Conversation carried by a translator, of course:)...
Me (as we're leaving Darivaje for the last time this trip): "Pastor, my entire team has felt so welcomed at Darivaje. Thank you for letting us visit, beginning this partnership with us, and allowing us to start a relationship with your ministry and these children..."
The Pastor: "I am so, so very happy that you and your team have come. Darivaje is now your home, and I have told the children that they are no longer orphans. They have a momma and a daddy with me and my wife and this staff, and they have a family with you and your people. Whenever you are in Haiti, Darivaje's doors are open wide to you..."
"But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. Whoever is wise, let him heed these things, and consider the great love of the Lord." -Isaiah 107:41-43
If you are reading this...if you have had any input in prayer, in conversation, in questions...if you have given by your presence, by your wallet, by the sharing of the stories...if you have been to Haiti...if your heart has been tuned to the people of this country by the lives of others, by the quake 6 months ago, by a child you sponsor... if your world has been made smaller and your family bigger...this next part is for you. I'd like to tell you about some of the little brothers and sisters that live behind the doors that are "open wide to you" in Haiti at both Bighouse and Darivaje, where our partnership has increased as abundantly as the love and resources that accompany it. It is amazing to think that there is never a question or hesitation as to whether the Spirit is going to provide a limitless supply of love in our souls, energy in our days, and money and ideas in our banks and minds for the sake of the poor. For the sake of these...
Judalain is 16 and is the oldest, maybe the sweetest, child at Bighouse orphanage. His english skills are growing "ampil, ampil!" and he starts school again down the road in September. Judalain, in all of his thoughtfulness, told Dr. Kress last week that when teams come, he sits back and lets all the babies get the attention, because he wants them to be held and loved and doesn't want to get in the way. He has had a hernia now for as long as he can remember, and recently it has become unbearably large, to where many days he is unable to eat. With the extra money that was raised at the "Restore" event that we had before we left, Carrie, Michael, and Nic were able to take Judalain for an examination, then to have lab work done, and then secured his surgery for August 18th. So many treatable sufferings continue for such unnecessarily long amounts of time because of lack of resources. And the lack of resources continue for such unnecessarily long amounts of time because we don't know those in need, we don't know where or how to use our money. I am convinced that people are generally good and want to fight against poverty...they just don't know the names and faces of those who need to be fought for. That is what we want to do. Introduce you. Introduce ourselves. And then pray that it is impossible for things to stay the same. Because hernia surgery's in Haiti aren't that expensive:)
John Wesley is a small-framed boy with a snaggle toothed smile out at Darivaje Orphanage. When we first heard his name, we all died out laughing, and someone said, "Our conference is going to loooove you!" He wears flooding, khaki slacks every day to compliment his short sleeved button down shirt...looking like a tiny pastor walking around the village. His smile is both curious and shy. He doesn't know what to think of us yet, but I'm pretty sure we're winning him over. Next trip for sure.
Obnese, Jean Renald, and Chryslain look like they'd be nothing but trouble at Bighouse, but they are every bit of the leaders we need to execute any sort of structured day on site. They herd the little ones, pick them up when they fall, help re-strap crocs and balance plates of food. They know where the trash goes, where the scissors live, how to get everyone to be quiet and listen or to leave the paint brushes alone. They are the "bosses," the leaders. And I pray so hard for their lives. I see their potential. I want such wonderful things for them. How do I say, "I'm so proud of you" in Creole? Because that is all I'm thinking while I'm there. And that is all I want them to hear every day from here on out. I pray someone is telling them. And that it will make the difference.
Ron is a community child at Darivaje. He doesn't live at the orphanage, but his brother does. I'm unsure of his family situation, but I know his living arrangements are clearly different than his sibling's, evident by the large spots of infected scalp mange that we found on his head this afternoon. This is one of the hardest things for me to look at and deal with. I am not thrown off by a lot, but it takes everything in me to stick around for moments like this. But Justin Kirkes, medkit in hand, stepped up and took charge...throwing on rubber gloves, letting the child know it was about to burn, then quickly going through at least 12 alcohol swabs scrubbing the lime green pain away from the bumps that are causing it. The child took it without flinching. These kids are a different breed here. Their determination to press on, their tolerance for hurt, speaks largely of the human will to survive. That we could help each other do it. That we could carry the load. Surely there are fewer statements more powerful than, "I know how you feel" and "Let me help you." There is a doctor's appointment for that child already paid for on Friday to get it taken care of. But I just keep thinking about what would/could have happened to that child if there weren't people there with simple medicine to bring a halt to the spreading. And how many more of the Ron's are there in our world?
Stephanie is one of the older girls at Bighouse. She is too old to be held, but still young enough to probably wish to be held...making for a very awkward stage, indeed. She is quiet, but will sneak attack your hand without you even knowing it. Before you even realize what's happened, Stephanie has been interdigitating with you for five minutes, just content to be sitting against the concrete wall under the mango tree. She is the definition of enjoying the presence of company. She is the definition of the simplicity of being present. She is easy to overlook and quiet, but completely unforgettable. And she never, ever fails to remember anyone's name.
Peter is the most intense person I think I have ever met. He is the one we call "the walking bo-bo" as he is always hurt. Or at least, is always wanting you to think he is hurt. Peter cries intensely. Peter laughs intensely. Peter walks like he owns the place, and your place for that matter. He grabs our paint brushes and says, "M'travay!" (I work!) and struts off like, "don't doubt I won't finish this chapel by myself." He waits until everyone is off of the soccer field and screams, "M'jwe!" (I play!) as he barrels onto the concrete and kicks the ball square into his own face. His nose is always curled up to his forehead and his eyes are always crinkled and you are going to know that you have come to Peter's house before you leave the place. Peter is the character that you write stories around...every story needs a Peter. He makes you laugh, confuses you, and gives you something to talk about later. He lives life in a way that makes a mark, that leaves an impression. In some odd way...in a way that not necessarily means I want to scream my way on to a soccer field or hurt myself every five minutes....I kind of want to live like Peter. All there. Crazy kid.
Laurenza has grown from a baby to a toddler at Bighouse, seemingly, in just a year. Maybe it's the food she's getting. Maybe it's the personality she's getting. But I held her long enough for a picture today before she jumped down and ran off to see what all the other kids were looking at (which just happened to be a game of "how many people can we pile on Justin Ansley's back"...the answer being, Justin Kirkes and 4 orphans). But watching her run off today like a little girl and not a baby made me think about the bitter-sweet joy that is laced around the entirety of this relationship we have with these kids in Haiti. We are getting to be a part of their growing lives...and maybe one day we can replay these stories with them...when they're older...when we've watched the years, the food, the medicine, the trips, the country, the education, the church shape them. Maybe we can sit down with them, with a stack of pictures, and say, "Let me tell you about how cute/intense/sweet/funny you were when you were five..." Just like any other big brother or sister, mother or father would....just like family.
So thank you for being a part of this ever increasing family. We are grateful to God for the inspiration, the invitation, the creativity, the resources, the web of believers who stand in the depths of compassion for the loathing of injustice in the foolish and beautiful belief of a better world. Thank you for making your world smaller, this family and the kingdom bigger, and continuing to pray, re-imagine, and dive in with how you connect.
The world is changing. At least here. In small ways. Which are surely the big ways.
Tomorrow we have our last morning at Bighouse for our big summer trip, complete with the long-awaited bandana-hand-out and a sharing of the cookies/bubbles/chalk kind of day:) Then we head to Port Salut beach with the August team to wrap up, then back this way to pack for home.
For the sake of a larger family,
Thank you...Mesi, Mesi