It’s been more than two years since I’ve tasted Haitian fried chicken with plantains cooked over a charcoal burner.
It’s been more than two years since I’ve hugged the necks of the children in the orphanage who are now careening into their teen years.
It’s been more than two years since we have seen those goats on spindly legs grazing in the fields and stood at the edge of the muddy-red river.
It’s been more than two years since I have cupped the faces of my Haitian sisters and shared stories of God’s amazing grace.
This summer I’m going back.
I’m returning to Haiti to speak at the Esther Women’s conference at the end of July. I’m delighted to be taking my family, my daughter’s best friend, and my dear friend Rici Skei, who is also a pastor and dynamic worship leader from Fresno. This will be my third time teaching God’s word for this conference, which draws women of from four churches in the Northern Mountains of Haiti as part of Christian Friendship Ministries.
I can’t wait.
My first trip to Haiti was in the summer of 2001. That trip was led by my first husband Ericlee. In those 10 days, I absolutely fell in love with the Haitian people. I still remember looking out from the little prop plane as we departed the mountain town of Pignon. I gazed over the undulating hills and sapphire sky, and I knew deep inside my heart this was not my last trip to Haiti.
Haiti was home.
As many of you know, that was just the beginning of my relationship with Haiti. After quitting my job as a newspaper reporter for The Fresno Bee, I returned to the Northern mountains of Haiti the following January to teach English to some of the leaders I had met the summer before. Living there full-time was far different from a week-long mission trip but I was hooked.
I honed my language skills, wrote letters home to my friend Ericlee, and learned to embrace the solitude that is implicit when living in a country where so few people speak your native language.
The following summer of 2002 I helped lead another short-term trip to Haiti with Ericlee. As God would have it, Ericlee proposed to me at the top of one of the nation’s most well-known landmarks, the Citadel. This country that he visited every year since he was a child had brought us together. We started planning our wedding. Little did we know that God would call us to invest full-time in serving the Haitian people just a few years later when a devastating earthquake hit. We sunk in roots and cultivated long-term relationships.
My passport is full of stamps from this Caribbean island now. For much of our marriage, we took one or two trips a year – sometimes staying for as long as three months as Ericlee served as the Director and I focused on Communications/Marketing for the non-profit we helped start. My girls have Haiti embedded deep in their hearts. They have grown up with the kids in the orphanage next to our house. They learned to jump rope, braid hair, and suck on chicken bones from their Haitian friends.
Our last trip to Haiti was in spring of 2015 with my Haitian-born mother-in-law who grew up on the mission field. This was a very different kind of trip. After burying my Ericlee that September before, this was an extension of his memorial. We returned to mourn with our friends and family. I discovered on that trip that cancer may have snuffed out Ericlee’s life but it could never steal his legacy of faith. The Haitians honored him and loved on me, encouraged me and prayed over my future.
After leaving Haiti in 2015, I felt very clearly that God was calling me to step away from my work with the non-profit. I was entering a new season, living in Fresno, California, and raising my three daughters as widow. I needed my family and community in Fresno.
I needed time to grieve and heal.
Although I was confident in my decision, I didn’t anticipate the secondary loss I would experience leaving the ministry and my people in Haiti. I sat in the brokenness for months – grieving the loss of purpose, the death of dreams, the separation from community Ericlee and I had cultivated there.
These past two years, God has been stitching back together the wounds of my heart. He’s been growing in me a new sense of purpose. He’s given me permission to rest and dream again. He’s brought beauty from our ashes.
I’m also returning to Haiti because I have a story of restoration that I must tell. I know God is calling me to walk those dusty streets, to drink in the memories and to declare to the women of Northern Haiti that these dry bones have life again. I long to be an encouragement to them as they have been to me.
Now is an important time to return to take my daughters back to the community they so dearly love and to experience the legacy of their daddy anew. My oldest, Meilani, is excited about bringing her friend Tessa Schultz to experience Haiti with us. I also need to introduce my Haitian friends to my new husband, Shawn.
