It takes thirty days to make a habit.

We lived in Haiti for 35 days.

One of the missionaries told us we stayed for the perfect amount of time. Long enough to grow accustomed and connected to the culture, but short enough to avoid getting burned out or homesick.

We felt like we belonged. Of course our skin was a different color–no amount of tanning could change the fact that we were still very “blanc,” as the Haitian guys liked to call out. We couldn’t understand their language, although we learned enough to communicate with the kids and express our needs to the Haitian staff. Technically speaking, we should have felt out of place.

But there was something in the way the passersby softly greeted us with “bonjou” in the mornings, the way the neighbor kids smiled at us shyly, the way the babies–completely trusting us to take care of them–nestled their heads on our shoulders, that told us we belonged.

We didn’t belong because we fit in. We belonged because God had placed us there.

After five weeks in Haiti, we grew into the routines, such as walking a mile through trash-filled, rocky Haitian roads each morning, taking freezing cold showers every other night, and answering to the name “mama.”

Now we’re home. I have to remind myself to speak to kids in English instead of Creole. I can’t bring myself to waste clean drinking water. I turn whenever I hear someone say “mama.”

I’m reminding myself that for this next season of my life, I belong here, in America. But ultimately, I don’t belong in Haiti or the United States or any other country; Heaven is my home.

And until I get there, the center of God’s will is where I truly belong.

Written for Lisa-Jo’s Five-Minute Friday: Belong


how do you say goodbye?


How do you say goodbye to a country God placed on your heart six years ago, a beautiful country of banana trees and dirt roads that you’ve fallen in love with?

The country where one in three kids are able to go to school, where mothers walk up to you and ask you if they can leave one of their five children at the orphanage because they’re too poor to provide for them.


How do you say goodbye to over 120 kids, ages newborn to thirteen, whose eyes light up every time they see you, and whose smiles melt your own heart?

The older kids who call you “Jess-ee-kah,” the younger ones who call you “Mama.” The kids who soak up every bit of attention and affection you give them.


How do you say goodbye to a toddler room full of children who hang on to you every time you come in, crying “Mama! Mama!” and sobbing if you don’t take them with you?

They said we would get used to the endless crying you hear in the orphanage after supper; we didn’t think that would happen, but sure enough, when a newcomer commented that all the crying was “heartbreaking,” it took a moment to understand what she meant.

We’ve gotten used to the fact that this is an orphanage, not a home. It’s one of the best in Haiti, but it can never take the place of a family to these kids. Even though we’ve grown accustomed to it all, it won’t make it any easier to leave, knowing how desperately these kids crave our love.


How do you say goodbye to eight precious babies who were assigned to you, who spend an hour each day with you, who cuddle with you, laugh with you, and give you slobbery kisses?

Our responsibility as volunteers is to lavish the kids with our love. We aren’t supposed to take care of their physical needs—the nannies do that. Our job is to love them—as if we were their mamas—for that daily hour on the balcony.

We’ve invested in them with our love, and now our hearts will always be connected with theirs, even if they don’t remember us. We don’t have anything tangible to show for our time here—no school buildings built, no walls painted, nothing like that. But the countless kisses, cuddles, and giggles we’ve shared with them? They weren’t wasted.

When adoptive parents tell you, with tears in their eyes, how much they appreciated knowing their children had people like us to spend one-on-one time with them before they could come home, you know it was worth it. Our love has eternal value.

How do you say goodbye? With tears. Trying to forget the fact that you may never see these babies again. Trusting that God has great plans for these precious little ones.

Knowing that a part of your heart will always and forever belong to Haiti.


A Walk to Remember


I thought I’d share with you some pictures from our daily walk between the orphanages. We walk about a mile downhill each morning, on some pretty rough roads (although a few hundred feet got paved the last week!). Going downhill is pretty easy, although one day I slipped on a particularly rough part of it.


