Our latest trip to Haiti that we returned from a week ago tomorrow was an 11 day journey that was blogged about from on site only twice. Typically, when the events of each day start to wind down at the guesthouse, that's when I'm able to pull out a laptop and recount the storied living that we get to be a part of in Les Cayes. However, after only two days of blogging, life for our team of 16 refused to wind down even a little bit. So a week later, here I am, committing to at least attempting to write out the process of our last 8 days in country. Thank you for your prayers for our attempts to quickly work with the legal and medical systems in Haiti. Thank you for your prayers for Acenita. Thank you for your prayers for our team that got to see a newer, messier, heavier side of missions. Thank you for your prayers for our presence as comforting arms to grieving Bighouse Orphanage after Acenita's funeral. And thank you for your continued prayers as we return to Haiti on Sunday to love on our family there, that is surely still working through their loss. We recognize and love the Lord of Lords for His master story-crafting. We recognize and love the Lord of Lords for not letting us be satisfied with "everything happening for a reason," and for calling us to only being quenched in our thirst for the Kingdom by reminding us that we were called to renew the world; by reminding us that He detests death, fear, sin but still is faithful to work even those to the good of His people; by reminding us that everything is purposed, that we are asked to believe in a culturally relevant, Christ-centered Good News, that when we can do something, we are called to do something. Here's how we've been reminded...
Tuesday afternoon at Bighouse Orphanage, I sat across from Pastor Jean, Frantzou our translator, and Anna Connell (a team member) who was holding the tiny framed, basketball bellied toddler, Acenita. I could hear the organized chaos of VBS being executed by our other 14 team members who were helping lead 75 children in the creating of Moses Beards made out of foam and cotton. An attempt 95% successful only fallen short because of Peter who had glued the cotton straight onto his face. It's always Peter.
I stared back and forth between Acenita falling in and out of sleep in Anna's arms and the pile of cinder blocks drying next to the chapel, thinking about how if those bricks didn't dry properly, their foundation would always be weak. Acenita had surely been sick since birth. But it was clearly getting worse. The Pastor told me how he had exhausted his efforts. How the Port Salut doctor, the Les Cayes Pediatrician, and the Port au Prince specialist had all attempted their tests and diagnoses but no one could get past simply treating the symptoms. Everything was negative, however her spleen was taking up most of her belly which was taking up most of her body. Acenita's stomach was hotter than the rest of her skin and her heart beat was fast though she had done nothing but lay in her metal-framed bed for days. I prodded for as much information that I could. I looked at all the medical records with no understanding of the field. But no one needs text books to know when someone is dying. Surely souls know. And in point two seconds, my mind shifted from, "I hope they get her help" to "Who's going to do that, Britney?"
I whole-heatedly believe that it was the Holy Spirit's deep, deep...do you hear me?...deep...conviction to "Not overlook what you have been entrusted to care for." I knew at that moment that if Acenita passed away and we had not spent ourselves in every way possible in helping her, it would be on my hands. I made a call to our field partners of the orphanage, and told him her situation and asked what the reality of medical visas look like, if we thought that would be necessary depending on her status over the next couple of days. We were given permission to watch her and decide accordingly.
The next day, we went to Bighouse again with the team for another day of VBS and mosquito screen installation. I pushed through the grabbing hands and cheek kisses that were searching for their favorite team member from the day before, and I made my way to Acenita's bunk. I'm not sure I've ever felt so panicked. After feeling her high-fevered stomach and her throat that was vibrating due to the rapid rate of heart beat, I yelled for Sarah, left instructions for the team, and in ten minutes, Anna Connell, a translator, the truck, and a driver were rushing to the hospital.
Acenita hates going to the doctor. She was 5 years and some small number of pounds worth of Diva, and she would let a doctor know what she thought on her energized days. Today was not one of those days. She sat in her little underwear made for babies, heart beat racing, in the young physician's office while he looked over her papers, listened to her chest, and mumbled constantly in a concerned creole conversation that let me know we would have to get her to the states. And sure enough. He committed to writing a letter for our trip to the embassy, but highly encouraged us to do something, as he had nothing for her.
The rest of the day was like a movie, for sure. The rest of the week was like a movie, for sure. We quickly found out that Acenita was without a birth certificate, which we were told wouldn't come in for another month. "I have money, how much for one tomorrow?" I am ashamed for working this type of system. But there was a choice to be made. The next day we had a birth certificate. This was only after we had gotten in to see Junior, the head of Immigration in Les Cayes, whose office we visited after hours at an unmarked building up a back staircase where a florescent light flickered and a broken A.C. blew weak, warm air. "Is this real??"
With our few, day-consuming stops, we had our list of papers that would need to be collected within the next day and a half to get Acenita approved at the Embassy in Port au Prince for an emergency medical visa. The whole time, the baby growing weaker and more confused.
The next morning, Sarah and the team headed out in prayer for us and mission to accomplish projects while waiting to hear from our endeavors. We probably drove all over the south that day. We went first to get a certificate in a town forever away. Which we did. Check. However, once we returned, we realized it was the wrong certificate, so we would have to go back. But first, we would need to get Acenita's most recent papers. We then met the pastor, his wife, and the child at the General Hospital in town, where she waited in the heat while we waited for her letters and papers. After a wait far too long, Acenita was put in the car with us to cool off in the A.C. The shock of which pulled all of her juice and crackers (which she hadn't been able to keep down for weeks) up and all over my clothes. I felt like I was holding a skeleton, and for the first time, I thought about what it would be like if she passed away in travel with us before we were able to get her to Schumpert in Shreveport. Lord, have mercy.
