hopesightings

finding hope and sharing it

Jesus, My Mama May 7, 2018

I have a sound clip I like to listen to from my most recent trip aboard the Africa Mercy. I recorded it from within my pocket, as we refrain from capturing personal images of our patients for the sake of their privacy. I wanted to savor the sounds of joy from one of our dress ceremonies – special celebrations we have every few weeks for the women with fistula who have been healed. These special women are gifted a bright new dress with a headwrap to symbolize going forth in new life, dry and whole. There is about twenty minutes of singing and dancing prior to the start of prayer and testimony-sharing. Following the ceremony, the joyful music goes on until the chaplains and musicians have to head home.

One of the songs has a chant that’s in English:

“Jesus my Papa, Papa — Jesus my Papa, Papa

Jesus my Mama, Mama — Jesus my Mama, Mama ….”

Other words are used to describe the deeply personal relationship Christ has with all of His followers, in its many facets and forms, and then there is a long, rapid cry:

“Jesus is mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine!”

There are whoops and yells, exclamations and shouts of gratitude and victory. I can’t get enough of this sound clip. Thinking that someone wrote lyrics like that, that someone’s relationship with Jesus is so multi-colored and variably shaped, is inspiring. I tend to think about the trinity in neat little boxes. Jesus feels like my dearest, deepest friend. God feels like a Father. The spirit is …. Well, I don’t know if I even have the right word for that. The spirit is a guide? (But so much more.)

Rarely do I think of any of these entities as being like my mother.

And yet, aren’t they all? Jesus the friend is a comforter, a nurturer, someone to celebrate with, someone to lean upon and cry with. God is who I turn to for protection when I am afraid, or when I need to ask for something – for courage, for power to do what is right and just. The spirit is what I turn to when I’m trying to discern the way. Aren’t ALL of these things the exact ways I respond to and interact with my own biological mother, and grandmothers? And with the other women in my life who are generations older and have gone before me? I don’t separate them into functions or roles. I expect (maybe unfairly) for my own Mother to be all of that for me – a nurturer, comforter, advice-giver, encouragement-provider, safe haven.

Somehow it is natural for us to think of women in our lives as capable of carrying all of that load, of being earthly examples of all of the best parts of the trinity mashed into one. The Proverbs 31 wife, for example, has got to be the most exhausted woman in history, but we look to her as a model of what a woman can and should be if she is living her life for God. To be so much, to take on so much, feels like it is part of the very essence of being “woman”, and especially of being “mother”. To be “mother” is, in many ways, to be an unstoppable force of positivity and light in this sometimes dark world.

So what happens when women lose some of that identity – like our sisters suffering from fistula? When slowly, as they “fail” to complete a long labor, as their babies die, as their husbands leave them, as they are cast out of their communities, they come to find themselves isolated and without direction or purpose? What happens to a woman when everyone stops wanting to connect with her in those ways that allow her to feel like a haven, a helper, a confidante?

These women feel like less of a woman, that’s what happens. And when they feel like less of a woman, they suddenly feel less “capable”. They feel ruined, bruised, worthless. Motherhood and womanhood are so deeply and intricately tied together in African culture – often, I feel you could almost use the words interchangeable. When our sisters are robbed of the opportunity to be “whole” mothers and wives, they feel robbed of their very identity.

I am so thankful for a Lord who sees any woman as less than whole. Jesus IS like a good mother, seeing the best and most beautiful parts of us at all times — like a good mother who wants to pull us into her arms, rub our back and dry our tears. Jesus is like the good mother who wants to kiss us, bandage us and make it all better – heal our wounds, from inside to out. However you best relate to Him, one thing I know that we all agree on is that He calls us to serve Him by serving others.

So we are called to be like good Mothers to our sisters. We are called to love and cherish them, to celebrate them, to work for them and do what we can to ensure they are living their lives to their fullest potential and with the highest quality. Whether you’re a mother or not, every woman can imagine what it would take to empower and encourage you if you were at your very lowest, full of shame and sadness. You would want someone to invest in your healing. You would want someone to tell you were capable of learning a new skill, or a trade. You would want someone to see you – to look past the condition you have and to instead look into the heart in you that hasn’t changed despite the way the rest of your body maybe has.

You would want someone to mother you. Those of us who are “whole” are called to be the hands and the feet of Jesus — and I think that often means being everything a mother would be, until these women are strong and confident enough to return to that role on their own.

We want to make sure that these precious women know that they are loved this Mother’s Day, that they are cherished by other women and mothers the world over.

Partner with us.

We want them to be strengthened by an outpouring of love and support so that they can continue to be restored, both physically and spiritually. We hope that in turn, they can return to their communities as positive change agents, advocating against conditions and practices that lend themselves to the injustice of fistula. They can become stronger women and better mothers because of the love they received from US.

 

Guest blog for Hope for Our Sisters Mother’s Day Gift of Life Campaign by Cara Brooks

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian

Hope for Our Sisters is currently generating hope and raising funds through our Mother’s Day Gift of Life Campaign to support our work with our precious sisters in Angola, the DR Congo and Nepal. If you want to help us generate more hope that ever, go to http://hopeforoursisters.org/donate-online/ to make a donation. For a minimum $25 donation, we will send a beautiful Mother’s Day card to a mom in your life if you provide the needed information in the text boxes on the online donation form. Thank you!

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Leading the Way by Following January 30, 2018

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 2:16 pm
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You and I know our plans for today

I also know what I will do on behalf of our sisters today

But what about tomorrow and the next day?

What will those days hold?

 

Are we at Hope for Our Sisters setting goals for 2018?

Yes, we are!

We are setting bold goals with our partners that we believe will

lead to lasting change for the better in:

Angola, the DR Congo, and Nepal

We are setting stretch goals for internal growth enabling us to:

Generate more hope for our sisters, and

Create the opportunity for lasting cultural change enabling

greater health and empowerment for those we serve

We are dreaming big once again this year

 

But can you have goals without knowing the future?

We have to

Even though we can only see the steps we are taking now

We are trusting that Someone else knows:

The impact of today’s actions and decisions on tomorrow,

The paths we are to take today, tomorrow, this year and the next, and

The role we are to play in the lives of precious people

here in the U.S. and abroad

Someone knows

God knows

Just last week I was reminded to keep my focus on Him

Leading an organization requires seeking wisdom and insight

from mentors, team members, partners, investors, and our sisters

I am thankful for every person walking with us on this journey

But my eyes must first and foremost seek God and His plans for us

 

Walking home after dropping Lucy and a friend off at school last week

I was reminded to seek Him first

Due to the light playing off my glasses, there were beautiful cords of light

appearing to reach out from the sun and end at my heart

It was stunning and inspiring…I did not want it to end

I so wanted to take a picture to share with you,

but it would not work…you could only see it through my glasses at that moment

I felt these cords were pulling me to His light,

showing me the way I am to go

 

I know not what 2018 holds for Hope for Our Sisters

I have learned that each year is unique

The results of one year do not guarantee any results in a future year

However, as I walk with you, I will look first and foremost to

the One who knows the future

I will allow His cords of light to keep

Hope for Our Sisters and me on His path

 

We hope you will continue to walk alongside our sisters and us this year

May I be able to lead the way by following the One

Let’s all dream big together!

© 2018 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

 

 

 

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