Barlow Family - Haiti



The WHOLE crew


Ted & Rebecca


Tania Grace


Ana & Oliver











In Prayer, For...
  • the orphans in Haiti
    a smooth moving process
    calm during the transition
  • our kids -
  • Tynan & Tania in college
  • Ana working in Germany
  • Twins' homeschooling
  • the future "additions"
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Entries in Life in Haiti (28)


another NEW day...

Today is Syndie's FIRST DAY at her new school...

                                       the first day of her first FULL year of school ever!

God in His mercy has provided the GIFT of a fantastic private education for her through our friends at Quesqueya Christian School.

She will be learning in English, but her teacher who has lived here for MANY many years speaks fluent Kreyol as well, so she won't be completely lost. We are still speaking Haitian Kreyol mainly at home. However, she announced a few days ago that she doesn't want to speak Kreyol or English... she WANTS to speak KRENGLISH!!! in exactly that language. We're ok with that too!

This ends up being a DOUBLE blessing for us, as it allows Rebecca the concentrated time to get her Midwifery Program studies @ FNU done this year as well.

Pray for Syndie, Rebecca, Emma & Tynan as they each continue their studies this year.


Writing our names in the land...?

This post is a heartfelt response that came bursting forth as I read this recent post by our friend Elizabeth Trotter, who lives & ministers in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. If we had been given more than 3 weeks together and didn't have SO much to process during our shared experience at Missions Training International on cross cultural preparation for life overseas, we may have been destined to be bosom much in our hearts is similar.

SO, before going forward review her post HERE at "A Life Overseas":

How do you write your name in the land?

So what sustains you in your host country? How do you plant yourself in the place God has called you to serve? When the earth under your feet seems to crack, when your life is dry and scorched, what do you hold on to? When the soil starts to disintegrate and your well dries up, where do you go?

When no rain falls, when the crops wither away, and there’s no harvest, what do you do? What is your anchor, and where are your roots? Where have you put your signature?

How do you write your name in the land?

Being a fellow homeschool mom, I remember us reading & studying Sarah Plain & Tall AND Skylark and watching the movies when my kids were little.

It's SO true...and something I would have NEVER thought I would ever have applied that story to in the future. Back then I could never have dreamed that we'd be living in a 4th world country, in HAITI...where life is HARSH and complex.

I've just spent the past 5-6 weeks working with moms & babies in a more remote area here. The hardship & DANGER of childbirth for these women has broken my heart afresh...and yet they hurl themselves forward into motherhood just the same, sometimes by choice, quite often even against their own desires. But they are BRAVE and STRONG in the midst.

I've been helping train the FIRST ever postnatal nurses at this hospital to provide follow up care, catch lethal infections, identify breastfeeding issues that could lead to malnutrition, water borne diseases in newborns & death. We've discussed postnatal treatment for the rampant hypertension here...and it's already working. Babies have been referred to higher care that would have been unidentified & gone home & died.

So while what often DOES sustain me IS the beauty of this land...YES, I am a palm tree lover too and the SKIES, the mountains, the sunsets...nature has always FED my soul.

My answer is found though in the eyes of a mom looking down at her new babe...and praying to God for safety. In feeling the arms of a malnourished child grasping my neck as if holding on to life itself, as I sing to her. In the soft touch I must give to a family member who has just lost their loved one. 

THIS is where & HOW - despite being completely overwhelmed at times by the raw & unforgivable sides of this country - I DO find myself writing my name in the land...

And then of course, Haiti has indelibly marked our lives as well:


Life @ Midwives for Haiti

Just a few months ago this video was completed by Every Mother Counts, who partners with Midwives for Haiti to aid in providing maternity care here, especially in the remote areas of Haiti.

The main student featured is Juslene, who graduated in the last class & is one of the TWO midwives that we have just finished training specifically and are guiding through the first few weeks of postpartum and follow-up care. She and Illa, are heading up the new Post-Natal care program.

