Thursday, December 26, 2013

November-December Gilmore Gazette: Merry Day after Christ-mas & Happy New Year!

Dear Friends & Family,

We waited until today to send out our newsletter because we wanted to give you time. We wanted to give ourselves a little margin this month. November and December are always full, full, full as we struggle to balance our own family traditions and celebrations with the biggest season for selling The Haitian Bead Project jewelry and also for connecting with partners for Christian Friendship Ministries.

In November, we took a short trip to Haiti with three friends: Nancy Willey, her granddaughter, Zoe Casperite, and Regina Gleaves. Our focus for this trip was to work on some new products with the artisans in The Haitian Bead Project and to spend time with the children in the orphanages. The trip was truly brimming with blessings. Some of the highlights included: listening to the women lift their voices to heaven during our devotional times with them, a Movie/Game Night we had with the orphanage kids even when the power went out, when our friend Dartiquenov would come to the house to tell stories about Grandma and Grandpa Bell, Ericlee train the new coaches for the athletic gym we’re building in Pignon and Regina meeting the little girl her family is hoping to adopt.

After our trip, we flew home and a swirl of activity began for the holidays. Dorina and the Bead Project were a part of 10 holiday events in the last two months. Ericlee hosted the 4th Annual Haiti Decathlon with 75 competitors, raising more than $5,000 at CrossFit Combat Fitness gym. Our Zayla turned two on November 19, and we slipped a little birthday party in there with a monkey theme.

One fun addition this December was a little project we did with our girls. Each year we have allowed them to choose a gift from the World Vision catalog to give to a family or child in need somewhere in the world. This year the girls wanted to get involved with raising the money. They put their heads together with Nana Maria and did a cookies fundraiser. We hoped to raise $60 and sell about 12 dozen cookies. In the end, they filled orders for 56 dozen Italian pizzelle cookies and were able to buy a goat and chickens through World Vision. Admittedly, it was hard work but such an amazing lesson for Meilani and Giada to see how God does immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine especially when we choose to BE the gift to someone else!

This Christmas we had the special gift of celebrating in Fresno with Dorina’s whole family (parents, sister and kids from Seattle, brother and family from Los Angeles) and Ericlee’s parents. It’s been chaotic, loud and fun to stay (and eat!) all together. We have loved making memories and upholding traditions like attending Meilani’s winter program at school, walking Christmas Tree Lane, caroling and delivering treats with our life group, performing our own version of the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, making homemade ravioli with the family for Christmas Day, blowing out candles and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus and much more to come.

Next week we are headed to San Diego for some much-needed respite with our kids. We skipped presents this year and instead found a great deal to take them to Legoland/Sea Life Aquarium. Some dear friends are allowing us to “house sit” for them so our lodging is free! Please pray for us to have some true rest and quality family time next week before we launch into a new year of ministry.

We leave you with this reflection: It’s the Day after Christmas that we all really have to choose to open The gift. When scraps of wrapping paper litter the floor, the branches of the tree droop a little, the thrill of the kids first opening their gifts has worn off;  when you wake up scratchy-throat tired and you find yourself digging through the refrigerator for leftovers and staring down the bills, that’s when you really have to decide. That’s the moment of truth when you have to choose to believe in the Greatest Gift of Christmas. Otherwise, it all just passes quickly into a new year. The excitement of Christmas fades. There is no fulfillment after the pomp and circumstance unless you choose to call Christ your King.

We wish each one of you a meaningful Christmas and a blessed New Year! We are grateful for your continued prayers and support as we serve in Haiti and in Fresno.

Wrapped in His Grace,

Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada and Zayla

Friday, December 20, 2013

Birthing a Savior in the Beautiful Mess

Let’s be honest: Christmas is hard work for mamas. There’s cleaning and baking and wrapping. There are family photos to arrange, cards to write, school and church programs to attend, those elf and Santa traditions to keep straight. There’s the organizing, the crafting, the hiding of gifts and dressing of trees. Not to mention all the awkward family dynamics, the carting of kids from one house to the next, the sugar highs and then crashes.

