Friday, December 27, 2013

Well, she's willing.

"I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done for China... I don't know who it was... It must have been a man... a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing... and God looked down... and saw Gladys Aylward... And God said - "Well, she's willing." 
- Gladys Aylward 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

humbled by a Clif Bar

I'm in Birmingham, but so often my mind wanders to my experiences last semester in Haiti. I am able to see how God used even things like Clif Bars to bring glory to himself. This is one of those times.

I was at a funeral. A well-loved Christian Haitian woman and mom to over 70 street boys had died just a few days earlier. This sweet lady had married a man who shared her heart for the street children- he also just happened to have been the leader of the most dangerous gang in Haiti. He left his gang, and together, they started a feeding program in Port-au-Prince, and hundreds of street boys came to know them. Eventually, they opened up a home, and their organization now houses over 70 boys and girls who are now able to escape the streets. But when the wife died suddenly, family, friends, and other people in the city showed up to pay their respects. Picture wife's side: everyone in their Sunday best, ready to sing their hymns and do their "Christian thing," amid anger and disunity with other family members. And husband's side: besides family, about 40 gangsters dressed nicely except for their dreads (in typical gang banger style for them), sunglasses, and the smell of weed lingering in the air- scowls on their faces. Not sadness, but anger. In between these groups were everyone else- the workers and missionaries from the orphanage where I was working, tons of people from around the city, and a few hundred street children who had been blessed by this woman who had fed and clothed them.

Haitian funerals start around 7 am- to avoid smelling the decaying body before it thaws out (they don't preserve the bodies). Around 6:30, before the pastor even speaks, 3 women start their wailing and alligator death-rolling, a common practice there for funerals. For some it's their way of expressing their grief. Other women are literally paid by the family to do it- the more wailing and rolling, the more they care about the deceased. The crowd tried to hush and calm them by dowsing them with water, to no avail. I moved seats from the wife's side toward the husband's side of the tent, to avoid all the wailers. With me was a young girl, one that I had met 5 minutes before. Right then, that 6 year old girl needed a mom, and the only one she had ever known was about to be buried. So she hopped onto my lap, and there we sat, taking in our surroundings.
And then I looked down our row, past the 5 empty chairs to my left and saw him. He couldn't have been more than 8, sitting alone, skinny as a rail, clothes tattered and dirty, and looking longingly towards me. I motioned for him to come sit by me. He sheepishly agreed. I put my arm around him and asked him if he had known Kathia. "She fed me" was his reply. I asked him if he knew where she was now. "Heaven with God" he said. That's right, she was. I asked him if he had a family. "I eat at the orphanage, or when I bring Chef things." Who's Chef?  (Haitian word for chief, usually means the guy who's in charge.) He slyly turned over his left shoulder and nodded to the man staring at the ground about 5 rows back. Haitian street boys usually work for a boss- they wash cars or get odds and ends and bring all their earnings back to him, and he divides out what they get that day. Is he mean? No answer.  Does he make you work every day? "yes." Does he give you a place to sleep? "yes he is good."  He is good. The boy thought his chef was good, because he sometimes got to eat and sometimes had a place to sleep....
Are you hungry? "yes, but.." and nodded behind us again. He knew that any food he received he must take back to his boss and he would decide what to do with it. He then looked down at my watch, eyes lit up and said "bamwe" (give me).  My $10 Wal-Mart digital watch that I had gotten at 2am right before I left for the flight in January. I said, "I bought this, it is mine." He turned and looked behind us again. By this time his boss had looked up and was glaring at us. He said, "please, I need it."   I decided to change the subject. I opened my bag and pulled out a Clif Bar, the staple missionary travel food. (I once found myself stuck in traffic with Angie and extremely hungry after a long day at the hospital. When a group of men in scrubs and women in blue jean skirts walking past chose to ignore my polite, "Hi, how are you?" I confess that I ended up angrily yelling, "I know you speak English, I know you're ignoring me, and I know you have Clif Bars!!") Needless to say, they may not taste that great but they became vital to my sanity.

The boy looked at the Clif Bar, up at me, and back at his boss. He shook his head in fear. "I cannot." Again I asked, are you hungry? "Yes." And right then, I pulled him up into my lap with my other 6 year old beautiful friend, who had not uttered a word this whole time. I put my arms around both of them. He ducked his head, and began to devour that Clif Bar. For the first time in my life I was thanking the Lord out loud that he had given me broad shoulders. I didn't dare turn around. I knew the boss would be staring at me. But he couldn't see, and that's all that mattered. When the boy finished eating, he licked his fingers and smiled at me. "Thank you." I asked him if he knew how much Jesus cared about him. He said he knew that, because of Kathia. I told him that Jesus would continue to take care of him, day by day, and that he should continue to go get food on Saturdays, and to continue to go to that orphanage and they would take care of him if they could. I took off my watch and put it on his wrist. He beamed. I expected him to jump off my lap and run off, since he had what he came for. But he didn't. He sat and stared at the watch. He couldn't take his eyes off of it. The $10 Wal-Mart watch. It was my last choice pick- it was literally the last one in stock, right after Christmas. It didn't matter. In that moment, the boy owned a watch. He and I both knew that if he walked back to his boss he would take it off before he got there and hand it over. But for that 3 minutes, it was his. Just then, I snapped back into reality. 10 of the gangsters who had been outside the tent for a pot break strolled back in. The pastor began to lead a hymn, and the woman in front of us began to wail, convulse, and alligator death roll. And when I say roll, I mean that folding chairs are flying and people are jumping on top of each other out of the way. We began to be crushed by the chairs pushing at us. I jumped up, scooped up the little girl, and jumped back and over 2 or 3 rows away from her. Our whole section was in an uproar. By the time I looked up, the boy was gone. I glanced back at the tent door and saw him walking away, following his boss. No watch on his arm. He looked back one more time, our eyes met, and I smiled. He grinned, and then got a serious face on again, as he turned and walked away, past the gang bangers outside showing off their hand guns to each other.

Chairs were still coming at us. I held on to the clinging girl and we moved again. Then, the rest of the service was relatively calm. Afterwards, we were instructed to wait in the tent while a family feud over the death was dispersed. The whole time, the boy was all I thought about.  "Why didn't I do more for him? How could I have just let him go back to the streets? All I did was give him a watch and a Clif bar- that wasn't enough." And then suddenly my heart was calm. Because the Lord reminded me that sometimes you don't get to be in the whole picture- sometimes, most of the time really, you're just a little Clif Bar or a watch in the big picture of his plan, if he gives you that opportunity. I am not in charge. I can't "fix it." I will never be able to do "enough." And that is okay. Yes we need to care, and yes we need to serve, and yes we need to (in the right circumstance) provide a way for a child on the streets to have a better future. But we can't do it all, so we do what we can. My friend Angie actually has the incredible opportunity to serve a few girls from the streets right now- read about her journey here: Angie's Blog. But there will always be physical needs to be met- always. And the knowing that we can't do enough to fix it on our own frees us up to do what we can, through His grace, to pray that the Lord uses it, and to trust Him through it. As for me, I returned to my house and orphanage and did what he had called me to at the time. And some days I needed a Clif Bar. I can't eat one without thinking of my friend. I don't know why God had us separate so abruptly. I don't even know his name. But I do know that through a Clif Bar, I caught a glimpse of something much bigger than myself. My God is large and in charge. He is always good and he is always God. He is enough. And he cares about the poor and about the hungry. And so I pray, and I thank him for it. Because he is always faithful to remind his people of Who it is they ultimately serve- even if he does it through a Clif Bar.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

broken foot and a mended heart


Last week, all the fellows headed to Tennessee on our "wilderness adventure." It was a week full of mountains, waterfalls, caving, cliff diving, whitewater rafting, staying at a gorgeous farmhouse, and so much more. In 1 week, I experienced so many of my favorite things that I'm literally getting excited just typing about it. I can't begin to describe the blessing of the community that I am surrounded by. 11 other fellows who are living life with me, going through the same transitions that I am, and doing it in a way that is so encouraging I could just explode. We all took turns sharing our stories- what makes us who we are, how we have seen God work, things we still struggle with or question, and were just real. There were so many tears. When you hear someone's story, it's like something in their story just pulls at your heart strings and you are able to identify that much more with them, because, somehow, it reminds you of yourself. We shared our hurts, our burdens, our joys, and our hopes. We are 12 very different people, but 12 people committed to each other, and being accountable to each other, and investing in each other. And it's beautiful. It's not perfect, but it's community. We came back battered and bruised from our adventures, but with full hearts. 












Monday I started my job as the assistant director of Foundations Early Learning and Family Center. It was a great first day of work, getting to know the staff, starting to figure out my role as the volunteer coordinator, and forming relationships with the precious 4 year olds in the class. I woke up Tuesday and went for a run. I made it almost a mile before I stepped wrong on the side of the road and rolled my foot underneath itself, falling flat on my face (downhill). Typical Lauren, right? I walked over a half mile back home realizing all the way that my foot was probably broken. After the doctor visits yesterday and today, it definitely is. My precious host mom has been so patient with my stubborn self, telling me it wasn't an option not to go to the doctor, making me sit my booty down so she can get things for me, and has just been such an encouragement. I called my
mentor Walton and told him and of course his response is, "Gilpin, girl you are like the most un-athletic athletic person ever!" Tell me about it..

But the reality of the situation is, my foot hurts daggumit and I can't walk on it. I am depending on others to carry things for me, to (yesterday) drive me around, to help me up steps, to bring me a cup of coffee. And I hate it. I hate it because I only made it through 1 day of work this week and I actually like my job. I hate it because I don't want it to be a painful task to get up to go potty. I hate it because I feel dumb for having broken my foot doing something I do every day. I hate it because I like to do things myself, and have always been that way. I hate it because I don't want people to feel like they have to take care of me. I hate it because I am in physical pain from walking on one leg, on the foot that I already have arthritis in. And I hate it because I am prideful. I could have been in Haiti and broken my foot- I ran there, it could have easily have happened then. I could have been on the wilderness trip, in the middle of the cave. I could have been placed in a host family where the mom was just not able to drive me to the doctor or do the little things for me. I could have been a mother of 3 in a hut in Africa whose family is dependent on me bringing them water. I mean really yall, that really happens. 

I am so thankful that I am surrounded by people who love me and have told me that they are blessed by serving me. They carry my coffee and get my supper for me. They bring me a brownie from work, or make sure I make it to my car ok. They tell me what questions to ask at the doctor and tell me to sit down when I should because they've been through this before. As much as I hate being taken care of, I am being shown that to truly be able to serve others, I must be willing to be served. I can't do it all on my own, even if I had 2 good feet. And now that I have 1 decent foot and 1 broken one, I definitely can't. I know that this is just a short season in my life. But my prayer is that it is one of growing my patience, my contentment, and my joy in the little things. I'm learning how to plan- that's something you have to do when you can only get up a counted number of times. I'm learning how to be still. And I'm learning that it's ok for others to help you. It sounds dumb to say that out loud. But making it my heart attitude is proving to take a lot more time. 

