Cheryl Lewis » Cheryl Lewis

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  • I’m a mom of two teenagers and the wife of an amazing man and, at heart, a loner who doesn’t like to be alone. Some days, I want to jump on the bed and laugh joyously and, other times, I can barely suppress the temptation to crawl under the bed and hide from the world. Bi-polar? Nope… just a girl! Truly, if I wasn’t me… me, the one whose path veered, no CAREENED wildly from what I envisioned as a kid instead into disarray and dysfunction and, at times, even self-disgust… if I WASN’T me… I’d wish I was! I am exactly who and where I am meant to be … right here with you!

We Found Markenley!!! (Part One)

I’m having a tough time writing this update.

I never realized, until now, that it’s tough to grin from ear to ear and type at the same time. I keep giggling and that, to be quite candid, is a real distraction.

There are just some things that can’t be put into words and, while that’s generally regrettable for a writer, today it seems just fine. Perfect, even.

It has been that kind of day.

For the sake of sharing the most incredible story I’ve ever experienced, I’m going to buckle down and get this right. But do you really want to know the minutiae? All that truly matters is that:


(I keep adding exclamation marks. ‘Tis just how I feel! (!. !.)


Last night, as you know, I received a text from the young Haitian man who was scheduled to begin his search for Markenley, on my behalf, today.

But he just couldn’t wait, he said.

He felt God telling him to go NOW.

In Haiti, that’s no simple request. There is transportation to consider – into, in this case, a dangerous section of town. Near dusk.

But Jay Louis doesn’t question when God tells him to do something – he does it. Right away.

I’m learning that is just his way. (And I’m oh so glad!)

In this case, it meant skipping class. (My son would surely love to convince me that it’s God’s idea for him to cut class, but somehow this is the first time I’ve actually felt it is legit.) He also had to convince his buddy to join him.

No hill for a climber, right?

So they paid some guy to give them a ride in his van across town to the center of a slum and then they drove slowly up and down, trying to find an orphanage that I had only partially named. That, of course, would only be the beginning of the search, since I have been told several times by the orphanage director that she does not have a 10-year-old boy there and only suspects that he lives nearby.

And that was a year ago.

At last, Jay Louis’ buddy said that his dad was calling, wanting to know where he was, and insisted they needed to head home.

“I just felt certain that God wanted me to do this now,” recalls Jay Louis. “Right then, I received a text from Stacy with the address of the orphanage and we were directly across the street from it!”

Ah, Stacy Furlow.

I can’t adequately share today’s miracle without explaining her role.

A few weeks ago, this precious woman in Arkansas read one of my blogs about Markenley and then, like most other readers, she moved on.

In fact, she has her own website ( about her experiences in Haiti and, after reading my account, Stacy says she genuinely weighed whether to shut her own site down. Someone else, it seemed, was telling the story of this broken country well and, without immediate evidence that her own words were being seen, perhaps it was time to work silently.

But something caused Stacy to pause and she backed up.

Returning to my blog, she left a comment of support, sharing that she has friends now in Haiti – men who could provide the three things I said I need to search for Markenley: transportation, translation and security.

I remember clearly the moment I read her note. It was like manna from the heavens! For a year, I have been aching to go look for this boy and, for a year, the obstacles have seemed too great.

No more!

Swiftly, I wrote back to her, eagerly asking for more information. I would take her up on her offer and, somehow, some way, I was going to go at last! I even began perusing flights.

I could feel that it was time!

And then… nothing. No word came back from Stacy. She didn’t return to my site and never saw my eager note to her.

Flummoxed, I refused to let it be just another dead end. I knew, in my bones, that it was truly time! A full year had nearly passed since the earthquake and, surely, Markenley would vanish forever into the dust and mire of the forgotten world if I continued to wait.

So, I did what anyone in the 21st century does when there seems to be nowhere else to turn: I Googled her.


It revealed a Twitter link and, through that, I discovered Stacy’s website. When I saw the faces of Haiti, I knew I had the right girl!


I read every word of her blog, stunned by the beauty of her writing and tears that poured down my face at the stories she shared.

Swiftly, I pursued her, sending notes on her blog and Twitter. When she responded, a fast friendship formed!

I wanted to throw into high gear plans to travel to Haiti as swiftly as possible. We even unearthed what seemed to be workable dates. Alas, her work schedule wouldn’t gel and, though she had a trip of her own with her husband planned, it is one of the two weekends a year that I committed long ago to be on retreat with my church kids.


(Have I mentioned lately that God’s plan is always better than our own?)

Fast forward to my realization that her friends in Haiti could conduct the search on my behalf for Markenley. They speak Kreol, can move freely and safely without sticking out like sore thumbs among the tents and cluttered streets. And they care!

I suppose this is where I should expose my own unsuitability for launching a search in a foreign country for a kid I’ve barely met. These things, you know, take money. (Doesn’t everything?) While it doesn’t take nearly as much as it would in the United States, any money seems like a lot of money when your bank balance is flimsy. I suspect plenty of you know the drill. In this economy, income seems to turn into “outgo” long before it even arrives.

So I needed to raise some funds.

(I suspect God chuckles sometimes when I’m clueless.)

The solution had been sitting in my computer for an entire year.

Markenley’s pictures!

When we met in the orphanage that day, our bond formed around the camera. It crossed the gap of two different languages and gave us a way to share with each other. When I left him that day, there were pieces of his perspective saved on my memory card!

Again, opportunity fell into my lap. Barbara Barth, a new friend, was opening an antiques shop in Lilburn, Georgia, and wanted to include the works of local artists as a fun aside. She invited me to display my portraits of Haiti – for sale! Since it was her grand opening, she wouldn’t even charge me for the exhibition space.

My small-group kids from church encouraged me, and it was their idea to add an Opening Day bake sale to begin a school fund for Markenley!

I’m not sure if you are reading between the lines and see all the God moments sprinkled throughout my fumbling retelling of this story, but they are everywhere!

Throughout the day of the photo exhibition’s debut, ones and coins trickled into the bucket we set out for Markenley, in exchange for brownies and hot chocolate. At the end of the bake sale, a man drove up and I suspected he wanted to complain about my girls waving their signs in the street.

Instead, he had tears in his eyes and complimented me on their hearts for service and said their selfless acts – outside on a freezing winter day – had left him emotional when he had driven past earlier.

Rather than just smiling and thinking warm thoughts, he had done what NO ONE would do in response – he went to the bank and withdrew cash to contribute! To the girls’ utter astonishment, he shelled out bill after bill, to the tune of 100 bucks!

Oh, the celebration of a dozen sixth-grade girls and their teacher who have seen God in action!


I guess this has turned into a bit of a book. Sorry for the length. I just can’t get around God’s tendency to work in my life in ways that take their own sweet time and teach me a thing or two about patience.

With the money we raised from the bake sale, picture and t-shirt proceeds, I was able to contact Stacy’s friends and engage them to launch an official search for Markenley.

You nearly know the rest of the story!

(dot dot dot)

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This Could Be The Day!

The next 90 minutes of waiting may be the longest of my life.

But, lest you think something horrible has happened, let me say up front that the reverse is true: Something miraculous is afoot!!

Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to take some of the money that my Sunday School girls raised to send Markenley, the child I met last year in Haiti, to school and I was going to find him.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know well the obstacles that surely block my way to achieving this impossible goal. When we spent our day together, nearly exactly a year ago, he was only 10 years old, living on the streets in post-earthquake chaos. Somehow, he touched my heart and then my life. During the 12 months that have crawled past, there has not been a day when I didn’t wonder where he was or how he was living – or if he was still alive.

Haiti, after all, is broken. The streets, the government, the economy, the population – all splintered by years of corruption, misfortune and infirmity.

To find a child who was in a slum so long ago amongst the ever-writhing sea of shifting masses is surely a silly dream.

Silly is a word we use in America.

I doubt if they have a parallel in Haiti. Nothing is silly there. Everything is achingly serious. Hunger. Cholera. Upheaval. It is an island of the vulnerable and damned.

But I haven’t been able to get that kid outta my head.

Somewhere, if he is alive, he looks for food each day. He tries to survive. He does his best to remain safe. And dry. At night, I imagine, he sleeps. Do the roosters wake him, too? Does he have any hopes of education or dreams that extend beyond daily survival?

For awhile now, I have longed to know the answers.

My dream – my fantasy, perhaps – has become to help him.

He smiled when we were together, after awhile, and I want to see that smile crease his face, again. I’d love to see the worry leave his brow. Can you imagine getting to witness his slender frame filling out as frequent food finally nourishes his body? To see his intellect shine as education strengthens his knowing?

So, yesterday, I went down to Western Union and I transferred some money to two young men in Haiti who promised to help. To me, it seemed a little. To them, it is a lot.

That’s a long shot, isn’t it?

Trusting someone you’ve never met in a foreign country – a fourth-world one, at that – and expecting good results also seems silly. Foolish. Frivolous.

Faith is crazy that way, sometimes.

But they came highly recommended by someone I admire and, besides, I could feel God nudging me: “Now!”

I knew the search would begin today and I felt energized.

That was before I got the first text from Jay Louis last night, asking me already, “Guess who did a good job today?”

My heart started racing.

“Tell meeeeeee!” I insisted.

What he shared next can only be called miraculous.


In this crazy, same ol’, same ol’ world, where we’ve grown to believe that only what we see is possible and only the probable makes sense, something ever so special is about to occur!

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It Has Been a Year, Haiti

January 12, 2011


That’s how it feels when you can’t help someone you love.

But we are not helpless, are we?

We have the ability to come and go as we please. Our homes are secure and bellies generally full. We can educate our children and trust that their futures are bright. Medical attention, when needed, is easily accessible and, even for minor boo boos, our drawer of Band-aids is full.

When all else fails, we can leave. If we want to go far, far away, Delta is ready when we are. We can apply for a passport and, within weeks, receive one. We can step onto that aircraft and step off wherever we want.

We have planes, trains and automobiles.

All it takes is a little bit (ok, sometimes a lot) of money and the desire.

So I’ve been yearning to go back to Haiti.

A year ago today, their world collapsed – literally – in ways that horrified even their jaded sensibilities. The earthquake took away for many the few signs that they were a human race. Buildings were reduced to rubble that remains a full year later. Families evaporated in one fell swoop. Livelihoods and provisions and security and God seemed erased.

It was apocalypse now.

Perhaps if a nuclear disaster struck America, we would understand. If it decimated our buildings, killed our men and mothers and children, erased any certainty we’d ever felt about another meal or any right to protect our own bodies, we may glimpse their fear and desperation.

That hasn’t happened, so we can’t quite bring ourselves to care enough that life is already that way for an entire nation just two hours from our southernmost. In so many ways, it seems just another horror thriller we see on the big screen – Hollywood’s finest.

Sure, we “do what we can.” We throw our pocket change at “the problem,” when we aren’t saving for something sparkly. We take a deep breath and drop ourselves into their midst for a week or two, weathering the sweat and mosquitoes and culture and feeling oh so proud and even awed by how changed we feel upon return.

Sometimes, we ache for those we met and yearn to change their plight.

Most of all, we feel helpless.

I don’t know what to do with what I brought home when I returned from Haiti last March. Memories of a 10-year-boy who smiled into my eyes with quiet trust and took the first pictures of his life now live within me.

He looks out of my eyes and sees the food I throw away and the home I take for granted. His brow wrinkles and his pleasure dims.

I don’t even know if Markenley is still alive. We met for a brief afternoon in the dirt of a devastated orphanage just a month after the earthquake. I was visiting and, as it turns out, so was he. Hunger made him hopeful and he found a way in. He had intelligence in his eyes, but they were shadowed by horrors most of us have never experienced.

I placed my camera strap around the neck of a little boy whose eyes lit up with gratification and something more – recognition that he was, for a moment, truly seen by a world that cares.

I’ve been looking for him ever since.

But how, exactly, am I meant to accomplish that? My world usually feels secure, but his isn’t. Trekking through Haiti is dangerous, especially for a woman. I cannot do it without protection and translation and transportation – where all of those things are vulnerable to abuse.

When I think about it, I feel helpless.

So I remind myself – I’m not. With enough resources, each of those obstacles can be beaten. I can hire a guard and an interpreter and a truck. Sure, it takes money, but that’s no hill for a climber. There are lots of us and, eventually, I will have enough dollars to pay the bill.

I will find him. If I can adopt Markenley, I will. But if their broken system clings to him and I am unable to free him, I will find a way to send him to school and ensure housing there and, together, you and I will offer him a future of hope.

He may be helpless today, but we’re not.

Will you help me?

I’m selling the images that Markenley shot while behind the lens of my camera. All proceeds will go to him when I find him. They are, after all, his images and he owns them. You can order any of the images on the Haiti slideshow on this site.

To place an order or donate, please click the Markenley Edouard Haiti Fund Paypal link above. We also welcome your fervent prayers.

P.S. If you are near Atlanta, I will be exhibiting additional images shot during my time in Haiti and using those funds to search for Markenley. Barbara Barth is generously featuring them at the grand opening of her new antiques shop at 94 Main Street in Lilburn, Georgia on Saturday, January 22, and during the month of February. My middle school small group from church is hosting a bake sale to help raise funds for Markenley’s education. We would love to see you there!

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Because He Matters

When I was in Haiti in February on a mission trip, our team spent a couple of days at an orphanage in a Port au Prince slum called Carrefour. What we saw there would surely break your heart. It tripled any sad scene you ever saw on “Annie.” Dozens of preschoolers and toddlers were crawling around in filth, with flies buzzing relentlessly around their eyes. They were underfed and crying. Their caregivers had vacant expressions and gave little attention to the babies with sodden diapers. It had only been a few weeks since more than 50 children in their care had been crushed or slowly suffocated in the devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians – children and adults alike were still traumatized. One small girl squatted in the dirt, in the midst of a dozen people, to defecate and no one even blinked. Most of the children had skin conditions and our small medical team did what they could to give treatment with few supplies.
Because I have no medical training, I spent time playing and interacting with the kids at each of the sites we visited. One of the things that seemed to inspire wide smiles was their seeing themselves on the display screen of my digital camera. So, for hours, I took pictures of their smudged-but-oft-beaming faces and presented their own smiles back to them as entertainment.
As we played, I noticed a young boy sitting quietly to the side, observing our every move. He wasn’t participating – just taking it in. Bit by bit, I made my way near him, taking and showing pictures along the way. Finally, I was sitting on a bench across from where he was perched. I looked directly at him and smiled. He didn’t move.
I aimed and took his picture, then turned the screen in his direction and patted the seat beside me. Still nothing.
I shot another image and showed it to a child nearby, who smiled broadly and pointed at the young boy. Finally, a hint of curiosity showed on his face. I patted the bench beside me, again, and he slowly scooted over to see himself on my screen.
We sat that way for awhile – me taking images of the kids around us, him peering at the screen and smiling at each shot. Slowly, I put the strap around his neck and showed him how to properly hold the camera.
He timidly shot a couple and we looked at each one, then I modeled how to better fill the screen with each scene before clicking. A quick learner, he took a few well-composed pictures and sat there, beaming as I praised him in a language he couldn’t understand.
I nudged him and waved my arm, showing him it was fine to wander around, capturing images of his choice. At first he was hesitant, but soon he was shooting away, returning to me from time to time to show off his work.
Eventually, it was time for our team to leave. Reluctant to go, I took out my Blackberry and attempted to add his name. He looked at my screen and corrected the spelling of his name and age. He was 10.
I gave him a big hug and smile and he joined the others in waving to us as we left. Then, when we pulled beyond the guarded fence into the bustling street, our driver stopped to speak to someone he knew. I looked back and there was my new friend, smiling and walking behind our van.
I was puzzled, since surely the orphanage children weren’t allowed to wander such dangerous streets. I couldn’t stop worrying about him and mentioned it to my husband, who was also on our team. That evening, we called the orphanage to ask whether there was any way we could help the boy.
We were stunned when we were told they had no child by that name or age living at the orphanage.
How could that be??
Baffled, I insisted that we had spent the day together and described him more thoroughly. Yes, they acknowledged, there was a boy who lived on the streets nearby with his mother and sometimes came in, because he was hungry, but she was unable to care for him. They would ask his sister to find out more.
So he at least has a mother and sister. Family.
To most of us, that means safety and solidarity. Who knows what it means to a child who roams the streets of Haiti – when few are lucky enough to even have tents for housing? When many are snatched for child trafficking or slavery? When food is practically nonexistent, water is tough to get and the potential to find either is slim?
I have called the orphanage many times, but no one answers the phone. I’ve tried to hire someone to see if they can find the boy and identify his circumstances, since I would like to send him to school and keep his family together, but have only met with a shifty opportunist who demanded thousands of dollars as monthly payment and the purchase of a car. I’ve exchanged letters with a man who says he is freelance media in Haiti. He promised to look for the boy that same week – but didn’t and then stopped answering my emails. A fellow team member who was scheduled to return to Haiti promised to look for him, but then her trip cancelled, because of the increase of violence there.
I feel worried and disheartened, but my God is BIG and, for some reason, He has given me this kid’s back to cover. I want to be there for him.
I need to be there for him.
So why look for a 10-year-old child who probably can’t be found in the chaotic, ever-shifting street masses of Haiti?
Why be haunted by the memory of someone with whom I only spent an afternoon?
Why bother?
There only seems to be one answer:
Because he matters.

