have felt tonight anger with myself on why haven't I been able to accomplish this for my own???  We were not in time to save Tamaka though I truly have no doubt there was nothing that could've been done faster.  To have complete medical facility and teams set up in agreement in 48hrs is a miracle.  So, will Melissa be on her deathbed before anything can be done to get her out of Haiti?  I wait and wonder.

There have been people that I love and trust offer advice but the problem remains...I can find no one to stand with us on the medical end.  To accomplish this there has to be physicians who are willing to write the letters and stand and say this little girl must come here for care.  That they will assume her care.  There isn't a specified treatment, specific goal to reach for.  Her needs are broad and undefinied.  She needs, well, everything but nothing.  I don't want to be her doctor.  Can I just be her Mommy?  I have been an advocate for other children, but feel alone as I advocate for her.  I am failing her and I know it.  It's there.  In my face as she sits in Port au Prince now looking to be moved to someone else's home from our missionaries.  (Another twist that I'll explain another time.)

Today, I have had been asked to pray or offer assistance for several children needing care in the US for a myriad of issues several of which are cardiac in nature.  And that ugly part inside me that I try to hide away says, "WAIT!  What about Melissa?  Did someone forget about her?  Who can help us?" 

It is horrible to say these things I know...I know.  She looks so good right now on the outside such that everyone forgets this little girl has essentially a 3 chambered heart and runs on 25% less oxygen that another child on her good days.  We are on borrowed time that is slipping away day by day.



I know, KNOW the Lord has this.  I KNOW he is in control.  But, I'm broken tonight.  Weak.  Lost.  I wouldn't care for myself one bit, if a frail little infant wasn't depending on me to find her way out.  In this haze of darkness my mind wonders to thoughts of "maybe this isn't God's will for us to be with her. Maybe, her new caregivers are better choices for her forever family."  My heart aches and breaks and the blur of tears in my eyes seem that they will have no end. 

But somehow, I will force myself as I close this entry to lay this down at His feet.  To praise Him in this storm.

Praise His holy name.




For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.   Psalm 30:5

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For the love of a child...

What a journey the last 4 days have been...for those who have not heard the heart breaking news, here is a posting from the journalist who has been following Tamaka:

January 17, 2011

By Rachel Turner

Tamaka Ezca passed into the arms of Jesus at 7:25 p.m. tonight, January 17, 2011, at the University of Miami Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Named “the most beautiful girl in Haiti” by nurses, her smile captured the hearts of many.

After six days of struggling to live, Tamaka’s oxygen levels dropped too low, and her enlarged heart could not work fast enough to keep her alive. “All hands were on deck,” said Dr. Ronye Emory. “We had two surgeons, one cardiologist, and a pharmacist working over her. She just couldn’t do it anymore.” Her mother’s cries filled the pediatric ward as she mourned her daughter’s death. The medical staff was stunned and sad.
Many in the US and in Haiti rallied together to try to save Tamaka’s life after cardiologist Dr. Clint Doiron and his partners from the Chadasha Foundation met her on Friday. “She has rheumatic heart disease caused by untreated strep throat,” said Dr. Doiron. “She will not live without immediate help in the US.”

That day, members of Chadasha began contacting US hospitals asking them to host Tamaka. Dr. Jenny Chapman from Huntsville, Alabama, immediately joined those trying to help Tamaka, and soon secured a place for her at Huntsville Hospital with help from colleagues.

Surgeons, EMTs, relief workers, and contractors traveled to Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital throughout the week to donate blood for Tamaka. The goal was to raise her hemoglobin level for her scheduled flight on Thursday morning.

But even with so many people reaching out to Tamaka, she didn’t make it.
This is a story that has replayed many times in Haiti, but those who reach out must not grow weary, for eventually, change will arrive.
Perhaps telling beautiful Tamaka’s story will make a difference for the next heart patient that needs to be sent immediately to the United States. Perhaps her story will grow awareness for the need of medical and surgical cardiac care in Haiti.
One thing is true, those who were touched by Tamaka’s smile will not forget. May her memory continue to spur change.