Going downhill is pretty easy, although one day I slipped on a particularly rough part of it. As I picked myself back up, I was saying, “I’m okay!”One of the Haitian guys walking by said, “No, you’re not okay! You fell!” Definitely one of my most embarrassing moments.






People ride 3-4 persons per motorcycle around here, including little kids. It’s so funny the things that would be horrible in the U.S. are completely normal here.


One of the churches we walked past. Abbie and I attended a different church a few Sundays ago, and it was such an amazing experience. Even though we couldn’t understand a word of it, the people helped us find the right songs in the hymnbooks. It’s so cool to see how passionate they are about Jesus.


We’re in the richest part of Haiti, but there’s still trash everywhere.


I’ll always remember our morning walks to the orphanage.

I’ll remember the quiet “bonjous” people say as we pass them in the road.


I’ll remember the guy who asked “Can I give you a ride home with me?” as he drove by on his motorcycle (we ignored him).

I’ll remember the smell of the garbage and the feel of the rocks through my shoes.


I’ll remember the girl who came running after me, asking me to take her picture.

I’ll remember the cars that only give you a few feet of room even if the rest of the road is empty.


I’ll remember the walks home in the afternoons, when kids try their English and sing out “good morning!” and we don’t have the heart to correct them.


Most of all, I’ll always remember how peaceful and happy I feel on our walks through the streets of Haiti. Maybe it’s because the Haitian people exude peace and happiness, even amidst their poverty.

some of the kings and queens in Haiti


Little hands, shoeless feet,

Lonely eyes looking back at me.

Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve?

On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun

These could be our daughters and our sons.


And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating

I know my God won’t let them be defeated

Every child has a dream to belong and be loved.


Boys become kings, girls will be queens

Wrapped in Your majesty

When we love, when we love the least of these.


Then they will be brave and free

Shout your name in victory

When we love when we love the least of these

When we love the least of these.


Break our hearts once again

Help us to remember when

We were only children hoping for a friend

Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten

Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open


If not us who will be like Jesus

To the least of these

If not us tell me who will be like Jesus

Like Jesus to the least of these


Boys become kings, girls will be queens

Wrapped in your majesty

When we love, when we love the least of these.

–lyrics to “Kings and Queens” by Audio Adrenaline, via

happiness in an orphanage


On the weekends we get to spend some time at the Toddler House, which is where we sleep at night. All the other days we’re gone taking care of our babies at the main house. We love every minute of our time with these kiddos.


Other volunteers have mentioned how they never imagined that Haitian kids—living in an orphanage—would be so happy. These kids are so funny. They have spunk and attitudes. When they dance, they move every part of their bodies in perfect rhythm.


When they smile…well, let’s just say some of these boys have the silliest senses of humor I’ve ever seen. They love posing for pictures. Whenever I put my camera away, they say “Photo! Photo!” and I have to say “Photo fini!”


A couple Sundays ago they had “cinema” night at the toddler house. They started a movie at 8:00 outside in the courtyard. It was so much fun holding the kids as we watched “Fly Me to the Moon.” I’ll never hear that song again without thinking of Haiti. They watched it in English, and sometimes the kids would hear a phrase and start saying it over and over again.


Right after the movie finished, the kids started putting away the benches they had been sitting on, without anyone making them do it. We were so impressed by how they all pitched in!


They love saying our names. I love how they say “Jess-ee-kah!” over and over again when they see me. (Please ignore all the hair in my face. They also LOVE playing with our hair!)


One little boy came over with a paper he had written about a dozen of the kids’ names on. He had me read them aloud, and as you can see, he put my name second to last at the bottom. I have never loved having my name misspelled as much as I did when he showed that to me. He did it all by himself, and I’m so honored he put my name there.


Another crazy smile from a crazy cute boy.


Our laps are never empty. These kids absolutely crave and soak up every bit of love and attention we give them.


I am falling in love with these Haitian smiles.

my babies

IMG_0937Each of us volunteers gets assigned eight babies at the main house. We take them out individually to the balcony for an hour at a time. I love my kids so much. I can’t share their names with you, so I’ve given them names that fit their personalities. 🙂

This is Dolly. She used to live in another orphanage that was shut down because of horrible sanitation practices. She is so sweet and has such a gentle spirit. She loves getting her fingernails painted!


IMG_0581This is Spunky. She is energetic, loving, and altogether precious.

????????Spunky and I during the kids’ monthly birthday party.

IMG_0606This is Smiley. He has me completely wrapped around his little finger. He was severely malnourished, and is still working on sitting up, even though he’s almost a year old. He is the happiest baby imaginable. His smile completely melts my heart.

IMG_0615This is Bella. She is my youngest at six months old. She makes the cutest cooing sounds and is utterly adorable.

IMG_0925The nannies let Bella’s hair go wild for a few days. So hilarious!

IMG_0914This is Mr. Cuddles. He loves to sit on my lap and read books. He’s about three, but he doesn’t talk very much yet. He is very loving and helpful!

IMG_0978Oh yes, and Mr. Cuddles has amazing eyelashes as well.

IMG_0598This is Sweetheart. She has such a sweet voice and is completely precious. I need to get a better picture of her!

IMG_0992This is Princess in an outfit her adoptive mommy sent her. She has quite the personality! She is both opinionated and adorable.

IMG_0620Last but not least, this is my precious Buddy. He is my oldest, and speaks a lot of Creole. He is mischievous, sweet, and downright irresistible. Even though a lot of the kids call us “Mama,” he calls me “Mama” more than anyone else. Every time I go into the toddler room, he lifts up his arms and yells “Mama, Mama!”

IMG_0886Yes, Buddy occasionally wears a polka dot hat with his Spiderman shirt. Why not? 🙂

I love all my kids so much. They have taught me so much over the past few weeks, and I love seeing how they bond with me.

snapshots of Haiti


Haiti is beautiful.


Garbage and filth are everywhere, in the ditches, in the streets, in the open spaces between houses. But apparently the garbage situation is much better than it was both before and after the earthquake. We are actually staying in the richest part of Haiti.


This lady and her son were enjoying an evening on the roof of their house, which is right below our balcony.


We are nearly surrounded by these gorgeous green mountains. If you look closely, you can see that all of this is farmland. Incredible how the Haitian people can farm seemingly impossible ground.



Haitian people are so resilient and resourceful.




Many of the ladies do their laundry on their roof, then hang it out to dry.


We went on a walk one day to Fort Alexander, an old, abandoned fort. We walked on these paths right through people’s onion and cabbage patches.


We explored the ruins of Fort Alexander and found the opening to a tunnel that used to connect Fort Alexander and Fort Jacques. Unfortunately it caved in during the earthquake, so they had to seal it off, but we were able to walk in a little ways. This place reminded me of Narnia. 🙂


Looking down on Port-au-Prince from the Fort. The afternoons get really hazy, so it’s hard to get good pictures!


We walked right by this cemetery. Bodies are placed in these big cement blocks, and as you can see, the ones that are covered are filled already.


A banana tree. Abbie and I have had a rather confusing time with bananas. When we went to the store last week, we asked if this one bunch of banana-looking things were bananas or plantains. The guy told us that they were bananas, and although Abbie was skeptical, we went ahead and bought them. Come time to peel them, we discovered that they were plantains. So we’ve been frying up plantains late at night several times this week. They’re actually quite delicious fried in butter and sprinkled with salt.


As I took this picture, we could hear a choir practicing scales in a nearby church. This is Haiti. It is such mixture of beauty and poverty.

But somehow instead of hearing babies screaming and crying, you hear a nanny singing. Somehow instead of seeing the trash alongside the road, all you see are the Haitian people’s beautiful smiles.


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