6 hours, many bumpy miles with an enlarged spleen, 1 washing in the well to remove vomit, three doctors sites, and 1 visit to Junior later...it was now time to go see Acenita's parents to get their ID cards that approved her leaving for help. I asked how far they lived away. They said "3-4 miles." One day, I'll learn not to ask. A 45 minute drive on ridiculously awful back roads after questioning, we were told, "Now we get out and walk the other half of the way" because the road had come to an end. Good thing I wore my flipflops and it had just rained.
Anna Connell and I became quickly jealous of the Haitian women who glide across the roots and the river beds with total ease. We passed rice fields. Wobbled by neighbors asking "Kikote Zami Cayes??" in search for her family. Then we got to the stream that my shoes weren't going to survive. So I prayed the parasites away, and grabbed them in my hand, and hopped the rocks to the other side, just in time to snag a cactus and keep trekking.
"Where is their home?"
*neck strained all the way up a mountain* "Where?"
Acenita's mother and father (parents to three orphanage children and three children that live with them) are the poorest people I've ever met in my entire life. She sat shaking on the side of her short, 3-sided, dried banana leaf hut, waiting to hear from us that Acenita had passed away. Relieved to hear we were there to get help. She had to have been younger than me. So primitive. So disconnected. So surreal.
The hike back was just as epic, as we were able to see the mountain tops from where we climbed. We now had all the documents we needed to head to the embassy that weekend, aside from one. So we headed back to our first destination to get the corrected document. We drove for an hour in the back of the pick-up, drying off from being wet in the river, now coated with the white dust from the road...just to find out that they were closed and that we would be given no help until Monday. Our first unbudging roadblock.
That night at the guesthouse was the most intense worship I've ever witnessed as the team poured out on behalf of the sick, on behalf of God's healing power, on behalf of justice, on behalf of guidance and peace, on behalf of leading us in rescue because we were first rescued. We called to the heavens that death had lost its sting and that our God was triumphant. And He is.
We would then wait, and at 3am Monday morning (two days later) Missy and I would separate from the team for good and head to Port au Prince and then hopefully immediately to Miami then DFW and then Shreveport's Schumpert whose doctors were waiting for Acenita's arrival. Everyone's parent's were notified. We were terrified. And willing.
Sunday afternoon Acenita went into the hospital for emergency blood transfusion to help slow her heart. Our translator came to let us know that he was going to go sit at the hospital until the Doctor told him whether or not Acenita would be released to travel by the morning. We waited. We ate supper. We talked about every single detail necessary for my separation from the team. And the team collected all their extra cash to pay for the passport and visa. And we played games and tried to pass the time. And waited.
Frantzou came about 9:30 to let us know that Acenita had passed away. And a bizarre tension of peace and heavy heart ache rested on the team, the pastor and his wife, and our hard-working and compassionate translator.
We called off all of our plans and made new ones to put all money toward Acenita's funeral which we were asked to attend the day before we left.
That night, Lomax gave the devotion on the second floor, white-tiled, wrap-around porch. And he talked about eternity. And how the Bible says that this life is like waking up from a dream. And there was peace. And many tears. And a good amount of anger. And peace.
"In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song, This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm, what heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease, my comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I'll stand." Surely, Jesus.
Our 15 passenger van got stuck for the first time all trip behind the vehicle carrying the casket on the way to Bighouse Tuesday morning. And I thought about Lomax's devotion, and I thanked God that this too would build the Kingdom, and that we will all be home one day. And I thought about how my Aunt Kathryn's memorial from February went toward building at Bighouse. And how she always loved to hear about my Haiti trips and the children. And how now she is probably holding one. I trust that.
The boys' on the team were shirtless and covered in mud by the time the reached the chapel. The laughter was good for our souls. And helped energize our hearts that drove our arms to hold the 75 grieving children who were lost in their sorrow. But let us love on them. And let us know that they could not wait until we returned. Our sweet family.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I trust this.
And I know, that this too, will be worked for good. That is how other our God is. Even what He hates, that being sin and death, will work together for the building of the Kingdom. So we choose to remember that we were first rescued and then are called to accept the responsibility of rescuing those who cannot do it alone. That we were not called here to simply watch. That the Spirit gives peace just as He gives empowerment to free the broken and heal the wounded. That our work is here and our home is there. That my hope is found in Christ alone, as is my drive and purpose, which is always changing depending on how we are growing and who needs to be loved.
That, currently, looks like praying for and working toward better healthcare with our partners both here and there. Because not loss will be looked over in vein. But will only be recognized, as all things, as a catalyst for restoration. We are greatly for the tiny Diva that welcomed us to bighouse with her little body and big personality three summers ago. We, along with our family in Haiti, will never forget her. And we will accept the fight for freedom in the name of those who have gone before us, and by the power of the name of Jesus.
Continue to stand in agreement with us while we seek the Spirit's discernment for healthcare and what that process looks like. And again, thank you for living the storied living with us.
We fly out again for Haiti, this time with the Youth Team, this Sunday morning. So, more blogs to come.
Bondye renmen nou,