Sunday, May 27, 2012

Haitian Mother's Day: Thoughts on Mothering

Today is Haitian Mother’s Day. That means I’ve tasted an American celebration of Mother’s Day on May 13 and then today had the privilegeof experiencing a Haitian version of the holiday.

I’m told the Haitians have only recently started celebrating Mother’s day. I was curious to see what it would entail. I knew it wouldn’t bethe kind of day brimming with Hallmark greetings, See’s candies and spa gift cards that I’m used to in the U.S. I knew not many of the Haitian kids would bepreparing breakfast in bed for their mamas. I did know the children in thechurch were preparing a special program.

We tiptoed into church just as the kids were promenading upthe center aisle. They were sway-marching and waving silk flowers as they sanga kind of anthem to the mothers. They smiled joy-full.

The whole service was dedicated to the mothers. The children’schoir (and their mother-leaders) had prepared some 15 songs with poems recited intermittentlyby the children. Our young Pastor Emmano had all the grandmas and pastors’wives stand and passed out little wrapped gifts to each of them. All of usmamas were then asked to stand and the kids sang their little hearts out straightto us.

They named the mothers in the congregation. They called outto them their gratitude.

I found myself blinking back the tears after about 8 songswere delivered.  But it wasn’t the kindof watery eyes that came at my daughter’s kindergarten Tea Party. It wasn’t the kind of joy-tears I cry when I think about my kids sharing toys and clotheswith their friends here in Haiti. It wasn’t even the sentimental emotion risingup in me as I think about my oldest turning 6 years old tomorrow.

My contacts blurred this morning when I had this realization:most of the kids singing up there on the stage are orphans.

The girls and boys who were featured in the solos andreciting the poems were predominantly the kids from the orphanage. Others werekids – poverty orphans - from the streets dressed in “Sunday best.” They donnedthe lace socks, the braids tied in ribbon. Some wore Easter-fancy dresses. Ispotted one little girl wearing the top to a Disney Princess dress-up outfit–maybe Cinderella? Some had snotty noses and ashy knees but they were stillsinging their hearts out.

They honored the mothers even though some have never known their birth mother. Some of them were raised by teen mothers or faithfulgrandmas or aunties. Women struggling to get by. Women rising above their circumstances, their lack of resources. Mama is a term used for women in thisvillage who have collectively raised them.

Maybe that’s just the way it should be.

My eyes rested on Serline, a girl who I first interviewed tobe part of our orphanage in Pignon before it opened. I had the privilege of meeting her grandma who was raising seven grandkids after her daughter had diedand son-in-law fled to the Dominican. Grandma had begged us to take Serline andfeed her and raise her in a safe and Godly home. She entered the orphanage anda month later her grandmother-turned-mother-again died. Her father is dead now too.

I couldn’t help wondering what she was really thinking aboutas she sang and said the poems with the other kids. When I look at her, I wonder where the childlike light has gone. Her eyes are flat. They hold that haunting mother-wound.

My mama heart aches. I hug my three girls tight when thechildren’s voices lilt, “Mama Cheri” (Sweet Mama), they sing. My heart tears wide open.

I find myself whispering a word of thanks to my Father.Thank you, God, for letting me mother  these three – Meilani, Giada and Zayla. Thankyou for lending them to me for this short time. Thank you for covering us allwith your grace when I fall short as a mother, when I mother selfishly, when Imother imperfectly. Thank you for my mama back in California blessing me withher prayers tonight. Thank you for the many women who have mothered me on thisjourney.

I look out into the church crowd and see so many model mothers.I see Madame Degloir, a mother and grandmother now. She inspires me. Last yearshe had her leg amputated after a bad infection. She could barely walk. This year,she is back at our mission house working away. She leads the women around herwith love. She offers a strong grace-hug to her own children and grandchildren. The joy of the Lord is her strength. She mentors me. Her daughter Nella leadsthe children’s choir today. Her granddaughter Charissa dances in Daddy’s arms. Three generations of love heralding here in this place.

I see Moseline, mother of three biological girls and nowmama to 15 orphans in The Bridge Christian Children’s Home. She is the onlymama kids like Serline and James will remember one day. She patiently trains them. She prepares them to live in this culture.

The task of a mother is never easy. It’s never straightforward. This I know: it is a gift.

I pray for more mamas to come and love these children. Ipray for tangible ways I can show them mother-love this summer.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Respite in Tampa

We just finished three days of resting and recharging our batteries in Tampa. My college friends, Cindy and Greg, opened their home to our family. We found that having a few days to breathe, adjust to the time zone and humidity is hugely helpful before arriving in Haiti.

Our kids enjoyed time with the Van Heysts' three kids. We dashed through sprinklers and swam in the YMCA pool. We created art. We rode bikes. We dipped our feet in the ocean at sunset. We indulged Indian food and gelato using Living Social coupons. Meilani and Mama even got a special birthday date to go see a Flamenco show and have a Spanish dinner with Cindy and Maya. The girls made memories when they were invited to dance on the stage after the show.

More than all this, we enjoyed some quality time as a family - such a gift after a busy, stressful month preparing for Haiti and our departure.

I have truly felt overwhelmed with gratitude this week as our family has been showered with blessings. In one short week, God provided the remaining $2,500 we needed for travel. We have found that the people who we least expect are the most generous. Additionally, the final $3,500 was given so we can begin our Solar Power Project at the mission complex in Pignon while we are there.

God also brought renters to take care of our house on Harrison for the 10 weeks we are away. (We didn't even have to move our furniture!)

Before we departed from Fresno, our friends Chris and Jen Schultz hosted a prayer night at their home. We believe in the power of prayer and we felt God's power and strength buoy us up as more than 20 friends plus their kids offered up prayers and encouragement on our behalf. It was like a blanket covering us as we go out.

I was reminded again that it truly "takes a village" to send a family of five to Haiti. We are so grateful for all of you - our sending team! We would appreciate your prayers as we depart for Port Au Prince today and head to our mountain home tomorrow.