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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Haiti 2004

Picking up where I left off on my post The Beginning...

I started my job at a children's hospital as an RN. I loved it, even though those first few months were extremely challenging and every day I walked into work feeling like I knew nothing. Meanwhile, Haiti and its people, especially its children, continued to rest on my heart. 

In October of that fall I received an email from my trip leader to Haiti saying that she'd been extremely burdened for the boys we'd visited and she'd been visiting them frequently when she visited the Haitian girl she and her husband were adopting. During one of these trips she learned that these boys were being abused and neglected by the man who had supposedly been caring for them. She, along with another couple, named the Manasseros (who'd met the boys on their own mission trip right after ours), flew down to Haiti to help the boys. When they arrived at their "home" they found all the boys walking down the street with what little they owned, starving and exhausted. The man abusing them had been thrown in jail, but that left the boys on the streets because the rent for their home had been left unpaid. They put all the boys in a truck, fed them, and drove around all night looking for a place that would take them. Eventually they found an abandoned church where they moved the boys and over the next few months found a couple of godly Haitian men to care for them. Meanwhile, these two couples were back in the states, raising support to move their families to Haiti to oversee the care of the boys and start a ministry called Child Hope International (with Maison de Lumiere being the home for the boys). My trip leader, Summer, wanted to know if I'd like to travel back to Haiti with her and her sister during the upcoming summer. I was thrilled and quickly agreed to go. 

So, it was with much joy that I met up with Summer and her sister Kyle in Miami, along with Rhonda, a hilarious woman from my first trip (Rhonda and I continue to meet up in Haiti almost every year, usually unplanned), and a group from Rhonda's church. We dropped our luggage at the same hotel from the year before and drove over to the new boys' home.  We were welcomed by a group of excited boys, twelve in number. The remainder of the boys who'd been living with the American man were older and had moved out, returning to the streets or to programs for older kids. That week we played board games, introduced the boys to play-doh, learned to dance (Haitian-style), peeked in on them as they attended school for the first time, worshipped together, and played a very confusing game of Sardines (most of the boys didn't understand the rules). Summer, Kyle, a new friend named Meleesa, and I decided to spend one night at the boys' home. One of us tried to enter the bathroom but was stopped short by an enormous cockroach blocking our way to it. This was before cockroaches became my roommates, bathroom-mates, and kitchen-mates years later and I learned to be-gudgringly co-exist with them. No bathroom usage was going to occur with that thing in our way. Hours (yes, we were very girly girly) of laughter and attempts to coerce each other into killing it ensued. Eventually one of the other woman killed it by throwing a sandal at it. But we left it in the hallway as no one had the nerve to actually move it- because it surely would rise from the dead. I was so creeped out by the thought of things crawling on me at night, that I slept with pants on and my sandals on my feet. Yes, I am ridiculous. 

The next day we drove to the beach with the boys and the team. Swimmers the boys were not. Outside the water, they were tough and independent. Inside the water they became little boys, needing love and safety. Summer and I decided to stay in Haiti an extra few days, while her sister and the team left on their scheduled date. We took our stuff over to the boys home and camped out with the cockroaches. 

For the next few days Summer and I traveled around Port au Prince with some of the boys, looking for their family members. We wanted to reunite these kids with their parents and families (some had not seen them in years) and needed permission from their parents to keep them in the boys' home. It was a beautiful but sobering time, watching the kids see their parents and siblings and neighbors after years of being apart. As far as I could understand, we found each family just by word of mouth. The boys had some idea of where they had grown up so we headed out in those areas, walked around a bit, then eventually a neighbor, relative, or childhood friend recognized them. Each time when they were recognized, people gathered around and began announcing their presence. By the time we arrived in front of their parents, crowds of people had gathered. Summer explained to each parent where their child had been, where they were now living and what MdL was doing for them. She asked each child if they would like to stay with their parents, but all shared that they wanted to stay at MdL. Each parent agreed that they would like their child to be raised at MdL. We gave them information about how to contact their children if they wanted to see them and then traipsed our way down through the hills, led through the rocks and the mud by the boys. At one point I remember sitting in a truck and the words, "I want to move here," came flying out of my mouth. I meant them, but the thought seemed so crazy and not like me, that I considered trying to grab the words and putting them back in my mouth. A few days later we bid a tearful goodbye to the boys, wondering when we'd be able to return.

Again, I left Haiti wondering what my role in the future there would be.  I could be a nurse there. But me, really? The girl who hates dirt, creepy-crawling creatures, and being hot? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quoting

I'm sitting here in sunny but chilly Seattle (more on that later), cuddled under a blanket (oh, the joy I find in being comfy and cozy and wrapped up in a blanket and sweater), reading a book where the following was quoted:

Rosenbury was riding in a train on his way to a speaking engagement. He noticed a boy in his late teens acting very nervous, moving from one seat to another. Dr. Rosenbury approached the boy and asked him if he could be of some help. The boy told his story. "I used to live in Springvale just a few miles ahead. This train goes right behind our back yard. My father and mother still live in the old house. Three years ago I had a fight with my dad and ran away from home. It has been three tough years. I wrote my mom last week and told her I wanted to come home just once and if dad agreed she was going to hang something white outside the house so I would know that my father had agreed to let me stop. I told her not to do it unless father agreed to let me come home." Dr. Rosenbury noticed the boy becoming increasingly agitated as he said, "Look sir, my house is just a few miles ahead and I am afraid to look. I am going to close my eyes. Would you look and see if you can see anything white hanging in the yard?" As the train came around the corner Rosenbury shouted, "Look, son, look!" You could hardly see the house for white. There was a large sheet hanging from the upstairs window, tablecloths, hankies, pillowcases hung on every tree, all across the clothes line, hanging from every window. The boy's face went white, his lips quivered as the train came to a stop. Rosenbury says that the last thing he saw of the boy he was running as fast as he could to the house of his father.

-Unknown Author

My eyes are swimming with tears as I write this. Is this not a beautiful picture of love and forgiveness? Shouldn't we love those around us, those who have messed up, hurt us, hurt others, in the same way? Not begrudgingly accept them back into our lives, but with hearts full and white flags waving, forgive and pour out love? Isn't this the way the Father has loved and forgiven us? Don't you want to be able to give that kind of love? Don't you want to receive it? 

Malachi 4:6- "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers." 

Luke 15:11-32- The Parable of the Lost Son
     verse 32:  "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”


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.