Peace & Blessings yall, from Birmingham. 

"I have an interesting perspective on depending on others. I think it gives people a chance to serve. And I'm not so much big on independence, as I am on interdependence. I'm not talking about co-dependency, I'm talking about giving people the opportunity to practicing love with its sleeves rolled up." Joni Eareckson Tada 



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Big Girl Pants

Little Lollar has her Big Girl Pants on. That's right. It's weird knowing I'm not headed back to Statesboro this weekend, about to get settled into another semester at Georgia Southern. I love Statesboro more than most people realize. But, with my new state of Georgia necklace that I just bought and my handy dandy college degree, I'm heading to Birmingham, Alabama. I don't actually move for a few more weeks, but here's what I'll be doing. 

I'll be a part of the Briarwood Fellows Program. There are 12 fellows in all, 6 girls & 6 guys. We are all recent college graduates, who have some idea of what we want to do with our life. At some point or another, we've probably thought about full-time ministry (at least I have) but have a desire to test the waters in the marketplace. This is a chance for us to learn how to apply a ministry mindset to a marketplace job. We will have roundtable discussion dinners, meet with mentors, attend seminary classes 2 days a week, & work at an internship 3 days a week. We will also be tutoring students in the community and building relationships with them. We'll attend many seminars, conferences, and retreats, all to help us gain leadership training and insight into just where we should be headed next. I'll live with a host family who is a part of Briarwood, and help with the youth group on Wednesdays and Sundays. 

I will be interning at a newly founded child & family development center. I'm so pumped about this opportunity. I will be working with pre-schoolers in the classroom, as well as doing some parent education and any intern/assistant director-y stuff. This is the first year of the center, in the community of Fairfield, and I am so excited to be jumping on board with them!

A special shout-out to my girl, Leslie Morris, because without her, I wouldn't even know this fellows program existed. There I was, sitting in my house in Haiti and we got to talking about her awesome Fellows year and what I wanted to do after graduation. I decided to apply, and here we are. It's going to be a ton of new experiences, people, and knowledge all at once, but that's also what's so great about it. When I think about what I want to do with my life, I can think of a million hobbies, interests, or new things that I want to try. But it all comes back to kids, people, continuing to learn and a longing to grow spiritually. Here's to 9 months of all of that together. I can't wait to be back in Alabama. 




Meet the fellows: (photo via Stacy Richardson)

for more info about the Briarwood Fellows, go to http://briarwoodfellows.org/#/fellows/class-of-2014









Tuesday, July 9, 2013

let the kids be kids

Back in April, I wrote about my visit to La Source. I went back to the village, a few weeks after the Life Ministries International team had returned to the States. I met with the village leaders, and discussed different ways that we could work together to clean up the village. I stressed that I was not going there to "tell them what they need to fix," but to merely ask how we could partner together to clean up La Source. Trash washes up on the beach daily, and the task of raking, sweeping, and cleaning the beaches and yards is no small task. Still, we felt like it was something that needed to be talked about. The village leaders expressed a desire to begin this work. They said that they wanted to be good stewards of what God has blessed them with. They wanted to teach their children about caring for their land and possessions, in response to the blessings God has given them. We discussed gathering and burning trash outside the village, and recycling plastic bottles. I left slightly overwhelmed about all the work ahead, but very thankful for our conversation and their eagerness to begin these plans. In June, another team returned to the village for a week of ministry. The villagers had already begun cleaning the beaches, and 4,800 plastic bottles had been collected and stored in the pastor's yard until we can set up correspondence with a recycling center on the mainland. These photos were taken:






The people of La Source continue to clean their yards and beaches, in response to the Lord and his work in their lives and among the people. They long to be good stewards of what they have, and to set an example to each other and surrounding villages. To reward the people of La Source for their efforts, and because we love them, a team in January will be building a community playground. We want this to be a gathering place for the people- where mothers can sit under a pavilion and knit together- through our knitting ministry as their children swing, climb, and are able to be children. We want it to be a safe place where they can gather, whether teams are there or not, and share in the joy of the children having a safe place to play, of having toys of their own, and of having the responsibility to maintain the site. 
The materials and transport of materials for this playground will be several thousand dollars. We will be buying our supplies from a Haitian store on the mainland, to support the Haitian economy. We are selling t shirts to help us raise the needed funds for this project. Please pray about how you can be a part of this amazing ministry to the Church, by going or sending. We believe that every child should get to BE a child, no matter where they live. Through this ministry, we build lasting relationships and are able to advance the Gospel and encourage the local church. 

If you are interested in joining our January team, please email me at laurenegilpin@gmail.com. 


This is the t shirt design: the left picture is the front chest, and the right is the back. 


Shirts are $20. All proceeds go directly to the purchase and shipment of playground materials. If you would like to purchase a t-shirt, you can do so by emailing me your size and shipment info at lasourceplayground@gmail.com if you'd like to send a check or give me the money in person. If you would like to purchase a shirt online, you can do so with the PayPal link below.
Peace & Blessings!
Size




Friday, June 14, 2013

life as a post-grad, living in the in-between.

It's been a while. In some ways it seems like I've been home forever, and in others, it seems like I just got here. Moving home is no joke yall. As thankful as I am for it, and as fun as it can be at times, it is NO JOKE. The last time I really lived with my family I had a curfew and my own room. Now, I'm lucky that I found my own 1/2 shelf in the kitchen cabinet. Everything else is in storage, and my room now doubles as my dad's study and our extra storage. That being said, being around the Gilps is guaranteed a lot of laughs and a lot of healthy food, both of which I'm undoubtably grateful for. I've run into logistical issues, like knowing the fastest way to go anywhere. Take 1 car ride with me and you will discover that while I WILL eventually end up where I'm supposed to go, I will somehow always manage to pick to longest route. Part of that is that I just drive without really thinking about where I'm going. And part of it is that when I actually do think about where I'm going, the place has moved. Probably a whole 3 years ago, but how am I supposed to know that?! Being "from" somewhere, and living there are 2 totally different things. So part of my mission for the summer is to rediscover Augusta. If you've got any tips or favorite places, help ya sista out.

Leaving the orphanage was really hard for me. One reason was because I was so ready to see everyone back home, that I almost felt guilty for how excited I was to leave. I missed my family and puppy and community and friends and people, and was super ready to see them again. But leaving Maison was also hard because even though I want to go back to visit, a lot of the kids I am close with will soon be adopted. I had to leave them, understanding in my own heart that while they get the joy of a transition into their own family, this goodbye is probably our last one until heaven. I also had to leave the babies, the friends, nannies, co-workers, and other Haitian friends I had made. But I had to leave, and so I did. I came back to the States, graduated a week later, went to RUF Summer Conference at the beach, and then moved home. Since then, I've been back to Statesboro, drove up to Brevard, NC with some great friends to watch David Hart Sanders dominate on the field at an alumni football game, and went to Atlanta to be with my girl Mary Beth as she picked out her wedding dress. Busy busy, yes, but also PLENTY of down time. Like I said, it's been over a month. That's a long time when you're jobless and and don't know what to do with yourself. Hanging around my family has been one of the best things that's happened since I've been back. I've organized and reorganized storage of Betty's things, and am about to start the endeavor of painting ALL the wood trim in our house to brighten it up. (see yall in about 5 years)...

Doing all these seemingly "mundane" things keeps me thinking. I have started to process things I learned, and good and tough experiences I had. It also helps me process the transition from there to where I am now. Right before I left, I asked someone how the heck I was supposed to go back to "normal" life after living in a 3rd world country, where emotions are as extreme as people's living conditions, and everything is so much more real. She responded, "you don't."  While I didn't find it helpful at the time, I have started to realize that she is right. I can learn to overlook things that bother me about other people's actions, like wasting lettuce, complaining about every little detail, people wanting to go on a mission trip to "help poor people," or the fact that the lady at the eye doctor used 5 Kleenex to clean the lens for me. FIVE. Those things are like 50 cents a sneeze in Haiti.  *Side note: Yall, Target has an ENTIRE ISLE dedicated to Tide. One brand. I had to leave the store. Since then I've been back but I sure as heck haven't bought laundry detergent.* Anyway...
But the truth is I can't "go back" to the way I was, or the way I used to think. God has used this experience to change me. If we spent our lives, "going back, " we'd never get anywhere. I don't think God wants us to go back. I think he wants us to use our experiences to spring us forward, into whatever he has planned for us next. Because going back, it just doesn't get you anywhere. So I take what I've learned, and I have to filter everyday life through it. "Is objecting to blah blah blah really going to be helpful, or do you 2 just come from different perspectives?" It's almost always the latter.

Recently one lady had the guts to come up to me and say, "now that you're safe in America, I can stop praying for you. Glad you're back," as if she was only praying for me because she was terrified and convinced that I was going to be human trafficked or mobbed or stricken with disease or killed by an evil Haitian or something. Well, I'm so glad that she feels her job is done. The point is that I don't stop praying for my roommates just because we aren't living together anymore. I pray for them because I love them. And although I may have been in a higher stressed environment and had to take safety more seriously than other times while I was there, I need prayer now too. I need loving people to pray that I wouldn't just fill up my days with tasks and avoid talking to Jesus, because sometimes I don't even know where to start. I need someone to pray that I wouldn't turn into 15 year old me and storm upstairs when something doesn't go my way. I need prayer that I will be at peace with where God has me right now, in the seemingly mundane, in painting and in taking my grandma out to lunch, and in running errands, and in hanging out with my awesome youth group kids. Because really these things aren't meaningless. They're just different. And that's ok.



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

shut up and listen

Yesterday, Hallie and I were doing an art project with some of the kids. You put crayon shavings on wax paper in the design that you want to make, and then fold the wax paper over the design and iron it together. It melts the crayons and looks really awesome. Every time a child came for their turn, we explained what they were supposed to do, and then said, "do NOT touch that (the iron). It is very hot and can hurt you." The kids were busy being artistic, but one girl, Wilda ran up to the table, and touched the iron handle repeatedly and turned around and laughed. As I walked her back to her room, I explained how important it was that she needed to listen. I said that I wanted her to be safe, and that because she had not listened, she did not get the opportunity to finish her art project. As we talked, I realized how often I am like Wilda. 

I don't listen to what God says to me. Just as I want what is best for Wilda, for her to not get burned and to enjoy her time to be creative, God has my best interests in mind and often has opportunities for me to see how sovereign and how powerful He is, but I often miss them. Now, I'm not saying God's not in charge, but I am saying that I believe He calls us to live a life of obedience, and sometimes that obedience looks like choosing to listen to Him. You never know what opportunities He has in store for you. This past weekend was one of those times:

I was on the island of La Gonave, and on the way to La Source, by motorcycle, with my friend Donald. About 45 minutes into the moto ride, Donald stopped the bike. We had just been through a little town called Cetwa. This is remote Haiti- no grocery stores, no gas stations, just little houses, little churches, maybe a school, and a little stand with an air pump and a couple gallons of gas for people who come through. So, we are about a half mile outside this town. Donald said, "we have a flat tire, don't we?" Sure enough, I looked at the back tire, and it was flat. I said, "how did you know that?" and he said, "God told me to check it." Donald told me this next part after everything was over, but in his head, he was saying, "what am I going to do with her? I don't have a pump here, and the moto can't hold both of us with this tire. What do I do with this white girl?" As he is thinking this, and not saying anything verbally, I see an elderly woman stand up on her porch. She said, "just leave the white girl here, she can stay with me." The gate to her house, (a piece of tin) was blocking the bike, so she didn't even know what was wrong. All she could see was our faces. We both looked at each other and I said, I'll just walk back with you." And all of a sudden God said, "turn around and go inside." So without hesitating, I said, "nevermind, I'll stay here," and turned and walked toward the gate. Donald rode back to get the tire patched up, and I walked inside the house. Now you may be thinking, you didn't hesitate at all? And honestly, no I didn't. I realized that I was the only American within 30 miles of this place, and didn't even have my knife with me. But that voice was so loud to me that I didn't even question the idea. I just went in. I was thinking, "okay, I speak a little Creole, we'll see how this goes. I don't even know anyone in this whole town." Or so I thought. 

I sat down on the porch with this sweet woman, and we started talking. All of a sudden, I see a face peer around the corner. I gasped and said, "I KNOW YOU!" and he said, "Yes LaLa, I know you too." He said, "Mackabi"and I just squealed and hugged him. Mackabi and his twin brother LoLo used to live in La Source. The last time I was there, I kept looking for them, but someone said that they had moved away. The boys had moved to Cetwa to live with their grandparents because their parents are dead. When LoLo came home from getting the family water at the well, we spent the hour catching up. They asked about everyone that they remembered, and we talked about why I was going to La Source for the day. The boys are 13, going to school and church, and eating every day. At the end of the hour, Donald came back on the bike, we said our goodbyes, and then we continued on to La Source. What would have happened if I had not gone into that house and had walked with Donald? We would have fixed the bike and then gone on our way. But the encouragement that I received from that family as we talked and were able to catch up was amazing. And it was because I listened to what God was telling me to do. Donald listened too. He stopped in front of that house and checked the tire. Right then. 

Wilda did get to finish her art project. And it is beautiful. But she also learned not to touch the iron. And she is learning how important it is to listen when someone who cares about her says something. I am learning too. I'm learning that sometimes God sets up divine appointments. And listening to Him can lead to great blessings. My time in La Source that day was great, and I am so thankful for it. But the encouragement I felt when I spent time with Mackabi and LoLo on the way there was my favorite part of the whole weekend. Sometimes all you need to do is listen. 




LoLo & Mackabi:


 Mackabi and his grandma that invited me in:



 thankful for these boys: 

Monday, April 15, 2013

let's build a house


For the past 4 years, I have been involved in trips to La Source, Haiti. On my first trip my senior year of high school, I fell in love with a 3 year old boy named Pootchy. This kid melted my heart with his dance moves and cheesy smile. We spent that first week together, and I knew that I would be back to see him again. For the next 3 years, I skipped a week of college classes every April and joined the team from Augusta Christian in La Source again for a week of medical clinics and relational ministry. I always brought Pootchy a few toys and some clothes, and started to bring his sisters a dress or two as well. Two years ago, his mom asked me to be his godmother. She said, “I see how you care for him, and I see the bond that the 2 of you have. I know that you cannot take him to America with you, but I want you to pray for him, and please continue to bless him.” I can say, that as this boy’s godmother, his family has in turn blessed me and my family more than they know. 




right when I became Pootchy's godmother:





Pootchy lives with his mom and 2 sisters. He has 5 other older siblings who have moved to other cities to find work. Pootchy’s mom works odd jobs in order to feed her family. For the past few years, she has helped cook the mission teams' meals and washed our clothes in camp. I have come to love not only Pootchy, but his mom and sisters as well. This past January, our families got to meet through a mission trip with Life Ministries International and some college kids from Georgia Southern. My family sponsors him for school each month, which means that he gets a full meal every day at school, and all of his books and uniforms are paid for. I am so thankful for our families’ friendships. Right when I get off the boat, I know that I will be greeted by a sweet boy calling “LaLa!” Through notes and conversation, both families know that we pray for each other and can encourage each other, even from 1,000 miles away. 





Pootchy in his school uniform:





I recently became aware of a huge need for this family. Their house has a concrete foundation, but the walls are made out of wood and the roof is made out of palm branches. When I called a friend in La Source a month ago to ask how Pootchy’s family was, he told me that none of the family is sleeping well.  When it rains, the water leaks through the roof. I know that even living in a different city than he is, it rains hard here many nights. It breaks my heart to know that if it’s raining outside my window here, his family could be awake all night getting soaked in the storm, both through the walls and through the roof. Since I am living in Haiti this semester, I was able to join this year’s April team to La Source. I met with my friend Josh and a contractor to discuss the cost of rebuilding the house. The entire project will cost about $1,500. This will employ the head construction manager and a few other Haitian workers for a week to build this house with concrete walls and a tin roof. When I met with Pootchy’s mom, Roselene, I told her that I did not have $1,000, but that I know that God will provide this money, because he has provided the money for her family to live, and has also provided the funds every year for me to be able to minister in La Source. I told her that her job was to take care of her family, and to start collecting large rocks. The builders will use these rocks as the walls, and will pour concrete around them to build the walls. I told Roselene that I trust that God will provide this $1,000, because there are many, many families and individuals in the States praying for her and her family. She told me how thankful she is for her brothers and sisters all over the world who pray for her.



surveying the house for an estimate:




how the walls and roof connect:




this is the neighbor's house- similar materials will be used on Pootchy's house:






front door entrance:




My family loves Roselene, Pootchy, and their family. When I give Pootchy a pack of crackers, a plate of food, or a bottle of Coke, he runs to each of his friends to make sure they have enough to eat. He has a servant's heart, and is being taught daily by his mama how to live for Christ and be a blessing to others. Through them we have come to experience God’s love amid cultural, language, and geographic barriers. But we cannot build this house alone. Please pray for this project, that this family would be encouraged and blessed by their brothers and sisters who may not live anywhere near them. If you or someone you know would like to partner with us in this project, please Facebook message me or email me at laurenegilpin@gmail.com. Donations of $25, $50, or $100 can help make this possible!












"I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" 
Philippians 1:3-5

Friday, April 5, 2013

waffles babies and tap taps


The past few weeks since the last time I blogged have been crazy. I could blog pages and pages of things- like the time our car got 2 flat tires at once, spending a week with 4 Belgians at the orphanage, the realities of losing power every 5 minutes for the past 3 weeks, or the adventures of traveling to and from Petionville on a taptap with friends. But that would be a book. So here are a few of the significant moments and highlights:

1. I attended my first Haitian funeral, which was quite an interesting experience for many different reasons. A few weeks ago, Kathia, a mom to over 70 street children at a nearby orphanage passed away unexpectedly. I was only able to interact with her a few times, but she was one of the greatest people that I have met since I’ve been here. Haitians express their emotions very differently than Americans, and at funerals there are always several people who, in their grief, start “alligator-death-rolling” around the room, wailing at the top of their lungs, to the point where they have to be carried out of the service. So, while I’m holding a grieving little girl on my lap, folding chairs are flying at us and everyone is jumping out of the way, while a man continues to sing his hymn loud and clear. And while I think it’s rude and disrespectful to the close family and friends of the deceased, I guess these people just really need to express their grief and shock. A few family feuds broke out after the service, and then thankfully it was time to go. All of this happened before 9am on a Saturday morning. 

2. This week, I finished the last of 106 developmental assessments. As a child and family development major, I have taken lots of classes on stages of child development, family dynamics, parenting, etc. So, part of my internship since it’s for Georgia Southern has been to work one on one with each child, see if they are meeting basic milestones physically, mentally, language, and social/emotional. After I do this, I write about different ways to encourage the kids development in areas that they are behind in. This requires knowing each of the kids personalities, strengths, weaknesses, talking to other staff in detail about the kids, and spending lots of time with them. It’s taken me over 3 months, and I can finally say that I’m done! This info is sent to adoptive families or people who are matching kids with families, to hopefully get the best match for the child. I’m so thankful that I was able to get this done already, so now I can do what I’ve been doing here, without having to type up reports for it! When adoptive parents come to visit their kids, I get to sit down with them and talk about things I notice in their child, and ways to best transition them, based on their individual temperament and development. It’s been so neat to meet some of these parents and see how they interact with their kids, and talk with them through this process. 


3. Part of what I do every day is physical therapy exercises with a few babies. A pediatric physical therapist came to Maison a few months ago, and was able to show me things that I can do with a few babies every day to get them caught up to where they need to be. Baby V would scoot on her tummy but hates putting her feet on the floor. Now, after almost 2 months of exercises, she’s crawling everywhere, kneeling, and will stand for a little while. Baby Rosenerlie couldn’t even sit up on her own, but is now sitting up, rolling over, and scooting on her tummy. These sound like little things, but they are huge for these babies, who otherwise would still be staring at the ceiling. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to be a small part of that, and to witness these baby girls thrive and develop. I swear, I feel like such a mom when a baby gets her first tooth, or when they stand for the first time. The nannies laugh at how excited I get. But I think it’s awesome. 


                    Rosenerlie- 13 pounds of fabulous:



4. This past week, I got to go to Petionville twice. Petionville is about a 20 minute ride up from Port au Prince. It's like a different world there. There are cute shops and tall buildings, and the further you go, the quieter it gets. I had to get my visa renewed, so my friend Donald went with me. When Donald and I were walking around the city, taptap drivers  were yelling at him, telling him that the white people didn't walk, that he had to drive me- "the white people hate to walk!" they said. So I told them that I liked walking, and that was that. We then got approached by a rah rah band, who danced for us so we would give them money. Rah rahs have a history of being a form of voodoo worship. The guy kept insisting that I pay him, so finally I yelled, "I didn't ask you to dance for me, I'm not giving money to Satan!!" and walked away...I think I might have embarrassed Donald just a little bit... So, after he had recovered from his public humiliation of being associated with me, we walked past several street vendors, (of course I had to buy a cute dress) and we saw the rest of the city. It was such a fun day. Today, I got to go back with my roommate Hallie, and friend Kerby. We went on a bearhunt for the most delicious burger and waffle place ever and we finally found it. This waffle was so beautiful that I had to document it- my first strawberries since I've been here. Delish:





view of the mountian overlooking Petionville:




Tomorrow I leave for La Source. This is the village that I’ve gotten to visit for the past 4 years. I’m so thankful that my family and college friends were able to come in January with me, and sad that they won’t be here this time. But I can’t wait to meet up with the new team tomorrow. I know it’s going to be a great week. Spending a week with Pootchy is just what I need for a little break from the city. I'm so thankful for this little guy- who knew that meeting him 4 years ago would turn into all of this. Now, my whole family has met his whole family, my parents sponsor him for school, I'm his godmother, half of my suitcase goes straight to his house when we reach the land, and I'm spending a semester here because of him and what he has meant to me. No, I haven't been able to visit him yet, but it's his culture and his child-like love for Jesus that I fell in love with. He teaches me so much, and I can't express how thankful I am for him- even living in a world so different from mine. So excited to see him next week, and ready to see how the Lord will use this team for his glory. 




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

real life battles- get your armor on.

Well, it's been a few weeks since my last update. These weeks have been filled with all of the craziness that comes with working in adoptions and living in a 3rd world country. But it has also been a really good few weeks. Here are a few reasons why:

Hallie and I took Margalitha swimming last weekend. It definitely took her some time before she was willing to jump in, but she didn't just sit on the side of the pool like I thought she would. The girl stands on the edge, looks at me like, "you know you gotta save me, right?" and jumps in towards me. She then clung to me like a koala bear until we found a little float for her. All while standing in 3 feet of water. But she loved swimming, and wants to go swim all the time now. Here's a little bit of our adventure:




Ice cream & crepes & crepes. Last week, Hallie and I took the 3 oldest boys to Epidor. We bought them chicken crepes and ice cream. Spending time with these boys is always an adventure. At one point on the way home, I had to do a 5 point turn in the middle of 4 lanes of traffic. I say 5 point turn, because our beloved SUV is so well-used that it leaks power steering fluid. All 3 boys slumped down to the floor as I'm waving, laughing, and apologizing to everyone yelling at me. (If anyone would like to donate a car to the orphanage that holds power steering fluid, please let me know). Epidor is always an adventure, as we also went there on Sunday with adoptive families on their bonding trip and their children, most of whom are hardly ever out of the orphanage. Interesting to say the least. Here are pics of our date with the boys:




On a more serious note, one things that we've been facing recently is the reality of spiritual warfare. For those of you who just raised your eyebrows, as a Christian, I firmly believe that there is always a battle going on between good and evil. Ultimately, God has the power, but Satan uses anything he can to grab our attention away from anything that gives God glory. In Haiti, this fight is much more tangible- everything is much more black and white. You're either with Jesus, or you're not. Here, voodoo is very common- and voodoo worshippers call down the physical form of Satan to give them power. As a Christian here, you better have your armor on or you're gonna be a little bit freaked out. We as Christians are attacked daily by temptations and distractions of sin. Sometimes Satan chooses to use more tangible means to get our attention. Anything that scares us or causes us to live in fear is distracting us from what we are here to do. But it doesn't have to be that way. Sometimes it pushes us closer to the Comforter and One who ultimately has the power. Christians in Haiti know this very well. 

I have been so encouraged the past few weeks, that amid spiritual attacks, the people we are surrounded by are not fearful. Our orphanage director, Pierre, and I had this conversation recently:
 "Lauren, do you trust that God protects you?" yes. "Then you know that He wins the battle, right?" yes. "And you know that to fight this evil that you encounter you pray and read the Word to give you strength and wisdom, and that there is power in the name and blood of Jesus that is greater than anything you can face?" yes. "Then that is all you need." And I'm over here like, "yeah, noo, right now all I need is YOU to pray with me, and stay with us, and do whatever the heck you need to do so that this fight is over."

 But Pierre is right- there is nothing to fear. Being aware that there is good and evil, and being able to recognize it is not wrong. Knowing that as Christians we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us so that evil flees because we have acknowledged Whose we are is awesome. But this fight is real, and if I said it was never scary, I'd be lying. But I don't walk in fear. I may have moments of doubt or uneasiness, but I don't dwell on the things that are here to test me. I focus on Who I am in Christ, that as His child, and that because of that, no harm can come to me. That I was called here, to this place and to these children, and I am going to be all here, not in fear. Pierre said, just remember, "read your Bible...and don't freak out." To hear a Haitian say that in English is really funny, and we're like, "alright Pierre, thanks man..." But really- if you're gonna say you believe something, you better really believe it. I'm praying for faith- right now it's a little bigger than a mustard seed. But it's there, and God uses it for His glory and to display His power and protection. 

I'm praying for others in my house, that they will be protected, knowing that I can't do that, but trusting that He will keep them close to Him. Haitian believers and our entire house have come together as a community, to encourage each other daily, and live this life together. Not in fear, but in trusting that "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." He keeps his promises of the Psalms- that He is here as our refuge and strength, and His promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13- "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

God is good. We are surrounded by people who love us, and I know that in the States, countless people are praying for our protection. But pray also that we will come to a greater knowledge of just how big and how great our God is. That through all of these things, that Margalitha's faith will grow. That she will walk in the knowledge of the One who protects her daily, as His child. This fight is real, wherever we are. The battle of good and evil in constantly going on, in decisions we make, in actions we take, and in the way we love one another. As for us, we know who we're living for. I pray that we can live out what we claim to believe. 



**photos courtesy of Hallie Warren, my lovely roomie & fabulous photographer. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

sometimes all you need is a Margarita

Friday was National Margarita Day. Some of you probably celebrated-good job you guys. We celebrated here too, but in a very different way. 

In December, a 16 year old girl came to the orphanage to a church service with a friend, and never left. After learning that she didn't have a good home situation, and didn't really have anyone, she was allowed to stay at the orphanage. For the past 2 months, she has been sleeping on the floor of the preschool classroom, on a little mattress, with zero personal space. I can't imagine leaving a rough home situation and trying to be a teenager with 100 little kids running around you nonstop. We knew some of this sweet girl's story, but slowly learn more, piece by piece. On Friday, we learned more of her story, and decided that she would need a more permanent, stable environment than the preschool classroom floor. After praying and talking through options, the decision was made. She would move into our guesthouse. We made a list of what we would need and presented our idea to her to allow her to make her own decision. Thinking it would take us a week to get everything ready, we asked her if she would want to move in soon.  Her eyes lit up and she said, "oh yes, I would love to go home with you today!" And that was that. Angie told her that we live as a family, and want her to be part of our family, for good. She doubled over with laughter and thankfulness, and gave lots of thank-you kisses. That same day we went shopping for clothes, a comforter, paint, and other things for her room, and then began to paint it BRIGHT pink, on her request. Friday night, I was doing my usual internet stalking, Bachelor show bashing, and skyping, when I came across some pictures of margaritas, with people celebrating National Margarita Day. I ran into Angie's room and told her. We were so excited, because our new friend's name is Margalitha (pronounced Margarita). She had come to live with us on her own *national* special day. 

This morning in church, the lyrics from the song, Hosanna stuck out to me- "break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdom's cause." I have sung this song for years, and prayed this prayer. This morning, I thought, "We are living it. Right now, we are living out this prayer. This is what I prayed, and this is what He has brought into our path." What I know of Margalitha's story so far breaks my heart. And I hate that we don't speak the same language right now.When we brought her to the house, she wasn't eating a lot, so I made pb&j and presented her with chips & hummus- let me tell you, the girl loves hummus. I know just enough Creole for her to laugh at me, and she knows zero English. But for now, at least I can make her a sandwich, and help paint her room. She will still come to the orphanage with us to help out, or help at the house on days when she wants to stay here. But she has her own space- a safe space. And a pink room. And a family of girls and a 2 year old boy. And because our hearts are being broken for what breaks His, Margalitha has a good chance at a future. I'm thankful that Margalitha is here, but I also know that she needs time. She needs Jesus in a way that I can't even begin to understand. So pray with me, that day by day, we as her family will be Jesus to her, and point her to the ultimate Comforter and Healer. I am already so thankful for her sweet spirit and her smile. We needed her here in some ways just as much as she needed us. Sometimes, all you need is a Margalitha. 


love this girl already



 She wanted to pose like this. And yes these are our new Haitian pants



homemade scaffolding whatwhat


polka dots around the doorframe:                                    oh hey Angie



now that's a pink wall.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

insert creative title here.


I’m not a physical therapist. I don’t have a counseling degree. I am not a translator and I can’t always speak 2 year old very well. I’m not a professional artist or a licensed teacher. I’m not a professional organizer and I don’t have experience working in the international adoption system. But I’m learning to do a little bit of all of these things on a daily basis. For example, on Thursday, I wrote 3 developmental assessments, took 2 kids to get their passport pictures taken, watched a movie with the older boys, sat down with 2 kids and worked out a crisis of stolen toys and hurt feelings, worked with 2 babies who are delayed physically, trying to get them caught up to their age range, and DROVE for the first time as I picked up a few visitors to take them to their meeting at the orphanage. Every day here brings with it new challenges and adventures. And I love it. When I leave here, I won’t have a degree in professional-child-problem-solving or multi-tasking, but I’m learning more here than I ever could sitting in a classroom. 

People ask me how I heard about Maison, and I very honestly tell them, Google. I laugh, but I literally Googled orphanages in Haiti, contacted a few, prayed, and ended up here. It’s crazy how God works. A few years ago I worked with a guy at Ridge Haven (a PCA camp that every child and teenager should go to!) and now, 3 years later, his sister, Hallie, is my roommate in Port-au-Prince, working at the same orphanage that I happened to get connected with through Google. God is large and in charge. Things like that remind me that it’s true. As I watch sweet baby girl Rosnerline, a 9 month old, sit up by herself for 20 seconds for the first time, I know that it’s true. I see the beauty of his creation, and am literally watching her learn and transform before my eyes. As I rock a baby to sleep in the afternoon, I feel His peace. As I laugh hysterically with three 9 year olds watching Dennis the Menace, and for a little while can truly forget about all of the chaos around us, I feel His joy. A few weeks ago, a team came to do some work at the orphanage, and in conversation with one of the chaperones, she asked me, “So what’s your plan when you go back and graduate? What are you going to do with yourself?” I stuffed my face with rice and eventually smiled politely and said, “I literally just got here a few weeks ago. I’m still trying to figure out how to leave a room after playing with kids and not have the nannies upset with me for stirring up trouble. Things go one day at the time here.” So that’s where I am. Enjoying every moment. Not that it’s always easy. There are times when I’ve been sick lately, and I want nothing more than to have my mom in the same room as me, or have a day where I can look down and there not be an ant crawling on my arm. But I love it. Every moment of it. Amid all of the craziness, I love it here. 



I have a special place in my heart for fat babies :)





                                                          sweet baby Rosnerline:









 making bracelets: 


roomies!



we got a baby kitty. His name is Bo. I call him Kitty.