hopesightings

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,

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

 

 

 

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.

 

Want to Watch Strength and Potential Fly? November 21, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 1:47 pm
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Letting Go in Trust – Discovering Strength and Potential

 dove-from-hand

Hands clenched tight.

That’s what you do when you care about something, right?

You hold on tight.

That’s how you care.

That’s how you protect.

That’s what I was doing, unknowingly, with Hope for Our Sisters and the beautiful women we serve.

Holding on so tightly my hands hurt.

However, this is not what I should have been doing.

Do I love the sisters we serve? Yes!

Do I enjoy my role of leading this organization? Yes!

Do I feel called to this life-changing work? Yes!

Do I believe our donors, investors, team members and prayer warriors can enable us to generate hope, healing and ultimate freedom from fistula? Yes!

Then I must let go. I must release. This is not mine to clench tightly.

In trust I let go.

I opened my hands in trusting release.

An old adage says if you love something set it free.

I did this, once again, with Hope for Our Sisters and our future path.

I did this knowing we are at a strategic growth point with many prayers, assessments and decisions before us.

I did this because in holding tightly, it overwhelmed my soul.

Holding tightly kept me, rather than God, in charge.

Clenching with all my might limited what He, my Lord who called me to this work, could do through Hope for Our Sisters.

Once opened…once released, what flew out of my clenched fists?

A beautiful, strong, white dove…confident in her flight and full of potential, just like our sisters.

 

What does this mean?

Beautiful, hope-generating gifts and actions will flow through Hope for Our Sisters to the beautiful women we serve if I will let go and release our next steps, decisions and plans to Him.

This is His organization not mine.

This is the calling He placed on my heart.

Only through release in trust can Hope for Our Sisters accomplish its goals, generate hope for our sisters and, along with our donors, investors, team members and prayer warriors, help to bring fistula to its end.

Look at YOUR hands.

Do YOU have a dove desiring to be set free today?

 

Our Sisters are liked trapped doves waiting to fly.

Waiting to tap into their undeniable strength and potential?

Who will help them fly?

 

Open YOUR hands, release and watch them fly!

 

To learn more about our Hope for Our Sisters, visit hopeforoursisters.org

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

UNDENIABLE, BEAUTIFUL STRENGTH! September 9, 2016

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

 

STRENGTH THROUGH BROKENNESS August 17, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 12:48 am
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grbr

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

 

AWAITING RELEASE THROUGH FREEDOM AND HOPE April 21, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 4:04 pm
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Drops in branches

While walking home from the kids’ school, I was captured by the beauty of these raindrops upon branches.

Each drop held within it a piece of the sun…a reflection pleasing to the eye.

Each drop hung on…untapped amazing potential waiting within…waiting…

These drops reminded me of our sisters…our sisters suffering from or at risk of fistula.

Each of our sisters is a rare beauty.

Each of our sisters has an inner light…not from the sun, but from God.

Each of our sisters has amazing potential that is untapped due to fistula and the cultural norms that create an environment where fistula flourishes.

Our sisters are waiting…

Our sisters are waiting to be released from their branches…

But they will not fall, as a drop of water would…

They will each soar like an eagle…

They will soar on the hope, love and encouragement showered upon them by health providers, fellow sisters, and all of you who support the mission and work of Hope for Our Sisters.

How many of our sisters will be released today?

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian