The Lenhart Family

Friday, June 26, 2009

the gospel according to Michael Jackson

I am slightly annoyed by the way our society rushes to push "sainthood status" on famous people upon their untimely deaths... but the recent coverage of Jackson's death has given me a trip down memory lane as I have been reminded of some brilliant lyrics the legend Michale Jackson introduced us to. So here is my version of the gospel according to Michael Jackson for what it is worth.

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JACKSON- PART ONE:"MAN IN THE MIRROR" (my personal fav) was a number-one hit for singer Michael Jackson when released as a single in the spring of 1988. It is one of Jackson's most critically acclaimed songs and it was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. The message of it's lyrics speak for itself....

Gotta make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

As I turned up the collar on
A favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street

A summer's disregard
A broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other
On the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change,

I've been a victim of
A selfish kinda love
It's time that I realize
There are some with no home
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really pretending that they're not alone

A willow deeply scarred
Somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
(Washed out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer

Although Jackson might have been just adding a spin to Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world", theses lyrics have an undeniable biblical theme coming from James 2:22-24 that says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the giant in YOUR backyard... foster care

“Let me introduce you to the giant standing in YOUR backyard…”

The last few days, the fatherless of our society has really been on my heart. On Thursday night, a friend and I attended a dinner/ informational meeting sponsored by DHS and the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. The “Change a Child's Forever” campaign hosted a community meeting to discuss how faith congregations can become involved in foster care ministries. As a foster parent and a disciple of Jesus, I was challenged by what I heard and learned to do more. Let me introduce you to the giant (named OKDHS) in YOUR own backyard….

•114,492 children were reported as alleged victims of abuse and neglect in the state of Oklahoma last year alone

• 11,714 of those children were confirmed to be victims of child abuse and neglect last year

• In 2008, there were over 11,000 children in foster care in the state of Oklahoma and over 40% of those children were under the age of 4.

• In Oklahoma county, there are 1,685 children in DHS custody and ONLY 300 foster care homes (“the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” Matthew 9:37)

• 60% of confirmed victims of abuse are 6 years old and younger (in OK)

• 64% are white, 17.6% black, and 16.8% Indian (in OK)

• The perpetrator of abuse is usually mom (45%) or dad (30%)- 75% of all cases (in OK)

• The type of abuse in Oklahoma can be broken down as follows: Neglect=84%, Physical Abuse= 12%, Sexual Abuse= 4%

• Top 6 reasons for neglect are as follows: substance abuse= 19.17%, threat of harm= 18.9%, failure to protect= 17.7%, exposure to domestic violence = 9.52%, inadequate or dangerous shelter= 9.52%, and lack of supervision= 7.53%

• This means that the typical child in the Oklahoma foster care system is a white 6 year old boy neglected due to parental substance abuse such as meth

As a foster mom, I leave almost every family court date and almost every encounter on my foster baby’s behalf juts completely frustrated and overwhelmed at the brokenness of our system and the ways it seems that these children are falling through the cracks. I kinda feel like David facing Goliath but without even one stone to throw. My heart hurts when I face statistics like those listed above that support the reality that MANY children are part of an epidemic that could be classified as a giant in our own backyard. So where is HOPE in statistics like these?

Throughout scripture, God’s tender heart towards the fatherless and orphaned is a recurring theme. He commands us as believers to care for and defend the poor and fatherless among us (Psalm 82:3, Psalm 10:17-18, Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:28, Zechariah 7:9-11, James 1:27). When I first moved to the great state of Oklahoma, I was taken back by the way there seems to be a church on VERY corner. But the way our state is flooded with believers actively involved in local church is where I believe our hope in defeating this giant sized problem can be found!!

Becoming a foster parent is not for everyone… but I believe we all can do something to love on the fatherless among us. Today on father’s day, think about what you can do to serve the giant in your own backyard….