In the midst of all that work, where does a mama meet the Savior? Where can we possibly find a silent night for just meditating on His birth?

I don’t know about you but sometimes I find myself just waiting for “that perfect moment.” I dream about the house being clean and quiet. I fantasize about our family sitting on the couch blissfully reading an Advent devotional before the twinkling lights of our tree. I long for that perfect Christmas moment to meet God. 

The reality is that “perfect” moment may never come for busy mamas of preschool and elementary-aged kids. I was reminded today that Mary didn’t have “that perfect moment” either.
I am sure that the mother of God had some plans and dreams forming in heart before she birthed the Son. I imagine as she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem that she fantasized about the ideal place to birth that baby. Maybe she even prayed in her spirit for God to provide the perfect place for birthing with a comfortable bed, the right music and the best midwife to help her along.
She had none of these.
A stinky, loud, cold stable. A bed of straw. Her legs spread out before the world. That was the God-chosen perfect moment for birthing the God-child. It’s pretty miraculous to think about. Jesus, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Almighty, the Light of the world, was born in a messy stable. 
A beautiful, messy stable.
And that stable, that manger where He laid His holy head, has become a symbol of Christmas, a picture of peace. It’s ironic. Ann Voskamp says, “Simplicity is a matter of focus, not circumstances.”
This Christmas as you are facing your mile-long to-do list, your family drama, I urge you to press in face-to-face with the Savior. I invite you to unwrap the simple, yet most profound gift of the season. The baby. Hold him close. Rock him in your mama heart.

Even as the holiday mess swirls around you, seek Him.
**The above is re-posted from The Bridge MOPS Blog, where I share stories and encouragement for mothers twice a month.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Gilmore Gazette: Gilmores jump into life boat

Dear Friends & Family,

Sometimes you pray so hard for a life boat it’s hard to believe when one seemingly rains down from the sky. We had this experience this month. As many of you know, our hearts are deeply invested in the work of Christian Friendship Ministries working in Haiti. God continues to open doors for the non-profit. Our board of directors has grown from four to nine members who are passionate and committed. We now have five California churches who have partnered with us in various ways. As the months and years pass, we continue to feel confident about our calling to Haiti. However, the last six months have been especially difficult for our family. We have not had enough financial support to pay our bills and we found ourselves slipping dangerously into debt. We have felt confused and stressed out. While Ericlee has enjoyed personal training and working at the Crossfit gym, the pay has not been sufficient to fill the gap between what we receive in monthly support and what it costs to meet the basic needs and ministry travel costs for our family of five.

A few weeks ago, Ericlee got a call from Fresno Christian Schools. Their junior high and high school Physical Education teacher had just resigned. They wanted Ericlee to come in for an interview. He agreed, although he wasn’t sure he had the time. He shared with them his heart for Haiti. He boldly expressed our family’s needs but limited time margin. He asked if they would consider letting him work four days a week instead of five. We had a week to pray, consult with some of our trusted mentors and wait. The principal called back and offered Ericlee the job – including a 4-day contract, time off to travel to Haiti in November/January, health benefits for our family and even 75% tuition discount for our kids if we choose to send them there. We were floored. It was just the kind of unbelievable proposal that would have God’s fingerprints all over it. A life boat.

We met with our board of directors for CFM and they encouraged us to take this opportunity. Ericlee felt a peace and confidence to step into the boat. Last Tuesday, he started his new job. Some of you may recall that Ericlee attended Fresno Christian Schools as a student and taught there for 9 years previously. He was laid off five years ago with several other teachers when the school was in economic trouble. That circumstance was the impetus we needed to initially move to Haiti and jump into work with the non-profit. This has been a beautiful, redemptive week of returning to a wonderful community of support at Fresno Christian Schools – all in God’s timing. Ericlee loves that he can use his passions for nutrition and fitness to influence young people and hopes to share his love for mission work with them too!

We covet your prayers during this time of transition for our family. Ericlee is settling into a new schedule and trying to learn how to delegate more of the non-profit work to the board. Dorina is also shifting her time because she needs to be fully available for the children. She is grateful for her administrative assistant, Hannah Blatchford, who is taking on more responsibility for the Haitian Bead Project. The other important piece of this puzzle is that we must keep our current financial supporters so we can meet our budget, pay off our debt, continue to travel to Haiti and live there during the summers. The Fresno Christian income will not cover those costs. If you have been a supporter, we assure you we are still invested in Haiti and we need your support. Please do not hesitate to call or email us at if you have questions.

This Sunday we will be running in the U.S. Half Marathon across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with our Remember Haiti team. Then we depart Tuesday night for Haiti. We will be there November 5-13 with three friends, Nancy Willey, her granddaughter Zoe Casperite, and Regina Gleaves. Ericlee, Dorina and Zayla will be going on this trip while Meilani and Giada stay with grandparents. We will be devoting time to The Haitian Bead Project (making and bringing back products for the Christmas season) and visiting our kids in the orphanages. Ericlee will be checking progress on the gym being built in Pignon and working on some training of leaders.

Serving Together,
Dorina & Ericlee
Meilani, Giada & Zayla

Sunday, September 22, 2013

August-September Gilmore Gazette: Gilmores discover a sweet spot in ministry

Dear Friends & Family,

It’s hard to believe it’s already September! We are eager to share with you some stories from the last 6 weeks:

In early August, we had three friends from the Well Community Church in Fresno visit us in Pignon for the Men’s Conference. Chris Schultz, John Lynch and Sam Babcock joined Ericlee in teaching and facilitating the conference on the theme, “The Anatomy of a Disciple.” This was a powerful and transforming week for the 100-plus men from 4 different churches who attended. Chris was the main speaker and challenged the men to submit their hearts and read their Bibles regularly as a life guide book. The talks were a road map on how to be a disciple as Jesus modeled. Ericlee’s highlight was the closing night when the group had a footwashing ceremony and time of worship. He was truly blessed to see the young and older men uniting.

Our final week in Haiti, Dorina was asked to be the speaker for the annual Esther Women’s Conference hosted in Pignon. This was Dorina’s first experience teaching at a conference. She gave six messages on the topic “How to Be a Brave Woman of God.” She is discovering that speaking/teaching is a “sweet spot” for her in ministry. What a privilege to be able to share with the women and pray with many of them over “thorns they were bearing” and areas where they needed to face fear, loneliness and trials.

Ericlee is excited about a new small business venture for Christian Friendship Ministries in Pignon. Peter and Ericlee have put together plans and a crew is working on construction of a fitness gym. This gym will provide jobs for Haitians, a meeting place for Haitian young men to work out and an avenue for Ericlee to share his passion for fitness with new friends. The long-term goal is to make this into a Crossfit gym and garner support from various Crossfit gyms across the United States to help “transform” Haiti. Ericlee is thrilled to finally be able to use one of his big passions in Haiti.

This past month we have been transitioning back to our U.S. life in Fresno. Meilani just started second grade and Giada is in preschool. While the girls have been very eager for school and reconnecting with friends, we have had some unexpected changes at both of their schools. We appreciate your prayers for wisdom on how to proceed with both of their education. We are grateful for Dorina’s mom, Maria, who is now retired from teaching and offering some quality time to all three of our girls throughout the week to help them in their learning and allowing Dorina to concentrate some time on The Haitian Bead Project.

Fall is the kick-off of another fundraising season for Christian Friendship Ministries and for our family. Ericlee is preparing for the first event in the Remember Haiti Fitness series. This Saturday he will be hosting the Row-a-thon & Skills Challenge at Crossfit Combat Fitness gym in Fresno. Already 14 teams have signed up to row for 3 hours and help raise money for Haiti. We have also started training our 4th Remember Haiti Half Marathon team. This year we decided to take our team on the road and we will be running the U.S. Half Marathon across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Nov. 3. We have 14 friends running and raising support for Haiti.

Finally, we ask for your continued prayers for our family’s future. We feel confident in God’s call to continue working full-time with Christian Friendship Ministries and The Haitian Bead Project. Although Ericlee would like to keep his foot in the door at the gym coaching some regular classes, he does not have time for both personal training and attending to all the needs of the non-profit. Dorina is volunteering 20-plus hours a week with The Haitian Bead Project. Long story short: we love what we are doing but we can’t keep doing it unless more of you help us. Would you consider joining our monthly prayer or financial support team? Would you help us share this opportunity with a friend or business that might like to invest? We need at least $1,500 more monthly. Every little bit counts!

Saying Yes to God,

Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada and Zayla

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stepping into the "Sweet Spot" of ministry

I had one of those moments the other day. I was sitting in our pick-up truck headed back to our mission complex in Haiti to make dinner for my family. My dear friend and right-hand man Walquis was driving, trying desperately to avoid the assortment of chickens, goats, motorcycles, kids and huge holes in the road. A group of women from our Haitian Bead Project were in the back of the truck singing a worship song in four-part harmony. Dust swirled on the rocky road before us. I looked out across the sugar cane fields with Mount Pignon in the background. 

Then it dawned on me: I’m in the sweet spot.

Something deep inside my heart was almost singing, “I love this.”

I recalled the scene in one of my favorite movies, Chariots of Fire, when the runner and missionary Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

That’s how I felt in that moment. I felt God’s pleasure. I felt this warmth rising up in my soul and spreading all over my body. I was unwrapping an amazing gift. 

I’m 36 years old, married to a man who is a courageous leader, a disciplined athlete and a faithful daddy. We are raising three girls who are growing and learning every day what it means to cross cultural lines, to live like Jesus and to bridge the gap between the haves and have nots. I have an amazing circle of friends who encourage and support me on this wild journey.

My “job” is spending time with women in Haiti, teaching them how to create jewelry and sharing my faith with them. The other part of my job is marketing their work and sharing their stories of transformation with friends in the United States.

Somebody pinch me. These are all realized dreams.

I just didn’t realize I was there. Somehow I forgot that these are all the things I have specifically prayed for through the years.  

How I got here

I certainly did not arrive at this place – the proverbial sweet spot – overnight.

I definitely did not follow any road map or take the path I originally planned.

Much of this journey has been hard. I’ve whined and kicked and screamed quite a bit actually. I’ve questioned the calling. I’ve devised plans to make my life more comfortable and predictable.

Our life is far from idyllic. Even as I type this I am sitting in an airplane balancing my laptop on my knees while nursing my youngest. We have been on standby living in airports from Port Au Prince to Fort Lauderdale to Dallas to Phoenix for two days. Mama’s “Mary Poppins bag” is just about empty with only a few more diapers, some stray peanuts, a plastic finger puppet and a pad of post-its (mostly scribbled on) to keep my girls busy.

I’m wearing the same pants, underwear and tank top I had on yesterday – with a different sweater to spruce it up. (My traveling fashion secret.) My kids clothes are stained with toothpaste and pizza grease. Our Haitian braids are looking frizzy, our eyes red with travel.

Most people would not call this life I live glamorous. 

What I had to leave behind

Every day that I work in Haiti, I am reminded of what I leave behind. I leave behind my air conditioner, my hybrid cars, my nicely-fenced backyard, my iced fraps and my pillow-topped king-sized mattress. I leave behind my skinny jeans and makeup and high-speed internet.

I leave behind dreams of publishing books and sending my kids to swim lessons and Vacation Bible School with their friends.

I leave behind a predictable calendar, a consistent income.

Some days what I leave behind digs deep, leaves tread marks on my heart. I leave behind my family, my closest friends.  

I leave behind my career.

I leave behind any semblance of normalcy and routine.

I leave behind safety.

I leave behind planning and retirement.

I leave behind so much but I also gain much more than I ever imagined.

I have learned a new language. 

I have befriended people I might not otherwise.

I have participated in the amazing stories of transformation of women, mothers, daughters, grandmothers.

I have climbed to the top of mountains and looked out over oceans.

I have tasted a dozen varieties of island mangoes.

I have awakened before dawn to the sound of angels singing in the church just outside my window.  

I have offered a handmade dress to an orphan girl who looked like a princess.

I have spooned a plate of rice and beans for a young man dying of hepatitis.

I have prayed with a blind woman, mother of 7. I have watched her down a glass of water, whetting 
her parched lips, before she returned to the streets.  

I have held a newborn baby with brown, round cheeks and chubby legs. All the while, her defying the odds.

I have gained the courage to stand up in the middle of conflict, to embrace miscommunication and racial tension.

There is so much to gain when we risk loving, when we risk leaving our comforts, when we risk saying Yes to God.

What the sweet spot in ministry is really all about

In the game of tennis, when that little neon ball hits the "sweet spot" it results in a more powerful hit - not to mention that ping noise that makes the tennis ball sing.

I'm starting to see that hitting the sweet spot in ministry is never about what I'm doing or accomplishing or how I'm impressing or leading. The sweet spot is that place where I feel wholly alive using my God-given gifts and at the same time humbly submitted to following His lead.

This summer I had a taste of it when I was given the opportunity to speak at a women's conference. I looked out over an audience of grandmas and mamas, and I shared my story. The story of my difficult, beautiful mess. And somewhere in sharing my story I was sharing the story of Hagar and Ruth. I was sharing a story of El Roi, the God who sees the invisible, the God who comforts, the God who casts out fear with love.

I loved sharing these stories. When I shared these stories I felt His pleasure.  

This may be surprising coming from the girl whose nervous knees would knock hard against the piano during recitals, who used to hurl before speech class in college. Public speaking is the last career I expected to pursue. Working with women and children who reek of poverty and disease is a place I never imagined I'd find joy. The rural mountains of Haiti is the last place this city girl expected to find home.

How sweet it is.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walquis & Juno welcome new baby Deborah

One of my highlights this summer was holding sweet baby Deborah and snapping some photos of her loveliness. Deborah is the daughter of our dear friends, Walquis and Juno.
They live in Pignon with their oldest daughter, Amanda, who happens to be one of our Giada's best little Haitian friends. Walquis was my student 12 years ago when I lived in Haiti and taught English. I still remember those days when he was mostly teaching me Kreyol and I was teaching him all the ways we break the grammar rules in English.
Today Walquis is the Music Director at the Pignon Evangelical Baptist Church and one of the chief translators for Christian Friendship Ministries. Walquis has grown so much as a daddy and husband and also in his calling to serve as a leader in his community. His little Deborah was born on a sweltering summer morning. Juno had her in the Pignon hospital. She was a perfect gift from God!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Anatomy of a Disciple: Men's Conference unites generations

This week we hosted three men from The Well Church, including Chris Schultz, Ericlee's best friend since junior high, Sam Babcock, a former student and basketball player, and John Lynch. The team came to speak at the Youth Conference and then lead the Men's Conference. Both conferences were held in Pignon at our mission base. We quickly all became a family as these three men embraced the experience and jumped into ministry in Haiti.

The Men's conference kicked off on Monday morning. Pastor Chris was the lead teacher sharing a curriculum called "The Anatomy of a Disciple" that he originally helped develop for The Well Church in Fresno, California. The talks were a road map on how to be a disciple as Jesus modeled. Chris challenged the men to submit their hearts and read their Bibles regularly as a life guide book.

Together the men studied the Bible and unpacked the themes of: Relationships, Morality and Generosity over the course of the week. Chris, John, Sam and Ericlee all shared their own life stories during the services. The conference included time for the men to break into small groups for discussion as well as large group discussion and worship time.

One of the biggest highlights for the team was joining the Haitian men each morning at 5:30 a.m. for a time of worship and prayer. They all would rise before the sun to spend this time with God. The team noted that there was never any time constraints. Individuals could share prayers for 5, 7, even 10 minutes. What a contrast to the way the team experiences prayer meetings back home.

After each morning session, the team led the men in some fun bonding games in the courtyard of the school. These games included "Cross the River," a team-building game where the men had to work together to stay on the rocks while crossing through the courtyard/river.

The "Barnyard Game" was especially memorable as the men had to make the noises of barnyard animals in order to find the others in their group. The courtyard erupted in crazy noises and belly laughter during this game. The Haitian men all commented on how much they loved these games and wanted more.

Part of the beauty of this conference was seeing the older and younger generations come together. Fathers and sons attended together. Many laypreachers and regular attenders of the church were there. Even men from the neighborhood were included. 

On the final evening, the men participated in a foot washing. They were asked to wash each other's feet as a gesture to serve one another and model what Jesus Christ did with his disciples. This was a meaningful service: Fourteen men accepted Jesus as their personal Savior that night and 6 rededicated their lives.

The conference concluded Friday morning with a time of sharing for the men. Chris asked each of the men to write their name on a stone along with one key word or concept that deeply affected them through the teaching. These stones of remembrance were laid on the steps of the church before they departed.

**Read more reflections directly from our team here.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Crossing cultural lines: Haitian Bead Project women take a retreat to Camp de la Grace

Building relationships across cultural lines is no easy task. In fact, in the last four years of living in Haiti off and on we have discovered that building relationships is not a task at all. It's not something you do in a day and then neatly check off your to-do list. It's not something you can pour money into or even make happen with the best of intentions.

Building relationships begins by putting in time. Lots of time. 

I remember my first days working with the women of The Haitian Bead Project in Savanette. We already had a group of twenty-something women working at our mission base in Pignon. The pastor of the Savanette church, which is also part of our non-profit, begged me to start something for his ladies. So many were struggling to feed their families and send their children to school. My heart was touched and I moved forward with baby steps. I decided I would spend two days a week with the women.

In those first days the women sat in a semi-circle around me. They were cordial as I explained the values of our project and began to teach the process of making paper beads and jewelry. They were attentive but timid.

I longed to be close to them. I tried to interpret their blank faces, search for hope in their eyes. I would pray each day for wisdom, for a window.

Their beads were horrible at first. Bumpy and uneven - much like my language skills. There were many days I asked myself and God if expanding our business was a bad idea. 

But little by little their beads have grown smoother. And so has our communication.

This past week something truly extraordinary happened. After two years of planting and watering and waiting and praying  and watering some more, a full garden of flowers bloomed.

For the last several months I've been planning to take the women on a little retreat. Our friends, Debbie and Caleb Lucien of Hosean Ministries, had offered the use of their summer camp in Fontaine. The goal: to take the women on an overnight to bond, relax and celebrate the way God has prospered the Haitian Bead Project his year. I invited three friends from the U.S., who volunteer with the project, to help me put on the retreat. Kim McCurry, Paula Peterson and Dana Johnson helped me pray over the retreat and pull together all the details.

The first day we handed out name tags and played some games to get the women interacting. Dana had collected purses from home and we filled them with fun toiletries, hankies, little notebooks. We did a "Gift Exchange" game where the women each got a filled purse. Oh how we laughed! The walls between us started to come down.

The retreat far exceeded our expectations! The women jumped right into the activities. They played Frisbee, hiked, danced, painted nails, did hand massages, made art projects, sang, prayed, studied the Bible, brainstormed new products for the future, ate their fill and didn’t have to cook or do laundry or watch kids.

I found great joy in sharing Bible lessons with them on the topics: “You are Beautiful” and “God Created you an Artist.” My friends, Kim and Paula also shared their stories with the group. 

The ladies from Savanette started teaching us Haitian songs and circle games - a good sign that the cultural lines had been crossed. They were eager to share a piece of their own culture.

One afternoon during Free Tine my oldest daughter, Meilani, hung out in one of the rooms with the women. She said the women wanted her to teach them Eglish phrases. Later that night the women boldly and sweetly tried out their phrases on us. Renande said, "I love you, my friend." Ylnise added, "I will always remember you." They longed to connect and communicate much like I did those first few months.

Their pastor Mele came to join us on the last day and he, too, commented on how different the group acted. He saw them bubbling with joy. 

The retreat concluded with the Haitian women singing a farewell blessing over our team. They hugged us tight and laughed. One woman, Angeline, begged us to come back the next year. Some even had misty eyes for we were all sad to say goodbye after such a mountaintop experience.

There are plenty of days, plenty of relationships in Haiti that may never bloom in this way. I know that's a reality. Still I am grateful for each of these women who have now welcomed me in as their own.

For more details about our project or to order jewelry, see