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Livesay Haiti -



"But this child was a new kind of king. Though he was the Prince of Heaven, he had become poor. Though he was the Mighty God, he had become a helpless baby. This King hadn't come to be the boss. He had come to be a servant."
-the jesus storybook bible







Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.
A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?
He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.
As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:
O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often. 
Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.
Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Written by Rick Porter, Spirit Lake, Iowa 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 



A tradition that causes some snapping (Troy) 
and joy and laughter every December ...




Heartline Maternity Center, Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
 SARAH STYLES BESSEY originally posted on DECEMBER 14, 2011




If more women were pastors or preachers, we’d have a lot more sermons and books about the metaphors of birth and pregnancy connecting us to the story of God. (I am rather tired of sports and war metaphors.)The divinity of God is on display at Christmas in beautiful creche scenes. We sing songs of babies who don’t cry. We mistake quiet for peace. A properly antiseptic and church-y view of birth, arranged as high art to convey the seriousness and sacredness of the incarnation.  It is as though the truth of birth is too secular for Emmanuel, it doesn’t look too holy in its real state. So the first days of the God-with-us requires the dignity afforded by our editing.But this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places,  the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?This is the stuff of God.There is something Godly in the waiting, in the mystery, in the fact that we are a part of it, a partner with it but we are not the author of it. How you know that there is life coming and the anticipation is sometimes exciting and other times exhausting, never-ending. How there is a price that you pay for the love love love.I was fortunate to give birth to three of my tinies without complications. I find myself thinking of those experiences often during Advent; they are still very fresh for me. My eldest daughter was born in the hospital in a fairly usual way. My littlest girl was born at home, in water, with midwives, a beautiful and redemptive experience for me. But it’s the birth of my son, my Joe, that stays with me in these winter months.  His was an unintended free birth in our building’s parking garage while we were on our way to the hospital. We were alone – no midwife, no doctor, not even in our own home with a clean floor but instead a garage filled with gasoline and tire smells. My husband was scared; a lot of things could go wrong in this scenario (he had the good sense to act like he was in control though). And we were surrounded by strangers – helpful, concerned strangers but strangers nonetheless – and they were witnessing me give birth.And yet my body had taken over and all we could do, all I could do, was surrender to that moment fully. Every muscle in my body was focused, my entire world had narrowed to that very moment.  And then there he was, born while I was leaning against our old truck, standing up, into my own hands, nearly 9 pounds of shrieking boy-child humanity, welcomed by my uncontrollable laughter and his father’s uncontrollable relief-tears. A few people applauded.There wasn’t anything very dignified about giving birth.And yet it was the moment when I felt the line between the sacred and the secular of my life shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.  It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.My entire concept of God shifted in that moment, leaving my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep. I could never see God as anything other than through the lens of the Incarnation, of his Father-Mother heart and his birth now. No theologian or counter-circumstance-experience can take away from what I know, what many mothers the world over know in their heart of hearts about loss and birth and raising babies and real transformation: it’s Love and it is sacred and it is human and it all redeems.  The very truth that God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood through birth, even – especially –  that experience of birth, now showing us what it means to be truly human.Women can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God. There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.God, Incarnate, Word made flesh, born of a woman. We can tell the true, messy stories of the Incarnation. Emmanuel, God with us. May we recognise the miracle of the Incarnation, not in spite of the mess, but because of the very humanness of it.


~~~~~~~~

O Holy Night

Livesay Haiti -

Every direction you turn, images of Christmas..You need not look far to find beautiful and thoughtful displays, tastefully decorated homes with glowing trees, and rows and rows of symmetrical twinkling lights. Step into one of these homes and the warm fire will greet you as you breathe in fresh scents of pine and cinnamon. It is beautiful and clean and so.very.pristine. Looking upon these exquisite arrangements one senses order and peace.O Holy Night
I’m reflecting on the untidy disorder and chaos in the lives of so many celebrating Christmas around the world this year. They experience vastly different surroundings and a much more simplified version of the annual celebration of the Christ child. 

It looks nothing like the photos in the magazines and has not even the tiniest hint of Martha Stewart. There are no smells of fresh-baked cookies or hot apple cider to entice them. They don’t string lights around a tree, pile colorfully wrapped gifts high, or build gingerbread houses; yet meek and mild – they celebrate.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,’Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth
How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp and utterly tidy? Where are the smells and  sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph’s journey?It begs the question:  Do ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous perfectly placed decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and ashamed teenage mother-to-be anything like that?

Do the marginalized and suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did – or do we?A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices

I’m reflecting on these two extremes.  I LOVE the exquisitely ordered and the beautifully arranged. While yonder breaks a new and glorious mornI long for a day when disparity and injustice ends. I dream of a Christmas were no child is enslaved, abused, and sold. Where no refugee is left to sleep another night without clothing and food or a place to lie down. I pray for the glorious morn, where the oppressed are free. I long to wake up to learn that no child is suffering or slowly starving to death. I dream of a day when people from every continent and every nation can freely celebrate Jesus and His birth surrounded by love, joy, dancing, singing and immeasurable peace and beauty and justice.
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace
Truthfully I also find great inspiration in the simple, dingy, gritty, humble celebrations of those who struggle and toil without access to our unstained images of Christmas. I long for their stripped down total dependence on God. I pray for spiritual wealth like that of the materially poor. I want their depth. I want their undying hope. I want a Christmas less like Oprah’s or the magazines and more like theirs.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease
Our youngest daughter Lydia has been struggling with choices. When offered a choice of two things she’ll often reply, “I want two ones.”  When she says that, she means I want them both.

As I soak in Christmas this year I find myself wanting two ones.  I want the perfect looking, delicious smelling, pain-free and unpolluted Christmas and I want the dirty, stinky, humble, difficult, but miraculous Christmas that Mary and Joseph and the rich in faith experience.Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name
While I attempt to reconcile two very different Christmases, the celebrations only make sense to me in the context of good overcoming evil. God coming to earth in the form of a baby, to live a sinless life, to clear our debts for us, to teach us how to love one another … In His resurrection the promise that one day there will be beauty and justice for all.

The end of death. 
The end of suffering.
O Holy Night
(originally written December 2010 - republished at A Life Overseas)

Truth Without Consequence

Livesay Haiti -

The month of November is going to be over soon, thanks be to God. 

I am not okay with November 2018. 


Narline and Adrian's home 

We went to visit Narline and her husband Adrian today. 

Narline is the (formerly) pregnant woman in the Prenatal program that we transported last week Tuesday night. On that night the roads were blocked in several places.  Each road block we were able to move rocks and other debris and trees and market stands and continue on to hospital. On the way home we had to negotiate with some men a bit but we were let through again. 

This was Narline's first pregnancy. She came into care in her 8th week of pregnancy. On the 20th of this month Narline arrived to the Maternity Center in early labor. She started labor at 40weeks and 5days, a very normal time to have a baby for a G1. 

She labored for several hours, everything progressed as normal.  At first Narline was dilating at an average G1 pace. Nothing concerned us except that baby's head wasn't coming down into the pelvis as well as we hoped.  Midwives and OBs hope and want babies to be actively descending into the pelvis. The ichical spines are the marker for a baby that is at "0 Station". Narline's baby's head was -2 station. 

(For birth nerds, here is an explanation.)

At 9pm we decided that Narline's baby wasn't coming down and we made a decision to transport her. The secondary reason we made that decision when we did is that her baby's fetal heart tones had gone up a bit and we were concerned that he was showing signs of stress. We are midwives, not doctors, and we do not play games with lives. If we feel there is a risk, we get in the ambulance go. 

The ride to the hospital took longer due to road blocks. We brought her into the labor triage area at 11:25pm. 

The next morning when we woke up we called Narline's sister to ask if baby had safely arrived. Narline's sister informed us she had still not delivered.

Around 1pm the 21st Narline's sister finally called to tell us they had gone to do a C/S and the baby had died.  She said they showed her the baby boy and allowed her to take a photo. Around 2pm she called again to say that nobody had come to tell Narline. She wondered if she was responsible to tell her own sister what happened by herself. 

On Friday Narline was released from the hospital.  Rather than have her come to the Maternity Center where the two other babies born that same day were still in house, we decided to take Narline home. Narline said we could come do a postpartum visit with her today.