Top 10 Things You Can
Do For A Foster Child:

10. Pray for the children in foster care and their families.

9. Collect birthday gifts for the foster children in your community.

8. Have a baby shower to collect baby essentials.

7. Collect luggage for foster children in transition (most children are forced to use trash bags when they move into new placements, what message does this send about their value and worth?)

6. Create toddler toy boxes.

5. Mentor a foster child.

4. Be an alternate caregiver for a foster family.

3. Contact your local OKDHS foster care specialist about specific needs in your community.

2. Host foster children’s visits with their birth families, support groups for foster parents, free child care nights out, or other events that support foster parents at your facility.

1. Become a foster parent or forever family for a child!!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Transition from WHERE there is no doctor... WHY there is no doctor??!!

"Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold!" ~actor Brad Pitt

"You can not comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable." ~Princess Diana

On my very first medical mission trip to Haiti and fresh out of nursing school, I was introduced to this handy dandy book called "Where There Is No Doctor". Over the last several years, I have gotten a lot of invaluable information from that book that has helped us as we have navigate our way through numerous medical missions trips since that first trip back in 2005. Many consider "Where There Is No Doctor" their health bible when doing medical mission work. I carry it with me on every trip I take, and refer to it often. The information provided in this book is simple, straight forward, and easy to read. The finest academic medical preparation can not prepare an American health care workers for medical mission work in developing countries... we rely too much on our equipment, advanced technology, and almost indisposeable and readily available resources that when we are overwhelmed and struggle, to say the least, when we are throw into an environment without the comforts of our health care system. So books and resources like "Where There Is No Doctor" have attempted to bridge that gap and help ease the transition from modern medicine to the primitive medicine that exists in third world countries like Haiti. But as awesome and helpful as this book has proven to be... lately I have been thinking short term medical mission trips are as helpful as trying to put a band-aid on a sliced open pulmonary artery. And I am feeling that instead of relying on "Where There Is No Doctor" we should start asking "Why There Is No Doctor"??!

Our church and the teams we have sent have sponsored three medical clinics in Haiti in the last six months. We have seen over 300 patients in our make shift clinics (many who had never been to a doctor and who willing to wait all day to be seen). We treated a variety of ailments from bladder infections to malaria to severe malnourishment to tuberculosis.

The purpose for our most recent trip was an emergency tuberculosis clinic. We tested over 100 people in one community and had about 17 positive tests. In the course of trying to find follow up care for those who tested positive, we traveled one day to a hospital about 2 hours away from the orphanage where we worked. The road to the hospital is ROUGH terrain.... but worth every bump along the way because I have been forver changed by what I saw that day.

Anyone who has watched any amount of late night TV has surely seen the commercials for organizations like Christian Child Fund depicting what life is like for starving children with swollen bellies promoting child sponsorship programs... and although through our travels to Haiti, I have seen some children who could be classified as severely malnourished, NOTHING could have prepared my heart for what I would see in that pediatric unit in that hospital! We saw children who were completely emaciated and literally wasting away. I watched a father painfully feed his almost unconscious lethargic son a protein fortified formula with tears in his eyes and I have have never prayed so earnestly for healing in my life.

As a nurse, as I watched auxiliary nurses move from patient to patient with no hand washing or gloves, it almost killed me to see the lack of infection control that existed in that ward. I think our beloved Florence Nightingale would be turning in her grave at some of the practices there. As a mom, my heart broke in a million pieces, as I saw the looks on worried parents faces at the children's bedside. But as American, I felt a kind of indescribable shame, as I watched children dying of COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE AND TREATABLE CONDITIONS.

Coming home and trying to process what we saw and experienced has left me with more questions than answers. Like why are some American actors more active is fighting the diseases and injustices of extreme poverty than some American Christians are? And what is my piece of this puzzle and where is my responsibility in it? But most of all why is there no doctor? And how can we right the wrongs of health care in developing countries?

"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed." ~ Mother Teresa

"It's the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish" ~ Mother Teresa

Haiti Flag Day... National Pride in the Midst of Extreme Poverty

Here is another snapshot of our last trip to Haiti....