I actually began my friendship with Shawn back in 2001 in Haiti. He was part of that same mission team from our church that was led by Ericlee. Shawn and Ericlee were friends from high school. They were both runners and crossed paths many times through the years. On that trip, Shawn was assigned to be my prayer and coaching partner. We taught the Haitian kids how to jump hurdles and run sprints for the track & field camp.
Of course, I had no idea how God would thread together our lives all these years later and bring him as a kinsman-redeemer to our family. It is our joy to return to Haiti together as a family July 22-30.
Haiti is calling me. She’s calling me home.
There are three ways you can partner with us this summer:
- Join our prayer team. Simply comment below or send us a private message and we will keep you posted on specific prayer needs along the way. Your prayers are vital to us.
- Give a financial donation. This year’s plane tickets cost $1,200 per person so you can do the math and figure out the cost for a team of seven of us traveling to Haiti. It’s not cheap. Your tax-deductible donation is an investment not just in us but also in the people of Haiti. Whatever we raise beyond our travel needs will go to the women’s conference.
- Collect toiletries. Each year the women who attend the Esther women’s conferences look forward to the little “goodie bag” they will receive at the conference. This year, I’m collecting travel-sized toiletries to share with the women. If you’re at a hotel, save what you don’t use. You can also buy the travel sizes at your local drug store, Target, etc.
Follow our journey on Instagram! And please attend our community night to hear more about our trip. Details below!
Truly this place is woven into your heart! If we were to collect toiletries for the women, how should we get those to you?
Dorina Gilmore says
Since you’re not local, you can ship them to my home. I can private message you my address!
Marquita Stamps says
Thank you for sharing your story. A very touching and inspiring one. I wish I could go with you as missionary like trips are my new interest. Iike you and Shawn I want to put on track camps all over the country! I don’t have much to give but would like to put a special bag together and definitely be apart of your prayer team.
Dorina Gilmore says
Thank you for reading and supporting us, friend! It means so much to us to have you on our prayer team!
Doug and Maria Lazo says
We have a little stash of travel toiletries we have been saving for such a time as this. We will definitely be praying and supporting in other ways as well. Loved the article and pics!!
Dorina Gilmore says
Thank you! Always appreciate your encouragement and prayers! And since you’ve been to Haiti, you know more in detail the kind of prayers we need! 😉
Jane F Thompson says
God is so good. And you give expression to that so beautifully. I will be praying. May you and Shawn and the girls continue to bloom and flourish as tory share God’s blessings.
Jane F Thompson says
Spellcheck is less of a blessing. “tory” was “you”…
Kathy Moore says
The unfolding of your heart story of Haiti is a treasure. I also have some toiletries I will get to you. You will be in my prayers.
Dorina Gilmore says
Thank you for reading, sweet friend. Your encouragement and prayers all along this journey means so much to me!
Renee Grate says
This is SisterSmiley writes…by Renee Grate * * Dorina…I loved reading the history of your last decade or so. You filled in the holes to questions I have acquired over the years as I watch you through ministry at The BRIDGE. I did not know that you worked at the Fresno Bee. I, too, worked at the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa for a short Season of my life. I learned many skills while I was there. However, I was fortunate enough to fill in for a pregnant employee out on leave and do secretarial work, also. I honed my unique talents and abilities together and began creating PICTURE ADS for many of the Companies needing good advertising. Even though I did not have my College Degree…I was able to edit excellently, which is always my red pen and yellow highlighter attitude for perfection. Creating the ads to allow for better advertising made the other employees look better. When they were not there, I was able to step in with confidence and give them greater suggestions leading to better sales. Your articles encourage me in many areas to help me focus on God’s Light and not just the 3 decades of what seemed so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I now know that every hardship that I have faced has turned into testimony for many different age groups for the Glory of God. Thank you for posting this awesome page that I happened upon once again. Our stories are never ending. Our Praises to Sweet Jesus will continually honor the Great King of Kings through our actions. I am so happy to be able to walk along side of you through your many Seasons. I love seeing and understanding the Beauty from the Ashes which you have so clearly revealed in my life. Lovingly, Miss Renee
Dorina Gilmore says
Thank you, Miss Renee! I love the way you share God’s glory story in your life too. Your enthusiasm always inspires me!