We Really Ought To Do This More Often

March 24, 2012 | haiti, mission | 16 comments

If we were in Iowa, these would be the crazy friends who'd pile into the GMC Acadia with me, and we'd crank up some '80s music and sing like rock-stars into our air-microphones all the way into the city.

We'd make a scene in the shampoo aisle at Target, then laugh about it again while we hunched over half-eaten grilled panini at Panera. All the way home, we'd talk about how the kids would have been horrified at the behavior of their mothers in aisle nine, and then we'd discuss what we're bringing to church potluck, and we would all nod in agreement when someone says we really need to do this more often.

And then I would drop each of them off at the front doors of their cozy homes, where refrigerators purr and zippers click rhythmically against the inside of the clothes-dryer.

But they don't live in Iowa.

They do hang their clothes on cactus branches in Haiti. Their roofs are tin, walls are mud. Floors are cracked. Or wall-to-wall dirt. They don't sell that at Carpet One.

And they don't need refrigerators because they don't have much of anything to put in them.

***

One front door is a sheer pink curtain. My new friend Anoise waves us in, and she holds that thin curtain back for us, welcoming friends in.

Oh that silly Anoise ... she'd be the bubbly one heckling you from the backseat of the GMC Acadia on the way to Target. She's the one who would make faces for the camera. She would also be the one you would call when you're having a no-good, horrible day. And she'd be over in five minutes flat to cheer you up with her trademark hug.

We've spent the last few days elbow to elbow, making jewelry. (Anoise and several other women who work at ViBella Jewerly in Haiti are part of the reason I've come here. I have traveled here with the company's founder, Julie Hulstein. She's a retired schoolteacher who has a heart for providing life-changing jobs for at-risk women.)

And now, Anoise the necklace-maker has opened her home to us.  We step inside, and when you cross thresholds like that,  there's no turning back. This isn't Facebook, and there's no "unfriend" option here. These are real human lives, women whose hands I've held when we prayed together, women whose laughs I've memorized.

They're girlfriends.

May I introduce you to Anoise?

 

Haitian woman

 

 

Meet Judith.

Judith's heart beats strong, hopeful. She walks with her shoulders back, her chin high, and she's in-the-skin proof that there's no such thing as a small life.

She makes you know that you serve a God who delights in impossibility. She grabs me by the shoulders when she tells me this: "Jesus is my life. Jesus is my heart. Jesus is my salvation."

And you better believe she believes it.

Judith, a ViBella artist, is the one who'd be singing at the top of her lungs with you at a Chris Tomlin concert. She'd be the one to link arms with you when you walk across the Target parking lot. And she'd tell you how her job as a jewelry maker has changed everything -- how it's an answer to prayer.

(Photo: Judith, and her step-aunt)

Haitian women

 

 

Meet Adeline. She describes her former home life in two words: "extreme poverty."

She's 29 years old, and her job at ViBella is the first steady job she's ever held -- aside from braiding people's hair for money a while back. It's not that she doesn't want to work. Job opportunities are rare. She used to have to borrow money from friends and neighbors to support herself and her son.

"It feels like a joy, a big joy to work at ViBella," she says, beaming.

Still, life is hard. Really hard. As in, I-can't-get-her-house-out-of-my-mind hard. She invites us into a home with no electricity, no stove, no sink, no refrigerator, no couch, no table. You can cross from one side of the house to the other in two seconds or less. I have no idea where she goes to use a toilet or take a shower. She eats once a day -- the meal provided to her by ViBella.

She invites us across her threshold, into her one-room home with a tin roof, and I look at her there through the lens of my camera.

My friend, Adeline, and she smiles back at me. I feel like I've just brushed up against heaven, and if I could speak her language, I'd ask her: "Don't you agree that we really need to do this more often?"

And her eyes, they make me know her answer.

 

 

To read more about ViBella, and to order jewelry, visit the website here. Your purchases help real women whose thresholds I have crossed. Your purchases help my girlfriends, my sisters, your sisters.

Psst ... I watched them make dozens of these beautiful cross necklaces and purchased one for myself. My favorite!

by | March 24, 2012 | haiti, mission | 16 comments

16 Comments

  1. Lyla Lindquist

    Watching you open and love, has a similar effect here.

    Praying you home.

    Reply
  2. Angie Evans

    Jennifer~ It has been such a Joy for me to be able to read your “Haiti” stories!! Praying for All of our girlfriends!

    Angie~

    Reply
  3. Cheryl Smith

    Grateful for these pictures and the stories shared here. And the lives you’ve touched, for all eternity.

    Reply
  4. Diana Trautwein

    This is just wonderful writing, Jennifer. About wonderful people and a wonderful God. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Megan Willome

    You made FRIENDS, Jennifer. Do you have any idea how unique that is on a mission trip?

    Reply
  6. Nancy Kourmoulis

    What a beautiful journey you are sharing here. From this small farmhouse in the south I sing with Judith, “Jesus is my life. Jesus is my heart. Jesus is my salvation.” Love that!

    Reply
  7. Cherie Zack

    These pictures and their stories make me smile. They give me hope for an area that we tend to only hear, there is no hope. What beautiful women they are. Their smiles shine brighter than than mine do most days. I can learn a lot from these beautiful souls. Please give them a hug from me. I would be honored to be considered as one of their friends! You are Jesus in action!!

    Praying for you and for them. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Chris

    It appears that God has answered your prayers – Heartache and Heart burn – the God kind that will stay with be a permanent part of you!

    Reply
  9. Simply Darlene

    Thanks be to God for all of it…

    Blessings.

    Reply
  10. Cindy

    Such beautiful new friends. Just purchased one of their pretty necklaces!

    Reply
  11. Shelly Miller

    You have honored these women well with your words Jennifer. And He gets all the glory. So thankful for you friend.

    Reply
  12. Shanda Oakley

    Thank you for all your Haiti posts. I’ve never been there so am loving reading and looking at your photos.

    Reply
  13. Christina

    I felt like I was there with you as you described them. Thank you for telling their stories so that we can see there is a world beyond Target, refrigerators, and dinner out with friends. The jewelry is beautiful!

    Reply
  14. Missy

    What beautiful women. Thank you for sharing your friends with me.

    Reply

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