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
 

RELEASING OUR SON March 29, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 2:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I feel dry

Weighed down

Overwhelmed, actually

I felt God lead me to write this morning

Writing often open up my way when it feels blocked

I planned to write about something else but

these words

simply

poured

out

of

my

heart

Our precious son is not well

He’s not dying…it’s a chronic condition with treatment

Painful treatment potentially, yes…but treatment

I am sincerely thankful to You for answering our specific prayer for answers

No more “we don’t know what’s wrong with your son”

These answers are a wonderful gift…thank You

Yet, I find myself wondering if there is more to discover

I keep dreaming about surprise findings, unexpected discoveries, lack of control

more to process

more to grieve

more to accept

We learned new information this week

processing

praying

talking it out

What else is happening in his body that I cannot see?

Is this my deep fear?

What else is happening in his body for which I cannot prepare?

Is this what is weighing me down?

My desire (i.e. idol) of having control is being challenged like never before

This is our son

Is this the reason parts of my heart are closed off to everyone, even You?

Is this why parts of my heart are locked?

I did not even realize I held the keys…did I lock my heart?

Why all this weight and dryness?

I feel I am being overly dramatic

I have become adept at rationalizing our situation

Others near and far suffer so much more

Many children right now are fighting for their lives

Too many others have already been lost by their parents and families

So many children are lost inside themselves due to other challenges

We have our son…why not rejoice?

Others lack access to medical care

Others lack benefits to pay for medical care

Others lack in far worse ways

Why can’t I be fully, sincerely and consistently thankful?

Is this even possible?

Is this even real?

God, I have often thanked You for not making us like robots

We must choose to love and follow You

We must choose this daily

Our commitment to You is not automatic

We can turn away

We can question

We can get angry…even yell at You

You can take it

We can feel betrayed

That is a very strong word

Is that what I am feeling?

Do I feel You betrayed me…our son…our family?

I know You could take your pinky finger, touch our son’s body and heal it

Yet, you have not done that

Part of my heart trusts You…part of me is where I need to be

Accepting this…at peace…ready to move forward

But I am not all there

I am not yet united

Parts of me are cut off…locked away

The Bible, Your Word, says we will suffer…

why should all of this surprise me?

In addition, You also remind us that

You have overcome the world

You have…I know this in my head

I just want to feel it in my heart again

My mind trusts in the idea of Your larger plan that I cannot see

However, I am not enjoying this current valley

Not at all

You’ve seen me through my deepest depression and desire to end it all

I know how You walked with me

I know the years in my pit were used by

You to prepare me for all I am and all I am doing today

Your plans are best

Your wisdom perfect

Your love eternal

Why is my heart holding out?

You gave me a gift two weeks ago

(Hard to believe I am currently further along my path…

more work ahead of me but some healing through You has occurred)

You met me in my heartache and called me back

You showed me that this is a small story within the larger narrative of our lives

A narrative of You as Provider, Restorer, Lover

This story may even be more like a small chapter

My heart is no longer totally shattered…progress…thank You!

Our son is not his diagnosis

He is far beyond what is happening within his body

He is a treasure of Yours which You lovingly loaned to us

He is taking all of this new and potentially scary stuff so well

He inspires us each day

He is strong because You give him strength

Why won’t I accept Your offer of strength?

It is right before me along with Your offer of

peace

release

fullness

joy

hope

in You

Why won’t I pick them up?

Why won’t I own what You have prepared for me?

Today I am being very real…very open

You, Lord, don’t want me to be a perfect follower, a perfect believer
You want me to be real

Even when I feel weak

Even when I feel my heart will burst if I truly

“sit” within our situation

I wonder if my heart will be crushed…not by You…by the situation

if I truly release it all to You

You created beautiful and restorative treasures that await me

I only need accept them

You have patience to walk with me along this path at my pace

You knew I would be here feeling dry, weighed down, lacking

You won’t leave me or grow weary of me

My realness is never too much for You

My realness is actually a treasure in Your eyes

You love me as I am and will lovingly guide me to where I need to be

Praying my transparency will bring others comfort, community, hope

There is a way out of this dryness…this lack…this weight

The way out is to leave it all with You

The only One who can handle it all

My head knows this…parts of my heart do too

But my heart won’t let go of our son

Even though I know he is best with You

Not yet…parts of my heart are locked tight right now

Locked with keys that I own

May my transparency help me eventually fully release our son to You

He is Yours anyway

You love him most

© 2017 Brooke F. Sulahian

 

I Crossed the Line…Segment 4 January 27, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 6:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

line-in-the-sand

Feeling EXPOSED and VULNERABLE?!?!

