Sunday, September 26, 2010

Melissa Hope: warrior child

Photo credits to Michelle Roberts and Anne Peters!

Melissa Hope has the story of a warrior. I am so privileged to watch her grow day to day. If you follow my tweets, or are my friend on Facebook, then you probably know a little bit about her. I want to take a blog to tell all of you her story and how awesome she is.

This is a recent picture of Mel-loo-loo

Two weeks ago, Dr. Jenny Chapman and nurse Anne Peters came to Haiti to serve. While they were here, we visited the orphanage, held a mobile medical clinic and they served at the clinic in Pernier that we support. On Thursday (I believe), Jenny and Anne were serving at the clinic when we got a phone call. A small child had been abandoned at the clinic! This child was believed to be 6 months and was suffering from being malnourished. She also has down syndrome. Then, to add another whammy, she also has a heart defect!

She looks so cute with her hair smoothed down!

I was in utter disgust when I found out that someone had just abandoned his or her child. Even though I am not a parent, I still cannot imagine just leaving my child somewhere. We went to the clinic to pick up Jenny and Anne and they brought along this little baby. At this point, we were still not sure of her name so we just called her “baby.” The moment I saw this child, my breath was taken away. This little baby was 6 months but looked like a newborn! We took her back to the house, and Jenny bonded with her. We decided to let Jenny pick the name for the baby since she had formed such a strong bond with her. We thought this baby might be one that we had seen before, and Greg confirmed that. Her name was Melissa, and her mom had brought her to the clinic several times. The next morning, Jenny and Anne were leaving and they woke up to a feverish baby.

This is three days after she was abandon!

My disgust for this mother quickly drizzled away when Jenny was telling me that the baby was well taken care of. She had no rashes, no flat spots from laying down too much, but she was just malnourished. I was so quick to judge that mother before I even knew her situation.

Three days with her and I already started to bond with her!

Now, I don’t really even like babies that much, but this one was breaking my heart. There was no way I could send her out to the orphanage with her being as week as she was. So somehow, out of my mouth, I uttered the words “I’ll take care of her until she is better.” WHAT?! Did I JUST say that? I blew my own mind, not to mention everyone else saying, did she just say that?!

My first meeting with Melissa!

So Jenny and Anne left me with a lot of instructions and good hug and they went back to America. So now what? I have this teeny tiny baby and I don’t have any younger siblings, nor have I ever been around babies.

So that starts my journey. I now wake up every morning to a beautiful baby girl who I have grown to love.

She is SUCH a good baby. She hardly ever cries, she sleeps through the whole night, and she smiles 90% of the time when she is awake. I have truly created a bond with her that is unbreakable. I know that she is God’s child and He has His hand in all of this.

So where do we go from here? I feed her every 4 hours, and boy has she plumped up! Her face is totally filled out and her limbs are beginning to get thicker. She is very high functioning! She will grab my hair and smile and move her limbs with purpose. She hates being covered up and often when I put a blanket on her, she will throw it off to the side.

Little bitty malnourished feet!

Her heart is the main issue right now. We are not sure what type of heart defect it is, but we do know that it needs to be taken care of. There is a doctor coming down at the end of September and he has agreed that he will do up to 100 children’s heart surgeries free of charge. We are praying that Melissa receives one of these treatments. If he comes down in September and says that she needs to have the surgery extremely soon, then we will have to find a way to get her into the states to have the surgery. If it is not an urgent problem, then we will wait until the doctor schedules the surgery to have it fixed.

She has so many people praying over her, and I hope that you will commit to praying for her too. She has a long way to go, but I know that God will take care of it. He has placed her in my life for a reason, and I can already tell that she is going to be marked in my heart forever.

She is getting so strong! When we first got her, she could not do anything. She could move her limbs, but could not push herself up or really control her head at all. I am so pleased to let you know that she can roll completely on to her tummy, she can push up once she is on her tummy, and she has really great control of her head. She will be lying on my stomach and she will look up at me and smile. It is the most precious thing I have ever seen. So she really is doing better. I’m excited to watch her continue to grow, and I will do my best to add pictures every chance I get.

This is my absolute favorite picture of her EVER!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pretty Please With Cherries On Top!

Hi friends! So as you guys know, I have been in Haiti for over a month now!

It has been a great experience and I am having a wonderful time. Ministry is tough, and part of being in the ministry is funding the time spent on the mission field. As you also know, I now have a job, so that is definitely going to help in my time here.

However, I still need funds to cover some costs from my time that I have already been here.

I could REALLY you use you guys help! The ministry here is good, and God is doing great things!

God has provided all of my August fees, but I am still in need of some for September since I didn't start my job until the middle of September.

Any amount you can give would be so appreciated! Thank you so much to those who have already given! I just ask that you pray and allow God to use you in my ministry! Every ounce of the funds goes straight to the ministry and funding the essentials of me living here like food, transportation, and rent.

If you would like to donate, please send a check to Kathy Birkhead (my mom) and she will know what to do with it! You can also make the check out to her because she will be sending the money to me by way of other missionaries. (e-mail me for information

Thank you so much for reading this and I pray that God would work in your life through my ministry!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Can we call you Miss Tina?

Yes, my students asked me if they could call me Miss Tina. I quietly chuckled to myself and told them no, you have to call me Ms. Birkhead. And that is weird.

I love to teach. I never thought I would say that. I despised my college classes so much that I never thought I would step into a school building again. But here I am, teaching in a Christian school. The Lord likes to laugh at me and point my life in the direction I never thought it would go.

Right now, I have two high school English classes, and I always help with the elementary.

In the elementary, most of the kids speak English as their second language, so it can be hard to pick up on what the teacher is trying to tell them. This is where I come in. I will sit with them and read with them, and really just work on their English until they feel comfortable and their teacher’s feel comfortable with their progress. I haven’t started doing this yet, but we are working on my schedule currently.

I start teaching my English classes today. My first class is the juniors and boy are they crazy! I taught their class on Friday because their regular teacher was not able to be there. I was caught really off guard and had prepared nothing, so I just took a stab at it, and it went well. We played a round of boggle, and then they had to write a story with the words they came up with. They really seemed to enjoy it, and I definitely enjoyed reading the stories! I did notice that their writing is not the best, so this week we are spending time on how to write a successful essay.

My last class is the sophomores. I have sat in on their class several times, but today is my first day of actually teaching them. We are starting the short story, King Arthur. I think they will enjoy it. I have definitely enjoyed researching it and coming up with ideas for discussion. I just really hope I am effective in teaching the subject and I hope they enjoy it too.

If you have ANY advice on teaching English, I would absolutely love it. I’m kind of thrown into this big ocean and I’m not really sure what I’m doing. I know that God has called me to this, but I could definitely use some advice!


Happy Birthday DAD!!!

I want to dedicate this blog to my dad because today is his BIRTHDAY!!!

My dad is awesome. He is one of the coolest people I have ever met. He has always been there for me and has supported me when others thought I was crazy. He protects me, loves me, and teaches me how to be a better daughter and woman.

He is the life of the party and has allowed me to see some of the coolest places and things that I could imagine. He has given me the best life, and I thank God every day for him.

So if you read this, and you are friends with him on facebook, then go over there and give him a shout and tell him how cool he is!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My first day as a teacher! Well, kinda :)

I started my job at Quisqueya Christian School today. What an awesome opportunity the Lord has provided me! I was already semi-familiar with most of the high school teachers because I had met them at the open house for Dustin and Ashton’s classes. All the teachers are so friendly and really welcomed me in today and made me feel like a part of the team!

My day started out with Mr. Dakoter. He is the elementary school principal. He took me on a quick tour of all of the facilities and introduced me to a bunch of different teachers that were not busy at that time. I also sat in on one of the classes that I will be teaching. Mr. Hersey, the director of the school currently teaches 10th and 11th grade English, and those are the two classes that I will be teaching for him. In 11th grade English, the students are just finishing up reading Huckleberry Finn. If you know me at all, you know how much I love reading the classic books, so when I found out this was what they were reading, I was very excited! The class is very energetic and has a number of different interests. I’m excited to get to know them better and really start digging into the material. I will be just an observer for this week and then slowly ease my way into teaching.

I ate lunch with a bunch of the teachers. They were all so kind, and they all knew that I was going to be teaching there because of an e-mail that was sent out to the staff. The other high school English teacher was super inviting and really took me under her wing and let me know that she would help in any way shape or form. It’s really great to know that the teachers are so close here. It is a small family, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

After lunch, I read for about an hour because I had a break, then went and say in on the other English teacher’s class, just to get a feel for how she teaches. Her class is going through Antigone, which I have not read, but I really learned a lot from her teaching style.

And that was my first day of school! Pretty low-key, but also very fun. My awkwardness definitely came out today, but I quickly put it away and became a normal human again, haha!

But I got a double-dose of teaching today!

Every Tuesday, the Roberts teach an English as a second language class at the First Baptist Church of Penier. I had taught it once before, but really found the curriculum they had to be mundane and not helpful. So today, I decided to make up my own curriculum, with the help of an ESL book that was given to us. I had about 10 students in my intermediate class and we went over the verb “to be” and how to use am, is and are. It was a great class, and I really enjoyed it this week because I knew what I was teaching and how to teach them effectively. The students really enjoyed it as well. They were asking me to bring worksheets for them every week so they could learn better.

I know that God is doing BIG things in Haiti. One of my projects while on staff at Quisqueya is to start a mentoring program for the girls of the school. Mentoring is so close to my heart. Many of you know that I mentor girls back home in Nashville, so the opportunity to continue that here is such a blessing. I really want the students to feel God’s love and really understand what it means to live a Christ-centered life. I know that the Lord is in this school and He will guide me through this awesome time!

Well, that is all for now. I have another full day of learning and growing tomorrow! Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers! God is working!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!

I’m trying to be better about blogging more often. I was doing good for a while, but I know I have slacker tendencies, but I’m going to try to stay on top of things. I’m just going to leave off where my last blog ended!

So, I have been looking for different places to serve while I’m here. I have been to the orphanage at Thomazeu, I have helped in mobile clinics, and done other various things. As much as I have loved doing both of those things, I knew that God had something bigger for me. The kids started school at Quisqueya Christian School. The director of the school told Greg and Michelle (the missionary couple I live with) that there might be an opening for a teacher’s aide position. I scheduled an informal interview with the school director and prayed that God would do what he wanted with this opportunity.

So off to the interview I went. I was more nervous than I had been in a long time. I didn’t know what to expect or what God was going to do. I just prayed that whatever the outcome, that God would be the center of the decision. When I went in I was as nervous as nervous can be! Mr. Hersey, the director of the school started out with the regular questions… what is your degree in, what do you feel competent to teach in, what are your hobbies, explain your spiritual walk, etc. I breezed through those questions and Mr. Hersey told me that there is a lot of need at QCS and if I would commit to staying until May, then I could teach a speech class and a Bible class. My mouth dropped open at the thought of staying until May. I knew that I would have to pray hard core about this and talk to my family before I could make any decisions.

So I prayed. A lot. I talked to the missionaries about it then talked with my parents, and truly feel like God is totally opening doors for me to stay here until May. So I’m staying til May! I’m going to start teaching sometime soon.

Surprisingly, my parents were totally okay with it. I mean, they were sad that I wasn’t coming home to stay, but also excited for me.

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but decided not to pursue it. This will be a great indicator or whether or not I want to make a career out of teaching, and possibly get my Masters Degree in education. So yeah, I’m super pumped!

God is doing such great things in Haiti. Last Saturday we did a mobile clinic with World Orphans. I have blogged about them before. When Chelsea and Hannah were here, we did a mobile clinic with World Orphans (Chelsea gave me a tetanus shot). We went back to the same location to finish looking over all the kids with Dr. Jenny Chapman. We saw about 40 people all together, which was incredible. Most of the kids had either worms or a cold. Dr. Jenny was excellent with all the kids. Her passion totally showers through all of her work.

I’m going back to Quisqueya School today to talk to Mr. Hersey more about teaching there. I’ll try to blog some more tomorrow between taking care of a six month old and preparing for English class tomorrow. Sorry for such the delay, but I will blog again VERY soon!

Thank you for your prayers and support. They are truly amazing, and God is at work in this place.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A tale of a lazy girl..

I know it has been a while since I last blogged, and I really wish that I could give you an awesome reason that would blow your mind, but I don’t have anything. Not even a good bluff! Truth is, I’ve been doing a lot of N-O-T-H-I-N-G!

But, I promised I would blog about the orphanage, so that is what I’m going to start out with. We went out to Thomazeau to Children of Hope Orphanage and Hospice. This was my third trip there since I’ve been here, and probably my favorite one that I’ve taken out there. As I blogged about HERE, last time I was there I fell in love with a little boy named Israel. If you remember, Israel is the first boy that I played volleyball with last time I went to the orphanage. As soon as we got there, I went and found him to see how he was doing. We had been told that a lot of the kids were running fever with a cough, so I wanted to make sure that he was feeling all right. I finally found him after 10 minutes of actively searching for him, and he was not sick at all! I was so thankful that he was feeling good and ready to play! He went and grabbed a soccer ball and we played soccer for at least an hour! During a break we were taking, Julie came and found me. Julie is a girl that I met in October, and instantly fell in love with. I have been looking for her every time we went to the orphanage and finally found her this time. She wanted to hold my hand and touch and hug and sit together all day. It was so hard trying to divide my attention between two kids who I absolutely loved, but we all sat together and took LOTS of pictures.