P.S. I’ve just read the most amazing blog entry from someone who arrived at this orphanage the day after it collapsed! He rescued some of the same children I held. Please read his story and listen closely to God’s urging:

Jeannette - Thank you for sharing this story…. I hope and pray you find this young man!

Dion Evans - I sit here reading this as I wait for my carpool and my eyes are holding back tears. That is a beautiful story and a big example of what it means to show love to those in Haiti

Shellie Tomlinson - I am so touched, and so crying, and so thankful that Father has crossed our paths. It is no mere coincidence. He doesn’t operate in ’em, amen? Hope to talk to your more soon. Blessings…

Chloe - I really like all the pictures of Haiti and it makes me remember that everyone does not have enough money to have a shelter or have anywhere to rest their head. I wish I could help!! I’ll keep praying for them.
<3 Chloe from small group

Lisa Wines - I noticed your very funny Twitter name when I was responding to a follow request (you follow the same account) and clicked through to your blog. I allllmost ran away when I saw the Christian reference, until I saw fun&mental versus fundamental. :-) Love that. Unfortunately, the fundamentalists who get the most press in the US seem to be destructive versus creative. While Christians like you, travel to Haiti and connect, as Jesus did, with the lost and forgotten. Thank you for being so loving, so interested, so gentle. You may not find this boy again, but you changed his life. If you do find him, can we send him a camera and whatever equipment or connections he needs to upload and publish his work? I was taken aback by the photos he framed & captured.

christina - My heart is breaking. Please let us know of your progress. Prayers.

Dustin - Wow, thanks for sharing this. Those are some great pictures!

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Remembering Haiti

Every day, I think of the people we met in Haiti. I think of the rain and the misery that follows. I think of the mosquitoes and the thousands who don’t have DEET. I think of Markenley Edouard and wonder if he’s safe and fed and dry and loved. I think of Mirdrede and her new baby and the challenges they’ll face. I think of the women and children and disabled and elderly who are vulnerable to sexual violence when they go to the latrines or are eyed by evil. I think of the government that can’t win for losing and has learned to prosper only through its capacity for corruption. I think of the little girl at Notre Dame Orphanage in Carrefour who is listless and wasted away with malaria and whose life will likely end without clear meaning. I think about the members of our team, who went from being strangers to family in a week, and wonder how they’re faring now that they’re back in what we once thought was the “real” world. I think about God and His love for each of us and wonder why so much was given to me and how I can best honor Him with that ridiculous abundance.
I watched “We Are The World” for the first time last week and cried all the way through it. I felt frantic to pack my bags and return to a place that is unsafe, especially for women, to sleep on the ground and wear the same clothes three days in a row and eat little more than protein bars in the blazing heat. I want to be among them. I want them to see us among them, to know that God has sent us, and that they are far from alone. I want to teach them something productive that will save their children’s lives and spirits.
I’m not going back to Haiti right away, because of the rise in sexual violence and kidnappings, and that reality that I’ll be aching from afar just about reduces me to depression. I want to be in that truck, racing along that pot-holed road, heading to Ms Evelyn and her kids, so that I can help them smile and function and then, as soon as I can convince someone to accompany me, I want to go outside her compound and find Markenley and his family. I need to see whether he’s in a tent or a tarp and whether his mother and sister are healthy and if they have protection from predators. He haunts my dreams and I want him to know there is a lady in America who cannot and will not forget him, even though that seems more than a bit crazy. He is 10 and needs to know that, in an impossibly expansive world of millions, he is the one I think of when my eyes open each morning.
Jim and I are throwing ourselves into Portlight Strategies’ initiative to convert former shipping containers into housing in Haiti ( The specifics are taking shape and soon funds will be raised and a prototype built. I hope that, when the first step is taken by a formerly homeless Haitian into their new, secure home, I can be there to capture the laughter.
I wonder if I’ll be able to hear theirs above my own.

kim sisto robinson - You are Amazing! :) xxxxx

sherri - I am going to Haiti July 4-13. My first trip. My friend Alecia Settle adopted a Haitian girl many years ago and has been traveling there for about 10 years. She authored the book VISUALIZE HAITI. 100% of the proceeds go to her humanitarian efforts there.

Love your heart.

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