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!

You Matter to Haiti

I feel overwhelmed and I’m not even there, yet.

Thanks to Twitter and the Internet, I can digest #Haiti news 24/7 and, because of my fierce interest and concern, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

My daughter says I’m obsessed.

Maybe she’s right. I just can’t seem to distance myself from the Haitians’ reality – even though it’s one I have not yet personally experienced. My husband and I leave in two weeks with our team of 10 from Eagle Pointe Church in Acworth, Georgia, and even the travel part sounds grueling:

Atlanta in the wee hours of Feb. 28 to Ft. Lauderdale through customs to Port-au-Prince (at least we don’t have to make our way into the Dominican Republic, as most earlier teams did, and wend our way through 10 hours of bad roads) to whatever part of that town we will call our home for six days in a tent. All I know is there’s an orphanage there – and lives that I desperately want to help change.

Preparing to go is already a flurry. They have so many, many needs and, before we can even get around to addressing them full time, we have to think about a few of our own.

Malaria tablets. Prevention against tuberculosis – it’s rampant in Haiti. Same with Hepatitis. I’m told there’s time to booster our systems against Hepatitis A, but B? Not so much. That’s the one where you don’t want spit or blood “contaminating” you. Tetanus. Even more potential illnesses that escape me at the moment. I keep hearing something about dengue fever. Sounds frightening.

And yet I feel selfish when I fret over the “what might happen’s” of trekking to Haiti to help.

Those people – by the hundreds of thousands (and I don’t just mean numbers – I mean BREATHING, ACHING INDIVIDUALS!) – are living in filth and facing the real fear that, in just a few weeks, a fierce storm season arrives and their pieced-together shelters will likely be swept away during flooding through debris-choked streets.

That is a big fear.

So the little things, like “Will one of those mosquitoes that is munching on my kids after dark – though I’m trying to huddle them beneath me under a sheet of government-issued plastic (if even that) for shelter – cause malaria or spread fatal disease?” just gets lost in their “How will we survive this night” despair. Never mind that some of them no longer have an arm or leg. Or husband or wife or mother or father or child or sister or brother or dearest friend.

And, no, that’s not even taking into account their incessant hunger.

Or their fear for safety. Women are being raped in the night and, with husbands and brothers no longer alive for protection, there are few who will risk intervening to help each other. Children, some too young to even identify the aunts and uncles and grandparents and neighbors who might rescue them, are being spirited away and sold for slavery and worse.

Yet God is there. Haitians are gathering by the sixty thousands to sing and praise and fiercely, desperately pray. They are thronging in the streets – it is their living room now.

God is the reason I’m willing to go. His plan is always better than my own and I trust Him.

But, yeah, I’m feeling a “little” overwhelmed. I’m not sleeping much.

Neither are they.

Because I know and they know that, no matter how many protein bars or toys or sacks of rice or even tents that I can distribute, it will be a drop in the bucket. There is no handy, “Delta is ready when you are” escape for those people and they couldn’t leave their country to grasp at a better life, even if they wanted to. There is no leaving – there is only coping, without a home and without protection and without food.

There is only one thing I can offer:

Now that I know about their need, they don’t have to do it without me.

It might not solve a country’s devastation but, in a mere 14 days, I will reach in my pocket and my fist will emerge with as many protein bars as I can hold and some mother who has had nothing for perhaps days will have something in her own hand to give to her starving child.

The baby formula you send with me will fill her baby’s yearning stomach.

The coloring books and crayons you contribute will put an afternoon’s glow back into a kid’s face.

The tent you provide will mean they get to watch the rain slide in sheets down around them, instead of through their clothes and belongings and into the mud pooling in their makeshift beds.

Forget giving a box of chocolates and ridiculous roses for Valentines Day. Show your family just how grateful you are for what and who you have by sharing with someone who may literally die without you!

Trust me, love will fly at you from all corners!

I don’t know what you can give to me or others like me to send to Haiti and the people who are, yes, dying there – but, more importantly, fighting to LIVE there.

But I do know that, whatever it is, it matters.

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Update regarding Haiti

I’ve been invited by the lead pastor of an Atlanta church to join their team in Haiti at the end of February.

I will be going.

Yes, I will pray with my family and weigh what this means. But God has placed an urgency in my heart to be there and so I will go.

Meanwhile, I’ll be volunteering with Create Your Dreams (www.createyourdreams.org) to build relationships with underprivileged children in Atlanta.

We invited a few of the kids to our rural cabin for a retreat and had a blast! I loooove to hear those kids laugh.

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Hungering to be Hungry

Last night, my kids laughed at me.

