finding hope and sharing it

Freedom Through Surgery April 30, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 2:43 pm
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“Mommy, will you be able to run? Will you be able to jump and play? Will you be well?” These were my children’s questions when I told them I was having surgery…surgery to heal my incontinence. Yes, I leaked urine ALL THE TIME. For the last 8.5 years, it did not matter if I was walking, running, coughing, sneezing or simply sitting still…my bladder was broken, I leaked, and it kept me from really living.

As much as I appreciated this physical connection with my sisters with fistula and an incredibly small sense of their physical plight – isn’t it amazing how God works? – I was DONE, FED UP and READY to try SOMETHING. The women and girls we met in Angola were also DONE, FED UP and READY to be WELL.

Our sisters ask about healing through surgery. Is it possible? I asked the same question… weeping with my husband, Tim, the night before…what if something goes wrong, what if it doesn’t work, what if I can never really be free? Surgery results are never 100% guaranteed. As Tim held me, I felt I could give it a try. Most women with fistula have no husband to hold them when they weep. Yet they amazingly find the courage to try.

The morning of my surgery, I realized I would be put in the same position as our sisters are for fistula surgery. Wow! Another amazing connection. However, when I underwent surgery, I was accustomed to a hospital, knew my doctor well, and fully understood the procedure and desired outcome. I wonder about our sisters being in a different environment at the hospital, facing language barriers, and fear of the unknown.

Today is 3.5 months since my surgery…guess what? It worked! I am free from my physical limits. I can run, jump, sneeze, play…enjoy life to the full. In fact, I played dodge ball and kickball at my friend’s son’s birthday party and fully appreciated this renewed freedom. Such a gift!

We at Hope for Our Sisters want this same freedom for our sisters with fistula. YOU can help us give them the gift of freedom. Freedom provides me the opportunity to experience life with my husband and kids to the full. However, I was never isolated and shamed due to my leaking. I could cover it up and manage it. Since our sisters with fistula are most often isolated, shunned, and blamed for their condition, successful surgery not only frees them from leaking but gives them the CHANCE at COMMUNITY, at HOPE, at LIFE.

My answers to my kids’ questions were “Yes, I can run. Yes, I can jump. Yes, I am well.” It is our hope that one day soon our sisters with fistula will all be able to say, “Yes, I am dry. Yes, I can be in community once again. Yes, I can really live. Yes, I feel whole.”

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian


Finding God in a Broken Shoe April 17, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 2:43 am
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A broken shoe?Really? Today was my day to chill, rest, write, read…just “be”. I call it Sabbath Simplicity and I set time aside every week for it. As I headed out of the house to walk the kids to school and stroll to Coffee, Tea & Me (a favorite hangout), I knew my shoe was broken, but who has time to fix a shoe when you need to get kids to school? I figured I could deal with it.

I was wrong. I could not deal. I really wanted to get to my destination for some nourishing time, but I could only go a few steps before having to address my shoe. I decided to stop by the house for a repair that would literally take 5 minutes. It pained me to delay my morning, but what I was doing was not working. Sound familiar?

As I walked home, I thought of how many times in my life I wanted to race ahead only to see God shut a door or close a window…it was not my time. Those times were frustrating, but I also saw that after my time of waiting, I was better prepared and equipped for the journey ahead. My pausing and waiting in Him had been fruitful.

In fact, there have been times I wish my eyes has been opened earlier so I could have launched Hope for Our Sisters many more years ago. Why did I have to be 38 to finally see my calling, my path? Of course, I quickly put those thoughts aside as I have too much proof in my own life of God’s perfect timing and preparation. I can say with certainty, that even though I always had a longing to impact the people and world around me, had I launched Hope for Our Sisters any earlier, I would have been doing it for myself – Brooke – all me. Due to my waiting, equipping, and preparation in Him, I can sincerely say that I do this work for God and my sisters. That transformation was worth waiting for.

So, my shoe repair took all of 5 minutes and I am so glad I took the detour home to take care of it. Not only did I fix my shoe, but rather than being distracted and frustrated, I was also able to enjoy my walk…hearing the birds, watching the ripples on the water, taking in the clear blue sky. My walk became part of my journey, not simply a path to my ultimate destination. Sabbath Simplicity started with my first step.

The next time something waylays or delays your plans, try to pause and see if there is a lesson, blessing, equipping, or gem of joy awaiting you as you slow down and wait.

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian


The Many Sides of Dr. Foster April 10, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:48 am
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F Dr. Steve Foster

I was thrilled to see an article about Dr. Stephen Foster, one of our partner doctors in Angola. We met him during our 2013 Angola trip. Not only did we learn about fistula repair, we saw into his heart. He cares for his fistula patients as a father would his daughters. This love permeates his interactions with them.

Below is an excerpt from the March 28, 2015 article, “A Little Respect for Dr. Foster”, by Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist:

“On a recent trip to Angola, the country with the highest child mortality rate in the world, I came across a rural hospital run by Dr. Stephen Foster, 65, a white-haired missionary surgeon who has lived there for 37 years – much of that in a period when the Angolan regime was Marxist and hostile to Christians.

Foster, the son and grandson of missionaries, has survived tangles with a 6-foot cobra and angry soldiers. He has had to make do with rudimentary supplies: Once, he said, he turned the tube for a vehicle’s windshield-washing fluid into a catheter to drain a patient’s engorged bladder.

Armed soldiers once tried to kidnap 25 of his male nurses, and when Foster ordered the gunmen off the property, he said, they fired Ak-47 rounds near his feet. He held firm, and they eventually retreated without the nurses.

Most evangelicals are not, of course, following such a harrowing path, and it’s also true that there are plenty of secular doctors doing heroic work for Doctors Without Borders or Partners in Health. But I must say that a disproportionate share of the aid workers I’ve met in the wildest places over the years, long after anyone sensible had evacuated, have been evangelicals, nuns or priests.”

Dr. Foster is committed to God, Angola and our sisters with and at risk of fistula. He told us, “If you are going to love people in Jesus’ name, you have to do something about fistula.” His life stories are a mix of true heroism and kindness, amazing surgical talent and genuine care.

It is an honor to partner with Dr. Foster who is not only a creative, resilient and talented surgeon, but also a caring, loving and gentle provider. He works tirelessly and leaves health, healing and hope in his wake.

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian