IT’S LOVE FLASH MOB DAY!!!!
Since Together Rising began, we’ve raised over a million dollars to lift up our community. Today—we overflow beyond our borders. Today, we flood the world with our love.
There has never been a Love Flash Mob closer to my heart than this one. We need more of you and more passion and more follow through than we’ve ever needed before. There are hurting/AMAZING women watching us this minute— hoping that you will care enough to help get them the care they deserve. I’ll be here sweating and praying and suffocating from hope and fear in my house. You—please—read and let your heart guide you.
Let us begin:
You know my precious friend, Tara. Tara is a midwife at a maternity center called Heartline in Port au Prince, Haiti. She helps Haitian women—who have no clean, safe, loving place to welcome their infant sons and daughters—give birth with dignity. Tara saves lives and loves mamas and gives her whole heart and her whole life to her calling. This one: Joy. Service. I know love when I see it. Tara and her family are love.
Months ago Tara wrote this about a teenager who had visited Heartline:
I couldn’t stop thinking about Asline. An hour later I sent Tara this message:
Please Tara, tell me what Asline needs that I have to offer.
Asline burst into tears when she found out she was pregnant. We just hugged while she cried. I just said, “You are not the first young mom. I was a young mom – we have other young moms in the program” I asked her to come meet with me Thanksgiving morning at 10:30. Once I meet with her Thursday I will write you again. Pray that she just shows up. Off to program — today all the moms with babies born already come — super fun because these are all moms that were offered a chance to give birth and keep their kids out of an orphanage and they are all kicking ass at loving their babies.
Okay- you go be with the mamas. I’ll wait to hear what’s next for Asline. I’ll pray she just shows up. Love you.
But that next Thursday, Thanksgiving, Asline did not show up. She didn’t come the next week, or the week after that. We wondered if it might be time to give up hoping. Then, the day after Christmas, this message popped into my inbox from Tara:
Friend!!!! Asline showed up today!!!! I’m giddy. Her sister gave her medicine against her will to try to get the baby out — but she was upset by it — she came today and is 11 weeks pregnant. She cried when she heard the heartbeat. And she is saying she will come back weekly and deliver here. Thanks for praying for her!!
I don’t really understand prayer. I usually forget to do it altogether. But something made me keep praying for Asline. And a few weeks later, I found myself messaging Tara again.
Does Heartline need anything?
Yes, we do. We need more room. We are having to turn away too many women.
What if we raised money for you to add on to the Maternity Center and add nurses?
That would be amazing, but you need to come and see if this work is right for you. Come and see.
To Haiti? No thank you, I mostly want to (forget to) pray for Haiti from my couch in Naples.
But Tara kept saying that she really thought I should come. And I kept saying no. She said please and I said no. Finally, she said: Glennon. Just show up.
Tricky smart Tara, using those words against me.
That’s how Amy and I ended up in Haiti.***
When we arrived last month, Heartline’s midwife team picked us up at the airport and took us to the government-run hospital where many mothers deliver their babies. We needed to see firsthand why Heartline’s work is so desperately needed. As we drove, I kept thinking: it looks like the earthquake happened yesterday. But there was so much LIFE. So much beautiful life, so much brutal poverty. And/Both. Haiti is Brutiful.
We entered a gate flanked by armed guards, parked our ambulance, and entered a hospital that felt like a prison. We walked over slippery concrete floors and through suffocating heat, but no warmth. We went into the maternity rooms to see lines of sheet-less mattresses on metal frames. Women were laid on the beds in various stages of labor. One was in active labor, two had babies laid out next to them on the dirty mattresses, one was silently crying because she had just lost her baby. I saw no doctors while we were there, no nurses. There was no one to explain to these women what was happening to their bodies or to their babies. And there was no one to serve them. If a patient needs food, the family has to bring it. If a woman needs water, her family has to bring it. If an IV or medication of any kind is needed—the families already living in unimaginable poverty must find a pharmacy, buy an IV or medicine, and bring it to the hospital. So the women just go without. They go without food, water, and medicine. So many hurting women, so many new babies—and it was so quiet. We heard no moaning, no crying from the mamas or even from the babies. It turns out there is no reason to cry if there is no hope of help.
But then there were the midwives. Beth and KJ and Tara. They walked from bed to bed, holding women’s hands, hearing their stories, speaking to them softly in their native creole. Talking to them about breast-feeding and telling them, each and every woman they met, about Heartline’s free family planning classes and free birth control. Praying with them when they asked. Holding them if they cried. Laughing with the ones who could laugh.
Amy and I were silent as we climbed back into the car. As we pulled away from the hospital, Tara looked us and said, “And that’s why Beth started the Maternity Center.”
Beth and her husband moved to Haiti 26 years ago and right away – Beth used her degree in child development to open an orphanage. Beth cried as she told us about fathers and grandmothers who showed up at her orphanage’s gate with children hanging on their legs and newborn babies in their arms. The fathers would hold out their babies and say: “Please, take her. Give her food and get her to someone who can give her a life.” Beth would learn—over and over again—that the child’s mother had just died in childbirth. So many times this was the story—the baby’s mother is dead.
Beth listened closely. With a broken heart, she took the babies in and worked to complete their adoptions.
Running is one of Beth’s spiritual practices- she runs through the streets of Haiti, talking to God and listening hard. This running time is when she began to understand that she needed to back up a step. She needed to help mothers in childbirth and before childbirth and after childbirth so that they could live. So that they could keep and love and raise their babies. These babies didn’t need an orphanage, they needed their mamas. After a long season of listening, Beth decided to act. At 50, she started midwifery school. Then she came back and opened Heartline Maternity Center. At first she walked from Haitian door to Haitian door and asking—Are you pregnant? Is anyone pregnant here? If so, please come. I can help. Just show up.
We sat and took in Beth’s story, and then turned to KJ. KJ is 26 years old and was raised as the oldest of twelve kids in a very traditional family. But at an early age KJ felt a stirring, a knowing that her life would follow an non-traditional path. During high school, she went to Africa and fell in love with loving underserved people. She knew she wanted to serve. She came home and searched the internet until she found a website for a midwifery school in the Philippines. She looked at it and decided: I need to go there. So she graduated early and when she was seventeen years old she left her home and her parents and everything she knew and went to the Philippines.
What are you going to do there? Her mom said.
I guess I’m just going to show up, KJ said.
Beth was fifty when she followed her knowing. KJ was seventeen. Let us never say it is too late or too early to start showing up.
After dinner, Amy and I went to our hotel room which was lovely except for a cockroach the size of a quarter pounder on the coffee table. Amy threw a tissue box on top of it and we walked around it for two days. I still can’t talk about it. Relief work is scary.
The next morning, Tara picked us up early to take us to Heartline. On the way, she explained that since Heartline has limited space, most of the mamas they serve are teenage, first-time mothers, or older mothers who have already delivered many babies. These are the women most likely to have complications that could lead to death during delivery, leaving their children orphaned. Tara also told us that in addition to pre- and post- natal care, family planning is a core part of Heartline’s work. Poverty can be defined as a lack of choices, and in a society marked by high levels of infidelity, violence against women and spousal rape, giving woman access to birth control gives them the choice to determine their future and to live a healthy life for the children they already have. To quote the wise words of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “Every woman and girl deserves the chance to determine her own future.”
After a short drive, we pulled up to Heartline and the guarded gate opened. We left the rubble and traffic of Haiti behind and entered the oasis of the Heartline campus. Trees surrounding the building offer shade and pick up the breeze and the walls are painted bright with beautiful murals of Haitian mamas and babies. There is beauty there. Beauty is something that is harder to find outside the gate. Not impossible, but harder because there is so much pain that jumps out at you first.
The first thing that Tara did when we walked in was introduce us to the Haitian staff. Heartline believes in Haitian serving Haitians, so this is a priority for them.
The Maternity Center team (left to right): Nirva, Beth, KJ, Sherly, Tara & Winifred.
Next we greeted a large of group of women with shy smiles and big, beautiful bellies, and then we walked down to Tara and KJ’s exam room. Signs and paintings covered the walls. This one stopped me in my tracks.
Ascribe Unsurpassable Worth. This is Heartline’s motto, their mantra, their reason for being. Beth told us, “If you are a poor woman here, it is easy to be overlooked, taken advantage of and unknown. It’s different at Heartline. We know each woman by name, we know her story and we love her. That’s the difference. The women are loved here.”
Then we went into Beth’s room. You see that picture on the wall, the painting on the left? It’s one of the mamas who gave birth last year to her eighth child. Her first seven babies died. But she came to the maternity center, and because of Heartline’s careful care and attention, her eighth baby lived. She lived. This mama now has a baby to hold, because of Heartline.
We spent the rest of the day quietly watching—smiling and nodding and oohing and ahhing with the moms, observing the careful care provided to all the women by the midwives and the staff. How they measured their patients’ progress, delighted with them over strong heartbeats, answered questions, provided meals.
(This is MarieCianne. She is a blind, Haitian pregnant mama. She teaches braille for a living. She did not stop smiling the whole live long day. Just thought you should know.)
During our last few hours at the clinic, we were joined by another Heartline visitor, an ob-gyn from Vanderbilt University named Dr. Chris Sizemore. Chris first came to Haiti after the earthquake and met the Heartline staff at the field hospital they erected inside the rubble to care for the earthquake victims. Dr. Sizemore told us, “Heartline does some of the best work I’ve ever seen. The care they give, the expertise, the respect for these women—they are doing it right.”
For the very last appointment of the day, Tara ushered a quiet, scared woman into the exam room. We greeted her and she nodded without meeting our eyes. Tara explained to us quietly that weeks before, when she was ten weeks pregnant, she’d been severely beaten by her husband. She moved in with her mother but since that day, she’d been terrified that her baby was hurt, or worse. When she heard that Dr. Chris was in the office doing ultrasounds, she came to Tara and said: “Please ask him to look at my baby. I am afraid. Please tell me if my baby is okay.”
Chris started the exam while Tara held the woman’s hand and followed along. We all held our breath. I prayed: please please please please please.
Chris spent careful time looking over every aspect of the ultrasound. It felt like one million hours. Then he smiled, looked right at the woman and said, “Your baby is perfect. Perfectly healthy. And you’re having a boy.”
And the woman’s face lit up like the sun. And we all breathed.
Afterwards I just stared at Tara. She said Every day. This is what it’s like here every day.
Every day (and throughout the long nights), the women of Heartline pour out their lives for moments like this. So that mamas can hear they have healthy babies, and babies can grow up in their mothers’ arms. Haiti has the highest rate of maternal and infant mortality in the Western Hemisphere. Two out of 3 childbirths in Haiti occur without a skilled birth attendant. One in 83 Haitian women will die as a result of childbirth. Yet, Heartline has never lost a mother. But due to too-little capacity and resources, Heartline is forced to turn away more women than they can serve. Each year Heartline is forced to say no to hundreds of women desperate for a safe place to start their child’s life and their motherhood.
I decided to visit Heartline because I wanted to see the work with my own eyes, and also because I was a little bit worried about the religious aspect. I am a self proclaimed Jesus freak- but I am wholly uninterested in any organization that is trading love for Jesus. I only want to work with people who love without agenda or ulterior motive. I am more skeptical about this than any atheist I’ve ever met- my team will tell you that. I am the leader of this beautiful, diverse community made of all faiths and those who understand the world in ways unrelated to faith. So my job is to look at Love Work with ALL of our eyes. And I can tell you that if you believe in Love, you’d believe Heartline’s work. This work of fiercely and tenderly serving women and children. The work of loving the vulnerable and the marginalized and the forgotten like they are the most beloved creatures on Earth—cherished, adored, valued—because that is the truth. There is no trading service for religion here. Love with no strings attached is the agenda.
Here’s where we come in.
The midwives of Heartline desperately want to add another wing to their beautiful maternity center. They want more exam rooms, more postpartum rooms, more teaching rooms. They want to stop turning so many women away who are desperate to bring their babies into the world in safety and dignity.
So we are going to build it for them.
The architects have drawn up the plans. The contractors are standing by. The midwives are watching. The mamas are waiting.
For US. For YOU.
Here’s the spot. Here is where the haven for our sisters will be. This is the spot upon which LOVE WILL BUILD.
If we raise the funds needed today- LOVE WILL START BUILDING IN TWO WEEKS.
Our sisters at Heartline have been brave and mighty and vulnerable enough to be open to our service. They have said: Will you help? Please, let us answer them: YES. YES because you deserve to deliver your precious baby safely and watch her grow. YES because
you are a woman of unsurpassable worth.
Here’s a picture of a birthing room at Heartline. See that line in Creole? It says, “She believed she could, so she did.”
And finally, meet baby Sarah. Sarah’s mommy and daddy suffered two mid-pregnancy losses before she was born. Sarah’s mom and dad let us borrow her for a minute, and while we were taking these pictures, Amy started crying. That doesn’t happen often—she’s pretty steady-eddy. “What’s up?” I asked. Amy told me that she was thinking about all those years I’d spent heartbroken about the dead ends of my adoption dream. She said watching me hold Sarah, she wondered if maybe God put that dream in my heart so it would lead us here—to help these mamas keep their babies. Because the only thing more beautiful than adoption is having no need for it.
God showed up.
Beth showed up.
Tara showed up.
KJ showed up.
Amy and I showed up.
And these women—they show up everyday.
Everybody’s just waiting to see if you will show up.
You guys. Let’s get the women of Heartline Rising—TOGETHER.
READY? HERE’S HOW LOVE WILL WIN:
- DONATE. You can make your tax-deductible donation by clicking here or on the Love Flash Mob button at the bottom of this post. Give what you can—small gifts of $5, $15, or $25 max. We can’t do great things, but today we’re making miracles happen through small gifts given with great love. REMEMBER THAT EVERY DONATION MATTERS. Click here to see the miracles you have made through prior Love Flash Mobs. Because Together Rising is an official 501(c)3, every penny of your donation is tax deductible. And, you can be assured that if the funds raised exceed what Heartine needs for this project, all of your money will go toward serving women and families in crisis.
- SHARE, SHARE, SHARE. PLEASE SHARE THIS POST. Use the links at the bottom of this post to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other ones I don’t know about. Mass e-mail your friends, call your parents, stand in your yard and read the essay loudly – whatever it takes. We need all the whos in whoville – the tall and the small. We need our entire village today.
- TWEET THIS: Come to @momastery now for the most fun & greatest love you’ll ever see on the web! #LoveFlashMob #TogetherRising http://ctt.ec/P1j_n+
- DEDICATE. Every single one of us knows a warrior woman or baby. If you’d like to donate in honor of someone you love, please leave her name in the comments here or on Facebook.
Okay. It’s time for me to let you go and trust. Your board will be busy trying to breathe and calling each other and refreshing our screens one million times, sacred scared to death. In a few hours, we will give you an update. CMMMMMON LOVE: WIN!!!!
***Of course, Amy and I paid our own way to Haiti. None of your donations to Together Rising were used for this trip or any other trip. As has always been the case, your Board covers Together Rising’s overhead costs so that every penny you give goes to families in need.
!!!!!!!!!!!!! UPDATE !!!!!!!!!!!!!
LISTEN TO ME. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS. YOU ARE NOT NOT NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS.
On our last night in Haiti, Amy and I were eating dinner at Tara’s house and KJ mentioned her friend, Ann — a midwife in Berlin on the front lines every day, helping to serve women and children Syrian refugees. Amy’s eyes got big and she looked over at me and with my eyes I said to her: Sister. No. Focus. We are in HAITI. For Heartline.
Later that night, we lay in our hotel room and before I could fall asleep Amy said into the darkness: We should help them, too. And I said: I know. But not now. Next time. Next Love Flash Mob. We have to do the next right thing, one thing at a time. Heartline is the next right thing, and the numbers we need for these sisters are BIG. They have unsurpassable worth. We have to wait.
Amy said, Yes, you’re right. Then as soon as we got home from Haiti — she reached out to Ann behind my back, of course. Love will sometimes cheat a little to win, it turns out. A week later Amy forwarded this letter to me from Ann:
“Every day Berlin sees an unprecedented number of refugees coming to our city. Many that finally reach Berlin have been in dire conditions for weeks and in Berlin they find another great struggle. The government registration office has waiting times of up to a week just to receive a waiting number. From then it may be weeks to register as an official asylum seeker. Until then, no one is eligible for medical help.
In a once idyllic park you see the dire situation. People are sitting on the cold ground and trying to keep their few things that they have managed to keep together. Pregnant women, small children, sick people, everyone on the cold pavement. Our work as midwives is in great need. The specific needs of pregnant ladies or women that have just given birth are hard to be met under these circumstances, but we try. Women are homeless with their newborn baby or a few days before giving birth, and it is now very cold in Berlin. The situation at the registration office has become more and more unstable over the last few days — because of the cold weather and unrelenting rain — and the fact that people have had to wait for weeks now. Today, it has become very clear, that the idea we really need funds for is winter clothing and gear for the mothers and babies. We see so many without adequate clothing and a huge increase in colds/bronchitis/flu.”
GOOD GOD, I said. Listen, I know it’s calling us. BUT WE HAVE TO WAIT.
This afternoon, your Together Rising Board huddled together and said: OUR TRIBE IS TRYING TO TELL US THAT WE DON’T HAVE TO WAIT.
YOU GUYS. YOU GAVE $300,222 IN 10 HOURS.
Because of what you did today, Heartline is getting its Love Wing. I just talked to Tara and she was on the phone with the Haitian contractors saying: IT’S ON! GET READY! YOU HAVE JOBS AND WE WILL HAVE OUR LOVE WING! (Did you think about that? You gave WORK to people today. Ripples, ripples.)
Our Love Flash Mobs are 24 hours long. WE HAVE THIRTEEN AND A HALF HOURS TO GO.
We want to raise money to help Ann and the midwives in Berlin buy warm clothes and blankets for the refugees—and even more. We are, right now, furiously working those details out. You can trust us with that. We will go slow and well and true. We are more careful than CAN BE IMAGINED. Your Board has an entire Stewardship Team with amazing and selfless volunteers and led by our very own Katherine, ensuring that your money is spent in a smart way, in the RIGHT way.
KEEP GIVING, friends. No penny will be wasted. Keep giving and we will get to work tomorrow creating the very best plan to get your love to those shivering, hoping, beautiful refugees desperate for a safer, peaceful existence for themselves and their children. When the details of our Love Project are finalized—we will tell you the entire story in detail.
And let us never forget — there is no such thing as other people’s children.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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