Thursday, August 25, 2011

Women's Conference encourages friendship, reconciliation

Last week was our Esther Women's Conference in Pignon, Haiti with more than 80 women from our ministry's main churches attending. The women from St. Raphael, Fontaine, Savanette and Pignon stayed on the Pignon Mission Complex campus for the week and enjoyed a time of Bible teaching, activities and fellowship. Our friends, Serena Isaak and Kathryn Haw from Fresno came to help with the teaching and activities for the conference. Serena's daughter Lindsey also joined us for the week to help watch our kids and play with the orphans in The Bridge Christian Children's Home.
The theme of the conference was "Friendship" and Serena was the keynote speaker with translation by Gerby Seriphin and Walquis Seriphin. Serena spoke on a variety of aspects of Friendship, including friendship with God, finding Godly mentors, the value of Godly friends. The women were able to dive into the Bible together twice a day for intense teaching. They also shared devotions and prayer time each morning. Serena's sweet spirit and creative ideas encouraged the women to deepen their friendships.
I had the opportunity to speak on Tuesday night at the evening service. I shared the story of Esther from the Bible through the lens of friendship. We studied who Esther's unexpected friends were in the story and how her friends fasted and prayed for her when she was in a tough situation and needed wisdom from God. This gave me the chance to share some of my personal journey over the last two years and how many times I felt like Esther.

One of the most powerful services at the conference was when Serena shared about the topic of "Unforgiveness in Friendships." At the close of this service, God prompted five pairs of women to stand up and publicly reconcile with one another. Some tears were shed and some major breakthroughs were experienced by those sharing and those listening to their testimonies.
One of our greatest joys of the week was having our dear friends Madame Degwa join us. She had her leg amputated earlier this year because of a bad infection. She has served our family for years as a cook/chef and knew Ericlee's grandparents well. We invited her to stay in our mission house with us since we knew the other accommodations would be difficult for her. We were so blessed by her presence at our family meals. We prayed together, laughed together and she encouraged us throughout the week. 

Madame Degwa was also a huge asset in helping us teach some of the other ladies to knit in the afternoons at the conference. This was a joy to see as my mom, Maria Lazo, had just taught Madame Degwa to knit a month earlier. 

Kathryn was a grammy to all that week as she loved on the babies, helped with the children, extended open arms to the ladies and even moved beyond her comfort zone to share her personal testimony.
Lindsey was a great leader for the kids. She led them in crafts, games, singing and more. She and Meilani spent one Saturday bravely hanging out in the busy, crowded market!

Friday, August 12, 2011

August Gilmore Gazette: Gilmores visit outstations, help provide jobs for Haitians

Dear Family & Friends,

We invite you to jump in the truck with us and take a ride out to one of our ministry’s “outstations.” Grab a sun hat and some bug spray and hold on to your seat. You will hear the sounds of our girls giggling and squealing as the truck passes through water and over ridges into the mountains. We head on the main road toward St. Raphael but then take a sharp right onto a side road – really a path just big enough for our vehicle. Cactus fences hug the truck on either side. In the U.S. people would be paying big money at Disneyland or some other theme park for this Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We round the bend and see a cement block building with a beautiful mountain backdrop. We are here: Robinet Outstation.

People gather around the truck to greet us. They grin and wave, some laughing with delight to see “blancs” in their area. The kids point or hide shyly behind their mamas’ skirts. These people meet every week for a service or Bible study and fellowship together. They are more than an hour walk to water and about that same distance to their home church, which many attend faithfully every Sunday. Meilani and Giada pass out candy to the little ones. Ericlee shares a mini-sermon about trust and faith. Of course, these people have a lifetime of faith stories they could share to buoy our spirits.

They are just one example of a small group of believers who meet weekly across the countryside in little outstations – oases in the sun-scorched land – for encouragement, prayer and learning scripture. In the U.S., we might call this a “life group” or “small group” but sometimes as many as 60 people gather. One day we meet at an outstation just on the edge of Pignon near the city. Another morning Ericlee rises early and drives an hour, then hikes two hours up the mountain to meet a different group. Ericlee’s goal this month has been to visit as many of them as he can in much the same way his grandparents used to do many years ago.

