hopesightings

finding hope and sharing it

Motherhood is Eternal, as is Hope May 10, 2017

Springtime brings with it new life – flowers blooming, baby animals being born, the miracle of Easter. With our attention on creation, we as a society choose to mark a Sunday every May as “Mother’s Day”, pouring extra gratitude and love out onto the women who birthed us, raised us and supported us. We also reflect with reverence and fondness on the mothers in our lives who have passed away – some older, like our grandmothers, and some younger, dying of illness or accidents too soon.
There is a special group we are challenging you to consider in your prayers this year – women suffering with fistulas. Women who may or may not be mothers to living children, who may or may not have anyone celebrating them at all. According to a United Nations report from 2015, 70-80% of the babies born to mothers in obstructed labor (the mothers who are most likely to develop fistulas) will be stillborn.  Of those who do survive, there is a high risk of para- or quadriplegia, cerebral palsy and other defects related to low fetal oxygenation while the mother is pushing.
Motherhood is simply defined as “the state of being a mother.” This definition doesn’t exist solely in the present tense, it doesn’t have conditions. Famous artists, like Michelangelo with his Pieta, and famous authors, like Maya Angelou in Mom & Me & Mom, have tried to capture the spirit of motherhood and its endlessness in ways we all understand – but find so difficult to put into words.  Mothers who have departed from us do not stop being our mothers – so what of mothers who suffer on the opposite end of the spectrum? Are mothers who lose their baby or a child any less in that state of motherhood? Their child is with them always, a part of their existence and the course of their life. Whether their child lived thirty seconds or thirty years, the hopes, dreams and prayers for the life a mother supported likely differ little from those of every other mother around the globe. Surely the very act of hoping, dreaming and praying is an integral part of the transition from “woman” to “Mother”.
Women with fistula are desperate for new beginnings and life of their own – for repairs that will help them transition back to their communities and families, for cesarean sections that will bring their babies safely into the world with less risk of consequence from obstructed labor. They are desperate for HOPE. Is there a better place from which to honor our own mothers than from a mother’s constant place of generosity, support and love? As Mother’s Day approaches, we invite you to partner with us to honor our own mothers and these beautiful mothers in other parts of the world with your prayers.  Additionally, if you feel so moved, please consider making a gift for a mother in your life by supporting fistula care and prevention programs, whether by way of a Mother’s Day card or any other donation format available at hopeforoursisters.org.
Motherhood is eternal, as is hope. Thank you for your support of the sisters we care so deeply for at this special time of year.
Written by Cara Daniels, Hope for Our Sisters Team Member & Hope Generator
 

Can You Find Value in a Field of Rubble? December 16, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 8:31 pm
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We tend, as an accomplished, well-educated society, to base our future prospects on merits of excellence and opportunity. Cultural and economic freedom have provided ample life outcomes, and we recognize that our future is directly tied to stewardship. In my view, the groundwork required for our culturally inspired potential was forged elsewhere. I believe the Lord, at one spectacular time in our history, anointed us with a gift, and at many times since has provided the grace necessary to sustain it.

In Angola, Nepal, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Creator continues His redemptive work. He who speaks in a whisper holds a tiny seed of purpose intended for the broken community of women thought most unlikely to receive it. The God Who Sees is visiting the woman in Angola whose name we do not know, and His words to her are compassion and hope.

In the midst of pain and suffering, she has learned to recognize His voice by the steady consistency of a hand stayed on His purposes. His is the path that doesn’t sink, and as she learns to walk by faith, she gains confidence and strength. Through her journey, she has been given a sure foundation and an unshakeable, unstoppable vision for her future. She is to us a reminder of the undeniable strength and potential that God provides for those who love him.

She serves a God who speaks life from dust, who places treasure in jars of clay, and who carries His “Yes” in those who are despised and rejected. Confronted by hopelessness and impossibility, He has repeatedly revealed His power to make a way. The result that was prescribed for her is silenced by His faithfulness to personally see her through. The promises of God that find their “Yes” in Him continue in spite of her hardship, and He has appointed for her next steps.

As a Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope, I seek to find genuine inherent value among a field of rubble claiming to be. I weight this against prospective growth, and choose holders of time and resources based on the perception that I have on these characteristics. As a follower of Christ, I believe that these are spiritually discerned. I understand that only His mission will withstand fire; only His hand creates that which cannot be tainted by decay. I seek the investment that contains His whisper, for I have found that only in this will there be a return.

With Hope For Our Sisters, we venture into the rubble of cultural and economic oppression to find the beauty beneath the surface. We lift her up, and set her free, and turn her eyes to the future; her joy becomes our own. I use my own gift of freedom to plant God’s seed of redemption, for I know that it will grow. The Lord, at one spectacular time in her history, has determined to anoint her with this gift, and will continue to provide the grace necessary to sustain it.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” Psalm 46:4-5

Written by a Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope

 

Stepping Up Courageously…Pursuing Hope December 1, 2016

celeste-aka-edalina-with-baby

I am Edalina. I am a wife. I am a mom. I have dreams, hopes, strength and potential. Tragically, I leaked urine all the time. Fistula tried to destroy my dreams, my hopes, my strength and my potential. Fistula almost succeeded.

 

I want healthy children. I want to contribute to my community with my husband. I want to make sure my daughters don’t suffer like me. Hearing about a visit with women from America and nurses from a local hospital brought me out of hiding. With ten courageous sisters I put aside my fear of further isolation and shame. I came to the local clinic. I stood strong. I said, “Here I am, I am worth your time”.

 

At this meeting, I discovered the name for my suffering…fistula. I discovered healing and help were available. I never knew anyone could help.

 

I never knew anyone wanted to help. I never knew anyone cared.

 

At the end of the meeting, we were advised to see the local doctor. Hope filled my heart. I was closer to healing, to a life worth living, the life I wanted! At the clinic I saw our American sisters and local nurses. They smiled, held our hands, and loved us. In them I saw hope in who I could be, who I was meant to be.

 

My flight to the main hospital was hope-filled and fearful. I came with my sisters who suffered just like me. People, those who believed I was worth it, YOU, funded my surgery. YOU saw my strength. YOU saw my potential.

 

After surgery I was told, “You are DRY!” DRY? Me? After three years of leaking on myself day after day, minute after minute. Three years of soaking my only clothes. Three years of isolation. Three years of despair. DRY!

celeste-aka-edalina-preso

I have hopes, dreams, strength and potential. Now that I am DRY I get to discover all that I am…all that I can be.

 

My sisters, our daughters, our mothers, also have dreams, hopes, strength and potential. They live for the day to hear, “You are DRY!” They pray for the day fistula no longer exists. Can YOU see their strength and potential? I can!

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

Standing with Our Sisters…Unleashing Strength and Potential November 27, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 3:19 am
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ak-as-elisa-post-surgery (Elisa, recovering from fistula surgery)

 

I crouched in my hospital gown, leaning on the woman holding my IV tube while another woman in front of me held a cup beneath my legs. And I realized something profound: I was not ashamed.

 

I had every reason to be ashamed. I was mostly naked, bleeding, and shaking on very weak legs. All the parts of my body that made me female were sore; I was sweaty and un-showered after over 15 hours of labor. And yet, in that moment, I was not ashamed.

 

The reason is simple: I was surrounded by women. I’d never before felt so fully woman as I did in those moments after giving birth, because fellow women – sisters – rushed to my side and cared for me in my weakness, my exhaustion, and my pain. They cleaned me, comforted me, and ushered me into the beautiful sisterhood of women – a sisterhood I had always been a part of, but never fully understood. These women made me feel powerful, strong, and capable – even though I couldn’t use the bathroom on my own. And I knew they wouldn’t leave my side.

 

By this point I had been a Partner in Hope with HFOS for over a year, but it wasn’t until this moment that I realized how powerful this opportunity was. No, I couldn’t physically help clean a sister, or wrap my arms around her and tell her she was strong. But from across the ocean, my monthly donations enable other sisters to be there for each other. These sisters serve not only to clean, support, and encourage each other, though – they help unleash the undeniable strength and potential of every woman.

 

In all of us there is a fighter. A warrior. Sometimes that warrior comes out when we need to fight for ourselves, stand up to adversity, or take charge. And sometimes it comes out when one of our sisters is weak. We stand by each other. We bend so that a sister can lean on our back. We clean up the mess and tell her it’s ok to ask for help – that someday, she’ll be helping another sister who needs her.

 

Our sisters in Nepal, Angola, and the Congo were created with the same undeniable strength and potential that I was, that my mother was, that my daughter was, that the nurses in my delivery room were. And while in this moment of time they are relying on sisters like us, they should not be ashamed. They should feel proud and powerful to be women. They should feel beautiful and strong. They should know that at any time, any woman in the world could be in need of a sister. And with fistulas healed and dignity restored, they’ll go out and be that sister to lean on.

Written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope.

© 2016 by Dianna Sawyer

 

To learn more about fistula and how to unleash our sisters’ strength and potential, visit our website: hopeforoursisters.org.

 

UNDENIABLE, BEAUTIFUL STRENGTH! September 9, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 3:21 pm
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Loving, yet Tough

Weak, yet Strong

Gentle, yet Feisty

Who do these words describe? The beautiful sisters I have met on my journeys to Angola. The incredible women we serve and invest in through Hope for Our Sisters.

Battling through their days as they suffer from fistula, they exude sadness along with hope, dismay at their loss with strength in their core, and love for each other with an inner strength hard to describe with mere words.

Undeniable, beautiful strength!

These words also came to mind these past two days as I shared precious moments with my 97-year-old grandmother, Mimi. Given the gift of time, I flew to Texas to see my parents, aunts and Mimi. Simply sitting beside Mimi, swapping stories, and watching her do the basic things required of life inspired me.

Mimi is one of the most giving, loving and selfless people I know. However, there is also an inner fire that runs through her veins that makes her who she is. I see this fire in my mom, my daughter, and myself. (My husband can attest to this!) An inner fire that shows itself through loving others, living out of our weakness, and being gentle as well as tough, strong and feisty. All women have this…

Undeniable, beautiful strength!