*******************************************************

Monday began as a good day.  I was busy working on plans for Tamaka's transfer while seeing patients in the office.  I had 2 computers going side by side working the issues at hand.  2 letters for the visa were completed and an e-mail at lunch and I knew that the letter from the hospital was completed as well.  The other parts were being worked well and for once it really seemed that this was coming together.  I picked up the letter from hospital and rushed home to get the letters scanned in to our colleagues in Haiti to piece together for her visa application. 

There was a little bump midday as Michelle (the missionary currently caring for my sweet Haitian daughter Melissa) informed me that Melissa was sick.  For those who are new to my blog, Melissa is a beautiful infant with Down's Syndrome and congenital heart defect that was abandoned on a previous trip.

Oh.  No.  You see through these last few days with Tamaka I have struggled with a transfer of emotions regarding the specific illness Tamaka had.  This type of infection in the heart and heart failure are likely issues for Melissa someday.  It was a glaring reminder as to the fragiligy of Melissa medical conditions.  (see previous posts for more info).  I tried to shrug it off and press forward with the tasks at hand.

Much of the remainder of the afternoon was spent in getting the letters scanned to those who are going to submit the medical visa.  Once that was accomplished, I had moved on to planning the coordination of the transport from the airport to the hospital.  News came that Tamaka's mother would not be travelling with her but a dear Haitian friend Yanick would travel with her.  This was very exciting to plan hosting this dear friend here in Huntsville for awhile. 

We sat down to a dinner of Chinese take-out and my cell phone rang.  It had been beeping and chirping all day with texts and e-mails, but it rang this time and a Haitian number was on the caller ID.  It was Greg giving the news that the Lord had released Tamaka from the bondages of our world and taken her home.  My first question to him was, "Was her Mom with her?"  This is important in my mind that she was not alone in that moment.  Blessedly, he described her mother and father were with her.  We hung up and before I could process it, I knew many had to be notified.  An hour or so later of calls and messages, I was getting the kids ready for bed.  My sweet husband mentions, "you know, that will be us in 10 years." 

WHAT?
I stopped right in my tracks...

"What do you mean?"  I asked, but I knew.  You see Melissa has a severe heart defect which we know will not allow her to grow into an adult.  That one infection could cause heart failure and the like.  He was right.  The unimaginable grief Tamaka's dear parents are suffering right now, is an inevitable grief we will face some day. 



But what my sweet husband did remind me was that the important thing was that we fill her little life with all the joy and love we can for however long we can.  Wow!  In a scenario when many wouldn't want to even open the door to this challenge and heartache some day, he was there.  Ready to show God's love.

For those who missed it, I posted an incredible song on Facebook written from the perspective of the loved one who has passed away.  It is "heaven's perspective".  It was originally written by Mandesa for a sweet patient of mine who's precious first born son passed away at birth.  It is to remind us that they are in such a better place and we will see them again in the blink of an eye.  I will share it with you below.


Through God's mercies and blessings,
Dr. Jenny

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tamaka Update: The Lord is on the move!

A little over 24 hours ago a phone call set me on a path that in all honesty I don't how prepared I was to take.  Much less take my family along with me.  Assumptions are frequently made that I have certain connections in the community to get things done and if you really knew me, you would laugh.  I'm not one to keep with the Jones and the politics around me.  Tackling the task at hand of persuading influential people to help with Tamaka was notably outside my comfort zone.  After much prayer last night, I just started calling, emailing, texting and messaging with Facebook.  With each note or email, a prayer was made that through my feeble communication attempts the Lord would accomplish something greater.  There was prayer for each word to land on the heart of just the right person to accomplish his will and plan for this.  It was comical too as most things are when the Lord uses me for his work.  Picture me sitting in bed with the laptop on my lap and cell phone lying by me.  There were conversations happening by text, phone, Facebook, Facebook chat, e-mail AND Gmail chat.  Not to mention one of my girls wanting to bend my ear about something.  That level of multitasking can ONLY come with the Lord's grace.  After many things were out in cyberspace stewing, I laid down for a little bit of rest.

I was awakened this morning by a surprising phone call from the chief medical officer for Huntsville Hospital, Dr. Robert Chappell, in response to the e-mail I had sent them.  WOW!  God was acting fast on this one.  An administrator calling me on a Saturday morning of a holiday weekend.  He explained that he would take the request to the CEO, David Spillers as well as the CFO and get back to me.  Yippee!  As that was pending, I was reached by Marshall Schreeder who offered help in contacting people.  This was a golden offer because confronting people is not my strength.  Marshall was able to contact Dr. Paul Israel who is the only local cardiologist here in Huntsville.  Dr. Israel was on board but expressed the concern we have all had. 


 
What if Tamaka gets all the way to Huntsville only for us to not have the level of resources from a cardiac standpoint that she would need?  This is the little cloud that would follow me all day...

With Dr. Israel on board at least to the extent of his resources locally, Dr. Chappell called back stating that Huntsville Hospital would be on board IF I got the Pediatric ICU doctors on board.  I'll admit that this is when I did realize the cart was in front of the proverbial horse.  In my mind, the administrative support was the "hard" part and I hadn't even gotten to assembling the medical team.  I promptly rushed up to the HH (Huntsville Hospital) pediatric ICU to discuss the issues with the physicians there.  All the way along the drive to the hospital I prayed fervently that the Lord would make me bold for this little girl.  Lord, guide my words and give me a strength to say just want needs to be said to convince these physicians to help us.  Gratefully, I was greeted with the familiar face of a mentor from med school & residency days, Dr. Barbara Richman.  I have always admired Dr. Richman and her passion for the children.  She is a strong patient advocate.  After explaining the craziness of the Tamaka's story and the needs request Dr. Richman along with her partner who was present Dr. Lyn Davidson began asking questions about Tamaka's medical condition.  This was the challenge as their questions were very reasonable regarding what possible conditions will have to be treated including infectious diseases, cardiac and more.  I struggled as I could not give much information as the workup was lacking which was in itself a large portion of the need to get Tamaka to the states.  When asking a doctor to accept a level of responsibility for a patient it isn't unreasonable that they would want to be sure that they had the appropriate resources.  All I could do was let them know that if the cardiac issues were greater than anticipated some how, some way we would find her further care.  My promise sounded hollow I knew, but I was sincere.  I was stepping on faith that my Lord would NOT leave us hanging when we were caring for the "lesser of these" in his name.  Dr. Richman agreed to help on the condition that we could find an Infectious Disease doctor to come on board as well to help.  I left the hospital with new tasks to do but a sense of hope and possibilities.  Driving home, all the plans of the day had to be shifted.  Again at the Lord's direction we were able to contact Dr. Richard Spera here locally who stepped right up agreeing to come on board with Dr. Richman.  He too expressed the overriding concern about our capabilities cardiovascularly, but he stepped up to the offer.  So the medical team had fleshed together.


Somewhere in this timeframe, my dear friend in Haiti Greg Roberts and asked that I get with Kari Smith in Nashville who had worked something similar for another Haitian patient.  He recommending that she could help with the paperwork. 

What?  Paperwork?  Huh?

In my little brain, I had convinced myself that getting this much pulled together was the hard part.  *Insert deep chuckle of God laughing at me....again.*  We (those on the stateside) would have to pull together all the letters and forms and affidavits for her visa.  ARGH!!!  Well, surely I can juggle rounding at the hospital this afternoon and running errands with my family while working this...who am I kidding?