When we are not visiting the outstations, our days have been full lately as we continue to connect with the leaders of the ministry and assess their needs. Last week we did an extensive evaluation of the orphanage here and we are working on plans to build a new school in Fontaine. Ericlee has been working with the church’s main accountant to teach him Excel and principles of budgeting.

Meanwhile, Dorina has kept busy with a new small business venture. We are partnering with the to help a group of women from the church start a jewelry-making business. Most afternoons Dorina and Meilani meet the ladies in a school classroom to make homemade beads from paper/cardboard and string beads for necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Dorina will help sell these items in the U.S. this fall and winter. What a joy to see the creativity of the women and to give them an opportunity to raise some money to provide for their families and the church!

We are excited about our friends, Serena & Lindsay Isaak and Kathryn Haw from Fresno coming next week to speak at our Esther Women’s Conference for the four churches. Serena, Kathryn and Dorina will be speaking on the topic of “Friendship” for the services on August 22-25. They will also be teaching the ladies crocheting and knitting in the afternoons.

We return to Fresno on August 27 with the three ladies from The Bridge. We will be jumping right into fundraising projects then. For the second year, we are putting together a “Remember Haiti” Half Marathon team to run the Two Cities Half Marathon in Fresno. If you or anyone you know might be interested in free personal training from Ericlee and participation in this fundraiser for Haiti, please let us know. Ericlee has already prepared group and individual workouts that begin on Monday, August 15.

For more details and photographs of our adventures in Haiti, remember to check out our family blog at

Serving Together,
Dorina, Ericlee, Meilani, Giada & baby girl Gilmore


•We pray God would continue to help us build bridges across cultural lines and give us discernment as we assess the needs of the ministry and choosing new projects to create jobs for Haitians.

•We pray for health for our family in these final 3 weeks, especially Dorina who is starting her final trimester of pregnancy.

•Pray for the Bead Project that Dorina has been helping get off the ground in Pignon.

•Join us in praying for the Esther Women’s Conference in Pignon on August 22-25 with guest speakers Serena Isaak and Kathryn Haw from Fresno. Serena’s daughter, Lindsay, is also joining them.

•Remember us as we travel home to Fresno – driving to Port Au Prince on Friday, August 26 and flying into Fresno, August 27.

•Please pray for our Haitian field director Peter Constantin who will be getting surgery this month on his arm.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Contemplating Calling: Spending time with Orphans

This summer I find myself wearing many different hats here in Haiti. My most important hat – similar to when I am at home in the U.S. – is to be a mother to Giada and Meilani and wife to Ericlee. I also have found myself playing hostess to various short-term mission teams and visitors to our Mission complex here in Pignon. At times, we are guest speakers, traveling to various churches and parts of the ministry with the goal of praying for the people and offering a word of encouragement. More recently, Ericlee and I have worked together to evaluate different parts of the ministry and provide feedback as well as help brainstorm new projects that will allow our Haitian leaders to help their own people.

One hat I find most challenging to wear and yet most rewarding is being an auntie to the children who live next door in The Bridge Christian Children’s Home. In the last nine weeks, these 18 children (5 orphans and the director’s 3 girls) have crawled inside my heart.

They are family to us.

As I anticipated coming to Haiti for the last year, I found myself most looking forward to seeing the children again. Every night my 5-year-old Meilani would remind our family to pray for the orphans. She, too, looked forward to being with them and infected her sister with the same excitement.

The children of Haiti first captured my heart 10 years ago when I first came to Haiti on a short-term mission team with Ericlee and friends from our church. We hung out for a week with the kids, teaching them Track & Field skills. One week is all it took for me. I still remember getting on the airplane to go home and waving out the window to the kids. With tears streaming down my face, I knew I would be back.

Of course, at the time I had no idea how God would weave the threads of my life together to bring me to Haiti for a longer-term stint. I had no idea then that I would marry Ericlee or how God would grow our hearts together for returning to this place as a couple to serve almost yearly as short-term missionaries and now to serve for a year through Christian Friendship Ministries.