It touched my heart to see the same strength in Mimi that I do in our sisters in Angola. All of us, no matter where we live, are connected. All of us can find within ourselves what is needed for each day. Don’t get me wrong, men have this too, it’s just different. Men and women, when both celebrated, can complement each other, serve with passion, strive for lasting change, and live out the beautiful lives we and others were meant to live.

May we all recognize and live out of our own undeniable, beautiful strength. Think about what would the world look life if all of us were willing to be…

Loving, yet Tough

Weak, yet Strong

Gentle, yet Feisty

 

Changing the lives of women, one woman at a time.

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian

http://www.hopeforoursisters.org

 

STRENGTH THROUGH BROKENNESS August 17, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 12:48 am
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Angola was AMAZING! God OUTDID Himself again! So, why was I unable to write about it? So much to share! Meeting 38 women (34 awaiting fistula surgery, 4 already dry), participating in 4 fistula awareness/prevention sessions, seeing future prevention effort doors open, viewing an emergency C-section (prevention), and more, I thought I would be writing every day. The words simply pouring out of my heart. THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED.

I realized I needed to first write about ME. I did not want to focus on MYSELF. I want YOU to meet our SISTERS. However, I believe if I write about MY JOURNEY, the STORIES from the trip will flow. In TRUST I share.

Part of me did NOT WANT TO GO on this trip. Most of me did. It was time. Our schedule fell beautifully into place. I wanted to connect with PARTNERS and meet more SISTERS I knew I would LOVE the moment we met. Why not go? FEAR. I was AFRAID for my heart. As many of you know, the first trip left my heart SHREDDED and BROKEN IN PIECES. I know God gently and patiently put it back together. I know He uses that experience to fuel my efforts with Hope for Our Sisters. Even so, the FEAR remained.

A mentor once told me that at times our HEAD needs to share TRUTH with our HEART. This was such a time. I knew God was sending me to Angola and He would watch over me. I knew if my HEART BROKE again it would be for my SISTERS’ benefit, according to His plan. My HEAD knew all this. My HEART did not. As the TRIP APPROACHED and the FEARS GREW, my husband, family and friends lovingly shared how this trip would be easier on my heart. I had been before. I would not be as shocked. I would be MOVED, HURT and ANGERED on behalf my SISTERS, but not SHREDDED.

Strengthened by others, I moved from FEAR to TRUST to SURRENDER. I WENT and I am SO GLAD! He had so much in store for our SISTERS and US as YOU can see above and as YOU will learn through my future updates.

My HEART? I shed TEARS, I asked WHY, and I got ANGRY, but I also saw PROGRESS, witnessed COURAGE, and experienced SOLIDARITY with our PARTNERS and SISTERS. When God healed my heart, it was as if He made SPACE for each and every SISTER I have met and will meet. The HEARTACHE and BROKENNESS have been experienced and now each SISTER has her PERMANENT PLACE in my HEART. I had to be BROKEN to become the most effective VESSEL to serve God and my SISTERS. I, a broken vessel, am thankful for every crack.

May my words inspire YOU to move beyond your FEARS and experience all He has for YOU. May the stories from the trip begin to flow…

Changing the lives of women, one woman at a time.

http://www.hopeforoursisters.org

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

A Tale of Two Surgeries August 29, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 7:38 pm
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Lourdes * (pictured below) is DRY! A wonderful outcome for this precious sister of ours. It brings me great joy to hear of the healing of these beautiful women and girls and to then share this amazing news with YOU.Rosalina aka Lourdes

After being in labor for three days and delivering a stillborn baby, Lourdes discovered that she had a double fistula with a fistula, or hole, in her bladder as well as her rectal wall. Now healed after fistula surgery at CEML, a partner hospital in Lubango, Angola, she is living once again!

Lourdes’ full story can be found on our website at: http://hopeforoursisters.org/lourdess-story/.

I wish all fistula outcomes were this straightforward. Paulina* (pictured below) underwent fistula surgery after suffering from fistula. She was initially DRY! How overjoyed she and the hospital staff were. Sadly, due to the extensive damage to her tissues and the stiff scar tissue that remained, Paulina is no longer dry during the night. She is deeply concerned things will only get worse and that she will one day no longer be dry during the day. The hope shown on her face below is fading with each passing day. Paulina now finds herself very discouraged even though the CEML staff encourages her daily.

Jerdina aka Paulina CEML

This is the reality of fistula. I want every fistula surgery to be successful with every sister of ours freed to fully live. Sadly, as Paulina’s tale reminds us, this is not always the case.

However, we at Hope for Our Sisters do not throw up our hands and ask, “Why even try?” Rather, we ask, “How can we keep fistula from stealing the lives of our sisters? What role can we play in the battle against this preventable, hope-destroying condition?” The answer? PREVENTION.

Effective and lasting prevention takes time, care, and a spirit of partnership. Effective and lasting prevention is culture change carried out through empowerment, gentleness and sincere love of those in need. As we embark on our new prevention program in Angola, may we remember these two tales with very different outcomes. Let’s work towards one new single outcome…THE FULL AND COMPLETE ERADICATION OF FISTULA!

*Names have been changed to maintain their dignity.

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian