finding hope and sharing it

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,


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





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



Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 7:04 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

silhouette of friends jumping in sunset

When you face obstacles in your efforts to serve God, you know you are on the right track.

This was my mantra on this journey as we faced one obstacle after another. However, there was great reward in the end. Here is the story…

Winter of 2014: “Let’s invite people to a dinner called Generate Hope to raise funds for a new prevention program in Angola.” We set the date for May 3rd. We reserved the venue in Melrose. We publicized the event. We waited. Will anyone come? Will people want to hear about Hope for Our Sisters, the women and girls we serve, and our desire to eradicate fistula? Will people show up?

Yes! People from all circles of my life (family, donors, mentors, team members, friends both old and new) signed up! We hoped for 50 people and we sold out the event at 75! Amazed!

January 2015: For the fundraising portion of the event, I suggested a Paddle Up Auction. This was new to our team but they went with it…trusting my judgment. This is risky. Would people participate? Would they engage with this approach and help us fund this prevention program? Our goal was $4,000. Would we even come close? We would have to wait and see.

May 1st (two days before the event): We received a call that the venue needed to close temporarily. Really? Oh my! We felt shock, sadness, and dismay. However, that quickly turned to courage and action to find another date and find it soon. May 31st at the same venue was secured. We notified all guests. Would this keep guests from being able to attend? Would they still want to attend?

Yes! Although we lost a few of our most consistent and generous supporters, 97% of our original guests could make the new date! YEA!

May 16th (two weeks before the event): We received a call that the original venue would not be ready. No dismay, shock or sadness this time. I knew we were onto something that was going to be very special and we were not going to let anything get in the way. God was behind it all. After many prayers, calls and emails, a new venue was secured. Better yet, this venue was enabling us to provide our guests with a more upscale and pleasant evening at the same cost. I believe this is where we were to be all along. Again, all guests were notified. Would our guests still come? Would they stick with us after yet another change?

Yes, and better yet, we had more guests sign up. 90 people registered!

We are not done yet. God was still on the move…I could feel it throughout this journey.

May 31st (the night of the event): We decided to start the Paddle Up bidding at $400 and work down from there. However, this changed suddenly. A donor came in the door and shared with a team member that God led her to give us a large sum. After I learned this sum was $1,000, I knew God wanted us to start the bidding there. With tears in my eyes and goose bumps over my body, I told her we would start the bidding at her bid. This felt REALLY RISKY. $1,000 is a lot of money but we felt it was what we were to do. We thought about quickly moving the bidding down to lower numbers, but our MC suggested that someone might want to give $900. With a big gulp and a prayer, we went with it.

My prayer leading up to Generate Hope was to simply expect God. I have learned that if I expect specific outcomes from our events, I can focus on those and not see the larger picture or the other fruit that is being produced. So I prayed to expect God. Well, He showed up in a big way…

At the end of the evening, our guests had pledged not $4,000 but over $10,000!

Looking back, we could have decided not to take any risks. 1. Not held the event for fear that no one would show up, 2. Not held the Paddle Up Auction for fear of it not working, 3. Not started the bidding at $1,000 for fear of it paralyzing our guests. However, we took the risks because He gave us the courage to do so. Yes, I had moments of anxiety and fear, but they were quickly washed over by His peace.

We were certainly onto something special and how fun it was to share such a momentous evening with family, donors, mentors, team members, and friends both old and new.

After this journey together, I believe every guest left changed. I know I did.

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian