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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Beginning

How I ended up loving and moving to Haiti is truly a testimony to God's creativity and faithfulness. He deserves all the thanks and glory for getting me there. I also pray that some of you who read this may be encouraged to pursue what you are passionate about, even if it seems crazy or others don't understand it. 

I had a wonderful roommate in college, Katie, who grew up as a missionary kid. She was always interested in missions to the third world. I didn't understand this interest, but thought it was great-for her.  The summer before our senior year she traveled to Haiti for three weeks to work in an orphanage. We laugh about it now, because she didn't have any idea what she was doing or who she would be working with once she arrived. I thought she was crazy and she realizes now that she was. Also, where was Haiti? I knew nothing about it. She came back from her trip in love with Haiti and the kids. We poured through her pictures and gazed at the beauty of the kids together. As long as I can remember I have been drawn to and enthralled by black children. I loved television shows like The Cosby Show, Different Strokes, and Webster, mostly due to the adorable children in them. If my mom saw a black child in a mall or store or restaurant she would always get my attention and I would melt. Maybe I sound ridiculous...but I don't care. Katie's excitement about her experience was contagious and I was mesmerized by these kids and their stories. I had to go to Haiti now. Once that interest grabbed ahold of me it wouldn't let go. The following summer Katie was already scheduled to go to Brazil with school so she couldn't go to Haiti with me. By then I was determined to go. I joined up with a team of mom's adopting from this orphanage who were going to visit their kids while they waited for their adoptions to be processed. First though, I had to graduate from college, take my state nursing boards, and pass them.

After 180 questions, the maximum amount of questions you can be asked on the Board of Nursing exam (as I recall, the computer may give you only 60 questions then it turns off, or it may give you more.  I was lucky enough to receive all the questions.), I got into my mom's car and cried. Not a few tears. No, I cried an ugly, sorrowful, deep-down-in-your-soul cry. I was completely convinced I had failed the exam. Friends asked that weekend how it had gone and each time I burst into tears. I began to convince myself I would work at Starbucks and gosh darn it, I was going to enjoy it! I think I had about a week after the exam before I was scheduled to leave for Haiti. I had the option of calling the licensing office after a few days to find out if I had passed. Or, I could wait a few weeks to receive the results in the mail. I agonized over the decision. Should I call and find out before leaving for Haiti, so I wouldn't fear the unknown while I was gone? If I didn't pass, would my trip be ruined? If I passed, my trip would be fantastic and I wouldn't be worried all week. Or, should I wait and not spoil my trip if I hadn't passed? A few days before I was set to leave I received a phone call. On the other end was the health department. They hadn't received my college transcripts so they couldn't process my test results. I gave them the information they needed to obtain the transcripts then the lady on the other end asked, "Do you know your test results?" My heart sank and I thought "Oh my gosh. She's going to tell me I failed over the phone. That is so cruel!" I said a very weak "No", then she said I passed. My heart leaped with excitement but I didn't want there to be any mistake made. I asked her to check again. She came back on the line and she confirmed that yes I had, in fact, passed! I thanked her profusely, hung up the phone, then danced around my apartment. A huge weight had been lifted and now I was even more excited to leave for Haiti. The miraculous part of this, in addition to the fact that I had actually passed, was that I should never have been allowed to take the test if the health department didn't have my transcripts. I had filled out all the proper paperwork for my transcripts to be there, but now they were saying they weren't. I believe God intervened to give me the results because He knew I couldn't decide whether to call or wait for the results and I was a wreck trying to decide. I was actually a nurse now. I wouldn't have to be a fake one while in Haiti.

Another blessing was given through this trip. A few weeks before my departure I received an email from a person in charge of the adoptions from the orphanage I would be visiting. She shared that a couple from Tacoma- about an hour from where I lived- had just been to Haiti recently to visit their Haitian daughter (in the process of being adopted) and now the adoption had been completed. The couple couldn't return to Haiti so soon after just leaving so they needed someone to escort their daughter home. Would I mind doing this? Um, no…I would LOVE to do this! My aunt had joked that I shouldn't try to sneak any of the kids on the plane. I wouldn't have to sneak now. 

I left for Miami then met up with another woman traveling to the same orphanage and we split a hotel room. The next morning we met the rest of our team at the Miami airport. Each person in the group was friendly, engaging, and full of anticipation of going to see their kids. We arrived into a hot, sticky airport in Haiti, and I thought "WHAT AM I DOING?" We threw our numerous bags into a van and drove off to a hotel near the orphanage. Then, we showed up at the orphanage. My heart was captured by the multitude of children, many toddlers, running up to us and grabbing our legs or holding their arms up to be held. There were too many children and not enough staff. We picked up a few kids and took them to the hotel to swim and eat dinner with us. It seemed too easy. Did we even ask permission to take them with us? The kids themselves were eager to leave and many asked us in English to go to the hotel. The scene was repeated throughout the week. We spent the majority of our time at the hotel with the kids. One or two afternoons I spent organizing the medical cabinet at the orphanage, but that was the extent of my medical duties. 

Towards the end of the week we took a drive up towards the mountains to check out a home for former street boys. Approximately 48 boys were living with an American man, a nurse, in a large house. Many shared their stories of living on the streets and how they had been taken off the street by this man. The kids pulled out their drums and we had an impromptu time of worship. That night, some of the boys joined the man taking care of them at our hotel to go swimming, so we interacted with them a bit more. 

I bawled all the way to the airport in Haiti. I didn't want the trip to end and my heart was wrecked. I won't go into details, but the journey back to Washington with the Haitian girl from the orphanage was delightful and eventful. We had a joyous reunion with her parents in the Seattle airport. Then, I was left to sort out my feelings from this trip. I didn't start my job at the hospital for another month, which left me lots of time to think...too much time. What was my purpose in going to Haiti? I didn't feel like my time there was over. I loved the kids I'd met, but I couldn't adopt them all...or any of them (the orphanage kids already had future families waiting for them and I was in no position to adopt, and how could I help the boys' home?) What did God want from me now, in relation to Haiti? I missed it and yearned to be there. It haunted me. 

More in the next post.


Grace said...

love love loved this- can't wait to read the next post!!!

karen gerstenberger said...

This is a beautiful story, Brooke, and it is encouraging me deeply today. Thank you for posting it.
I am working on things that are new to me (book & video) and while they are very exciting and engaging, and I feel led by God, there are times when I feel a little bit of "vertigo" because of being so far "out there" from what I've done before or what my peeps are doing. Even though I have faith, there are times when it's lonely, and your story reminds me that sometimes the big changes we're led to make require us to simply go with God. Hugs to you.

Brooke said...

Grace- working on it! Thanks for reading!

Karen- Thank you for YOUR encouragement! I think of our times together in the hospital and being with Katie at camp fondly. I love reading your blog. You are a brilliant, very profound writer. I look forward to reading your book! Yes, I am sure you do understand the loneliness that comes with having your life diverge from others. "Crazy" thought- you should come to Haiti some time with me! It could be very healing... Blessings to you!

little lion said...

I like Karen's metaphor of feeling "veritgo" from being so far out from what is normal. I feel like I have been doing some crazy dance of trying to move forward yet ending up going right back to where I started...and not even knowing where I'm supposed to go in the first place!

Bellawhoop said...

I've heard a little of your story before, but it's fun to get the whole thing! It's amazing how God works in our lives and I'm excited to see where He leads you next, sweet friend!