finding hope and sharing it

Familiar Yet New May 30, 2019

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 4:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Good morning. My name is Brooke Sulahian and I’ve been attending Community Bible Study for about 1.5 years. I am honored to share with you this morning.

It was a daunting yet exciting invitation…or maybe the better word is challenge… to take our study of the Gospel of Matthew, pull out my key learnings, and pass it on to you in under 5-6 minutes in a way that would bring glory to God. However by God’s amazing grace, I think He enabled me to do just that.

Prayer: Father, please enable me to share the words You want me to share and the words my sisters need to hear. For Your glory, Amen

I was raised in a Christian home and attended church every Sunday with youth group on Wednesdays through middle and high school. Church was what we did. Over the years, God guided me along a path where my faith would become my own, not my family’s. But my time attending church as a child has given me the gift of being familiar with much of the Bible. This is a very good gift.

But, while praying about what I would share today, praying about what I could share about a book of the Bible I have read and studied prior, it was at first difficult to come up with ideas. As I worked through my notes and prayed, God gave me this idea. Familiar Yet New. During this year’s study with God, my CBS books, my CBS core group and my Bible, I came to know Jesus, our Savior, a very familiar person in my life, in some very new ways.

One new way of seeing Jesus involves God’s timing. “For those who have ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:9) This verse used by Jesus used to frustrate me, because I wanted to know it all, then and there. I even, at moments, felt like I could actually complete my spiritual growth during my time on earth if only I was able to run ahead a bit. I am a do-er by nature and love to tick things off my list. However, I now cherish these words. Studying them through the lens of Jesus, not only have I realized I can’t be complete here, I am actually excited that there will be new truths to hear, new gifts to receive, and new opportunities to serve Our Lord down the road. No longer frustrated, but anticipating my future walk through a closer relationship with Christ.

I also know Jesus in a new way through His healings. As a child, I knew Jesus healed people and I even experienced my own healing from depression, but this year’s study took my understanding to a new level. First, Jesus met people at their real point of need. In Matthew 9:2 Jesus is sought for physical healing for paralyzed man, but Jesus also knew his soul needed His healing touch as well. The idea of being so deeply known by Christ sank into my heart in a new way this year. Also, in Matthew 9 we meet a father, two blind men and a woman in need of Jesus’ healing. I came away initially thinking how courageous these individuals were to approach Jesus, call out to Jesus, and to steal a touch of his robe. I still think they were courageous but I also see them as truly desperate. Jesus was their last hope and He not only delivered the needed healing, but He did not shy away from or judge their desperate state. I have great comfort knowing He will be with me right by my side in my most desperate, even ugly, and messy moments.

Lastly, I was blown away by Jesus’ strength as He walked his last steps towards His crucifixion. Remaining silent in the presence of false accusations is something I don’t think I could do. Remaining silent when crowds who once cheered me on called for my unjust death or while I was being beaten, spat upon and ridiculed, no, I could not do that either. My familiarity with the Bible reminded me that, yes, Jesus was strong and He did what no mortal man could do just to reach the cross. However, at this time in my life, with my current eyes to see and ears to hear, Jesus showed me His strength in a very new way. In fact, He was so strong that His silence unnerved the high priest so much he chose to use an oath during the “trial”, as it would require a word from Jesus. The strength of Jesus that the Holy Spirit uncovered for me during this study is beyond anything I could ever imagine and my heart swells knowing that He walked this long path in beautiful strength to the cross for you and for me.

Familiar Yet New. This is my hope for each of us. That God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will become more and more familiar to each of us yet also show us new aspects of themselves and core Biblical truths in the days and years to come.

Thank you.

NOTE: This is what I shared as part of our Community Bible Study sharing day. I hope it touched your heart.

© 2019 by Brooke F Sulahian


Hope in the Cocoon May 8, 2019

We are so drawn to the image of butterflies as sources of hope–beautiful creatures with humble beginnings who emerge as something majestic. For many of our sisters, this metaphor is perfect. We meet them as overlooked, forgotten, scorned, and see them brighten, open, and embrace their lives anew.

But with new efforts on fistula prevention and education, we can shift the metaphor. Rather than seeing the caterpillar as something broken to be transformed, we can see the caterpillar as a sister preparing to give life to something beautiful and unbroken. Rather than seeing the cocoon as a dark place of hiding, we can see it as a sister’s beautiful, hope-filled pregnancy, encasing a new life that has a much better chance at a healthy delivery. And the butterfly that emerges? A sister who is now a mother.

The real beauty in prevention and education is that we are not limited in our focus. Instead of only being able to celebrate the sister who has recovered from fistula repair after enduring a traumatic labor and stillborn baby, we have the chance to celebrate two lives: a mother who is able to plan ahead to receive prenatal and delivery care, and a baby who can be delivered safely into the world. Prevention and education lets us focus not just on the overlooked caterpillar, shunned from her society, and not just on the butterfly, starting life over, but on the cocoon–the dwelling place of life yet to be, a haven to be protected, understood, and cared for. Prevention and education allows us to remember that our sisters are mothers. Many of them found life after fistula, but lost their babies. But many more will now have the chance to hold their babies and experience life as a mother. These women will see their babies on ultrasound for the first time. They’ll learn about the baby’s growth and development. They’ll have the opportunity to seek prenatal care, and to opt into a C-section if needed.

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate women who are not just our sisters, but mothers. We celebrate women who love their children no differently than we do. We celebrate that with education and prevention, these women can safely grow life, giving way to a new generation of butterflies.

To partner with our sisters and generate hope, click here.

© 2019 by Dianna Sawyer


Mother’s Day Reflections by a New Mom May 6, 2019

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 3:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mother’s Day 2019 marks the first time I am spending the holiday on both the giving and the receiving ends – with mothers to celebrate and also as a mother myself. As I read Brooke’s letter for our Mother’s Day mailing, which centered around the image of a butterfly, I reflected on how much motherhood has transformed me in just four short months. One example is the way my brain functions – new perspectives, new symbols, new ways of looking at the world. We all live this way, taking our experiences and fitting them into new lenses by which we consider everything around us.  

The butterfly in the letter depicts how our sisters abroad are transformed (like cocooned caterpillars into butterflies) by experiences infused with hope and care – experiences we can be a part of when we invest in treatment and aftercare for women with fistula, and when we invest in preventative programs that provide the gifts of knowledge and choice for all women. I could clearly see all of that in Brooke’s letter. But then, my new parent brain (read as: sleep-deprived and short-circuiting) shifted from a place of deep reflection to something more aligned with my everyday life: fictional characters and stories.  

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle has been one of my favorite children’s books for many years. The story, which can’t be more than 250 words, contains easy messaging for small children: making good choices and following your instincts, trusting in your body and biology, and knowing that even the most menial of creatures can become something beautiful – each phase of life has a distinct purpose in our ultimate transformation. These are big lessons and big ideas. We can’t convey them to a toddler in so many words, and so we try to illustrate the basic concepts to our children through stories. The messages in “The Very Hungry” caterpillar are intended for application to life at all walks and points. I also believe that they span all cultures.

How did I get from a beautifully written letter about our strong and incredible sisters to musing over a children’s book? It was that butterfly, and what butterflies mean to me nowadays. I was thinking about what it took the little caterpillar in the story to become one. The caterpillar didn’t change in a vacuum. He had nutrients, he had security and shelter, and he knew deep within himself that his purpose was to be more than he was at present.

I don’t think my lens failed me, even as it took me to a seemingly silly place. Eric Carle’s messages apply as much to my four month-old and me, living in the US, as they do to a teenage girl living in Angola, or a pregnant mother of three in Nepal, or an old woman in the DRC. A story so simple can prompt us to ask deep questions when we are trying to draw parallels to our own lives and the stories that surround us:

How can a pregnant woman make “good choices” when she has no options whatsoever? If she has no access to prenatal care, no access to a safe delivery site, no access to a skilled birth attendant? She may have no option but to deliver at home, equipped with minimal knowledge and resources. When things go wrong, she is likely to blame herself for making a “bad” choice. Yet we can provide ultrasounds through our empowerment program, and education through community outreach. Such resources give women knowledge.

How can a woman trust her body to go through labor again after a fistula repair when she feels her body so betrayed her the first time? How can she trust her instincts to know when labor is becoming too dangerous? When things get hard, she will likely be frightened. Yet we can offer maternal health funds to protect her and get her into hospitals for her deliveries. Such resources give women courage.

How can a woman leaking urine or feces ever believe that she will one day be welcomed again at the table, seen as beautiful, known as worthy? How can she see any purpose in her suffering from her fistula? When the opportunity to engage with others presents itself, she will likely hide. Yet we can offer fistula repair surgeries and we can help to educate the surgeons needed to perform them. We can fund Sexual Gender-Based Violence groups that teach resilience and equality. Such resources give women strength.

All through Eric Carle’s story, there are holes in the pages as the caterpillar eats his way through food, searching for just the right thing (“a nice green leaf”) to push him into the cocooning phase. Our sisters don’t have to wander and search for the path to transforming themselves when we can arm them with the tools they need to choose health, and life, and new beginnings. Hope For Our Sisters functions as a catalyst in the story of each butterfly rising out of the tragedy that is global women’s health care, providing a covering of safety as our sisters morph into stronger, wiser and ever more capable versions of themselves.

To partner with our sisters and generate hope, click here.

© 2019 by Cara Brooks


FUELED BY HOPE December 29, 2018

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

At Hope for Our Sisters

Hope is what we are all about

What is hope?

Hope is

To expect with confidence

Hope is

A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

Hope is

A powerful force created by God


Ignites ideas and enables perseverance


Gives people a reason to get up each day


Gives us the energy to do our work


Enables us to imagine a world without fistula


Is something everyone can generate


Can change the world


Has not yet reached every inch of our world

Will you generate hope with our precious sisters today?


Let’s generate it and share it today!


To find out more, go to hopeforoursisters.org

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian


Building Bridges December 27, 2018

There is a common adage shared with incoming public health students and with those listening in on important conversations being had in the arena:

One day, a group of fishermen were at their work midway down a river in a small village. A man suddenly drifted past them on the current, in clear distress and near to drowning. The fishermen were able to rescue him, and as their day settled and they prepared to cast their lines again, they were stunned to find another drowning victim passing them by. This went on for hours and hours, into the night, with more and more people washing past them, each in grave danger. Eventually, the fishermen sent someone upstream to see if they could discover where all of the drowning victims were coming from. A bridge was found to have been damaged, with people unaware and falling through. The bridge was repaired in short order, the falls into the river stopped, and the exhausted fishermen were thankful for less eventful working days to come.

This story focuses on “going upstream” to find the source of problems, and its lesson is crucial to practitioners and advocates for women’s health. There are 2-3 million women estimated to be living with fistula across the globe, with 50,000 -130,000 new cases occurring annually. The surgical capacity to repair all of these fistulas doesn’t currently exist. Organizations like Hope for Our Sisters can’t ignore the women currently living with fistula – our hearts ache for these precious sisters and we will always seek to help them by funding fistula surgeries.

But we are an organization uniquely sent to find the problems upstream and start repairing the fragile bridges, the weak infrastructure, that is causing fistula in the first place.

The risks for fistula begin when any female is a small girl: if she is undernourished or if she cannot attend school, she is at risk. If, as a teenager, she is married and becomes pregnant too young, she is at risk. If, as a grown woman, she lives too far from safe delivery options and has minimal prenatal care, she is at risk — with every pregnancy that she undertakes.

We can consider this continuum of a woman’s life, from girlhood to motherhood, to flow like the river in the story. There are many, many points along the river where we can intervene. Someday, we hope to dip our hands into new pools and be shown by our partners how to help in new ways. But at this time, for the women with whom we currently partner, the needs we are best equipped to address are education about safe delivery and fistula prevention, and ensuring that finances and providers are available for safe vaginal or surgical (cesarean) deliveries.

Fifty percent of our funding in 2018 went to preventative care. In 2019, we plan to provide at least 50% towards prevention. We are committed to bringing fistula to an end. We continue to fund the education of surgeons through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS), who can provide maternal care in our partner countries of Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We provide maternal health funds in Angola and DRC so that cost is not a barrier to care for any woman coming to our partner clinics for help (the poorest women are often the most at risk for fistula). We will continue to support the Ultrasound Empowerment Program in Angola, Fistula Education and Awareness sessions in Angola and Nepal, and Sexual Gender-Based Violence groups in DRC. Our ears will always be open to new ways to stem the tide of women suffering from fistula – we envision a world in which fistula is eradicated because maternal health care, globally, is so sound that no woman would ever be put at such at risk.

There is so much work to be done in 2019 and beyond. There are so many who still need to be reached, so many who are risk of falling from the bridge, into the river below, and drowning. Where we build bridges, women thrive.

Thank you for building with us by investing in preventative care for women.


Guest blog written by Cara Brooks, Hope for Our Sisters Board Member and Partner in Hope

Find out more about our prevention efforts at hopeforoursisters.org

Why Prevention? December 26, 2018

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Surgery alone is not enough.

In addition to providing treatment through surgery,

We choose to partner with our sisters before they get injured.

Our sisters deserve a life path without fistula looming in the horizon.

Let’s work together to kick fistula out of Angola, DR Congo and Nepal.

We can do this!

One woman at a time

One girl at a time

One husband at a time

One family at a time

One community at a time

Lasting prevention takes:







We at Hope for Our Sisters are championing a groundswell movement where each woman

and girl in our partner countries is emboldened to choose her future.


To find out more, go to hopeforoursisters.org

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian


Imagine December 8, 2018

Imagine a beautiful world where Hope for Our Sisters doesn’t exist.
Not because it ran out of money.
Not because people stopped wanting to help.
Imagine that Hope for Our Sisters doesn’t exist because it doesn’t need to anymore…because of prevention.
When my daughter gets hurt and I get to rescue her with a big hug and an ice pack, I feel like a hero.
It’s a great feeling.
But then my next thought is, “How can I stop her from getting hurt the next time?”
I might find out more about how she got hurt, and scan the area for what made it dangerous.
Because even though I like being a hero, I’d rather feel confident that my daughter is safe.
When it comes to helping our sisters, there’s something instantly rewarding about funding a fistula surgery or providing a new dress–we can see the problem, and provide a solution.
We see a woman’s face and think, “I helped pay for her surgery!”
But what if instead of a fistula, she had a life-saving c-section instead?
Immediate aid is critical.
Not only because it saves lives, but because it helps doctors and nurses understand the problem better.
With each sister arriving for a fistula repair surgery, we have the chance to learn more about their bodies, backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs.
But prevention is the next step.
We take what we know about human anatomy and pregnancy, and pair it with what we know about many women’s journey to motherhood.
We can take all of that and use it to ask, “How can I stop her from getting hurt the next time?”
Through the Ultrasound Empowerment Program, doctors can help women make healthy, educated choices by determining if a c-section is necessary.
Knowledge empowers women.
Choice empowers women.
Prevention empowers women.
Imagine again that beautiful world, one where women have increased access to prenatal care and know exactly what’s happening in their bodies.
Imagine they are empowered to choose to have a c-section.
Imagine they go home with their babies, fistula-free.
By continuing to fund not only aid but prevention, we give our sisters true hope–hope for their safety, hope for their babies, hope for the future.
Guest blog written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope
Find out more about our prevention efforts at hopeforoursisters.org