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  • Writer's pictureThe HUGG Collective

Last November, we were forced to all but shut down our operations on the U.S side of our ministry. We held a beautiful Fall Fundraiser where many of you were moved by the HUGG Collective story and generously gave. Unfortunately, we fell short of our goal and had to make some hard decisions.

We began praying like never before for God to provide for the young men we empower and equip in Haiti. We entrusted this work to our few, but strong, Haitian leaders and shared with them that as long as the donations came in, we would keep walking along this work to break the cycle of orphanhood in Haitian communities. We would continue to send our young men to college and we would continue to provide mentorship and basic needs and help transition them into adulthood.

We let go, and Let God.

I am thankful to report that He has been faithful. Every month we receive just enough to cover our expenses and when we fall short, we reach out to churches and so far I am happy to report that our work is strong in Haiti.

Under the amazing leadership of Josue Henry, there are 15 orphaned men who have a place to call home. They are part of a home where they all do their part. Some are finishing up high school, others are in trade school and thanks to Restoration Church, we were able to send some to college and technical school for the second year.

What You’re Not Hearing about Haiti

Mission of Hope states it most succinctly and urgently:

“The map below shows the staggering reality of what Haiti is facing right now. 6.6 million people in Haiti are currently experiencing insufficient food consumption. 6.6 million people are extremely hungry, and many are on the verge of starvation. We must not look away.”

Our director Josue Henry, reports that their neighbors, their church brothers and sisters are on the verge of going hungry. The gangs have all but taken over Port-au-Prince and are making their way to the outskirts where they are running people out of their homes.

I copied and pasted this latest report from a missionary in Haiti:

From Facebook:

“Situation report from Lafito Community from a resident and a close Haitian friends who have fled after the IZO Gang has entered Lafio beach by of late afternoon 2 different sources report 90 percent of the residents are leaving their homes, possessions, and running to safety ....but many have been shot, reportedly over 200 bandits with machine guns are roaming the streets, one Orphanage was able to evacuate almost 20:children to a safe location late Saturday night only to have the gangsters come in to loot and steal and destroy property at the Orphanage....the fate of another Orphanage with close to 70 children are still in question.....many have gone to Titanyen and or towards Cabaret....the 50/70/90 gangs I’m told are active and perhaps coming towards, Titanyen....many people are coming towards Titanyen/Cabaret from RT. 9 on foot.....Titanyen Community has no police as their police outpost was set on food, water, and no fuel has cause serious of the churches has been converted to house those displaced but need much more space!

privately I can confirm my sources...Fear is so real and prevalent.....uncertainty about the inability to get food, clean water, and medical care are very homes to return to, only the clothes on their back.....this is going to a Humanitarian Crisis Quickly if not addressed!”

The country is being overrun by the very young men we seek to help; the fatherless boys left to fend for themselves on the streets, hungry for food and family.

Because the gangs have taken control of the ports, they have control of the gas. One of Haiti’s largest potable water distributor was forced to cease their operations because of no gas. Hospitals have shut down as have most commerce in the cities. The latest problem? A cholera outbreak.

I’ve been silent on this these last few weeks, hoping that things would reach some sort of resolution. I’ve come to you so many times through the years that it hurts to have to bring this to your attention but we need your help.

Our leaders have access to food and clean water but it comes at a high price. We want to help them help their neighbors, loved ones and local church. I know this is NOT a long-term fix, but this is the work of Jesus–to feed the hungry and be there in their time of need.

Although we already sent this month’s budgeted allowance, we are calling you to help us feed our neighbors and give them access to clean water. Josue has a plan to help distribute food and if we do our small part, I am praying and believing that our efforts will be miraculously multiplied.

Thank you!

Natul Middlebrook

Further Reading:

Haitians Surrounded by Turf Wars

Haiti Wants US and Canada to Lead Anti-Gang Strike

I had an Epiphany yesterday. No, it didn’t involve angels nor a bright light but it was an “illuminated discovery” right in the middle of a prayer.

Before I share this epiphany, I first want to tell you a story about my dad, Kenneth Ramirez.

He was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1953. He was the middle boy between two sisters and each one of the siblings had a different father. None of them knew who their father was. Kind of scandalous for 1950s Venezuela. Their mom, my grandma Gladys, was quite treacherous and beguiling. Think of a pint-sized, Latin version of Joan Crawford as depicted in Mommy Dearest and you’re close to getting an accurate idea of who she was. I grew up hearing just how awful she was to her children–merciless beatings, manipulation and an overall lack of a mother’s love. When my dad was 13, he went on a beach getaway with a friend’s family and when he returned, the house was empty. Vacant. His mom had moved and told the girls not to tell their brother where they were now living.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, my dad took to the streets very well. He was an autodidact and taught himself how to sew and was soon working as a tailor. He also made leather goods and even learned to play the flute and earn money on street corners. In other words, this resilient hippy-tailor learned to survive.

He met my mom in the 70s, had my brother and I and moved us to the United States when I was a newborn. As we all know, hurt people, hurt people. And that is what my dad did to us. His tumultuous past coupled with untreated mental illness prevented our family from ever knowing the feeling of “home.” We were made to work constantly and were physically and mentally abused.

By the grace of God, I encountered Jesus when I was 12 years old. My faith gave me the hope I needed to make good choices and to dream of a life different than the hell I was living. I prayed constantly for our family to be restored. My brother, on the other hand, inherited the legacy of brokenness and began making decisions that would lead to a hard, tumultuous life.

Fast-forward many years and my amazing husband and I began working with vulnerable children. We wanted to help children in the same way that I had wished someone had helped me. Doesn’t take a genius to put that together, but what did leave me scratching my head was why, in 2014, God called me to work with street boys who were aging out of orphan care in Haiti.

As we engaged head-first into the work, I soon discovered that young men are an underserved demographic when it comes to orphan prevention work. We realized that by educating and

equipping and loving these young orphaned men–we were helping them stop the cycle of orphanhood and violence in their spheres of influence. We were preventing future women and children from having to experience the sting of violence and abandonment.

And that’s where my Epiphany comes in.

Yesterday, I was praying for an upcoming women’s conference alongside a group of women and God laid on my heart to start praying for women who had a “bad relationship” with their fathers. Women who had been abandoned, abused or neglected by their fathers. Women who inherited a skewed idea of who their Abba Father is because the men tasked with the job of providing and protecting them failed them.

And that is where I had my Epiphany:

God led me to work with young orphaned men because I wanted to give them what No ONE ever gave my father.

No one stepped into the margins of his life to help him. No one preached the gospel to him. No one gave him trauma-informed care. The lack of intervention led him to stumble into a family and repeat what had been done to him.

What if someone had intervened? He would have had a different legacy to leave behind and perhaps my brother would have a different story to tell.

Young orphaned men deserve our love and attention and just as importantly; their future wives and children deserve our love and attention just like my mom, my brother and I deserved a restored dad so many years ago.

Our work with BCB is more than just healing orphaned men. It is about redeeming and restoring families with a legacy of violence, abuse and poverty.

These families are down the street from us.

They are in the apartment buildings of the boys that E:2:10 Ministries takes to Colorado.

They are caught in our child welfare system.

They are less than 1000 miles off the Florida coast in a little island nation called Haiti.

When we help these young men, we help future families become strong. And strong families make strong communities. THAT is why we come together as Better Community Builders.

I ask you to do three things:

  1. Make BCB a monthly priority. Block out the first Thursday of every month in your schedule to reduce conflict schedules.

  2. Invite 3 friends to visit BCB at next month’s event. We will have a GRAND PRIZE to any member who brings the most invited guests next month.

  3. Join our leadership team. Help us blow up the BCB Mission so we can make a bigger impact both locally and in Haiti. Email to learn more.

  • Writer's pictureThe HUGG Collective

Several years ago, John Piper wrote a short-book called Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Written on the eve of pending cancer surgery, he challenged readers affected by cancer to find hope in the painful journey; to not waste this part of their story for it was still a vital part of God’s plan.

