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/.
 

Creativity – I’ve Missed It September 29, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:05 pm
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This summer was not as we planned

Peter’s heart-breaking anxiety over his injections

Lucy coming down with strep, pneumonia and walking pneumonia at the same time

Me processing my unexpected, physically challenging yet amazing trip to Africa

My own creativity was drowned out…

without my noticing

 

I am reading Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

Great title…don’t you think?

The idea behind the title caught my eye and heart

Being present in the moment is tough

The urgency can crowd it out

My to do list can be louder than the call to be

present, quiet, rest, and create

I have ideas in my head about all of these topics

Today? Creativity

 

First of all, Peter’s anxiety is gone

He is rocking his shots

He is back to his funny, goofy, active self

Thankful!

Lucy is healthy

She is free to take on the world in her 9-year-old fashion

Wahoo!

I am working on being present

One day I’ll share about my 8 minutes of pure quiet

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

It is

Pure quiet with God rocks

 

So…creativity

In this book, Alexandra writes the following:

“We were made to create! It is in us, so when we don’t

allow that part of us to flourish, we wither.”

This hit my heart…deep within my heart

My creative self has been withering in my pursuit of goals, deadlines,

smooth mornings before school, being present with my family, etc.

All of these are very important and very good…but…

when we the last time I was creative for creativity’s sake?

Like writing these words right now?

How about you?

 

Peter often gets carried away with his 3-D origami

Lucy is often found with pen and paper in hand

ready to draw or create a story

How did I not see that my creative outlets were clogged?

When was the last time I made time to write?

Writing is one of my favorite gifts from God and yet

it’s been ages since I have carved out time to write

 

I did not enter into these moments on our back deck today

with a goal for this “blog”

Hmmm…if I think about it, what would be the goal?

It’s not to impress

It’s not to convict

Now that I think about it, I’d like to let my creative juices flow,

share my heart and encourage your own creativity

 

What inspires you?

What gifts have you been given in the realm of creativity?

May we all simply enjoy our creative gifts

May we all try not to evaluate our creativity

May we all not expect to live up to a certain standard

We don’t have to be a famous author, painter, inventor or singer to create

May we just set some time aside to

let our creativity flow

We were created in the image of the ultimate Creator

We were made to create

 

As I sit in my backyard next to Tim,

with Peter, Lucy and friends playing wiffle ball,

I think of the women we serve through Hope for Our Sisters

Their sheer joy at creating bags, hats, etc.

This organic growth is such a gift for our sisters

However, it is now requiring planning, structure and organization

May our efforts to support this new program not drown out

the real beauty behind it

The sheer creativity

The discovery of potential

The joy of learning what can be accomplished

 

Have you set time aside to discover your potential?

Have you set time aside to be creative?

In this book the author challenges herself to write for fun (she’s an author)

and to do something creative each day

I have not read the full chapter yet

The idea of daily creativity actually seems too big at this moment

but I want to try it

I’ll give it my best shot

I am sure I will find fun and simple ways to

tap into my creativity

I will do this because I believe those I love, serve, and enjoy will benefit

I also know and believe that I will benefit

Maybe I will benefit most of all

 

We were made to create

How will you create today?

© 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
 

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.