We've just finished our first full week of postnatal examinations & discharge teaching for moms & newborns at Hopital Ste Therese. Juslene saw EIGHT moms today on her own!

Another VERY EXCITING thing happened today....

Part of the discharge teaching is a list of "warning signs" to return to the hospital for.  Some mom's can't read, so Illa & Juslene review the points and have the moms say each one back to them.

This morning we had a mom come find us...knowing that we were the Post-Natal team. She had been discharged yesterday after a normal delivery (typically sent home after 6 hours) and came back today because her baby had a fever. (POINT #1 on the baby warning sign list!) We took a temp to confirm and it was 38C (100.4F) axillary. She was referred immediately to the pediatric emergency unit for further evaluation. 

It worked!!! 

She returned based on their care...

                                 you should have seen Juslene's smile!



So much of life feels chaotic lately, but sometimes I think it's just me.

Now that we’re living apart for these weeks of work up in Hinche, and both working full time during the week, Ted & I are having to grapple with everything over brief cell phone calls or facebook messaging. With 6 kids, 2 ministries, a Haitian business and household to run you can imagine how difficult it must be to communicate even a fraction of the necessities and even less of our emotions or needs lately. I think we’re doing pretty well & yet often it just isn’t enough!

This morning’s chat we had time for some depth & at one point I wrote:

I feel broken in so many ways & yet hard as stone in others…

I wonder how we will ever process everything here when we're done...years from now...or will we not? instead just tuck it away into our past that we don't talk about much...and find distance from things we can't really understand or don't want to feel?

This is one of the places where our hearts often live here, dwelling amidst the poverty. EVEN when God is faithful and generally we are doing fine.

Being in Hinche with Midwives for Haiti has been a joy in some ways, but a stressor in many others. I have to admit I’ve been sharing more stress than joy about life here with my hubby lately, knowing that he would understand. He’s heard about:

- how hard it is to raise a child in a work/school/living space setting

- worries about Syndies recent tantrums (a new thing)

- how I really miss my kids overseas that are all spread out

- concern about how we will pay for our homestudy

- being unable to follow up on Kervensly while I am here

- unable to complete dossier paperwork while here

- missing my own bed

- increased loneliness & isolation at times

- feeling his difficulty of managing things in PAP alone

The ability to finally use my personal skills in a purposeful way, the gorgeous countryside, and the more evident needs everywhere here are my personal perks to the work at hand.

Yesterday was our first day onsite with the two nurses we’ve been training to provide post-natal care at the local government hospital. I want to explain that these nurses salaries are being paid by outside donors to provide this much needed care.

Up until now a mom would come in to deliver, if everything was normal she would go home 6 hours later - NO after delivery follow up appointments, NO head-to-toe assessment of her baby, NO discharge get the idea, she’d be on her own to figure it out (without even books or the internet). THIS is another reason that many moms & babies die...not during childbirth, but in the days & weeks just childbirth related or newborn complications.

As we worked our way through the moms being discharged yesterday morning, I had a hard time reconciling the medical care & resources available there to what I am used to in the states. There are 2 MFH trained nurses & 2 charge midwives for all of maternity (L&D, post-natal, ante-natal & post-surgical (c-section) wards. The wards are open - approximately 10-12 beds, no privacy & no toilets (they use buckets that go under the bed). NOT the beautiful private birthing suites & postpartum rooms that most of the hospitals I’ve worked in have.

This project is the FIRST time (in this hospital) that there will be a full newborn exam perfomed on each baby....even now, they have no chart, no vitals taken, no one checking on them in particular… Illa & Juslene will provide this care now, along with care for the moms. The hope is that the nurses will catch complications early & prevent fatal outcomes.