As much as I love the orphanage, but it is so hard for me to come and go. The looks on the faces of these kids when we leave absolutely break my heart. I told someone the other day that if I had a job, a house, and a husband, I would adopt Israel and Julie in an instant. I can only pray that someone loves these kids as much as I do and want to take them home. So if you need a couple of extra kids in your household, I definitely know these two deserve an amazing home!

However, I am REALLY happy that I get to go back as many times as I want between now and December to love on not only Israel and Julie, but the rest of the kids at the orphanage as well.

After we kicked the soccer ball for a while, the kids gathered around me and brought a book that had English words in it. We sat for about an hour and read the book. The kids were learning English and I was learning Creole. We went through body parts, colors, numbers, and other random words of objects we saw around the orphanage. I finally felt like I was doing something productive that would pay off in the long run. It was all around an awesome day, but leaving again was so so hard. My heart breaks each time we leave because I know that at the end of the day, I have two amazing parents and a ton of friends that I get to go home to. These kids don’t have that luxury, so I want them to feel like they are loved each and every time I see them. It’s heartbreaking, but I wish that everyone could experience the feeling that I feel when I leave this kids. It is gut wrenching, but it is also a beautiful thing to know that I’ve poured out love to them whenever they don’t have that luxury or receiving that same love from a parental figure.

So that was my trip to the orphanage. It was a wonderful wonderful trip and I can’t wait to go back and see Israel and Julie again.

So back to my laziness. I haven’t been TOTALLY lazy. I have worked out every day except Saturdays and Sundays! Michelle and I are trying to get toned and work off all the calories we eat! We usually get up and work out then get ready and go pick up the kids. I try to help them with their homework as much as I can, then get ready for dinner. We are finally in the groove of school. The reason for my laziness was basically trying to figure out where I could serve keeping with the schedules of the kids. And I will get to more of how I will be serving a little later in this post! (What? I’ve got to keep you interested)

One interesting thing that has happened to me since the last time I blogged is a little Haitian bug. This little bug decided to crawl up in my belly and make me feel terrible for two days. I must admit, I did not work out on these today, but only because my body physically would not let me. I couldn’t keep any food down and just felt absolutely horrible the entire time. I still have no clue exactly what happened, but it was terrible for those two days. I am fully recovered, and back in a good work out schedule once again.

So right now, the missionaries I live with are fundraising for a generator. Being the PR major I am, I have been trying to help them come up with ways to raise $6,000 to purchase a generator big enough to run the house and the guesthouse. I had not really seen the absolute NEED for one until a few days ago. We have three types of power here in Haiti: EDH, which is public power, the generator, and the inverter, which runs of batteries that charge when the generator or public power is on. EDH hardly ever comes on. We never know when we will have power or not. The inverter can only run for so long on battery power before the batteries die and have to be recharged. The generator often cuts itself off because it is having to work so hard to power all of the things that need to be powered, I.E. fans, fridge, electronics, things of that sort. So the other night, the kids were tucked in to bed ready to go to sleep when all of the sudden the power went out completely. EDH was not on, the inverter had no battery power, and the generator had stopped working completely. Greg quickly ran to the generator and had our guard, Zeke, help him try to fix it. An hour went by, and let me tell you, an hour with NO fans is misery. It was stinking hot, and all the kids were awake. After the hour, they finally got the generator to turn on, but I quickly realized that the generator was not big enough to run two houses! So here is my fundraising plea… we NEED a generator. If you would be so kind as to help us raise the money, I would love you forever. Just E-mail me, and I will definitely let you know what you can do to help! (My e-mail is

In other news, a huge cockroach ran across my floor the other day. A cockroach the size of TEXAS! Luckily, Dustin, the 15 year-old missionary’s son came to my rescue and killed the cockroach. I am forever grateful!

But, now I am tired, so I am going to bed to rest my eyes for a bit before a new week starts. I’ll try to blog more tomorrow because I have some wonderful news that I want to share with all of you!

Grace and peace.