This is not what I expected

Had I even signed up for this?

This was not part of the journey I wanted to continue

Where did this come from?

I thought crossing the line was the tough part

I felt my heart resist taking more steps

Could I simply stop?

I really wanted to stop

Could I just sit down and stay right where I was?

I told myself I could…so I did

I felt that I lacked the energy for anything else…this was too hard

Thankfully, He did not let me stay there long

As much as I fought my feelings and fears, He patiently softened my heart

He cut through my feelings and fears to my heart…to my soul…

He showed me what was really inside of me waiting to be released

Beauty

Potential

Creativity

Value

I remember the morning I finally saw His full knowledge of me as a gift

I could honestly say to myself, if He knows me so well and loves me anyway, then He truly loves all of me

It took courage to act on this but I decided

– I CAN TRUST Him

– I CAN WALK with Him

– I CAN GO where He leads me

I stood up…I was ready to move on

However, I could not take a step

We still had heart work to do…

Really?

Moving ahead placed me at a fork in the road…a decision was before me

I had to choose: Be real with God and deal with my “stuff” or not

Being real with God would require me to come clean with myself

Being real might be painful at times

Being real would be the harder of the two roads…the road less traveled

What did I choose?

What would you choose?

(Thank you for walking with me. More to come…)

© 2017 Brooke F. Sulahian

 

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

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 8:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

UNDENIABLE, BEAUTIFUL STRENGTH! September 9, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 3:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

holding-hands-together-old-young-love-close-up-outdoors-60397819

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

 

MAY WE HAVE ENOUGH ANGER June 29, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:59 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May we “possess enough holy anger to assist us in helping to make positive changes in a world so full of so much injustice,” Macrina Wiederkehr, Seven Sacred Pauses.

Dr Foster Kristof Article

On June 24, 2015, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times released a column and video about his recent trip to Angola. After waiting about 5 years to obtain a journalist visa, he took full advantage of this opportunity to shed light on the way Angola operates…the elite get richer, the poor get poorer, and the poor die and suffer due to government corruption.

Hope for Our Sisters has been funding fistula surgery in Angola since 2012. We also just raised funds to implement a new fistula prevention program in this country. We are invested in Angola and its people.

This video and article made me very angry. How can the rich elite live as they do while so many children suffer and die from preventable illnesses and women are left with fistula due to lack of quality maternal care? How can the leaders of our country not see or admit to what is happening in Angola? Thankfully, my anger did not end with these questions. My anger, based on my new knowledge of this country’s leadership, led to a renewed motivation to continue to send more hope to our sisters, their unborn children, and their families in Angola.

It is my desire that you view the video and learn more about this partner country. With knowledge comes awareness. With awareness comes effective action. In the video you will meet Dr. Stephen Foster, our partner in Angola who founded the Centro Evangélico de Medicina do Lubango (Central Evangelical Medical Center of Lubango or CEML) where we visited in 2013. Dr. Foster and his staff provide rays of hope in Angola as they care for their patients with love, knowledge, and respect. We are honored to enable this work. **Please note that the funds we send to Dr. Foster go directly to CEML, not through the government.**

It is our desire that as we continue to advocate for our sisters and brothers in Angola, others will do the same. In addition, may the column and video place the right pressure on those who interact with the country’s leaders to help effect positive change that will benefit those in greatest need…those in need of hope.

Please watch the video. Here is the link: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/opinion/nicholas-kristof-corruption-is-killing-children-in-angola.html?referrer=&_r=0

Photo above of Dr. Stephen Foster by Marijn Goud (from A Little Respect for Dr. Foster by Nicholas Kristof, 3/28/15).

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

The Many Sides of Dr. Foster April 10, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:48 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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