Kari graciously responded to my frantic messages and has gotten us on the road.  So, as I sit here typing the stage is being set.  Now, we have to translate the verbal agreements to paper.  And, tackle one more hurdle acutely.  A big hurdle in mind...the immigration department requires an individual to complete a form/affidavit stating financial responsibility for Tamaka and her Mom.  Sounds easy huh?  No big deal huh?  I challenge you on this one friends.  We need someone to complete the form and submit a 1040 tax return, letter from their bank showing they're in good standing with good financial resource, and statements from employers attesting to the stability of their job.  That to me is a big deal even if I can back it up with incredible community support.  So that is what I have sent requests for.  An individual or family to feel led by God to step to the plate and do this.  They will NOT be alone for there are numerous people who will also be standing with Tamaka and her Mom.  If we cannot get someone else, it will most likely fall to my family to take this on and we will if that is where things fall.  My only struggle is that this will all have to be repeated for Melissa Hope (see previous blog notes for details) who we are trying to get here on Humanitarian Parole.  We will be signing up for the financial responsibilities of her medical issues as well.  We are leaning on the Lord's provision once again.   

That is where we stand.  Let me now mention there has also been an incredible amount of work through this by Paul Neier and others in the network toward other options and resources.  Though in this moment we will not need  these services, I am overwhelmingly appreciative to them all for the efforts that they made.  We also have hopefully a colleague in the Haitian mission work Simeon Nerelus to help with translation.

Please pray for the ongoing efforts for fulfillment of His plans...

Through God's grace and mercies abundant,
Dr. Jenny

Friday, January 14, 2011

A call for Tamaka...

As I was spooling down this evening, the Lord once again spoke and reminded me of my recent prayers to be of use again to my colleagues and family.  An brief email was followed by a call from Dr. Clint Doiron who is currently in Port au Prince setting a new pediatric cardiac surgery program in Haiti.  He met today a critically ill little girl who needs... no MUST have our help to find a place for treatment and medical stabilization here in the states.  She will not be here next week without it.  So, at 7:30pm on a Friday night of a holiday weekend I began shaking the trees for any help we could get.  The key component keeping her from getting to the US is a hospital to commit in writing to accepting her and providing her care.  I do not work in the hospital much anymore and do not have political/powerful contacts at the hospital, but we will still strive to be the Lord's hands and feet.  To bring a miracle to this precious child through the Lord's grace and mercies.  If you know anyone with hospital affiliations/connections please pass Tamaka's story along.



January 14, 2011


By Rachel Turner

Tamaka Ecza sits on a chair with her head resting on a yellow pillow in her lap. At twelve years old, she’s too weak to sit up. According to cardiologist Dr. Clint Dorion, she will die within the week if she doesn’t get help.

Tamaka wears a red dress and a beautiful smile. Her nurses say she’s the most beautiful girl in the hospital. She and her mom, Marie Charles have lived in the University of Miami Hospital in Port-au-Prince since Tuesday after leaving the countryside when Tamaka turned for the worse. Now Mrs. Charles attempts to make her fifth child as comfortable as possible until the end.

“Tamaka is in congestive heart failure,” said Dr. Dorion. “She’s been diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease and will not live without immediate help.” Tamaka experienced untreated strep throat at age seven which affected the valves of her heart making them incompetent. That lead to an infection on the heart valve and the heart sack. She will eventually need a mitral valve replaced, but for now, she just needs to be stabilized in a US hospital that has the proper equipment to make the necessary diagnosis and treatment.



“I hope to find a way to help my daughter, but I don’t even have a house to take her to,” said Mrs. Charles. “I made a tent that we sleep in now.” Even with many dedicated non-profits working in medicine, the devastated city of Port-au-Prince has no facility or equipment for the cardiac treatment that Tamaka needs.

This week could be even more difficult for Mrs. Charles than when she and her family lost their business and house one year ago in the 2010 earthquake.

“I’ve learned that I can have the world in my hands and lose it within seconds,” said Mrs. Charles. “I don’t know how to get through this yet, but I depend on God.”



For more information or to learn how you can medically assist Tamaka, please contact Dr. Clint Dorion or Chris Keylon at:

US cell: 865-300-1922

Haiti cell: 509-3-838-9922

Email: ChrisKeylon@chadasha.org

For photos visit www.scoreinternational.org/multimedia/haiti





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