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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Was Admon’s Hope Story Coming to a Tragic End? December 1, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:40 pm
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Below is Admon’s  hope story…a story you helped us write this year. (I wrote this to everyone who invested in Hope for Our Sisters this year by giving of their time, talents, treasure and prayers. Passing this story along to you as it is a favorite of mine. If you feel compelled to help women write stories of hope, you will see our website at the bottom of the blog. No pressure at all. Thank you for reading this story of hope!)
The day started as it always did. I left for work in the fields while my beautiful wife, Elsabe, swept the dirt floor of our home. With Elsabe nine months’ pregnant, we were very excited to welcome our first child. We knew this would mean one more mouth to feed and one more person in our small home, but the idea of a baby filled us with joy.
Can you imagine how Admon felt? With the upcoming birth of a child, writing hope stories comes easy. You have so many dreams and hopes for the child. You spend so much time wondering who your child will become. Admon was writing that type of story.
Returning home, I saw a site that stopped me in my tracks. My lovely wife, so full of life that morning, was lying on the floor, seizing out of control and unable to wake up. I thought she was dying. I feared for my wife. I feared for my unborn child. How could this be happening?
Unknown to Admon, Elsabe was having a seizure due to high blood pressure (eclampsia). He had no idea how long this had lasted while he was away. His hope story, in his eyes, was at risk of coming to a sudden end. However, he held on to hope.
 
I immediately ran out of our house and yelled for help. Friends in our community helped us find a vehicle to take Elsabe to the nearby hospital. I prayed. I feared she and our baby were dying. My other concern? We did not have the money to pay for a trip to the hospital. What would I do when we got there?
Elsabe was rushed to one of our partner hospitals, Central Evangelical Medical Center in Lubango (CEML), Angola. Can you imagine going to a hospital without the needed money or benefits coverage? It was with hope that Elsabe was brought to the hospital. Even when the situation looks dire, hope can carry us through. Thank you for investing in women and their families. You consistently help them write hope stories amidst loss and lack.
Once we arrived at the hospital, they took my wife and unborn baby into surgery. Again, I prayed. I worried. Would Elsabe survive? Would our baby survive? Would I return home without my family? How would I pay for this support?
Dr. Sarah Hudgins, HFOS Partner, performed an emergency cesarean section. Care is available at local state hospitals, but people fear them due to poor quality of care. Coming to CEML was a courageous choice for quality, safe care, even though it would be expensive.
A nurse from surgery approached me. Elsabe survived! My wife was alive! Guess what? Our baby, our son, survived too! I cried out with joy and thanks. I could not believe it!
Admon’s hope story was not over. It was only beginning. Thank you for investing in this story of hope.
Then I began to worry about payment. We did not have enough. I asked the nurse. She said the rest would be covered. We had enough! Could this day get any better?
You funded the rest of Elsabe’s surgery by investing in Hope for Our Sisters. This partial payment came from one of our new Maternal Health Funds.
I could not believe our good fortune. A successful surgery and help to pay for it. This is not the way I expected our son, Abilio, would enter the world, but I am so thankful I can enjoy my future with my family. Thank you for sending HOPE our way!
You, through your generous investments, partner with us as we together help our precious sisters and their families in Angola, the DR Congo and Nepal write stories of hope.
 
Honored to generate hope with you.
Brooke F. Sulahian
President & Co-Founder
Hope for Our Sisters, Inc.
 
P.S. Thank you for helping Admon, Elsabe and Abilio write their hope story. If you choose to invest in hope today to enable more and more stories of hope to be written tomorrow, go to our website at http://hopeforoursisters.org/donate/.
 

What Does Your Reflection Look Like? November 9, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 7:36 pm
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I feel called to be God’s image bearer.

I believe our lives are to reflect God’s love to others.

God chooses to use us, imperfect human beings, to radiate His love in the world.

We won’t do this perfectly, but we can choose to try.

 

What does your reflection of God look like?

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

 

I have a new way of reflecting God.

My reflection of God has changed because

I have changed.

God is actively transforming me from someone who was constantly

Striving,

Producing and

Performing,

To someone who tastes and accepts God’s peace each day.

Thankful.

Peaceful.

Humbled.

 

For many years,

I started my day in a self-imposed cage

Of impossible expectations.

Today,

I start my day floating in a still pool of water

With Jesus, my Savior.

Thankful.

Peaceful.

Humbled.

 

Better yet…

Now that I have finally tasted and experienced His peace,

I get to share this peace with others!

I won’t do this perfectly,

But it’s finally at my disposal to share!

 

I want people to see God in me

For His glory,

For His good.

I cannot determine how or if they will see His reflection in me

Or what their response will be,

But I can plant seeds of hope and peace

By choosing to reflect God each day.

 

What does your reflection look like?

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

An Unexpected Journey July 19, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 11:22 pm
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(Thoughts from my May/June 2017 journey to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

It was a trip, a journey, I did not plan

But one I knew was mine to take

The gift of a journey

Far from family

Home,

Comfort and

Knowing

 

Where would it lead?

Would it change me like prior trips?

Would it break my heart anew?

How would it fit within the Hope for Our Sisters mission?

 

I could not predict

I could not foretell

I could only say,

“Yes…I will go”

 

1 friend going in

10 friends coming out

A team of 11 formed through

Stories and prayers,

Laughter and tears,

Courage and celebration,

Food and sickness,

Dreams and heartache,

Lush landscapes and bumpy roads,

Languages and new adventures,

Plans and uncertainty,

Shared passions and hopes

 

An unexpected gift occurred on this unexpected journey

The gift of a moment, captured in time

Me surrounded by beautiful, joy-filled African children

The fulfillment of a vision God birthed in my heart seven years ago

 

What does it mean?

God will guide and time will tell

Could it be a reminder?

A reminder of the precious children of the next generation

A generation that is starting to see and taste more hope

A generation that can continue their parents’ work to drive culture shifts for beneficial and lasting change

A generation that can take hold of what their parents are unleashing today to establish a better tomorrow

A generation of precious and powerful change-makers

 

An unexpected journey with a newly-formed team

Returning home with hope for a

New day in DR Congo…A new future of

Healing,

Peace,

Medical access,

Sustainability,

Strength,

Ownership,

Renewal, and

Hope

Written while flying back to America…

6/11/17

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

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