My mom, who lived with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, exemplified a life radically changed by this disease. She squeezed joy and contentment out of everyday moments. Whether it was the sun peeking through the curtains, an icy cold Margarita, a good Salsa dance, giggling grandchildren; she soaked it all in with a smile. Although her body was dying, a heavenly healing entered her spirit that allowed to her to give and receive love in a way that she had never experienced before.

My mom chose to use her traumatic experience with cancer as a way to draw nearer to others and to God. Because she wasn’t working the last few years of her life, she made herself available to people. She used her time to counsel many friends and family and help their own healing process. In the same way, we all have our own sad, painful stories. Many of us have walked through trauma and even though we didn’t understand it at the time--for many of us, God eventually weaved our trauma and healing experience into the restoration of other people’s lives. God is good like that.

My Trauma

I grew up under the tyranny of an abusive father. He ruled over my mom, brother and me with destruction, manipulation and chaos and it wasn’t until age 20 that I was fully able to extricate myself from his abuse. I soon found myself serving inner-city teen girls through a weekly bible study. Although I was still very raw from years of trauma, my experience at this inner-city church was an inkling of restoration to come. As I walked alongside these tough 7th grade girls with their rough exterior and financial problems, something began to change inside me; my helping them brought healing to me.

In a mysterious and providential way, God brings healing to people who don’t waste their trauma. It takes one broken yet obedient person to bring healing to others.

Last Thursday, I spoke to Co-Founder of Radiate Coalition, Valina Perry and the thought I was left with after talking to her was that she did not waste her own personal trauma and in fact has shared her walk with Honduran girls in hard places. Sometimes broken people just need to know that you were THERE just like they are and your success gives them the hope they need to know that their healing is possible.

Hello Honduras!

Imagine getting married at 23 years old and two months later expanding your family by 25 people in another country?

This is the story of Michael and Valina Perry when they answered God’s call to go serve young women rescued from trafficking, exploitation or abuse. They had visited a month prior to the move and in Valina’s words, “We knew that we had to be there.”

Having that affirmation kept them going through budget cuts, leadership shifts and third-world obstacles that would have sent many young couples back home to the States.

Yet it was evident right away that what these young women needed was consistency and leaving them was not an option. Even though they didn’t have prior training, Valina learned that there was much to bring to the table by just being available and that is exactly what she did through the ministry of being present.

Consistency. Care. Counsel.

Valina discovered her own inner healing from repeated sexual abuse in her past. Through her identity in Christ, she was able to be restored and, in turn, bring restoration to past relationships. It wasn’t a story she shared readily until she realized the potential of her story to bring freedom to women with similar pasts.

“Trauma-care goes hand in hand with walking each young woman through the Bible. They learn that they can overcome through His Truth, Faithfulness and the Healing He offers.”

For the leaders of Radiate Coalition, trauma-care is synonomous with discipleship and mentoring.

What Makes Radiate Coalition Unique?

While there is a world-wide movement of rescuing people from human trafficking and sexual exploitation--Valina and Michael focus on the after-care of these girls through licensed counselors, devoted house parents and discipleship. “Whole-person aftercare” is their focus and they’ve pioneered restorative practices that they wish to see implemented among other after-care practitioners.

Life in the States

As a mom with young children, Valina is in a position of leading by example and advocating for Christ-centered counseling and whole-person care. Although they now live in Conroe, her family considers Honduras a second-home and she and her husband continue to raise awareness for Radiate Coaltion so that the girls they serve can continue to come out of the darkness and step into their destiny.

I’m thankful for Valina’s transparency that is rooted in her idenity in Christ. Our traumatic stories are not easy to share but somewhere along the road, we calculate the risks of our vulnerability with the potential reward that it offers someone who needs to hear our story. Speaking our past is a way to NOT WASTE our trauma. Afterall, when you heal, you in turn can become part of someone’s healing story.

Did this story speak to you? Do you have questions or comments? Please email me at or drop a comment below!

Be sure to follow Radiate Coaltion and support their work here!

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