There was a mom yesterday who was laying ALL morning (over 6 hours) in blood & fluids... she had a c/s that morning & her baby was laying by her legs for hours with family nearby. I NEVER saw it eat. She was sleeping through the pain. Finally I saw that she was awake & that baby was awake & our nurses were finishing up their I snuck over & asked if I could help...took her breast & put the baby on it for it's first feeding ever.  I showed grandma how to help.  Finally a midwife had a free minute to check on see why she was bleeding...come to find out, I moved the foley & it started draining, then it pooled & splashed out the drain, which wasn't closed....hence the saturated sheets she was laying on...that her family would have to take home & wash. Still the first smile I saw on this mom’s face was when her baby latched on & started feeding as she lay’s universal..

moms just want their babies to be OK!

THAT smile was enough reward for the day.

AS we wrapped up our clinical for the day we reviewed how it went with the Illa & Juslene. They were happy and felt good. They talked about feeling slow in their interviews & assessment. We encouraged them that it would come with time & become routine.

It was quite frankly a very hard day for me physically & emotionally, but I was SO PROUD of how well they cared for these moms and of how much they have invested in providing this care for them too.

As we arrived back at the MFH compound & walked in for a late lunch, Juslene came up beside me & slipped a cellophane wrapped card into my hands with a kiss on my cheek before rushing off.

When I picked it up to open in the privacy of my room a few hours later…

a huge crack in my easy-going but strong outer shell erupted.

I don’t really like doing what I do for any thanks, In fact it often makes me uncomfortable to be acknowledged. Just knowing something was the right thing to do, helping others and pleasing God is truly enough in my book. I typically feel reward in the moment by the peace that it brings.

Knowing the expense spent on this card was for ME and the beautiful words are so touching, but what stopped me in my tracks was one fact:

This is the FIRST and only thank you card I have ever received from a Haitian!

So sweet that it came from a fellow maternity nurse & sister in Christ too.

What might be lost in the cultural context is the fact that Haitians see giving KNOWLEDGE and skills to another as the greatest of gifts and sacrifice. These are providing her with a job too.

This simple gesture sledge-hammered “my world” and the fact that I’ve been focusing SO MUCH on my own stress lately, that I almost missed the JOY in serving here.

Picking up the pieces now...with a fresh heart & perspective.


The icky gritty side of life in Haiti....

It is hard to write on this subject for many reasons,

but today I need to,

so I'll try my best.

It's not that we try to hide the "scary" or "dangerous" aspects of Haiti, I mean we came here after a HORRIFIC earthquake, in the midst of a cholera epidemic, tragedy here is no surprise.... Mainly I want our time here to be portrayed acurately.

Haiti IS a beautiful, warm, friendly, chaotic, colorful, impoverished, hard working, laughter & music-filled place most of the time to us...and then there are those odd moments where it is suddenly senseless, dangerous, head-spinning, tragic & fatal.

We don't LIVE in those moments daily, yet they sprinkle our existence here and there, leave memories, gaps, holes in hearts & fragments in our minds...of what could be, what should have been a less than fallen world.

Last week was one of those "moments" for us here in Haiti...

Friday, June 20th started in an average way. I (Rebecca) had been up doing our midnight laundry loads while power was on the night before. Ted was up early & heading out the door. I popped my head up to say good morning before he left & he mentioned going to the bank to get part of our new housing funds. For some reason my heart flip flopped at that moment & I called him back. I had a really bad feeling about the bank & asked him not to go...we argued over it briefly & I pleaded for him to find another way to get the funds transferred. He said, "don't worry, I'll be fine, I'll take a couple of security guys with me..." and left.

between 9 & 10 am we chatteded sporadically about our upcoming move across the street into the house of our friends' who were moving back to Australia...about Syndie's breakfast & medicines...

Ted at 10:20 am: looks like your brother is coming in around 1:30p. I don't have to go to the bank, someone else is doing that for me.  

and then a little under an hour later this gut wrenching message came: 

unfortunately we have a huge problem. One of our employees was just shot and killed this morning. Gerritt, you may have met him at Pizza...

he was followed home from the bank this morning and shot and killed in front of his house. Martial the driver just came back from the bank with $3000 of our housing cash and was held up at gunpoint on his way back. Fortunately they didn't hurt him. I don't know what to do. Please pray for me right now.

And for Gerritt's wife and 10 year old son.

and a half hour later:

I feel really bad, especially about Gerritt's death. But I also feel like I just got punched in the gut about Martial. Not sure what I would do if he had gotten hurt or killed (on our errand).

Gerrit was a very big hearted Dutch man that Ted liked the instant he met him at Operation Blessing.

Exactly one week before, I sat at the other end of the table from him and watched him take a slice of pizza offered to him and then give it to his stepson instead. I remember how his son looked up at him & smiled, how calm natured he was & thinking to myself that he was a good father. I barely knew him.

He lived very simply in Haiti, as a local. He had been out doing his own banking and stopped also at Western Union to send finances out. His bag that was stolen had not more than $200 in it. He went to his home, they followed, he tried to defend himself & his stepson that was in another room. They shot him, twice. He died in seconds.

The minute the call came in, Ted called Martial and told him to be careful. He told him about Gerrit. Martial was doing OUR banking and a few other bank errands too. He said he had just finished and would come straight back. Instead, he got caught in traffic at an intersection minutes later...and again, several guys on motorcycles had followed. Before he knew it there was a gun at his temple & they were asking for the money he had, OUR money that had put him at risk...they knew exactly where it was in the bag. Thankfully Martial and another employee that was with him, knew to hand it over straight away & not make eye contact. They survived...

Ted was safe in the office, neither of us sure how to take it all in.

It's not that this kind of thing is just happening all of the time here...I've never even witnessed it personally, but it's something you know could occur on a rare occasion, that I've thought through once or twice in order to be prepared if it did.

And as it often does in went on for us at that moment, while others were left suffering. 

My brother arrived a few hours later on business and to visit his new neice. Ted picked him up. 

The director that Ted is replacing had left the country the day before, so he found himself and the deputy director suddenly in charge of everything...immersed in Gerrit's funeral arrangements. He stood over the body of a new friend and co-worker who he was at the beach with less than two weeks before & thought of the passion Gerrit had for his work, how it had lit up his eyes that day.

THIS is not the norm, but it IS the nasty, crummy, ugly side of life for us here the past week.

Grief, guilt, duty, being propelled forward by the daily tasks at hand...and all of it swirling together to be absorbed and doled out differently in various moments of time. 

Please continue to pray over us...over Ted, as he processes this. It always seems to take longer here to deal with emotions or reactions to an experience or an unexpected event. 

Syndie & I leave for the north in a couple of days as well. I have the blessing of two helpers for the next week as I embark on this short-term opportunity to help prevent the tragedy of maternal death.

Each day is so much more filled with "stuff" here, silly little "seems like a waste of time", 10-steps-to-get-one-thing-accomplished type of daily duties...where even when life is recognized as such a precious commodity and not to be taken for granted...we STILL struggle to grasp, fully appreciate and hang on to the many OTHER absolutely amazing, priceless, and treasured moments! PRAY that we will!!

Having had family here this past month has been part of that. We NEED them, we NEED you... being grounded in and anchored to the familiar and sharing our hearts and lives here with others from a different place than this seems more important than ever right at present. The stark polar-opposite realities that we have delighted in, cherished & suffered through the past few weeks will all ENRICH us over time through our faith and with the nurturing and companionship of others that walk alongside.

Posting "happy moments" is SO much easier...this was just not one of them

and yet it seemed inauthentic not to at least try to share,

to explain...

not to scare,

not to gain pity,

not to blight Haiti in any way,

...but to be "real" with the yucky bits of our life here too.

Gerrit's memory has been SEARED into the tapestry of our lives here now,

we wish it wasn't so and that there had been more pizza nights and beach days to share...

and his legacy at Zanmi Beni