#TellHisStory: Haiti Day One (Jazz from Junk)

November 27, 2013 | 21 comments

I’m sitting beneath the starriest starry sky, out where the moon glints off the rippled glass of the ocean. The scattered city lights of Port-au-Prince pulse stubbornly into the dark.

We’re here.

Sit with me a while, under this velvet tapestry of Haitian night. And listen.

Hear it now, the wind through palm and the bark of the stray dog and the echo of an orphan baby waking.

Watch the sway. Watch her in the shadows. Watch her swaying silhouette, with a babe on her hip. Watch the clothes-pinned shirts dance with the breeze. See now, how your own hair sways, too.

You’ve become a part of the music.

Before we left for Haiti, my friend Ann told me to “listen for the jazz.”

I’ve heard whole songs here.

Days ago, Ann and I were among a few dozen people who gathered around burning firelogs at a retreat center in a Texas canyon.  And cultural anthropologist Marlon Hall told us how God makes “jazz from junk.” He made a whole, big, beautiful talk about that, and I won’t be able to do it justice here. But I’m guessing you get the point. What he was saying is this:

God takes messes and makes music.

He can transform mangled to masterpiece.

Junk to jazz.



Once upon a time, a man named Ed sailed his ship, “Tytoo,” to Haiti. He thought a little piece of land across from the shining lights of Port-au-Prince would make a mighty fine nightclub. And a brothel. So that’s what he planned to do.

But the thing was, a lot of children started showing up at the gate of his brothel-in-the-making. They just wanted a little something to fill their growling bellies, so he started spreading peanut butter on bread, and he gave the children sandwiches. And they kept coming back.



You might say that Jesus showed up the gate, too, and the man let him in — for good, and forever. And he decided that this place by the ocean would make a far better orphanage than a nightclub.

Junk to jazz.





We showed up at Tytoo Gardens today – Scott and I and the girls and Scott’s mother. Forty-five children stole our hearts for good.

While we’re still sitting under this diamond-sprinkled sky, let me introduce you to our new friend. Meet Amalisa. She’s eight years old.



Amalisa has a little body because of a bone disorder, but a big spirit because it seems that God decided to hand out extra charm the day He made Amalisa. She has a smile that lights up the orphanage courtyard. She’s all jazz.

Amalisa’s father died in the earthquake in 2010, and her mother – traumatized by all that happened when the earth shook – is in a psychiatric ward. Not long ago, she said that if she could have anything in the whole world, she’d like an education. So her aunt asked her if she could live here at the orphanage and go to school at Touch of Hope. Amalisa is in the first grade, and learning quickly. I’m thinking: Future President of Haiti. I’d vote for her.

There’s more, but it’s late, and now, even the stray dog has stopped his barking at the moon.

But the jazz? It’s right here. Listen:






So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?


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by | November 27, 2013 | 21 comments


  1. Cindy Fincher

    Jennifer, beautiful! So glad you got a “connection” so you could share with us! The photos of the children are so sweet. What a wonderful opportunity for you whole family. Enjoy your stay and I hope to hear more about your adventure. Blessings!

  2. Laurie Collett

    Awesome poist! Thanks for hosting & God bless!

  3. Lynn Morrissey

    Stunning, Jennifer! Simply stunning. I’m jazzed about what you write here. I can hear the moving melodies across the cybermiles. Beautiful music has a way of entering hearts, its overtones resounding in the soul long after the notes themselves stop playing. You’ve struck some heart-chords with this one. Thank you for sharing the love of Christ with those who need His soul music. Please also give my love to Lydia.

  4. Gabriela

    Beautiful! Your post brings back a night in Jacmel, Haiti. One night, my friends and I climbed to the roof of the house we were staying at. From there, I could see the starry night, the neighbors laughing while having a cookout on the street, the dogs barking, the boys playing soccer right outside our door, a baby crying. It’s difficult to describe. I could hear my friend sighing, as we all soaked up that beautiful Haitian jazz. So many memories! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    Oh, I couldn’t help but wonder with a smile in my heart if those little girls’ prayers also perhaps sounded like jazz in God’s ears!! I am captivated by this story of brothel-turned-orphanage. It is another example how God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.
    Blessings XX

  6. ritaschau

    Thanks for the heart trip to Haiti! Your words, once again, describe vividly so my heart can see. So glad all the transportation hiccups were taken care of. Wonderful memories being burned into your girls’ hearts. 🙂

  7. Lyli Dunbar

    Amalisa gets my vote, and I think the Lee’s are Jazz personified.

    You are making me miss Haiti. Some nights I lay in bed and remember that rain on the tin roof… and I pray….

  8. Deb Anderson Weaver

    Oh, this is jazz! All jazz! Beautiful! Thank you for taking us to the velvet tapestry of the Haitian sky and the rich beauty of God’s sweet people there.

    Deb Weaver

  9. Rebekah

    You captured such beauty here, in word and in photos. Oh, that last photo of the children with scrunched faces and prayers on lips.

  10. saltshakmk@msn.com

    A beautiful post, Jennifer – and I love making music from the mess! Your little lady is a doll – such a tragic story of her parents, but she is the music to rise above it! Much to be thankful for, indeed. Blessings to you and your family as you serve Him with Thanksgiving and joy!

  11. Laura Boggess

    Happy Thanksgiving, Beautiful friend. I’m thankful for you, for your heart for the hurting, for all the lovely ways you love. I hear the jazz.

  12. Megan Willome

    I can’t think of anything I’d rather read today–Thanksgiving.

  13. rachel lee

    this is absolutely STUNNING. pure gorgeous jazz.

    so thankful for you and your place today. you are a dear precious friend. <3

  14. Alison

    Excited to hear of even more junk-to-jazz stories, Jennifer. I know the magic of Haiti, and I’m exulting vicariously, through you, stoked to see what God’s going to be up to next while you do His will down there.

  15. DeanneMoore

    Love Haiti, Love Jazz, especially Jazz from Junk, Love you…So thankful you are in Haiti. Sending my 18 year old down there next month—his third trip. He’s jazzed.

  16. Ann Kroeker

    I hear it, Jennifer. I see it. I feel it. You are in the midst of it, picking up the rhythm, playing so beautifully. Thank you for inviting me into your music. I love the songs you sing!

  17. Micah

    So evocative. Makes you feel like you’re right there. The courage shown by some is just unfathomable to me. It’s incredible and inspiring to read of how these people have handled the adversity they’ve encountered.

  18. pastordt

    Gorgeous – each word, each photo. Thank you.

  19. soulstops

    oh, my, the beauty of the jazz you create with your words and photos…thank you 🙂 So happy I met you in person 🙂



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