For me, it’s always been about the kids. My heart beats especially for the orphans of this country. When we started raising funds for The Bridge Christian Children’s Home orphanage three years ago, I had the privilege and hard job of interviewing the children who would be invited to live here. I talked to them and wrote bios about each one to share with our church and friends back home. Their stories haunted me. I was determined to share their need with others.

We celebrated in 2009 as the orphanage went up and God sent sponsors along the way to help give these children a chance at a new life. As they lived in the orphanage, I began to see a transformation in them. They became a family. Last summer, we were a part of the team that put on the first Vacation Bible School just for these children. I saw in these kids such a change in spirit, energy and even in their physical appearance.

Now that I am living in Haiti and observing orphan care on a daily basis, I’m starting to see it all in a different light. The longer I stay in Haiti, the more I talk to people, read about and visit other orphanages, I realize that orphan care is very complicated. There are thousands of kids in Haiti who are considered “orphans” but they fall into many categories.

Some may have been separated from or abandoned by their families after the earthquake. Others have lost one parent through disease or hardship. Others are simply living in such material poverty that their parents have begged the local orphanage director or pastor (and there are hundreds of orphanages across the land) to take their children. These parents know that the orphanage can provide food, education and shelter they cannot so they would rather give them up. I wonder if erecting more orphanages each year is really helping Haiti.

If the kids do enter an orphanage, there is the issue of how to properly care for these children in an orphanage setting. The other day Ericlee and I met a young pastor who just opened an orphanage here. I asked him how many children he was raising. He said 14 right now but he had plans to welcome 150 in his facility one day. I was dumbfounded. My stomach churned at the thought of 150 kids living in one single facility. I found myself asking if this was some kind of status symbol? Was it big business? How could 150 kids possibly be cared for properly and loved in one facility?

Meanwhile, adoption from Haiti is also complicated. There are scores of children who are true orphans (fatherless and motherless) but they are trapped in a system of rules and regulations or deemed unadoptable by many standard families because they are “special needs.” We have heard the adoption process takes an average of two years because of all the red tape.

The more I am here the more convicted I feel that I am called to advocate and care for God’s children in any way I can. The letter of James speaks of the definition of faith in this way, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). James also reminds us that faith is not just an intellectual belief, but also a faith that works. Of course, this theme of caring for the fatherless or loving on orphans is throughout the Bible.

I recently finished a book called ADOPTED FOR LIFE by Russell D. Moore. Don’t be deceived by the title; this is not just a book for families who want to adopt. This book is for all of us, reminding us that we are all adopted into the family of God. We need to understand our own adoption and then be on the forefront of supporting the care of orphans close to home and around the world.

Moore writes, “Who better than those who know Christ to welcome the all-too-often unwanted and discarded among the world’s orphans? After all, our God himself gathers together ‘the lame’ and ‘those who have been driven away’ and makes ‘a strong nation’ of those who were ‘cast off’ (Micah 4:6-7).

I believe the best option for children who are truly orphaned (without parents) is adoption into a loving, caring family. In November of 2009, Ericlee and I started to process of adopting from Haiti. We prayed and investigated some Christian agencies and we started filling out applications. We quickly discovered that the laws in Haiti for adopting are somewhat convoluted. As of today, a couple cannot adopt a child unless they have been married 10 years and only if they have two (or less) biological children. I have heard that a child with special needs (very loosely defined) can be adopted by a family with more biological children. Our third baby is due this November but we are still hoping to adopt from Haiti in the future if God allows.

In the meantime, I see my calling is to be an advocate for the best care of these children here in The Bridge Christian Children’s Home as well as the 15 kids in an orphanage at our St. Raphael location. Last week we completed an extensive evaluation of the orphanage and met with the staff. These kids are well-cared for but there is always room for improvement. Later this year, we will be helping with a project for a new building for those kids in St. Raphael who are now packed into two tiny school rooms-turned bedrooms.

This summer the kids in The Bridge Christian Children’s Home have become not so much “poor orphans” in my mind. They have become “real kids.” My girls step outside our back door every morning and welcome them into our yard as friends – even family.