During our last trip to Haiti, we got to experience our first flag day there. May 18th is a national holiday in which Haitian people celebrate their nation and their flag which is indisputably a symbol of great pride. If a picture is worth a thousands words.. I'll let these pictures speak volumes about the pride that exists within Haitian hearts and keep this blog post short and sweet.

The children at the orphanage and school in Fedja celebrated by making flags and participating in a parade in Mirebalais. Before the parade, Jake preached a sermon about freedom in Christ and the significance of being free from bondage of sin.

I am reading some books on Haitian history and community development there... and have learned so much about the people who have stolen my heart. Haitian was founded in 1804 by former slaves after an extraordinary revolution against their French oppressors. Haiti once stood as a beacon of hope and inspiration for colonized people but is notorious in today's society for the desperate poverty of its people and the violent instability of its state. I have seen a survivor mentality exist among some of the sweet brothers and sisters I have meet there as they daily make gut wrenching decisions that I will never be faced with. One sweet woman shared her heart as her children were given the opportunity to go school and have their uniforms, books, and tuition paid for... yet she was torn because she was unsure about her families livelihood as going to school meant having less help working in the families farming fields. Their land is eroding, their bodies are exhausted and malnourished,they disease stricken from many preventable and treatable conditions that have been long eradicated from developed nations, and YET THEY HAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF HOPE AND PRIDE IN THEIR NATION!

As someone who has spent time serving the precious people of Haiti, I am blown away and humbles by their pride in their fragmented country and their indomitable spirit is contagious!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Girl effect... THIS IS MY GIRL!!

Do not read any more until you have finished watching the video below....

I saw this "girl effect" video at the medical mission conference I went to this weekend. When the video asked you to imagine a girl in a poverty, I immediately thought of this precious girl named O'Chelley. If I had a suitcase large enough, I definitely would have brought her home with me a long time ago.

Let me introduce you... she's pretty much amazing!! She lives at the orphanage we work with in Haiti. She is shy at first but once you get to know her, you will soon discover that she has one of the most sweet, gentle, and precious spirits ever. She is one of the older girls at the orphanage and is definitely the mother hen of the group. She ALWAYS has a little posse of girls following her around wherever she goes... not just because she is a natural born leader but also because she is so attentive to their needs. In the morning, she starts her day early with helping the younger girls dress,making sure all they get their teeth brushed, and their hair done(and everyday there is a HUGE line for her hair styling services). At meal times, she can be found feeding one or even two babies on her lap. The only time she is not focused on caring and loving her "baby chicks" is the 3 or 4 hours a day she attends school. I have seen her on several occasions with a lap full of children reading them "Amelia Bedelia" or a torn up "Beginners Bible". In the evenings before bed, she leads ALL of the girls in the most beautiful and precious song time. While GVCM employs nannies to care for the children, O'Chelley works equally as hard (if not harder) at the daunting task of caring for all 57 children. Although she is an orphan herself and has never been given the gift of a nurturing mothering role model, at the tender age of 9, she is the "momma" to more children than you could imagine. Like I said, she is pretty much amazing!

Driving back from Kansas City,my friend Belinda and I were talking about our some of the kids who stole our hearts in Haiti... and she has this brilliant idea of sending our little O'Chelley to nursing school one day.

A few days ago, I blogged about my first Haitian wedding and the heart break I felt watching the bride require assistance signing her marriage license because she was unable to read and write. And honestly I felt numb and overwhelmed... some issues in life are too big for one person to tackle. I can not teach millions of illiterate women in Haiti to read! But I can profoundly impact one girl's life who can profoundly impact another girl's life and so on and so on.

Knowing what I know about developing nations and having seen the devastation of extreme poverty with my own eyes, it easy to become overwhelmed at the magnitude of injustices. But there is so much hope for nations like Haiti because of girls like O' Chelley!!

Who is you girl? Who will you invest in? Don't have one.... it's no big deal, JUST HUMANITY!