Wednesday, July 31, 2013

summer time update

Where does time go?  I obviously struggle with blogging.  For one, it's hard to find time to sleep let alone write.  Though that's not even the hardest part.  The hardest part for me is that SO much happens here in a day. A week.  A month.  We constantly deal with situations that are not "normal".  Situations that are hard to put into words.  I'm always asking myself, "Should I really write about that?"  After all, our ministry is with vulnerable people, and I never want to exploit their situations.  On top of that, working in the orphan care world is a hot mess of it's own.  It's a hot topic and Christians everywhere have opinions on orphanages, best practices, family-reunification, short-term mission teams, adoption, adoption ethics, etc.  Honestly, I love talking about his stuff and blogging about such topics can be a great way to share experiences and encourage others who are striving out of pure hearts to defend the cause of the fatherless.  But blogging about these topics can also bring a lot of un-necessary drama (in my opinion) so I usually choose to have conversations about said topics in person.

So as we continue to pray for discernment on what and what not to share…here's a little update on what's been going on in our neck of the woods:  

**We are expanding out onto the back of our property!  We have purchased some additional land in recent months to spread out.  This will create 2 separate compounds connected by a bridge.  The new homes on the 'back property' will be our family homes.  Our current 'front property' will be utilized as our activity center (worship night, games,special activities, etc), education center (daily lessons/homework time after school and computer lab), administration, missionary housing, short term group housing, and our age-out campus. 

This is happening for a few reasons:
 1. According to IBESR (Haitian social services), our kids can't live on our compound with the other children once they turn 18.  We will still have kids who are not finished with school at that age, and we are committed to walking alongside them for a period of time to help our kids "age-out" well.   They will move up to our front property when they reach that age.  There they will be given the opportunity to finish school and be mentored as they choose their next steps in life and prepare to spread their wings and leave their Hands & Feet home.  The same concept is also happening at our Grand Goave site right now.
2.  We are crowded! We have 90 people living full time on our small compound, plus short-term mission teams when they come.  We desire for all of our children to have safe, stable family units away from the hustle and bustle of people coming in and out, and having a separate family home compound will accomplish this.  Interaction with all other people will happen on our front activity campus.  
3.  Our families are currently full right now, and the extra space will allow a little more room if IBESR comes to us with a child who needs a family.

We had a new well drilled on the back property at the beginning of the summer!  You can see the wall that was completed around the property as well.
This summer we've had some great teams working hard under the direction of our Haitian construction crew on the back property.  After a lot of work building the wall, digging and leveling land, we have our first new home going up.

** Our kids have been having a great summer.  For starters, ALL of our kids passed in school this year.   Not only did they pass, but they all did extremely well!  Stephen and I along with all their house moms are incredibly proud of each and every kid.  They all put in a lot of hard work over the last semester.  

Their summer break has been filled with loads of fun activities!  They've gone on field trips to the national museum and other sites in Port au Prince, our older kids got the chance to go to an amazing church camp for a week with their 'cousins' from Grand Goave, our house moms have been teaching cooking and sewing classes, they've done lots of crafts including bracelet making and wood working, they have done service projects, and the list goes on.  Our kids are incredibly talented and I have especially enjoyed watching the house moms invest in teaching the kids their skills this summer.  Oh how I love our staff!

This photo was taken shortly after the kids found out they all passed.  These two incredibly smart guys had to run and tell us the good news right away as they worked hard and showed tons of improvement this semester!

Our kids and staff put in some hard work and painted our church last week. It looks beautiful, and I'm pretty sure they had a lot of fun doing it!
You've got to have time for a good water balloon fight.
One of our house moms teaching our girls the process of designing and sewing clothes.
I'm incredibly thankful for the tables one of our group members made for our kid's activity room and for our family for home school this fall!
Of course we have to squeeze in some hang out time.
That covers a lot of ground from this summer.  We have so much great stuff currently going on. A special thanks to all the teams for their hard work and being such a blessing to us this summer.  We continue to appreciate all of our amazing supporters as well.  We covet your prayers and could not keep going without each and every one of you.

On that note... I think we're also looking forward to a slow-down in pace this fall and a chance to breathe :)  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Encouraging Haiti Day

Today was an encouraging Haiti day.  Unfortunately it's easy to get discouraged living in this country with all the government corruption, trash, lack of infrastructure, lack of medical care, physical poverty etc.  But today was one of those days that the Lord sent us to make our hearts smile :)

A few weeks ago IBESR (social services) brought us a lady who wanted to abandon her three small children here.  She was being kicked out of her current home and had no way to provide for herself, let alone her children. We talked to her about her children, being a mom, and other opportunities (or lack thereof).  This woman has actually abandoned previous children as well.

We had been needing to hire an additional wash lady, and after talking about it with her she gladly accepted the job in hopes of being able to keep and care for her kids.  We agreed to give her a small pay advice to secure the rent for a place to live, and the IBESR worker was happy with this solution.

IBESR has only been active in Jacmel for the last couple of years.  Our orphanage has to be licensed through them and they are in charge of placing children-in-need in homes.  I believe that these workers really care about the kids, but they lack major resources and staff to be able to do their job well.  They end up relying on us and other organizations in the area to help find places for children which can be rather draining as it's a whole other job entirely!

Anyway, back to this encouraging Haiti day:

Today the man from IBESR came over to check on this woman and see how things were going.  It caught us off guard, but we went and got her to talk to him.  After chatting for a while, he said that he was pleased with the solution of her taking the job, and that they were proud of her for following through and doing the job well.  Because of this, he gave her some supplies (from IBESR) to help her in getting her family back on the ground: a couple air matlas (mattresses), pots to cook with, some additional clothes for her kids and some peanut butter.  He also said that he was going to go check on her after her next pay day to assure the kids were being taken care of with the money and supplies.

Stephen and I were quite shocked!  It was beyond encouraging to see them out advocating for keeping families together and lending a helping hand in a situation that really needed it.  It matters to this family. We're proud of Haiti today :)  Praise God!

Our newest employee and the worker from IBESR

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Year Two and a Half Marathon

Friends and Family,

We are quickly approaching our one-year-anniversary of living and serving in Haiti with the Hands & Feet Project.  October 25th marks our first year.  What a year it has been!  We have walked through joys, trials and tragedies with our Hands and Feet family. It has emotionally been a gigantic roller coaster for us, but the Lord has remained the same, and is our rock. We couldn't be more confident that this is where He has placed our family.  I get choked up when I try to explain how much we love our kids and staff; they are truly our extended family.  We're also blessed beyond measure to work for an incredible, integrity-filled organization.  We're excited to head into year two, and all that lies ahead!

As we near the end of our first year, we are raising support to fill in the gap of our upcoming 2012-2013 year.  We are incredibly blessed by those of you who have thus far financially sacrificed to allow us to serve in Haiti with Hands & Feet. We are humbled by your generosity, but more importantly your donations have gone to help the orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti live in a loving, Christ-centered family such as this one.

This is 'Kay Yrmithe' (Yrmithe's house). She(in the lower right corner) is the head house mom, and Rosanie (to the left) is a nanny who lives with them.  The boys in this family include Marvensky, Richnaider, Wadley, Modlaire, Stephane, Cadet, Willcharson, Edmond, Nickenson and Jeziman. They are one of the 7 families on our compound in Jacmel.

There are a couple of ways you can support us for the coming year.  On December 2nd, Stephen is running in the Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Marathon with team Hands & Feet (along with the new, recently re-launched Audio Adrenaline).  He is running the half marathon. If you would like to make a donation per mile, please click HERE, then scroll down and click on the icon for Stephen Mulligan to fill out the sponsorship.  He's been training each evening when the heat gets *slightly* less intense.  The boys and nannies are cheering him on….they think he's going to win this race, and Stephen is content with letting them think that!  We won't tell them he's just aiming to finish well :)

We are also in need of a few more more monthly donors.  If you feel led to join our monthly team, click HERE.

Please remember that financial contributions are not all that we need.  We covet your prayers!  We would not be in Haiti today if not for all the prayers and encouragement we have received this year.  We feel your prayers each and every day.  The Lord continues to remind us that we cannot do this on our own.  Serving here is so much bigger than us or an organization.  It's about the body of Christ coming together for His purposes and to make him known - to orphans, to Haitians, and the rest of the world.  We are so grateful for all who have joined 'team Mulligan' and those of you will will join us for year two!  None of this would be possible without your support, so on behalf of our family, ALL of our kids, and the Hands & Feet Project: Thank you!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A precious little life

Words can't express the emotions we've gone through in the past month.