I have learned the sound of their voices before I even see them. I know which boys I can trust to help water the garden and dig out the weeds. I know which girls are the most responsible in caring for my own girls. I know that one boy may appear quiet but has quite a streak of mischief. I know the girl who is the frailest and most likely to play on her own if we don’t draw her into a game. Ericlee could tell you which boy is a soccer star and which girl can do the most pull-ups. We could tell you the one who may be a pastor one day, the one who has talent as an artist, the one who could be an athlete if given the chance. They are each one lovable and unique.

These kids love Jesus. I have seen them pray together, recite verses and sing together. Any time the church doors are open they put on their best clothes and scamper over there to sit in the front row. And our girls are always eager to join their friends.

At the very least, my goal is to hug each one of them every day I am here in Haiti. I hope I can do more.

I hope you can join me. You might consider sponsoring one of them or one of the children in the new facility in St. Raphael. You might research organizations (ie. Compassion, World Vision, The ApParent Project) that help rebuild communities so parents who live in material poverty can find jobs and care for their own kids. You might consider how you can be a part of supporting adoption in your own community. You might financially or prayerfully support a family who is adopting. You might babysit for them when they need a break or bring them a meal during their adoption process. You might start an adoption fund through your church or a community organization. You might use your platform as a pastor or teacher sharing about the plight of orphans. You might start teaching your own kids about the diversity of God’s family and our own adoption into His Kingdom.

You might consider adopting a child yourself.

As we speak one of my best friends is arriving in Moscow with her husband for a court appointment to adopt a second little girl from Russia. She has taught me that caring for the world’s orphans is never easy. In fact, it is complicated and messy at times, but it is one of the highest callings.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Join us for our 2nd Remember Haiti Marathon team this fall

Hello from Haiti!

We have been here 8 weeks now and will be returning to Fresno on August 27.

Are you itching to get in shape? Have you always dreamed of running in a race? We are putting together plans for another “Remember Haiti” team to run the Two Cities Half/Marathon in Fresno in November. Please let us know asap if you or someone you know would be interested in participating. We need names, best email and phone numbers of people who want to join the team. Ericlee will offer free training again and that will officially start August 15, which is 12 weeks out from the race. If you plan to run the marathon then you should start training as soon as you read this letter. You will have about 15 weeks until the race. We will send out the workouts the first week of August. Here is a great way to challenge yourself and raise money for a far-reaching cause.

This year the money will be raised for Christian Friendship Ministries to connect resources to Haiti rather than just for our family’s support. Last year we were so blessed by the money donated to help get us to Haiti. We have several projects the donations this year will help fund and we are excited about sharing those details with you very soon. We have some big money goals to reach so we are counting on you to rise to the challenge.

For the race, there are three options this year – the full marathon (26.2 miles), the half marathon (13.1 miles) or the relay, which splits the half marathon between two people (10k). Please choose what distance you plan to run/walk before August 15. Ericlee will help you write up some goals and then a plan to meet those goals. A reminder again that training for a Half/Marathon takes time and if you do not have time then you might want to rethink your commitment.

What kind of time commitment will this entail? The workouts will be five days a week. That is about five hours a week in the beginning of the training to 10 hours a week towards the end. If you choose to do only 3 workouts a week which is the minimal that is fine too. It all depends on the goals that you set. The best part about participating with a team is that you will always have people to encourage you and hold you accountable on your goals. We have walkers, joggers, runners, friends with kids and couples and singles of all ages and experience levels. Last year we had a great time together.

You will need to sign up for the Two Cities race and pay the registration fee on your own. For those who get “Remember Haiti” T-shirt sponsors for $200, you will be reimbursed later for your race registration fee. This year we are challenging each runner to find 26 sponsors and raise $1000. (Think of it as one per mile!) “Remember Haiti” T-shirts and our own “Remember Haiti” celebration dinner the night before the race will be included for all participants & families.

We are grateful for each one of you and all your encouragement on this journey!

Bondye Beni Ou (God bless you)!

Running for Him,

Dorina & Ericlee Gilmore