Today Narline** told us the following story:

She got to the hospital and was given a bed after a while. She was put on Pitocin.  She remained 7cm and the baby's head stayed high with each check that was done. Around 7am (after being there with contractions for 8 hour) she asked, "Why aren't we going for a C-Section?"  

The Doctor she asked that question did not at all appreciate being asked that and responded unkindly. She told me exactly what he said but I won't pass it along here because I hope to get to talk to the hospital administrator about this. They kept trying for a vaginal delivery with Pitocin. She said her baby's heart was still beating and she was able to hear it on the monitor.  She said all of a sudden things changed and they said, "We have to go for a C/S".  She said she was put under general anesthesia and that it took a while to get her into the OR.  When she woke up she was not sure where her baby was. After a bit her sister came to see her and she asked her sister where the baby was.

Narline has one photo of her baby, whom she named Evan. Narline never held her son. She was given a photo by her sister. In the photo he is perfectly developed, beautiful, and lying in a cardboard box. 

I am not sharing this to blame any one person or even the hospital.  
Evan has died and that cannot be changed.  

Haiti lacks a few major things and until it is addressed, nothing will change. 
More Narlines will lose more Evans.

First, there are not enough doctors, hospitals, clinics, or caregivers to meet the needs of the 10 million person population. 

I'm most familiar with the options for women's health. I don't have vast or specific knowledge of how other sections of health care work. I do know that it is frustrating that it never seems to improve. That is a issue to be addressed at high levels; sadly those at the high levels suffer from the illness of corruption. I would love for there to be zero need for non-profits and humanitarian aid groups.  This is an actual crisis.

Second, there is classism and racism and education-based inter-group bias - which apparently is actually called educationism.  

It is not uncommon at all for patients to be treated poorly.  The rarest thing to find in Haiti is a person that knows what their medical history is and has been given an explanation for why things are happening.  9 out of 10 women we interview cannot tell us why they needed a C/S in a past pregnancy.  Nobody bothered to tell them if it was due to pre-e or a poorly positioned head, or something else entirely. 

The poor are not allowed to advocate for themselves without making an educated person feel threatened. Medical professionals do not share information with patients. It is wrong. The lack of compassion is painful to observe.  The power differential is unfair.  

Now, you might say that number one causes number two.  I agree.  

Not enough doctors and medical care providers means the ones working are pissed-off and overworked and therefore they behave in inhumane ways. 

Narline knew what she needed, so she asked. That ticked off an educated person and I have little doubt that it played into the final outcome. (Of course I can never prove that.) 

Narline's husband attempted to get answers from the hospital, but the poor don't get to be angry. The poor take what they are offered and are supposed to be grateful for it. 

Adrian was told, "It's not our fault. There are too many people here that need care. If there were hospitals in Port au Prince near you, then you wouldn't have come here." 

Narline wants her baby boy, little perfect Evan, to be remembered.  
She loves him very much. 
She carried him 40 weeks and he is forever a part of her. 




**This story is shared with the permission of Evan's Mother, Narline. 

Grease the Wheels and Keep Hoping

Livesay Haiti -

It is said that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. 

Also, it is often said, mainly by women we work with at the Maternity Center, "Haiti has no justice". As you read that you might think, well - that's hyperbole - certainly there is SOME justice.  
There cannot be zero justice, right?!?
We first came to Haiti in early 2002. I came one week per month for seven months while I waited for Isaac and Hope to legally be free to come to the USA. After all of these years of meeting and working with average Haitians and hearing their experiences and stories, I am here to tell you that it is no exaggeration.
Justice is a commodity - as in you can buy it if you have the means to do so
Because the average Haitian citizen does not always have the means to eat three square meals a day and purchase a sufficient amount of potable water and keep their kids in school. For them there is definitely no expendable income to grease the seized-up wheels of justice.
Earlier this year we helped a young woman file a police report for sexual assault. She described what had taken place in detail over and over many times to interview rooms full of men. The manager of that department of the police was very enamored with my friend, KJ.  He was less interested in helping the young woman filing the report than he was in finding a way to get KJ to flirt with him.  He claimed we could pick up a copy of the report if we returned a few days later. We returned no less than four times, but were  given another (always new and creative) excuse why we could not have a copy of the report we had filed. 