They were derisive, really.

“Don’t tell me Mom wants to go to Haiti,” they cackled. “Get real.”

I was stunned.

I mean, I know they’re teens and their natural state is cynical, but really? Do they not know that I would drop what I’m doing in an instant and fling my things into a bag to go help someone in need?

“It’s not like you’re a doctor or anything, Mom,” said Thing One and Thing Two. “What do you think you’d be doing there? They don’t need people like you.”

I was silent. But my head was spinning.

In my core, I considered the answers. I’m no nurse, but doctors need someone to corral the kids while their parents are treated, don’t they? Volunteer medics are operating in destroyed parking lots, for crying out loud. Patients are milling around – or strewn around – with little method to the madness.

I’ve seen the videos and they haunt me.

Surely having someone there to soothe the distressed and steer the frantic would help!

It’s true that I don’t even know if I can find someone who will send me.

I just feel that I should.

Yes, even “people like me.”

Yesterday, I sat in my favorite cushy chair in my tastefully decorated living room in my upper-middle-class, suburban neighborhood.

Most of the day.

Oh, I Twittered, I Facebook’d, I played online Scrabble (only two plays; it generally takes Marta a day or two to get back around to noticing there’s a game still going on); I watched the iPad debut. Oh yeah, and I worked, on occasion.

I’m embarrassed to confess it was a typical day.

But somewhere in the world, not actually so very far away, there is no such thing as a “typical” day, anymore. What might have been a room with a sofa is likely now a pile of debris and never-salvaged, decaying bodies. Many who barely survived are facing amputations – by hacksaw.

There is destruction and chaos and panic and despair.

Do I really want to go?

I know it will stink. Gut-wrenchingly. Decomposition is just that way.

It will be hot. It will be chaotic. It will be exhausting. It will be heart wrenching. It will be risky.

Sounds like exactly the place where I will work alongside Jesus. And, perhaps, those people will only see Him through my love when I draw near them.

But why should my kids expect me to be amongst those who would board a plane destined for the unknown to face God knows what in a demolished land? They seemingly have missed the essence of who I believe myself to be in my depths, but what do they see from me each day of the week?

Am I volunteering in the local shelter? Am I down and dirty with anyone in the streets of Atlanta which, though not upended by the devastating forces of nature, are replete with need? Do I regularly – or even occasionally – face danger or poverty or abandonment or filth or infirmity?

I want to set an example to my family by being among the first to volunteer when tragedy strikes a hurting people-nation in a far-off land.

But my kids’ reactions last night struck me full force in the heart – and head. If I have any hope of demonstrating to them the kind of person I hope they will become, it can only start in our own stretch of grass.

I’ve known that. Sure, on paper, it sounds logical.

But, somehow, that does not inspire the same urgency in me. There are no cameras to shine a light into those local holes. No fund-raising campaign has people digging through their wallets for even the slightest of change to help. I know of no easy route to identify where to assist first.

There is no chance I will get swept into the flurry of activity that will ensure I actually get off my duff and show up for duty.

Still, I’m guessing there is a child – or a dozen – who feels alone. (He or she may even live in my own house.) There is hunger. Thirst. The need for a bed. A caring presence.

So I have a new challenge. Yes, I’ll still agonize when I see the international images in blogs and television and Internet, and yearn for a route to go and be a voice of comfort in the bedlam. If I find someone who will give me a chance to put my life out there for those people who have lost everything, I will go in an instant.

But, until then, it’s time for me to tug on my service shoes and head next door.

Someone needs me. And someone needs the compassionate adults that my children can become.

There are people and souls who want to be fed and I ache to be there for them but, unless I lead the way, the most for which my children ever hunger may be the latest Apple.

 

*To continue to read the story as it unfolds, click the right arrow just below.

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Matt - What a struggle…where to start to attempt to slow the suffering? I don’t have an answer except to take action…somewhere.
Good blog…

Alinde - Thank you for spreading the word about Haiti. Yes, today I too found it ipmissoble to think about or blog about anything else.I visited Hait this past summer and my life will never be the same. Prior to this earthquake, life in Haiti was harsh, to say the least. Now, I cannot imagine the conditions and the suffering. In Haiti, I visited an orphanage called Danita’s Children (www.danitaschildren.com) and saw a little bit of heaven in hell. Danita and Brenda, one of the other missionaries, have since visited me in my home. They are beautiful women, both inside and out. The orphanage in now planning to make room for more orphans. These people are not “foreigners,” they are our neighbors and need our help. Again, thanks for letting people know how to reach out and help others.

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