We had a precious little boy head to his forever home in Heaven a little over a week ago.  Woodley PantalĂ©on, born November 18, 2010 was a special little boy loved by many.  He had many health issues that he struggled with on this earth and was in the care of doctors quite often during his short life.  So much so, that we had transferred him to a home with a large medical team on staff that cares for kids with medical problems such as Woodley's. We wanted him to receive the best medical care that he needed, which is hard to find on this side of the island.  A few days later we were informed that after a severe seizure, Woodley went home to be with his Father in Heaven.  This saddened us, his house mama Emilia, and many others who cared for him tremendously.  He was brought back to Jacmel to have a funeral service with his Hands & Feet family on Tuesday.  

It is very difficult to put into words all that has gone on and the roller coaster of emotions, so I will share what my husband spoke at Woodley's funeral:

     Brothers and sisters, all of us are gathered here to celebrate the life of Woodley.  We loved him as our own.
     The God that we serve has bigger plans for us than we can imagine.  He is sovereign and just in those plans.  He knows that every situation and trial is for his glory.  They test and refine our faith.  
     Woodley's short life was a gift to everyone.  He has a special place in the heart of his biological family, Mama Emilia, Magalie, Miss Diane and all the rest of us in his Hands and Feet family. 
     It was a miracle that he survived his first few weeks of life, a miracle that he lived as long as he did, and a miracle that he is now at peace with our eternal father in heaven.  
     His body is no longer suffering.  May we be filled with comfort knowing that he is embraced in the arms of Christ.  Woodley knows the future glory that we can all anticipate described in Romans 8: 18-25. 
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spriti, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."
     We love you Woodley, but God loves you more. Welcome home.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

si dye vle

Most all of you have heard about the tragedy that happened to our Hands & Feet family last Friday, August 10.   On a weekly beach outing, our precious six-year-old, Junette, was swept out to sea (We did find her body two days later).  I will write/reflect more about the story soon, but I just want to ask for prayers as we're still in the whirlwind of heart-ache, funeral preparations, counseling/loving-on the kiddos and staff, as well as all the social-services/local government meetings that have to be had.  The funeral is tomorrow, August 15th at 3:00pm.  Please continue to pray for our entire family here at Hands & Feet in this time of sorrow....and joy, as we know that Junette was adopted into her forever-family in heaven this week.

In the midst of another struggle and tragedy, I'm constantly reminded of a few things:
1. I have a great God who is in control, sovereign, and loves us
2. I have a pretty spectacular husband. for real.
3. I love my mulligan and hands & feet kids to pieces, and cherish every moment I'm gifted with them.
4. I have to end all of the plans I make for tomorrow and beyond with "Si Dye vle".....a Haitian phrase that is always said meaning, "If God wants/wills." They literally say it after every plan, and it's so true.

Thanks for all the love and support!
                    Love you, Junette

Thursday, August 2, 2012

summer and a mid-year resolution ;)

It has definitely been a while since we've posted!  The spring and summer have flown by, and we're just a couple months away from our one year mark in Haiti. Crazy!  I want to catch you up to date on what's been going on in the last few months and reveal my 'mid-year' resolution: to have a new blog post each week!  Hopefully this will enable me to tell some of the little stories, big stories, or just funny happenings along the way, without having to have big, long update posts :)  So hold me to it - I'm committed!

Our summer has been full of kids home from school (yes, we have 68 kids + 3 Mulligan's) and many groups volunteering their time to come serve with us!  It takes a lot of extra energy to host groups, but they are also a huge blessing to us at Hands & Feet.  They've added summer time activities for our kids, served our staff, and have put in a lot of hard work in the intense Haitian heat!  We have almost all of our buildings newly painted, new gardens planted, and tons loose ends fixed up around our compound thanks to all these people who decided to spend a week of their summer with us.  We can't thank you enough - not only for your work, but the amazing encouragement you provided our family this summer was priceless. I truly mean it.  I can't forget our volunteer, Natalie, who came down to help us out with our kids this summer.  In the midst of our busy group season, it was a blessing to have an extra set of hands to help us out with our own kids.  It's quite an adjustment moving somewhere with 3 little tots and not having your babysitters anymore - especially on top of a demanding job. We really appreciated having Natalie for close to three months.

Check out Caleb an Bryan from our TVC group from Nashville, going the extra mile to get the second story painted :)
The kids got out of school at the end of June.  They got to enjoy a couple weeks of freedom from schedules with plenty of free time and no school work before we started our 'summer schedule'.  With the summer schedule, they have lessons to review school work each morning from 8:30-10:30.  We've also had extra activities scheduled that the kids have signed up for such as cooking class, gardening, and crafts, along with our usual beach and hiking trips each week.  The lessons and classes have been nice to keep a little structure in our day.  We have a few more weeks, and the kids will be heading back to school.  A lot of them have told me they're already ready to go back!  We're looking forward to the new year ahead!

just hanging out with Melissa

Jameson :)

Some groups come in with some fun stuff!

Book fun

The pool that lasted at least a couple uses before popping!
This summer we also enjoyed our first planned rest-time home!  Let me tell you, it was much needed and wonderful!  We had fun on vacation with my family on Table Rock Lake, and also had some good time to visit the rest of our family and friends in Iowa.  We appreciated being able to *mostly put our stress aside for a couple weeks and catch up on rest!  We miss you all!


Ouch! Grady has really learned how to swim well this summer - go buddy!

fishing with Grandpa

The kids always have a great time on Grandpa Ed and Grandma Mary's farm!

Overall, life in Haiti is always interesting to say the least.  There's always a new disaster waiting for us around the corner....whether it's our generator breaking, or some other dramatic happening (think about it - we live in a very small space with close to 100 people, of whom most are under 10!) We embrace those disasters around here as a chance to build character :)  And yes, we have had a lot of those chances.  An interesting verse that was brought to our attention this summer was Proverbs 14:13: "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief."  It sounds a little depressing, but this accurately describes a lot of what we've gone through this year.  God has taught us a lot about his faithfulness over the last nine months.  It's not that He makes everything work out perfectly, nor has happy endings for every situation.  He does, however, walk along side of us in every circumstance, chips away at what we don't need in our life and builds up the things we do need!  Haiti is an incredibly hard place to do ministry, have a marriage and raise your family.  I definitely picked the best partner ever in this endeavor; Stephen and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last month.  The kids and I are so blessed to have such a great husband and daddy!  There's nothing this guy can't fix, or wouldn't do for us.  Love and appreciate him more and in new ways each day!

Prayer requests:
*Please pray for our family.  As I just talked about the craziness of Haiti life, just pray for unity in our marriage and time to spend as a family.
*Our kids - Haitian and American :) Grady, Ella, and Mikah are doing great here, but they're still in the first-year transition which is a big one.  Pray for our Haitian kids as we're getting ready to start a new devotion series with them....that ultimately they would all come to have a relationship with Christ who is the only person who can fill that hole in their life and heal the wounds of abandonment. Also for the end of summer and their upcoming school year!
*Our staff-we have some Haitian and American staff transitions coming up.  Pray for this to happen smoothly and for God to build up the team he has chosen to serve at Hands & Feet in wisdom and unity.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the silent funeral

An emotional day here in Haiti.  It started a few days ago when IBESR (social services) came to Hands and Feet with a story of a little boy named Toto Leon.  He was a 12 year old boy at an orphanage in Jacmel.  He had epilepsy and was unable to walk for the past two years (for unknown reasons).  He had a seizure in the middle of the night and died.  He was taken to the local hospital St Michel and placed in the morgue.  This was on March 5th!  Now, the 2nd of April, the hospital had called social services and said that no one had come to claim and bury the him.  The orphanage where he was staying didn't have the funds and the hospital was going to dump the body.

It seemed like a far fetched story and without the time to check it all out was reluctant to help out.  We were prompted by the spirit to help out financially and trusted that God would work it out.  The next day, another missionary called with questions about the story and verified that it was true and they were looking for funds to give this abandoned child a dignified burial.  Over the last week, it has been beautiful to watch IBESR gather funds from other Haitians , Damou Ministries and Hands and Feet to complete the preparations for a funeral today.

The visitation was at 2:30 this afternoon.  There were five people there, none of which personally knew or had ever met this child.  The funeral was moderately attended by people who had interacted with him at his local school and some people from the orphanage he lived at.  My heart ached for the life this child had.  Here at his funeral, who really knew and loved him.  I longed for someone to be crying for him, for him to be missed, for a family to be comforted.  There was none of this though.....

It made me question if his death was really an answer to his prayer for a family.  That Christ had gleefully embraced Toto who came running to his true 'forever family' back on March 5th.  As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the crucifixion of our Savior, let us crave the family that is promised in Christ's death and resurrection.  What a comfort that will be when we are embraced in his loving arms and may we all desire to be with him in our 'forever family'.    ~ SM