I shared in an earlier post that I lived with my paternal grandmother for a few years when I was in high school. She was a Cajun Creole woman and a very good cook. She could not read or write English but she could speak it. I remember coming home from school one day being very excited because my school was offering to teach Creole. I shared with her that I wanted to take the class. She was very upset. As a young girl, living in an orphanage, she was severely punished when she would say something in her native language rather than in English as the orphanage wanted her to speak. She shared some other things that were difficult for her in the orphanage too.
The first time I came to Haiti I was one of the photographers for our group. We were to do some work at a boys home and at a local orphanage. Much of our team was excited to visit the orphanage. I felt like something was wrong with me because I was not excited to go. I chose not to go to the orphanage and let the other photographer go instead. (As we now know, God was forging close bonds with the boys He has me working with today.)
On my next trip to Haiti I did go to the orphanage I declined going to previously but I felt detached. I did not want to hold any of the babies or the young children. They seemed so starved for attention and I would be leaving in a few days. It seemed unfair for them to get attached and then for me to leave with no way to communicate with them. In addition, I was appalled by the starkness of the facility as well as the triple-stacked cribs that reminded me of cages at a pet store.
Not all children in orphanages are orphans. Many times loving parents, out of desperation due to severe poverty, give their babies to an orphanage hoping for a better life for their child. Oftentimes they are promised to be able to see their child(ren) grow up and be involved in the lives of their child(ren). This does not usually happen and I have seen heartbroken mothers wailing at the gates of an orphanage when they realize they will never see their child again.
I am not saying all orphanages are bad. Good orphanages have their place but their place is temporary, not permanent. The best place for a child to live is with people who love them, protect them and respect them. If at all possible, children need a place they can call home and can feel they are a part of a family.
Several months ago I was talking with the boys’ pastor and he made the comment, “It seems like God has been preparing you your entire life to be here in Haiti.” At the time, I agreed and thought God had me here to help guide a few young people as they transitioned out of the boys home (orphanage) into adulthood. The Bible states that God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts and His thoughts are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Together, with your support and God’s leading, we have accomplished much in the past nine months. Our original goal was not to come in and demand change but rather to observe and learn; to see what was needed and to respond accordingly. We have provided daily meals for three reasons:
- Food is a basic necessity and it is easier to apply one’s self to learning or working if your stomach isn’t growling from hunger.
- It saved time (for those who are employed) between work and school if they did not have to prepare the meal.
- Breaking bread (also known as eating meals) together is an excellent way of deepening relationships.
In addition to meals, we have helped to provide educational support, medical treatment when needed, supplemental clothing, legal identification cards, spiritual guidance, real life budgeting and money management lessons, ministry outreaches and food distribution programs, to name a few things. This could not have been done without your financial and prayerful support. I am VERY excited to tell you that the boys were financially invested in much of what has been done. Some things they paid for entirely on their own, without any assistance from us. (For example, ministry outreach/food distribution.) For other things we used non-interest bearing micro loans as they agreed to pay a portion (or all) of legal documents, supplemental clothing, extra curricular activities and/or vocational training. Micro loans also were used with several of the boys who started their own small business. This is exciting because they have taken ownership and pride in their success. We are not doing it FOR them; we are doing it WITH them. And they, knowing their culture and personal passions, are making the choices. We are providing guidance and feedback but they are coming up with the ideas and making the choices as to what they will do.
This brings me back to God’s ways not being our ways and His thoughts being higher than our thoughts. Doors are opening to help prevent children from being sent to orphanages or to the streets in Haiti. We can work to keep children with their extended family. We can help the adults in those families by using the same strategies we used with the boys to help them ultimately become self sufficient and to regain their dignity.
This is exciting and scary at the same time. This is much bigger than I originally thought. A good friend of mine gently. reminded me that our God is a big God. I still need to ask you to pray as we seek direction and clarity on how God wants us to move forward. Also, please pray and ask God how He wants you to be involved.
James 1:27 – Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.