hopesightings

finding hope and sharing it

Unfinished Stories December 8, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 4:18 pm
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One of my favorite books is Pillars of the Earth. It’s a 1,000+ page novel that tells a sweeping narrative of the building of a cathedral in twelfth-century England. I’ve read this book at least three times from cover to cover.  I know the plot. I know each scene by memory. And yet, each time a character enters a dangerous situation, I try to think of a new way out. I hope and believe with all my heart that maybe this time it will be different.
            But this novel is complete. It was written a long time ago, and there can be no different ending to any of the scenes within it. Nothing I hope for or imagine for my beloved characters will happen. The story has already been written, and it’s finished.
            However, our stories are not. Our stories, along with our sisters’, are still being written. So even as we experience or witness danger, violence, poverty, and pain, we know the story does not have to end there. We can help each other write new endings. We can imagine new beginnings. We can do this because we have hope.
             This hope is what motivates us to stick with a painful, uncomfortable, or challenging story. It’s what drives us to give generously of our time and resources. It’s what binds us together as sisters.
            And hope is what interrupts painful, merciless stories and redeems them into something beautiful. This year, we’ve heard shocking stories of abuse and rape. Unthinkable stories of neglect and gender-based violence. Uncomfortable stories that seem to have no light.
            But thanks to your generosity, prayer, and hope, these stories have not ended at the darkest moments. Our sisters-fueled by hope for a different, better, brighter story-stood strong. They fought for their futures, for their healing, for their babies. They lived, they thrived, and now they tell their new stories – hope stories.
            For Deborah, Solange, Esinam, and Elsabe, a painful story became one of redemption. But it doesn’t end with these four. Because women around them everywhere are watching. Women terrorized by gender-based violence, women living with fistula, women abandoned by their families and spouses, women recovering from painful deliveries and stillborn babies. These women continue to hope, because they see that good can prevail. They believe that a dark and painful story can become a hope story. And thanks to the help of sisters around the world, their stories are just beginning.
Written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope.
You can learn more about our precious sisters and help them write more hope stories at hopeforoursisters.org.
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On The Outside Looking In May 28, 2017

When I turned 11 I found myself on the outside looking in.

I grew up in warm Southern California as the youngest of three.

I would describe it as an idyllic childhood…

Riding bikes with my brothers, lots of friends on our street and at school,

good grades, fun times of soccer and softball, and a loving family.

I also had a strong sense of who I was.

I felt anything was possible.

I felt I could conquer the world.

Then we moved…

My life was rocked to my core.

I no longer belonged.

I forgot who I was.

Moving to Texas at 11 is still one of the most impactful and difficult experiences in my life.

Not only did I move to a new town in a new state, but

I moved into a new and totally different culture.

I felt as if I had moved to a new country.

I did not have the right clothes.

My accent (or lack thereof) was wrong.

I even had different slang.

No matter what I did or how I tried to connect, I was constantly reminded that I was

An outsider looking in.

Once we entered Texas, I had lost my sense of who I was.

I did not feel valued but lost.

I felt as if I was stranded on an island, in the middle of an ocean.

Over time I found my way “in” through new friends

Who accepted me for who I was.

I made friends just being “me”.

I learned that I could overcome and rise above obstacles by being myself…

The one God created me to be.

As a child, I always cheered and spoke out for the underdog.

Now, I had become the underdog.

I had a new appreciation of the value of community and

This increased my life-long compassion for

Those on the outside,

Those considered less than,

Those considered not important or of value.

I should not have been surprised that the issue of fistula would resonate with me,

Even though at the time I felt it hit me out of the blue.

As I first read about fistula, the focus of Hope for Our Sisters,

I was not only struck by the injustice of the situation but

The aloneness,

Isolation,

And lack of community

Suffered by these sisters of ours.

At Hope for Our Sisters we extend our reach beyond fistula surgery and prevention

By directly investing in each woman.

Just like you and me, each one of our sisters has value.

Each one of our sisters has a story to tell.

Each one of our sisters has a contribution to make.

Each one of our sisters has the right to rejoin their communities.

Each one of our sisters has the potential to change the world.

(NOTE: A session with the organization Resonate helped me tap into this story behind my passion for HFOS. I fully believe God broke my heart for this issue but I also believe He used this very difficult experience of mine to help fistula resonate with my heart.)

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

 

 

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
 

Hope is on the Way this Mother’s Day April 25, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 5:40 pm
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I am sitting on a train, headed from my job in the city to my home, where my daughter has a fever and needs her mom. But I am not worried. Help is on the way.
After an all-morning meeting, I checked my phone: 3 missed calls from daycare. My daughter had a fever of 102, and needed to be picked up, preferably within an hour. Unfortunately, it had already been an hour since they called. I checked the train schedule. A train had just left; the next one wouldn’t leave for an hour, and with the commute, I wouldn’t be able to get her for another two hours. I briefly panicked-what do I do? How do I get there in time? Then I took a deep breath and called for help. My mother-in-law works closer to my home, and I took a chance she’d be able to leave sooner than I would. She answered immediately, and in no time, she was on her way to pick up my daughter. She loves her granddaughter, and as much as it was a gift to my daughter to be taken home, this act of love was a gesture of love to me: “I will help you.”
Meanwhile, I had an hour to kill in the train station. I ate lunch. I bought some books for my daughter, a special treat to give her on her sick day home. And while I wished that I had been able to get there in time, I also felt deep gratitude that someone else who dearly loves my daughter was able and willing to step in and help. The message to my daughter was, “Help is on the way.”
And this is what God asks of us.
When our sisters are bleeding dangerous amounts during childbirth, suffering excruciating labors, delivering stillborn babies, and sitting alone in their huts, outcast and abandoned because of their leaking and stench, God turns to us. He says, My daughter needs help. I want to help her, but you can get there faster. Will you help?
When our sisters need emergency C-sections but can’t afford one at the only hospital trained to perform the surgery, God turns to us: My daughter needs help. Will you help?
When our sisters need education and skills to continue their lives after healing, God turns to us: My daughter needs help. Will you help?
Like my desire to be immediately by my daughter’s side in her time of need, God would love nothing more than to immediately pick up each and every one of our sisters at risk of, suffering from, or healing from fistula. So He has designed a way to do so: by calling us when His daughters are in need, the same way I called my mother-in-law. My daughter needs help. Can I send you?
Thankfully, my mother-in-law answered the phone, was able to leave work, and joyfully responded to my need-which, in turn, led to my daughter being taken care of more quickly. Had she not answered, or been too busy, or not been interested, I would have felt panicked. Had she said, “Not today, maybe another day,” I would have been crestfallen. I know that eventually I would have made it home, but it would have taken longer, delaying my daughter’s ability to get home, put on pajamas, and snuggle up to rest. And it would have meant that the next time I needed to rely on someone, my mother-in-law might not have been the first person I called. She might have lost my trust.
Clearly, a fever is not as serious as fistula. But as a parent, anything that ails your child can break your heart. And while I’m not God, we share this in common: we are both parents, and we both call on others to help us take care of our dearly beloved, spectacularly adored daughters. None of us can fill the role that God fills in our sisters’ lives, no more so than my mother-in-law can take my place in my daughter’s life. But in a moment of need, she was there. That tells my daughter two things: first, that someone loves her enough to be right by her side. And second, that her mother can be trusted-even though I couldn’t physically be there, I didn’t abandon her. I made sure she was taken care of.
So when our sisters need help, and God calls us to step in, what will we say?
For every daughter of God whose pain has become hope, and whose hope has become joy, I pray the answer is yes. By saying yes, we teach them that they are loved dearly by women around the world, sisters they’ve never met. And we teach them that God can be trusted-that He hears their prayers, knows their names, and will send help, if only we will answer the call. This Mother’s Day, let us honor God’s love for His daughters by letting them know that help-and hope-is on the way.
Written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope.
hopeforoursisters.org
 

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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deb-blog-pic-2016

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.