It is said that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
Last week in postpartum class we talked about abuse in Haiti, specifically sexual abuse and children. I shared a few personal stories and posed a question to the women seated in the room. "If we never talk about it or acknowledge it is happening at an alarming rate, how will it ever change? Can we change what we don't address?"  The next 45 minutes were spent with different new mothers sharing horrific stories of abuse. It was hard to hear what had happened in their neighborhoods. Not one had ever been able to report it to authorities. Not one had seen the abuser face consequences. 
It is said that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.  
On Monday, November 5th a little girl named Love was born with probable (not yet diagnosed) VACTERL association at the Heartline Maternity Center. Due to a connection with a long-time volunteer at a local hospital we were able to go directly to a hospital that would see the baby. Typically, Haitian mothers will visit several if not dozens of clinics and hospitals before there is one that takes on the responsibility of diagnosis and care. 
Our experience of being seen the day we walked into that hospital is atypical. Justice in that way came due to connections, which we are INCREDIBLY grateful for and also no more deserving of than any other person. The hospital sent baby Love for several tests, most of which took 8 days to complete. On Monday the 19th we hope to return to the hospital with all of the results of the tests and lab work they ordered to learn what happens next. Returning to the hospital will depend upon the ability to arrive there.  There are rumors of blockades and protests in the coming days which can easily lock up the entire city and render us helpless to arrive at the hospital. 
Mercifully, baby Love has been peeing, pooping, and eating without trouble or these 8 days would have been entirely different.  Love's mother keeps long socks on her to keep her neighbors from seeing her malformed legs and feet.
It is said that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
Last night a baby boy named Wisler was born at 6:01pm. His one minute APGAR was 1 and his 5 minute APGAR was 2 and his 10 minute APGAR was 3.  At minute eleven he and his mom were in an ambulance heading toward the closest hospital.  At the closest hospital two female medical professionals began asking good questions, at that point Wisler was 30 minutes old. A male doctor walked up and barked, "Can't you see how many malformations and abnormalities this baby has? You need to go to _____ right now!" (He named another hospital.)
Wisler born 11/16 at 6:01pm

I assured him I did see but that we had always been told they were an excellent pediatric hospital. He dismissed us with a flippant wave and told us to get going. Trying to lighten the mood I asked, "What if the next hospital doesn't like my face, we won't get this baby accepted."  As we turned to walk out of the triage room he said, "There are foreigners there, they will like your face." 
We arrived at the second hospital before baby Wisler was an hour old.  The first medical employee to greet us was annoyed we did not have a NICU at our Maternity Center or a referral letter and she did not especially enjoy the fact that the first hospital had sent us on to her. I explained that breathing for the baby and driving to the hospital seemed like a better use of time and resources than sitting down to write a referral letter.  
Wisler was admitted, for which we are grateful.  The reason he was admitted was because we assured the hospital staff that we can pay for his care.  The average Haitian could not afford the small amount (only $57 USD) we spent last night to get things started. The average Haitian would not have arrived at the hospital in an hour. Public transport takes about two and a half times as long as private. 
It is said that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
Last night, we returned to the Maternity Center at 9pm with Wisler's mom. In just three hours her entire world turned upside down - technically, she is one of the "lucky" ones, she had the connections needed to help grease the wheels.

** ** **
It occurs to me regularly that those of you that read these social media updates and pray specifically for situations we share and financially support the work of Heartline Ministries are the reason we keep hoping.  Your sacrificial love and concern is hopeful and it trickles down. 
You might imagine we don't read messages or see your donations in the busyness of day to day work in Haiti.  
I want you to know today that we do see you. 
We feel the power of your prayers. 
We are lifted from discouragement by your generous words of love sent via several social media outlets. 
We know we can support the costs of the rare sick baby that needs hospitalization because of your generous giving.
You are the grease to the wheels, you are stubborn in hopefulness  - and we thank you this Thanksgiving. 




To learn more about the work of Heartline Ministries, please visit:www.HeartlineMinistries.org 


Lastly, meet two beautiful little ladies born in the last 24 hours ...
Nadia and MarieLiah - born 11/16 at 5:24pm
MarieAnoute and yet to be named baby girl - born 11/17 at 12:05 am


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